I'm starting a project where all I really want is a shell with apt-get or something similar.

I've searched for small distros, and there are plenty, but I don't need any GUI other than command line. I'm sure a better search would yield better results, but it's rather saturated for me not knowing the proper key words.

The project is making a Raspberry Pi run different scripts based off which USB drive is inserted, so all I need to know is what USB drive is inserted and have some way to connect that to running a script.

EDIT: this did not come up when I searched, but it came up in the sidebar once I'd typed my question. What is the smallest possible Linux implementation?

Linux From Scratch seems to be my answer, but I'm going to leave the question up until I'm certain, and have it open to better answers should they exist.

EDIT 2: Linux From Scratch is apparently not for Raspberry Pi's, nor very easy to update. It's more hobbyist than functional, is the gist I've gotten.


The project is making a Raspberry Pi run different scripts based off which USB drive is inserted, so all I need to know is what USB drive is inserted and have some way to connect that to running a script.

The default operating system for the Raspberry Pi, called Raspbian is a based off of debian wheezy, which comes with apt-get.

It comes with a lightweight desktop environment; which you can disable by running raspi-config.

  • Thank you. I'm currently using raspian for this project, and it is great, but it feels rather bloaty in this case. I'm trying to get as close to the core as I can, not for functionality so much, but for the sake of cleanliness.
    – Seph Reed
    Sep 5 '15 at 17:50
  • Its optimized for the board; you can find other choices at the download page. You cannot take a normal distribution and shrink it down - the distribution has to be available for the architecture and it should have the appropriate drivers (and Python runtime) available. Sep 5 '15 at 19:48
  • Okay. Someone else mentioned Gentoo, and it appears to be installable on a pi (wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Raspberry_Pi). It is not listed on the downloads page, though. Nor is it optimized for the pi by default, which is a good concern.
    – Seph Reed
    Sep 5 '15 at 19:58

It's not really clear what you're asking.

apt-get is package manager - it is used to get packages(programs) from repository, which is remote server, to your computer - and install them. However, apt-get is mostly used on Debian or Ubuntu - there are many other package managers: pacman is used by Arch, Portage is used by Gentoo, etc.

Your minimalistic installation with apt-get is, therefore, imprecise. You could try going with Gentoo - you'd compile kernel yourself(hence you could exclude things you wouldn't use), you would install most programs by yourself(the basic pool of programs is pretty small for Gentoo). You could also install apt-get and use it instead of Portage, if you really want it.

There is also distribution of Gentoo for Raspberry Pi, so this could also fulfil your requirements. However, be careful what you wish for; from your post I'd rather say that you aren't experienced Linux user. Therefore it might be easier for you to go with Raspbian (or whatever was Debian for Pi called), and just don't use GUI. Setting your own distribution takes time and knowledge - if you haven't done it before, it might be too hard for you to get done in reasonable timeframe.

  • Sorry for the lack of clarity. You are right that I'm not very experienced yet, but luckily, I'm doing this project for the sake of learning. Time is plenty. I think I will consider this answered. Thank you.
    – Seph Reed
    Sep 5 '15 at 17:46
  • Just an update, Gentoo seems to be very much the exact answer I was hoping for.
    – Seph Reed
    Sep 5 '15 at 19:49
  • Good luck with Gentoo then! It'll definitely be hard, but hopefully you'll learn much. Sep 6 '15 at 12:19
  • I myself have been running Gentoo for more than ten years now and just like you started as a fun larning project. I have definitely learned a lot. The Gentoo community is one of the most active and helpful communities out there. Also, on Gentoo, since you pretty much compile everything yourself, you can solve any problem you get provided you have the time and the will to do it ;-)
    – Thawn
    Nov 28 '15 at 22:59

If you really want apt-get, try debian with a minimal text-mode (server?) installation.
LFS won't work on the rPI and is not meant to be really used as it's complicated to update.
Try ArchLinux (arm) for a rPI.


If you want lean you could use Salix OS Core. Salix uses slapt-get which has the same interface as apt-get. If you want pure apt-get, I'd go with Debian minimal or maybe Ubuntu Server Edition if you want Ubuntu packages. LFS is probably not the right choice here - too much hard work.


apt-get is AFAIK only available on Debian and derivates. You asked for UNIX, but Linux is not UNIX - it is only close to UNIX but has several significant deviations that would prevent a UNIX certification.

You should be more specific in your question to get a useful answer.

  • Sorry, I had thought the unix to linux relationship was equal to dogs and poodles. I'll research what a Unix certification so next time I'm more prepared and better able to specify.
    – Seph Reed
    Sep 5 '15 at 17:53
  • I found this link on the differences for future: linuxquestions.org/linux/articles/Technical/UNIX_Vs_Linux Definitely looking for Linux
    – Seph Reed
    Sep 5 '15 at 19:17
  • This article is not convincing and was apparently written by a person with few UNIX knowledge. UNIX is so successful because it was OpenSource from the beginning. The POSIX standard committee is very careful with defining standards and every change is a result of a long discussion of many people with a lot of skills in this area.
    – schily
    Sep 5 '15 at 21:49

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