| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 246, 31 March 2008
Welcome to this year's 13th issue of DistroWatch Weekly! Good things come in a small package and nowhere is this more evident than in the case of SliTaz GNU/Linux 1.0 - a new mini Linux distribution that packs a full desktop with many popular applications, utilities and web development tools into a 25 MB live CD. Complete with its own package management system, a text-mode installer and a remastering utility, SliTaz has to be one of the most impressive Linux distributions in recent memory. How can they pack so much into so little space? Read on for a first-look review of the project's 1.0 release. In other news, a Norwegian hardware site interviews Arch Linux project leader Aaron Griffin, Automatix announces the end of development of the popular software installation tool, Klaus Knopper releases the new KNOPPIX 5.3.1, and a nostalgic reader retraces the steps of installing Debian GNU/Linux 1.3 on today's hardware. All this and more in this issue of DistroWatch Weekly - happy reading!
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First look at SliTaz GNU/Linux 1.0, the smallest desktop distro on earth
I have to admit that every time I receive an email entitled "New Distro Submission", I tend to let out a little sigh. Is this really something new and innovative that we haven't seen before? Or is it just another remastered Ubuntu or Slax that will die in a few short months? So when Christophe Lincoln sent me a notice about a distribution called SliTaz GNU/Linux, I reacted with the usual scepticism. It wasn't until I noticed the download size of the just-released version 1.0 which prompted me to take a closer look. A full-featured desktop distro in 25 MB? Now, that's certainly something we haven't seen here before!
Small Linux distributions might not be as glamorous as the big, modern operating systems designed to run on the latest and greatest hardware, but judging by the number of searches and enquiries here on DistroWatch, this market is far from dead. After all, many of us have an old box that originally came with Windows 95. While no current operating system will run satisfactorily on this "ancient" hardware, it doesn't mean that it is destined to gather dust in the cupboard. On the contrary. With some of the small Linux distributions available today, it can be brought back to full production, even as a graphical workstation. Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux, DeLi Linux and others have made it possible to bring many an old computer back to life.
Now there is a new kid on the block. SliTaz GNU/Linux 1.0 is not just another small desktop distro; it is, in fact, the smallest by some margin and just half the size of Damn Small Linux. When it runs, the 25 MB compressed CD image expands to about 80 MB, so any computer with 128 MB of RAM will be able to load it fully into memory, ensuring blazing fast program execution. Computers with less memory can boot it too; with the boot prompt cheat code of "slitaz-loram", computers with 64 MB of RAM are also supported, while those with as little as 16 MB of RAM will be able to run SliTaz as well - the cheat code is "slitaz-loram-cdrom". It goes without saying that the performance of the machine with 16 MB of RAM won't be nearly as good as that of the 128 MB one, but it's still hard to believe that there is an operating system that can run in graphical mode on machines with so little memory.
So what have the SliTaz developers managed to fit into 25 MB? A lot more than one would expect. The system boots into the JWM window manager with four virtual desktops and a Xfce-like toolbar at the top. It is based on the latest Linux kernel (2.6.24), with glibc 2.3.6, GTK+ libraries and X.Org 7.2. It includes hardware auto-detection modules for network and audio cards, and sets up X with a VESA driver (several screen resolution choices are available during the initial configuration step). Among applications there is the latest Firefox, Ghost In The Mail (email client), gFTP, Transmission (BitTorrent client), mtPaint (image editor), GPicView (image viewer), AlsaPlayer, Asunder (CD ripping tool), Geany (a light-weight IDE) and other small applications. Also included are a CD burning tool and a PDF viewer, while web developers will no doubt welcome the addition of the lighttpd web server with support for CGI and PHP.
SliTaz GNU/Linux - the smallest desktop distro on earth
(full image size: 238kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
SliTaz is not restricted to old hardware only. Users running it on more modern systems will be able to take advantage of many more applications available from the project's download server, including some heavy-weight ones, such as The GIMP, Kino, AbiWord, Inkscape, or the Enlightenment 17 window manager. The distribution also comes with its own APT-like package manager called "tazpkg", preconfigured for easy access to available packages from the project's server. Using it is simple: "tazpkg recharge" will get the list of available packages and "tazpkg install abiword" will install AbiWord, including its dependencies. The tazpkg utility has its own shell (command "tazpkg shell") which can be a great time-saver while performing a series of package management tasks.
