Review: Puppy 5.4

Puppy Linux is designed as a very small Linux distro to run on old hardware, or other low power machines. Usually based on Slackware, the new release of 5.4 now comes in two flavours, including an all new Ubuntu 12.04 spin of the distro. Named Slacko and Precise for the Slackware and Ubuntu versions respectively, the image size for both of them is just under 160 MB, giving neither a clear advantage size wise out the gate. For both of them though, being able to stay at this sub 160 MB size is pretty fantastic for what is basically a fully functional operating system.

As live discs, they come with a lot of default applications, enough to get you working from the base system. As they load directly into RAM, the OS is very fast, even on older systems. First time use on a system allows you to make some initial tweaks – time zone, language, keyboard layout, resolution, etc. Although basically the same screen, Slacko’s works just a bit better, with the Xorg wizard to make some advanced adjustments to the display seemingly not working on Precise.

Puppy offers a lot of options for installing to just about any kind of device – with optimisations for USB sticks, SD cards, SSDs, and more. It’s design is more focused on being installed to removable storage though, which is highlighted by the less than stellar way it deals with installing or updating GRUB on the MBR. While the installer is very straight forward and helpful for actually adding the files, the GRUB config leaves a lot of manual tasks to the user. It doesn’t take long though, and the final step is the personal files you can move to anywhere connected to the system, with varying levels of encryption.

The main difference between the two versions of puppy lie in the repos attached to them. The packages on offer with Precise are a bit better than Slacko, with a few more available to download. Even with the higher number, as Precise is based off of the latest Ubuntu LTS, these packages will have some backports and generally be stable with better maintained versions. The Puppy developers themselves believe they will make this version of 5.4 long term service as well, although to be honest the compatibility with the packages from Slackware is still noticeably better than with Ubuntu counterparts. You need these extra repos anyway, as the solely Puppy repos have little more than extra drivers.

Slacko Precise
The initial set-up occurs when you first turn on Puppy
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