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Tiny Core Linux 2.1: Less is more

Tiny Core Linux 2.1: Less is more

Posted Jul 28, 2009 8:05 UTC (Tue) by Duncan (guest, #6647)
In reply to: Tiny Core Linux 2.1: Less is more by Tet
Parent article: Tiny Core Linux 2.1: Less is more

Much of the problem with binary based distributions is compile-time
dependency choices. Many an app can link with or without KDE and/or GNOME
support, for instance, but if they are linked in, they're required as
dependencies to run, as well. That's why most such distributions choose
one desktop over the other, and don't support the other one as well as
they could, because they don't want to /require/ that both be installed as
would be necessary if they turned on linking against both. It's also why
some distributions end up with X and even KDE/GNOME dependencies for a
server targeted installation that may never run either one -- because they
some dependency has been linked to X and/or the DE for desktop use, and
it's now pulled in for no-X server use as well, because otherwise the
binary won't run!

This is in turn one of the strengths of good from-source distributions.
If there's a compile-time dependency option exposed by upstream, it's
exposed by a good source based distribution as well, and YOU get to decide
what's linked in at compile time and thus must be present at run time.
This makes for FAR less bloat (provided you, the admin, make good choices
setting up what to link in at compile time), because only what's actually
required (non-optional), and what's actually useful on a particular
installation (optional, with support for it desired), are linked in and
thus required for run-time use. Compiling from source is thus NOT just
for the ricer crowd, but for those wishing less bloat for security or
admin reasons as well, since they can choose exactly what is loaded on the
system, and when done correctly, can rest well in the knowledge that 100%
of it is actually either required for something they use, or is
functionality they actually use. No bloat from options turned on just to
support OTHER people's systems.

What's /really/ great about this is that from-source is actually a
practical choice time-wise, etc, on a modern system, now, and will only
get more so as time goes on and Moore's law does its thing. A decent 2+
GHz quad-core with 4+ gigs RAM isn't an unreasonable system for an
individual desktop or laptop purchased computer these days (US$500-600,
perhaps, desktop, a bit more laptop), and with it, from-source becomes
almost as trivial as binary-based installations. The actual instance
configuration ends up taking more time than the build, and it's easily
possible to do the build limited to a couple cores while continuing to
work full speed on the other pair of cores, for no real system
responsiveness slowdown even when building updates in the background.
Thus, there's little effective slowdown in installation over what you'd
normally be doing anyway.

While I'm a Gentoo user, I've been reading that Arch Linux works
reasonably well in this mode as well, and if there aren't other
distributions doing it this way now, there likely will be by the time oct-

OTOH, the desktop -> laptop and laptop -> netbook trends reverse the more
CPU and memory capacity trends of past decades, so while we see quad-core
desktops now, desktops are already dieing as the common personal computer,
and laptops are only beginning to hit the quad-core 4 gig level at which
from-source really becomes trivial. By the time that gets mainstream
laptop, people may be moving to netbooks, after which the UI becomes the
practical issue on further size reductions, as smaller platforms
(cellphone, palmtop, etc) require quite different modes of interaction.
So it may be that we have to wait for quad-core quad-gig RAM netbooks to
become popular before from-source /really/ hits its stride, but I do
believe that's ultimately where the trends are headed, as the biggest
from-source negative becomes ever more trivial, while the same advantages
it has always had remain.


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