Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tiny Core Linux 4.7 Review: A base to build your own system!

First when I used Tiny Core Linux in 2009, I just started using Linux, and I was a bit disappointed with Tiny Core. Later when my experience and learning grew, I realized that I chose the wrong file to boot (Tiny Core and not Core Plus) and I completely underestimated an otherwise very efficient distro.

When the 4.7 release note came in Distrowatch a few days ago, I was prompt to download the Core Plus 67 MB ISO - really "tiny" if you compare it to any other distro! Now, given this is my first "real" experience with Tiny Core, there are chances of a lot of things being mentioned here, which may seem juvenile to experience Tiny Core users. But, I am taking my chances - can't stop myself from reviewing such an amazing distro.

What I did is initially do a live boot and then did a frugal installation on a 8 GB partition. In Core plus, essentially what you get is a shell on which you can build your own customized ultra-lightweight system with the preferred apps. Given this introduction, it is understandable that sufficient exposure and expertise is required to try out Tiny Core and explore its potential. Otherwise, you may end up disappointed like what happened to me in 2009 as I was limited that time by my own knowledge of Linux.


From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
In 4.7 version, Tiny Core comes with Linux kernel 3.0.21 which is same as the 4.6 version. The system used for the test is Asus K54C with Intel Core i3 processor (2.4 Ghz) and 2 GB RAM. Definitely not a resource constrained machine!

Core Plus provided me several desktop manager option at bootup like FLWM, Ice WM, Fluxbox, etc. I booted it up with default FLWM as I like it's minimalistic look with a docky below. It gives a no-nonsense and professional impression.

LAN was detected automatically, sound card worked, touch pad worked out of the box with both single/double tap, vertical scroll working, which is good. In Wifi mode, on clicking the wifi icon in the docky, it opened a terminal which scanned quickly the wifi networks around and asked me which one I would like to choose. After choosing the home network, I gave the password and the connection was instant! Pretty simple and efficient, I really like it!

There is no auto-mount and the user is required to mount the drives through control panel or mount icon in the docky to access the drive.

Applications
You won't get much default applications out-of-the-box with core plus but most of the relevant applications can be downloaded from repositories through "Apps" and/or "Scm Apps". I downloaded my favorite applications like
  • Browser: Firefox 16, Chromium 22.0.1229.79 for Tiny Core
  • Plugins: Adobe Flash 11, had a tough time in installing it
  • Music: Banshee
  • Video: VLC 2.0.1
  • Notes: Leafpad
  • Photos: Mtpaint
  • Chat: Pidgin
  • File Manager: Thunar and Nautilus
  • Office: Abiword, Gnumeric, pdf reader and writer, etc.
  • Conky to decorate the otherwise blank desktop!
From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
LibreOffice suite 3.5 and 3.6 are there in the repos along with a host of other applications like Clementine, Audacity, Audacious, Opera, Seamonkey, etc. The repository may not be rich like a Debian or a Ubuntu but enough applications are there to satisfy most common needs. I didn't install Skype, but there is a getskype.tcz in the repository to install Skype 2. Same holds for Nvidia drivers as well - it exists in the repository but I didn't require it.

Next was installation of the restricted codecs, ffmpeg, gstreamer, etc. and the application manager works well to resolve all the dependencies and satisfy all the preconditions before downloading an app. However, one thing I noted that there are quite a few antiquated apps like Firefox 10 which doesn't work even if you download and install. Experienced users would know a priori exactly what he is looking for, so no pain for them even if redundant apps are there in the repository. But, it may frustrate a bit the first time users.


From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
With regards to settings, Tiny Core offers an integrated view through control panel. I really like the option and I could set up most of the stuff from there without hitting the terminal.


From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
Installation
Installation is easier than I expected. You need to check whether you want to do a frugal installation in hard disk, or install in USB. Next thing for frugal is to decide on the partition where the OS is to be installed and whether to install boot loader. I made a frugal installation with whole disk option and boot loader to keep things simple. It would then ask for the formatting options with ext4 being the default. All it takes is about 5 minutes of time and you are done! Reboot and enjoy!


From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
Post installation, I downloaded almost all the basic applications required for daily chores, as mentioned in the application section.Though the repository may not the richest around but offers most of the common applications.

Performance
The default desktop takes about 30-40 MB of RAM to get started with 0% CPU usage. With Firefox playing an Youtube video, Abiword, Gnomeric, Nautilus file manager and terminal open, the RAM consumption was 200 MB and CPU usage 28%! Undoubtedly even in low resource systems like a P3 or a P4, Tiny Core will offer blazing speed and ability to multi-task.


From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
Issue with Flash plugin
These days internet is synonymous with watching online videos and/or live streams. With getflash package, I had a bit of rough time. Initially when I clicked it, it showed that it had downloaded the program at /tce folder in root. However, when I started firefox, I wasn't able to play any flash video. I did it thrice but with no success.

I downloaded the flash plugin package for other linux from Adobe site itself and installed it via terminal. It worked for me. I could see the youtube videos but Firefox kept popping notifications to install additional missing plugins to play the media. Not sure where it goofed up!
From Tiny Core Linux 4.7


From Tiny Core Linux 4.7
Overall
Tiny core linux really impressed me with its speed, simplicity and power. If I compare it to Puppy Linux, Tiny Core seems a bit lighter and faster! Aesthetically too, it looks good with transparent docky and terminal.

