Alpine with a Desktop, Etc.

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#1 Tue, 2017-10-10 17:57
  • Pentophilus's picture
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Having raced through a variety of distros searching for a pre-secured foundation for a personal OS I would like to equip and customize, Alpine seems to offer a strong contender. Small, highly secured and with some package support.
However, its installation process is problematic for live users (rather than sysadmins) out in the real world: it lacks a desktop environment out of the box, and requires this to be installed with packages at boot time over an internet connection. Or at least, its initial startup appears to suggest this.

While it is possible to establish a wifi connection via terminal, where wifi is all that is available in occasional cases where only a password rather than a login portal is required, as is frequently the case for most commercial hotspots, allowing packages to be installed using this process to produce a fully-fledged live boot distro, it is a process that is terminal heavy and completely net-dependent. Given the small size of the distro, it seems ideal for a live version more applicable to typical users, so I wonder if a version pre-packaged with a desktop might be considered?

Oddly, the Wiki page on package management suggests that:

"Alpine Linux needs to be able to pull packages from local media on boot. (You can't download packages from the net before you have a network connection.) Using remote repositories presents a problem. If the config files have been modified for a newer version of a package, and the older package is on local media, all sorts of fun can result.

The solution is a local cache of updated packages. This cache can be stored on any r/w media, typically the same location as the apkovl.

The cache is enabled by creating a symlink named /etc/apk/cache that points to the cache directory. Note that apk will ignore any cache residing on a tmpfs volume. If you want this for some reason, see section below on tmpfs caches.
To enable local cache run:


As with any distribution of Linux, packages are specific to that distro, begging the question of how one can install Alpine Linux, download and store packages, then have them available to install Alpine Linux at boot without, as the comments above suggest, connecting to the net before you have a network connection.

Second is the issue of package storage. Linux is of course a repository universe, and emphasizes package installation from repositories; but downloading, storing and installing packages from storage at any point in the absence of an internet connection is perfectly feasible with most distributions, some more than others (Debian and Fedora both make this relatively easy). This allows a complete distro to be equipped and configured entirely offline anywhere at any time, as I have found (and is a process that can be scripted too, of course). Alpine suggests the 'fetch' command for 'download only' package management, but gives no indicator of how to specify a directory for download, nor could I see any indication on the wiki page of where packages are stored by default (which varies somewhat in different incarnations of Linux, I have found).

Please not the suggestion, and fill in any details I have missed if you can. Thanks alot.