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Friday, May 27, 2011

MacPup 520 : Sleek, Lightweight, Enlightenment based distribution based on Puppy Linux

One of the beautiful things about GNU/Linux is one can easily customize it according to needs, one can customize the different choice of applications, there are multiple open-source alternatives available for applications, there are numerous window manager, one can customize the footprint of the Linux kernel, and this level of modularity and ability to customize the system has allowed for numerous GNU/Linux distributions, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of GNU/Linux distributions out there, some of them are huge taking up multiple DVD(s) while some of them like Damn Small Linux ( reviewed here ) or Tiny Core Linux (reviewed here ) fit in few ten(s) of megabyte and run completely of RAM.

Puppy Linux is one such low footprint, lightweight Linux distribution, Puppy Linux is extremely light and small , it is approximately 100 Megabytes in size, further one can boot Puppy Linux from CD/USB without installing it on hard disk, this allows for multitude of usage options for Puppy Linux from using it to recover data from crashed bootloader/partition to removing viruses from Windows based system. There are many derivatives of Puppy Linux and MacPup 520 is one such derivative which got me all excited.

MacPup 520 is based on Puppy Linux 5.2 and is binary compatible with Ubuntu Lucid Lynx distribution, that is you should be easily able to run packages meant for Ubuntu Lucid Lynx on MacPup provided you have the necessary libraries preinstalled. It uses extremely fast Enlightenment E17 Window Manager, E17 is extremely fast and responsive and is an excellent choice for GNU/Linux distribution with smaller footprint like Puppy Linux, further one could customize it according to needs. The interface of MacPup linux is somewhat inspired by Mac OS X and hence the name MacPup Linux.

I tested MacPup linux on Virtual Box machine, the specs of the Virtual Machine were pretty modest - 512 Megabytes of RAM, Single core processor, 16 Megabytes of RAM. I tried MacPup linux in the live mode by mounting the ISO file in the Virtual Machine and booting from it.

It took me close to a minute and half to booth this up on Virtual Machine, the reason for which I suspect is the modest specs that I have kept of Virtual Machine and even the Laptop I am using is pretty old close to four years old.
Initial Bootscreen of MacPup 520


Once the desktop loaded, I was surprised to see a really sleek and crisp desktop, when I was downloading MacPup, this was not what I was expecting. There is a dockbar at the bottom, which has icons for some commonly used applications as well as four different workspaces, and utilities that gives you additional information about the system like the Battery life, or CPU temperature. Additionally, there is smooth animation as you hover over icon in Dockbar,as well showing you the name of application icon is associated with. The animation was without glitches even on as modest technical specification as I had kept for Virtual Machine.

Fully loaded Macpup desktop
By default MacPup 520 comes with a pretty descent set of applications for all your day to day needs, some of the applications included by default in MacPup 520 are :

- Gnumeric / Spreadsheet application
- AbiWord / Word-processor
- Mozilla Firefox 4 / Web Browser
- Gnome Mplayer / Audio/Video Player
- ePDF Viewer / PDF Viewer
- Geany Text Editor / Multifunctional Text Editor
- UGet/ Download Manager

Mozilla Firefox 4 on MacPup 520
Abiword Word Processor

There are many other small utilities and applications that come by default with MacPup. I am not going to go into details of them, I will leave that for you readers to explore.

Additionally, its not difficult to install applications in MacPup, what impressed me the most was QuickPet, which allows you to easily install applications in MacPup through graphical interface, instead of worrying about intricacies of Puppy Package Manager, though number of packages in QuickPet was limited, still, there were enough useful applications there likes of VLC Media Player, Java Runtime Environment, GIMP, Audacity, Wine, Google Earth, Opera, Thunderbird, Pidgin, Cinelerra Video editor, Inkspace vector drawing application and other applications. There is separate section for drivers, which has drivers for ATI and Nvidia which could be downloaded and installed automatically.



Different screenshots showing installation of Chromium from QuickPet

I tried to download Chromium off the QuickPet and install it in MacPup, I did not encounter any problem in installing , it took me few clicks to get Chromium to install it, however, when I tried to run it from ( Applications-> Internet -> Chromium ) , I kept on getting this error message :

On launching Chromium I installed using QuickPet I kept getting this error message.

Then further I tried installing VLC Media Player, I was able to download and install VLC media Player, further after installation I was able to run VLC as well. so it seems the problem was with the build of Chromium and is not a general problem with QuickPet.


VLC running on MacPup 520, installed through QuickPet!

MacPup provides a GUI based Control Panel in MacPup cheekily called "Settings Panel", that allows you to configure different parameters of the MacPup system, though I did not like the interface of the control panel much, but its pretty usable. It has different sections which have number of parameters that you could adjust some of the sections include -

- Look
- Screen
- Apps
- Input
- Language
- Windows
- Menus
- Advanced
- Extensions

Additionally, the settings has option to add Gadgets to desktop as well, the gadgets are fancy GUI feature that displays additional information like Temperature (CPU), CPU frequency , Time etc on Desktop, one can place them anywhere on screen and resize them according to ones desire, you can drag the Gadget anywhere in the screen or place pointer near the edge to change the size of Gadget.

Adding Desktop Widgets in MacPup, additionally notice we are trying to increase size of temperature widget by dragging at its edge.

There is htop application that gives you CPU usage as well as usage of memory between different processes running on the system, as well as number of running processes in the system, along with the uptime. Since, I was running MacPup entirely from RAM, htop becomes even more useful as it shows the amount of memory remaining and if its below a certain critical level running heavy application like Mozilla Firefox should be avoided.

htop Application

Additionally, there is Wizard Wizard at the bottom of the bar, this lets you configure different aspects of the MacPup system like configuring CUPS printing, setting up of firewall, setting up of ALSA, setting up X driver etc.

Wizard Wizard/Puppy Setup

MacPup 520 comes only with ROX Filemanager that allows you to browse files on your computer, it is extremely small and zippy, I have bee a fan of Lightweight file manager and in the past I have reviewed likes of - (add here ) .

ROX File Manager

Once you shut down the MacPup system, if you are running from the Live mode, without using local storage, entirely from RAM, MacPup would ask you if you want to save the changes you made into the system, these changes could be inform of new package being installed or for that matter changes in settings,you could save these locally on hard-disk or pendrive and reload these changes on next boot of MacPup.


The shutdown screen as well as option to save the changes

In short, I have been pretty happy with MacPup, with all the eye candy that MacPup has, it is surprisingly fast, there were few glitches, the collection of applications that MacPup comes with by default is also attractive including full fledged word processor, spread sheet, web browser. I though disliked interface of the control panel and some of the utilities, the package manager could have been bit more user friendly, additionally we could have had more widgets for the desktop, though for distribution of size of 170 megabytes that runs entirely on RAM, I do not want to complaint. If you have an old PC lying around, MacPup is the perfect distribution to get it working again.

Links

MacPup 520 - Website - http://macpup.org/macpup520.php

Article Written by : Ambuj Varshney (blogambuj@gmail.com)
For Linux on Desktop Blog , http://linuxondesktop.blogspot.com
(C) 2011 , Ambuj Varshney

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice Review! I am going to try this.

JeffHoogland said...

Nice review! The Enlightenment desktop needs this kind of love :)

Would you mind taking a look @ Bodhi Linux and letting us know what you think?

http://bodhilinux.com/

Ambuj said...

@JeffHoogland:

I know about Bodhi Linux :)
I will write review soon, thanks for the comment! :D

Anonymous said...

Have used puppy a number of times and I like puppy, I like MacPup even more!

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