Tiny Core Linux

If you want to go back to those great old days of really lightweight Linux, give Tiny Core Linux a try and relive the joy of a bare-bones system.

Joey Bernard has a background in both physics and computer science. This serves him well in his day job as a computational research consultant at the University of New Brunswick. He also teaches computational physics and parallel programming.


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thin clients

Anonymous's picture

I would suggest searching eBay for Neoware clients CA2 and higher. Either using the SiS or Via CPUs. I am running TinyCore on one from a USB stick. Research the CPUs used, generally the higher the CA# the faster the chipset. Some later models come with DVI connectors as well as VGA.

Neoware was bought by HP and their leases are ending so alot of very good equipment is coming to eBay :)

Also check out http://www.parkytowers.me.uk David has been doing this for a while and is a great resource for those wishing to fiddle with linux on thin client cast offs. He built one webserver (middle of the pack specs) from which he was able to get 1000 pages (average 9 KB per page) served in under 9 seconds. Latentcy of less than 0.2 sec per query.

Hey, these devices burn less than 25 watts per hour of electrical power. That works out to less than 6/10th Kilowatt/Hr per day. For me that is less than 10¢ per day cost to operate. Nice for a light weight web server.

What about floppies?

Macrorodent's picture

This like most mini distros these days boot off CD-ROM or USB. But that leaves old computers that cannot boot from CD-ROM (even though they usually have one) and have no USB ports out in the cold. I have one such machine, a pretty Pentium laptop. The last Linux I could get to work on it was CentOS 3, which is no longer updated. Anyone know of an up-to-date mini distro where the installation could at least be initiated from a floppy?

If BIOS won't boot CD, try a custom boot loader

Anonymous's picture

Try the PLoP boot loader if you're having trouble booting from anything other than floppy. As long as your CD drive is ATA, it should work.

I've been using it to boot from USB "thumb drives" on machines that refuse to recognize them as bootable media. For network, I use syslinux to launch iPXE.

I haven't yet run into any computer that I couldn't find some way to boot as I wanted...

the problem "no cdrom/no

Anonymous's picture

the problem "no cdrom/no floppy" is solved from MANY years, using network bootstrap.
Basically two modern methods: or using software already available in motherboard BIOS o PCI ethernet BIOS (named PXE) or using a floppy/hdisk/cdrom/usb that load PXE. the size is few tens of kilobytes ,so no problem.

Beside the point

Macrorodent's picture

Old computers may not have a network card, and certainly have no PXE software onboard. In the laptop I am talking about, the only way to get network is either PPP via the RS-232, or with a plug-in PCMCIA ethernet card. I have one, but it is useless without an OS running on the box that supports PCMCIA and the card in question.
As this machine has a floppy, and a working CD-ROM (albeit not bootable), the easist bootstrap is the way CentOS supported up to version 3 (and other old distros did as well): Load the installer from the floppy, which then can access the CD-ROM. I guess installers have grown so big they don't fit on a floppy these days, and distro authors see no point even trying (no wonder, it would be a wasted effort except for a few "museum pieces" like mine). Oh well, it may be I need to create my own old computer distro (like I had any time for such activities these days :-( ).

pity that

istok's picture

interesting distro, very exciting concept, but could never test it properly because fonts render so badly i start crying after 15 minutes.

I'm still a big fan of

Mozai's picture

I'm still a big fan of Slax.org. Loads into RAM, and I can do package management on the image without having to do it from the inside.

People of a certain age may

Anonymous's picture

People of a certain age may remember projects like Tom's root/boot, or muLinux.
Stop trying to make me feel old, I'm only 21!

Maybe Nostalgia, although Maybe Not

fabulonee's picture

Nifty LinuxJournal article.

Although a biggie negative I've had a bit 'o severe difficulty with (even impossibility) is getting that darned TC INSTALLED to hd!!
Sure there are all those cheat codes, .tgz apps and persistent-storage settings, but when push comes to shove and you're ready to to finally get TC bootable, ON YOUR HARD DRIVE, via grub, you're basically 50 5cr3w3d.
Even though DSL is Shingledecker-archaic, it just puts TC IN THE DUST in this regard!!!
Even Puppy's Frugal Install is a walk in the park compared to a full TC install.....Shame on those TC developers (excusing Shingledecker for his AWESOME creations!!)

Slitaz is Also Good

metalx2000's picture

I like Tiny Core, but I find that Slitaz is a bit easier to use and it is just as light weight. Slitaz's main release is 30MB, but comes with a lot more installed by default then Tiny Core. Slitaz also has a 8MB commandline version, and a 15MB JustX version. As well as other community versions.

Slitaz makes it extremely easy to remaster and install to a hard drive.
If you like Tiny Core, I would suggest having a look at Slitaz.

Everything you ever need to know about Free Software.

I tested Slitaz too, several

Anonymous's picture

I tested Slitaz too, several months ago. Compared to the difficulties for setup on hdd I had with TinyCore, the Sltiaz distro was a breeze. For a preselected set of packages of install I've ended with 300 MB used space at Slitaz, compared to 190M at TinyCore. Not a big deal of a difference. And while TinyCore wins the prize for a proof of concept how small a distro can be with its 10Mb, Slitaz is much more useful with its initial 30Mb on cd image.

Not a big deal of difference,

Anonymous's picture

Not a big deal of difference, I agree. However, 63% is a large difference. ;)

Not merely nostalgia!

Sobac's picture

Tiny Core is a fine, superior follow-on to Damn Small Linux and is small enough to fit on thin clients. There are heaps of used thin clients available cheap on Ebay but the vast majority of Linux distros are far too fat to fit.

Instead of an individual custom image built elsewhere then installed, Tiny Core can be installed and configured on the hardware. The recent kernel is a Good Thing.

thin clients

Michael Shigorin's picture

There's at least one modern LTSP distribution successfully booting up diskless thin clients with a Pentium and 16M RAM: http://en.altlinux.org/LTSP

thin clients

Anonymous's picture

@Sobac I have been fascinated by the prospect of running linux (embedded?) on thin clients... just to explore as a hobby. Can you point me to some cheap items I can look for on ebay? Any good resources you can point me to on the internet?


For thin clients, you should

Gavin's picture

For thin clients, you should keep up to date on Raspberry Pi, which will be an ultra-low-cost computer-on-a-stick.

Raspberry Pi is arm based,

Anonymous's picture

Raspberry Pi is arm based, tinycore wont work on it