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The DSL-N is the bigger version of DSL. DSL is limited to 50 MB but DSL-N has no top limit. Currently DSL-N is 80 MB+. The other major difference is that DSL-N has the 2.6 kernel instead of the 2.4 kernel of DSL. This will provide new opportunities for newer hardware and should be a major consideration on determining which version to place on the hardware that you have.
Several initial tests with hardware were enlightening. Typically DSL-N should be placed on hardware that has at least 64 MB of RAM and a 300 MHz processor.
1.4 Ghz HP Laptop
Placing DSL-N on this hardware showed performance enhancements over DSL. It loaded much faster as well as responded to commands quicker. If the USB connections existed at startup it worked great. However, trying to mount a USB Pendrive did not happen when it was inserted after startup. The problem with DSL on this same hardware was the BIOS as the BIOS and DSL conflicted on managing the cooling operations of the laptop so as a result it overheated often and shut down. But DSL-N had not problems with the BIOS and it worked fine.
Mini-ITX EPIA 5000
This hardware has worked without any issue using DSL. However, DSL-N kept on freezing and five installs were all problematic. This was a machine with 512 RAM. This is certainly not a definitive answer in terms of how DSL-N will work with slower mini-itx but at least it is something to consider when installing to mini-itx.
Testing the Technology
I had an interesting experience that shows the level of technology that exists with DSL-N. A frugal install was made to a HP 1.4 laptop. Part of the requirement for any of my installs is to have Gimp loaded. I downloaded the GTK and Gimp programs from the MyDSL repository and had them on a usbdisk. I restarted the system and they were automatically loaded when the system booted. It is quite amazing when technology works beyond your expectations. The key to this is having a folder called MyDSL which the system will scan for on boot.
The icons have been reduced to enhance the Desktop appearance.
The Menu has been changed to rearrange the order of Apps and introduce new Apps.
With the expansion of the system in DSL-N to 80 MB+ several new options appeared.
Mozzila Browser, Mozzila Mail, AbiWord, Gnumeric and Mplayer. The new options provide a new layer of compatibility with Office products which will mak eDSL-N more appealing to use in schools and small buiness.
Mozilla provides a more up to date browser than Dillo or the older version of Firefox. However, since browsing is so important to not only DSL-N users but the Internet as a whole a move to a full featured Firefox would be a great addition. No doubt a up to date Firefox is an issue to place on DSL-N but probably most people would give up a lot to have a secure up to date browser.
Mozzila Mail is also included in the package. Again, mail is just about as important to users as a browser so this is a nice improvement. However, once you start down the road of improvements with no definite cap on the OS size this will be a constant battle as with the browser for a long time to come.
AbiWord enhances the word processing aspect as well as provides better compatibility with other Office packages which will be important to some for using in schools or offices.
Gnumeric is also an improvement in the use of spreadsheets and will also provide new opportunities for small business, homes and schools. Gnumeric has most of the features that most users will need.
Mplayer provides new capabilities for multimedia. Many users will be pleased to have an easier and more pleasant desktop experience made possible with MPlayer.