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Thread: Linux that fits on a 2Gb drive?

  1. #1
    Registered: Sep 2004

    Linux that fits on a 2Gb drive?

    playing around with an atom based thin client, and would like to try some linux based os, but the ide flash storage only has 2Gb of space (and I can't be bothered to upgrade it), and all the modern stuff like lubuntu requires 4Gb or more. cpu speed and ram are not a problem (1.66GHz atom 280, 2GB ddr3), so the only place where the os needs to be light is the hdd space. user friendly ui, firefox is pretty much all that's needed, and some equivalent of office would be nice.

    bit of googling reveals that maybe Leenus Linux could fit the bill (//nope, because it's not free, lol), but I'm open to suggestions.
    Last edited by voodoo47; 8th Aug 2017 at 05:17.

  2. #2
    Registered: Aug 2009
    Location: WearyTaffer
    You might check around at

    I've heard puppy linux might be what you're looking for.

  3. #3
    Registered: Sep 2004
    I'm keeping Puppy and DSL as plan B - pretty sure they will work, but they are tailored for really old cpus and small amounts of ram, and I would prefer something more modern.

  4. #4
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    Check out Slax and Knoppix

  5. #5
    Registered: Sep 2004
    Knoppix doesn't sound too bad, but no info about its minimum install size - guess I'll just have to try and see.

  6. #6
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    I just did a quick test in a VM. A core Debian 9 install takes up 813 MB, and installing X11 at all takes another 235 MB. You you should be able to then install a desktop environment and Firefox, but it can be a bit tight. E.g. apt estimates another 500 MB for Xfce4 + Iceweasel (e.g. Debian's non-branded Firefox), or a full gigabyte for LXDE + Iceweasel. Which is weird, because LXDE alone was smaller. I guess Xfce has more dependencies in common with Firefox. I told my test VM to go ahead and install the Xfce combination and it ended up with 429 MB free.

    I'm sure there are also techniques for freeing up space (e.g. removing localizations, or cleaning apt caches) after if you do go this route. Whenever my Transcend Industrial Compact Flash card order FINALLY arrives, I will be installing Debian on a 4 GB card for a retro PC, and I may try those out. When this happens, I'll report back for how small I was able to make it.
    Last edited by Zerker; 6th Aug 2017 at 09:29.

  7. #7
    Registered: Sep 2004
    I won't try to pretend I'm familiar with all the bits mentioned, but certainly won't mind having a working setup delivered by someone who does - thanks.

  8. #8
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    Okay, well if you want to go the Debian route, here are some general instructions:
    1. Download the Debian net installer. I believe Atom is only 32-bit, so you'll want the i386 version.
    2. Create a bootable USB drive/CD-R. Debian suggests using win32diskimager from Windows if going the USB route. The Debian website has some additional information, but most of it is from Linux to Linux. CD-R is dead simple, of course, since the download is an ISO, but that's only useful if you have a USB CD/DVD drive.
    3. Boot the boot media. I suggest selecting the second 'Install' option (which is text-based), as the graphical installer seemed slow during my VM testing, is easy to accidentally install Gnome (which won't fit), and the partitioner makes less sense.
    4. Walk through the questions. When prompted for partitioning, select manual partitioning. Select the drive to be given options to create a partition table, then a partition. If you have existing ones, select them for options to delete them. You should add a single partition for root (/) which takes up all the space. Once you create a partition, it should be picked for root by default, so you just need to accept that.

      DO NOT let the installer do automatic partitioning either on the first manual/automatic choice, or when creating a partition. The installer will by default try to reserve a SWAP partition which you don't have room for.

      Also, when prompted for a software selection, don't tick anything and just hit next. Those will pull in secondary applications, and you'll run out of room. Better to install what you need after the base install per below. I tried the Xfce option for you to see if it would fit, but the installer ran out of space.
    5. Boot the installed system and log in. You'll get a text-based login to start, but we'll fix that shortly.
    6. When you log in, type su then enter your root password to get superuser access. Then type the following:
      apt install xfce4 iceweasel

      That should automatically install a basic Xfce desktop, X11 graphical environment and Firefox (via its alternate Debian name). When it finishes, type shutdown -r now to reboot.

    On the second boot, you should get a reasonably standard login screen and a graphical environment. You'll have about 420 MB free.

    To install more software, use apt install as a superuser from a terminal. You can also use apt search to look for specific types of software if you don't know them. For example, I recommend geany as a text editor. Each install will estimate the amount of space it will take, which is important for your cramped machine.

    I also recommend a nicer applications menu called the Whisker menu. Its package name is xfce4-whiskermenu-plugin. It won't take effect immediately, so you need to customize your panel (Linux term for 'taskbar'). Just right click on it and select Panel -> Panel Preferences. Then select the Items tab, hit the Plus button to add the Whisker Menu, and the arrows to position it. Then use Minus to delete the old menu. You can add or customize anything on the panel this way. You can also delete the bottom panel if you don't like it, by selecting it from the drop-down list at the top and hitting the top minus button.

