Archive for the ‘dsl’ Category

Addressing More Search Engine Hit Topics

May 7, 2010

I continue to get frequent traffic relating to Damn Small Linux. Some of the more common search engine hits are like this one this morning:

damn small linux dead?

The answer to that is, “Yes.” If John Andrews is doing any work on it, he’s not been very open about it in the DSL forums. In fact, his last message about DSL’s future was in December of 2008. I also haven’t seen any posts about new extensions, updates, anything.

I also get lots of hits about ext4 support in DSL. As I wrote back on April 18th, DSL had limited filesystem support in its base and even via extensions. I don’t know if ext4 can even be supported with a 2.4 kernel.

Which brings up another area of DSL-related hits here. There seems to be some interest in a 2.6 version of DSL. That’s funny because there was a 2.6 side project called DSL-N. As it hasn’t been updated in years, either, consider it dead.

Anyone desiring “updated” DSL would do well to consider TinyCore, which is developed by Robert Shingledecker, who was responsible for most of the innovations and development that made DSL popular, and a very talented team he’s assembled. Its philosophy is a bit more radical due to its modularity than  DSL but anyone who ever got into DSL should find the transition easy.

Finally, I have good news for people ending up here looking for information about Scientific Linux 5.5. I saw yesterday that it’s out of beta and the mirrors now have release candidate 1. I can’t speculate when it’ll hit release and it should be a few days later if you want a SL55 live CD image. CentOS 5.5 should be out soon, too; Karanbir Singh’s latest update was, “We are working up to a release in the next few days.”

Fixed and Opened “My DSL Pages”

April 19, 2010

I’ve taken care of one of the things that’s been on my to-do list for way too long by fixing and making “My DSL Pages” public. It had been set on private due to a number of issues with the page. Some of the older content from my previous host’s demise remains broken, but I think I now have each page linked correctly on that one.

Some of the content is related more generically towards JWM and other things which go beyond the narrow focus of DSL so at least it still has some use and life after DSL’s untimely demise. Many of those pages continue to receive hits on a frequent basis both from search engines and from links at the DSL forums; I guess it’s being put to use (whether it’s good or not is probably very subjective).

DSL and ext4 filesystem

April 18, 2010

Did that title get your attention?

Just a quick note based on something I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately in search engine hits to this blog. I’m getting daily hits for at least three of the four words in the title of this entry. Some days it’s just one or two. Some days it’s quite a bit more.

First and foremost, Damn Small Linux is dead. It has not been updated in over a year despite the founder’s claim in December of 2008 that he was looking into how he was going to move forward with development. Second, I don’t think ext4 is even supported in kernel 2.4. That means you’ll more than likely need to upgrade kernels (even if 2.4 does have support for ext4 now). If you have to upgrade to a 2.6 kernel, you’re probably still screwed because it’s not as simple as swapping out kernels. That’s probably more true for something like DSL which really needs some freshening up in the base anyway.

I don’t know if people are looking to mount existing ext4 partitions as ext3 under DSL or if they want to use ext4 as a filesystem for DSL. In my opinion, either way is foolish. DSL had very limited filesystem support in the base and beyond a few filesystem tools extensions. Regardless, you’re probably better off looking for more sensible alternatives that wouldn’t require the work DSL would just to handle ext4 partitions.

Not Updating DSL Hard Drive Guide/PDF and Discouraging Hard Drive Installs Due to Security Issues

August 24, 2009

In light of the security issues affecting Linux 2.4 and 2.6 I wrote about yesterday and due to the fact that DSL’s development is inactive (some would conservatively call it “dead”), I’ve decided against posting an updated guide for DSL hard drive installs. I’ve also added new warnings on the page linked on the right.

Some versions of DSL do have at least one of the affected modules in the base. I think it’s unwise to install anything which is no longer under active development, or which is operated by an absentee-owner who’s not exactly maintaining anything but revenue from his online store, ad placement, and clickthroughs. I doubt he’s following any Linux security news to see if his distro might need an update, and I don’t know that he’d get around to updating it anytime soon.

I was going to post a requiem for DSL several months ago when it appeared that it was no longer under development, regardless of what John Andrews may have written some nine months ago now to the contrary. I don’t think it would serve any purpose now. Its main developer has moved on to bigger (make that smaller) and better things.

