Micro Distros: The Tiniest Linux You Can Get

Micro Distros: The Tiniest Linux You Can Get

Article from Issue 203/2017

Most desktop distros are full of features – but they're pretty bloated, too. Discover super-slim Linux versions that can run on (almost) anything.

Regular listeners to the Linux Voice podcast  [1] know that we like to reminisce about the glory days of the Commodore Amiga. A lot of this is simply nostalgia and wistfully looking back on the past with rose-tinted glasses; after all, AmigaOS didn't even have memory protection, so it was very easy for one misbehaving program to take down the whole system, leading to the infamous Guru Meditation error messages.

Nonetheless, AmigaOS was incredibly impressive at the time: You had a full graphical user interface (GUI) and multitasking operating system, supplied with various utilities, libraries, fonts, and other bits and pieces – all in a couple of megabytes. Compare that to today's desktop Linux distros, which eat up several gigabytes in a standard installation. Sure, openSUSE, Fedora, X/K/Ubuntu, and the like do so much out of the box, so it's not a really fair comparison, but sometimes you do wonder what's munching up all the hard drive space.

Thanks to their open source and free software underpinnings, desktop Linux distributions aren't inevitably chunky beasts. Many super-lightweight distros squeeze an enormous amount of functionality into a relatively tiny ISO image. These distros are ideal if you want to install Linux on older or low-spec hardware, or just set up a Linux installation where you control every single piece of software on the system. In this article, I'll look at some of these distros, show you what's cool about them, and give you some tips for using them.


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