TinyMe was and is intended to be a minimalist and light weight distribution and live CD for older computers with less resources or as a base to build up the ideal distribution for your own use. Just add software, desktop environments etc. TinyMe is built around the Openbox window manager and LXpanel. This is very similar to the LXDE desktop of today, but it did not officially have a release then. It is very much geared towards the end user on the desktop.
Unity Linux is in many ways very similar. It also is a minimalist distribution and live CD. It also strives to "create a base operating system from which more complete, user-oriented distribution can easily be built - either by other distribution projects or by the users themselves." Unity Linux also uses Openbox and LXpanel as the default environment. Package management "is handled via Smart and RPM 5 which can download and install additional software packages from the project's online repository."
|Booting Unity Linux 2010.1|
The two are really remarkably similar on the surface. TinyMe adds a few more applications like Abiword and generally seems more geared towards light desktop productivity from the start. Unity comes with Scite and not much else on the desktop which puts the emphasis on development and on base, but with your favorite packages added can be transformed into a fully functional desktop just as well. Both use Smart for package management and benefit from the legendary Mandriva Control Center for easy configuration of just about anything important, something they also share with all flavors of PCLOS and which I believe helped making it so popular.
|The login screen|
There are however also more subtle differences. For a start, Unity Linux is available for i586 and x86_64 architectures, TinyMe only for the former, and Unity is actually greater in size at 277MB and 276MB respectively. Furthermore Unity Linux has a team behind it, and package and kernel versions are currently more up to date.
Running from the standard CD you will find:
Linux Kernel 126.96.36.199
Unity Linux uses Plymouth for boot graphics and features midori 0.2.4 for a browser. More packages and all major desktop environments can be installed from repositories to enhance (or slow down if you will) the base installation.
There are meta packages for installation through 'tasks', also known from PCLOS and Mandriva. This should make it easier for the newbie or if you just want a specific set, i.e. full or light install of your favourite desktop. It saves going through the app list for every single package needed to achieve a functional desktop, although in theory all dependencies should be pulled in anyway. It also means you can customize your own tasks.
|KDE4 meta-packages (tasks)|
Unity Linux also offers the MkLiveCD utility we have come to appreciate in PCLOS and Mandriva, which allows anybody to create their own customized distribution and live CD on top of the core, for backup or just to carry it with you, and to impress your friends.
Unity Linux thus strives to provide a solid, well maintained foundation that developers can use as a starting point to build their own "remastered" distributions, or as we like to call them, "branches."
The site further states there are currently around 8,500 packages in the repositories. I would wager that probably recent Mandriva packages will work as well.
I have to say I like this basic distribution and the philosophy behind, there is definitely a niche for it. The artwork is an inoffensive non-blinding white swirl on dark-blue background, good for my sensitive eyes, with a Mint leaf floating around giving a fresh impression, and for convenience sake you got 'halt' and 'logout' buttons on the desktop to access these functions. Mandrake/Mandriva has always been my favourite rpm based distribution and one of the first I used back in the 90's, and I'm glad to see it and its many innovations living on in so many forms. Mandriva is of course in ongoing financial troubles and after so many years of it I'm a bit pessimistic if that will change any time soon. So what will projects like Unity Linux do if Mandriva disappears?
For the moment at least they are still around, so let's enjoy this little spin-off if you don't have long term planning needs.
Unity also runs well in Virtualbox, with guest additions pre-installed. As you would imagine due to its size, it ran well with 384MB memory, but will probably be happy with less.
Thanks for reading.
Update: I have amended a couple of things but some will have to stay more generalized and simplified. I appreciate all the additional information through the comments. Thanks to everybody for your input, it's nice to get feedback.