Updated: November 7, 2008
It's been a year and a half or so since my last Puppy Linux review. Then, I tested Puppy 2.1. Today, Puppy has reached version 4.1 - and boy, has it grown. Puppy Linux is an amazing distro. If my last review has not totally convinced you, spend a minute or two reading what the latest and greatest Puppy offers you.
If you're thinking this tiny, 93MB distro is going to leave you with a spartan, minimalistic desktop experience, think again. Wireless support, MP3 support, Flash built-in, integrated browser player, personal blogging software, HTML editor, backup software, GParted, Samba sharing out of the box, this is just a tiny list of what Puppy 4.1 offers you. Follow me.
The boot procedure did not change much:
After a few simple prompts for your keyboard and the graphics driver, the choice between the more modern Xorg and the older Xvesa, you'll reach a new, fresh, aesthetically pleasing desktop.
You will notice the desktop is more refined than in version 2.1. The best part is that everything runs quickly and smoothly - even faster than some installed distros. You don't feel the fact Puppy is running as a live CD.
Puppy gave me the choice to switch between a large number of resolution and color depth options. Having tested several, I found them all to work well, without any glitches. The mouse integration is great, too. You get all those shiny buttons and scroll thingies working right out of the box.
Prepare to be stunned ...
What can a distro that takes less than 100MB of memory in RAM offer, o ye of little faith may be pondering.
Let's start with wireless support. To this end, I booted Puppy on a ThinkPad T43 laptop. One way of trying to configure the wireless network is by using the Network Wizard.
But there's an even simpler way: the Pwireless wizard!
As you can see, there are still people who use the default SSID and no encryption whatsoever. Apparently, they did not bother to read my Router security article. Later on, additional three networks popped up, one with WEP and two more with no encryption. Sad, really. So I clicked Connect to get onto my network, provided the password - and that's it!
Furthermore, please note that the Windows partition (sda1) is not mounted by default, for safety reasons, although if you do click on the icon, it will be mounted - and writable. We will talk about this a little more later.
Likewise, notice the USB thumb drive icon. To save the screenshots from this session, I used a FAT32-formatted USB drive, which Puppy happily recognized and mounted. Now, how about Flash?
You know those big shiny distros that seem to point you to Adobe website for a download? Well, Puppy is not among them. Enter Flash right out of the box. And it does not stutter. It works smoothly, even running on an Xvesa desktop.
MP3 playback support
Oh, you got some songs in a proprietary format? Not to worry. Puppy handles those without blinking.
Integrated browser media player
Gxine is a beauty. Here's SeaMonkey, playing my Ubuntu Compiz video, inside one of the tabs.
Apps, apps and more apps
One of the mind-boggling facts about Puppy is that uses some sort of a black hole filesystem to store all those applications, because it seems almost surreal that such a tiny distro could contain so many goodies. Here's a brief overview of just a fraction of programs you may want to use. Let's begin modestly. You have the mtPaint for image editing, AbiWord for word processing, and OSMO, a personal organizer.
You also have Gnumeric spreadsheet software and Expense Tracker, which allows you to monitor your budget spending. P.S. There is another couple of finance-related programs included, just in case you need an alternative.
If you have not noticed in the screenshot above, we had the F-Prot anti-virus installed. It comes with a nice GUI too, so no need to muck about with the command line for the unknowing. It's extremely useful for scanning Windows machines or shares for possible malicious files.
Gadmin-Rsync allows you to backup your machine. It will even create scheduled jobs for you. The bubbly stuff in the background on the right bottom side is the visual representation of the disk usage. Neat, isn't it.
Bloggers rejoice, here's software for you:
Puppy also comes with GParted, the superb partitioning software:
Gxine is quite sexy, too. Did I say that already?
Instant Messaging (IRC)
You may want to use IRC channels, for fun or information. The setup is as easy as it gets.
Puppy is also great in file sharing. It allows you to setup your machine for sharing or browse the network neighborhood for available Samba shares. In both cases, the tasks are done using a very friendly GUI.
Here's a snipper of (some of the) available Windows shares in the hood:
On top of all that ...
Mounting of partitions
Puppy will do many other things for you. For example, it allows you to mount and unmount partitions using a simple switch-style GUI (Pmount Drive Mounter). It is also smart and careful and will not mount root partitions of existing installations automatically.
Notice the green LED near the partition icon, indicating it is mounted:
The live CD also has a small collection of simple, DOS-like games available:
When you boot the first time, Puppy will offer help. Additional setup is very easy and wizard-driven.
Remaster live CD
Puppy also lets you create your own custom, bootable CD version of the distro. This is specially useful after you have installed Puppy - or spent some time configuring applications.
Not to worry, you can also always save the session and reload it later.
This hardly scratches the awesome ability of this tremendous distribution. It also comes with an installer, should you choose to permanently commit it to the hard disk. If you're ready, get Puppy.
If you don't fancy the official version, you may want to try one of the many Puplets, custom-created sub-versions of Puppy with cool stuff like additional applications (OpenOffice, Compiz, Firefox, Opera, VLC, Audacity etc), MAC-like looks if you like, and tons of other great stuff.
Puppy can be used as a live CD, but it can also be installed to a hard disk, a solid-state device, a USB device, and other portable media. And finally, The Puppy Linux Discussion Forum is a great place to learn more about this phenomenal distro.
Puppy is a lean, mean menace. It's simple, light, fast, stable, and beautiful. It offers the users a complete experience out of the box. Configurations are driven by simple menus, without any need for advanced Linux knowledge.
Even if you're just a curious Windows user, Puppy is definitely for you. You'll get multimedia support for all sorts of audio and video files, without any worry about installing strange things. And you even have an anti-virus should a need arise. Sharing network resources has never been simpler. The live CD also allows you to perform rescue, backup and auditing of installed systems, be they Linux or Windows, offering you leverage in case of a disaster.
On top of all that, Puppy is productive, with a broad range of excellent, useful programs for just about anyone. I have always loved Puppy, but version 4.1 surpasses even my optimism. It's truly magnificent. You must try it.