Puppy 2.0 Seamonkey: A Weekend Review


Date: 6/3/06

Introduction:


I have to admit that I have been a Puppy fan for some time. Puppy is an ultrafast portable Linux distro who's design is to run on a variety of basic older systems which can be memory challenged. With the debut of Puppy 2, which includes the 2.6 series Linux kernel, I thought that I would give it a go on a more complex system with a Biostar K8M800-a7 AMD64 motherboard.


Installation:

Puppy boots as a live CD. The nice thing about the new release of Puppy 2.0, is that it either runs totally in ram, or allows you to save your settings or personal files to a hard disk. Puppy now includes the xorg graphical interface, which allows for a much more fine tuned tweaking of your monitor and video card settings. I was able to configure xorg to my favorite 1024x768x24 settings. Xvesa is a more primitive interface, but more in tune with older monitors and video cards with limited resolution capabilities. The resolution achieved is pleasant and the background wallpaper is very nice.

Right off, I elected to install Puppy to my hard drive. Puppy's Universal Installer allows you to install Puppy to a wide array of hardware, including a USB pen drive, Compact Flash disk, ide drive, or sata drive.  Puppy now detects sata drives easily and picked up all my via based sata drives with no problem. I elected to install Puppy to one of my ide drives that held a previous version of Puppy.

NOTE: However, choosing either to install to an external USB drive or internal sata drive results in a message that this function is not implemented yet.

The installer easily walked me through the process and warned me of a previous installation of Puppy on the partition. I chose to erase the previous version and devote the partition to puppy2. The only glitches that I ran into were that the installer does not give you an indication of the progress of installing Puppy, just a button to say "OK" when the installation was ready to proceed. I really did not know what was happening, until I was presented with the option to install the Grub bootloader. Since I already have a complex grub bootloader set up on my system I did not want to either write grub to my hard drive, or another media. clicking cancel, or just closing the dialog box a few times backed me out of installing Grub at all. An initial option to not install Grub at all would have been nice.

On exiting the Live CD version of Puppy, I was given the option to save my session. No need for that now, as I'm off to my hard drive installation. After booting into my hard drive installation, I took a look around. Being a hard core Linux user, I wanted to see if Puppy would see all my hardware.


Navigation and Utilities:

Pmount is Puppy's partition mounting utility. I think that a lot of work was done on this utility, as it now sees all my partitions, including ide. sata and external USB connected drives. You can mount any valid partition and the Rox file manager appears with the partition's file structure. Very nice indeed!

Gparted is a hard drive partitioning utility written for Linux. This is pre-installed in Puppy. I have experience with qtparted, another Linux partitioning utility. I have to say, Gparted is much easier to use and was able to detect and manipulate my multiple drives with ease. This included my sata drives and a 400 GB Hitachi sata drive that I received in the mail while testing Puppy. I used Ghostview to view the pdf file from the Hitachi website to view important installation notes on my new hard drive.

Mozilla Composer is Puppy's default html writing utility, with an icon on the desktop for easy accessibility. I used this composer to write this article and then published it to my website with gftp, the Linux file transfer utility included in Puppy 2.

I have a KVM switch to allow myself to navigate two systems at the same time. This requires that I have a  PS/2 keyboard and mouse attached to my KVM switch. However, I also have a NEC (Forward) USB keyboard that I like to use. In previous versions of Puppy with the 2.4 series kernel, I needed to load a couple of modules to get it going.  I did modprobe usbkbd in the RXVT terminal utility and the keyboard was up an going.

Additionally, my PS/2 mouse is dying and I have an extra USB mouse handy.

 
Networking

This is where I had some trouble with Puppy before. I have a DSL connection on my system and setting this up correctly always involved a little work. In previous versions of Puppy, I always used the Wizard/Wizard to set up my connection, then moved to Start-->Network-->Roaring Penguin to set up my DSL connection. Puppy now has a "Connect" icon on the desktop that simplifies this process somewhat. First, I picked the option to set up my NIC card. Puppy did not automatically find my Realtek 8201 NIC, but after some trial and error, I realized that I needed to load the via-rhine driver. Puppy then allowed me to move on to selecting automatic detection by dhcp, or a static connection.

For some reason, I have always had trouble with this. Some Linux distros are able to set up my NIC with dhcp, while with others I needed to set up a static connection. Puppy needed the static settings. I clicked on the "Connect" icon again and nothing happened. Clicking on the icon again,  the dialog box came up that gave me a choice of a tick box to set up Roaring Penguin. I was able to set up my DSL at this point.

NOTE: On subsequent reboots, my via-rhine interface did not come up. Adding the module to /etc/rc.d/rc.local seemed to solve this issue. I could then initiate my DSL connection from the "Connection" icon.

For Internet navigation, Seamonkey is the default web browser and e-mail client. Both are responsive and easy to use.  Now, I just need to import my K-mail  messages from Fedora Core 5.


Multimedia

Alsa sound is included in Puppy. It did fail to bring up my via based onboard sound. This was easily fixed by running the WizardWizard,  which found my sound system and configured it without a problem.  I was then able to adjust my sound level with the Xtmix sound mixer. In this case sound worked right off, as the configuration tool adds the appropriate entries in /etc/modules.conf file. While writing this article, I could then listen to my favorite Brian Wilson CD with Gplaycd.

Two important cd/dvd utilities, Graveman and Burniso2cd are included in Puppy. Use Graveman to erase your CDRW disk (if needed) and Burniso2cd to burn your Puppy 2 iso to the media. No fuss, no muss. For video viewing, Gxine is all you need.


Applications:

While I was testing Puppy, I realized that I needed to update a spreadsheet that I use to monitor the status of the dependent care account for my daughter. I loaded Gnumeric spreadsheet application and easily opened the Excel file and made the changes that I needed.

During the weekend test, my sister's 1 year old Pug visited, much to my daughter's delight. She snapped a picture of me and "Ozzie" on my digital camera. I used my external USB card reader to extract a picture to place on my web page and used mtPaint to resize the photo and prepare it for inclusion to my webpage.

Finally, I decided to relax a little after some yard work on Sunday, after a long rainy Saturday. I'm not much of a game enthusiast, but tried one of the few computer based games that I have known to play.  I fired up Bubbles, a Frozen Bubble clone, and found out that I really need to practice this game more!


To Do List

1. Get my HP Officejet 6210 multifunction printer to work in Puppy. I wonder if this is possible in Puppy?

Update: See my update on the OfficeJet 6210 in Puppy here.