Puppy Linux. One of the most iconic Linux distros out there. I have played around with them for what seems like ages, and have found reasons to both love and hate them over the years.

As of recently Puppy has been built with Ubuntu using woof and Puppy as the base, and I take a look at the newest release…

(Remember my screenshots are taken in a VM)

First Impressions

No matter what you read online, Puppy is not meant for beginners. Even booting into the live session involves choosing between screen resolutions, screen drivers and others – more on that below.

Besides that, once you are into Puppy it is really a nice little distro, lots of desktop icons which some might not like, but everything you need is within plain view.

On boot into the live session there is a nice “Welcome! Click here for getting started information” bar at the top of the screen that helps you find your way.

Lucid Puppy Desktop

The Lucid Puppy Desktop

Puppy is certainly lightweight and quick – is is good for slower computers, and many use them on netbooks.

Niggles

Right, let me deal with my gripes first.

When you boot Puppy, you get confronted with a myriad screens, see the screenshots below.

Keyboard Layout

Choose Your Keyboard Laout

Language

Choose Your Country ("Afrikaans" is misspelled btw)

Timezone

Set Your Timezone

…and then you get to setting your screen rez…

Screen Resolution

Setting Screen Resolution

Screen Resolution

Choosing the right one after probing.

And that is just to log into the live desktop!

I would have thought for a live session much less tinkering would have been needed. A nice touch though is that if you are in the live session, your settings can be saved on an external drive and restored next boot. This has not always worked flawlessly in my experience though, so this could become tiresome for some users.

Installation

Installing Puppy to a computer is just as involved. One thing that the installer does is hold your hand nicely, but the questions you need to ask and choices you need to make is bewildering to say the least. Have a look at some of the sceenshots to get an idea:

Installation Step One

Beginning Install

Note that you have a TON of options where to install Puppy to, probably the most that any distro offers as a default destination.

Gparted

Firing Up Gparted to Configure HDD

The language that are used in the Puppy dialogs assume a familiarity with technical terms. New users wanting to play around with Linux for the first time might feel a bit overwhelmed.

Gparted Again

Setting Your Partitions in Gparted

And after all the installation processes are done, you are guided through the GRUB setup…

Configuring Grub

After all that, you need to configure GRUB

Grub Again

There are some choices to be made to set up GRUB

At least there is a “Simple” and “Expert” option huh?

Twenty Part Test

So Puppy is not the easiest Distro to set up out there, how did it fare in our 20 part test?

Tests Win7 Mint Kubuntu LUPU
Join Wifi Network 80.00 100.00 80.00 66.67
Join Wired Network 50.00 100.00 100.00 14.29
Set Proxy 57.14 57.14 50.00 10.00
Get Network Info 25.00 50.00 100.00 25.00
Change Desktop Background 80.00 100.00 100.00 66.67
Change Theme 100.00 100.00 80.00 80.00
Set Screen Rez 100.00 100.00 100.00 40.00
Set up Network Share 80.00 100.00 33.33 57.14
Access Network Share 66.67 100.00 100.00 40.00
Get Hardware Info 100.00 50.00 50.00 33.33
Get System Usage Info 100.00 50.00 50.00 33.33
Play Audio CD 100.00 100.00 66.67 50.00
Access USB Drive 50.00 100.00 100.00 100.00
Play Youtube 33.33 100.00 50.00 100.00
Play MP3 100.00 100.00 50.00 100.00
Open PDF 33.33 100.00 100.00 50.00
Look For Specific Software 28.57 66.67 40.00 66.67
Check For System Updates 50.00 50.00 40.00 100.00
Supported Architecture (32bit/64bit) 100.00 100.00 100.00 50.00
Shut Down 66.67 66.67 50.00 66.67
1,400.71 1,690.48 1,440.00 1,149.76
70 85 72 57

And Puppy is our worst performing distro so far.

A large influence in its scores are the use of advance configuration tools. Yes there are nice touches and customizations that are scattered around the OS, but Puppy falls short in many areas.

What I Like

There is a lot to like about Puppy. It is very lightweight, and this is evident in the choice of Office programs, Gnumeric and Abiword instead of Writer and Calc, for instance. Puppy is also very unique among most Linux distributions in the availability of “Pets,” or completely standalone packages.

Puppy also offers the “Quickpet” utility that offers a nice interface to install Pet packages, and to install packages from the Ubuntu repositories. You can check for system updates here as well

Live Session Persistence – This is the standout Puppy feature. You are able to boot into a live session, work and make changes, and save your session to HDD, USB or even optical disk for next boot. This one feature makes puppy a very handy tool for someone who moves between computers a lot.

Desktop Readiness

3/5 – Puppy will install and work with almost any hardware. For live sessions the persistence is a standout advantage. Stability is good, and you can install it to any of a myriad of storage options – want a bootable USB stick with session persistence? Puppy can do it without even needing to format the stick!

Interesting fact – Puppy can “live” with any other installed OS without needing a partition of it’s own. You might need to fiddle with the Operating System’s own bootloader, but you can install Puppy on a Windows C drive, or Ubuntu partition, and have both running together with each other.

Puppy Scires 3/5!

User Friendliness

Ooh. The power of Puppy is also a bit of a problem. It assumes a level of competence in the user, and the language use and level of immersion into what is actually happening to the OS is not meant for  beginners. If you are a seasoned Linux user, or someone who have “grown up” with more advanced distributions Puppy is perfect for you.

That said, I have to take Puppy’s performance in the 20part test into account. It scored really badly. There are glaring omissions or contrived ways of achieving very simple tasks.

For instance, a Puppy boot is not connected to the network by default – you need to set up the network connection manually before you are able to use it. Luckily you can set your preferences for next boot. Having to set up the screen in a live boot is also problematic for some. Definitely not meant for new users.

Given all the above, Puppy sadly scores a 1/5 on User Friendliness.

Not Very User Friendly

Q- Rating

I love Puppy, even though it has a lot of warts, it has many strengths that give it a lot of possibility and scope. There is a huge community online that swears by Puppy, and will use it for everything.

I have to score it low though, because of the reasons given above. Like I said – power users might enjoy Puppy. It certainly harks to the glory years of Linux geekdom before the door was cracked open to the everyman. If I went with my heart I would give it a 3/5, but being cold and heartless that I am it will score a 1/5

Too complicated, low 20test score, loads of hoops to jump through to achieve simple tasks. I could not find a 64bit built, but the Puppy focus on portable live environment largely negates the usefulness of a 64bit build.

1/5 it is then.

Puppy is rated a dismal 1/5

Summary.

There you have it. My lowest rated Linux distribution then. For the right person and application it deserves better than that, but I have to make a decision based on its performance and comparison with other tested distributions.

Just this weekend I corresponded with someone who was trying out Linux, and used Ubuntu and Puppy – two immediate gripes; X setup, complexity and lack of OpenOffice. I let Puppy slide on the OpenOffice issue because it is meant to be lightweight, but the others dragged it down here.

Related posts:

  1. Review – Mandriva 2010 Spring Gnome – With Screenshots
  2. Impressions – Haiku R1 Alpha 2 – With Screenshots
  3. Review: PCLinuxOS 2010 Gnome – With Screenshots
  4. Time for New Review Criteria?
  5. Review: PCLinuxOS 2010 KDE – With Screenshots