Like most open source software, AstLinux was created to fill a need. After discovering Asterisk in June 2004, Kristian became obsessed with the possibilities of a multi-protocol telephony toolkit and Linux. The main issue with Asterisk is that without a kernel and other base software (a distribution), it doesn't do anything. It is an application, and you need much more than an application for an actual working telephony solution. The existing approach to this was to install a generic, general-purpose Linux distribution and to install Asterisk. This approach has several problems. The biggest of these problems is bloat. Most general purpose distros include everything from Apache to Samba and more. These are all fine applications, but they are not the kind of thing you want installed or running on your PBX. Also, configuration was always a problem. To have a complete Asterisk solution using a general purpose distro, you will need to know a great deal about Linux, Asterisk, and network protocols. This just isn't necessary for a PBX! And, while he was at it, he wanted to make sure that the distro would run well from Compact Flash.
Every serious network appliance runs from flash memory, not a hard drive. Flash memory is many times more reliable than hard drives due to the lack of moving parts, etc. However, flash memory has a limited number of write cycles, so extra care has to be taken when running software from Compact Flash cards. Kristian thought about all of this for a while, and then he got to work...
In September, 2004, Kristian created the first version of AstLinux - 0.1.0. As noted in "Switching to VoIP", this early version of AstLinux was based off of a stripped down Gentoo Linux install with a custom init system to better handle running from Compact Flash. It came in at just under 256 MB, and turned out to be quite useful. It was designed specifically for the PC Engines WRAP board. By contrast, more than five years later, 0.7.0 has a footprint under 90 MB, uses a heavily modified version of Buildroot and supports 10 distinct platforms.
After several thousand downloads, many positive reviews, and further corporate sponsorship, AstLinux 0.2.0 was released in February, 2005. Several years later, after continuous development, AstLinux has grown in features and usefulness on an almost daily basis - without growing significantly in size. Take a look around and see what it can do for you!