Is there a mini-Linux, which would be just practically terminal prompt and you could install environment on your own? Including programs, plugins, drivers, DE (desktop environment)? I'm currently using Ubuntu which seems like a good decision. But I'd like to have more control over the OS on ground level (by this I mean terminal level). Sometimes there are programs which I uncovered when installing new ones, that I don't think I'll use any time soon or ever... definitely never.

I made my mini-research and it comes down to Linux Arch, which technically is what I'm asking for. But frankly, the OS is about 800MB big, so I expect it to have a lot of stuff I won't really need, again. Because as I remember, Ubuntu was about same size and it was pre-installed with everything.

So. Do you maybe know empty Linux's OS? Just terminal? I can get driver for screen, sound, wireless and all other.

  • Take a look at gentoo if you don't mind compiling everything. The base install is basic. – casey Sep 3 '14 at 13:31
  • Maybe you find a suitable distribution here. – celtschk Sep 3 '14 at 14:35
  • @casey Nice, I'll look into that, looks promising. Celtschk, it's less of the size, it's more of ownership. – RikTelner Sep 3 '14 at 16:58

You are looking for exactly the same like what is used for embedded systems.

You can make use of many tools, infrastructure and documentation from this area.

Depending on your definition of super tiny, there is a choice of more or less minimal systems. Besides specialized linux distributions, there are tools to strip down a common standard distribution to create a minimal system based on it.

As you are using Ubuntu, good solution would be to use these tools to create a minimal Ubuntu version;

See SO: "What is the easiest x86 Embedded Linux?" and openembedded.org - Getting started

You should first take a look at Ubuntu Core, it may be just what you need.

The compressed images for 14.04 are about 65MB in size.

  • The "super tiny" was only a methapor. For what I don't care, new OS can take 300GB. That doesn't really matter. What does matter that it will only contain files/drivers/programs – RikTelner Sep 3 '14 at 14:43
  • Ubuntu core looks good. So is OpenEmbedded. – RikTelner Sep 3 '14 at 14:50
  • Ubuntu Core might be exactly what I asked and need. – RikTelner Sep 3 '14 at 14:59
  • Great! When I read "super tiny", I think of a smart card... But from the text, it felt like Ubuntu Core is just right. – Volker Siegel Sep 3 '14 at 15:19

Linux From Scratch (http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/) is about compiling a custom system according to your own wishes, you can choose what to put there, how to do it, and when to stop.

  • Yes, I know LFS. But so far I've seen, it's about actually creating operating system, it may take YEARS. Not to mention it involves hardcore programming skills. Which I don't really have. Using terminal is more like scripting, not programming. – RikTelner Sep 3 '14 at 13:04
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    The last time I built LFS was a bunch of years ago, but that was something that could be done over a weekend (and that only because at the time computers were much slower and compiling some item often took half an hour or more), and didn't involve programming a single line. Waddling with configuration files and compiler settings yes, but no actual programming. – Peteris Sep 3 '14 at 13:11
  • Are we talking about same project? The one I found tells me how to create partition, manage disk file system, use wget to download packages. But has no sign of Linux, whatsoever. – RikTelner Sep 3 '14 at 14:29
  • Yes, just with any OS install you start with a partition where the OS will live, and a bootloader to boot it; the final customized system is functioning at the end of the process, not in the first chapters (otherwise the first chapters would be the last ones). – Peteris Sep 3 '14 at 14:54
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    @RikTelner LFS is just a set of instructions for compiling the basic, existing Linux programs yourself. It's a learning experience for motivated, unskilled users, not a course in OS design. Doing it for a few computers over the years was one of the most valuable experiences I've had in learning how to use Linux, but I still know nothing about programming it. It takes less than a day for the minimal system, and a day or two more to compile the big GUI packages. – Ryan Reich Sep 3 '14 at 15:11

I made my mini-research and it comes down to Linux Arch, which technically is what I'm asking for. But frankly, the OS is about 800MB big, so I expect it to have a lot of stuff I won't really need, again.

Arch Linux is all about simplicity, and there is no way it could be as heavy as Ubuntu. If you think your Arch system is too heavy, you may also lighten it without too much trouble. For more information, I just made a little test install:

  • The Arch ISO I used was ~540MB.
  • When running pacstrap, the system reported a ~435MB total installation size.
  • After install, the system weighed ~690MB.

You might also want to have a look at this topic about minimal installs on the Arch forums.

Simplicity is absolutely the principal objective behind Arch development. Many GNU/Linux distributions define themselves as "simple." However, simplicity itself has many definitions. Arch Linux defines simplicity as without unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications, and provides a lightweight UNIX-like base structure that allows an individual user to shape the system according to their own needs. In short: an elegant, minimalist approach.

For more information, see this page (The Arch Way). The beginners' guide will guide you through the process of installing Arch Linux:

  • Setting up network.
  • Preparing, partitioning and formatting disks.
  • Installing the base system using pacstrap.
  • Setting up locales, console preferences and fonts.
  • Setting up date and time settings (timezone).
  • Installing a boot loader.

Once the installation is complete, you may also want to have a look at the wiki's general recommendations, which include information about:

  • User and privileges management.
  • Package management.
  • GUI/X server installation and configuration (including desktop environments).
  • Audio/video settings.
  • ...
  • 1
    As an additional note, the absolute base install for Arch is functionally the kernel, the init, the package manager and their hard dependencies. Nothing else. If you want anything more than that, you install it. – HalosGhost Sep 3 '14 at 16:10

Eventhough this page is in spanish it has many links to distros ranging from 1MB to 50MB.


By the way, Debian has small install distros (you can find them here) up to 280MB and you have the pros of a very stable distro with the minimum to start with comfortably.

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