REVIEW - The Official Damn Small Linux Book - The Tiny Adaptable Linux That Runs on Anything


The Official Damn Small Linux Book

The Tiny Adaptable Linux That Runs on Anything


Robert Shingledecker, John Andrews, Christopher Negus


Pearson Education (2007)




Giuseppe Vacanti


December 2009



Damn Small Linux (DSL) is one of the "tiny Linux" offerings available today. It was developed as a live CD system, but it has since been ported to boot from USB and compact flash, run inside a virtual machine, and also install itself on the hard drive. DSL packs a complete desktop system in 50MB, quite an achievement in comparison with what other more mainstream distributions can do (I have several times tried to do a minimal install of some more mainstream distributions and never been able to do it with less than 800MB).

This book is an extensive guide to DSL: one of the authors is the creator of DSL, another is the creator of DSL's extension system.

The book is divided in five parts. Part 1 deals with booting the live CD, configuring the system, and installing extensions. Here the authors explain in detail how to configure the system, and what applications are available. The description can be easily followed with very limited Linux knowledge.

Part 2 addresses way to run DSL other than as a live CD. From a pen drive, on a hard disk, or embedded in a virtual machine running on Windows: these and other possibilities are described.

Extending DSL by creating new packages, and making your own customized live CD are the topics coverd in Part 3. Here the learning curve gets steep for the Linux novice with details of building and installing software packages, editing the required configuration files, compiling a new kernel, and burning a new bootable CD image.

In Part 4 we learn about complete DSL installations for a specific goal (the authors call these installations DSL projects): a music server, a VOIP station, and an Apache-MySQL-PHP server. This Part will appeal to those willing to quite literally hack a system together; in fact the project descriptions start from the selection of suitable old hardware, to the installation of DSL, and the tweaking of various scripts.

The final Part contains the appendices, one of which is the list of all packages available in DSL version 3.3. The book comes with a CD, and its contents are described in the second appendix. The CD can be run as a live system; it also contains several other DSL boot images (all of those described in the book), two versions of the Windows-embedded version of DSL, various scripts, and the additional software and scripts needed to work on the projects described in Part 4.

The book is a comprehensive guide to DSL, addressing both the novice and the more advanced users.

Books of this type can become rapidly out of date: the book covers version 3.3, whereas the current DSL version is 4.2.4. The main concepts described in the book are likely to apply to the more recent DSL versions, although the details are most likely to differ.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

Your Privacy

By clicking "Accept Non-Essential Cookies" you agree ACCU can store non-essential cookies on your device and disclose information in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy.

Current Setting: Non-Essential Cookies REJECTED

By clicking "Include Third Party Content" you agree ACCU can forward your IP address to third-party sites (such as YouTube) to enhance the information presented on this site, and that third-party sites may store cookies on your device.

Current Setting: Third Party Content EXCLUDED

Settings can be changed at any time from the Cookie Policy page.