Damn Small Linux (DSL) started as an exercise by John Andrews to fit an entire desktop computer system into a compressed 50MB image. Within a few years, DSL grew to one of the most popular Linux systems in the world (in the Top Ten, by some accounts) without growing beyond that 50MB target.
In a world where desktop systems are bloated with eye candy and many rarely used features, you may wonder what makes this little operating-system-that-could so popular? Well, it could be that people don't want to throw away a usable computer because the latest Windows system won't run. It could be that people are tired of waiting for common computer operations to complete while who-knows-what goes on in the background. Or maybe it's just a love for simplicity and elegance.
DSL sets out to include all the basic features you need in a modern desktop computer system—and then makes those features functional, fast, and efficient. As a result, DSL can run well on hardware that is smaller, older, or less powerful than what most of today's desktop systems demand.
Some wonderful offshoots of DSL development are that you can do the following with DSL:
Take it anywhere. It fits on a live CD, USB flash drive (also called a pen drive or a thumb drive), Zip drive, or a bootable business card CD that you can carry around with you.
Run it anywhere. All you need is a standard PC (with a minimal processor, small amount of RAM, and no required disk space) that you can reboot. Or, you can run a special version of DSL that's set up to run from a Windows desktop. If you like, you can even do a traditional hard drive install of DSL.
Add software. If you only need a couple more applications, a few clicks download, install, and save the applications you need.
Build projects. To make a computer into a music server, tiny web server, or digital media frame, DSL doesn't fill up your hard disk or RAM with software you don't need so you have more room for the music, web content, or digital images you want (see Part IV, "Making Damn Small Linux Projects," for these and other projects).
Run securely.By running DSL from a CD (or other read-only medium), you are assured that a secure operating system is only a reboot away. If you think that someone has compromised or intruded on your system, simply check that any data you save is not infected, reboot your DSL live CD, and you are running securely from a clean copy.
As the project grew, DSL also grew by adding an important developer. When Robert Shingledecker joined the Damn Small Linux development team, he implemented some of the key features of DSL previously mentioned. Robert's innovations brought about easy procedures for installing DSL to a USB flash drive and adding MyDSL extensions to a running DSL system.
Today, Damn Small Linux (www.damnsmalllinux.org) has a thriving community of supporters, active forums and mailing lists, and tons of interesting ways to use and customize it. This book provides you with an entry to all the possibilities of what Damn Small Linux can be for you.