There are many options which are almost as suitable for older hardware if the goal is a more traditional hard drive installation, but those options will wane in coming years as Linux distros increasingly turn older/legacy hardware into scrap. As I note in the new “warning” on my DSL Hard Drive page, it would be much safer to install DSL via frugal install or even just boot off the CD if possible.

Running monkey httpd on AA1 under crunchbang

August 10, 2009

One of the things I liked about DSL was its inclusion of just about everything you’d ever need whether you wanted to use it as a desktop or a server. I figure from the posts in the forums that desktop use far outpaced server use but it’s quite capable as a server. DSL included everything from SSH and SSL to FTP server to a small HTTP daemon called monkey, which along with any of the other services could be started at boot from a cheatcode.

I think monkey was one of those things that kind of grew on me even though I’d often use thttpd (personal favorite). I’d use it at home for a variety of things including running a local bloxsom blog and hosting family calendars. I’d sometimes use it at work to test things and to set up a temporary server for our group. Despite its tiny size, monkey does CGI and can handle just about whatever you’d want a small HTTP daemon to do without any bloat and with easy configuration. It’s also been rock-solid in my experience, even with moderate traffic. I think you don’t need a full LAMP stack if your needs are fairly simple and you’re not setting up a production server with loads of traffic (and thttpd, which I think is more robust, should suffice if that’s the case).

I needed to look at something and needed to host it on my own network, so I looked to see if monkey is available in the Ubuntu repositories. It is, so I installed it.

The first thing I discovered is that its default conf file (/etc/monkey/monkey.conf) uses port 2001, which is kind of stupid (IMO). I edited it to a more suitable and easily remembered port (8080).

Once it’s set up the way you want, you can start the daemon:
sudo /etc/init.d/monkey start

Actually, you should first check to see if it’s started by default (see below) when you install it. Whether it is or isn’t, it’s safe to issue a stop before starting and/or reconfiguring it if you need to use a different configuration than its default. I think it’s fucked up to set things up to start automatically upon installation or even upon reboot unless/until the user decides to run it. Guess that’s why I still hate Ubuntu and the mindset of the user it attracts (I was going to add a post about this utter shitheadedness affecting the wider Ubuntu community the other day but I’m trying to be more diplomatic — really).

Once it’s started, you can point your browser to localhost:portnumber (e. g., http://localhost:8080) or even to your IP (if not proxied) to reach it from the Internet. Here’s the default monkey page:


You can set up your own index.html and configure it as you see fit, including starting with a conf file in your home directory. Just copy the default in /etc/monkey to wherever you want to set it up (such as ~/.monkey). My own preference is to set things up in my home directory, so I have ~/www set up with a directory tree suited to my needs.


Another thing (not surprising) I discovered about the Ubuntu package is that it’s set up to start at boot. I moved the S monkey file in my default runlevel (e.g., /etc/rc3.d/) to K. I don’t intend to run a full-time httpd so I’d just as soon start it manually as-needed. It’s not that big but it’s the thought that counts. Keep that in mind when using packages from the bloated distros. (Didn’t I write above that I’m trying to be more diplomatic? See? I didn’t repeat how totally fucked up I think it is to start these kinds of services without users taking full control of them first.)

Also, I noticed {Tiny,Micro}Core doesn’t have a package for monkey yet. I’ll probably add that to my compile list shortly.

From Search Engine Referrals: What is Zero Day and Use TinyCore Instead of DSL

August 9, 2009

I’ve written before how sometimes I see things in my stats that interest me for some reason. Sometimes it appears to be a sign of frustration (search engine terms including profanity) or a subject which I either haven’t addressed or haven’t explained in some detail.


This caught my eye this afternoon. A “zero-day” exploit means a vulnerability is already available (and usually being exploited) in the wild without any kind of warning or notice to the developer of a certain piece of software. It’s most unfortunate because such things are discovered reactively. In contrast, many security experts will disclose vulnerabilities to developers and give them adequate time to patch before going public with details. The disclosure of the DNS cache poisoning vulnerability affecting all operating systems last year is an example of the latter — Dan Kaminsky worked behind the scenes with a team of developers from different operating systems to find a solution before announcing to the world what he’d found. So “zero-day” means there’s no head’s up about a problem, and more often than not someone is already actively (ab)using it.

Also, to anyone who’s interested in Damn Small Linux on a netbook like the Aspire One, forget about it. For starters, it’s no longer under active development. Then there’s the whole problem with various drivers for new devices not in Linux 2.4 at all. So you’re looking at big dead ends right there. Finally, given the number of people who demand aesthetically-pleasing interfaces, you’re going to have the tiny X server in DSL compressing 1024×768 into 1024×600; the result is a squished-looking screen. There’s at least one full X server extension in MyDSL.

