Leaner Linux

Leaner Linux

THIS WEEL’s NetSpeak will explore a Linux distribution that has enough power but is relatively small.

In the past, as regular readers of this column might have noticed, this column had featured several flavours of Linux. Linux versions discussed included single floppy Linux and live CD Linux distribution, which helps us boot Linux from the CD drive. The advantage of these Linux distributions is that they let you convert your machine into a Linux box without disturbing the existing set-up.

That is, you can enjoy the benefits of Linux without taking the trouble of going through difficult tasks such as re-partitioning the hard disk and installing the Linux on to it.

However, the Linux flavours discussed have a few limitations. For example, you cannot use the Linux that comes in one or two floppies to explore further though it will be useful as a learning tool. Obviously, navigating the Net with a graphical browser is an impossible proposition here.

The problem with live CD Linux distributions such as DyneBolic (http://www.dynebolic.org/) or Knoppix (http://www.knoppix.org/) is that they are too big for a netizen with a slow-speed dial-up link to download. Letters received by this author attest to this. So, you need a Linux system with a reasonably good software-base that is also smaller so that it can be downloaded without many hassles. The freely downloadable Linux OS of LNX BBC project seems to fulfil these conditions.


The LNX-BBC (http://www.lnx-bbc.org/) is a small Linux-distribution with several useful packages. To use this OS, you need to download the CD image (of size around 50-MB) and burn it on to a CD. Now, boot the machine with this CD in the CD drive and in a few seconds your PC will become a Linux box. After logging-in to the system, you can start its graphical interface by typing the command `startx.’

To invoke the program menu, right-click on the desk-top. From the graphical interface you can start the browser, access the dialler-software and so on.

Apart from helping an ordinary user taste the Linux’s features, many administration/trouble-shooting tools of use to a systems administrator are also bundled with this distribution. During the booting process the system automatically mounts all the available disk partitions that enables the user access the data stored in the Windows partition.

Linux through web

We have seen several ways to use/install the Linux OS from our PC. But all these solutions require you to download/install one or other type of Linux archive.

Now, do you want to experiment with a Linux desktop without following any of these steps? Here is an innovative service, called Workspot (http://www.workspot.net.) that allows you to access a Linux machine through a browser. To get a feel of the service, select the `Demo’ option, which will provide you access to a Red Hat Linux machine.


There are many useful tools available on a Unix system such as the file compressor `bzip2,’ file archive creator `tar’ and the tool `wget’ that lets you download files from the web, for which there are no counterparts in normal Windows.

If you are keen to have the Windows version of these tools, check out the GnuWin32 project’s web page (http://gnuwin32.sourceforge.net/) that provides links to Win32 versions of these programs.

Particularly, many of you may like the tool Xpdf (http://www.foolabs.com/xpdf/download.html), which can be used to extract text from a PDF file.

QuiXplorer: A file manager for your web server

Those of you who have hosted web sites on remote servers may be familiar with some mechanism for uploading files to the server. Mostly people use an FTP client to upload files.

Though FTP clients can be used to upload/download files, all the file management requirements are not easily met with standard FTP clients. For example, if you want to edit a file on the server on-line, usual FTP clients are useless.

Here is a free PHP-based program (http://quixplorer.sourceforge.net/), QuiXplorer, which can be used to do almost all-conceivable file management tasks that include file uploading/downloading and copying/moving/deleting/viewing/editing/searching files. To implement this simple but useful application, download the archive, expand it, upload it to your server’s document root and make some alterations in the `conf.php’ file stored under the `.config’ sub-directory. Once the set-up is ready, access the web server file manager by typing the URL: http://your-host-name/ quixplorer _2_3.

Vim: A free text editor

Computer users normally use a text editor for composing/editing text files. The text editor familiar to most Windows users is `Notepad’ and for those from the UNIX/Linux background it is `vi.’ Here is another feature-packed text editor, considered an improved version of vi. The program vim (vi-improved), available in such OS platforms as Windows and Linux, can be downloaded for free from: http://vim.sourceforge.net/. Mouse support, on-line help are some features that make this software useful for a new user.

An on-line guide

Want to have a quick introduction to IT-related subjects such as operating systems, databases, spreadsheet, Internet and programming? Check out the page, `The Secret Guide to Computers,’ at: http://www.secretguide.net/read/ index. php.

J. Murali

Email the author at: murali27@satyam.net.in
© Copyright 2000 – 2005 The Hindu

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