Thoughts on PCLOS Schism, Tiny Core on AA1

First, sorry to hear about the shake-ups in the PCLOS community. Unfortunately, the Linux world is filled with people who would rather make rinky-dink changes to things and “fork” trivialities. I realize some of the issues relating to the PCLOS schism are a bit deeper than that and go to the expected pace of development, but that’s hardly new to anyone who’s been involved in similar situations where a certain (lower!) class of user clamors for the latest versions to the point that you get forks based on developmental branches of distros — such as all the freaking Ubuntus and sub-Ubuntus, Sidux, etc. Fewer and fewer users appreciate stable releases and there’s an ignorant dash to anything featuring the newest — and least tested — verisons of every possible package. I’ll have another entry about this problem shortly, including something I read about PCLOS in particular.

This “if it’s not the latest version-number it’s too old” issue again came up in the context of the latest Distrowatch Weekly which was kind of dismissive of the version numbers in Tiny Core’s repository even though the review was positive. It’s as if “old” software is like food past its expiry dates and either won’t run after a certain date or should be thrown out.

how old is your software?

how old is your software?

Alas, such drivel is what seems to drive Linux distro releases nowadays. Too much shite clutters sites like distrowatch, where there’s increasingly less novelty let alone good ideas. Rather, someone takes a popular distro, switches a few things around like enlightenment in place of Gnome and slaps a ton of bloated eyesore wallpapers propagandizing the “new” distro, and gets some face time on distrowatch and similar sites. In reality, the “new” distro is just the old one — all too frequently with only minor changes. It’s all about control and version numbers anymore; gone is the whole esprit de corps that open source was supposed to be about where people cooperated. So now Ubuntu has fractured into countless little fiefdoms, some of which are run by the most clueless of the serfs. It’s now all about competition — not the kind that matters or makes things better but petty contests over who has the newest stuff whether it’s safe or stable or even usable.

This is why I quit tracking what other projects were doing: they’re often too predictably stupid and almost always way too much style over substance. There’s been very little (if any) innovation among new distros for some time. The few rare exceptions don’t get the same press that some sub-sub-sub-sub-Ubuntu version gets; instead, the real innovators are treated as minor curiosities worthy of a quick glance, but quickly forgotten if they can’t (or — damned heresy! — won’t) match the bloat and eye-candy of the masses of distros.

There were more novel changes a few years ago, when Klaus Knopper took Debian and created a live CD based upon it. Or even how others could take such a product (Knoppix) and innovate upon it in some unique way, such as happened with DSL or Knoppmyth. Those kinds of projects added real value beyond the originals, they didn’t merely change graphics or window managers.

Today’s distros’ lineages read like generational lists from the Pentateuch, where this bloke begat that one and so on down the line. Fortunately, there are  no sheep, cattle, or servants to ennumerate. I suppose it would be worthwhile if the third generation twice removed from Debian were actually doing something differently other than mucking around with untested software releases that require users to update software on schedules that make Windows users wonder why anyone would use anything so unstable. Or, even worse, that only changes the window dressing of the second generation twice removed merited an acrimonious fork (let alone a fork at all).

Among the more novel approaches today is Tiny Core Linux. I have to qualify what follows because I was initially involved with the development and I happen to like a lot of the people still developing it. Unfortunately, my schedule precluded doing much with the development team beyond burning a couple early ISOs and running it from USB. I also created the logo for the project. I dropped from the development team because I just didn’t have much time to work with it. I don’t now, either, but I’m making more time for it (if it comes down to a choice between pkgsrc in either Linux or BSD, Gentoo, or building from scratch, I’d just as soon use this as a modular starting point since I share a common vision with its developers — I’m giving up on finding a “ready to roll” option).  

I decided to boot Tiny Core on my Aspire One this morning. I mounted the latest release image and copied the bzImage and tinycore.gz to the root of the 4GB former swap partition PCLOS set up for me (that’s the last freaking time I’ll let anything automatically set itself up). Then I edited my menu.lst so I could boot it and rebooted. Since I didn’t have any extensions for anything else, all I got was a fast X session with jwm and wbar (which is something I would’ve lobbied vigorously against including in the base).

I’ll try to work with this some more this weekend and get it set up right (meaning reconfiguring my Linux partitions to more sensible sizes). I’ve not checked yet to see how many people are using Tiny Core on AA1s or if there are hardware issues beyond those I’ve encountered in PCLOS. If  it’s no worse, I’ll probably stick with Tiny Core and try to get around to submitting extensions again (not to mention more artwork I promised RS).


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3 Responses to “Thoughts on PCLOS Schism, Tiny Core on AA1”

  1. aperturefever Says:

    Darn, cant wait to get a netbook.. Actually im considering getting Asus eee pc 701 (its 150euro so i think its a good buy)[suggestions??-on budget ^_^). I think that tiny core way too spartan :/ I would suggest SliTaz(which i find VERY nice and is 20mb) or a stripped down version of slackware. Any luck with acer one + NetBSD ?

    Mmm.. i wonder how it would be using stumpwm on such small keyboards :/ Any feedback of ratpoison on it?

    PS: I second the linux distro clutterness.. Everyone is after version numbers and fancy marketing (slackware excluded)

  2. lucky Says:

    I have my own “netbook guide” that I’ve intended to post here. I’ll see if I can get that up sometime this week.

    I realize Tiny Core isn’t for everyone; I haven’t had enough time to get it all set up on the AA1 so I can’t give impressions about it yet. I only looked at Slitaz once but I don’t see what it offers that’s Core can’t do. Right now I’m in a holding pattern with what to do. I need something that doesn’t require any reconfiguration — install and it’s ready to roll. Any of the big bundled distros can do that but then I see the overhead and wonder why I did that when I can just use Windows more effectively and not have to worry about resume issues, card readers that still don’t work, etc. So then I start thinking about source-based builds even though I really don’t have the time for that right now.

    My biggest hesitation with Core is that by the time I add full X (I don’t think tiny X will do 1024×600 resolution) and a more powerful shell, I’ll be in the same range of RAM use as I have now. I forgot if I was using 30-40MB RAM at boot in Core. So I’ll have to decide if the other benefits of Core (read-only system) outweigh the rest of it. I’ll probably end up installing it on another computer (probably my old laptop) regardless.

    Re stumpwm/ratpoison: my AA1’s keyboard is bigger than some of the smaller Eee keyboards I saw. I’ve gotten so used to it that I have serious issues with other keyboards now, especially the one that came with our new HP desktop. Anyway, I boot into console (runlevel 3) and sometimes just work in it without X at all. My xinitrc is only a couple lines —
    xsetroot -solid black &
    exec /usr/local/bin/ratpoison

    Despite my big fingers, it’s working out well but (like I wrote above) I’m used to this smaller keyboard now. I definitely prefer it over using the Synaptics touch pad (which PCLOS configures “out of the box” better than the other distros I tried) in KDE. I was mostly using keybindings in KDE more than the mouse unless I had my external rat hooked up.

  3. aperturefever Says:

    I had underestimated tiny core because i had used an early version. Seems very powerful and incredibly fast now (actually im writing this using it-rc3).

    Seems it will get better, but your point is correct. When it is built to cover most, if not all needs, it might be as bloated as other mini distros. I still think that netbsd will be a interesting project here :/ not sure though

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