Why I Haven't Reviewed Puppy Linux

by Caitlyn Martin

Every time I write a review I get comments and e-mails asking me to review Puppy Linux. Puppy has lots of people who really seem to love and zealously support the distro. I invariably download a copy (most recently 2.17) and try and run it. I invariably give up on it very quickly. I Here's what I recently shared by e-mail with someone on why I haven't reviewed Puppy:


Bob Hunter
2007-09-24 16:58:54
BeaFanatix looks good and works well on my old 400MHz while Puppy won't even boot. In fact, Puppy won't work on ANY of my three computers.
2007-09-24 19:35:56
I use Puppy quite a bit as a rescue disk. The Mounting util is good, and it includes rox-filer which is my preferred file manager.
I cant say I have had a machine that it wouldn't run on, although I had to disable ACPI on one machine.
2007-09-24 23:17:06
Maybe there would be enough changes in the upcoming 3.0 release that you could wait till then and try again.
2007-09-25 00:27:36
I've been downloading regularly the little Puppy for about 2 years now, and though it's not my everyday distro it has already saved my day in on few occasions. One of those was when i had the 2 main hard drives die on me & needed to burn a Kanotix iso that resided on one of the surviving data drives, to do a fresh install. Puppy loading straight to ram was very handy for this task as it released the drive so i could burn the iso.

Here are a few things i like & don't like about Puppy :
+ + +
+ As far as i know it's the first distro that managed to live-boot from CD/DVD/usb disk and a few others, the first to save changes on cd/dvd-rw it's installed on, the only to be able to install an updated version of itself on the media it's installed on.
+ tiny enough to load to ram as small as 128MB, thus not limited by the speed of the media it's installed on
+ Incredible functionality for the size it has, all the needs of the common user are present, though not always in the most attractive packaging as compared to bigger distros. However there are loads of useful little utilities, accessible from the the menu, some for which i would like to be provided in other distros.
+ The configuration tools through menu-driven old-school-looking gui utilities are very intuitive and always do the job.
+ This is one of only 2 distros that manage to configure my intel ipw2100 wifi correctly through the gui (also a toshiba lappy btw but with nvidia graphics)

- - -
- Alt-Tab doesn't work (at least in the latest version)
- some applications are sluggish even though it's loaded in ram (most are blazing fast however...)
- Very limited offer of not very up-to-date packages, and poor package manager. There are also community provided pupget packages available but the package manager isn't aware of them & so can not uninstall them.

If it wasn't for this last issue i'd probably make a little partition for puppy on my pc's in case i wanted to do a quick fix once in a while. In the mean time i always have several Puppy iso's
sleeping on my hard drives & most of the time a burned cd in case something bad happens.

Other handy livecd's i keep at hand for various disaster scenarios : Hiren's BootCD, MultiBootCD, Vector Linux (version 4.0 don't ask me why ^^) & Kanotix
My preferred distro of the moment : Sabayon Linux, if only i could manage to update it without breaking it completely...

2007-09-25 00:40:00
I forgot to add something i noticed only a couple of days ago when testing the latest release & trying to use the man command (which is not available btw) : Puppy linux seems to be based on BusyBox (that has been in the spotlights these past days), this probably explains it's great functionality/size ratio (apart from the custom optimised utilities that have been added to the mix)
2007-09-25 03:00:56
Shame you've had such a bad experience of trying to put Puppy on your laptop. It's actually a lot of fun to use and, as mentioned above, has loads of useful tools. I've installed it on two old P2 laptops, and NEC and an IBM, without trouble. Guess you're just unlucky with yours. But that situation is not unique to Puppy - I can't get Ubuntu to install on my P4 desktop for love nor money, even using the alternate CD!
Penguin Pete
2007-09-25 03:36:44
No, you're not weird. I'm strictly a desktop user, so Puppy has always done me right, and I've written a glowing review of a Puppy distro once.

Puppy's main claim to fame is how well it manages old desktop hardware. Even 486's run it with no sweat. And it can run in RAM, so you can remove the CD. It has a small, select, but quirky, installed package selection. It's cute, and micro-distros get the fans because everybody loves the runt of the litter.

For reasons similar to what you cite, I held back on reviewing Ubuntu. Ubuntu seems to be just the opposite; great on laptops, stinky on X86 PCs. I finally broke down and reviewed it anyway, and lived to tell the tale.

Taste-wise, I run the opposite side from Debian of Ubuntu; all the way to grml, which is Linux Nirvana for me.

We don't all have to review every distro. When would we sleep?

Caitlyn Martin
2007-09-25 07:52:08
I've read all the comments so far and I see nothing that Puppy offers that other small distros don't offer. Mustang is a great rescue mini CD that runs in RAM and doesn't limit me to Busybox. Slax offers more functionality. Wolvix Cub and Alixe (both Xfce based) are blazing fast on older hardware and run from CD. I see no compelling reason for me to bother with Puppy again.

Oh, and no, I haven't just been "unlucky". Puppy's hardware support is seriously lacking. The "quirky" selection of older applications is definitely not what I'm looking for and is one of my other complaints. If I want blazing fast on really old hardware and don't mind older apps then Damn Small Linux, which works without problems, plus DSL extensions for some missing bits, seems to be a better solution to me. The Slackware based little distros (Alixe, Wolvix Cub, Slax) also have the ability to use large repositories of Slackware packages. Puppy, which was built from scratch, simply does not.

Comparing to Ubuntu isn't exactly a fair comparison. In any case I have yet to run into a piece of hardware I can't make Ubuntu Feisty Fawn run on. I bypassed the installer (see instructions in Appendix D of the installation manual) and even have it running on an old Liberty 133MHz Penium PC with 32MB of RAM. My minimalist build (PekWM or JWM as the window managers, no HAL daemon, AbiWord, Gnumeric, Dillo, etc...) runs with surprising speed on the ancient box. Just don't try to use the GUI configuration tools which, of course, I haven't installed. I'll probably get around to writing a HOW-TO article on this.

Thanks for the input, though. I appreciate your efforts to convince me without flaming. If Puppy works for you then enjoy it. Don't expect me to recommend it anytime soon.