SliTaz comes with other useful utilities, including a hard disk installer, a build tool (tazwok), a program to remaster the CD image (tazlito) and another for creating an image for installation on bootable USB storage devices (tazusb). The project's web site provides good documentation, user forums and mailing lists, and a package browsing interface. The distribution supports two languages: English and French.
After spending a few hours using the SliTaz live CD, I emailed the project founder, Christophe Lincoln, to ask what had motivated him to create SliTaz. Here is his response: "The initial motivation was the desire, then need. Desire to have a fast, robust and simple distro (example: boot with 5 scripts and 1 configuration file). The project is also a kind of a challenge - to see what we can do in 25 MB. The first public ISO was about 15 MB, without Firefox, but with links 2.x - it was usable. I did a little promotion over a few French sites and a tiny community started."
Does he use SliTaz on a day-to-day basis? "Yes, SliTaz is my only distribution now. It does everything I need on my Toshiba Satellite Pentium Dual CPU 1.46 GHz with 2 GB RAM. I can run GCC, listen to music, browse the web, write code... all quite fast. You might have also noticed that the web site, forum and our Mercurial repository are hosted on an old, recycled Pentium 3 box with 512 MB RAM (yes people throw away amazing stuff), running SliTaz with lighttpd, PHP and CGI-Python."
I haven't been this impressed with a new Linux distribution for a long time. A compact package with basic applications, a web server and web development tools, an excellent package manager, remastering utilities and good auto-configuration scripts - all in a 25 MB download. What more can one need? While SliTaz GNU/Linux is unlikely to satisfy every user's needs, the project is a great testament to the old saying that good things come in a small package. It is also a tribute to the infinite versatility of Linux and free software. Give SliTaz a try, you will like it!
For more information please visit the project web site at slitaz.org. Download the live CD image from here: slitaz-1.0.iso (24.8MB, MD5).
Interview with Arch's Aaron Griffin, end of Automatix, installing Debian GNU/Linux 1.3
Last week was a slow one in terms of interesting distribution news, but a few items caught our interest. A Norwegian hardware site has published an interview with Aaron Griffin, the project leader of Arch Linux. What is so special about this increasingly popular project? "Arch Linux is a distro which puts the user in control. It is a distribution designed to be a platform - a 'base' for the users to do what they want. Other distros tend to believe that the computer should manage itself and the user should just use it. This is a perfectly fine stance to take, and certainly works well for most people. But not for me. I want to have full control and that is why I use Arch. Arch is lightweight and simple, like clay - able to be molded by the users as they choose. This means that we don't try to force a user's hand into our way of doing things, with our configuration tools, and our ideas. Developers suggest things, and push in certain directions, but let the user do as they wish."
* * * * *
DesktopLinux.com reports that Automatix, a popular third-party utility that made it easy to add media codecs, device drivers and non-free software to a basic Ubuntu installation, is no more: "In a note on the Automatix web page, the project's lead developer, jtbl, wrote: 'Well the day has finally come, development of Automatix has been discontinued. We are doing this, NOT because we think Automatix is no longer necessary on Ubuntu and Debian, but because all of the Automatix developers have become wrapped up in more pressing commitments.' This, however, doesn't mean that the Automatix service is disappearing. In an addition to his original note, jtbl continued: 'The site will stay up for a few more months, and as long as it's up Automatix will still run.' Automatix, a graphical, user-friendly interface for adding popular programs to Debian-based distributions, has long been mired in controversy."
