DSL Redux/Revisited

I’ve started a more general (than Linux or BSD) blog which I’ll make more “public” in the very near future. I also have a lot of stuff I’ve written, or started, for this blog. Maybe I will post it.

I’d expected with my Acer Aspire One (AA1) to cut back even further on Linux than I had before I ended up taking care of my family. I still have OpenBSD 4.3 installed on most of my hard drives, including my old laptop which serves as a part time file server. I installed NetBSD 4.01 on another hard drive a couple weeks ago. Then I was digging through my desk and found an old drive that had DSL (hard drive install) on it. Oh, the memories.

Before cutting back on using DSL (again), I’d written some scripts to manage updating from future updates without overwriting changes I’d made to make it more hard drive-friendly. In a nutshell, it would’ve used my separate /home partition for backing up certain files that would be overwritten in the base and then overwrite the new base files with the ones I wanted. I didn’t have a chance to work on it because I knew DSL’s future was waning due to the main developer’s interest in pursuing something DSL’s founder seemed to either object or not care. Between work commitments and my eventual role as caretaker, I didn’t have time to continue working with RS on DSL or on what’s become Tiny Core Linux.

So the other day, with this old DSL hard drive install waiting for a good thrashing, I decided to test my upgrade script with the most recent — and perhaps last — version of DSL 4 (4.10).

The backup part of it worked. Unfortunately, there appears to have been a lot more changes than I bargained for between versions. I booted into DSL 4.10 and the first thing I noticed were error messages. These included the usual filesystem errors (thought we were cleaning that up) but also some new ones related to knoppix-autoconfig which led me to conclude some changes had been made that were more frugal-centric and weren’t adjusted to accomodate hard drive installs. I was a little confused because I didn’t read the notes (what passes for DSL’s changelog). Upon further inspection, when changing the hostname (not the usual process because DSL uses the knoppix scripts for that), I noticed some things that had been part of knoppix-autoconfig had been moved elsewhere. I dug around a little more and noticed more things that seemed to be like Tiny Core than DSL — such as a directory for dropbear (small SSH replacement). I got out of the loop and didn’t know what was done, why it was done, or anything like that.

I have a few things I want to say about DSL and where it stands now, but this isn’t the post for that. Suffice for now, I backed out of Tiny Core development when my workload increased dramatically late last summer. I haven’t updated any TCL ISO since at least August, and I’d pretty much stopped doing anything related to DSL (short of asking my GPL’ed extensions be removed until DSL had a plan for making sources available). I’d hoped that DSL could continue and that TCL could be in the same family — after all, a couple years ago I’d wanted to release a more user-friendly drag and drop desktop version of DSL (before Robert included dfm) but only if it could have the same community support because I didn’t want a fork and didn’t want to separate too far from what Robert was doing with “mainline” DSL.


Since so much time had passed since my previous install and I already know there have been a couple updates for OpenSSL and OpenSSH, I decided to build those rather than copy out of my system-backup.tar.bz2 file. I updated OpenSSL and OpenSSH to current. I also compiled a kernel — not for new or different features, but for a smaller footprint (I made my root partition 1 GB so every MB counts). The new kernel has just enough to do what I need and a few extra modules in case I connect my scanner or printer. After getting pissed off because of a “bad magic” error with a tarball, I decided to get the latest version of libarchive and use BSD’s tar and cpio.  Then, just to feel more comfortable in the shell, I again installed mksh (I have to check the DSL scripts because many of them are /bin/bash instead of /bin/sh and then piss off bash).


I have a few more things to do with this. I’m deleting a lot of the base apps because I’m not going to be running X very much. I also have my own preferences for what’s left — like full vim, python, etc. — but this will likely be used to fetch content for mashups and manage podcasts. At least for a while.



This is a lot of work to get it “just right,” especially considering what I’ve written about the BSDs on my BSD blog. The BSDs install in a small footprint with low resource demands and allow you to install only what you need. I may have to go ahead and check out Tiny Core and see how it’s matured since its modularity should also fit the needs I have for this. 

One of the reasons I’m open to Linux on this machine is because the BSDs share a bad trait in their USB stacks that prevent me from using a USB ethernet adapter in the same port as my keyboard — I’ve written about this on my BSD blog and my solution was to use a powered hub connected in  that port. It’s not as big a problem as some of the ACPI issues (NetBSD gets a big tip of the hat for handling that best — better than Linux).

In other news…

I’m not installing Linux or BSD on my AA1, at least not before my warranty expires. I chose XP in part because the Linux model had hardware that wasn’t yet supported — including the multi-card reader, microphone, etc. Acer should’ve chosen hardware on the basis of what had immediate support, not what might someday be on par with works under XP (not that everything’s perfect — I’ve had none of the problems with my Atheros card that others reported early on). I’ll have more netbook content on my new blog soon, and some netbook content on this one as well.

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