Further, settings and usage is far too simple in Tiny Core (there is a tendency of lighter distros to be more complicated for users than the heavier counterparts). Most of the things like wifi, lan, sound, touchpad, etc. worked like a charm for me. Accepted, I didn't try out a lot of things there but whatever I tried out worked!

Definitely I recommend Tiny Core linux as a live-usb as well as to those who are in search of super light-weight professional looking operating system. Given it supports touchpad, nvidia drivers, webcam, etc., I can safely recommend it for both new as well as old systems. I bet once you start using Tiny Core, you'll start loving this highly functional distro.

14 comments:

  1. how does tiny core compare to puppy linux ... i have an old pc (256 ram p3 and i want to install either of two in it .... which one to prefer ... my requirements :
    1. should be able to automount fs (ntfs and fat).
    2. should be able to run flash in browser.
    3. should have codecs.
    4. ease in installing applications.
    5. office applications.
    6. detect printers hp laserjet and deskjet.
    thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Phunchung, Once you install all the required applications, both Puppy and Tiny Core are equivalent. I am using Puppy Precise in one of my P4 computers and it works well, runs flash (Adobe flashplugin 10, which is lighter), has multimedia codecs (in built), easy to install but to update grub you need to follow my instructions (check my article on Puppy Precise). It has abiword and gnumeric as well as complete LibreOffice suite. It automounts other drives and USB as well and works great on limited resources.

      On the printer part, I am not sure as I don't have any printer at present. You need to check it yourself. Hope it helps.

      Regards,
      Arindam

      Delete
    2. Hi arindam sen,
      I've been using Puppy since 2008. I've never experienced any trouble anywhere(including printer). While in Tiny Core Linux(TCL) & DSL there doesn't seem to be Wireless Card support out-of-box & also even though I tried a lot for the Printer I could not succeed in getting it to work.
      Thanks For the Article.

      Delete
    3. Hi Mufeed, I agree. Puppy Linux works more of out of the box and is complete. Also, I have noted that more or less both Puppy and Tiny Core perform similarly on the same hardware, say a P3. But, Puppy works out of the box! Even I am running Puppy Wary for quite sometime and Puppy Precise recently on my P4 desktop without any trouble what-so-ever.

      Thanks,
      Arindam

      Delete
  2. In general, Puppy is a better "out-of-box" solution, while Tiny Core is more flexible and can work with even older hardware.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said. Puppy works out of the box, no doubt about it, and it is more convenient to use. Tiny core's USP is the flexibility in designing the DE and choice of applications.

      Delete
  3. I think I will go with slitz.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Slitaz more or less provides a complete distro within that limited size. But, it never worked well for me. I am better off using Archbang & Puppy for the low power P4 systems I have.

      Delete
  4. For me, tiny core is the roll-your-own solution to prevent hackers trying to take over my system. Previously I had someone getting in via bluetooth. Since I don't use it, why have it? That is the key - only install what you really need! You might not need email services for example, but if you aren't using it, how do you know if someone else is?
    My next task is to remaster the tiny core iso so that I can run from CD. You can't hack a CD!

    Those Puppy users might want to think again when they realize that they are running as root! Why make a hacker's work easy?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. The sole reason I stopped using Puppy Linux is to avoid running as root.

      Delete
  5. This is what sets Tinycore apart from the rest...you can run it directly from the cd without an "install". No, we are not talking a "Live distro" either. You simply boot the Os from the cd-dvd and your filesystem (applications,files etc) get mounted via the Os running in ram. It's practically non hackable/corruptable this way No "system rot" from files accumulating from who knows where over time either. Your boot is as fresh as it was the first day you burned it. Just have a good backup strategy and learn the unique features of Tinycore and you have what I call a "DIY mission critical OS"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tiny Core is very secure, I agree with you. And depending on user competence, it can be made into a full blown distro. I hope they pump in more application so that it can be used in production laptops as well. It is damn resource efficient and helps when you are doing resource intensive jobs, apart from obvious security benefits that you mentioned.

      Delete
  6. This is what sets Tinycore apart from the rest...you can run it directly from the cd without an "install". No, we are not talking a "Live distro" either. You simply boot the Os from the cd-dvd and your filesystem (applications,files etc) get mounted via the Os running in ram. It's practically non hackable/corruptable this way No "system rot" from files accumulating from who knows where over time either. Your boot is as fresh as it was the first day you burned it. Just have a good backup strategy and learn the unique features of Tinycore and you have what I call a "DIY mission critical OS"

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is what sets Tinycore apart from the rest...you can run it directly from the cd without an "install". No, we are not talking a "Live distro" either. You simply boot the Os from the cd-dvd and your filesystem (applications,files etc) get mounted via the Os running in ram. It's practically non hackable/corruptable this way No "system rot" from files accumulating from who knows where over time either. Your boot is as fresh as it was the first day you burned it. Just have a good backup strategy and learn the unique features of Tinycore and you have what I call a "DIY mission critical OS"

    ReplyDelete