Puppy Linux 5.0 “Lucid Puppy” Released
May sees the release of the new Puppy Linux, version 5.0, also known as Lucid Puppy. For the uninitiated, the main deployment target of Puppy Linux is older, resource constrained computers. In addition, it makes quite a handy live CD for emergency and recovery use.
As you might have guessed from the name, this version represents a break from the past as it is now based on packages from the latest version of Ubuntu Linux. As Ubuntu itself is better known as a popular choice for well specified desktop computers, one might wonder if Ubuntu + Puppy could result in a conflict of design interests. Let's take a look.
I was pleasantly surprised as booting from the CD-ROM seems considerably faster than with older versions. Unlike those versions, which began with a series of text mode questions to determine screen, locale and language options, this latest version takes you straight to the desktop. The aforementioned configuration is now part of a unified configuration tool that is initiated from a GUI menu. Which approach you prefer is probably a matter of taste.
Beyond that, if you've used Puppy before, you probably have a good idea of what to expect. One change is that Puppy now offers a choice of web browsers. This represents a small compromise because older Puppy distributions came with a fairly fully featured version of Seamonkey, but this version comes with a stripped down browser that lacks a tabbed interface and other niceties. Thankfully, you can select alternative browsers, and these are automatically downloaded and installed.
Further additions can be made to the system using the package manger, and these changes can even be applied if you are running from a live CD. Now that Puppy can use Ubuntu packages, it has access to an even greater range of software. For greater ease of use by non experts, the main package manager is now complemented by Quickpet, a simplified application installer that allows the easy installation of about 30 common applications.
As I said, Puppy makes a very handy Live CD. In this role, it continues to offer, in addition to basic web browsing, a text editor, a word processor, a file manager and GParted, the partition editor and copier. Let's just say that Puppy has saved my bacon a few times. That said, as you might expect, it doesn't come with the sort of low level tools featured in dedicated recovery systems such as SystemRescueCD or Ultimate Boot CD.
Quite frankly, as with the previous version, once installed to the hard disk, Puppy could probably be used to build a competent system for the average user, albeit with a less flashy desktop and fewer bells and whistles. Although, it wouldn't be my first choice for a more modern desktop or laptop.
The Puppy Linux website is currently in a transitional phase because it's far too early to demote information relating to the 4.x line, and as a result, the 5.x information is not yet very prominent. There are quite a lot of specialized, custom Puppy builds, but finding them is a question of patience when navigating the site and searching the forum.
My initial fears, that the move over to Ubuntu packages would have a serious negative impact on performance and resource usage, seem to have been unfounded. As ever, Puppy booted into a useful and responsive desktop on a test setup with 256MB of RAM. It remains my go to distribution for a certain type of project.
Is Puppy the best in its class? Feel free to tell us about other great low-resource desktop distributions.
UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.
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Free Webinar: Hadoop
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