ArcticOceanBackgroundI got a chance to check out the latest Puppy release this week. Puppy Linux is a small Linux distribution (roughly 87 megabytes) that runs off of CD. It is ideal for running on older hardware or for people who just want a lean system. A couple years ago I put Puppy on a Pentium II 233 Mhz computer with 64 megabytes of RAM. I wiped Windows 98 off the 4 gigabyte hard drive and donated the computer to Goodwill. I was sad to see the system go after the Puppy install. The system ran better than it ever had. Not to mention the fact that it was far more secure.

This week I booted the Puppy 4.0 “Dingo” CD on my trusty Dell Inspiron 1150 notebook. The system has a Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz Celeron, 1 gig of memory, and a 80 gigabyte hard drive. I generated a report on the system using Puppy’s HardInfo program. HardInfo is available under the System menu in Puppy. It is nice utility for getting info on your computer.

Here is a snippet of the changes in Puppy 4.0 from the release notes:

  • Puppy 3.01 was built from Slackware-12 binary packages, however to reduce the size 4.00 has been totally compiled from source, using the T2-project. Thus, less dependencies (smaller size) and later versions of packages than 3.01.
  • GTK1 and Tcl/Tk abandoned. The decision was made to go for a totally GTK2-based system. This meant that there could be a consistent user-interface throughout and further reduced the size. It also meant that GTK2 replacements had to be found for some applications.
  • Exciting new GTK2 applications: ePDFView (PDF viewer), Pschedule (cron GUI), Osmo (personal organiser), Pcdripper (audio CD ripper), RipOff (audio CD ripper), mhWaveEdit (audio editor), Pburn (CD/DVD burner), MTR (traceroute), Pnethood (Samba client), Pwireless (wireless scanner), pStopWatch (stopwatch), HomeBank (personal finances), ExpenseTracker (personal finances), ChmSee (CHM help viewer), Gmeasures (units converter), Fotox (image viewer), Gwhere (disk catalogger), Prename (batch file renamer), gFnRename (batch file renamer), Pfind (file search), Pprocess (process manager), Chtheme (GTK theme chooser), HardInfo (hardware information), PcurlFtp (simple network file sharing), Pidgin (multiprotocol chat client), Gadm-Rsync (GUI for rsync), Wireless Autoconnect, Gtkam (digital camera interface), Xsane (scanner interface), Figaro’s Password Manager 2, HotPup (drive icons on desktop). Note, this is not a complete list nor in any particular order.

First off, everything works on the notebook out of the box. I was able to select 1024×768 resolution and X Server started with no problems. My Synaptics touchpad was working with no glitches. I had problems with this touchpad when I installed Puppy 2.14 on this system so I am glad they resolved the problem with Puppy 4.0. My Ethernet adapter was picked up using the b44 module. The biggest concern I had was with the wireless, which can be problematic in Linux because the hardware vendors don’t often support it. Fortunately, Puppy saw the Broadcomm wireless chipset in my notebook and it was able to get the card running using the bcm43xx module. My Hawking HWU-8DD USB wireless dish was also picked up using the zd1211rw module. So I had two choices for getting online wirelessly in Network Wizard. I was pleased to see that the wizard also has an interface to Ndiswrapper if you have a card without a Linux driver.

Puppy uses Joe’s Window Manager (JWM) for the default desktop. It is fast and uses very little system resources. Puppy has a free memory applet on the taskbar and even with several programs running it showed that I was only using 200 megs of memory. This is even more impressive when you realize that Puppy loads the entire operating system into RAM.

I like the Arctic Ocean theme and the icons they chose to use. My only gripe would be that the task bar has a Windows 98 feel to it. JWM was intentionally designed to look like this since Windows 98 users with older systems are likely converts.

Puppy 4.0 uses Seamonkey version 1.1.8 for it’s Web browser. I am not sure why this is, but when you go to sites like Yahoo the page does not look completely right. There is some minor overlap in graphics on the page. My own Wordpress blog has some minor overlapping too. I resolved this problem by going to the Puppy Package Manager and installing Firefox 2.0.

