The category of small-sized Linux distributions (or mini distributions) is fast evolving. Every now and then we see a new mini distro coming out, sometimes as a light-weight edition of an already established distro and sometimes based on an innovative concept. The likes of this category involve Damn Small Linux, Yellow Dog, SliTaz, and Puppy Linux. But believe me, Puppy Linux is not yet another mini distro. It is an everything OS. Puppy comes as an installable livecd, and can be installed on a number of medium, such as hard-disk, USB pen drive, external hard-disk and more.
I happened to have my first stint with Puppy about 3-4 months ago, when I found it bundled with a local computer magazine in a companion disk; it was Puppy Linux 3. Since that very day, I knowingly or unknowingly became a hard-core fan of the distribution.
A month later, Puppy 4.0 was released and I upgraded from version 3 to version 4. As now I’ve spend considerable amount of time with this beautiful distro, I am in a state to mention some points about its goodness.
Waking up Puppy
Puppy’s boot process is a no thrills-and-frills thing. The booting is plain, but the developers have made it to look impossibly simple. We see a black screen with only relevant boot-time messages appearing, nothing more, nothing less.
The booting time is not large (about 35-40 seconds) and is almost the same when booting from hard-disk or livecd. That is a considerable improvement in the booting time of a livecd.
Once the booting has completed, Puppy logs you in as the ‘root’ user and takes you directly to the main interface. No password is by default required to login. Puppy uses JWM as the desktop environment which is extremely light-weight (occupies less space). So the interface is quite simplistic, sometimes primitive, and comes with a limited set of functionality. But there are so many other options in Puppy which will never let you feel the lack of features in JWM. Basic customizations are very easy, like changing the wallpaper, window decoration, icon theme, GTK theme, etc.
Setting up and configuring Puppy
Although Puppy detects and configures most of your hardware and other settings, there could be some areas that need to be setup by you. Say, for example, setting up an Internet connection, setting up a printer, and so on. Puppy makes it extremely easy to accomplish these common configuration tasks by providing you with a number of easy-to-follow wizards. And guess what? There is even a wizard for all other wizards by the name ‘Wizard wizard’ which serves as a central point to all configuration tasks. For installing new software, Puppy comes with its own package manager, PETget.
All-in-all, most configuration tasks in Puppy are very easy which are otherwise difficult in many other Linux distros.
Play me baby
Throw just any multimedia file at it and it will play! That’s what Puppy has to offer in this department. With the xine engine pre-installed, the multimedia application – gxine – is capable of playing just any audio or video format you have heard of (and even the ones you haven’t heard of). Although I would personally prefer a more feature-rich player than gxine, it proves a wise choice to save space. Puppy also comes with software for ripping CDs, DVDs, editing metatags and recording audio. It even has a Puppy community-made audio player Pmusic.
To complete the multimedia section, it includes Pburn – a very nice community-made software for burning CDs/DVDs and comes with sufficient options for authoring discs. Puppy even has an ISO file editor!
No Firefox! But Puppy comes with a light-weight cousin of Firefox – Seamonkey – adored by many for its speed. And it’s not just a browser, it’s a complete suite of applications – a browser, a mail client, an address book, and a HTML editor. After you have easily setup your Internet connection, you’ll be all set to browse the web (Seamonkey), chat with friends (Ayttm), check email (Seamonkey), talk through VoIP (Psip) or download stuff (Pwget, gFTP, Pctorrent).
Fun & Work
Puppy contains many popular office utilities, like Abiword (documents), Gnumeric (spreadsheets), a pdf viewer, personal organizer (to-do, calender, contacts), scientific calculator, and even a CHM file viewer. In the fun section, there are more than a couple of games that could keep you busy for a long time.
Puppy comes with some additional stuff, like a personal blogging system (PPLOG), a personal wiki system (DidiWiki), partition manager (GParted), archiver (XArchive), scanner software (XSane), firewall, torrent creator and many more such software.
Killing the Puppy
Not literally. I mean shutting down Puppy. And believe me, even if you have had enough Puppy experience, shutting it down would be just like killing a lively little being on your computer. The experience is most of the time so interactive and fun-filled (and not to mention ‘light’), you would want to switch it on again very soon. And Puppy boasts of the fastest shutdown time around. It shuts down in a mere 5 seconds or so, when most of the other well-known Linux distributions take 10-20 seconds for the same task.
Puppy also offers the feature of saving your current session to a file of desired size during shutdown or reboot for future use. The ‘current session’ includes all your custom settings (wallpaper, theme), newly installed packages etc.
Puppy Linux proves that even simplicity has the power to get all the things done. The basic interface may require sometime from you to get you accustomed to it, but you’ll like it afterwards.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a Linux newbie or a seasoned Linux user, you will like Puppy as much as I did. This has to be one of the best Linux distros around. And it certainly deserves more attention than it is getting right now. Puppy is a tiny atom bomb – loaded with plethora software and utilities – that you can carry in your pocket – in your pen drive, CD, etc. Puppy has so much to offer in so little a size!