I have always had a peculiar fixation with small GNU/Linux distros, and I was wondering whether
it would be still possible nowadays to create a small-footprint ISO image starting from a
proper mainstream distribution and trimming off all the unnecessary stuff. Hence, I started
from a minimal installation of the just-released Devuan Gnu+Linux
Jessie Beta, and, with the help of debfoster and refractasnapshot,
I obtained minimal live ISO images of Devuan Jessie that fit in much less than 250MB. Since then,
I added a few more things to provide a full-featured console-based environment, while keeping the
footprint as small as possible (currently under 300MB).
The last available release is based on Devuan Jessie RC2, and is available for download below or directly from the Devuan Release Archive
Downloads -- Devuan Jessie RC2
Two live images are available for download:
Please download also the checksums and the corresponding signature (I used my PGP key with fingerprint 0x5F20B3AE0B5F062F for the signature. The key is available on public keyservers).
What do you get?
The images contain around 560 packages in total, and include:
All the images boot in a few seconds (yes, even with sysvinit!), and the running system requires between 20 MB and 35 MB or RAM. If we take into account memory allocated to kernel buffers, the userland is currently requiring less than 15 MB.
The amd64 image requires only 74 MB of RAM to boot while the i386 image can boot with with as little as just 58 MB of RAM.
There are several boot options:
The two accessible boot options ("access" and "access-toram", respectively the second and the fourth on the boot menu) emit a "beep" (CTRL+G) when they are selected, to be easily recogniseable, and enter into a dedicated runlevel (runlevel 4) which autologins root on tty1 and the user devuan on tty2-tty6. There is audible feedback on boot, and a simple chime (C-E-G-E-C) signals the end of the boot.
The regular user is devuan/devuan. Become admin with root/toor.
If you can't destroy, or burn, then emulate...
The images can be burnt on a CDROM or dd-ed on a usb stick, but you are on your own on this, at the moment. WARNING: DD-ING ANYTHING TO YOUR USB STICK WILL MOST PROBABLY DESTROY ALL THE DATA CONTAINED IN THE USB STICK, SO PLEASE BE CAREFUL, BACKUP YOUR DATA, AND DO NOT COMPLAIN IF ANYTHING GOES WRONG. IT WILL BE JUST *YOUR* FAULT.
Alternatively, the images can be run on a virtual machine. You find below a set of params I have used with qemu:
qemu-system-i386 -cdrom devuan_jessie_beta_i386_minimal_live_VERSION.iso -boot d -m 256 -localtime -enable-kvm -net nic -net user,hostfwd=tcp::5566-:22 -vga vmware -soundhw all
qemu-system-x86_64 -cdrom devuan_jessie_beta_amd64_minimal_live_VERSION.iso -boot d -m 256 -localtime -enable-kvm -net nic -net user,hostfwd=tcp::5566-:22 -vga vmware -soundhw all
You can force qemu to use a different amount of memory by replacing "-m 256" with "-m XXX", where XXX is the size of the RAM, in Megabytes
Once the system starts you can ssh into it via:
ssh -p 5566 devuan@localhost
I have also tested the images on VirtualBox, and several other users reported that they worked correctly on real hardware.
It is possible to install the image on a hard disk by using
which is shipped with the live image. I tested it on qemu, and it should work in principle
on real hadrware at all, but I can't guarantee that it will work for you, so please
use refractainstaller AT YOUR OWN RISK but feel free to drop me a line if it works. Again,
INSTALLING AN OPERATING SYSTEM ON AN EXISTING HARD DRIVE MIGHT POTENTIALLY DESTROY
EXISTING DATA, ESPECIALLY IF YOU DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE DOING. SO PLEASE BE CAREFUL, BACKUP YOUR DATA,
AND DO NOT COMPLAIN IF ANYTHING GOES WRONG. IT WILL BE JUST *YOUR* FAULT.
Thanks and Remarks
I am grateful to the Devuan Team for creating Devuan GNU+Linux, and to the DNG Mailing List for supporting Devuan with a thriving community of enthusiast and passionate humans.
I thank the refracta team for providing refractasnapshot.
A very special thank goes to Gregory Nowak, Parham Doustdar, Jude DaShiell, John G Heim, Rob, and all the people in the Linux-speakup mailing list (http://www.linux-speakup.org/) for their encouragement and support, and for providing invaluable feedback about accessibility. Without their help, I couldn't have seen what was needed in order to make the minimal live images easier to use for visually-impaired users.
I feel indebted with all the people in the DNG Mailing List who have provided feedback, suggestions, comments, and encouragement, and in particular: aitor_czr, Boruch Baum, fsmithred, golinux, David Hare, Irrwahn, Steve Litt, Daniel Reurich, Joel Roth, Ozi Traveller.
I would also like to "thank" the people who developed systemd: without the enormous efforts they have put into transforming the low-level Linux userland in a bloat-monster, the community would have not had the *necessity* to fork Debian, and we would have missed another good opportunity to appreciate that Free Software, which gives its users the possibility to avoid nonsense even against the opinion of an overwhelming "majority", is a wonderful, revolutionary concept.
Comments, suggestions, criticisms, and bug reports are welcome, and should be reported
on the gitlab page of the project:
If you really want to contact me by email, the address to use is katolaz at freaknet dot org dot REMOVE dot DOTS.
DISCLAIMER: ALL THE SOFTWARE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD ON THIS PAGE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.