The Fastest Linux Ever?

Puppy Linux is a popular Linux distribution that runs on less than 128MB of Ram.

We reviewed the June 2009 release v.4.2 of Puppy Linux, which comes in a 110 MB file download from their website, or from accepted mirrors.   The iso file is then burnt to CD and runs as a Live CD.  After installing the Live CD into RAM, I experienced my HP Laptop (2GB RAM) run faster than I’ve ever seen with any other OS or Linux Distro.

Bootup is fast and intelligent

The bootup sequence asks a few questions, such as if it has detected your mouse and keyboard correctly. It also gives you a chance to select, and preview, a suitable display for your monitor.  Lastly, you are given the choice of which X Server to load – bare-bones,Xvesa (Standard Graphics), or the recommended default Xorg (Advanced Graphics). The desktop environment is JWM, which is intuitive and well-organized.

Feel the Speed of RAM

Once you have reached the desktop screen, your entire session has been loaded into less than 128MB of RAM on your computer.  Your hard drive and CD ROM drives are not touched (unless you save files to them).  If you haven’t experienced it yet, you must feel the power of a computer running on RAM.  There’s no delays.  No skipped beats.  The nerve center of your computer asks almost human-like, action – response -  Scary!

Desktop Layout

Everything is very nicely placed on your desktop.  A lot of thought must have gone into where to put what elements.  The left top side of the screen has quick link icons, with a gadget that makes it easy to drag additional icons to the desktop.  The right side of the screen is for widgets, and has a gadget to choose and add from dozens of available widgets.

Puppy Linux Initial Desktop

Puppy Linux Initial Desktop

Wireless Network Support

I ran Puppy Linux on my HP Laptop and was able to connect, after several minutes of tinkering, to a secure wireless network.  This was one of the few kinks in the Puppy Distro.  I clicked on the Connect icon on the desktop and had to repeat the steps of scanning for and connecting to a wireless network several times until I got it to work.  The average user may have given up after a couple tries.

Repository

Like every great Linux Distro, Puppy Linux has its own repository PET. When you want to add new packages, you can do so through the package manager, or just GET PET  – what an infectious phrase.  The thin-client targeted default installation comes with hundreds of very useful apps.  The repository gives you access to much of everything else.  Tough decisions on which packages to include (or exclude) in order to keep away from product bloat are discussed on the Puppy Linux website.  For example, Sea Monkey is the default browser, and the Sea Monkey email package comes installed.   The website FAQ explains the difference between Sea Monkey (by Mozilla) and Firefox means a savings of over 40 MB, which is required to get everything in to the target RAM budget.

Great for Network Clients

Puppy Linux is suitable for thin-clients, and can be booted from a network, USB Flash key or hard drive (buy why?).  There’s a nifty setup menu that gives you step by step instructions on how to install Puppy Linux on to your USB Flash drive.

Save configuration to your CD

One of the nice features of Puppy Linux is that you never have to touch a hard drive, and can even keep all your settings and added files to the original live CD.  The program writes the changes since your last session to a file that contains an EXT2 file format onto another session of your Multi-Session CD.

Or you can simply write your files to a USB or Hard Drive, and keep files the “old-fashioned” way.  As strange as it sounds, your Multi-Session CD is still probably the best archival system out of the three choices.

Look and Feel

Here’s a gallery of the menus and pages of the very pleasant looking Puppy Linux.

The desktop is based on GTK2 theme.  We found the desktop and selection of apps very appealing (and fast!).

Conclusion

Linux Puppy has just enough of the right tools at the right place to become a definite powerhouse in companies looking for a thin client OS.  There are still many rough edges to the interfaces and setup menus, which are easy enough for experienced Linux users to handle.  Users who are new to Linux or who have less technical skills may find the configuration questions too complex.

Corporate managers looking for a thin client solution could create a network installation and offer a carbon copy to all users on the network.

Puppy Linux is an innovation.  Make no mistake, this is not just an attempt to shove as much as possible into a small download.  The potential is great here to make a lasting mark for Linux in the corporate market.  Other tools, like Xubuntu, are also treading down this path, and this is a good thing for Linux and for computer users everywhere.

There’s a great Linux distro in the making here, and it’s no mistake that Puppy appears number 8 on distrowatch.com.  Its easy to see how many users who have tried this distro are in Puppy Love.

Can’t get enough of Puppy Linux? Check out our review of Puppy Arcade, a Puppy Linux derivative with retro video game emulation based on TurboPup Xtreme.