I recently wrote a review over on DLR of Ultimate Edition 2.8, a mega-distro that is packed with umpteen amounts of software. This time around, I thought I’d do a quick look of one of its polar opposites: Tiny Core Linux 3.2.
Tiny Core is…well…it’s freaking tiny. I mean really, really tiny! It weighs in at an incredibly petite 10 MB download. It’s clearly designed to give you a functional but totally minimalistic distro.
Here’s more background about Tiny Core from the TC site:
Tiny Core Linux is a very small (10 MB) minimal Linux GUI Desktop. It is based on Linux 2.6 kernel, Busybox, Tiny X, and Fltk. The core runs entirely in ram and boots very quickly. Also offered is Micro Core a 6 MB image that is the console based engine of Tiny Core. CLI versions of Tiny Core’s program allows the same functionality of Tiny Core’s extensions only starting with a console based system.
It is not a complete desktop nor is all hardware completely supported. It represents only the core needed to boot into a very minimal X desktop typically with wired internet access.
The user has complete control over which applications and/or additional hardware to have supported, be it for a desktop, a netbook, an appliance, or server, selectable by the user by installing additional applications from online repositories, or easily compiling most anything you desire using tools provided.
This quick look is broken into three pages. The first page covers what’s new, system requirements and the install routine. The second page covers software, my experience using this distro and my final thoughts about it. The last page contains a full gallery of annotated screenshots.
Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release.
- Updated busybox to 1.17.2 + patches.
- Improved language translation support in Appsaudit, Wallpaper, and Swapfile.
- Updated AppBrowser, all tabs now allows mouse “select for copy”.
- Updated System Stats, all tabs now allows mouse “select for copy”.
- Updated Appsaudit & Appbrowser to eliminate trailing null item in FLTK browser widget.
- Updated tce-load now handles case of missing dependency file.
- Updated filetool.sh: -d for dry run option, comparerestore boot code, and improved encryped backup.
- Updated filetool GUI to support options of None/Backup/Safe.
- Updated tc-config: moved ‘protect’ and ‘secure’ after extension loading to support alternate layout keyboards.
- Updated AppsAudit OnDemand logic so no reboot required to move from OnBoot to OnDemand.
- Updated ondemand script for selection and removals of freedesktop items and improved pathing.
- Updated ondemand to handle freedesktop while also using wbar.
- Updated inittab-save with askfirst for tty3-6 for memory savings when using multivt boot code.
- Fixed inconsistency with X-FullPathIcon in .desktop-tinycore items.
- Removed stats.txt from /opt/.xfiletool.lst
- Added ondemand directory to PATH.
Here’s what you’ll need to run this update:
An absolute minimum of RAM is 48mb. TC won’t boot with anything less, no matter how many terabytes of swap you have.
Microcore runs with 36mb of ram.
The minimum cpu is i486DX (486 with a math processor).
A recommended configuration:
Pentium 2 or better, 128mb of ram + some swap
Tiny Core Linux can be installed, but you’ll be disappointed if you are expecting an elegant GUI type installer like the one in Ubuntu. Rather than regurgitate the install process here, I’ll refer you to the TC site for a full set of install instructions; the instructions include screenshots to help guide you through the install process.
It is not, as you will see, as simple as installing one of the usual distros. It’s a bit more involved but quite doable if you really want to install it.
For this quick look, I ran TC in a virtual machine and thus did not need to do an install to run it.
After you boot into your Tiny Core Linux desktop, you’ll need to install any software you want. This distro does not come with a selection of applications loaded by default (that’s one of the reasons it’s only 10 MB). Don’t worry though, there’s plenty of software available and it’s easy to install. The software manager is not particularly elegant though, you’ll be staring at a lot of text along with file names.
To install software, open the Appbrowser and click Connect. From there scroll down to the software you want and then click it then click Go. After the install is completed, you can click on the desktop and select Applications to open it.
The Appbrowser won’t win any awards for slick GUI of the year, but it is functional. You will have to endure scrolling down a text-based list of application though; there are no cute application icons, reviews, ratings or any of the Ubuntu Software Center kind of stuff.
Despite not being much in the way of looks, the Appbrowser does contain a fair amount of software. Unfortunately, you cannot browse by category though you can do a search with no problems. So you’ll either need to know what you want ahead of time, or you’ll have to scroll down one big list of software to get what you want. It would be nice if categories were added in a future release.
Using Tiny Core Linux 3.2
Tiny Core Linux 3.2 performed pretty well for me. There was no slowness or application instability that I could notice while using it. That’s as it should be, given this distro’s diminutive size and FLWM window manager. There’s no gratuitous desktop eye-candy in Tiny Core Linux to slow it down. It’s functional and that’s about it.
You can right-click the desktop to access the menu. I suggest checking out the Control Panel (in System Tools) as that contains many useful tools to manage your Tiny Core system as shown in the screenshot below.
At the bottom of the desktop, you’ll see the FLWM popup menu, a dock-like taskbar menu. After you install an application, an icon will be placed there for easy access. The FLWM popup menu also provides icons for the Control Center, Shutdown (Exit), Terminal and Appbrowser.
I did get an error message when trying to install OpenOffice.org. I was able to easily install Chromium and Abiword though, so I didn’t see any consistent problem installing applications. OpenOffice.org, however, would not install properly.
Tiny Core Linux 3.2 is truly the polar opposite of Ultimate Edition 2.8; it provides the absolute minimum necessary to get you going and from there it’s really up to you to decide what you want to do with it. You’ll need to have a clear understanding of exactly what you want to use it for before it has the possibility of creating real value for you. So it’s definitely helpful if you know in advance what you want to get out of it before you attempt an install.
I suggest that intermediate and advanced Linux users use Tiny Core Linux 3.2. Beginners can certainly give it a whirl in a virtual machine, but the install might prove to be a bit overwhelming to those who are completely new to Linux.
Click to the next page to view the full image gallery (9 screenshots) of Tiny Core Linux 3.2 screenshots.
What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments. For full distro reviews, visit Desktop Linux Reviews.