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The Smallest Linux Distros for Desktop Computers
#11
I had some good experience with SliTaz around one year ago. I remember it was a tiny VPS pre-installed with SliTaz.

Not only the OS was light-weighted, but it also performed well and ran smoothly. So I think you should give it a try if you have not done so.
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#12
(11-06-2019, 07:25 AM)LightDestory Wrote:  First just to reply to @ikk157 there is a easier way to do that: it is called persistent installation and software like Rufus can make it with a ISO and a USB drive without emulating an installation.
I have to say that this particular installation is possible thanks to a recently fix provided by Rufus' developer to the Linux community and it works on distributions that merged this patch: Debian, Ubuntu, ect...

I don't know if the mentioned small linux distros are well updated as normal distros. If your target distro is not compatible with Rufus, well you have already describe the only way to get a persistent installation of Linux on a USB drive.

To @xdude and @Hidden Refuge Don't you know that we can actually run Linux from RAM? It is faster then running a OS from a USB 3.0 (that on older machine will be downgraded to 2.0).

There are a few distros that runs directly from ram and the requirement of ram is a mind-blowing range!
You start froma distros called SliTaz that works 64MB of RAM!
SliTaz is an extreme and really bare-bone Linux distro, if you get more RAM you can choose between more distros that are more likely "daily usage".
IF you get 2GB+ of RAM I suggest:
  • Tin Hat Linux, the last release is 4 year ago but it is the so far stable and rich distros of this type.
  • Slax, a good distro capable of running on RAM and stays persistent if good conditions meet.
  • Puppy Linux, the most famous lightweight distro that can ALSO run from ram.
I will not list every Distros capable of running from RAM, you can find a useful list on Wikipedia from this link

Regards,

LightDestory.

Wow! I wasn’t aware rufus offered the capability without going through the entire process of “faking” an install. Have you given it a try? If so, how does it perform? And does everything save after a reboot? Since some of these installations don’t tend to save on a reboot, you basically start it up as if it’s a fresh operating system install.

Also regarding running an OS directly from RAM. That sounds like an interesting way of running an operating system. Since “loading” is basically just copying files from the hdd/ssd to RAM, does that mean that since everything is already on the RAM that things load up almost instantly? Also, since RAM doesn’t retain its data on a reboot/poweroff, where will everything be stored?
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#13
(11-07-2019, 05:34 PM)ikk157 Wrote:  Wow! I wasn’t aware rufus offered the capability without going through the entire process of “faking” an install. Have you given it a try? If so, how does it perform? And does everything save after a reboot? Since some of these installations don’t tend to save on a reboot, you basically start it up as if it’s a fresh operating system install.

No, you don't start a fresh operation system every boot. What you just described is the behavior of liveCD mode of Linux distros, when you "persistent/fake" install linux on a USB, during your normal usage you will perform all the I/O operations on/from the USB. I have to say that running a OS on your USB will likely kill your USB because the flash memory technology suffers and die with I/O operation. (We can say that USB shares the same problem of SSD, they are basically using the same technology).

(11-07-2019, 05:34 PM)ikk157 Wrote:  Also regarding running an OS directly from RAM. That sounds like an interesting way of running an operating system. Since “loading” is basically just copying files from the hdd/ssd to RAM, does that mean that since everything is already on the RAM that things load up almost instantly? Also, since RAM doesn’t retain its data on a reboot/poweroff, where will everything be stored?

I have experienced OS running from RAM a long time ago so I don't remember clearly how it exactly works, but I can suppose that you can run your OS from RAM but at the same time perform I/O operation to get/store data. I mean I think that system & program binary files are ALL LOADED ON THE RAM AND NEVER UNLOADED meanwhile your data is likely put on your RAM and when you start the shutdown process it will unload the files inside the storage memory.
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#14
(11-04-2019, 11:36 AM)ikk157 Wrote:  I’m quite positive that raspbian can actually be installed on and run on a small capacity usb flash drive. Try downloading the desktop version and see if you can “burn” the disk image onto the usb flash drive. I would love to know the outcome!

How much storage i need on this USB Flash drive to try it?
Im Interesting tbh, never did this before.
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#15
(11-08-2019, 07:13 PM)LightDestory Wrote:  No, you don't start a fresh operation system every boot. What you just described is the behavior of liveCD mode of Linux distros, when you "persistent/fake" install linux on a USB, during your normal usage you will perform all the I/O operations on/from the USB. I have to say that running a OS on your USB will likely kill your USB because the flash memory technology suffers and die with I/O operation. (We can say that USB shares the same problem of SSD, they are basically using the same technology).


I have experienced OS running from RAM a long time ago so I don't remember clearly how it exactly works, but I can suppose that you can run your OS from RAM but at the same time perform I/O operation to get/store data. I mean I think that system & program binary files are ALL LOADED ON THE RAM AND NEVER UNLOADED meanwhile your data is likely put on your RAM and when you start the shutdown process it will unload the files inside the storage memory.

So you’re saying the SSDs tend to experience issues being used as the boot drives? If so, why is it that many people consider them being more reliable than HDDs? Doesn’t the fact that they contain no moving parts make them more reliable?

As for running the OS on the RAM, since the data is only unloaded to secondary storage during a shut down, doesn’t that mean a sudden power off would lead to data loss? Since the pc didn’t get the time nor did it know that it had to unload the data.

(11-09-2019, 06:40 PM)youssefbasha Wrote:  How much storage i need on this USB Flash drive to try it?
Im Interesting tbh, never did this before.

