Damn Small Linux
© Anthony Lawrence, aplawrence.com
It's been great fun exploring Linux distros with Parallels Workstation. Download an ISO, fire it up with Parallels and off we go. Great stuff, but frankly it has all been very superficial: I haven't demanded much of Parallels or the Linuxes running under it.
Damn Small Linux was the first distro to give me a hard time.
Don't panic, DSL fans. It wasn't DSL's fault. It booted quickly, obtained an IP automatically, and was ready to run. Except..
Cut and don't paste
That Help section that opens up in the Dillo browser at first boot was what threw me. "Where's the Start Button" is its first link, and it goes on to explain that you don't need it: just Right Click anywhere on the desktop for a menu.
Oh, OK. But.. wait a minute, this is a MacBook. I have a track` pad and it only has one click button. How the heck do you right click?
By the way, for those who haven't used a MacBook: the track pad is quite the intelligent boopy. It magically turns into a web page scroller if you put two fingers on the track pad instead of one. It's a wonderful thing and that works inside Parallels too. But DSL needs a right click.
Turns out that by default a Ctrl-Shift click works, but you can also set (in Parallels Preferences -> Hot Keys) a Delayed Right Click - just click and hold and it turns into a right click. That's the same scheme used in the Dock, so I turned that on and now could use DSL's menus.
Cut and paste was the next hurdle. Many of the applications DSL comes with don't have cut and paste menus. That means using Linux left swipe to select, middle button to paste. That implies that you have a three button mouse or will use a two button mouse to emulate it. Well, that's not going to work with a track pad, is it?
If the app you want to paste into has menu selections for pasting, then there's no problem. If not.. well, maybe this is something you can do sshed in from your Mac and use ordinary Mac cut and paste. Otherwise, you have to rely on your own retyping skills.
There seem to be third party utilities for the Mac that might be able to replace the mouse drive to give that capability, but I didn't bother to try any of those. Briefly I thought I might make this work with "gpm -2", but had no luck there either- gpm isn't present by default on DSL but I tried it on Centos without success..
Hard drives for persistent data
Well, let's forget that for the moment.
DSL came up having already configured its nic and with a DHCP obtained IP (unlike Puppy Linux which required manual configuration). The first thing I did was create a hard disk filesystem. There are options as to what to do with that: I could use it simply to store configuration data and extra applications or files, or install DSL right on it (remember to set your boot options to continue booting from CDROM if you aren't installing to the hard drive).
If you create (or already have) a filesystem on /dev/hda1, /home/dsl will be copied to it automatically on shutdown or reboot, but only after you have manually backed it up once. You use DSLPanel->Backup/Restore - don't enter /dev/hda1, just hda1. For an existing hard drive, hda1 is probably your boot partition and may not have a lot of space. You can use another partition, but it needs a Linux filesystem on it. You can change the filesystem used wth DSLPanel->Backup/Restore at any time.
You can add or subtract what gets backed up by editing the ".filetool.lst" file in /home/dsl.
If you do choose to install DSL to a hard drive, you have two basic choices. The first is what they call a "frugal" install, which acts much like the live cd itself. From their help files:
A "frugal" type install mirrors the operation of the LiveCD. It installs the compressed filesystem and associated boot files onto a pre-prepared partition of your choice on your hard drive.
The frugal install offers you a choice of two bootloaders, lilo or grub.
This method offers many benefits to you over the typical linux hard drive install.
- Use of the extension repository for adding applications, which are designed to run in the frugal/liveCD environment.
- Much easier upgrade path, without needing to reinstall from scratch.
- Use of the 'toram' option, while still operating from a hard drive type device. This offers you the maximum performance in DSL, by running your entire OS in ramspace, but getting the load performance and speed the hard drive offers.(requires 128MB ram)
- Most all other boottime options are available to you, like persistant home and opt directories, autoloading of applications, setting fresh passwords, encrypting/decrypting your backups, unique hostname, and autorestore/backup of your personal files and settings at boottime and shutdown.
- You can easily revert back to a pristine install condition, and extend this feature to uninstall any extension.
So exactly why would you not want this? A "non-frugal" install can be upgraded to "more closely mirror a true Debian system". Well, duh, if you want a true Debian system why start with DSL? I must be missing something somewhere.
One of the annoyances of live cd's has been how to handle anything you've added when a new version of the cd comes out. You have to extract everything, merge your additions in and re-master. You can avoid some of that by keeping your additional stuff on a hard drive (or pen drive of course) and letting the automatic backup/restore take care of it. DSL also offers "myDSL", which is very similar to the data backup that happens automatically, but are preconfigured applications that get merged in automatically.
There are other nice touches. As DSL is ordinarily running entirely in RAM, there may be apps or files that you want available but not necessarily loaded. A "/optional" directory gives that ability.
Another nice little live CD.
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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:
Take Control of Your Apple Wi-Fi Network
Take Control of iCloud
Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition
Take Control of Launchbar
Take Control of OS X Server