    If you want to see how much space you have remaining, type:
    df -h
    Where the -h makes it human readable.

    If you decide to do this, let me know if you get stuck anywhere, or have further questions.
    Last edited by Zerker; 7th Aug 2017 at 10:18.

  9. #9
    Registered: Sep 2004
    sounds easy enough - I'll get on it in a day or two. thanks again.

  10. #10
    Registered: Sep 2004
    the sw install part had following two components checked:

    ssh server
    system utilities

    left them alone, and the install finished, so it's ok I guess? anyway, after logging in, I'm greeted by a completely empty desktop (no side panels/taskbars, just the debian wallpaper, so can't really click on anything), where I can right click to get a few options, but most don't seem to do anything (like properties, desktop settings and more). can launch firefox, but youtube performance is horrible (it's pretty ok with knoppix), and there is no audio. so yeah, I'm pretty much stuck now.

    also, knoppix would do the job nicely, but 2GB is not enough for a hdd install, apparently - seems like "I have a decent pc, but tiny hdd, and don't want to run from usb" is a combination nobody really thought someone would want to use.

  11. #11
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    I think most people in your situation install to and boot from a USB thumb drive. You can buy 8GB USB drives for under $10.

  12. #12
    Registered: Sep 2004
    yeah, but what I'm trying to do here is to get an os working without doing that.

  13. #13
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: Qantas
    Why, is your machine unable to boot from USB? Or is this some sort of self-imposed challenge?

  14. #14
    Registered: Sep 2004
    sort of. anyway, I think I know what's going on with the panels not being visible and most stuff doing nothing - pretty sure the os is being dumb and is displaying everything on another invisible desktop/nonexistent monitor. fun.

  15. #15
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    That's weird. Usually when you start Xfce for the first time, it should ask you whether you want one blank panel or the default layout. The default layout is usually the choice to pick there

    If nothing else, you should still be able to right click on the desktop and open a terminal or something. There should also be an emergency "Applications" menu in the right click options that you can launch anything from there.

    Even with the multi-desktops, that only affects your open applications, not the panels themselves. The X server should never try to use a monitor that isn't connected either...

    If you don't get a right click menu EITHER, you can try using ssh (e.g. via PuTTY) to connect while you're logged in (or just use Ctrl + Alt + F1 for a text display) and run ps -A | grep xf to ensure the applications are actually running. You should see xfce4-session, xfce4-panel, xfwm4 and xfdesktop. If using Ctrl + Alt to switch, it's usually Ctrl + Alt + F7 to get back to the graphical display.

    Also double check you didn't end up running out of space with df -h, that can cause some really weird stuff to happen.

  16. #16
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Ireland
    I'm reminded of a time when I tried to install a Linux desktop on one of the servers at work. It refused to output the desktop to the VGA port at the front of the server, and it took me ages to figure out that it would only output to the other VGA port on the back of the machine.
    Never did find a way to fix that, I just had to fight with cables to get one to reach the back of that rack.

  17. #17
    Registered: Sep 2004
    the machine does have a secondary output (DP), so there is a chance the os is being confused by that. no option to disable it in BIOS, unfortunately.

    the right click menu works, but can't do much as most of the stuff I open from there will (I think) display on the inviso-desktop (which is located in the upper left part of the screen, I can "feel" it with my mouse there). I'm currently trying to download a pre-compiled xubuntu-16.04-core iso, which is only 553MB so there is a very good chance it will fit the drive (the guy who puts the core isos together only keeps the latest version available for download, and 17.04-core is too large, and also has that inviso-desktop problem (ran it in live cd mode). the 16.04-core iso is not available as a direct download anywhere, but its torrent seem to be live, so I'm trying that, hopefully the one guy who is still seeding will keep doing so for a few more hours).

    regular xubuntu 10.04 is small enough to fit, but is a bit too outdated to be usable - Firefox is old and flash plugin is not installing, and I'm not aware of any way of getting them up to date (so gmail and youtube would work properly - that's basically what I need to get running).

    there is an official way how to install 16.04 core without the pre-compiled iso, but no luck with that so far - it simply won't offer the choice screen in the end (I'm stuck in the console without a root password instead). //aha - some progress, looks like I wasn't using the correct minicd. trying to install lubuntu minimal now (LXDE is supposed to be smaller than Xfce), as long as it fits the drive, we'll have a victory. //nope, won't complete, probably not enough space. will try to finish downloading that pre-compiled iso. //nope, just a tiny bit too large to fit.
    Last edited by voodoo47; 9th Aug 2017 at 17:29.