A quick trip to youtube revealed that I had Flash videos working out of the box. Flash games also played without a hitch in Seamonkey and Firefox browsers. I tried a DVD movie with the Gxine movie player and it worked. The movie played but the quality was a little lacking so I went back to the Puppy Package Manager and downloaded Mplayer 1.0rc2. I don’t know if it is because it is a release candidate, but it locks up the system when I run it. I can’t close the 2 windows it opens and it forces me to restart X server with CTL-Alt-Backspace. Fortunately, Mplayer does work when running it at the command line so this is just a minor nuisance.

After a little bit of effort, I made a bootable USB key with the Puppy Univeral Installer. You can get to the installer by going to Menu>Setup>Puppy Universal Installer. I had to use the ComboFormat method to get the key to boot. ComboFormat partitions the drive into FAT16 and EXT2 partitions and is an experimental way of making a USB key installation. I tried the standard way using all 5 bootloader choices and Puppy would not boot off the key. So far with the ComboFormat method I have been able to boot off the key and it is saving the changes with no problems. Changes I make to Puppy are saved in a file called pup_save.2fs. You can store this file on a hard drive as well as a USB key. There is a way to secure this file by encrypting it. Puppy also has a way make your own remastered live CD but I have yet to try that feature out.

For whatever task you have in mind, Puppy seems to have a program for it. Abiword for word processing, Gnumeric for spreadsheets, Mozilla Composer for Web publishing, InkLite and mtPaint for graphics, and RoxFiler for your file management. A software firewall is included in Puppy for when you are out on the road and without a router. It is simple to use and only takes a few clicks to get running. It is a frontend to iptables. You can find it by going to Menu>Network>LinuxFirewall. This version of Puppy even has it’s own Podcast client. To run, goto Menu>Internet>PuppyPodcastGrabber. It uses .txt file to store the feeds which is pretty easy to edit. My current podcatcher uses .opml files so I was not able to do an easy export of my podcasts to Puppy’s PodcastGrabber.

In conclusion, if you are looking for something different I would give Puppy a try. This version is all built from source to maximize speed. Every program on my machine seems to open instaneously. Even with Compiz functionality turned off in Gnome, my Ubuntu install is no where near as fast. There are many features in Puppy that are lacking in other distributions. Installation to thumb drivers, remastering your own custom cd, and wizards to aid new users are just a few.

Update to Post:

A couple people have asked me about security in Puppy. Puppy is a single user operating system so you are running as root all the time. From what I have read this was done to simplify it’s usage. Windows 95/98 single user operating systems are the most likely ones to get changed to Puppy. The transition to Linux is made easier since Puppy, like Windows 95/98, doesn’t have multiple accounts and permissions to to worry about.

In the event your system gets compromised you can start a fresh copy of Puppy by booting the CD with the puppy pfix=ram option. This will ignore your compromised pup_save.2fs file and you can start saving your changes to a new one. For more on why Puppy is always root and it’s security implications you can check out this Puppy forum topic on the subject.

I hooked up my Samsung ML-1430 laser printer to see if it would work with Puppy 4.0. To setup a printer in Puppy you need to go to Setup>Cups Printer Wizard. Puppy uses CUPS to configure it’s printers. My printer driver was not included with the installation, but it was no big deal since I was able to add the driver from I pulled down the .ppd file for my printer and placed it in the /usr/share/cups/model directory. I started the setup again and typed that directory in the box where it says location. After that, I was able to print a test page using CUPS. Linuxprinting has a wide range of printer drivers available, so I would check them out if your printer driver is not included in Puppy.

In episode 13 of ProductiveLinux, Nathan Hale does a fine podcast review of Puppy 4.0. It is worth a listen if you want to find out some more about Puppy.

AbiWordGunmericNetworkWizard in PuppySeaMonkey Web BrowserPodcatcherPETget Package ManagerPuppyUniversalInstallerOSMOManagerGraphicsApps

20 Responses to “Puppy Linux 4.0 on a Dell Inspiron 1150 Review”

  1. fstephens says:

    I’ve always found Puppy interesting, but each time I test it I come away thinking it a little… crude. Not that it doesn’t work well enough, and it has interesting features like saving your settings and data back to the CD, but it just has an amateurish feel to it. Most modern live CD’s will automatically configure and start your network interface for instance, but in puppy you have to deal with a somewhat confusing setup utility before you can get online. Startup also requires you to choose a keymap, and Xorg or vesa (Xorg completly locks up for me in a virtual machine). Because of this and the cluttered menus with too many choices (I know, ironic for an 87MB distro) of non-standard utilities and applications, I would hesitate to recommend it to a novice Linux user.

