Recently I’ve been playing with SliTaz GNU/Linux, a tiny distro that can be made to operate even the oldest of PCs!
This article is a short bootstrap to get you started with the essentials on SliTaz 4.0
What is SliTaz?
SliTaz is an independant GNU/Linux distribution, with its own package manager, repositories and kernel, focused on providing an OS for embedded devices and computers with extremely small amounts of power and storage.
It is extremely lightweight: its standard ISO is about 35 MiB in size, botting from cold to desktop in as fast as 15 seconds, and ab initio takes up 32 MiB RAM with the Gtk openbox desktop and no extra applications.
Whilst it can be used as a lightweight desktop environment, its main application would more likely be for use as
- an embedded Linux
- an SSH gateway
- an easily reloaded web kiosk
- a portable PC troubleshooting/rescuing disk
- such uses where slick features are shunned in favour of lightness and efficiency.
A GUI desktop environment is provided for those who are afraid of being in full-on command line mode, but to maintain its lightness, there are no traces of such heavy packages as LibreOffice or Firefox.
Out of the box you get
- the lightweight Leafpad text editor (if you’re not content with nano or vi!)
- the Midori web browser
- the sakura terminal emulator
- and mtPaint if you need to edit pictures…
and apart from that, not excessively more. That’s all you really need.
There’s a web-based GUI manager running on localhost for managing the computer, but make no mistake – this systems is more appropriate for seasoned Linux hobbyists who are OK filling in the documentation gaps…
There is even an Raspberry Pi version of SliTaz available to squeeze the most performance out of your Pi.
On the LiveCD, to configure SliTaz, boot into the “Gtk” version; then open the web browser go to http://tazpanel:82 and enter the root login details. By default, the user is “root” and the password is “root”.
Once in TazPanel, you can manage the system, upgrade packages, install new software – an more!
Go to the final menu entry labelled “Install” and choose to “Install SliTaz”
For the purposes of this guide, we are just going to do a very simple install. If you’re comfortable with partitioning, go wild.
You will be offered the opoortunity to launch GParted – click that button. You will be shown a map of the first hard drive. If you have multiple hard drives, BE CAREFUL with which one you choose – the operation we are about to perform will erase the disk you operate on.
Choose the disk in the disk chooser menu in the top right – probably /dev/sda if you have only one disk. Again CHOOSE WISELY.
Once a disk is chosen wisely, use the Device menu and choose to Create Partition Table
Then choose Partition menu: New partition
Leave the defaults and hit OK, then click the Apply button to apply the changes. At this point the disk is erased and a new partition is set up. You have been warned!
Exit GParted, scroll down and choose to “Continue installation”
Most options should be fairly self explanatory.
Under Hard Disk Drive, choose the drive you just erased in GParted (/dev/sda for example) and choose to format the partition as “ext4”
Set the host name to whatever you want.
Change the root password to something sensible.
Set the default user as desired.
Remember to tick “Install Grub bootloader” or you’ll have a non-bootable system…
Click “Proceed to SliTaz installation”. After a few seconds… SliTaz is installed. Reboot!
You’ll have to set up your locale and keyboard just once more and voila, a desktop Linux that boots in seconds!
Command line install
Here’s the simple recipe for installing SliTaz from the command line. Note that even if started from the LiveCD headless, this install will install a full GUI and take up around 100MB of space.
The first thing to know is that the installer is invoked by the command tazinst.
The second thing to know is that you need to create a configuration file for it.
The third thing you need to know is that you need to partition your disk first. Naturally, this is what we’ll do first.
WARNING – PARTITIONING ERASES THE DISK THAT YOU ARE PARTITIONING
Type these keys in order to erase /dev/sda and set up a single partition. If you have never done this before…. read up on partitioning with fdisk. It’s a whole topic on its own! Hit return for each new line of course.
(just hit return here to accept the default)
Great, you have a new partition on /dev/sda1. Now create the config file.
tazinst new configfile
Once you have created the configuration file, edit it.
Three key things you need to change are as follows:
- TGT_PARTITION – the partition you will be installing on – in our case, /dev/sda1 or whichever you configured earlier
- TGT_FS – the file system you want to use – for example, ext4
- TGT_GRUB – “yes” unless you intend on installing Grub manually afterwards.
tazinst install configfile
After a few second, the install will be finished and you can reboot.
SliTaz is very light. Extremely light. You might even say it’s missing some packages you would expect as standard. You should think about doing some initial setup…
tazpkg -gi vim
tazpkg -gi htop
tazpkg -gi tmux
tazpkg -gi sudo
tazpkg -gi iptables # ...and whatever else you want...
#one tazpkg per item to install
/etc/init.d/dropbear start # SSH server
# add dropbear SSH server to startup
# change timeout
# add your own users to sudo location
And that’s about it. Some extra commands that may be different from what you may know from elsewhere:
poweroff # instead of shutdown
tazpkg recharge # sync package list
tazpkg info (package)
tazpkg description (package)
tazpkg search (string)
tazpkg get-install (package name) # install from repo
tazpkg get (package name) # download from repo
tazpkg install (TGZ file) # install from local file
Bonus – tpgi
Instead of directly using the restrictive tazpkg, try using my wrapper
Switch to root and run the following
tazpkg -gi git
tazpkg -gi bash
git clone git://github.com/taikedz/handy-scripts
cp handy-scripts/bin/tpgi /usr/bin/
This will set up the tpgi command which you can use to make life with tazpkg a little easier… run the command without arguments for help. Try:
tpgi install htop vim tmux sudo
Now you can install multiple packages from one line….!
tpgi search and gcc 3.4
Searches for packages containing the term “gcc” then filters the results for version 3.4