  18. #18
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    Okay, before you wipe the machine, try to open the 'Settings Manager', then immediately press Alt + Space, then M. The window will now snap to your mouse and you should be able to move it onto the visible display.

    Then switch to the Display control panel screen and disable the phantom display.

    ...or if you already have (sounds like it), try again if you reinstall.

    If somehow you have trouble getting the Display option from the settings manager open, but can get a terminal open (needs to still be in X11 mind you), you can use the xrandr to query your displays and/or disable them. For example, the output on my machine is:
    $ xrandr
    Screen 0: minimum 8 x 8, current 4160 x 1600, maximum 16384 x 16384
    DVI-I-0 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
    DVI-I-1 connected primary 2560x1600+1600+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 646mm x 406mm
       2560x1600     59.86*+
       1280x800      59.91  
    HDMI-0 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
    DP-0 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
    DP-1 disconnected (normal left inverted right x axis y axis)
    DVI-D-0 connected 1600x1200+0+0 (normal left inverted right x axis y axis) 367mm x 275mm
       1600x1200     60.00*+
       1280x1024     75.02    60.02  
       1152x864      75.00  
       1024x768      75.03    60.00  
       800x600       75.00    60.32  
       640x480       75.00    59.94
    So, I'm assuming your displayport is called 'DP-0'. This command should disable it:
    xrandr --output DP-0 --off
    If nothing else, you can try opening a terminal then typing it blind
    Last edited by Zerker; 9th Aug 2017 at 19:52.

  19. #19
    Registered: Sep 2004
    ok, progress - the alt+space M trick allowed me to get rid of the phantom desktop (which was indeed there), so I can actually do stuff. audio works now (was just muted), and also managed to enable the panel, so as long as youtube can be made to work without lagging horribly (flash not installed?), the Debian install is ready to go.

    any tips on how to install flash? apt install is complaining about no availability, and I can't find any place where I could manage sw sources. or maybe get rid of firefox and install chromium? //lets try that. //yeah, that was a mistake, this install is toast, can't login anymore. will start from scratch - would it be ok to omit ssh server this time? each bit of saved space is good (but system utilities are better kept installed, I reckon).
    Last edited by voodoo47; 10th Aug 2017 at 03:59.

  20. #20
    Registered: Oct 2000
    Location: Athens of the North
    ssh server should only be important if you want to remotely log in over the network (or use sftp). Can be useful in an emergency situation (e.g. if the display breaks down) but may not be important for your use. It shouldn't take up too much space if you decide to leave it.

  21. #21
    Registered: Sep 2004
    ok, not going to need that. so I've tried the base Debian install plus apt install xfce4 and apt-get install chromium and we have a fully working system, youtube included - barely. 150MB free left - lets hope the os will be smart enough to use ram for caching stuff as much as possible.

    I'll try to install LXDE intead of Xfce on another machine, maybe it will be smaller in the end. //nope, it does fit, but takes more space. so right now, it seems like Xfce+Iceweasel+flash would be the way to go, but I'll need to figure out how to get flash loaded.

    //no luck with flash installation, despite modifying source.list as root and updating, I still get the "flashplugin-nonfree has no installation candidate" message. no idea whether this is a flash missing problem actually, as youtube videos do play, but with pretty much zero performance (they are fine under chromium, and under firefox in a live xubuntu cd).
    Last edited by voodoo47; 10th Aug 2017 at 10:34.

  22. #22
    Registered: Dec 1998
    Location: Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
    Youtube and most videos should be doing HTML5 video playback nowadays, but I guess that can sometimes end up with software decoding on some Linux installs, especially on Firefox.

    If you actually want flash, even Ubuntu just has a package called 'flashplugin-installer', which downloads it from Adobe. You can skip the middleman and just go here:

    The APT link may or may not work; if not, you'll need the NPAPI .tar.gz file.

    Or manually download the Ubuntu .deb file:

    I'll also suggest installing gdebi if you don't have it already; it makes things easier to install downloaded .deb files from a graphical interface.

    To recover some space, you should probably clean up your apt download cache: 'sudo apt clean'.

    Also, I haven't personally tried it, but the package 'localepurge' can be used to remove locales that are not your own. I'd suggest doing a bit of reading before using it, however.

  23. #23
    Registered: Sep 2004
    I'll check in a couple of days - though I have a hunch that after resolving all the dependencies and other issues, I'll be pretty much where I am with chromium.

    one way or another, thanks.

    //allright, so it looks like chromium is the way to go after all (cpu load is around 90% when playing a 480p youtube video, just barely enough), and after running apt-get clean, there is about 350MB of space left, and that should be enough for the intended use - set chromium to purge local temp files upon exit, and the system should be good to go.
    Last edited by voodoo47; 28th Sep 2017 at 16:24.

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