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Old 11-26-2011, 02:48 AM   #1
NetLinux
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Arrow Best Linux Distro to Run from RAM, persistent, and with easy copy-paste FM?


I need to install Linux to boot from a 4GB USB, and run from RAM.
In order to protect the flashdrive from wearing out with rewrites,
the distro needs to be persistent, but write its persistent file to the flashdrive only when shutting down.
Also I need a File Manager program that provides WindowsXP-like ease with copy-paste functions,
trouble-free with separate panes showing source and target areas,
and allowing choice of text-based file listing rather than icons.
If the built-in file manager in the distro does not do that,
the distro needs to have an easy to install selection of file managers to install,
with the features detailed above.
Looking for a needle in a haystack? Well maybe,
but as what I'm looking for is a very practical, trouble-free use of Linux,
it seems many people would like it too, and I hope there are possibilities out there.
I have tried Puppy Linux 5.2 running from USB and find it excellent in many ways: runs from RAM, finds wifi adapters on its own, allows install of its selection of optional programs with just a click.
But I haven't been able to avoid rewrites to the persistent file on the flashdrive, in the middle of sessions, (though I chose ext2 file system),
and I haven't been able to get a compatible file manager of the type I need, to install on it.
So maybe someone could help me with these 2 issues with Puppy Linux 5.2, or, detail another distro that would do what I'm looking for?
Thanks very much

Last edited by NetLinux; 11-26-2011 at 02:53 AM.
 
Old 11-26-2011, 03:03 AM   #2
elliott678
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I don't know how "trouble-free" it can get with such specific requirements like that.

I've successfully ran TinyCore like this from an SD card. It might not be the easiest route because the base installation is very sparse. It is very flexible though, you can install pretty much anything you need. You can even choose to not write the changes on shutdown, for example if you know you didn't do anything you need to save.
 
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Old 11-27-2011, 12:33 AM   #3
NetLinux
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Well so I looked at Tiny core, and I learned a bit more about both distros; I have questions about each.

about Puppy Linux:
1)- I installed Midnight Commander.
But I could not see where I could see anything outside the root, like, other stuff on the USB drive it runs from, or, on the hard drive in my laptop? How do you get to see these?
2)- Most important: can Puppy Linux be run without using a swap file during sessions?
3)- I would like also to be able to shutdown safely (unmounting drives etc.) but without saving to the persistent file when I haven't installed anything new; how to do that in Puppy Linux?

about TinyCore:
1)- I saw conflicting views on which file system it can run on. Can it run in FAT32 only, or does it need an ext2 partition?
Next question is same as above, but for this distro:
2)- Most important: can it be run without using a swap file during sessions, if you run it from USB with a persistent option?
(Thanks for telling me Tinycore allows you to shutdown safely (unmounting drives etc.) without saving to the persistent file when I haven't installed anything new).
3)- One of the great advantages of a distro with preset hardware drivers, is to be able to run it from the get-go. Which generic drivers are included in TinyCore? ethernet, wifi, video, audio, etc.?
 
Old 11-27-2011, 01:22 AM   #4
elliott678
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I've never used Puppy like that, so I can't be any help there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NetLinux View Post
about TinyCore:
1)- I saw conflicting views on which file system it can run on. Can it run in FAT32 only, or does it need an ext2 partition?
I had no problem using it on an ext2 file system, just make sure you use the proper boot loader. I used extlinux, which is part of the syslinux project. You can use GRUB if you prefer that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NetLinux View Post
2)- Most important: can it be run without using a swap file during sessions, if you run it from USB with a persistent option?
I never ran a swap partition or file, never had a problem. Just keep an eye on your RAM usage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NetLinux View Post
3)- One of the great advantages of a distro with preset hardware drivers, is to be able to run it from the get-go. Which generic drivers are included in TinyCore? ethernet, wifi, video, audio, etc.?
Here is where TinyCore skimps to get that 10MB goal.

Ethernet should be well supported out of the box, it is using a recent kernel, so any ethernet driver Ubuntu or any of the others have, TinyCore should have.

Wireless support is not in the default installation, but is quickly added via the easy to use App Browser.

It does not have Xorg by default, it uses Xvesa, so there are no special drivers for video cards, which means no hardware acceleration. You can install Xorg if you want, but I didn't find it necessary in the setup I was using. I've found Xvesa to be very universal, it doesn't care who made the card, it will work the same on everything. Intel chipsets can be slightly annoying, Intel didn't provide widescreen resolutions in the VBIOS, so you need 915resolution as a workaround.

Audio is also an extension, you can choose between Alsa or OSS, I picked OSS for the overall size.


