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I am wanting to create the smallest server I can possible. I have a small server I use as a print server and for file sharing. The hard drive is about 80GB.
Since I only run cups and samba, I see no reason to take up an addition few GBs with major distros just to run the OS. I know it is possible to get a small distro around 50MB or so. I would even be happy with an OS running around 200MB.
My question is, what would be the best way to go about doing this? LFS is just too complicated and time consuming for the end result. Would something like Gentoo be better? Anything else that I may not know about?
For example Debian (after uninstalling not neccesary packages or doing netinstall) occupy about 300MB, you can try Damn Small Linux (has 50MB installation file) or use OpenWRT (it is mainly for routers, but can install cups and nfs or samba) - on my router it take up 5MB disk space.
You can do this with any major distro: Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian, Slackware, Gentoo. Pick one you are most comfortable with and go with it.
Do a minimal install and then add samba and cups. My recommendation is Debian, Slackware, or Ubuntu in that order. I prefer Slackware but there are a few more steps to be aware of than for the other two distros.
The minimal install I'm referring is more like a pseudo minimal install because you could bring the size down even smaller if you know exactly which packages to install and the ones to avoid. I usually just go with base install packages and avoid any of the additional stuff such as window managers and desktop software.
You can google for more details and I'm sure there are web sites that already explain what you want to do in better detail. For Debian and Ubuntu, do a google search to find minimal Debian/Ubuntu Install CD or iso file. If you are able to find them, feel free to come back and ask.
I'm not certain about the size of the installs but they'll all be less than 1 GB and won't have Xorg. I going to guestimate that the install size will be about 500 MB.
You could also see if other distros such as Puppy, Slitaz, Tiny Core, and Slax might be able to serve your purpose.
I installed Debian without adding any software except for the core. It was about 750MB. When I installed apache2, php5, and mysql-server, it went up to 1GB. I would prefer it to be smaller. I know that really isn't that much, but I like my basic installs small. I will try Fedora next as well as Gentoo (first time to try Gentoo btw). If I can't strip things down too much I'll check out TinyCore.
I'd suggest gentoo if you want to have a fast stable system that is nearly custom built by you from ground up. You would end up learning a lot about the nuts and bolts of linux that would help you later. It does take some time to build and you can make mistakes on some of the setting choices. You'd end up better off for the experience.