What is Puppy Linux?


Okay, let's get the basics out the way first. If you just want to get on and see Puppy in action for yourself head off to the Manual for instructions on downloading, burning and booting ISOs. Or, if you're actually wondering what on earth an operating system actually is, or what Linux is, or what makes Puppy different, or what it might be able to do for you, read on...

Operating Systems, Linux and little Puppies

Puppy Linux is an operating system, which means it is that which makes a computer able to function at all, it is that which allows all the hardware on a computer to talk to each other and that which enables applications to run. Other famous operating systems are Microsoft Windows, Apple's OSX and MSDOS. Puppy takes its ancestory from Linux and so, like most other Linux-based operating systems, it is a completely free and open source.

There are a number of things that make Puppy different from other Linux derivatives, but the most significant is its small size, around 80MB! This lends itself to some very useful and unique features;

  • 'Live' booting from CDs, USB sticks and other portable media.
  • Ability to run entirely from RAM, making it unusually fast and particularly relevant to modern PCs with solid state CF drives, such as Wyse & HP/Compaq 'thin clients' and the ASUS EeePC & similar 'next generation' hand-helds.
  • Very low minimum system requirements, runs happily on old Pentiums with as little as 32Mb RAM.
  • Sub-60 second boot times.

Usability and Compatibility

Though Puppy is small, it's still able to offer the complete range of a applications you'd expect to see on any average computer, like wordprocessors, spreadsheets, internet browsers, games and image editors. Extra software comes in the form of dotpets and dotpups and there are a number of methods to find and install them. There is a Puppy Software Installer (for Puppy 2, for Puppy 3) that offers repository searches and automatic installations, or this website offers the ability to browse and search repositories -- the Puppy forum is also a good place to find newer or rarer applications and drivers.

Puppy is aimed to be as easy to use as possible and very little technical knowledge is assumed. As much hardware is automatically detected as possible, you will often find that, whereas on other operating systems you had to install extra driver software to get your particular device functioning, Puppy will succesfully detect and install the driver without user prompting.

Whose idea was this?

Puppy Linux was first realeased in June 2003 by Barry Kauler, it was and still is a project for the sheer love of it. Barry just develops his official Puppy versions, he isn't responsibile for setting up the forum or this website, these are community efforts. The community, in fact, is completely organic without any formal agenda or structure. It often takes newcomers a while to realise that there aren't really any rules to Puppy, if you want to do something, make a new Puplet, offer your skills or take things in a new direction you can just do that, no-one will stop you! Here is what Barry has to say about how the project is run, or rather 'not run' as he puts it.

"The real Puppy, the mascot for Puppy Linux, was a very tiny dog, a Chihuahua, but totally fearless. He didn't seem to know that he was vulnerable because of his small size. Once when my sister was visiting my country property, she brought her Blue Heeler, a very solid middle-sized dog named Muti. We were out walking, and suddenly there was a substantial rustling of branches of a large bush, something was in or behind the bush. Muti took fright and ran back behind the legs of my sister, whereas Puppy got into launch position in front of the bush and barked furiously. It turned out to be my dad playing a trick on the dogs. Puppy used to chase kangaroos and other big wild animals. Anyway, Puppy Linux is like that, reckless, unshackled, in memory of the mascot, even though we know there's some risk." Barry Kauler.