Damn right distribution!


5 Aug 2011
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Setup and installation:

To get started with Damn Small Linux - Not, you can either download the latest version of the .iso from http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/dsl-n/ download.html or find it on this month’s DVD. The entire distribution is only about 95 MB in size and can easily fit on a 128 MB fl ash drive. Unlike Feather Linux, you cannot install DSL-N directly to a USB fl ash drive. Burn the iso file that you just downloaded with your favourite CD writing software to convert it into a Live CD. Booting off the newly created Live CD takes you to DSL-N’s default desktop interface system. Right click to invoke the main menu and select “Tools | Install to pen drive”. To install this on the USB fl ash drive, select “USB ZIP pen drive”. The Install to thumb drive menu is invoked. Make sure that your fl ash drive has two partitions for your applications, settings and data. Also make sure that your USB fl ash drive is formatted with the FAT32 file-system and inserted directly into a USB port and not into a USB hub. Once you are done, boot up from your shiny new USB fl ash drive. The distribution booted off perfectly on our 2.0 GHz Celeron system with 256 MB of memory. All hardware including the graphics, network and sound was detected and worked flawlessly. The scroll function of the mouse worked perfectly too. We installed it on a 500 MHz Celeron system with 128 MB of memory and the operating system was responsive. Although this distribution should work on most Intel and VIA hardware, don’t expect it to work on your latest AM2 platform—like most other Linux distributions, ATI chipset support is still missing.

At the desktop:

Damn Small Linux-Not features a neat image of the sea as the default wallpaper. The fi rst thing that catches the eye is the graphical system monitoring system. The system monitor sits on the right side of the desktop and provides real time information about all aspects of your PC. Some of the information provided includes network bandwidth, number of active processes, CPU usage (percentage), memory and swap file usage, file system usage, system uptime and battery life if the system in question is a laptop. It also displays the current kernel version, hostname and IP address of the system. This information can be particularly useful in analysing how your system is being used. In the lower right corner lies the master volume control as well as the mount feature. The mount feature is particularly useful if you want to access storage devices like floppy, CD/DVD drive, another fl ash drive, internal or external hard drive if attached, etc. The lower left corner displays the complete desktop workspace and how objects are placed in the workspace. Objects like forms, applications, etc can be dragged and dropped into different work spaces and can be accessed with the click of a button. The top half has easy access to a command terminal for manual system control. It also has shortcuts to programs that facilitate easy management of hardware as well as software. The ‘mydsl’ extension tool provides an easy way to install additional software contributed by users. The DSL panel is like a control panel system that can be used to set networking, printing, wireless, broadband connection, X server, backup and restore of data, etc. The lower panel at the bottom of the screen shows the current time and date as well as holds the taskbar.

Applications :

DSL-N although being a minimalistic distribution, does not skimp on the basic necessities. It features a fully featured web browser and a mail client called the Mozilla SeaMonkey suite. This suite even includes an IRC chat client system. Its office productivity software includes AbiWord, a fully featured word processor and Gnumeric, a fully featured spreadsheet software that you can open, edit and save in Microsoft Office format. But don’t expect these office productivity tools to run all your VB macros although they would sufficiently run all your formulae. For audio and video enthusiasts, it includes a version of mplayer that plays almost any audio/video fi le format. However, it is not as simple as double clicking on the file. We got the DivX movies and MP3 audio working by invoking mplayer at the command line. The distribution even includes an all-in-one messaging system called Gaim to keep in touch with your online buddies. Most documentation out there on the Internet is in the PDF format and the Xpdf viewer does a good job of displaying PDF documents and fi les.

Performance and usability:

When we first used DSL-N, we were very impressed with its minimalistic installation process and super fast speed. In fact, for normal office applications, we saw no visible decrease in system response even on a low-end P3 system. So it’s time to make use of the older computers that you were perhaps prepared to dump as you thought they were not worthy of running Windows XP. To cite you an example, the research work for this review as well as writing it was done using DSL-N off a PQI 256 MB USB fl ash drive. The CUPS printing system seamlessly integrated into our office network while also being able to print perfectly to the HP 4100 mono laser printer. Its Samba shares also integrated seamlessly into our Windows network although it was not as simple as a double click in LinNeighbourhood.


Damn Small Linux-Not satisfies most basic application requirements. For a distribution that is under 100 MB and runs entirely out of RAM, it provides blazing fast performance and a decent set of features. Don’t believe us? Fire up DSL-N on your computer and find out for yourself

Source : Chip magazine
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