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I need to install a Linux distribution on a PC Engine ALIX 1D board. The main storage device of that board is a 2 GB Compact Flash card.

My aim is to use this board as a middle device between two network gateway devices connected on a Virtual Private Network. This middle device will be running Wireshark to sniff packets traveling through the VPN. Any suggestions for a CF card installable (lightweight) Linux distro?

I would really appreciate a distribution that is easy to install and has good community support.

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  • With CF card capacities way beyond several gigabytes and an x86-compatible processor, your choice of distros is virtually unlimited. You can use the CF card like any hard drive, but you should be aware that as a solid state memory device, it will only endure a certain number of write cycles per cell (usually about 10^6).
    – n.st
    Mar 21 '14 at 17:38
  • When you value an easy installation process and extensive community support, I would recommend Ubuntu (but that's just a personal preference, there might be others that are just as user-friendly and well supported).
    – n.st
    Mar 21 '14 at 17:41
  • My CF card is only 2 Gigabytes of capacity. Ubuntu won't fit in. Mar 21 '14 at 17:56
  • Do you need a graphical environment? If yes, you'll be hard pressed for space. If not, Ubuntu Server might fit. If it doesn't you can use Debian (the distro Ubuntu is derived from) -- if you don't mind very stable and thus old packages.
    – n.st
    Mar 21 '14 at 18:01
  • Also, I've added the 2 GB requirement to your question, since it's crucial for recommending a distribution.
    – n.st
    Mar 21 '14 at 18:02
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Try Xubuntu. I have had success running Xubuntu from 4GB CF in my Habey devices. I was also able to install Ubuntu server in the 4GB CF as well. I seem to recall successfully installing Ubuntu 10.04 server on a 2GB CF originally, but switched to 4GB (SanDisk Ultra 30MB/s) to have more space.

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  • I am currently thinking of Debian for ALIX. The project wiki says that it can be installed on a 2 GB CF card. If I installed it successfully, I would answer my question myself. Mar 22 '14 at 11:32
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2 GB is plenty, you just need a distribution which does not install a full KDE/Gnome plus Office, Webbrowser, Mail, etc. suite by default. If you need some GUI programs you can install them individually later on. Debian for example lets you install a fairly minimal system, and so does Suse and quite a few others.

More important is the choice of the root filesystem. I would not rely on the SD card hardware to do wear leveling for you, so a copy-on-write filesystem like btrfs is recommended. Ext3/4 might write to identical sectors constantly and reduce the lifespan of the card significantly.

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