Puppeee: Puppy for your Eee PC


By Dmitri Popov

Puppy Linux (and, by extension, Puppeee) was written from scratch with two goals in mind: speed and ease of use. Puppy Linux is, indeed, lightning fast — even when running on low-end machines like the Eee PC. Efficient design isn’t the only thing that makes Puppy Linux and Puppeee fast. During boot, the entire system loads into RAM and runs from there, which significantly boosts the system’s overall speed and saves the Eee PC’s solid state disk (SSD) from unnecessary wear. Better yet, since Eee PC’s SSD is soldered to the motherboard and cannot be replaced, you can still use the machine with Puppeee if the SSD dies by booting from an external device.

The distro’s diminutive size is another important advantage considering the Eee PC’s limited storage. Although Puppeee is a bit bigger than Puppy Linux (139MB vs. 98MB), it’s still significantly leaner than, for example, eeeXubuntu, which weighs in at a whopping 570MB.

Despite its tiny size, Puppeee packs an impressive array of applications that cover pretty much all your needs. Like Puppy Linux, Puppeee comes with the Seamonkey Internet suite, AbiWord word processor, mtPaint image editor, and other lightweight alternatives to mainstream open source desktop applications. Puppeee also throws a few Eee PC-related applications and utilities in the default mix, including the Batmon battery monitor, the gtkpod music device manager, the XMMS player, the GQview image viewer, the Skype VoIP application, and even the Handbrake DVD ripper. Puppeee also comes with the Puppy Control Panel, which allows you to tweak Pupeee’s appearance, set up a firewall, configure network settings, and enable an FTP server.

As you would expect, Puppeee sports good support for Eee PC hardware, so pretty much everything works right out of the box, including wireless and wired network interfaces, sound, webcam, microphone, and the SD card slot. This means that you can set up a network connection using the easy-to-use Puppy Network Wizard in a matter of minutes, and use Skype for video calls without additional tweaking. Puppeee also provides partial support for shortcut keys. The Mute, Volume Up/Down, and PrintScreen keys work in combination with the Alt key, and you can control the screen brightness using the appropriate function keys. The current version of Puppeee doesn’t seem to support the Wireless On/Off key, though.

When it comes to installing Puppeee on your Eee PC, you have several options. If you have an external CD/DVD drive, you can boot the Eee PC from the Pupeee CD and use the excellent Puppy Universal Installer wizard to install the system on your machine. A more flexible option is to create a bootable USB stick or SD card, which you can use to boot into Puppeee bypassing the built-in SSD. This way, Puppeee leaves your original system untouched, so you can always switch back to Xandros. Better yet, you can create a special .2fs file to store all your installed Puppeee applications, user settings, and files. If you use the Puppy Universal Installer to install Puppeee on external media, remember to choose the mbr.bin option in the MBR section of the wizard to make the USB stick or SD card bootable.

No matter which way you decide to go, you have to download an ISO image of the latest Puppeee release and use a machine with a CD/DVD burner to burn a Puppeee CD. You can then use it to create a bootable Puppeee USB stick or SD card. To boot your Eee PC into Puppeee, turn the laptop on, press the Esc key when the boot splash screen appears, and select the device containing Puppeee.

Puppeee provides an excellent combination of Puppy Linux’s nifty features and solid support for Eee PC hardware. Combined with additional applications and utilities such as Skype and Batmon, Puppeee makes a compelling alternative to the Eee PC’s default Xandros Linux. But the best part is that you don’t even need to decide whether you want to use Puppeee or Xandros on your Eee PC. Since Puppeee can happily run off a USB stick or SD card without touching the SSD, you can have your cake and eat it too.