Ken Holmes
2007-09-25 08:08:57
Pete, I agree with you completely. And I am ecstatic to have lived to see you being so supportive of another person. I also agree completely with Ms. Martin. So much of our computing experience is subjective and contextual. The bickering is primarily based on the belief that "my" experience is the yard stick by which your experience is to be measured. Of course I am envious because I can't justify purchasing a laptop yet.
2007-09-25 08:32:23
I tried Puppy on a Fujitsu Lifebook P2120 (Cruesoe cpu) 18 months ago. It worked vaguely sort of, but did not impress. Puppy is way Too cute for words; daughter too old / too goth to think Puppy was cute.
DSL had a problem with the Fuji/LB too, I think on Update, which made me not want to leave it in use for a public WiFi exposed application. I will re-try latest Xfce/Flux/WM xubuntu flavors and DSL.

Knoppix STD is the favorite security boot cd in my kit -- e.g. easily saved one friend's handmedown Win2k laptop [no known admin passwd, win folks said re-install time; set Admin pw="ChangeMe"]. Will check Mustang, thanks. (RESCUE including UBCD is a plus too.)

Arlen Owens
2007-09-25 09:14:16
Yeah, I gave up on it too. I am constantly looking for lightweight distros to run on older computers, and Puppy just didn't work properly.
2007-09-25 10:37:13

I'd mostly agree with Penguin Pete here!
As Carla Schroder specifically wrote on January 8 at the calendar-beginning of the year concerning your review of a 'New Release of a Cool Canadian Distro: Vector Linux 5.8', http://www.oreillynet.com/linux/blog/2007/01/new_releasecool_canadian_distr.html
That's a good informative review, Caitlyn. Please forgive my grumpiness, but I must insert my ritual rant: Will everyone for shitsake quit re-inventing Linux, and put your energies into making it work better? Having five hundred half-baked distributions, and a half-dozen good solid ones, to choose from is INSANE and STUPID and VEXING oh dear, I'm shouting. But you get my drift. :)
Puppy keeps on advocating its "extraordinarily fast!" speed and its being the latest and greatest distro (see Puppy's goals and claims at http://www.puppylinux.com/), besides them pluses and minuses Penguin Pete mentions.

This particular user has his own criteria for using small liveCD-type distros such as Puppy
- can be put on a 200MB mini-CD -and- on a 128MB pendrive (small!) for portable use
- can run on low-end hardware (e.g., <=64MB RAM for CLI, 128MB RAM for X)
- customizable with easily available cheatcodes and add-on packages, or at least remasterable
- stable and testing apps (thinking of Debian here) without the need for the
fastest booting up or the latest-and-greatest "quirky, installed package
- no need for mandatory configuration windows & dialog boxes (in a liveCD
that is), overload of extraneous startup services, or too many "hidden
optimizations" to get a basic, workable interface up and running off such a
liveCD-type distro.

Given these criteria, other smaller liveCD-type distros that have performed as good as Puppy or better (again, given these particular criteria for this particular user) have continued to be DamnSmallLinux(DSL), SystemRescueCd, the system admin's Finnix Linux, and even at times SLAX's Popcorn edition (depends upon the tasks/apps needed). For every one of these criteria, clearly DSL stands out way above the rest!

Have admittedly yet tried out the smaller version of the grml liveCD Penguin Pete mentions above. Will have to wait for Caitlyn's review of this, should Caitlyn not give up on this ;)

As far as larger full-featured liveCD Linux distros, the top ones from the DistroWatch site clearly seem to be PCLinuxOS (PCLOS), Ubuntu, Mint, and MEPIS. Besides their obviously larger sizes, each of these full-featured liveCD distros fails one or more of the above criteria; similarly as does Puppy.

Correct this if mistaken, but didn't such large liveCD distros as Morphix, Mepis and Kanotix become more widespread at just about the same time Barry Kauler started developing Puppy from LinuxFromScratch(LFS) ??

Also ShakaZ wrote:
+ As far as i know it's the first distro that managed to live-boot from CD/DVD/usb disk and a few others,

The very first liveCD this particular Linux user regularly used was (and at times STILL is!) Knoppix, and Knoppix's live-boot CD may actually have predated Puppy's. Going back to the Windows 9x days -- and excluding the successful live-boot floppy tomsrtbt -- Slackware's ZipSlack was just about the first distro to boot from a floppy disk and then load the actual Operating System from a 100MB zipdisk in an Iomega-Zipdrive itself attacked to a computer's parallel port.

Anyhow, all this is from just one Linux liveCD user arguing that Caitlyn's extra effort and time would NOT be best spent "making Puppy work", followed by her requested review of it.


Steven Rosenberg
2007-09-25 11:59:28
The way I do these reviews is very subjective in a way. The hardware I have is what I have, and that's what I test on. If a particular Linux distribution does well on my boxes, it tends to get a good review (at http://insidesocal.com/click).

My opinion of Xubuntu 7.04, for instance, was right in line with yours. Not having the panels appear (and not having right-click menus enabled on first boot) is a big deal-breaker, especially for new users who will just move on (likely back to Windows if it's their first experience). I got a flurry of comments from people who didn't have the same problem. Turns out it's a bug that only affects some installs.

My experience with Puppy has been very good, hence I've reviewed it well. But my newest PC, a Gateway Solo 1450 laptop, has the same problem with X that you do. Or it could be something else; I couldn't even boot One Bone Puppy, a hard-to-find version of the distro with no X at all.

I couldn't get Xubuntu (live CD) or Ubuntu (alternate install) to install. And unfortunately, while Vector Standard installed fine, it blanked out right after the boot screen. If I could somehow get a console login, I could probably fix it, but with so many distros, it's easy to just move on.

So I moved over to ZenWalk 4.6.1, and that is running fine.

So the short and long of it is that one's opinion of a distro will be dramatically different depending on what you're running it on.

2007-09-25 19:49:45
"So the short and long of it is that one's opinion of a distro will be dramatically different depending on what you're running it on."

I completely agree. If your writing reviews based on your experience on one piece of hardware, it really doesn't mean much and you probably shouldn't. Unless the reader happens to have the exact same hardware as you.

