Saturday, 7 July 2012

5 ways to use Puppy Linux

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  12:21 18 comments

Introduction

Whilst writing my reviews of the various variations of Puppy LINUX I have repeatedly suggested that Puppy would not be the sort of distribution you would use on your main computer.
So what would you use puppy for?
I have come up with a number of different possible uses for Puppy Linux. In this post I have limited it to 5 but I could have gone much further so don't be surprised to see another post later on called "yet another 5 uses for Puppy Linux".

Without further ado lets begin.

Even if you are a Windows user who has stumbled on to this post you might consider getting yourself a copy of Puppy. It requires no installation and will not have any affect on your main operating system.


1. As a guest operating system

You have friends or family staying at your house for a night or two and inevitably the conversation leads to one of your guests asking you whether they can check their emails on your computer.
There are inherent issues with letting strangers on your computer even if they are friends and family. I don't know about you but on my own computer I tend not to log out of GMAIL every night and if you use something like Thunderbird or Evolutions you might have it automatically set to log in. Do you really want guests having the ability to read your emails?

In addition to this a guest may well after checking their email decide to visit their favourite sites. What if their favourite sites include installing plug ins or tools that contain malware or keyloggers?

If you set up Puppy with a save file which automatically connects to the internet (I recommend Lucid Puppy) you have the safety of knowing that the guest has a clean slate to work with. They cannot access your emails and they cannot download anything nasty that will have any long lasting effect.

Puppy can be set up to use any browser you decide to use including Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

2. Rescuing your files after operating system failure

Puppy was recently invaluable to me after I had an accident whilst repartitioning my hard drive.

Puppy Linux is the perfect tool for anyone to use whether you are a Windows or LINUX user if you have to get to your important files when your main operating system fails.

Imagine you are happily surfing away and you suddenly get Malware or you do something in LINUX which prevents it from booting. Simply insert a Puppy CD or USB drive and boot into a full operating system.

Now the reason I recommend Puppy over a live CD from another distribution is that you are getting the whole thing when you boot Puppy. 

So what tools might you need. Well the first thought has to go to all those important files you have such as photos of your family at Disneyland or your company's invoices and tax returns that you save on your hard drive.

Now really you should be backing up regularly but in practise a lot of people do not. Puppy instantly gives you access to all your partitions when you boot up and therefore you can copy all the files using the disk burner to DVDs. You could also copy the files to a USB or external hard drive, network drive and of course you can put them on something like Google Drive or Dropbox. 

Puppy also comes with a partition tool so you can attempt to fix your partition and if you have messed up Grub you can fix that as well.

When I messed up my partitions I had no idea how to fix the problem. This is one area I need to get more clued up on. My only solution was to reinstall LINUX but my media for installing LINUX is usually a USB drive. Due to trying out various versions of Puppy I didn't have what I would call a main distribution to install.

I do however keep all my distributions downloads in a distros folder on my computer. With Puppy I was able to locate this folder and using Unetbootin create myself an installation.

3. Retro Gaming (Puppy Arcade)


There is a version of Puppy that I haven't reviewed yet called Puppy Arcade. Out of all the Puppy versions I have tried this is actually my favourite.

Puppy Arcade turns your computer into a retro gaming machine as it has all the emulators you could possibly require for retro gaming including NES, SNES, Mega Drive, Genesys, Amiga and Commodore 64 emulators.

It is incredibly easy to set up a Microsoft XBOX 360 controller to work with LINUX and if you have a method of connecting your Laptop or Computer to a decent flat screen monitor or TV then you have the ultimate retro games console.

4. On the fly software development

I have recently been developing the website for my children's school. For this I have been using the LAMP stack on LINUX, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

To make things easy I have been using the codeigniter framework for developing the main site and content management system and I have used Blueprint CSS for styling.

Time for me is fairly short and I have but a few hours each day to myself therefore most of my development time for the site has been on the train on the way to work and on the way back from work.

To be able to develop the web pages on the train I need my PC to boot quickly and to run quickly and I need the operating system to be light weight.

For this purpose I have been using Bodhi Linux with the Geany IDE. I could easily however be using Puppy LINUX for the same purpose. 

