Puppy Linux 5.0

Woof! Woof! Guess what time it is, folks? It’s time for a review of Puppy Linux 5.0!

Puppy Linux, in case you aren’t already familiar with it, is a lightweight version of Linux that is designed for portability.

The .iso file of Puppy Linux 5.0 weighs in at an incredibly petite 128 MB. It’s much, much smaller than all of the usual desktop heavyweight distros. But don’t let its small size fool you, Puppy Linux 5.0 is anything but an also-ran in terms of functionality and usability.

Puppy Linux 5.0 is built from Ubuntu Linux 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) binaries, so it’s…er…pet name is Lucid Puppy. Like a lot of other things about Puppy Linux, the name is cute and adorable. I felt like giving Puppy Linux a dog bone and a pat on the head when I started using it.

What’s New In This Release
Quickpet is a great addition to Puppy Linux that lets you easily add more programs and drivers with one click. You can access Quickpet by clicking on the icon on the desktop.

The Quickpet menu is broken down into the following categories of applications (pets):

Popular Pets
GIMP
Pwidgets
Audacity
Songbird
Wine
Clan Bomber

Internet Pets
Firefox
Seamonkey
Chromium
Opera
Thunderbird
Kompozer

Useful Pets
Lxmusic Versatile Music Player
Dia Diagram Editor
Cinelerra Video Editing
JRE Java Runtime Environment
Foxit Reader
Inkscape

Drivers
Radeon HD
Nvidia 195

Update
Lucid Puppy Update

Before you try to use Quickpet, be sure that your network connection is configured. I forgot about that and got an error message when I tried to download Opera. To configure your network, just click the blue Connect icon on your desktop.

Puppy Linux 5.0 also now boots right to the desktop (don’t worry you can personalize your desktop, see that section of the review for more information).

And you get to choose your default browser as well. Firefox, Sea Monkey, Chromium and Opera are all available. What you choose to use is entirely up to you. You can also opt to simply use PuppyBrowser, which is a version of Firefox.

Use Quickpet to install applications with one click.

When you click to install a pet, it will download onto your system automatically.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
I could not track down the exact hardware requirements for Puppy Linux 5.0. There don’t seem to be any in the release notes or on the Puppy Linux site. It’s possible that I missed them. I apologize if I did. If you have the requirements, please feel free to post them in the comments.

Suffice to say that Puppy Linux is a lightweight distribution so it’s perfect for older hardware or less powerful contemporary hardware.

Installation
You can install Puppy Linux in a number of different ways. Given its size, it’s obviously a prime candidate to be installed to USB key chains and other portable, bootable devices. Alas, my USB key chain is still missing in action. I know it’s around here somewhere but I’ll be damned if I know exactly where it went. Someday I’ll find it or I’ll get another one. But for this review I just opted to run Lucid Puppy in a VMWare virtual machine.

Bootsplash
The bootsplash screen is unmistakably Puppy Linux. It looks like no other distro. Hit the F2 key for a list of boot options. You can hit Enter to boot right away or simply wait five seconds for Puppy Linux 5.0 to boot automatically.

You have to hand it to the Puppy Linux developers. The logo is adorable and adds a lot of humor and personality to this distribution.

You can’t mistake Puppy Linux 5 for any other distro when you see the bootsplash screen

Login Screen
There was no need for me to login to use Puppy Linux 5.0. I just booted right into the desktop from the bootsplash screen.

Helpful information about Puppy Linux 5 that appeared after logging in.

The Desktop
When you first boot into the desktop, you’ll see the First Run Configuration menu. This lets you adjust your Locale, Time zone, Date and Time, Keyboard and Video Resolution, and Network Setup.

The panel contains a Menu button, along with icons for viewing the desktop, free space and launching a browser. You can also access multiple desktops, and volume controls.

Click the Menu button to access application categories, system settings, etc. See the software section to see more about the software that comes with Puppy Linux 5.0.