2007-09-25 20:36:29
I used to use Puppy Linux on my old desktop. My friend gave me an old Pentium 133 with 64MB RAM that he didn't need, but it didn't have a hard drive. I had DSL and Puppy, so I tried both. I ended up installing Puppy (must've been because DSL wouldn't do a proper HD install once I put a hard drive in). It's OK because it runs on near anything (so does DSL) except neither DSL nor Puppy managed to work on my old Pentium 133 VGA laptop with 16MB RAM (I got Vector Linux 3.2 working on that though). Overall, Puppy is a nice rescue or general live-CD distro, but so is DSL, and for newer hardware, Xubuntu or Ubuntu work even better.
2007-09-25 21:51:24
Puppy is a wee bit easier for people use to Windows, especially Windows98. It will also work well on hardware that had Windows98. Keeps more computers in use, and out of the landfills.

The Readspeaker thing is extremely cool!

Tom Russell
2007-09-25 21:57:44
Yet for something completely different, why haven't you reviewed the latest Dyne 2.5 from dynebolic.org.
You can run it in a VirtualBox if you need to take screen shots.
This is a distro that take a completely different approach showing people that you can do virtua;;y anything with open source to suit your own needs.
Sure it has issues with hardware, but it gives you the means to add your own drivers, application modules, and to completely remaster the system with your own specialised selection of software.
Do these hardworking guys a favour and give Dyne 2.5 one of your well read reviews.
2007-09-26 01:49:58
Puppy has NTFS read and write built in..as far as I was aware in DSL it was still a work in progress.
dave dikrx
2007-09-26 03:57:16
you arent alone in disliking puppy, it doesnt boot to a gui on 3 computers (1 desktop 2 laptops) and on a fourth it will only bring up the gui after messin with xorg.
Rambo Tribble
2007-09-26 07:08:27
Pragmatics 101: If it works for you, use it; if it doesn't don't. The diversity of distros reflects a diverse world. In any case, it shouldn't be necessary to disparage any element in this evolving computing landscape. If you don't like it, just move on. Recall Plato's words: "Opinion is greater than ignorance, but less than knowledge." Rest assured, in time Darwin's precepts will determine the outcome.
Caitlyn Martin
2007-09-26 07:15:19
@kirk: The idea that distros can and should run on one piece of hardware and not another is patently ridiculous. The idea is that a good distro with decent hardware detection should run on just about anything. If it doesn't there is a real problem. By my count I have half a dozen computers here I can test things on. If you've read my reviews you know I usually test on two or three different platforms. I can't do that with Puppy because it doesn't run properly on five out of six. That is truly dismal.

@Danny: Puppy is easier coming from Windows that what? You don't say. Is it easier than Wolvix Cub? Not hardly. Cub will run on an old Pentium with 96MB of RAM with Fluxbox as the desktop. That covers probably 80-90% of surviving Windows '98 machines. I've already pointed out that I can make a rather fast running minimalist Ubuntu install work in 32MB of RAM on a Pentium 133. Yes, it's a bit more work and I wouldn't expect Joe or Jane Average Windows User to be able to do it. Then again the average Windows user can't install any OS at all. A distro that doesn't run on a significant percentage of the hardware out there isn't user friendly at all. Based on the comments there is lots and lots of hardware, both laptop and desktop, that Puppy fails on miserably.

@Tom Russell: I've never heard of Dyne before now. There are >500 Linux distros out there. Most are half baked at best. There is no way I can try or review them all. I really am not looking for more new distros to play with. I haven't got the time for that right now. The only reason I bothered with Puppy at all is because I've been inundated with requests for reviews. I can't even test it adequately enough to write a review because it just doesn't run for me on most hardware I have.

@Brett: This isn't Puppy vs. DSL. There are way better choices than either of those that do a perfectly good job with NTFS. DSL is so concerned with remaining no larger than 50MB that it has to sacrifice severely on functionality. For most people DSL really isn't the best choice. There are plenty of distros that will fit on a mini (8cm/3") CD that are better for most people.

Thank you for comments without flames. They have mostly reinforced my view that Puppy really isn't worth bothering with and is somewhat less than even half baked.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-09-26 07:27:36
@Rambo Tribble: WHat you are saying is "don't write reviews". Is that it? After all, reviews are opinions based on experience with a given distribution. If that experience is overly negative the review will also be negative. Most of my reviews are very mixed. That's the nature of an honest review.

I have long argued that we have too many half-baked Linux distributions and that hurts Linux adoption and public perception of Linux. See my January article titled So Many Distros, So Little Time.

Also, it's not about disparaging Puppy but rather giving an accurate picture of what's out there. Oh, and I was asked, over and over and over again, to review Puppy. That means that people are in my opinion.

Frank Earl
2007-09-26 08:05:06
Heh... I wasn't all that impressed with Puppy but was more impressed with DSL. I'm more of a DSL/SysRescue/Knoppix/Dyne fan myself. There's typically only a few systems that one of those don't work out of the gate on. As for the Puppy Linux fans being the way they are, I've found there's almost always SOMEONE that's this way about their OS choices, whether it be Windows, MacOS, Linux, or Whatever. They're often verging on rabid- just get out the Nomex suit, the fire extinguisher, and go to town with whatever you think is right and go on.
2007-09-26 09:44:34
You wrote
I have long argued that we have too many half-baked Linux distributions and that hurts Linux adoption and public perception of Linux. See my January article [en]titled So Many Distros, So Little Time

Also, it's not about disparaging Puppy but rather giving an accurate picture of what's out there. Oh, and I was asked, over and over and over again, to review Puppy. That means that people are in my opinion.

Actually, I do believe that your 0'Reilly Linux DevCenter blogger Carla Schroder adamantly first expressed this sentiment eight days prior to your January 16th article in her response that I quoted above (again, from your January 8th New Release of a Cool Canadian Distro: Vector Linux 5.8 )

Obviously with many hundreds of existing GNU/Linux distros along with their constant evolving new releases and new offshoots, you and other distro evaluators really MUST carry out a "distro triage" so-to-speak, in order to make some sense out of this "half-baked mess".