5. With the Raspberry PI

The Raspberry PI is a small credit card sized fully functioning computer that costs around £30. Obviously for £30 you don't get much processing power but it is perfect for running Puppy.




Now the question is what can I do with a Raspberry PI running Puppy LINUX. First of all put it in a case because otherwise it looks incredibly geeky.



The Raspberry PI comes with HDMI ports for connecting to monitors and TVs. It comes with USB and micro USB ports for connecting keyboards and mice.

Remember use 3 which is a retro gaming console. Plug the Raspberry PI running Puppy Arcade into your TV and connect an XBOX 360 controller. You have a pocket sized games console.

Another option is as follows. My parents know nothing about computers and they never want to. However they live a long way from me (700 miles) and so only get to see their grand children once a year.

Attach a mobile broadband dongle to the Raspberry PI to provide internet connectivity and set up the internet connection to connect automatically. (There is a micro SD card for storing a save file or use a USB device). For those counting USB sockets you could always add a small USB Hub.

Now arrange the desktop to have just a few large icons. 1. Video Conferencing, 2. Browse Web, 3. Images 4. Social Media. 

Now video conferencing can be set to run Skype or a similar tool with default connection set up to connect my parents to me. The Browse web can be set up to use Chrome (they may or may not ever use this). The images link can be set to point directly at our family photo album on Picasa. The social media button can be for Facebook.

Now all I have to do is set up a wireless keyboard and mouse and/or a Microsoft XBOX Controller (Some people find the use of a joystick easier to use than a mouse). Set it up so that each of the 4 options are easy to use.

Finally I package up the Raspberry PI with HDMI cable and send it by post to my parents house with instructions on how to set it up. This should be a simple case of plugging it in to the back of their television.

My parents will be using a computer and will not even know it. They will think it is just another clever set top TV type device.

Smart TV total cost £400.
Raspberry PI doing the same thing running Puppy for about £50.

Summary

I hope you have enjoyed reading this article and maybe you have other uses for Puppy that haven't been mentioned here.

If you do use Puppy as your main distribution how do you find it? What do you think makes it better than using a more complete solution such as a Ubuntu, Debian or Red Hat based distro?

Thank you for reading.


Click here to buy Puppy on DVD or USB








About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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18 comments:

  1. I just installed Lucid Puppy on an Asus 2G netbook, replacing the original Xandros, to get more reliable wireless performance and a newer Firefox.

    The Raspberry Pi also looks interesting - I would use it to power-cycle my home DSL modem whenever it lost sync and I am away so as to maintain access to my home server.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi
    I have used Puppy Linux since v 105 and use puppy as my main computer and as a learning/teaching distro in my work as a Linux open source educator.

    Puppy is a stable safe operating system and can be repaired with very little knowledge in 45 seconds.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Gary,
    Not clear about use case #1 - did you mean to boot into Puppy from CD or USB drive? Or running it as a VM in Virtualbox (or whatever)? In either case how are you going to restrict access to the hard drive partitions? In second case it's even worse - full access to host OS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Use case 1 is a guest stays over for a few days and wants to use the internet. Case 1 generally stops them downloading nasty programs and accessing your emails. I'd be concerned if a visitor who I trusted to stay at my house would then deliberately try and mount my hard drives and snoop around.

      Delete
  4. Have you tried the Arcade with the MK802? Can you use it without having a mouse and/or keyboard?

    That would make it perfect for a portable console.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No sorry I haven't tried the Mk802. In theory it should be possible to set up the MK802 or Raspberry PI so that you can control Arcade using an XBOX 360 controller or other games controller. There are guides online that show how to get both wired and wireless controllers to work with LINUX. I will give this a go and will write my own guide when I have had some success

      Delete
  5. How many different versions of Linux are there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hundreds. In reality many of them are variations of a theme.