* * * * *
Linux distributions have made an enormous progress over the last decade. Moving from basic, text-mode installation routines into near-automated, graphical systems that can be executed with just a few mouse clicks, installing Linux today has become a routine task that many of us do almost daily. But how many of you remember what it was like to get a Linux distro to boot a computer back in 1997? A nostalgic reader tells an entertaining story of installing Debian GNU/Linux 1.3 today: "Time passes and technology moves. My fascination with vintage computers and operating systems stems from the era of change. In today's computing world the players are condensed and the technology owned by large companies. The install screen mentions donating (no PayPal link either) to the project of 200 volunteers. 200! Debian has grown into the basis for some of the greatest free software projects ever. Perens and Murdock are staples of the technology world now. Deep down the kid inside of me will never die, the excitement for seeing great people do great things never changes. I recommend you go find your first operating system and take a walk down memory lane. Who knows, maybe it will help you remember just how far things have come."
|Released Last Week
Zenwalk Live 5.0
Zenwalk Live 5.0, a live edition of the Slackware-based Zenwalk Linux distribution, has been released: "Zenwalk Live 5.0 is ready! Based on the 'current' repository, the new Zenwalk Live features all the latest secure and stable versions of Zenwalk 5.0 standard packages. With this release, it is also our great pleasure to present Zen Installer which will enable you to install a standard Zenwalk system onto your computer's hard drive. Now, if you first use Live Clone to remaster your own live CD and then execute Zen Installer from that remastered live CD, you will install your own customized version of Zenwalk rather than the standard edition. This is very helpful if you need to deploy a highly personalized Zenwalk system on the computer park of a school, a cybercafé, an office or an organization. As always, Zenwalk Live 5.0 also offers extended multilingual, multimedia and WiFi support." Here is the brief release announcement.
Klaus Knopper has announced the release of KNOPPIX 5.3.1. From the changelog: "Dist-upgrade to Debian 'Lenny' (testing + unstable); changes initial boot system from initrd to initramfs for easier customisation; kernel 188.8.131.52 with custom modules - GSPCA, QEMU, KVM, VirtualBox, NDISwrapper, AVM; updated WiFi drivers and firmware for ipw*; Compiz 3D window manager 0.7.3 with experimental Compiz Fusion modules; KDE 3.5.9, KDE 4.0 as experimental boot option; ADRIANE, audio desktop with text-to-speech and Braille support, first release; Cloop 2.624 realtime decompression with threads and experimental 'suspend' feature; OpenOffice.org 2.3.1; VirtualBox OSE edition; Orca as screen reader for GTK+ programs; updated hard disk installer '0wn'; updated NTFS-3G."
KNOPPIX 5.3.1 - with new audio desktop features for visually impaired
(full image size: 1,199kB, screen resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
SystemRescueCd 1.0.1 has been released. From the changelog: "Using JWM 2.0.1 as default window manager instead of WindowMaker; using Unionfs 2.2.4 as the root file system; updated GParted to 0.3.6 (add support for the labels), Squashfs to 3.3 (with LZMA compression) to save space, ntfsprogs to 2.0.0, NTFS-3G to 1.2310, Memtest86+ floppy disk image to 2.01, btrfs file system support to 0.13, default kernel to Linux 184.108.40.206 with Reiser4, cdrkit 220.127.116.11 (Fix for Joliet directory length bug); added ipmitool (Utility for controlling IPMI enabled devices), missing crypto modules in the default kernel; auto-detect software RAID volumes at boot time; fixed autorun bug; fixed bugs in network configuration boot options; fixed problems with udhcpc client when multiple Ethernet interfaces exists...."
* * * * *
Development, unannounced and minor bug-fix releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
New distributions added to database
* * * * *
New distributions added to waiting list
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
And this concludes the latest issue of DistroWatch Weekly. The next instalment will be published on Monday, 7 April 2008.
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|• Issue 679 (2016-09-19): OpenMandriva 3.0, 32-bit vs 64-bit performance, openSUSE updates, KaOS unveils first run wizard|
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|• Issue 662 (2016-05-23): Clonezilla Live, new Fedora community repository, DragonFlyBSD runs Wayland, a live edition of Slackware and kernel components|
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|• Issue 628 (2015-09-21): Neptune 4.4, changes to pfSense, Pinguy OS releases updated ISO images, accessing hard disk images|
|• Full list of all issues|
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