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Puppy Linux

September 1, 2006

You need to read the couple of entries before this one to fully understand why I decided to look at this distro. Or maybe not.

In any case, my hard drive had a meltdown and in the midst of diagnosing, testing and fiddling, I found myself wanting something faster and more nimble but still meeting some of my needs. Namely being able to get online and post to this blog!

There’s ample information about Puppy Linux out there and I spent time looking it over in live PCLinux CD mode. It didn’t take long to convince me that this thing is worth downloading and trying out. At a mere 73 M, it is tiny compared to other distros. It loads totally and completely into RAM, with no swapping necessary. That means that it can be loaded and then the live CD can be removed and the drive used for other things. It also means things work faster as it isn’t having to crank the CD everytime you open a new application. You can also save and load it off of a flash drive.

So what is Puppy Linux like?

Hmmm. I’m too much of a noob to take and post a screen shot, but it has a look of a more modern version of Win95. For you youngsters, this means most applications are on a desktop.

But first things first. I burned it to a CD-RW, as suggested by developers. This is because I may want to add things later and the CDRW enables an easy way to burn an updated, customized version. So the potential to create a custom distro is kind of cool.

When booting, the first thing that pops up is a screen asking about the display. This screen is a real blast from the past because it reminded me of the old days logging into bulletin boards! In fact, it asks some questions and reassured me that if I did something that didn’t work I could always back up and out. Puppy was making sure that my display would work properly and had provisions for some very old displays.

So then I saw the updated “Clouds in Sky Theme” which was the desktop of choice for so many Win95 users. Changing it proved to involve more effort than I wanted to exert at the moment.

Those users in love with installation wizards should love this distro. They have wizards for everything! Including a “Wizard wizard” that is a guide to using the various puppy wizards. Including a modem wizard, which may be interesting.

However, the Ethernet connection wizard proved to be a daunting undertaking. It wasn’t straight forward, but I eventually figured it out. Puppy does give a lot of help via help screens and various wizards. Great care has been taken to try to make this a noob-friendly distro while making it useful and fast.

The tools are not the standard applications we are used to working with. The web browser defaulted to something called “SeaMonkey” which still had a look and feel like Firefox.  Actually, it was more like Netscape with tabbed browsing.

If you are still using IE6 or older to read this, you’re an idiot.

Ari Word functions as the word processor and Gnumeric functions as the Calc or Excel-like spreadsheet. These are different and more simple versions of the same programs we are used to, only tons lighter as far as space. Ari loads about 7x faster than either Office application. In less than 3 seconds, it is there and ready.  This pup really runs!

Initially Puppy Linux, looks very good next to other distros many times its size.

Unlike other distrros, Puppy does not really encourage installation to a hard disk. It fact, when exiting you are prompted to save the settings into a file on a hard drive, the CD or a USB drive. It is the nature of this distro where installation is not necessary.

It is SO worth a look for all Linux enthusiasts, because there is no real opportunity cost to trying it.  there are even smaller versions going down to a feather-like 26 M for those in love with command lines.  And there is a real benefit to having something this small and nimble on a USB keychain ready to be used when you need it. It is quite powerful for its small size and must be seen to be believed.

For Windows enthusiasts, it may bring back the Win95 nostalgia with the file managers and icons. However, you may be disappointed by the absence of crashes and illegal operations.

I can’t think of a good reason for a Mac user to use it, except for curiosity.

It’s just a good deal for all sorts of computer nerds out there. 71 M would still be a daunting download for people on dial-up, but perhaps more within reach than other distros. I’m going to be snooping around their version of a package manager to see what more can be done with it. I do really like the “build-a-distro” approach to Puppy, where you start with the basics and then build on to what you want. Ubuntu and others do this, of course, but there does not seem to be any concern for economy of space with these other distros.

dick

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2 comments

  1. SeaMonkey was/is the name of the Mozilla Suite (browser, email, composer, …)

    Y’know, the one that everyone felt was too “bloated” and switched to Firefox/Thunderbird, which amusingly together take up more RAM.


  2. [...] Oh my.  This distro just keeps getting better!  I’m also getting better at finding my way around Linux.  I’m getting closer to finding my distro.  I can feel it.  And it might just be this one.  Stay tuned for a big shout out if this one makes the final cut.  We are in a third round of testing right now, with previous ones documented here and here. [...]



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