Desktop Icons
The Puppy Linux 5.0 desktop is definitely not an uncluttered one. There are a lot of icons on it. But if you look closely, you will notice that they are laid out in a particularly arrangement.

At the top of the desktop you have the following icons:

File
Help
Mount
Install
Setup
Edit
Console

Under that you have:

Write
Calc
Paint
Draw

Then you have:

Browse
Email
Chat

Then:

Plan
Play
Etc.

The desktop icons are basically grouped in functionality categories. This helps prevent the Puppy Linux 5.0 desktop from collapsing into a total mess of icons. But those who are used to booting into an icon-free desktop might be taken aback momentarily when they first view see Puppy Linux 5.0. Don’t let all the icons rattle you; it’s very easy to make sense of them once you take a closer look.

The Puppy Linux 5 desktop is filled with useful icons and colorful wallpaper.

Wallpaper
I love the Puppy Linux 5.0 wallpaper. It’s very cute and has the name “Lucid Puppy” on it. The wallpaper fits in well with the desktop icons and isn’t too over the top.

If you find that you dislike the wallpaper, themes, etc. just right-click your desktop and choose Desktop then Desktop Settings. You can make all the changes you want from the Desktop Settings controls.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Rubix Cube
PicPuz Jigsaw Puzzle
Tile Slider Game
Xinvaders
Xsoldier

Graphics
Gtkam Camera Manager
XSane Image Scanner
mtPaint Image Editor
mtPain Screen Capture
Gcolor2
Pictureviewer

Internet
PuppyBrowser
PuppyPodcastGrabber
gFTP
Psip VOIP IM Client
Axel Download Accelerator
Uget Download Manager

Multimedia
Burniso2cd
ISOMaster
Pburn

Office
Abiword
NicoEdit
Geany

There’s plenty of software that comes with Puppy, but if you want more then open Quickpet and click the More Programs list at the top of the menu. You’ll find some additional programs there including the following:

OpenOffice
Java
Icewm
Midori Browser
Skype
Sunbird

And if that’s not enough, open the Puppy Package Manager and you’ll find even more software!

There are additional applications available in Quickpet under the More Programs menu.

Note that some of the application categories in Puppy Linux 5.0 are different than what I have here. I’ve placed Abiword, for example, in Office while it actually appears in the Document menu. You get the idea though. The Puppy Linux 5.0 application menus are easy to navigate so you should be able to find everything without any problems.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Flash comes with Puppy Linux 5.0. So I was able to watch YouTube videos without having to install it. Sound worked fine and my YouTube videos looked good.

Problems & Headaches
For the most part, I had a good experience with Puppy Linux 5.0.

However, I did have two lockups while playing YouTube videos. I was forced to restart Puppy Linux 5. I’m not sure what the problem was but FYI for those who want to use YouTube via Puppy Linux 5.0.

Another thing I didn’t like about Puppy was that it doesn’t auto-detect and configure Internet connections. I guess I’ve gotten so used to this in desktop distros that I find it annoying when a mini-distro like Puppy doesn’t do the same thing. I’m probably nitpicking or just being lazy here though.

YouTube videos played but Puppy Linux 5 crashed twice while playing them.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Puppy Linux forums, install instructions, and the Puppy Linux technical and developer page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Puppy Linux 5.0 was a real treat for me to review. I love this distro’s personality and humor. Everything from the lingo, to the logo, to the wallpaper radiates fun. You can’t help but smile when the Puppy Linux desktop pops up.

Puppy Linux 5.0 is perfect for intermediate and advanced Linux users. However, I worry about recommending Puppy Linux 5.0 to beginners. The network configuration might throw some Linux newbies off and the application menus in Puppy teem with applications. It might be overwhelming to someone who is new to Linux. But if you’re an adventuresome Linux newbie, feel free to give Puppy Linux 5.0 a shot.

