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Small Linux Revisited

A Lit­tle His­to­ry

Many moons (al­most two years!) ago, I wrote an ar­ti­cle called Small Lin­ux de­tail­ing what I had done to make a rea­son­able Lin­ux fit in a Toshi­ba Li­bret­to 50.

That's a very lim­it­ed note­book, with un­der 800MB of disk, a 75Mhz Pen­tium CPU and 16MB of RAM, and it has served me well for a long time.

Now, how­ev­er, I am us­ing the al­most ex­act op­po­site, a sec­ond-­hand Toshi­ba Satel­lite 1955-S805.

Where Salma (the Li­bret­to) had a 640x480 screen, Mon­ty (Toshiba), has a 16" 1280x1024. The RAM has in­creased 32 times. But they have one thing in com­mon....

The 800MB HD

You see, Mon­ty is sec­ond hand. My fu­ture moth­er-in-law and broth­er-in-law brought it from New York when they vis­it­ed, for Rosario (My fu­ture wife, un­til Feb­ru­ary 18 2006 ;-).

And it had a bro­ken HD. And I want­ed to use it while I got a nice new 60GB one.

So, over­com­ing my fear of de­stroy­ing ex­pen­sive equip­men­t, I got the HD out of Salma and in­to Mon­ty, and start­ed think­ing....

The Tallest Guy In The World

He had a prob­lem: re­al­ly bad feet. He died of it, too. In the same way, Mon­ty now boot­ed, but the app se­lec­tion was out­dat­ed, and re­al­ly, lots of things Salma could­n't do, Mon­ty could.

What on earth can one in­stall on that disk when you don't have any oth­er re­al hard­ware lim­i­ta­tion­s?

The choice of dis­tri­bu­tion was trick­y.

I am a Cen­tOS guy late­ly, but the pack­age se­lec­tion is en­tan­gled enough that you can hard­ly get X in­stalled with­out cross­ing the 800M­B. The min­i­mal in­stall is about 450M­B.

De­bian again? Well... no.


Now, that has some se­ri­ous po­ten­tial, since I could run the OS from DVD/CD, and then use the whole 800MB for da­ta. But I want­ed some­thing where I could choose what to in­stal­l.

I could have gone the path of one of the mod­u­lar Knop­pix deriva­tives, but it was yet an­oth­er task on the pile.

So, I went with­.... ARCH.

ARCH Is Arch

Yes, ARCH is saucy. It in­stalls in rough­ly 200M­B, in­clud­ing ker­nel sources and GC­C. That's quite smal­l.

I man­aged to cre­ate a rea­son­able desk­top in about 550M­B, in­clud­ing:


A nice text ed­i­tor


Need­ed it to work in a few prog­gies.


I have the RAM. The CPU is a 2.56 P4.

Xorg 8.2 with Nvidia drivers:

And just for kick­s, 3d­desk­top to see if they work ;-)


I know it, and it's nice enough.


Nicer than xter­m, and has a handy SSH builtin.

ROX Filer:

Not re­al­ly all that use­ful, but what the hel­l, for 3MB you get side­bars, a file man­ag­er and a few ex­tra trick­s.


A very nice xdm re­place­men­t. Spe­cial­ly with the mind­lock theme :-)


Com­press the ex­es. Save 30M­B. Good.


It's what I am work­ing with. And it's on­ly 74K­B.


Sim­ple, small tool to set the X root dec­o­ra­tion.


Stay synced with my old­er desk­top.

All in­clud­ed, I am at 120 pack­ages, us­ing 557MB of disk (with ex­ten­sive trim­ming, see the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle for some ex­am­ples).

So, what's the dif­fer­ence be­tween this set of apps and my pre­vi­ous choice....

Well, look at the re­sult of free:

             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:        512544     408924     103620          0      33468     162916
-/+ buffers/cache:     212540     300004
Swap:            0          0          0

Just for laugh­s: here's the old one, when do­ing rough­ly the same things: edit­ing an ar­ti­cle, brows­ing the we­b, a few ter­mi­nal­s:

                total    used    free    shared   buffers        cached
Mem:            14708   14144     564      4644       816          5304
-/+ buffers/cache:       8024    6684
Swap:           47992   18880   29112

Scary is­n't it? I am us­ing rough­ly 25 times the amount of mem­o­ry I used on the li­bret­to. It's easy to see why, tho.

Con­sid­er the desk­top. It shows a pret­ty pic­ture. It is 1280x1024. It is in mil­lions of col­ors. That is in RAM. That is ei­ther 3932160 or 5242880 bytes. On the li­bret­to, I was in­ten­tion­al­ly not us­ing any­thing there :-)

So, it re­al­ly is not com­pa­ra­ble any­way, and Mon­ty's life as a mal­formed box will be short. But it was quite a bit of fun :-)

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