    I also think the dialogs contribute to this less than professional “feel”. (Too many exclamation points!! Sorry Barry). Of course, maybe this is part of the charm of Puppy - not being like the slick commercial distros. In any case I don’t mean to diminish the accomplishment of the development team. Puppy is a nice piece of work, and a possible candidate for use on minimal hardware. I like it well enough that I may install it on an old laptop with 600Mhz Celeron and 256MB RAM. But then, Xubuntu runs quite well on this machine and is very slick, as well as being built on Debian, which I prefer to a built from scratch distro.

  2. Daniele Tagliabue says:

    Good review, David.
    I love Puppy a lot though my desktop box has always been Kubuntu and/or Linux Mint.
    I agree with whom somewhere else said the Puppy is simply a labour of love…
    Anyway, I also managed to install it on my 2GB USB key, though I had to choose the “Superfloppy” method.
    I think it works really great, though for machines with older BIOS the USB installation is not an option.

    I’m so grateful to Barry Kauler for his superb achievement
    I’m already looking forward to Puppy’s next release…

    Ten thumbs up!!

  3. Eyes-Only says:

    Hi David!

    Thanks for giving Puppy 4.0 “Dingo” a try and doing such a great, thorough, and what I consider to be, impartial review of a Linux OS that many of us have come to love and admire—even as our default installed everyday system. I happen to have 5 distros installed upon my computer (I both test and love to play as I have free time galore), I start and finish my day with Puppy. Lately it’s been “Dingo”. You think it’s fast in memory? A hard drive install is just outrageous! :)

    Interesting what you had mentioned though about MPlayer. I haven’t encountered that specific problem myself, however, I tend to lean more towards Xine for my DVDs David and I do believe that you’ll find that programme in the Puppy 4.0 repository as well along with the libfiles needed. Xine is the player my grandson and I prefer the most. He’s been using Puppy since he was 4. A “Linux for all ages” you could say? ;)

    Once again, thank you for your time and your great review David!


  4. klhrevolution says:

    Another podcast to add to your list if you enjoy is

  5. disciple says:

    Java games? Maybe Flash games. Java is about the only thing Puppy actually doesn’t do out of the box.
    Mplayer should work if you start it from a terminal or the “run” program, or from clicking on it in ROX. It seems to require some trickiness in the launch script and/or the menu item to get Mplayer to start properly from the JWM menu, so maybe Barry didn’t know this when he made that official package.

  6. tom says:

    It’s been a while since I looked at Puppy and at the time security would have been a concern for some users. In the past, Puppy was designed so that the user ran it as root, with full privileges. Is this still the case?

    If there is a mechanism for running as an unprivileged user, is that mechanism easily accessible, or does it require CLI commands?

    Is there a user friendly tool included in the ISO for turning services off and on?

  7. Guy says:

    I’ve found remastering the CD really easy. The dialogs are pretty much self-explanatory. Just be aware that any changes to the desktop may require manually copying files from the old to the new root directory when offered. You are also offered the chance to edit the new /etc. Puppy even burns the CD.

    I had a remastered CD with the apps I wanted in very little time. I needed the old GKdial as my ISP doesn’t like the current puppy dialler & British English support for Abiword. I found it easy to do & am feeling adventurous, currently downloading the SDK to try some more advanced modifications.

    I give Puppy 20 out of 10 ;0)

  8. David says:

    Thanks disciple for correction on Java games. I meant to say Flash videos and games were working out of the box. I fixed the post to correct the mistake I made. I also tried to run Mplayer from the command line. You were right, it works without any problems so it is something with JWM not working right.

  9. Jeff says:

    I’ve been on my hindquarters yipping gleefully about Puppy for some years, now. This distro allowed me to use and demonstrate my Dell P-133 laptop to low-income folk looking for a way to have cheap access to useable technology. Also, it fueled major interest in some old N.I.C. thin clients we received. Using
    64MB of RAM and Puppy-in-RAM, we kept dozens of them out of landfill and into the hands of geeks and po’ folk with access to DSL network-connections. As always, and again I keep saying: “Puppy Rocks” !

  10. aNOnime says:

    i always believe that Puppy 3.0 only supports slackware instead that it was built from it!!!!!!!!!