Check out the TinyCore Wiki, it is very helpful. There is plenty of information there about setups like you want.

There are many, many ways that TinyCore can be installed, I've even thrown the kernel and a customized initramfs into the /boot/ directory of another distro, pointed the existing boot manager to that and used it as a Splashtop sort of OS. Those are the only two files technically needed to boot TinyCore, the whole filesystem is stuffed into the initramfs.

Last edited by elliott678; 11-27-2011 at 01:27 AM.
 
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Old 11-27-2011, 08:56 AM   #5
rng
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For a small distro running from usb into RAM, you may try "slax" linux from slax.org
It is said to be made exactly for this purpose.
 
Old 11-27-2011, 11:14 AM   #6
floppy_stuttgart
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NetLinux View Post
about TinyCore:
1)- I saw conflicting views on which file system it can run on. Can it run in FAT32 only, or does it need an ext2 partition?
Next question is same as above, but for this distro:
2)- Most important: can it be run without using a swap file during sessions, if you run it from USB with a persistent option?
(Thanks for telling me Tinycore allows you to shutdown safely (unmounting drives etc.) without saving to the persistent file when I haven't installed anything new).
3)- One of the great advantages of a distro with preset hardware drivers, is to be able to run it from the get-go. Which generic drivers are included in TinyCore? ethernet, wifi, video, audio, etc.?
Posting your questions in TinyCoreLinux.net would be the best way.. and
1. both are ok
2. yes
3. drivers: nearly none.
ethernet: included
wifi: you have to load (at least) the extension wifi.tcz
video: load the flash...tcz and minefield (see for the installation in the wiki)
audio: find your driver in extensions like firmware.tcz (see audio setup in the wiki)
.. put these extensions as "load at boot"
.. all setup files can be included in gz files then can be called at boot
All is a bit handwork but fun

Puppy was a bit too fat for my desktop specs.

Last edited by floppy_stuttgart; 11-27-2011 at 11:15 AM.
 
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Old 11-27-2011, 01:25 PM   #7
theNbomr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rng View Post
For a small distro running from usb into RAM, you may try "slax" linux from slax.org
It is said to be made exactly for this purpose.
Yes, I'd say that is the definitively correct answer.

In order to accomplish the persistence issue, you will have to run some script that copies (particular) files from the RAM disk to the non-volatile media. This could be done manually, or on a periodic basis (cron), or both.

--- rod.

Last edited by theNbomr; 11-27-2011 at 01:28 PM.
 
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Old 11-27-2011, 05:34 PM   #8
jefro
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I have never burned out a flash drive yet. You'd really have to use it a lot. Now a 4 GB usb is $4.

Any of the knoppix or clones of have a toram option. Other distro's call it by other names. See other posts on this.

4 GB is kind of a break off point too. In a live usb on fat with persistence you get some room. That is because of the compressed virtual file system.

On a normal install to ext or other filesystem there isn't compression by default to say a 4 GB usb with opensuse 12.1 will end up stock with maybe 500mb left. You could remove some of the default software to gain maybe up to 1G.

Last edited by jefro; 11-27-2011 at 05:37 PM.
 
Old 11-29-2011, 12:41 AM   #9
NetLinux
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misc - and - RAM usage with Tiny Core?

Thanks for all the replies, lots to go on.
I did fix the Roxio problem I had in Puppy Linux: found where to make it show list view (I have far too many files to deal with icon view), and most importantly, I found out that you have to click "copy" to paste a file in the target area, which was absolutely not obvious, lol! But now I do have in effect, the copy-paste and list-view file manager I wanted, it's already included in the distro.

I'm still working on the difficult issue of controlling the way Puppy writes to the flash media.

About slax, reviews I saw indicate there will be difficulties with wifi?...
In Puppy, wifi is included and very easy to use. It found and used the wifi adapter in my laptop which I had not been able to install or even detect in Windows XP (though I had tried in XP, every wifi adapter for my laptop model on the manufacturer site)

@elliott678 and @floppy_stuttgart
After reading your replies I'm really interested in TinyCore, will look at the wiki.

One important advantage TinyCore could have over Puppy Linux, in terms of speed and Ram is if, (as I understood?) it loads programs to Ram only as/when they are run? Does Puppy do that, or as I fear, does it load to RAM the whole image including its installed programs?

Also, does TinyCore have a utility to monitor RAM usage/space?
 
Old 11-29-2011, 07:20 AM   #10
rng
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You may also try:

porteus at porteus.org (a slax-remix distro)

perfectminimal ( http://andyduffell.com/techblog/?p=689 ) to customize ubuntu minimal distro version.
 
