Puppy Linux. Yes, it’s that good.

I said elsewhere that I’d have to sing the praises of Puppy Linux somewhere. Well, I’ve got an enforced day off due to the snow here in the Northeast, I’ve got nothing else to do right now, and it seems like a good time to do it.

Der Fränkencomputer is an underpowered beast, and ran slowly, even with Ubuntu running XFCE or Mint running Fluxbox. I was unsuccessful when I tried to install Windows 98 on it (still haven’t figured out why), so I was looking for a way to make that computer useful again.

After potting around on Distrowatch, I finally noticed DSL and Puppy (yeah, I’ve seen references to both of ’em before, but they didn’t penetrate my thick skull long enough to actually consider either one). So I downloaded both and burned ’em to CD’s.

DSL booted up fine… and that was about the end of it. It didn’t seem to do much else for me. Distrowatch lists it as “dormant”, and, frankly, it seems to me as if its main claim to fame is that it’s a bootable OS that will fit into 50mb of space. Like Dr. Johnson on preaching by women:

It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.

Puppy, on the other hand, was Just The Thing. It booted up nicely from the CD, as well as from a USB stick (and it’s small enough that I now carry a bootable version on an old 128mb stick on my keychain; more on this later). Puppy gives you a choice of video settings at the start (xorg, easier on the eyes but not universally supported; xvesa, a bit less feature-rich but runs on pretty much everything). Puppy automatically looked around the computer for any mountable drives, and displayed ’em for mounting (right on the desktop; just click & go!). [One more thing: although Puppy is ext3, I’ve opened ext4 drives with it.]

Now, connecting to the Internet took a bit of trouble; Puppy does not set up networking by default… but there’s a wizard (icon on the desktop) that leads you through the steps, and tells you what the probable pitfalls are (and you can get the info from the online manual). Once connected, though, Seamonkey (the default browser) ran like a top. And it ran mp3’s out of the gate (including streaming).

Java, frankly, was a pain. (That link is not the instruction that I used – mine was harder – but the instruction that I used had the advantage that I could copy each line into a terminal and run it).

Streaming mp3 runs fine. Streaming video is choppy, but I think that’s the computer, not Puppy. And Der Fränkencomputer, relegated to the garage, only exists to stream music and play CD’s, so I’m definitely getting what I want from it.

Now, I was so smitten, as I said above, that I put a copy on an old 128-MB USB drive I keep on my keychain (what else so useful can you keep on such a small drive?). A few weeks later, one of the computers I use at work refused to boot. The computer is supported by our IT team, but they have a statewide responsibility, and who knows when they’ll get to my little problem? And there”s stuff on that computer I need to save!.

Puppy to the rescue. I tweaked the BIOS so it would boot from USB, and inserted the Puppy drive. Puppy booted, found the ailing hard drive, and allowed me to copy my files to another USB drive. WHEW!

And, of course, the price was right. Well, I’m a convert.

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