The Grip flavor of Emdebian project allows to create thinner Debian root file systems. I've created one that includes apt, vim-tiny, net-tools, iputils-ping, and isc-dhcp-client. Later I've added grub and Kernel 2.6.32-5-686. The total size of this Emdebian is about 66MB, which is 3.5 times smaller than the usual 230 MB required for regular Debian root file system.
Want to test it? I've created a 128MB bootable image file for x86 architecture. You will need at least 48MB of RAM to this image work. You can download it here. For testing use USB pen drive and a personal computer that allows booting from USB. The procedure:
1 - After downloading, uncompress using gzip:
# gzip -d peters-emdebian.img.gz
2 - Copy the image do destination pen drive using dd. Be careful to use correct destination as dd will overwrite it. Replace "X" with the correct drive letter. All data on destination storage will be lost.
# dd if=peters-emdebian.img of=/dev/sdX bs=8k
3 - Boot! Using the storage you've created. Don't tell anyone but the root password is: 3dp
You can use $ df -h and $ cat /proc/meminfo to check the resource consumption of this Emdebian install.
Generating the Emdebian root filesystem from a Debian Squeeze box is easy. Making a bootable image require a little bit more work but also works fine. To generate the rootfs, download this file and:
# multistrap -d grip-squeeze -f grip-squeeze.conf
The Emdebian root filesystem will be saved at the folder grip-squeeze.
More at Emdebian Grip web site.