Puppy Linux 5.0 is well worth a download, and it deserves a chance to become your preferred portable distro. Check it out.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Puppy Linux 5.0
Web Site: http://www.puppylinux.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Quickpet makes it easy to add applications, drivers and updates with one-click. Boots right to the desktop. Good selection of bundled software. Tiny file download size.
Cons: YouTube videos seemed to lock up Puppy Linux 5.0 twice. Internet connection requires some configuration.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced Linux users. Adventuresome beginners might also want to play with it and see if it’s right for them.
Summary: Puppy Linux 5.0 is a terrific lightweight, portable distro. It’s well worth putting on a USB key chain or other portable device. Puppy Linux 5.0 is tiny but it packs a powerful bite.
Rating: 4/5

 



Puppy Linux 4.3

One of the nicest things about Linux is its sheer versatility. There are so many different versions of Linux that serve different purposes including being able to take it with you wherever you go. No, I’m not talking about on a laptop or even on a netbook. I’m talking about being able to stick it on a USB device and stick it in your pocket.

Puppy Linux is one of the better known distributions when it comes to Linux portability. Puppy has been around for a long time and version 4.3 was recently released. Compared to some of the desktop distributions, Puppy is incredibly lightweight and weighs in at a tiny 105MB when you go to download it. Yep, that’s it. 105MB.

But don’t let the file size of the Puppy Linux download fool you. There’s a lot of value packed into Puppy Linux as you’ll find out in this review.

What’s New In This Release
There’s quite a bit of new stuff in this version of Puppy Linux including a new system for building Puppy called Woof and a new package manager called, appropriately enough, Puppy Package Manager.

Here’s a sample of some of the other stuff that’s new in this release.

2.6.30.4 Linux Kernel
Dialup Modem Drivers
Pstreamvid
CPU Scaling
JWM Theme Maker
Psync
Mscw
pCD
QUISP
SQLiteManager
Hiawatha
Linux-dvb-apps
Screenshot Utility
Aqualung
Crop Background for Widescreen
NicoEdit
Ext4 Support

There’s quite a bit more so be sure to review the full list at the release announcement link above.

Puppy Linux has a cute (albeit a bit bland) desktop wallpaper.

Puppy Linux has a cute (albeit a bit bland) desktop wallpaper.

Requirements & Installation
Here’s a list of requirements to use Puppy Linux:

CPU : Pentium 166MMX
RAM : 128 MB physical RAM for releases since version 1.0.2 or failing that a Linux swap file and/or swap partition is required for all included applications to run; 64 MB for releases previous to 1.0.2
Hard Drive : None
CDROM : 20x and up

Puppy was really designed to run in RAM not as an installed distribution. There is an installer included but it’s geared more toward USB devices and that sort of thing then for a hard disk. Just for the heck of it I tried an install but it didn’t work in VMWare which doesn’t surprise or bother me.

I’d meant to stick Puppy Linux on a USB keychain I had laying around but it disappeared and I was not able to find the darn thing. I suspect it’s floating around in the living room somewhere but I have a brown head parrot that lives in that room and that has a knack for finding and chewing plastic objects. He may have dispensed with my USB keychain and hidden the evidence somewhere in the room. He’s quite cunning when he wants to chew something and get away with it.

You can install Puppy Linux to different devices including USB flash drives.

You can install Puppy Linux to different devices including USB flash drives.

Version 4.3 features the new Puppy Package Manager.

Version 4.3 features the new Puppy Package Manager.

Desktop & Apps
Chances are that you’ll either love or hate Puppy’s desktop. The wallpaper isn’t anything to rave about as it’s a bit bland though somewhat cute.

But the thing that might annoy people is the number of icons on the desktop when you boot into it. There are 22 icons that appear on the Puppy Linux desktop. I personally don’t mind this much but I know that some people would regard it as cluttered and potentially poorly organized. I suppose that – like beauty – it will be in the eye of the beholder.

Puppy Linux comes with a good selection of software but don’t count on seeing OpenOffice, GIMP or any of the larger programs. The software that comes with Puppy Linux more or less provides mostly similar functionality but in smaller and lighter packages. Abiword, for example, is the word processor of choice rather than OpenOffice.org.

