Thursday, 24 January 2013

Lets Get Back To Linux Basics

If you have read my tweets lately you'll know that every now and again I tweet that yet another Linux distribution, based on Ubuntu, has been released. This is not the problem. The diversity in Linux is a good thing.

But I don't get why so many distributions based on Ubuntu have to be Ubuntu with a few graphic changes and then a whole 'shit load' of bloat. The latest example was last night when I noticed yet another distribution, based on Ubuntu, was actually twice the size of the Ubuntu ISO. Why was it twice the size? Because it was deemed necessary to throw a ton of software on the ISO that may, or may not, be used.

I kid you not. I actually downloaded and installed the other distribution. And there was three, yes three, word processors (Abiword, Open Office, and Libre Office). And nowhere during the installation did it give any chance to choose one or the other or none at all. I even ran through the install procedure a second time in case I had missed a screen where there was a choice. But, alas, none.

This means that the average user then has to spend time removing all the crap (read as bloat) that was installed that they have no use for.

Now I know Linux is all about choice and the simple answer is to not mess with these distributions that insist on piling software on to a system. But I have been using Linux, and helping others switch to Linux, since the dawn of time. I use Linux as my main Operating System and only use Windows because Adobe will not port Photoshop over to Linux - which in all honesty shouldn't be too difficult seems the core of the Mac OS, OS X, is still deeply rooted to it's UNIX beginnings.

But I digress. Why not use a distribution that is a good base to work from and install only what you need. There are many choices to be had. Here are a few:

NOTE: The following is based on 32-bit editions purely because the test system was such.

Tiny Core Linux - which weighs in at a whopping 12MB. That is right 12MB to get you to a basic GUI desktop. Then from there you install only the stuff you need. On a test system, an old Dell B110, I had Tiny Core, sound, video, and network up, running, and installed in about 15 minutes. It only took so long because of the crappy on-board sound chip which needed adjusting to work. 2 more minutes and I had MAME installed. OK, it is not filled with eye candy but the system works; and because of the light weight it runs really fast (The minimum specifications are 46MB RAM and a i486DX CPU). So the Dell B110 with 1GB RAM and a 2.5Ghz CPU ran like a dream. And MAME ran at 100% on every game.

Slitaz Linux - Which weighs in at a massive 35MB. It is the usual affair. Boot from CD and install. Slitaz has a bit more eye candy than Tiny Core; and the minimum specifications are 48MB RAM and pretty much any CPU above a 486. Seriously, there are very few systems without at least 128MB RAM. And if you have  1GB RAM it is pretty damn smooth. Install went through without any hitches. Even sound went through. Have to say I couldn't find MAME but no big deal that is where the fun of compiling comes in. Slitaz has a great, easy to understand, control panel which means even the newest of Linux users should be able to install without issue.

Bodhi Linux - weighs in at a hefty 541MB. Yep, it is a big download in comparison, but you get what you download. Bodhi Linux follows the Ubuntu LTS release cycle, which means each version will be supported, officially, for 5 years. And what do you get for 541MB I here you ask. The works. Bodhi uses Enlightenment (e17) as the default desktop - which is just pure eye candy. And Bodhi has a few more packages installed as default (but not too many). The minimum specifications for Bodhi are a 300Mhz CPU, 128MB RAM, and 2.5GB HDD (if you install it rather than run the Live CD). Even the Dell B110 crappy on-board video chip (Intel 82865G) ran everything without a problem. The install went without any problems. If you want eye candy. and stability, this may be the best Linux distribution to choose.

Porteus Linux - weighs in at 251MB. And for that you get, in the standard edition, a choice of the LXDE or KDE desktop. I went for the KDE desktop when running the Live CD and on the install. LXDE runs faster but hell on a 2.5Ghz CPU both run perfectly. The install went through without problems. For KDE the minimum RAM is 144MB but for LXDE it drops to 96MB. As for minimum processor - anything above a 486 should work. Once installed you can download and install any package you need. Porteus supports Debian, Slackware, and its own Porteus packages so you should find anything you want.

Damn Small Linux - the grand-daddy of small Linux distributions weighs in at 50MB. And for that 50MB you get a whole ton of lightweight programs straight away (XMMS, Dillo, Slypheed, Xpaint, and more). Damn Small Linux doesn't look the greatest but for that old system you intend to donate to Grandma this will go nicely. The installation of Damn Small Linux makes you go back to the roots as it is done at the command prompt. Now that may put some off because they like the whole 'click an icon and have the OS do everything'. Me, I rolled up my sleeves and went for it. Have to say, that following the instructions from the DSL wiki things went smoothly and anyone should be able to pull it off, adjusting as necessary for your own situation.

That is just the 5 I tested. I'm sure there are many more. But all of them fix the problem of 'bloat' by giving you a good base to work up from and then make the Linux distribution your own without having to spend the first 2 hours removing all the 'bloat' you didn't want or don't need.

All 5 distributions have forums, documentation, and FAQs should you run into any trouble which will answer about 99% of all questions from a simple Google search.

And if you do have to go with a full Ubuntu-based distribution. Go with Ubuntu and make it how you want it.

1 comment:

  1. Well said... as I get back to my Xfce desktop.


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