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Old 11-30-2011, 01:57 AM   #11
hurry_hui
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NetLinux View Post
About slax, reviews I saw indicate there will be difficulties with wifi?...
....
One important advantage TinyCore could have over Puppy Linux, in terms of speed and Ram is if, (as I understood?) it loads programs to Ram only as/when they are run? Does Puppy do that, or as I fear, does it load to RAM the whole image including its installed programs?

Also, does TinyCore have a utility to monitor RAM usage/space?
As for slax, it is considered old now. Last version use kernel 2.6.27.27 (IIRC). Consider using Porteus as suggested by rng.

Yes Tiny Core loads programs to RAM on boot and/or on demand. There is setting for this. It can use as many RAM as available hence the need to use max_loop cheat-code. Tiny Core loads individual app into RAM via mounted loop while Puppy load compressed image into RAM. Tiny Core can free RAM much easier than Puppy by just umounting some apps.

Yes, you can use system stats from Tiny Core's control panel to monitor everything.

In addition to Wifi you might consider MultiCore instead. It is Tiny Core plus some extensions (such as, wifi, installer and remastering tool).
 
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Old 11-30-2011, 11:05 AM   #12
theNbomr
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I think this talk of 'loads programs to Ram only as/when they are run' is overstating distinctions between Linux distros. All Linux programs run by being loaded into memory; this is a standard part of the Linux process model, and is not appreciably different from any other OS. The other common use of RAM is as a RAM-disk, which may be what people contributing to this thread are referring to. In this case, the size of the memory consumed by the RAM-disk may be either static or dynamic, depending on the flavor of RAM disk. Many Linux installations use RAM disks as part of the initial kernel launch (initrd), and it is entirely possible for the system to run without ever mounting any non-volatile storage. I use a customized version of Microcore Linux which does exactly that, loading the entire kernel image and initrd from a network server, and never seeing any spinning media or other nonvolatile storage. This type of system does not specifically include any measures to provide persistence across re-boots.
I think the OP's vision of persistence is simply the ability for applications to store their data files to non-volatile storage, and I don't see how this is in any way a property of the Linux distro. There may be systems that attempt to copy, on some periodic or event-driven basis, data from RAM-based storage to non-volatile storage in a transparent way, however I would be suspicious of how well such systems stand up to spontaneous reboots or power losses (data integrity). There is at least one embedded systems vendor that provides a tool to copy an entire RAM disk to a flash memory partition for preservation of changes, but this is intended to be used on a deliberate basis by the user only, and not automatically.
The only difference in speed of the same application loaded from a RAM disk vs. being loaded from some other media would be in the initial load to memory from storage. Obviously, loading from a RAM disk is much faster than from any other source. After that, there is no difference in the runtime environment.
It is entirely possible to build applications and drivers from source if a particular distro does not provide a package-manager-friendly version of some software.

--- rod.
 
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Old 11-30-2011, 01:15 PM   #13
floppy_stuttgart
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hurry_hui View Post
As for slax, it is considered old now. Last version use kernel 2.6.27.27 (IIRC). Consider using Porteus as suggested by rng.

Yes Tiny Core loads programs to RAM on boot and/or on demand. There is setting for this. It can use as many RAM as available hence the need to use max_loop cheat-code. Tiny Core loads individual app into RAM via mounted loop while Puppy load compressed image into RAM. Tiny Core can free RAM much easier than Puppy by just umounting some apps.

Yes, you can use system stats from Tiny Core's control panel to monitor everything.

In addition to Wifi you might consider MultiCore instead. It is Tiny Core plus some extensions (such as, wifi, installer and remastering tool).
nothing to add.
I personally appreciate the available small size of the distro (and quick boot): you can bloat it like any other distro if you need a lot of applications on boot. personall I mostly start USB-modem, wifi, file manager, editor, webbrowser+flash on boot. Others only on demand (or with scripts).
 
Old 11-30-2011, 05:15 PM   #14
jefro
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You could make what you want as SuseStudio.

Might look at Vector too.

You don't really need to load to ram. Most of the time the disk never gets used for write operations. Reads don't hurt them too much.

Last edited by jefro; 11-30-2011 at 05:17 PM.
 
Old 12-07-2011, 02:18 AM   #15
NetLinux
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Quote:
Originally Posted by floppy_stuttgart View Post
I mostly start USB-modem, wifi, file manager, editor, webbrowser+flash on boot. Others only on demand (or with scripts).
Which of these from the above list, come installed as part of Microcore, which are add-on installs?
Please elaborate on the USB modem, are you tethering a smartphone to your laptop/PC that way? (I've only seen how-to guides for doing this in Windows, not in Linux as yet)
 
  


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