At the same time, a broader perspective on the plethora of past, present, and upcoming distributions can help current (e.g., Puppy) and future reviews of these, in perhaps a more "distro triage" manner. This then quite simply results in a more accurate picture of what's out there. A good example of such a broad perspective of these many GNU/Linux distributions is
Bruce Byfield's insightful The 7 Most Influential GNU/Linux Distributions in his Datamation blog piece of September 24th.
Bruce lists these seven most influential GNU/Linux distros as
1. Debian
2. Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL)
3. Gentoo
4. Mandriva
5. Slackware
6. SUSE Linux Enterprise / OpenSUSE
7. Ubuntu

Bruce Byfield's Conclusion is of immediate relevance:
This list [of influential GNU/Linux distributions] could easily continue, with mention of such distros as Damn Small Linux, Frugalware, K12LTSP, Knoppix, and others. Each of these distributions has its own claim for being influential, but, beyond the seven detailed, agreement about which ones ought to be included would be less unanimous.

However, if you wanted a summary of GNU/Linux's to this point, then the development of these seven distributions would be a better starting point than most. Only some of the earliest history concerning such extinct distros such as Yggdrasil, would be missing.

As for the future -- who can say? Already, several of these seven are important less for themselves than for the traditions they have started. And, just in case anyone starts thinking that the selection of distributions is becoming settled, remember that nobody predicted the rise of Ubuntu. Admittedly, Ubuntu had several advantages from the start, but, given the unpredictability of free software, perhaps a new distribution with an influential new philosophy and toolbox is being readied as you read.

Perhaps both you and we other commentators should keep this broader perspective in mind as we hear about, clamor for, acquire, evaluate, and advocate for specific new distros to use.

2007-09-26 11:13:22
Out on the deck earning a living writing thse articles?

You LUCKY Gal!! :-)

2007-09-26 15:27:06
Puppy doesn't run on 5 out of 6 computers? Hard to believe. I've tried it far more than that, never had one not boot. From pentium 1s to Pentium Ms to Imacs. Did you check the md5sum? Does your test hardware all have something in common? (particular video card etc) Puppy is X86 only.

2007-09-26 15:30:34

I'm not one who thinks you should review Puppy, it's less than 100MB download. People should just try it for themselves.

2007-09-26 15:40:58
Puppy has good things and bad things. On my system, puppy 2.17.1 booted first try without problems. I had 3D working shortly after (NVidia card), and liked the full NTFS support. However, they have an excruciatingly confusing package setup, and a limited availability of working programs. Still, I like the option to keep a save/home file on a hard drive, even NTFS ones (PCLOS, etc. won't do this, I've checked) and use it like an installed OS without installing it. It runs very well on my P4, 640 mb ram, 3-4 year old desktop, but I can't say I've tried laptops or a wide variety of systems. I just know that it works for me. The lack of available programs is probably all that keeps me from setting up a partition on the second HDD for it.
2007-09-26 17:16:47
Caitlyn, you ask why take a look at Puppy? I would answer because I think Puppy is the best small distro for installing on a PC for regular day to day use not just for use as a rescue CD (although it is good for that too).

Puppy is easy enough to use even for my kids. It has good default software like Abiword, Gnumeric, SeaMonkey, Rox file manager. It is also easy to install popular software like Firefox, Opera, OpenOffice, etc. Updating is simple as only 4 files need replaced. It is cute, bright, fun, and has an active user group.

Mainly I use Ubuntu but I think Puppy is a fine distro. My compliments to Barry & Co. When you find a PC that it will boot on I think it would be worth a look.

2007-09-27 06:11:46
For what it's worth i've tested Puppy on my 3 home pc's and never had any trouble booting except sometimes having to choose vesa over xorg in the boot menu.
The old timer is a PIII cpu withe 386MB of Ram & and Ati Rage 128 graphics card. The latest a Athlon64 cpu with 4GB of Ram and MSI 6600 GT TDE128 card. The laptop is a Toshiba M30 with a Centrino cpu, 521MB of Ram, Nvidia Geforce FX 5200 card and a widescreen.

@vainrveenr :
What i said is, according to me, Puppy is the first livedistro to be able to boot of all of these media at the same time. Knoppix isn't the 1st livecd ever, but probably was the 1st to be well thought & functional, for example with it ability to save changes to the hard drive and to be remastered relatively easily.

@Caitlyn :
I'm surprised at how eager you are to bash Puppy while saying you couldn't even get it to run on your hardware.
Over the years, I've had many distros that wouldn't run on my machines and yes i sometimes did like you and took the easy way of moving along without trying to fix the issue. Why wouldn't we, given the choices that are offered.
However that doesn't mean those distros were not worth it or halfbaked or whatever...

Anyways i have little hope that you could see what parts really cool and unique to Puppy as you seem to have already made up an opinion without having run it. Maybe Puppy isn't what you're looking for, that doesn't make it bad per se.
And to tell you the truth i don't really care, linux is about choosing what fits you best and the answer to that is different from one person to the other.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-09-27 10:02:07
@ShakaZ: I suggest you read my article and comments again. Puppy Linux runs just fine on one out of six systems here. I have tried it on my desktop. I have run it and looked at it pretty extensively. I find very little to recommend it and almost nothing that is "cool" about it. I could write a review -- it would start with crap hardware recognition and work down from there.

Bash it? Perhaps Puppy is getting the review it deserves. Something that doesn't work for LOTS of people (read the comments) on LOTS of different hardware is truly poor. That really is review enough. Just because Puppy works on your three systems doesn't make the hardware recognition even vaguely acceptable. Why should I spend lots of time troubleshooting what I consider a poor distro to begin with when there are so many good alternatives that just work?

Might Puppy have been first at something or another? Sure! Yggdrasil had a lot of firsts too. How many people run it today?

@Bruce: You wrote:

I would answer because I think Puppy is the best small distro for installing on a PC for regular day to day use...

How many other small distros have you tried? Give Wolvix Cub or AliXe or Slax a spin and see if you still feel that way.


Puppy has good things and bad things.

Thank you! That's honestly, not ShakaZ zealotry.
Still, I like the option to keep a save/home file on a hard drive...

