Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Lightweight Linux

While computer hardware gets ever more capable, it is easy for software developers to use all that power and leave those on older machines behind. That probably is the driver for what you find below and there also is the added option of portability too, if you wish to boot up a public computer with your own Linux operating system.


The origin of the start of the name comes from the following: maintenance, multimedia, mini-server and mystery. The last of these refers to gaming rather than what is unique about this effort. It could just as well have been the adjective miniature, which has done nothing to stop there being three forks: Antivirus Live CD, BakAndImgCD and The Smallest Server Suite.


Three words come up here: small, simple and secure. Expanding on these gets to the following: a security-oriented, lightweight Linux distribution based on musl libc and busybox. The intended user base has advanced knowledge and can use this in their own projects without it getting in the way.


This is an offshoot of the now discontinued Mepis project for older machines. Once, I spotted a claim that it only needed 256 MB of RAM, but I cannot be sure of that now. It is another distro based on Debian, so things should be solid and it works of USB drives too.


The strap line for this distro gives the game away: Linux for ARM development boards. These do not have the processing heft for heavyweight distros, though Raspberry Pi has been advancing in this regard. You do need to know your board architecture before you download, and such is the variety that it may not be supported. The use cases are desktop, server or IOT, so you should have many bases covered.


The acronym means Damn Small Linux and it essentially is a derivative of Debian shrunk to fit within 50 MB. That it’s intended for older computers or those without much in the way of processing power goes without saying.


A lightweight 64-bit Linux operating is what this project intends to give to the world.


Essentially, this is Puppy Linux with more default applications included. The installation footprint remains tidy at around 600 MB, so it remains on this list despite the name suggesting it belongs elsewhere.


As if antiX could not do enough for older computers, along comes this project to refine things even further. Having some antiquated hardware around, this could be worth a look for those older laptops that I find hard to relinquish.


Portability is the unique selling point for Porteus because it is intended to be a lightweight installation that you carry around with you on a CD, DVD or USB Flash Drive. The claim is that it boots in around 15 seconds, which is impressive if that’s the reality.


The description for this is small-scale, minimalist and command-line-based. There appears to be no desktop environment, which necessarily means that any Linux distro has to be lightweight. It also live boots and that may be useful for system repair. All in all, these are early days for this effort developed from scratch and it remains to be seen what its unique selling proposition might me.


Though there are heavyweight Linux distros that need reasonably up-to-date hardware, this is one of the better-known options for older machines. There is not a single distro though and you can mix your own as well using Woof-CE. The better-known bases include Ubuntu, Debian and Slackware, yet there are others as well. The disk footprint is 300 MB or less, so this certainly qualifies it as lightweight these days.


Not to be content with offering a distro for desktop use on slower systems, they also include servers as a usage option. Needing only 48 MB of RAM and 35 MB of disk space looks very impressive these days and means that a 15-year-old PC need not be consigned to recycling just yet.

Tiny Core

Linux developers often want to have a hand in creating bare-bones distros that will run on practically anything and here’s another example whose size is measured in megabytes and not gigabytes. The numbers quoted on the website do not even exceed 10 MB, so many appliances could make use of this along with the usual desktop and server PC’s.


This sounds like a stripped out version of Debian and it once used Ubuntu as its basis. Usage of memory and other computing resources is a watchword with this one, especially with its Microwatt edition and there are LXDE and MATE versions too.

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