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. Linux Kernel
Dialup Modem Drivers
CPU Scaling
JWM Theme Maker
Screenshot Utility
Crop Background for Widescreen
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.

PicPuz Jigsaw Puzzle
Rubix Cube
Xsoldier Space War
XEmeraldia Drop Blocks

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

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

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

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

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