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Tiny Core Linux 3.2

October 29, 2010

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.

What’s New
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.

System Requirements
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.

Tiny Core Install

Tiny Core Install

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.

Control Panel

Control Panel

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.

FLWM Popupmenu

FLWM Popupmenu

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.

OpenOffice Error

OpenOffice Error

Final Thoughts
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.


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5 Responses to Tiny Core Linux 3.2

  1. Muthu on December 6, 2010 at 5:27 AM


  2. Roger on November 1, 2010 at 5:01 PM

    10MB, that is tiny. Be neat to do some playing with it and create a super lightweight bootdisk. A lot smaller than DSL too, but would probably need to add to it to meet functionality.

    • Brian Masinick on November 1, 2010 at 8:29 PM

      @Roger: Now I think you are on to something! That’s the kind of scenario where something like Tiny Core can come in really handy! For me, I have enough instances of systems that I don’t need anything else, but whipping something together based on Tiny Core would require only a modest effort, so that’s a great idea.

  3. AC on October 31, 2010 at 7:11 PM

    It won’t recognize my keyboard/mouse/etc. – useless. Try Puppy Linux – a bit bigger, but it actually boots.

  4. Brian Masinick on October 29, 2010 at 9:55 PM

    Well, I already wrote my own short article on this one, so those of you who read the Desktop Linux Review Forum may have already seen my initial observations. To me, this isn’t a system to install, it is a system to run live, loading it into memory, and keeping enough memory (and/or swap space) to load everything that you intend to use.

    While you could, in theory, use this kind of system for everything you do, to me where it makes sense is when you plan to be mostly using the Internet and you want to get on to something fairly fast, and you may even be using someone else’s equipment. So you carry some media with you containing Tiny Core, you insert it into the drive of the system you intend to use, start it up, connect it to the Internet, then download a browser and use Tiny Core. You may grab an editor or personal information manager, but now you may be stretching the usefulness of the system a bit – in which case you may be better off using something like Puppy, SLAX, or antiX.

    I found this distribution to be quite handy for perusing the Web for a few hours. I’d much rather use something else a bit more robust when I have heavy data monitoring or editing requirements or when I am in “entertainment mode” with a lot of multi media tools, but this distribution is quite handy for getting up very quickly, downloading a browser very quickly, getting on the Internet quickly, without disturbing any existing software on the system that you are using. Beyond that, I think you can do better elsewhere.

    It is awful cool to have a system this tiny; I downloaded the ISO image in a few seconds, created the ISO image in about a minute, and had it on the air within five minutes, and was browsing in less than ten minutes. That is an accomplishment, wouldn’t you say? For some, that may make it worthwhile.

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