We became fed up with distro bloat too. We had a need for a quick and easy distro for servers. It didnt need any bells or whistles, since we were aiming at this for Apache servers.
So a friend of mine, who everyone just calls "doc" created what we now call "DocHat".
He installed a standard RedHat 7.1 box clean, and went about removing all the fluff. Anything that wasnt necessary was ditched. "As small as possible" wasnt a design goal. We still had to admin these boxes, so we included the tools we liked, zsh, lsof, netcat, etc.
When he was done he created a tar.bz2 of the entire system, omitting /home and /proc. That tar was placed on an FTP server. That tar file is 45meg.
We then use a three floppy boot disk. The first disk is a kernel compiled specifically for that box, including devfs to save space on disc2, which contains the bare minimum root fs loaded into ramdisk.
Once booted, we have access to fdisk, raidtools, mkfs, ifconfig and route, and ftp. As well as tar and bunzip2. It's a trivial matter to boot, fdisk, mkfs, ifconfig, ftp the 45meg tar over, untar into the new fs, edit the etc/sysconfig and other files in etc, create a proc and home dir on the mounted drive and reboot from disk three which is the same kernel as disk one, minus devfs. (As the tar system doesnt run devfsd)
Once rebooted we copy the kernel that's on disk3 into /boot, edit lilo.conf, lilo, reboot again (This time from the hard drive). In ten minutes (assuming the ftp of the 45meg tar is over ethernet, though we have done it over the internet) we have a fully functional bad to the bones linux box. I've created an rpm of perl 5.6.1 with all the modules we like which is rpm -Uvh'ed in place after the final boot. I have an apache rpm with all our setup pre done. I am creating a djbdns and postfix rpm. Essentially, we'll shortly be able to walk up to any box with three floppies and make it do anything in about fifteen minutes. Try that with a RH CD.
Want something even cooler? Check this...
I wanted to play with xfs as root fs. I created a kernel for my first floppy that included xfs support. On the box I ftp the tar from I placed mkfs.xfs someplace I could grab it.
/dev/hda1 on / type xfs (rw)
none on /proc type proc (rw)
none on /dev/pts type devpts (rw,gid=5,mode=620)
I followed normal procedures, when I got to the mkfs stage I created a second three meg ramdisk, mounted it, ftp'ed mkfs.xfs into it, ran it on the partition, and proceeded like normal. At the end I had to edit the etc/fstab, and after all the reboots, I installed the xfsprogs rpm. Boom, instant xfs box, and it only took me about twenty minutes.
While this is NOT a setup for newbies, it does address the goals of the LFS project which is getting rid of distro bloat. I've now installed five machines this way and will never go back. Doc, at his company, has easily 75-100 machines running this way, three quarters of which are diskless netbooting off a DocHat image on an NFS server. It just works.
In the long run, I want to fit mkfs.xfs onto the second floppy so I dont have that extra work, since XFS appears to be the way to go. And I want to modify the tar.bz2 to use devfsd, so that we can use only one kernel, instead of having to have two. Also, I've figured out the list of rpm's that need to be installed to get X working. I'll be creating a tar of a bunch of rpm's that can be installed, to create a workstation. This is where Redhat lags, you cant install X without running afoul of a huge mess of dependancies. I want X, all the libs, and Blackbox. I may work out a non RH way of doing this.