Damn Small Linux on the Raspberry Pi! Why did I do this?…

Hi everyone.

Here’s a video of Damn Small Linux running on a Raspberry pi!

Be wary: you’ll probably want to skip to around 19 minutes unless your patience is infinite :). Bear in mind my Raspberry Pi is a model 1 B+ – any more modern pi should do this faster.


Well, mostly I thought it would be funny :). This might not sound like a particularly difficult thing to do, given the raspberry pi runs Linux. However, the raspberry pi is an ARM-based architecture system, as opposed to the X86-based architecture most computers, and hence, Damn Small Linux (DSL) use. This means the pi has to emulate an X86 CPU to run DSL.

The other reason why I saw this page, which is about running modern Gentoo Linux on a 486. I was actually really impressed that:

  1. It’s possible to do this at all, and it can run modern programs too like Python (albeit very, very slowly).
  2. Anybody has the patience to make it work 😛

So I thought I’d do a similar experiment of my own, which at the time I thought was a good idea. This leads me nicely to:

Why exactly did I think this was a good idea?

Hmm. Not sure about that one. I’ll get back to you when I remember :P. Anyway, it was a kind of fun experiment. Apart from that I had to wait for it to boot twice because the mouse and keyboard didn’t work the first time. That wasn’t so fun.

The general rule is, if you want to emulate a particular CPU of a different architecture, your CPU needs to be 10 times faster. In this case, I’d heard that a 486 can boot DSL in around 4-5 minutes. Hence, I thought my pi clocked at 1050 MHz would probably beat it, because that gives an effective clock of roughly 105 MHz, which is faster than any 486 by a fair way, I think. I was wrong, it was about twice as slow, even with 64 MB of RAM, which is, again, more than most 486’s had. 🙁

Why not tiny core?

Well, I believe tiny core will run natively on a raspberry pi, and I have a spare 2GB SD card lying around that is too small to do much with – I’ll probably have a go with it soon. I might actually manage to do something useful with that, too!

At any rate, I think this should probably be the end of the post now, so I’ll see you later with more things to come soon (hint: Cygwin part 2).


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About Hamish McIntyre-Bhatty

I'm a self-employed software developer working on Free Software projects, as well as studying for my degree with the Open University. Being pedantic when it comes to detail is fortunately useful for both of these things! A strong believer in free software, I have a few pay-for programs available under the GPLv3 and enjoy reporting bugs and helping to improve various open source projects, including volunteering at Wimborne Model Town to work on their river control system.

One Response to Damn Small Linux on the Raspberry Pi! Why did I do this?…

  1. Pingback: The iBook G4: a beautiful old PowerPC Mac from 2004

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