|Damn Small Linux (hereafter, DSL) is a small-footprint Linux based on Knoppix Linux, arguably the grandfather of LiveCD Linuxes. Knoppix itself is based on Debian Linux; in fact, DSL arrives with a number of Debian packages preinstalled. |
DSL's boot image is a mere 50MB, and it can run in as little as 128KB of RAM. Though compact, DSL is dense with capability. Need a small, turnkey HTTP or FTP server? For the former, DSL has the lightweight Monkey HTTP daemon. For the latter, DSL sports the BetaFTP FTP server. Both can be launched from the DSL control panel, a sort of dashboard roughly analogous to the Windows control panel. From DSL's panel, you can set up your network card (or a wireless card), configure a printer, enable DHCP, scan PCMCIA devices, and more.
Out of the box, DSL has all the fundamentals: editors, browsers, file-system navigation tools, and so on. Office-style applications include the Slag ("scheme in a grid") spreadsheet, as well as viewers for Microsoft DOC files and PDF files. The media player is XMMS. But DSL doesn't stop there. More applications can be added via MyDSL.
MyDSL is not a package-management system, but a no-fuss, lightweight mechanism for adding new applications to a running instance of DSL. The applications are bundled into extensions, which can be loaded from any persistent storage device -- pen drive, hard drive, or even across the network. Most MyDSL extensions are created by DSL users. An extensive repository is available at Damn Small Linux, myDSL Repository; there, you'll find image-processing packages like Gimp; the Maxima symbolic-math package and R statistical-analysis package; development applications, including the GCC compiler, PHP, and Python; and lots more.
A version of DSL is available bundled with the freeware QEMU virtualizer; QEMU is roughly comparable to VMware, though QEMU can also emulate different processors. This bundle, called DSL embedded, can be unpacked into a subdirectory and run in Windows immediately. This can be done with other Linuxes, but DSL embedded puts all the pieces together for you. It's a fine way to experiment with DSL without having to burn a CD or download and configure a virtual PC system.
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The builders of DSL wanted to create a nomadic environment, one not bound to a particular machine's hardware configuration but easily adjusted to whatever hardware configuration it found itself in. They have succeeded well.