Puppy Linux 4.3.0 was released several weeks ago and with it came several interesting developments. First, this release saw the return of Barry Kauler, founder and project lead of Puppy Linux. Second, 4.3.0 includes some great new tools that have the potential to increase Puppy's usability by empowering developers and users with thousands of extra packages.
Puppy has received lots of updates this release. Besides a slight
facelift, it features Linux kernel 22.214.171.124 with support for Ext4 and
Aufs2, a new graphical CPU Scaling configuration, new Xdelta and Bcrypt
GUIs, and several new light-weight apps. These include Aqualung for
playing music, Pstreamvid for streaming video, Pcur cursor selector, and
BootFlash USB flashdrive install wizard. But probably the most exciting
update is the new Woof system builder.
Woof - New System Builder
Kauler introduced a new build system to replace Puppy Unleashed. Woof, the new Puppy builder has the
ability to include packages released for other distributions. This
currently includes support for Ubuntu, Debian, Slackware, and Arch with
others possibly in the works. Woof allows you to create your own
customized Puppy or 'puplet' using both native Puppy PET packages and
binary packages from the distribution of choice. Once an external
distribution is specified, Woof retains binary compatibility with that
distribution, so any PET packages will be built with the same
The process isn't difficult, although it may require a bit more manual
work than some other distributions' remaster tool. Remastering Puppy to
personal preferences would probably be the average user's goal in using
Woof, its real purpose is to streamline the build process for Puppy
developers. An added advantage expressed by Kauler is to eliminate the
need to host all the source packages used in Puppy construction, since Woof
only deals with binary packages.
These are the basic steps I used to construct my own Puppy derivative:
- edit file DISTRO_SPECS and at least change the DISTRO_BINARY_COMPAT
to Ubuntu, Debian, or whichever is your preference. You can also edit the ISO title and version number as well as several other options.
- execute 0setup, which downloads the package database files from Puppy and your distro choice, Ubuntu in this case.
- execute 1download, which downloads lots of packages from
Puppy and Ubuntu.
- One can edit the corresponding DISTRO_PKGS_SPECS file to add some of the featured packages by changing no to yes. Kauler stated that a package chooser script may be added in later incarnations for a bit more convenience. These spec files are a bit limited and adding other desired packages to the list doesn't seem to work.
- execute 2createpackages
- execute 3builddistro, which will build the files and iso. You
will be asked several configuration questions, many for the kernel, some
for the desktop appearance. Then it offers to burn the ISO to CD.
All in all, Woof works really well for what it's designed to do right
now. Some more advanced options like the ability to choose any package
available in repositories would be nice in future releases. Barry is
on a GUI frontend for Woof.
One advantage of this process is if your desired packages are listed in the PKGS_SPECS you can construct an installable portable system to your preferences. But probably the greatest advantage is that the distribution used in constructing the new Puppy system is also added to the package manager of your new system. At that point you can add any software available from the repositories.
The Puppy Package Manager (PPM) has had some updates this release as well. Besides a bit of a facelift, the backend was updated to accommodate the new package repositories and their various formats.
Packages are categorized into subheadings, if desired, with headings such as Desktop, Utility, and Multimedia. The search is fast and accurate. 'Configure package manager' allows one to update repository databases and add or remove repositories to the package management system. However, one can only add other distribution repositories if it was used to build the underlying operating system. When that is done, you will see the extra repositories listed at the top of the package management window. They can be disabled or reenabled from there as well as using the Configure package manager setting.
Security is a touchy subject surrounding the Puppy distribution. Puppy is run from within a single-user (root) mode and many question the security of that. Security updates has been a major point of contention between Puppy and some members of the community for some time. Puppy and the package manager don't address security updates specifically. One reviewer stated that the lack of security updates is the main reason she doesn't recommend Puppy to users. This lack of security updates is the reason Puppy Linux was classified as a hobbyist distribution at Distrowatch.com as well.
Puppy releases come regularly and updated packages are a key reason, but
in-between releases, security updates just seem to be ignored. Even the
security pages at the Puppy Wiki have disappeared.
Puppy continues to be a handy and fun little distro for all sorts of purposes. Its small original tools work well, in particular for lower-resource machines and it includes an adequate collection of useful applications. Some of the applications found are mtPaint image manipulation application, Gxine media player, Abiword word processor, Homebank accounting software, Gnumeric spreadsheet application, Ayttm instant messenger, and the SeaMonkey suite.
Flash is included and works on YouTube.com and such, but my internet connection wasn't available automagically at boot like previous releases. This release functioned well in recent whitebox machines and my HP Pavilion laptop, but my antique Dell was out of luck. My hopes of bringing a more up-to-date system to the old Dell were dashed by issues with both Xorg and Xvesa. Neither would display properly on the old NeoMagic video chip.
With Kauler back at the helm, Puppy Linux 5.0 is under heavy
development. Rumors have it that the next release will either be based on
Ubuntu or have an Ubuntu version available called Upuptu. All in all, it
still impresses by offering all it does at only 115 MB.
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