Simple GNU/Linux?

QUESTION: Would it be technically possible to reduce GNU/Linux to the kernel and bash scripts (supposedly they would call each other, etc.)? I mean, without any other software such as spreadsheets, wordprocessors, but with the same capability.

(This is an idle question by a non-techie who has never written more than a few usable scripts.)

This is probably what you are looking for:

The most minimal still very usable Linux distribution I know of.

You can install Debian, for example from a netinst.iso.
There will be then a “tasksel” option, where you can select what to install.
It is definitely possible to install nothing else just the core system, so you could exclude any DE, and other bells and whitstles.
You will get only tty, there will be no X.
Such a bare system would be useless, I think, especially if you aren’t techy.
However, it would be a good base of a headless (home) server for example, so for start to build something in top of it…

Hi Cecil, you would probably do better joining this forum to ask your question -

I took a look at alpine linux once and could not understand its purpose other than single board mini stuff - it seems to have no useful apps installed out of the box - weird.
@Akito has somw weird ideas too…

terrible language from a staff moderator… :astonished: :flushed: :woozy_face:


and …

Alpine Linux is a community developed operating system designed for routers, firewalls, VPNs, VoIP boxes and servers.
Whereas Trisquel is for home and small business use…
Comparing Apples and Oranges as @Mina would say

see app - software list to see if anything there you need :thinking: :wink:

Not easy to use and a bit out of date but

Is a stripped down basic system with nothing included


These are very basic systems without toys as you requested

But, if you are wanting to create one yourself then you need to learn Linux to do that so depends on your skill level, you may find this guide helpful in achieving your task

If you make it successfully, perhaps we will be adding your version to a future answer to this question.

Bonnie courage


Personally I couldn’t get on with Puppy Linux although I haven’t tried it for a few years now
After visiting distro watch I only just realised I use Trisquel as a recovery system on a thumb drive,
The name didn’t ring any bells but seeing a screenshot did.

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Hey @1crazypj Peter - never thought of Trisquel in that light as a Recovery System - nice one Dude. Suspect it was an old version - v8 works great for me.
Still; running Trisquel you never need a recovery system as it is so stable - touch wood :crazy_face:

The easy way is to download the Debian ISO here:
During install uncheck all software choices. After install you will have a CLI system with no GUI. If this is what you need, leave it as is. If you need GUI, install xorg and your preferred desktop environment or window manager. Display manager (slim, lxdm, lightdm, etc.) for GUI login screen. For example as root:
apt install slim xorg lxde --no-install-recommends
installs minimal GUI with LXDE desktop.

Hi Deby,
There is another simple way to see what a bare-bones linux is like. Boot in single user mode. You get a login prompt on the screen, and when you login you get a shell prompt on the screen. That is what linux and bsd used to be like , before X11 windows, and before DTE’s.


Hi Neville,
Thank you. There is a great distro worth mentioning - Porteus It is very light and fast. It boots as live system and can also be installed. It is available with 7 choices of DEs and the ISO sizes are very small (from 335 MB). The downloads are here: FTP archive directory /ftp/os/Linux/distr/porteus/x86_64/Porteus-v5.0/


Thanks Deby, will have a look.
Looking at MX at moment. Cant see why it is No 1 on distrowatch, but it is OK at least. Has some nice inbuilt documentation that might appeal to new users.


Hi Neville,
I don’t understand either why MX has the highest page hit of all distros. MX is OK, but certainly not the best (there is no best for everyone anyway). Porteus can boot from flash memory (USB drive, Micro-SD card, etc.) and run completely from RAM without installation. It is great as system rescue, Internet browsing, music, videos, etc. It is Slackware based, but pretty much limited to default apps. The USM (slackware package manager) is included, but doesn’t work well. Slitaz used to be good as portable Linux, but no longer works for me (boots into CLI and startx has no effect).


No, neither do I. It has lots of addon apps, in addition to the ones from the DTE, so with MX and KDE you end up with huge pulldown menues.
MX does have nice builtin documentation, it does not pull down a web page, it is all there.

I just practiced making my first bootable usb drive ( I have always used a DVD). So I am ready for Porteus. It sounds a bit like Knoppix. I dont mind slackware, that is a good simple distro. Will try it soon.


Hi Neville,
Optical media (CDs, DVDs, etc.) is obsolete and most new PCs don’t have an optical drive. The simplest way to create a bootable USB drive is to use “dd” command, but I prefer GUI. I use the following: gnome-multi-writer or usb-creator-gtk. These packages can be installed using synaptic or terminal. However they can burn only one ISO to USB. Lately I use Ventoy:

Ventoy can store multiple ISOs on one USB key and the free space can also be used for storage.
I like simple 2-tier menus like LXDE or Xfce. To avoid clutter on my desktop, I use side panel with auto-hiding. Here are the menu and panel screenshots


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So with Ventoy, can I make a live USB with persistant storage , ie if I use the live distro from the USB drive, can I save my home directory or any added packages or changes to /etc?

Also, do you know how to make a live USB drive of an existing distro installed on HD. I imagine you would convert its filesystem to a .iso file then put that on the USB drive with dd or whatever?

I am not very up with USB drives, so your help is appreciated


Maybe this will help:
Haven’t done it myself though.

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Thank you Edgar,
It seems like I guessed, you copy an .iso file to the USB, it doesnt say but I guess copy it with dd
you have to put grub2 on it as well
Much simpler than making a live DVD. Will be giving it a try


Hi Neville,
I don’t think that Ventoy installed on a USB drive can keep any persistent storage changes. The advantage of Ventoy is that once it is installed on a USB drive or any flash memory card, you can easily add or remove any bootable ISOs by simply copying or deleting them using any file manager. Plus, use the free space on a drive to store other files of any type. Ventoy formats the drive with exFAT file system, so you need the packages exfat-fuse and exfat-utils installed.
Regarding making a live USB of an existing distro, there are many ways of doing it. I used GParted for that purpose. It is easy to do by simply copying the partition of the existing installation and pasting it to unallocated space on the target drive. Then, to be able to boot the system, GRUB needs to be reinstalled. I used the “Super Grub2 Disk” ( Super Grub2 Disk Super Grub2 Disk download | ) booted from Ventoy. Super GRUB2 Disk helps you to boot into any Operating System by detecting all bootable OSs and providing the boot menu, just as normal GRUB does. After booting to the new OS copy, you need to reinstall GRUB and reboot. Here is the link to the video explaining the use of GParted for cloning drives: How to clone a Linux Hard Drive with Gparted - YouTube


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Thank you @Deby
I thought of using clonezilla to clone the existing os partition, but gparted is probably a better choice.
Have limited internet. Floods in Australian East Coast washed out our phone line. Will reply in full later

Hi Neville,
Using gparted is the simplest way of copying partitions, as simple as copy and paste. You need to paste the partition to unallocated disk space on a target drive and choose to have the pasted partition of the same size as source or larger.

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