Agreed. Good feature. One that is also available in Wolvix Cub, Mustang Linux, Damn Small Linux, and if I remember right even GoblinX. The big distros and many Live CDs neglect to offer this. BTW, Damn Small Linux also is setup to let you keep a persistent /opt directory for all your extensions (added applications) and designate a place for settings backups as well. Wolvix' save file doesn't cover /home (easy enough to do, though) but does preserve pretty much any changes you make to your system when running the Live CD or a frugal install.
The lack of available programs is probably all that keeps me from setting up a partition on the second HDD for it.

...which is an excellent argument in favor of the Slackware based small distros or even TinyMe (PCLOS based).


Puppy doesn't run on 5 out of 6 computers? Hard to believe. I've tried it far more than that, never had one not boot.

md5sum is fine. That wouldn't account for almost every version from 1.08 to 2.17 having the same miserable results. I still have discs for 2.14 and 2.15CE. The machines in question are a Gateway laptop and four Toshiba laptops (three different models ranging from an ancient P90 to a 1 GHz Celeron) with three different video chipsets. Believe it.

@GreyGeek: I don't get paid for writing O'Reilly Linux Dev Center articles. Not a penny. I do get paid for other writing, though :)

@vainrveenr: You are correct about the source of Carla's quote. While I disagree with her on Vector Linux I do agree with her overall statement which inspired my follow-up article.

I agree with Bruce Byfield's list about which distros are influential. I also agree with the basic premise (though not the fine points) of Ladislav Bodnar's editorial this week on DistroWatch which separates serious distros from hobby projects based on the delivery of security updates. Puppy Linux falls firmly into the hobby category, an assessment that Barry Kauler agrees with, BTW.

Puppy is NOT a serious distro. Having said that some hobby distros do, as they gain popularity, mature into something more. Puppy hasn't done that YET. I stress the yet because a negative impression now doesn't mean I might not have a more positive view later.

2007-09-27 16:36:22
You wrote
I have long argued that we have too many half-baked Linux distributions and that hurts Linux adoption and public perception of Linux. See my January article [en]titled So Many Distros, So Little Time

I have long argued that we have too many half-baked Linux distributions
That one sentence says it all
somebody justify why there are 315 different live cd's? Wouldn't all these people contributing to 5 bet a bit more intelligent?

Currently displaying 315 LiveCD/DVDs

I have experimented with Puppy since 1.03 and Slax for about the last year. Both have minor annoyance problems.


Caitlyn Martin
2007-09-28 18:25:52
UPDATE: I received some e-mail and yes, the Mustang Linux website is gone. I don't know if it's a temporary problem or if that distro is gone.
2007-09-29 11:03:11
Puppy works fine. No slam intended, but if you are a professional you can make any distro work even with legacy hardware. Downgrade to Windows if you can't run with the pack.
Caitlyn Martin
2007-09-29 12:08:40
@Angela: Puppy works fine FOR YOU, but obviously not for a lot of other people if you've read the comments. You are right about one thing though: I do have the skills to make it work. OK, I might have to rebuild X and change the way the distro does hardware detection, but eventually I could make it work with enough time and effort. Is it worth the effort? IMHO, no. Why should a professional (which I am, for the past 27 years by my calendar) have to rebuild a hobby distro to make it work? Why shouldn't it just work correctly from the start like other distros?

You're defending the indefensible. There is no excuse for such poor hardware detection. Throwing an insult in doesn't help make you convincing.

2007-10-01 09:22:05
A friend of mine gave me an old Compaq laptop with Pentium MMX at 233Mhz, and 32MB ram. Puppy 2.16 booted from the cd, in Xorg, with everything running as expected, although slowly. After I made a swap partition and enabled it, using GParted, Puppy flew to life. I installed it to the 3GB hard drive and have had no problems with it. I use Dillo instead of Seamonkey, and XfreeCD instead of GXine, because of speed issues with those apps on this limited hardware.

I have also successfully installed Puppy 2.13 on an old Compaq Presario desktop with a Cyrix processor that no other distro I tried could boot up, much less install to. I can't remember the name of the processor, but it was like half-way between a 486 and a Pentium in capability. It had 96MB ram and a 2.5GB hard drive.

Various Puppy's have ran for me on my AMD Athlon XP with 512MB ram, from CD, a Dell P4 with 256MB ram, from my USB flash drive, and yet another Compaq - a P4 with 256MB, also from my flash drive.

Also, puppy impressed me, compared to other distros I've tried, with how simple it was to get cdc_ether started for my usb-connected dsl modem. Of course, bigger, more 'serious' distros, like Ubuntu get it right from the start, but we're talking less than 100MB for Puppy, including the apps.

I've used (or attempted to use) dozens of linux distros, just to see what each had to offer to someone exactly like me. Ubuntu is what I use most, but puppy works on my old hardware, with X running. And all the apps I would ever expect that older hardware to run, are included, with more available, though I agree it is nothing compared to the Debian/Ubuntu repositories and Synaptic!

2007-10-01 10:19:05
they need to hire a tech or a linux user for your job
it can't be easier than using puppy
Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-01 10:33:39
As expected the ridiculous flames have started pouring in. The really nasty ones get deleted. I left the one above as an example of the most popular kind: If I disagree with "Anonymous" I must be an idiot.

First, this isn't a job. O'Reilly doesn't pay me to blog on their website. Second, I've been a Linux professional for longer than most people have used Linux. Third, yes, Puppy is easy to use if it boots at all on your hardware. Finally, this is an article labeled "Opinion" based on my personal experiences.

2007-10-01 16:16:59
I am 110% with you Caitlyn.
I think we need to rename Puppy...Crappy Linux.
So I have sent this to the Puppy forum because
you are right on the money.

" Hey! Don't mock her. She's a professional of 27 years.
She knows it all.
No bias from this reviewer.
She tells it like it is.

Lobster. PM Barry and tell him to close up shop. Puppy's a Stinker.

I'm off to better things now that I can see the light.
Gonna get me more of those 700 meg or 4 gig distros....that just
work every time mate....the world is just such a rosy place.

If you see someone panting around Oreillys office, that will be me;
fawning for a glimpse of my new heroine.

