Damn Small Linux 2024: A Revival After 12 Years

3 min

Yes, it’s alive. The team behind Damn Small Linux released an alpha version for 2024 with the latest Debian base.

In a surprising comeback, Damn Small Linux (DSL) has made its return after a 12-year hiatus, releasing the DSL 2024 ISO. This alpha-quality release, tailored explicitly for low-power systems and outdated hardware, comes 16 years after the last stable version.

The new DSL 2024 is built for the i386 architecture, with a boot assembly size of 665 MB – significantly larger than its predecessor, which was a mere 50 MB in size.

We did a quick run in VirtualBox to find out what it has to offer.

Damn Small Linux 2024
Damn Small Linux 2024

Damn Small Linux 2024 (DSL 2024)

The revival of Damn Small Linux was driven by the need for a compact Live distribution suitable for legacy systems, fitting on a standard CD (under 700 MB). This release is based on the AntiX 23 Live distribution, itself built on the Debian package base. DSL 2024 aims to provide graphical and console environments that cater to the needs of users working on ageing hardware.

The ISO size is 698 MB to be precise, just short of 2 MB to fit in a single CD. Probably no one uses a CD drive anymore. But for those who do, it is an excellent distro to try it out.

It uses the basic Calamares installer for installation and features LIVE desktop support.

Features and Environments

Badwolf browser
Badwolf browser

DSL 2024 offers a choice between Fluxbox and JWM window managers, providing users with versatile options for their graphical environments. Notably, the release includes three X-based web browsers –BadWolf, Dillo, and Links2 – each serving different purposes and preferences. BadWolf stands out for its light, security-oriented design, being fully HTML5 compatible. It is one of the lightweight web browsers out there.

For office applications, DSL incorporates essential tools such as the AbiWord word processor, Gnumeric spreadsheets, Sylpheed email client, and the Zathura PDF viewer. Multimedia needs are addressed with the inclusion of MPV for video and audio, as well as the lightweight audio player XMMS.

Comprehensive Application Set

Various apps
Various apps

DSL 2024 is not just about the essentials; it also features a range of applications to enhance user experience. From graphics editing with mtPaint to FTP functionality with gFTP, the distribution caters to various user needs. Additionally, users will find Leafpad for quick editing, zzzFM file manager from antiX, and three engaging GUI-based games. The feh image viewer is available for setting up wallpaper.

Noteworthy term-based applications include Ranger file manager, VisiData for powerful CSV and spreadsheet tasks, FZF fuzzy finder, Tmux terminal multiplexer, Mutt email client, Cmus music player, and CDW CD burner. The distribution also includes a variety of term-based games and two term-compatible web browsers – W3M and Links2.

Look and feel + Core

The look and feel are sufficient enough, considering Fluxbox’s lightweight nature. However, a bunch of Fluxbox themes are already pre-loaded for you. In addition, you can try out a few window decorations as well.

Fluxbox styles
Fluxbox styles

At the core, it features the LTS Kernel i.e. Linux Kernel 5.10 which comes with Debian 12 Bookworm. It is based on antiX 23. Flatpak or Snap is not installed. LibreOffice is not installed as well. With LibreOffice, the ISO size would have been increased anyway.

No GUI package manager is available. However, you can install anything using apt via terminal.


Damn Small Linux 2024 is systemd free. With Fluxbox with JWM, it uses only 87 MB RAM with some basic apps running. It’s probably the lowest RAM consumption I have seen in any Linux distribution. It’s perfect for low-end hardware.

It uses 3.2 GB of disk space for default installation, which is unbelievable with all these lightweight apps.

Damn Small Linux 2024 performance
Damn Small Linux 2024 performance

Closing notes

The decision to resurrect DSL after over a decade was not arbitrary. The original DSL, a 50MB distribution, was a significant achievement but was designed for a different era in computing. As technology evolved, creating a similar-sized distribution today would lack essential drivers and feature only basic applications, rendering it impractical for the average user.

DSL’s new goal is to maximize usability within a 700MB limit, serving older computers and preventing them from becoming obsolete. This aligns with the creator’s commitment to sustainability, aiming to keep usable hardware out of landfills.

This version fully enables Apt, allowing you to install missing components easily. The developer, acknowledging the trade-offs made to fit within the size limit, provides a download script to restore any missing files, ensuring a seamless user experience.

DSL 2024, while standing on the shoulders of giants like antiX, is a humble project with a clear vision – delivering a compact and functional desktop distribution for legacy systems.

You can download it from the official website (it might be a little slow; try it with any downloader such as uget).


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