I’ve talked about Linux From Scratch before, and I like how it gives you just what you want, compiled how you want, by your system, for your system, but it doesn’t actually give you a very useful system in the end.
Sure, you’ve got a text-based system with all the standard Unix utilities, and it boots like greased lightning, but there’s still a fair bit of configuration you have to do afterward. And the attitude of the committee that wrote it seems to be that if the documentation to do something exists elsewhere, it shouldn’t be repeated there. Speaking as a published author, I don’t agree with that absolute. Sure, a table listing DOS commands and their Unix equivalents is out of place in that kind of book, because that’s non-essential for getting a working system. But the two paragraphs required to tell you how to get your network card configured isn’t a big deal. Just do it!
I could spend way too much time ragging on the project, and it wouldn’t accomplish anything productive. Linux From Scratch is a fabulous way to learn a lot about the inner workings of a Linux system, and it’s an opportunity few, if any, other operating systems give you. And I guess since it makes you work so hard and look in other places for information, you learn more.
But if your main goal is a lean, mean system built the way you want it, rather than education, and you’re willing to give up a little control, there’s another way: Sorcerer Linux.
For Sorcerer, you download an ISO image that contains the essentials like a kernel, file utilities, a C compiler, and necessary libraries, all compiled for i586. This gives a good balance of compatibility and performance. When you install it, it compiles a kernel for your system, then it copies everything else to the drive.
The heart of Sorcerer is a set of shell scripts that automatically downloads current versions of software, checks dependencies, and compiles and installs them for you. It’s not as convenient or as polished as RPM, but it’s usable and the benefits, of course, are tremendous. You get the newest, most secure, most stable (and, usually, fastest) versions of the software you need, compiled for your particular architecture rather than the lowest common denominator.
I had some trouble installing Sorcerer at first. I found that after compiling the kernel, I had to answer Yes to the question, “Edit /etc/lilo.conf?” and make a change. The default /boot parameter didn’t work for my system. I had to change it from /devices/discs/disc0/part7 to /devices/discs/disc0/disc.
To avoid having to recompile the kernel over and over to get to that menu option that let me edit LILO’s parameters, here’s what I did:
mount -t devfs /devices /devices
Sorcerer doesn’t currently have spells (sorcerers cast spells, therefore, Sorcerer packages are called spells, get it?) for every package under the sun, but most of the essentials are covered. I’ll have to write spells for a few of my faves and contribute them.