Frequently Asked Questions

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Why the name?

It's really just a way to emphasize the incredible small size of the distro. If you are offended by the name, just do what most people do. Call it "DSL".

About this page

Frequently Asked Questions is a central location more advanced users can use to answer questions that get frequently asked. If you have a question that you want to ask, please use the forums. If the forums aren't working, you can use this page.

How can I edit this page?

Frequently Asked Questions Beta. Go wild. But not too wild....just a little... And use Wiki Syntax.

DSL Structure

Will DSL ever get bigger than 50 MBytes?


The whole idea behind DSL is trying to fit a complete, fully functional desktop into a small footprint. If we were to raise the size, we would become just another distro. And the fun of working more and more functionality out of 50mb would be gone. DSL will NEVER go over 50mb for the base iso. Stop asking.

Minimum Requirements for DSL with X-Window:

  • i486
  • 24 MB RAM

What is DSL-N and what are Minimum Requirements for it with X-window

However DSL does have a Slightly Larger Cousin, DSL-N, under development. DSL-N is still Damn Small, but has a few extra whistles included (GTK2, 2.6 kernel, added hardware detection). Note that DSL-N is functional, but still under development, and not considered stable enough for for wide use. Watch for version 1.0.

Minimum Requirements for DSL-N with X-Window:

  • i486
  • 16 MBs RAM (recommended 64MBs)

Why doesn't DSL have Gnome or KDE?

Because DSL is meant to be fast and light on PCs with minimal resources.

Will DSL ever use the 2.6 kernel? Has it even been considered?

There are currently no plans to move to a 2.6.x kernel, for the following reasons.

  • The 2.6.x kernel is significantly bigger than the 2.4.x kernel, so it would cramp DSL's functionality.
  • The 2.6.x kernel drops a lot of support for legacy technologies, hardware, etc, and we want to keep DSL functional on as much hardware as possible
  • All major improvements that have occurred to the 2.6.x tree have been, and are being backported to the 2.4.x tree, by a very active backporting team. And even though Linus said he would not participate in the backporting process this time, the demand for 2.4.x kernel maintenance is about the same as the demand for updates and improvements to the 2.6.x kernel, so even he has helped in the process, though not as much as what he does toward 2.6 development. For evidence of this activity, take a look at, where you can see, the 2.4.30 kernel was released, just a few days after 2.6.10.

If you want DSL with a 2.6 Kernel, try DSL-N, aka Damn Small Linux Not! It is very similar to Damn Small Linux, and made by the same people. It has 2.6 Kernel, GTK2, mplayer, core gnu utils (not busybox), and a few other common applications that didn't make the cut for size in DSL.

Installing DSL

Which File Do I Download?

Read about how to Choose the Right CD Image, and read Longer description this page. Here's a general rule:

A. dsl-x.x.x.iso
B. dsl-x.x.x-syslinux.iso

Use <A> for most things. If your board supports booting from a CD-ROM, but <A> does not work for you, try <B>. Use <C> to run DSL inside of a host OS (Windows or Linux).

Can I run DSL inside Windows?

Yep. Above, read the question "What File Do I Download?", then:

  • Download dsl-embedded.
  • Unzip and Click dsl-base.bat. This will run DSL in the Qemu Virtual Machine.

For an overview of Virtual Machines and Running DSL, read this Article

How Do I Install to a USB Pendrive?

See Installing to a USB Flash Drive.

What About the WinImage Method? Because it requires non-free software, we do not endorse or support this method!


How can I help out?

Feedback and suggestions are always appreciated, or you can..

Can you add XYZ?


If it's small, and would add value to the distro, post a suggestion in the "Ideas and Suggestions" area of the forums. If it gets a good reaction, we will consider it.

Where do you guys hang out?

The Getting Help guide tells you where to find us.

Help! The forum isn't working for me!

Keep in mind that you need to activate your forum account before you can post. Check your email.

If you still need help, and the forum isn't working for you, visit the Forum Substitute.

How can I post in the forums ?
I registered, activated my account and am logged in, but am not

permitted to open a new topic, nor post a reply to an existing topic, nor send a message to a forum moderator; indeed, to do anything I could not do as a guest.

The Help link offers no help about this.

Using DSL

Adding/Installing Programs to DSL

See Installing MyDSL Extensions.

How can I be root in X?

Type "sudo [command]" in a terminal window to run a single command with root privileges. This is generally considered the best idea. To get a root shell, type "sudo -s".

How do I prevent the getting_started.html file from opening at boot time?