  11. lingghezhi says:

    Puppy linux never fails to impress. The only things stopping me from using it was some hardware issues. I’ll give it a go sometime soon and see if things have improved in that area :) Excellent writeup.

    Another thought though, how does puppy linux fare security wise?

  12. JeratZacar says:

    I’m kinda new to linux land and so far have learned to love Puppy. With 4.0 I can now get on wireless using wizard on my Dell Inspiron 1200 Dell 1350 8.02.11 b/g card, have had some problems getting onto secure networks. Where and how do you stick in the router’s code?
    I dumped MS XP completely because it was so full of viruses and so slow. Am building a few versions on partitions, one big one that I hope to use OO, so I can get my old docs and power point stuff workin, and a small one that can go on a 1ghb usb flash. (loading to flash was a pain at first, now that I have learned a few things - no prob. What about Java for my BIG Puppy? Hey I have 18gb left to play with on the HD, so why not try some crazy stuff? Any thoughts, ideas or critiques will be welcomed.
    Thanks for the write up (I don’t understand all of it, but that’s my thick head’s fault)
    Zacar Jer

  13. Mina says:

    I LOVE Puppy. I have it running on my P3 system, which only came with 128 MB RAM. But you can’t tell the RAM is that small. Puppy is breezy, fast, and none of the software is too much for so little RAM. This OS is a low-tech lover’s dream. I’m grateful there’s no eyecandy, no bells and whistles with fanfare, no visual effects, etc. All I wanted is just a simple interface, a stunning background [came as default], an easy way to make the fonts bigger, some software additions to make my Puppy more complete, and ta da! Complete computer for $50 plus free Puppy OS.

    I believe nothing can beat that kind of value. I’ll always be a Puppy user. Goodbye, Windows. I don’t need you. Hee hee.

    Perfectly free.
    Perfectly fast.
    Perfectly functional.
    Yowzers! No more complicated English and tech-speak. Performance is impressive.

    That’s PUPPY.

  14. Puppyluvr says:

    I would like to add that Eye Candy Galore is available for Puppy, including Compiz and Enlightenment. The Gdesklets App is a great sidebar, WBar is a great application launcher. At my last count an even dozen Window Managers were available for Puppy. Yes, Puppy is a compact Distro. But with a few clicks, it can be anything you want, and still run on older hardware..
    Puppy is a shining example of “Less does More”.

  15. ErvinTW says:

    Thanks! Nice post.

  16. DaveS says:

    If you feel Puppy looks a bit crude with the standard JWM window manager, then as Puppyluvr says, the customisation options are stunning and easily available, BUT, try NOP (Nearly Office Puppy), a variant based on the Xfce desktop. It is like running Xubuntu, but with almost no overhead. See screenshot and report here

  17. David says:


    I checked out Nearly Office Puppy and it looks really polished and well put together. I like the XFCE window manager more than JWM. My Mythbuntu 8.04 box is running XFCE and Thunar. I really like how XFCE works. I am kind of confused as to why Puppy’s standard look remains so much like Windows 98. It gets about as much praise as the default Ubuntu brown look. For most people, Windows 98 was a traumatic experience, something they don’t want to be reminded of while running Linux.

  18. Randy Nose says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve played with Puppy, but as it was the first Distro that I think that I ever used, and worked out of the box, it’s still high on my “Gotta Love it” list. I only wish I had more time…. I’ll have to check out the XFCE versions of Puppy, as I like XFCE and not JWM so much… Or RoxFiler that much…

  19. David says:

    Randy Nose:

    The Puplets feature of Puppy Linux is one of the things I love best. If you don’t like JWM/RoxFiler they have several respins of Puppy using various combinations of window managers, file managers, themes and software packages. Unlike Puppy, Ubuntu still has yet to integrate respin software into their distribution. Maybe it will be something they add down the road.

    Puplets Page:

  20. Rick says:

    I just started playing with Linux, Ubuntu, Kubuntu and PCLinix. I found Puppy 4.1.1 by accident and I think it is Very Good for what you get, and its size. Basically I think its all you really need on a PC to do Emails, Letters or spreadsheets. It gets the job done and very well. It works on my laptop and desktop PC . It took a while to get used to seamonkey, I use Firefox in Windows. also works with my Brother HL2040 printer.

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