I’ve seen people flashing raspbian on sd cards with as little storage as 8GB (dont get me wrong, you MIGHT be able to go lower than that). So in theory, an 8GB flash drive should do the trick.

However, you won’t get much free storage space to play around with. So play it safe, and use a 16GB USB flash drive.
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#16
(11-14-2019, 07:06 PM)ikk157 Wrote:  So you’re saying the SSDs tend to experience issues being used as the boot drives? If so, why is it that many people consider them being more reliable than HDDs? Doesn’t the fact that they contain no moving parts make them more reliable?

As for running the OS on the RAM, since the data is only unloaded to secondary storage during a shut down, doesn’t that mean a sudden power off would lead to data loss? Since the pc didn’t get the time nor did it know that it had to unload the data.

It is well know that SSD are not reliable as HDD when talking about data storing. We use SSD as boot devices because THEY ARE FAST thanks to their flash-nand technologies. HDD can't compete because they use a technology based on cylinders and sectors that are read by a mechanical arm.

Every SSD sold comes with an assurance of I/O operations called TBW: for example my KINGSTON A400 120GB SSD has an assurance of 40TB of writable data!
That's a lot but when you exceeds that number you can except problems comings soon.

A 480GB SSD has a 160TB assurance!

Regarding running OS from RAM... you are right, when the OS preload ALL the data on RAM and then an unexcepted shutdown happens all the data will be lost. But you can also configure your distro you preload on RAM only system & applications file meanwhile your data partition is simply mounted and accessible from your USB.
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#17
The lightest one with desktop environment used to be dsl or damn small linux ,but the problem is that it isextremely dangerous to use old kernel and old linux . Itt is vulnerabre to exploit . Alternative is alpine linux that is couple mb and used by postmarketos
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#18
(11-14-2019, 07:56 PM)LightDestory Wrote:  It is well know that SSD are not reliable as HDD when talking about data storing. We use SSD as boot devices because THEY ARE FAST thanks to their flash-nand technologies. HDD can't compete because they use a technology based on cylinders and sectors that are read by a mechanical arm.

Every SSD sold comes with an assurance of I/O operations called TBW: for example my KINGSTON A400 120GB SSD has an assurance of 40TB of writable data!
That's a lot but when you exceeds that number you can except problems comings soon.

A 480GB SSD has a 160TB assurance!

Regarding running OS from RAM... you are right, when the OS preload ALL the data on RAM and then an unexcepted shutdown happens all the data will be lost. But you can also configure your distro you preload on RAM only system & applications file meanwhile your data partition is simply mounted and accessible from your USB.

The assurance for the I/O operations doesn’t seem promising at all! Specially considering that there’s no proper way of measuring how far you’ve reached in your “quota”. And judging by how expensive SSDs are, it doesn’t sound very economic to constantly replace your SSD and go through the hassle of migrating the data to your new one just because you’ve exceeded the assured I/O operations.
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#19
(11-14-2019, 07:56 PM)LightDestory Wrote:  It is well know that SSD are not reliable as HDD when talking about data storing. We use SSD as boot devices because THEY ARE FAST thanks to their flash-nand technologies. HDD can't compete because they use a technology based on cylinders and sectors that are read by a mechanical arm.

Every SSD sold comes with an assurance of I/O operations called TBW: for example my KINGSTON A400 120GB SSD has an assurance of 40TB of writable data!
That's a lot but when you exceeds that number you can except problems comings soon.

A 480GB SSD has a 160TB assurance!

Regarding running OS from RAM... you are right, when the OS preload ALL the data on RAM and then an unexcepted shutdown happens all the data will be lost. But you can also configure your distro you preload on RAM only system & applications file meanwhile your data partition is simply mounted and accessible from your USB.

well SSD doesnt suffer from vibration and shake like HDD does . it also doenst have moving part like HDD Does . so the term "ssd are not reliable as hdd" isnt true but the truth is it is kinda the same . HDD suffer from that vibration and moving part issue but SSD have write limit espescially the lower end one suffer more that uses TLC . the one that use MLC or SLC suffer less because store less data in a cell .

hdd suffer lot of damage from dropping but ssd is much more better at that except if it is too high that the pcb or the nand crack . hdd platter is more fragile than ssd nand
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#20
I can maybe contribute a few things here:

Puppy Linux is a great small distro, however the layered file system can be a bit tricky to work with when using a persistent install. Also it uses lilo boot loader which has caused me problems in the past when grub was previously installed. I would not recommend puppy on a system that previously had grub unless you are comfortable editing the boot record.

Slitaz is a really great low end option. In the same vein I would recommend antiX Linux, a mepis variant. The project was defunct a few years back but has since been picked up. I haven't used it since the new developers picked it up, but it was fairly fully featured and easy to use when I tried it.

Another possibility would be to use a stripped down version of Debian or another big distro. I've heard of people using a bare bones version of Debian as a router with as little as 32mb ram.

As far as the smallest, I think the title goes to tiny core, a 16mb fork of dsl which is still actively developed. The package manager is a bit clunky compared with something like CentOS, but it is startling what can be done with such a small amount of disc space. There is a port of TC called picore designed for the pi.

If you have a computer capable of virtualization, I would recommend you install virtualbox or other virtualization software and test out some of your options to see how they feel in order to make a good choice.

A great place to research options not mentioned here as well as what is new and being currently developed is http://distrowatch.com
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