Puppy Linux

I’m not a hoarder, but when it comes to computers I like to get every last bit out of them. About two years ago a desktop crashed and I installed Debian Linux.  That was my first experience with a linux based system and I was pleased with the product, but felt there was too much the user had to know and do compared to Windows. The biggest problem was that as the only computer in the house, I had issues with our ipods.

Since I had another desktop and two laptops, I only used the Debian machine for a few months.

Two weeks ago, I got out an old Gateway Solo 2550 with 128mb Ram and a 6 gb hard drive to use outside to stream radio so I could listen to the Steelers, who weren’t on TV. The Windows 2000 based system was so slow I decided to see what type of Linux distribution was available.

What I found was Puppy Linux. This OS actually could run off CD or USB using your system’s RAM memory.

Ultimately, I installed the OS onto the hard drive. To do this I set up a few hard drive partitions, one for the existing Windows, one for Linux, one as a swap-file for Linux, and a final one was a shared space for both Windows and Linux to use.

The desktop has a bar across the bottom like Windows, on the right is a space for widgets, the default shows a clock and calendar, there are icons in the top left, in the bottom left are icons representing the available drives (a dot indicates which is in use)  and if you put the mouse top center a command bar pops up.

To me, the desktop is more functional and well-thought out than my Windows XP desktop.

The menu button, similar to Start in Windows is organized functionally in three groups. The topmost group is settings (Desktop, System, and Setup), the middle group are what you may use (Internet, Multimedia, Filesystem, Document, Graphics, etc) and the third group is help and shutdown along with refresh.

Again, I find this to be better considered than my Windows based system.

I mostly wanted to use this for internet. I had no problem setting up my wireless using a card on an encrypted network. I had more problems installing Firefox.

What I like about Linux is that you don’t have to visit a site, download and execute a file, instead you can call for it and it is sent to you. In Puppy, there is an icon, ‘install’. When clicked on (once, I constantly double-click and open things twice) the Puppy Linux Package Manager opens. There are three sections, Software Management, Further Information, and Install Puppy Linux.

The last is used to install to your hard drive from the CD, though it is not necessary. I can say I didn’t notice a difference in speed switching from one to the other, but I did have fewer crashes of the software running from my hard drive.

To get new software, click on the PET button. The PETget Package Manager opens. There includes a list of ‘official’ products for various versions of Puppy. You can sort the list by type of product using a radio button on the left. And you can uninstall previously downloaded software at the bottom.

The concept is simple, click on the item you want, Linux goes out to the internet, gets it, and puts it on your system. The system adds it to the correct section of the menu, if applicable, and you can then ‘update menus’ for it to show.

The system’s default browser is Seamonkey, a Mozilla product, but not as accepted as Firefox, so I first downloaded and installed Firefox. It added to the menu, but wouldn’t open. I tried a variety of things and using the search feature I found the file, opened it, and after that it worked from the menu.

Back to my original motivation, streaming radio to listen to the Steelers. WDVE is the flagship station of the radio network. My first attempt to load the player in Firefox failed and crashed the system. The second time it loaded page items for several minutes, the sound player showed, but as long as I left the machine running, no sound.

Out of fairness, I should note that I couldn’t install the latest version of Puppy as the CD wouldn’t run, so I have version 4.2.1, which appeared to be the previous stable version.

I will continue to play with the system as I do like it and it is much faster when using desktop applications. Unfortunately, the browsing needs to be improved for me to delete the Windows partition.


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