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Tinycore is a nimble 10mb linux distro that I reviewed a little while back. I have been using it on my EEE PC 900 for about 3 months. Over the course that course of time, I’ve learned a thing or two about TC’s extensions, and which are best suited to such a light weight, small distro

Three things I look for:

    1. Few dependencies – installing many apps, with many different dependencies will soon fatten up your system, try to use apps with few, or in some cases, no deps!

    2. Extension size – Pretty obvious, but any extention you install will add to the size of the route file system, and also occupy RAM (even if the app is not running). Therefore, sticking to smaller extensions makes good sense.

    3. Suitablity of ‘On Demand’ feature – When TC boots, it mounts every single extention you have in your ‘tce’ folder (type ‘fdisk -l’ in a console, and you’ll see what I mean. If you install an extension using ‘On Demand’ it will be downloaded from the repo, to your computer, but not mounted – it will only be mounted when you want to use it. Makes a lot of sense for exensions that you know you probably wont use very often (especially if they are large in size!).

So, considering the above I have made a list of worthy extensions. All available from the Appbrowser.

Essentials

OSS for sound, wirelesstools and wpasupplicant for WLAN, 915resolution for widescreen displays, zip/unzip, rar, curl, etc.

File manager – two serious contenders here.

Midnight Commander (mc.tcz) is an extremely light weight FM that runs from the console. 606kb in size, and just 2 deps. Makes light work of navigating files using the keyboard, but also has mouse support. On top of that has a built in text editor for editing scripts and config files. If you are comfortable in the console, this is the way to go.

Browser – again, two apps that i would consider

Dillo (dillo2.tcz) compliments TC in every way. small, lightening fast, offers good functionality, but doesnt support everything. The extension itself is just 1.6mb and has no dependencies!

Opera 9.64 (opera.tcz) Fastest of the full-featured browsers. You’ll be hard pressed to find a website that opera cant handle. The extension clocks in at 8mb with no deps. Opera also supports ‘minimal mode’ to save RAM, which strips out IRC, RSS and email functionality. Opera 10.10 is also available,but is significantly larger, at 11.6mb.

Video/music player

Mplayer-nodeps (Mplayer-nodeps.tcz) There are a few different Mplayer extensions in the repo. My reccomendation is Mplayer-nodeps. This is the command line version, lacking any GUI, as this will save you some space. Mplayer performs very well under TC, and as long as you brush up on the commands for mplayer, you’ll be fine. Nodeps version clocks in at 4.3mb, and of course there are no dependencies! Other versions require a graphical tool kit (GTK1 or GTK2). There is also a version for xorg users.

VLC (vlc.tcz) everyone loves VLC, and of course its availible here. Clocks in at a hefty 11.6mb, but will play practically any file. xorg reccomended by extension creator (eeek!). Depends on QT, amoung others.

System monitor

Conky (conky.tcz) Lightweight system monitor, displaying performace stats on the desktop. Just 116kb 2 deps its delightfully lightweight. A must have on any linux system!

Text editor

Beaver (beaver.tcz) Beaver is a handy text editor that I use everyday. Although not the most featurefull, supports some syntax highlighting, line numbering and auto indent. Only 135kb in size, but does depend on GTK1.

Office tools

Abiword/gnumeric (abiword.tcz, gnumeric.tcz) Two good apps for your office needs. allthough not as full-featured as openoffice, these clock in at a fraction of the size.

So, there it is, a small selection of usefull extentions that wont bog down your system!

Tinycore is an extremely small graphical linux distro, available for x86 systems. Tinycore consists of pretty much the bare minimum required for a graphical linux environment (namely a Linux 2.6 kernel, Busybox, Tiny X, and Fltk) clocking in at just 10mb. TC runs entirely within RAM, saving its self to disk when the ‘sync’command is used, or at shutdown.

TC is essentially a blank canvas. functional enough to use from the get go, but with enough potential to make a very handy machine.

TC has two main modes of opperation.

1. Cloud – Non-persistant, suited to users who wish for an uncluttered system – simply boot up, select the app you wish to use, it will be downloaded and installed from the repo. after a reboot, system will have returned to default.
Personally, I cannot get my head around why users would prefer this mode over a persistant install. this requires software to be redownloaded after every boot. also, if any configurations and other personal settings are required, these will be lost. not to mention any files saved locally (althoug you could still save to mounted devices outside of the route file system, e.g. /mnt/sdd1/myfile

2. Mount mode – Offers persistance. ‘boot’ dir on storage media is loaded into ram at boot. all installed exentions will be loaded from ‘tce’folder. in adition, a any other directory (such as home) can be set as persistant by editing te relavent script.

I installed TC on to my eeepc 900 as i was looking for a quick and nimble distro with fast boot and capable enough for everyday usage – Wifi, browser, documents, video, audio.

The tinycore team have developed their own ‘exention manager’ (called appbrowser) to handle the installation and management of new software, the ‘appaudit’ to handle dependencies, and various other graphical tools to handle system admin. making this a fairly easy to expand distro.

The graphical environment is very fast and nimble, but will require some adjustment for users familiar with other, more integrated desktop environments.

For example, by default, there is no system tray or file manager. You must either use the ‘wbar’ menu at the bottom, or right-click to access the FLTK menu. Some could argue its not a user friendly system when it takes 3 mouse clicks to check the time/date!

But ofcourse, you are perfectly at liberty to add those features, and most users most certainly will add a file manager, and various other ‘essentials’.

One thing that must be taken into careful consideration when using TC, is what extentions to add. Thanks to the active community, there are 100s, perhaps 1000s of great extentions available through the appbrowser, but not all would be smart installations. for example:

1. openoffice is available, but at 90mb, its already 9x the size of the OS itself – adding serious bulk to what was previously a slim sleek distro

2.Many exentions will have a list of dependencies as long as my arm, meaning, to use that software, you need to install a buch of other software too – again fattening up your system considerably.

3.Some games and media players reccomend the use of Xorg as opposed to Tiny X. Whereas this is technically possible, it does seem like a step backwards for a distro with lightweight asperations.

I have installed the following extentions to give ordinary functionality

1. midnight commander – console based file manager
2. opera – web browser
3. beaver – text editor
4. mplayer – video, audio player
5. abiword – wordprocessor
6. gnumeric – spreadsheet
7. pidgin – instant messenger
8. various utils, zip, rar, conky

TC on the 900 handles all of these applications very nicely. All apps load very quickly, and can be swapped between with lightning speed. certain apps (such as pidgin) would certainly benefit from a system tray – which can be installed. other than that, usage is very good.

One complaint would be the unorthodox window decorations (rather than the typical minimizing, maximizing, close it uses ‘maximize width’ and ‘maximize height’, with minimize at the top left). this often forces me to shift a maximised window aside so that i can right-click in order to select another window.

aditionally, when opera gets busy, with multiple tabs, i did wittness the occational hang up, which is easily remedied by closing some tabs.

another annoyance is the unreliablity of the appsaudit tool and the appsbrowser (on poor connections). i’ve had all my TC exentions broken by dependency errors when trying to delete software and failed installations requiring manual installation of dependencies to make them work. the whole proccess can be a bit ‘hit and miss’.

So, in conclusion, TC is a very promising distro, and has an enthusiastic community and dev team. i think this distro has a lot of potential for the future, and i will definitely be following its progress. if you are a linux newbie, avoid this distro – its probably a bit too hands on for you, and you will definitely struggle if you run in to trouble. but for everyone else, dive right in. its a refreshing change.

I hear that TC 2.10 is now available, and touts significant improvements to appsbrowser/appsaudit amoung others. defintely a fast moving distro!

4 out of 5