      If you visit http://www.distrowatch.org you can see a list of the top 50 on the right hand side or you can use the search button to search for a specific distro based on criteria such as

      whether it is actively developed,
      is it for a netbook or desktop,
      is it an older pc requiring a lightweight distro,
      what kind of gui you prefer (this takes some experimenting as each desktop environment is unique and only personal preference counts when trying them out)
      is it for use as a server
      is it a gaming pc
      is it mainly for business use
      is it for beginners or ex windows users

      For me as an ordinary user my favourite is Zorin (http://everydaylinuxuser.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/zorin-6-best-operating-system-i-have.html) as it is easy to use and requires little to no command line knowledge.

      Puppy is great for certain purposes as listed in this article.

      Bodhi is my favourite lightweight linux.

      Major distros include ubuntu, mint, debian, fedora, pclinuxos, mageia and opensuse.

      Delete
    2. I am also a Zorin fan, but there is another new distro I can also recommend and that is SolusOS. It is a stable Debian based distro, that is somewhat lightweight. It uses gnome right now but the developer is working on his own desktop environment. Like Zorin it is very easy to use for someone new to Linux. I have it on my laptop,and Zorin on my tower. The only unintuitive part I found is setting root on the installation. You need to right click the partition to set root, which would be the highest level. You might want to look at that if you are looking for a new distro. As far as Puppy, I have always found the wireless setup to a problem and don't use it.

      Delete
    3. I have an emachines em250 netbook I tried every distrobution I could and puppy is the only only one that made setting up my wireless broadcom modem a snap, took 3 days ofPCLINUXOS (MY FAV) Debian and Ubunto and even Zorin non worked Puppy I click on frisbee and have internet. I iintalled it just to use lem POS program but have always liked puppy for it's simlicity I do own one small weird computer that I run puppy on all the time it is a robotics computer that is low end and small. Just fun for m and my daughter but now that I read this I need to install arcade!!!!

      Delete
  6. in section 4 you mention installing LAMP stack on puppy Linux. I've done some searching and I can't seem to find a way to do this. I have seen no pets for it and I can't find a "how to" anywhere. Any advice or direction would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  7. IN section 4 you mention installing LAMP on puppy. I've done a lot of searching and can't seem to find out how to do this. Any directions would be much appreciated. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the best way to do this would be to use Lucid Puppy as it gives you instant access to the Debian repositories.

      You could then install each debian package and go from there.

      I will write a guide later this week.

      Delete
  8. I use a full install Lucid Puppy 5.2.8
    with Google Chrome 19 & Wine 1.5 pets.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I (my family in fact) are using it on an 800 mhz celeron laptop with 160mb of RAM, along with an old barcode reader I have, to run some simple inventory management software I have written to keep track of best before/use by dates, suggest food to buy, that sort of thing. I think puppy is pretty good for stuff like as it's "pretty" and easy to use for the technologically challenged, and any nerd is going to have around spare computers they have no use for - I say make a use!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey. Didn't know about that arcade thing, nor about that raspberry pi thingie. But i use Lucid Puppy as my main OS right now. I have a DELL 6400 inspiron which has 1GB of RAM, no HD, no DVD burner, no battery (i run it on DC directly) and i'm on top of my game as well as back then when i had WIN7 on HD.

    Any way, i consider now buying a DeskTop and i never want to use a win os again. I may be putting something like miniXP on virtual machine just to be there :D

    I started learning about CMSs these days, and puppy is great for it. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. When I derailed my parcels I had no clue how to alter the issue. This is one region I have to get more educated up on. My just result was to reinstall LINUX yet my media for introducing LINUX is typically a USB drive audio video installation. Because of going for different adaptations of Puppy I didn't have what I might call a fundamental circulation to introduce

    ReplyDelete
  12. I was given two old laptops; 64MB dram, celeron 600; originally winME & 98. Puppy made these laptops fare more useful to me (writing, listening music, even comms (cisco ios console via rs232)) than original 98/me did; Pup would stream from devices 98/me couldn't.

    I love how pup would install itself on these systems using existing partition (as limited hdd space).

    Also an old piii (384mb ram) in garage runs Puppy; other distros (fedora/ubuntu/mint recognized card but) refused to use the [pci] SB AWE64 sound card (RedHat9 was only other distro tried that used sound card).

    ReplyDelete

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