Read The End section here. In short:

Open Emelfm and click on the 'H' in the upper left hand corner of the left pane showing the /home/dsl directory. Scroll down to the .xinitrc file and choose 'Edit' from the Emelfm button menu. Look for the dillo line that appears just before 'fluxbox' at the end of the file and place a '#' in front of the word dillo. Save and exit. Now you need to save your settings.

How do I save my settings?

See Persistence.

How do I play an audio CD?

  • Insert the CD.
  • "DSL" menu button -> Apps -> Sound -> Xmms Play CD.
  • Click on the directory dropdown list. It is the box in the middle near the top of the "Play files" dialog box.
  • Click on "/" in the directory dropdown list.
  • Click on "cdrom/" in the directory dropdown list.
  • Click the "Add all files in directory" button.
  • Click the "Close" button.
  • Click the play arrow (in the X Multimedia System window).

Common Hardware Questions

How can I get the scroll wheel on my USB mouse working?

Follow this process.

  1. Quit X (ctrl+alt+backspace).
  2. Run
  3. Select your desired resolution, then select USB mouse.
  4. Run startx.
  5. Enjoy.

How do I mount a USB drive?

You can follow this guide if you are using JWM or Fluxbox.

  1. Right-click on the home icon on your desktop
  2. Select mount
  3. Then click /mnt/sda1.This will mount any flash drives in the usb ports.
  4. To unmount,repeat steps 1-3.
  5. To see the contents of your usb drive,go into Firefox (or dillo).
  6. In firefox,type file:///mnt/sda1/ in the address bar (in dillo,its file:/mnt/sda1).Then you should see a directory listing of the contents of your flash drive.
    1. If you can't see the contents,you may have clicked the wrong thing to mount,or you may have accidentally unmounted the usb drive when it already was mounted.Repeat steps 1-3.

The monitor refresh rate is too low - can I make it not flicker?

DSL's monitor refresh rate is fixed at 60Hz, which is very low compared to that used on most modern PCs. One solution is to use an LCD monitor. Other solutions are more involved: the simple VESA 2.0 standard used by DSL does not support increased refresh rates in a way that works on all video cards. There are solutions that involve booting into MS-DOS first, and a variety of other hacks. There is no easy or supported answer as of this writing. For the full discussion, visit the forums.

Common Network Questions

How can I enter and save my static IP settings?

To save static IP settings with backup/restore we need to make changes in two areas.

Boot the CD with the cheatcode dsl nodhcp or add nodhcp to the APPEND line in the Lilo or GRUB bootloaders.

We need to add the static IP information to the /opt/ file. This file is backed up in the /home/dsl/.filetool.lst file by default. For this step you will need to know the static IP, Default Gateway and DNS nameserver of your ISP. With this information your /opt/ file should have the following entries.

ifconfig eth0
route add default gw
echo nameserver > /etc/resolv.conf
ifup eth0

With these two steps you should have your static connection up and running the next boot. Make sure you back them up!

How can I have a VNC server start automatically at boot?

VNC (an abbreviation for Virtual Network Computing) is a client/server software package allowing remote access to graphical desktops. With a VNC server running, you can access your DSL machine from anywhere on your local network or on the internet. VNC clients and servers are available for Linux, Windows, Mac OS, and other operating systems. A VNC client (to access the graphical desktops of other networked machines) is already included in the standard DSL.

To set up a VNC server to run automatically, the first step is to download and install the VNC server extension (vnc4x-x.x.x.dsl) from the repository.

There are two options for starting VNC automatically. You can place the commands in /opt/ or in /home/dsl/.xinitrc, a hidden file in /home/dsl. You can find the two commands you need in the /home/dsl/.fluxbox/menu file. If you place these files in the .xinitrc file they MUST be before the fluxbox entry and have the '&' sign following each command to run it in the background. A .xinitrc file with vnc might look like this:

# put X windows programs that you want started here.
# Be sure to add at the end of each command the &
if egrep -qv noicons /proc/cmdline 2>/dev/null; then &
fluxter -w &>/dev/null & &>/dev/null &
asmem -withdrawn -bg black -fg white -memory red &>/dev/null &
wmcpuload &>/dev/null &
wmnet -w &>/dev/null &
wmix &>/dev/null &
dillo /usr/share/doc/dsl/getting_started.html &>/dev/null & &>/dev/null & &>/dev/null &

exec fluxbox 2>/dev/null

Now you should have VNC autostarted when you boot into X. If you want it running with no X put the two VNC commands in /opt/