Goodbye you Puppy losers...........Chris

P.S. So I'll see you all back tomorrow then? "

Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-01 16:21:42
So... Chris, the sudden barrage of flames, including yours, is because someone attacked me in the Puppy Linux forum? Thanks for the heads up. BTW, I don't work for O'Reilly so you won't find me at their offices, sorry.
2007-10-01 17:16:02
I have been a Puppy user for over 2 years now and have loved every minute of it. It has worked very well for me throughout that time in a professional capacity rather than as a hobby OS. I don't need anyone's stamp of approval to know that it works great for me. I have tried 90% (probably more actually) of the distros in the top 50 in Distrowatch and I find Puppy fits my needs well. I have shown Puppy to many others and my experience is that Puppy works on most machines on the first boot (just my experience) and will work on the remainder of the others with a little tweaking. This is not a situation unique to Puppy. Puppy compares quite well on initial usability.

Although the author continues to claim that Puppy has poor hardware detection and cites the responses as her evidence, I would suggest you just download Puppy yourself and give it try. It is <100Mb and you may be quite surprised. The author's lack of a review seems appropriate based on her experience with Puppy. Puppy will move along nicely with or without her review.

@ Caitlyn: Thanks for mentioning Puppy in your article and hopefully bringing a few more good people to our wonderful community.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-01 19:20:50
The recent flock of pro-Puppy comments comes after a post in the Puppy Linux forum ridiculing me and this post. Rather than admitting there might be an issue that some have reported they are in full fledged defense and ridicule mode.

Perhaps, before launching into trying a half baked distro people should look at how the Puppy forum treats people who dare question their wonderful review. Don't believe me. Read about "fear and loathing" as the author calls his experience in the Puppy Linux forum. Just another reason to avoid this distro...

2007-10-01 19:48:36
Actually, only a few of the comments here are from names I recognize from the Puppy forums (granted, I cannot see the posts that were deleted). Your primary flamer, ShakaZ, has no account on the main Puppy Linux forum. Still, I apologize for the others.

Here is my Puppy experience and opinion:
I first tried Puppy around 1.09. It worked, and there was something about it I liked, but I moved on. I came back around 2.10, and was pleasantly surprised by the change. It was much more functional. I've more or less stuck with it since then. I will readily admit that it doesn't have the best hardware support. Of the computers in my house, it works without any tweaking on nine of them. It does not work on three. All of the non-functional ones are laptops. It seems to be a display issue of some type, but I never ascertained what. Currently, the package selection is not too large, and you need to download a separate package manager for the user created packages. I've been wanting to see that combined with the regular manager, but it hasn't happened yet. One of Puppy's primary appeals (besides and incredibly friendly and helpful forum) is the ability to remaster it so easily.

As stated above, I concede that we have a lack of packages. You have pointed out that you would be better off going with a Slackware based distro so you would have access to their repositories. Well, in Puppy 3.00 (due out soon) Puppy will have full Slackware compatibility. Gslapt is already working on Puppy, but I don't think it will be included by default.

I tried to install Ubuntu to my laptop before I left for school this year, because the CS department prefers Ubuntu. The install disc would continually crash. I probably could have gotten it working, but I felt the same way you do. Why bother when I have another distro working? There's nothing wrong with that, it's just the most pragmatic way of doing things.

I'm sorry that Puppy has not worked for you, but I hope that will keep an open mind and check back in the future.

I also want you to know that you were not attacked on the forum (so far as I know), this page was merely linked to.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-01 20:07:18
@SirDuncan: Would it surprise you to know that I have already downloaded 3.00? That's how not closed minded I am. Slackware compatibility is a huge step forward. The hardware compatibility issue (and I agree, it seems to be X related for the most part) is the big one for me right now as I mainly use laptops and I am not planning on going back to desktops anytime soon.

FWIW, the dripping-with-sarcasm post by Chris is indeed on the Puppy forum and I do consider that an attack, albeit one that is more clever than most. The deleted posts are simply too nasty to leave up. I'm not big on deleting posts.

In any case, I will keep trying Puppy as it develops and if and when it works on my hardware I will give it a fair review.

2007-10-01 21:33:59
I've been using Puppy steady since version 0.9.8, when my family upgraded to DSL so I wasn't limited by my old computer's winmodem (I was 16 at the time, so it was about three years ago). I haven't used many other distros to compare it to, mainly because Puppy got the job done. With a little tweaking, anyways, but I'm a tweaker. The main reason I switched to Linux was that Windows wasn't friendly to tweakers.

Puppy didn't start all the way with Xorg on my first desktop, because it would get confused when it detected both the onboard graphics chip and the PCI graphics card. It has a similar issue now on my new machine, with dual video cards, one of which is also dual headed. But a single # sign in xorg.conf is enough to get going on one screen, and adding a second screen section is enough to get it working with both. I know Dougal has been working on improving this, but I haven't had time to check it out.

Other than that, Puppy has worked on all my hardware, including my Dell c640 laptop. It also started flawlessly on my mom's and sister's computers, and even on my old roommate's machine which we've nicknamed "The Anomaly" for all the issues he's had with it.

But that's just my experience. I haven't really used it on anything strange yet. And if it doesn't work on your hardware, I don't blame you for not wanting to bother with it when there are so many others that will. "If live gives you lemons, trade them for bananas over lunch." I am surprised that only one out of six machines worked though. Probably a problem with xorg.conf, which in my experience is one of the weaker points in Puppy. That wouldn't explain any Xvesa problems though. Anyways, if you really don't care enough to get it running, don't bother. I'm a fanatic, but only to the point that I think Puppy is the best thing since string cheese and toaster ovens, not to the point that I try forcing it on others. I don't care what the rest of the world uses, so long as they don't seriously impact my own experience (such as the hordes of IE users mindlessly helping perpetuate bad code, but I don't know if that's still a problem. Years ago I got fed up to the point I decided to pretend IE doesn't exist. If my site breaks it, it's their loss. Not like I'm making money off it anyways. Ignoring IE lowered my blood pressure too, which would be cool if I were old enough to care.)

The only thing that bugs me a little is your calling it half baked, but if something only ran on 1/6 of my hardware I'd be inclined to do the same. That said, I do like cookie dough, which isn't baked at all, so sometimes a full bake isn't necessary. But that tends to just apply to strange people like me...