Overall I was pleased with the software that was available with Puppy Linux. If you need to install more you can simply click the PET install icon on your desktop and then run the Puppy Package Manager.

Games
PicPuz Jigsaw Puzzle
Rubix Cube
Xsoldier Space War
XEmeraldia Drop Blocks
GLightOff

Graphics
mtPaint Screen Capture
Gtkam Camera Manager
InkLite Vector Editor
mtPaint Image Editor
Pictureviewer Drag and Drop Images
Gcolor2 Color Chooser

Internet
SeaMonkey Mail and News
SeaMonkey Browser
gFTP
You2pup YouTube Downloader
PuppyBrowser
Psip VOIP + IM Client
Axel Download Accelerator

Multimedia
Aqualung Audio Player and Ripper
Gxine Media Player
Pcdripper CD Ripper
Pburn CD/DVD/Blu-ray Writer
Pstreamvid Streaming Video
mhWaveEdit Audio Recorder/Editor
ISOMaster ISO File Editor

Office
Abiword
SeaMonkey Composer HTML Editor
Geany Text Editor
MP Console Editor
Gnumeric Spreadsheet Editor
HomeBank
Calcoo Scientific Calculator

Others
PureFTPd FTP Server
Pwireless Wireless Scanner
Xautoconnect Wireless Network
Superscan Network Scanner

Did this fiend have something to do with the missing USB keychain?

Did this fiend have something to do with the missing USB keychain?

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube videos played without a problem but the sound was garbled and unrecognizable. I was not able to get my test DVD to run using Puppy Linux. Frankly though I do not regard either of these things as that big of a deal.

It may have been a VMWare burp but even if it wasn’t it I am not going to lose any sleep over not being able to run multimedia in Puppy. Frankly, it just isn’t one of the things I’d be using Puppy for anyway.

However, your mileage may vary. If you test Puppy please share your own multimedia experiences in the comments section below.

What I Liked Most
The thing I like most about Puppy is its portability. It provides a lot of value for such an extremely tiny version of Linux. You can take it anywhere with you and do most, if not all, of what you could do with a larger desktop Linux distribution. In that sense I also really appreciated the good selection of bundled software. Without the functionality that its software apps provide, Puppy wouldn’t be nearly as good as it is.

Problems & Headaches
When I first booted into Puppy Linux my network connection wasn’t working when I fired up my browser and tried to load a web page. I clicked on Menu then Setup then Network Wizard and soon had a live network connection.

Puppy’s configuration screens are ugly and outdated. Given the cuteness of the whole “puppy” theme it seems clear that the developers ought to put some time and effort into them to make them a bit more attractive and more welcoming to beginners.

As I noted above the wallpaper could use some sprucing up.

I was able to play YouTube videos but the sound, unfortunately, was garbled.

I was able to play YouTube videos but the sound, unfortunately, was garbled.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the Puppy Linux Wiki, the Puppy Linux install instructions or the Puppy Linux Manual.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Sometimes it can be very helpful to have a distro like Puppy available for emergencies. I favor keeping it on a USB keychain or some other portable device so it’s handy for emergency use.

Puppy can be used by beginners or more experienced Linux users. It’s probably a  good idea for Linux newcomers who haven’t used a portable distribution like Puppy to spend some time playing with it. It’s a good way to discover the value in being able to take Linux with you wherever you go.

Summary Table:

Product: Puppy Linux 4.3
Web Site: http://puppylinux.org
Price: Free
Pros: Small, light-weight, fast distro. Comes with a great range of apps and only weighs in at about 100MB when you download it.
Cons: Ugly, dated configuration screens.
Suitable For: Anybody who needs a lightweight, portable version of Linux particularly for emergencies.
Summary: Puppy Linux fits the bill nicely for those who need a portable Linux to tote around with them and who want a full range of bundled applications without the bloat of a full desktop distro.
Rating: 3.5/5