A better solution if you want a similar concept as DSL but more modular is to use TinyCore (if you can live with the aforementioned squishy screen) or MicroCore with one of the X extensions (if you want graphics). TinyCore is developed by a team with strong DSL ties (at one time it was called DSLCore). Your AA1 or other netbook will be much better supported with TinyCore. It’s not as easy to configure but it’s not too difficult if you read the documentation.

Trimming Initial Resource Drain in DSL

July 8, 2008

This is using the stock DSL 2.4.31 kernel, which is more bloated than my custom per-machine kernels.

Before ensuring extraneous processes aren’t started and extraneous modules aren’t loaded at boot:

Actually, that’s with ntfs and reiserfs removed from /etc/filesystems and (to make damn sure) modprobe -r for each in (DSL’s rc.local hack, made necessary by the fact /etc is ro in a live CD environment — another thing that makes it kind of quirky as a traditional hard drive install). So it was even a little higher — 15 or 16 MB — before with bash and 14 with mksh as my shell.

Now I’m only loading ext2/3-related modules along with vfat and msdos (which are small but I could also trim because I have maybe two ZIP disks that are FAT and the rest are ext2, which is my “shared” filesystem between Linux and BSD). I also have made sure reiserfs and ntfs can’t load by default or during one of hotplug-knoppix’ crazy freaking shotgun module loads. I also found a hefty module that loads by default that my hardware doesn’t require. Here’s the result a minute or so after boot and starting X (using ratpoison):

I know it’s only 4MB trimmed but that’s nearly a 50% reduction and boot time is a little faster with some of the changes I’ve made. I will update the page for DSL hard drive reconfiguration as soon as I get a chance.

Speaking of which, this might be my last DSL HD entry on this blog. I’m leaning towards setting up one frugal install for 4.x and dslcore and reclaiming a few GB. I’m deliberating over what to do with my computers and right now I think I’m either setting everything back up on BSD or a combination of BSD on the ground and Linux in the air (i.e., laptop) at least until I get another wifi card or more improvements are made to the OpenBSD bwi driver (4.4 is now beta and WPA has been added for bwi — one of my criteria). My opposition towards the bloat inflicted upon users by most binary packaging systems is leading me back to thinking ports are best for me. Using something like pkgsrc on one computer will allow me to compile and distribute as-I-see-fit packaged binaries to the rest of them.

Uninspiring Screenshot

December 31, 2007

This just shows Opera opened to the DSL Forums and ctrl-tab to show other tabs opened. The only way to get more viewing area in Opera would be to maximize it or to set my jwm tray on top to autohide (like the thin blue line at the bottom right corner).

This Old Computer

December 26, 2007

Tweaked my desktop’s JWM configurations a bit and doubled my RAM ($3 for 256MB, how could I resist?).  I added a couple menu buttons on the top tray since I use my mouse. The apps menu shows the standard DSL format (though I factored out everything). The speed menu is my fast launch with my most frequent stuff (including the content-based menu I made for laptop use). Moved the dock to the left side (gaim and opera icons shown), four desktop pager, tasklist with maxwidth set at 120, and then a full clock with date.

I set my monitoring stuff on one virtual desktop and set up htop and my tail terminals to fit around conky so I can see everything. Uptime reset over Christmas (and again for installing RAM). I’d been up 42 days since wiping the drive and reinstalling DSL.

I’m probably going to make a few more jwm tweaks, including moving the dock icons back to the right side — they’re too close to the menus and pager. I might add more menus as well to separate tasks on  the tray instead of in the menu. I’m also using dfm more than I thought I would.

I  thought about switching this one over to a frugal install but I’m in no rush. The only thing this computer needs is a quieter fan.

DSL 4.2-release

December 18, 2007

It’s out and it rocks. Quite a few changes: some filesystem modules have been moved out, changes in applications, and new icons and theme (blackandblue). The filesystem modules had no progs in MyDSL so nobody should even notice they’re gone. As far as applications go, mtpaint replaces xpaint. Plenty of folder icons if you don’t like the default color scheme. There are many more improvements.

I burned the ISO pretty fast to give it a quick spin. Now running installed HDD-USB. Here’s a first screenshot, lucky-style with the tray on top.

More later.