There’s Linux, and there’s Linux. While most current distributions are equal in terms of features, included applications and the like, it’s refreshing to take a look at the distributions whose goals are somewhat different to the norm.
For the past few days I’ve been fiddling with Puppy Linux, and I’m in love. Where Ubuntu (my current favourite) gives a complete Linux setup on a single CD which boots Live, installs faultlessly and it infinitely expandable, Puppy Linux is…..well, not the same.
Puppy Linux pretending to be Vista
For a start, it’s tiny, weighing in at just 132Mb in size. Few other distros are smaller, and Damn Small Linux (at 50Mb) is closest in terms of overall quality. Of the two, I’d say that the difference in size is worth it; Puppy rocks, seriously. Damn Small Linux is terrific if you want a copy of Linux on one of those unused 64Mb Compact Flash cards laying around though.
Y’see, that’s where these mini distributions shine. Puppy Linux runs just fine from a CD, pendrive, iPod, compact flash card. Oh, or hard drive. Of course, it’s possible to do the same trick with Ubuntu too, but Puppy Linux is set up to work like this right from the start. Once it’s booted from CD, there’s an excellent installer which will put this Puppy wherever you want it.
I’ve installed Puppy Linux onto a small pendrive that’ll boot up pretty much any USB-equipped PC and won’t touch the hard drive at all (unless I tell it to, of course). It’s literally a computer-on-a-stick; it just borrows the CPU, keyboard and mouse from a host machine when plugged it. All clever stuff.
It’s not done there though; Puppy might be small, but nothing is lacking. Unlike a certain corporate Operating System (cough Windows cough), Puppy Linux comes with real applications. There’s a complete word processor, spreadsheet, web browser, email client, networking tools, programming languages (including perl – yay!), finance package, web server, database (the brilliant sqlite), html editor and multimedia suite. Yep, in 132Mb. It’s a hundredth the size of Vista, yet contains more. Go figure. To add insult to injury, there’s even a Vista theme included so you can give it the look too.
This is sooooooo much more than a rescue disk. Seriously.
Puppy Linux has other tricks up it’s sleeves too (do puppies have sleeves?). For a start, it’s hardware needs are minimal. It runs just fine on a Pentium 266 with 128Mb RAM, which means it runs on anything that’s likely to have a CD drive or USB port. You don’t even need a hard drive, so even that old box in your attic with the dud drive will run Puppy Linux. Cool, eh?
I’ve saved the coolest thing about Puppy Linux to the end. Give it 128Mb of RAM, and it runs entirely in memory! This means that if you boot from CD, once it’s up and running you can take the CD out and stow it. A few other mini-Linux distros do this too, though none are quite as well put together. This means that once it’s started up, Puppy Linux is very, very fast indeed even on the “slowest” hardware. Start the word processor and it’s there. Fire up the browser and it’s up before you can move the mouse. Fast isn’t the word. If you want an example of just how an OS should be run, this is it.
As it’s all running in memory, any work you do will be lost when you shut down – except Puppy Linux will offer to write it all out before you shut down. Heck, it’ll even burn your changes back to CD if it’s multi-session. Now that’s clever!
In all, Puppy Linux is a brilliant, wonderful system that could completely replace a larger system if it suits your needs.
Why not download it and give it a whirl today?