Tiny Core Linux 7.0

Ever intrigued by the little things, Jonni Bidwell dons his eyeglass and zoomsin on the latest version of Tiny Core Linux.

Back in the day, the go-to Linux distribution (distro) for those seeking a truly minified experience was Damn Small Linux (DSL). Unfortunately the last release of that veteran distro was back in 2008.
Tiny Core started as a fork of DSL, but has since been rewritten and can be considered its own thing now.The base Core image is only 11 MB, but if you want a GUI you can use the Tiny Core image
which is only 16 MB. There’s also a larger Core Plus image that provides wireless support, a choice of window managers and out-of-the-box support for non-US keyboard layouts. Experimental Pi and
64-bit versions are available too.Tiny supports a number of different modes of operation: Cloud Mode where it’s run as a live CD,USB Stick Mode where it becomes a live distro with persistent USB storage or USB Stick Boot Mode—a hybrid of the previous two. Tiny can also be installed to a hard drive, but not in the usual manner.The OS consists of just two files: the kernel and a compressed system image. So if you already have another Linux flavour installed, then there’s no need to make a
new partition for Tiny, you just put these files somewhere that Grub can see and create a simple menu entry for it.However it’s run, Tiny is decompressed to RAM so it’s fast and responsive.The GUI is powered by the FLTK based FLWM and will seem spartan to those spoiled by modern desktops. It does sport an early-OSX-style launcher bar which is fun to glide over repeatedly.

               Here are most of the graphical applications in the base install. Note that we do
               get some treats like pseudo-transparency in the terminal.

In the style of Open Box or Flux Box, an Applications menu can be summoned by right-clicking on the desktop. It’s worth noting that Tiny is definitely not for beginners.The default image consists of
a 4.2.9 kernel,Busy Box, the GUI, and not much else.There are a few primitive graphical apps, including a service manager, a text editor and a package manager, but the idea is that you add in
whatever you require,a la Arch, e.g it’s straightforward to replace Busy Box with coreutils andutil-Linux for better GNU compatibility.The number of extension packages (about 2,000) is impressive, but doesn’t compare to mainstream distros (e.g Debian has 40,000).

Active community

Reasonably up-to-date packages for common programs are available, but more obscure ones can be either compiled manually or rolled into bespoke TCZ packages. This process is simpler than, say, making Debian packages, but is fairly involved.Fortunately, there’s an active community which has made many unofficial packages available. Extension packages are downloaded and unpacked to a directory which (like home) is mounted elsewhere for any of the persistent usage modes.

There are a number of well documented boot codes which can be passed via the kernel in case of
hardware-related oddities, e g it’s common that USB devices aren’t detected within the default timeout,which is fixed by adding waitusb=10 .The graphical installation tool on the Core Plus image simplifies the process of installing to hard drive or USB stick. It’s possible (but not recommended) to
do a so-called ‘Scatter Mode’ install, which installs the uncompressed file system to a partition (like a normal OS), but all the benefits of running from RAM are lost.
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