As far as Puppy firsts, as far as I know it was the second to support multisession, but the first to do it well. I never used it, but I know Flash does (in this case Flash is a user, not the Macromedia/Adobe software). I also hear it's much better with DVD than CD (they don't have a 99 track limit, among other things).

Also, it's currently the only distro that has me in the community, but whether that's a plus is debatable.....

My main reasons for using it are:
A. I like that it's small (Or was, back in the day. Getting hefty now, but still sub 100)
B. I like that I can use a Frugal install, thus eliminating the cd but maintaining the loading to ram and use of a save-file
C. I like that it's easy to modify in a (via Unleashed, not the remaster script which is a very shabby way to make a public release, though fine for personal use)
D. I like the community. I haven't been in others, but I hear most aren't as friendly. But I don't really care if they are or not, as I like this one fine.
E. I like the contrast of running something most consider a quirky underpowered "rescue" distro as the main OS on a 3gHz dual monitor setup (albeit, I'm using Pizzapup instead of the stock Puppy, and have added Blender, Gimp, and some games)
F. It either natively supports or can easily be made to support all my hardware, including two graphics cards, two wireless cards, a tv-tuner, two different game pads, a wacom tablet, a printer, and something else that I'm forgetting.

Those might not be reason enough for you to bother with it, but I don't expect them to be. They're just why I bother with it.

Things I don't like:
A. The name "Puppy" is a little soft and fuzzy for my tastes, but since I use Pizzapup, it's not really an issue. And the name does help emphasize the contrast mentioned above. Especially since my computer is named "Omnius", after the humanity conquering computer/robot of Dune lore (my laptop and old pc are named "Seurat" and "Erasmus", respectively, also for Dune 'bots. Yes, I have a problem).
B. It's too newbie / windows oriented for my tastes. Especially the community in general. Now, that's not a bad thing, because newbies need lovin' too (I was one for a whole two months, after all). So I wouldn't change that part of Puppy. Instead, I just make Pizzapup for now, and eventually I'll make my own half baked distro. Mainly as a personal deal though, for myself to use, so don't worry about me cluttering up Distrowatch or anything. I doubt I'd have time to support a full distro in the first place. Probably I'll spend more time doing general stuff (apps, themes, etc.), to contribute to Linux as a whole.

As for quirky apps, as far as the main programs go, I don't have any problems. The PDF viewer used to be gsview, which was pretty ugly, but it was recently changed. That only leaves the small oddball apps as what I'd consider quirky. Stuff like ical, the calculators,etc. Some of them are old and weird, but I don't use them anyways. I have a real calendar and two real calculators (one of which I taught myself to program with when I was 12, so I'm emotionally attached) so what do I need those for?

Well, that's all I've got to say. Sorry if I was a little verbose and tangential. At least you don't have to live with it on a day by day basis like I do ;-) Anyways, I need to go hit the hay now. G'night, and good luck next time you allocate a couple minutes to a new version of Puppy.

2007-10-02 02:20:04
CM - you are right - it cannot be done - for you & for YOUR OWN valid reasons

BTW - EXACTLY ~ what IS a "linux Professional_
Are you LPI certified - at what level ?

If published resumes seeking I.T. assignments .(from a "self professed security expert") qualifies -
the world is full of "psuedo-expert' chester-FIELD coaches !

Why would anyone (Esp. if already gainfully employed) in the specialised sub-field of security_
constantly seek or evaluate as 'reviews' any "holy-grail" distribution experience ?

After 27 + years - you should know precisely what YOU need

None of which would EVER translate to the 'best for everyone' ~ let alone a 'beall-doall for every concievable
mix of hardware on hand

Nor is it likely you will you EVER/own or have test-box contributions (of sufficient variety) of iron
to be capable of qualifying such opinions punlished as 'evaluations'- impartial or not

I find it hard to understand why you even bother to use a binary-based (ALA pre-supplied dependencies) platform;

You will never be satisfied with any plebian 'out-of box' variant
If more of your time/limited constraints were devoted towards present efforts of improving on existent code deficiencies- everyone might benefit-

Do you wish to polish journalism skills -or work within some specialised niche
(I.E. your OWN nirvanah- like we all (may) seek)

Forgive me temerity to express -(it certainly is none of my D--- Bees-wax) it seems you are undergoing
a nasty temporary stress, perhaps related to upheaval of roots, avocation expectancies ?

Puppy is good for many -not my cup of tea, & NOT for any forseen 'out_of_box short-comings'
Nor cannot it (or any others) be off-handedly evaluated , & then dismissed lightly

To fully elucidate - would entail a lengthy, dry/boring code dissecting

At present - (knowing full well all is subject to supposedly advanced_code_capabilities & FULL awareness to Linux esoterics_)
None of which is evident to present Puppy user/developer contributors - NO exceptions
Dougal/MU/GuestToo/Pizza etal

Before outraged cries of "pretentious" - all CAN be backed up/proven !

(Yes Shirley - I have closely examined many contributions -w/an eye to adapting to own uses)

Would I (supply examples) ~ NO It would be a waste of everyones time - Esp if not pre qualified by
LPI certification or Equiv. ( sorry long-suffering readers -'remastering" from templates or
~ 'casual' use of C/Perl/Bash doesn't qualify)

Which still doesn't detract present usability nor any appreciation for uniqueness of approach
It DID, unfortunatley for my time concessions - firmly prove Puppy as unsuitable for own intent

NTIM - I take a different approach, use dedicated media for dedicated purposes -
I.N.S.E.R.T for rescue, MPentoo & others for traffic analysis - a very few 'general-purpose' variants just for 'Linux-demo' showing

In summation - distro- hop if that intrigues you - there are worse "hobbies'
But please be aware - no non-intensive trial (even a few months) -indicates any expertise of any O/system
If any WERE 'the best' no others would long exist

2007-10-02 04:46:48
Wow, some of those posts are getting weird!

After thinking long and hard about the author's challenge, I've only been able to think of one thing about Puppy that seems to be both unique to Puppy (correct me if I'm wrong - I'd really be interested to know) and what I would think of as pretty cool.

