Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
Today brings another wonderful development in the world of Linux and open source software with the release of Damn Small Linux - Not. This is a distribution based on the famous Damn Small Linux, but adds welcome features and enhancements making it a more modern and complete operating sytem, yet still weights in at a meager 84mb. Tuxmachines took their alpha release for a livecd test drive and is here to report the findings.
As you can see the initial boot splash is a bit customized for this branch of the dsl distribution. The options appear basically the same as well as the actual boot process screen. It's quite a fast boot and one can find themselves in a full gui in right at a minute.
The desktop itself is almost the same as we encountered in DSL 2.3, except perhaps the lack of desktop icons. I myself have grown to prefer a less cluttered desktop, and as such welcome the tidying up. Otherwise, it's still the same lovely saturn wallpaper and Kharisma theme with torsmo, pager, and desklet.
It isn't really until you begin to explore the menus that you get a sense that something new is afoot. The first indication is a slightly rearranged menu. I think the new layout is much more logically constructed making applications easier to find. One might notice a few new players in the menus as well, or not. Mozilla is now the featured web browser, but the menu entry merely states "Web browser." Upon clicking this entry, it is revealed to be Mozilla 1.7.12 with the default homepage of dslos.com. Also ambigious, is an entry for IM Client. Executing this brings Gaim into sight. Gaim is a great replacement for their previous aol client as it features support for most im services available today. With further perusal, one might notice the new and strange-for-this-distro entry of Mplayer. Whoosh! Mplayer? Of course running this app revealed the first of my problems with dsl-n.
Damn Small Linux - Not comes with a newer 2.6.11 kernel as opposed to a 2.4 version found in the original DSL. This is to incorporate added support for more hardware configurations. However as with many debian based distros, its hardware detection fails to see all my partitions. But the problem with DSL-N lies in the area of filesystem support. Not only is auto detection a bit spotty, but support for reiser is completely missing. It isn't built into the kernel, nor is it included as a module. These conditions culminated into a lack of testing for the above mentioned addition of Mplayer at this time. If time permits, I may locate an ext2/3 partition in the upper sectors of my drive and copy some files there for testing. As it is, this is a definite faux paus. Saving space is one thing, but support for a few of the most popular filesystems is mandatory. In their defense, the kernel source is available through the DSL extension panel and this is an early alpha. Perhaps it's more of an oversight than a conscious decision.
In the MyDSL extension panel one can find many applications for installation. In this release we find a new category called Gtk2. Herein lies one of the main points of the new system. By allowing themselves a little more headroom, DSL can now include support for gtk2 applications making their distribution more up-to-date and usable for a larger range of users. Available for installation are applications such as firefox, gimp, gkrellm, and nvu. It was in this capacity that I encountered my second and third problems with DSL-N.
The lesser of the problems, and possibly not even the responsibity of the DSL crew, was in installing xfireworks. The app is not gtk2 related, yet none the less intriguing. It downloaded and installed just fine then placed a menu entry for my convenience. Clicking it did start the uber-cool xfirefox window background program. It could be used as a screensaver, but I think of it more as desktop enhancement in much the same ilk as xsnow. It performed wonderfully and ate no distinguishable cpu cycles or memory. The problem was discovered when I wished to turn it off. There is no menu entry to exit it or any gui way to stop it that I found. I issued a killall xfireworks and it stopped. However, the problem was I did not get my pretty saturn wallpaper back until going into the DSLpanel and reselecting it. This was a bit of a bummer, but certainly nothing serious.
However, it does lead to something I think is worth consideration. In trying to capture screenshots of the really pretty xfireworks, I wanted a program to view the 3 mb screendumps for review before feeling confident I had some nice shots. Gimp is listed in the Gtk2 MyDSL panel and I knew it could not only do the job, but would make for nice feature shots itself as well. It downloaded and installed just fine. It too gave me a menu entry and even a desktop icon. However it would not start. An error box was all I was given, complaining about not having a usable version of Freetype. More precisely it stated that the required version is 2.1.7 or later and the installed version is 2.1.6.
So all in all, I think DSL-N is a wonderful idea and is executed fairly well for an alpha. The desktop and menu improvements were welcome and hardware support was good. System performance and stability were still head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd. However I think an 84 mb download is a bit arbitrary. It's too big for a 64 meg usbkey, yet leaves plenty of room on the 128 mb versions. Update the freetype2 libs, add support for popular filesystems, put a coupla games back, and include scrot, pleeease.
Some listed features include:
1. Kernel 2.6.11 and modules
2. Mozilla Suite 1.7.12, browser,mail,irc,etc.
3. Mplayer 3.3.5 audio and video
4. Leafpad 0.7.9 editor/notepad
5. Abiword 2.2.7 wordprocessor
6. Gnumeric 1.4.3 spreadsheet
7. gTFP 2.0.18 ftp client
8. gaim 0.77 IM client
9. Xpdf 3.0.0 pdf viewer
10.Emelfm 0.9.2 file manager
11.Xpaint 2.7.6 paint program
12.Cups 1.1.14 printing
13.unionfs supported as an optional boot parameter
14.MyDSL system of extensions
16.USB Pendrive Install