Alpine Embedded Linux 1.1.3 review

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Alpine is a modular embedded linux distribution for use in small appliances such as VPN gateways, routers, and more. The name "Alp

License: GPL (GNU General Public License)
File size: 128236K
Developer: Alpine Team
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Alpine is a modular embedded linux distribution for use in small appliances such as VPN gateways, routers, and more.

The name "Alpine" stands for A Linux Powered Integrated Network Engine.
Alpine can boot from floppy/usb/cf/cd/whatever, packages are pulled into RAM, and everything runs from RAM, just like the distro's found in LEAF.

This makes for very fast application load times, and provides added security if the boot media is write-protected or removed.

Design Philosophy & Goals

Security comes very high. Everything is compiled with stack smashing protection. It costs approximately 3-5% in speed and size, but we believe it's worth it. We also strive to make package configurations secure by default.

Size is also very important. It's why Alpine is an embedded distribution and not a general purpose one. We use uClibc and BusyBox as our main library and shell components. We are however willing to sacrifice some size for speedier development (see below). A typical installation medium would be a small compact flash card, not a floppy.

Innovate, don't Recreate. Our goal is to to keep Alpine as easy to maintain as possible. This means we try to use the work of others as much as possible (obviously only if it's open source). By doing this we free up our development time to implement new features and improve the overall product. For example, we've written stripped down shell libraries and re-use the stock Gentoo init.d scripts.

Automation is key. We try to provide automated processes (using scripts) for everything in the build process. Alpine is an extension of the Gentoo build framework. We use scripts that simply convert the Gentoo binary packages. Many things there are similar to Gentoo.

User Friendly. Our goal is to make installation and use of Alpine extremely user friendly without compromising with security. Eventually we'd like all packages to be configurable via a sophisticated web interface (webconfs). This is not yet implemented. We'd also like to implement the ability to upgrade packages while maintaining a workable configuration all with minimal impact to the service being upgraded.

Scalable. It should be possible to install Alpine in 3, 300, or 3,000 locations with a similar amount of effort. We plan to write an automated installer, centralized repository manager, centralized configuration manager, and monitoring tools.

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