The Universal Installer in Puppy is the first I've seen anywhere that can install to so many different types of media, in so many diferent ways, at the click of a mouse. As I said before, I've used (or tried to use) dozens of distros, most of which are seemingly popular in some realm. My first real positive experience with linux was Ubuntu 5.10, to let you know how young I am in the linux world. Before that, I tried a few of the various long-standing distros, such as Red Hat, which I couldn't get to install to anything. I have had Puppy running, from CD, USB Flash, Frugal Install, or full HDD install on many machines other than my own. I've never met a machine that Puppy wouldn't boot on, or install itself to.

Maybe the Universal Installer isn't your idea of a 'cool feature' but to a newb, it makes a lot of things simple that, to a newb, might otherwise be impossible. To me, it's the coolest thing that any OS has to offer.

Otherwise, Puppy is cool, not for his outstanding features, but for the fact that you can get a modern look and feel in your OS without all the resource overhead of the larger distros. Puppy 'feels' fast and light to a non-linux-professional like me. Console may be lighter on the machine, but it's heavier on the user. A lot of other 'light' distros I've tried seem more sluggish, or less functional than Puppy.

I just downloaded the latest DSL version last night, and it took FOREVER to boot on my ancient laptop, then it crashed with a scrolling screenful of error messages that I couldn't stop without hitting the power switch.

I'm going to try Slax, on the author's recommendation. I downloaded it last night, too. Maybe it will be cool.

On the subject of 'half-baked' OS's, I'd have to say that Windows is far less stable/functional than Puppy, yet people happily use it every day, and are even willing to pay hundreds of dollars for the priveledge. And most publications can't wait for a chance to jump on the review bandwagon when a new one arrives. In fact, many write reviews of alpha and beta versions of any version of Windows that they can get their hands on.

On a final note, I haven't seen an OS yet that didn't require some tweaking to work. I've used computers since my dad brought home a Commodore64 when I was a child. I've operated in DOS, Windows 95, 98, 2000 Pro, XP, and I don't really know how many linux distros. Some wouldn't boot without tweaking from the start. Others would boot, install, and run flawlessly - until an update broke something. Any version of Windows requires manually installing drivers and updates for your hardware. At least it always has for me. Even UBCD wouldn't boot at all on my old Compaq/Cyrix comp, while Puppy booted fine with a few boot params keyed in. I'm personally impressed with Puppy.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-02 06:51:00
@The latest anonymous:

"BTW - EXACTLY ~ what IS a "linux Professional_
Are you LPI certified - at what level ?"

I'm Red Hat certified. I personally place more value on experience than certification but nowadays you need a cert or two for HR if you ever decide to change jobs. I define a Linux professional as someone who makes their living developing for or supporting Linux, either exclusively or in combination with UNIX or other operating systems.

"Why would anyone (Esp. if already gainfully employed) in the specialised sub-field of security_
constantly seek or evaluate as 'reviews' any "holy-grail" distribution experience ?"

I enjoy writing and I find reviews valuable. There is no "holy grail" experience. Most of my reviews are mixed but the majority end up being more positive than not. See my reviews of Xubuntu, Wolvix, and Vector Linux for examples. Heck, even my review of Fedora Core 5 (when that was current) was more positive than not.

No distro is perfect. Some have more flaws than others. My experience with Puppy is that it is too flawed to be useful to me.

"Nor cannot it (or any others) be off-handedly evaluated , & then dismissed lightly"

Sure it can. If a distro fails to boot properly on numerous machines I can and do dismiss it as pretty useless. FWIW, you do not get the privilege of telling me what I can or cannot write. It's my blog and I post my opinions and observations. You can write your own blog if you wish. You can also approach O'Reilly about writing here but I'd study grammar and spelling and English usage before trying that if I were you.

"You will never be satisfied with any plebian 'out-of box' variant "

Utterly, completely wrong. I see you haven't been reading my reviews or anything else I've written prior to now. I am very satisfied with Wolvix and Vector Linux. I have mostly been satisfied with Ubuntu (including Kubuntu and especially Xubuntu). I mainly support Red Hat Enterprise Linux at work and it is an excellent platform in the environment it was designed for. I think Slackware is fine for an experienced Linux user as well - it just isn't user friendly for the masses. I continue to recommend Mandriva for newcomers to Linux and I think it generally does a good job. I've been playing with NimbleX and AliXe recently and both will get very positive reviews from me. Need I go on?

This is the point the Puppy defenders just don't want to get. Puppy falls down in a way most distros don't.

"Which still doesn't detract present usability nor any appreciation for uniqueness of approach"

Wrong on both counts. Poor hardware support, at least on laptops, makes the distro unusable for lots of people. There is NOTHING unique about Puppy's approach.

Caitlyn Martin
2007-10-02 07:01:13
@DavidEF: "Wow, some of those posts are getting weird!"

Yep, ever since this article was linked in the Puppy Linux forum. Before that it wasn't so bad and there were few flames.

"I have had Puppy running, from CD, USB Flash, Frugal Install, or full HDD install on many machines other than my own. I've never met a machine that Puppy wouldn't boot on, or install itself to."

I have five of them. Based on earlier comments I am not alone. 'It works for me' is not a valid defense of Puppy if it doesn't work for other experienced Linux users.

"Maybe the Universal Installer isn't your idea of a 'cool feature' but to a newb, it makes a lot of things simple that, to a newb, might otherwise be impossible. To me, it's the coolest thing that any OS has to offer."

It is a cool feature but... the Wolvix Control Panel (WCP) does the same thing, offering full hard disk, frugal, or USB install. Wolvix will also run entirely from RAM I have yet to find anything Wolvix doesn't run on myself. Wolvix Cub, designed to fit on a 256MB USB stick, is small enough for most things I need to do. Once again, a good feature but hardly something unique to Puppy.

Saying "it's better than Windows" should, to me, be a given with ANY decent Linux distro.

2007-10-02 10:28:00
Dear Caitlyn,

Its very unfortunate that your posting begins with negative assumptions. I tried a number of different Linux distributions for laptops with limited resources, and finally settled on Puppy because it, unlike the others, worked very well. Its packed with decent features and allows me to get work done. In fact I replaced my aging version of Windows 98SE with Puppy 2.17. I've found the community at the Puppy forum very helpful, and open. In short, its been a wonderful experience, and I've recommended Puppy Linux to my friends and family.