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Debian mini-distro suits routers, low-end devices

Sep 14, 2007 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 15 views

A Hong Kong-based WiFi equipment and service provider is offering a free Linux mini-distribution that might hold special appeal to builders of routers and other sparsely-resourced systems running x86-class processors. Voyage Solutions's “Voyage Linux” is based on Debian Etch, and retains Debian's handy apt-get package manager.

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Most mini-distributions for small and slow hardware remove package management tools, to reduce footprint. Voyage has a footprint of about 64MB, leaving lots of room on the recommended 128MB installation media for apt-getting add-ons, according to an article at Enterprise Networking Planet introducing the small-footprint distribution.

Many desktop users (including your reporter) get their start in embedded by installing router Linux distributions like LEAF on old PCs. Having real package management tools would certainly make that sort of thing easier — if somehow less exotic. Additionally, apt-get's ability to pull packages from any comformant deb repository means Voyage could theoretically be used to build a custom Linux distribution of any kind — for a music server, web server, or browser kiosk, for example.

Of course, Voyage Linux is mostly intended for use as the basis for custom access points, repeaters, bridges, and other WiFi networking equipment. Voyage Solutions, which specializes in mesh networking consultation, offers commercial support and professional services around the distribution.

The newest, stable 0.4.1 release is based on a 2.6.20 kernel, and seems to have full GNU c libraries, rather than uClibc. It is claimed to fully support the PC Engines ALIX, Soekris 5501, and other recent WISPish (wireless Internet service provider) x86 hardware. The release is available as a bootable CD image, source files from CSV, or tarball supporting installation on USB keys, hard drives, or CF cards.

The Enterprise Networking Planet article, available here, walks through installation of the 0.4.1 release on a CompactFlash card, a process simplified by an interesting “voyage.update” shell script. The Voyage Linux project home page is located here.

In other recent x86 router news, start-up HeroLogic, founded by a former Soekris employee, recently announced its first system, a nice-looking AMD LX800-based device that has room for a 2.5-inch laptop hard drive. Combined with Voyage, it might make a nifty little home webserver or the like.

Vyatta, another Debian-based router distro for x86 — albeit one aimed at much higher-end hardware with WAN cards and such — recently achieved a 2.2 release.

Henry Kingman

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