On occasion I have a need for a tiny, lightning fast Linux distribution to boot into in order to check various issues on a machine. Either that or I just don't want to monkey around with someone else' data. Either way, I will often grab for either a CD or flash drive containing my favorite "micro" distribution, Puppy Linux.
Puppy Linux is one of those distributions that you just might come to depend on and you will want to get to know the ins and outs of this little beauty. Why? It's not a vanilla Linux distribution. Because of its size there are many tools that are used that might not be your average tool. There are so many ways Puppy Linux can help you out. But before that can happen, you will want to get to know Puppy Linux. In this introductory article, I will show you around Puppy so he can some day be your best friend.
What is Puppy Linux?
Puppy Linux is a special build of the Linux operating system (not based on any other distribution) that prides itself on being very small and very fast. Puppy can boot onto older computers, making them seem like power houses. The entire live CD comes in at 85 MB and contains more applications than you would imaging. If you boot up Puppy and take a glance at the start menu, you will be shocked at how much has been packed in. With this tiny distro you can:
In other words, just about everything you can do on your normal PC, you can do with Puppy. But there is one thing I like to use Puppy for more than anything else. Hardware discovery.
Fetch boy, fetch!
I don't know how many times I have installed another operating system (Windows XP is a big offender) only to have a piece of hardware not recognized. This is all fine and good when you have the disc handy in order to install drivers. But what if you don't have the disk AND you can't remember what hardware is installed on your machine? That is where Puppy really shines. When you boot into Puppy Linux click Menu > System > Pupscan to start up the Hardware Information tool. Once this tool opens you will see a complete listing of the hardware information for the system (see Figure 1).
In Figure 1 you can see the listing for PCI interfaces of my laptop's display. From these results I could then google "Intel Graphics Controller Device 2a03" and see it is:
product: Mobile GM965/GL960 Integrated Graphics Controller [8086:2A03]
vendor: Intel Corporation 
bus info: [email protected]:00:02.1
width: 64 bits
PCI capabilities listing
That's more information than I actually need...but it will work. You can do this with all of the hardware on your machine.
I highly recommend having Puppy Linux around on a CD or thumb drive. It will come in handy in numerous occasions. Whether you are trying to rescue a machine (you could even install an anti-virus on Puppy and scan the infected machine) or just use an OS other than the installed OS, Puppy is there for you.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.