> your hard drive may be large enough to double the size of everything stored on it, but mine sure isn't
And some are very small indeed. One of my machines has only a 4 gigabyte "hard disk" (gigabyte, not terabyte). It is a EeePC 701 4G. (And it is in fact a small SSD, thus the quotes.)
There is also the Live CDs/DVDs, which are limited to a fixed size. Fedora is moving to use LZMA to cram even more stuff into its live images (https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/LZMA_for_Live_Images). Note also that installing from a live image, at least on Fedora and IIRC on Ubuntu, is done by simply copying the whole live image to the target disk, so the size limitations of live images directly influence what is installed by default.