PCs

DIY: See why Macpup is a real treat

Jack Wallen details why Macpup, a Mac-like twist on Puppy Linux, might be a good choice for cash-strapped shops.

I like to think of Macpup as the offspring of Mac and Puppy Linux. Macpup's tagline is "A beautiful derivative of Puppy Linux." Macpup achieves this beauty by stripping off the standard desktop and replacing it with Enlightenment. But why would a facelift make you want to use Macpup over the standard Puppy Linux?

For many, the Puppy Linux distribution is all about rescue -- slap that burned ISO into a machine, boot it up, and use some of the included tools to recover data, remove infected files, etc. One of the more important uses for Puppy Linux is to make use of older hardware. This isn't an issue for companies with the budget to purchase new computers for employees, but not every company is that fortunate. For some companies, the prospect of buying new PC hardware sends the person doing the purchasing into fits. This is where distributions such as Macpup come in handy; Macpup can take that older hardware and turn it into a full-blown desktop with speed, power, and beauty.

What you need to know about Macpup

Out of the box, MacPup offers the following, as well as tons of other tools that cover just about every need you could imagine:

  • Firefox 7.01
  • Gnumeric (Spreadsheets)
  • Abiword (Word processor)
  • HomeBank
  • InkScape lite (Vector graphics)
  • Guvcview (webcam viewer)

Puppy Linux is a light-weight Linux distribution that can serve as a rescue distribution as well as an operating system to give new life to older hardware. Puppy Linux is now based on Ubuntu. With this recent change comes upgrades (including the new software installer "QuickPet" and better hardware recognition) to make Puppy Linux a much more user-friendly experience. If you're not sure of the benefits of Puppy Linux in general, you should load it on an older machine that simply will not run Windows 7. The benefits will be obvious when you see the gains in speed achieved by booting this operating system.

Once you see Puppy Linux in action, it's time for a real treat. Download a copy of Macpup and boot it. You will observe the speed increase offered by Puppy Linux, and you will be presented with a modern looking desktop. But beauty is not enough. The benefit of diving straight to Macpup is that, instead of what a straight-up Puppy Linux desktop offers, Macpup is more a full-fledged operating system that contains everything you need on a PC desktop. And, Macpup runs as a full-fledged desktop on minimal hardware. So any cash-strapped business that needs a bit of a boost for its desktops and needs more software out of the box, MacPup is as close to a perfect a combination as you'll find.

Two issues with Macpup

There is one glaring issue with Macpup: The first time you run Macpup, the system will run only in RAM! You might find it sluggish.

To see how much RAM is available, click the Htop icon (Figure A) on the ibar (panel) and then open the ncurses tool. If the available RAM is less than 30 MB, don't run any memory consuming apps like Firefox; instead, shut down Macpup. During the shutdown phase, you will be asked to create a save file, which will give you more space. This save file can be located almost anywhere: hard drive, USB Flash drive, SD card, etc. I recommend at minimum 256 MB total system RAM for Macpup. Figure A

Click the Htop icon to open the ncurses tool, which will tell you how much RAM is available.

Macpup will reboot using that save file for configurations instead of having to read them from RAM; this will increase performance. The next time you boot select Macpup and not Macpup RAM -- the former will boot from the save file, while the latter will boot entirely from RAM.

Another issue with Macpup is that of familiarity. This is Enlightenment, and although by name the developers imply it is a Mac-like Puppy Linux, it's only Mac-like in that it has a dock-like panel.

Summary

Don't let the familiarity issue stop you from using Macpup -- of all the distributions I have tried that promise to make the best out of older hardware, Macpup might be the best. Thanks to its new Ubuntu base, it solves a good amount of hardware recognition, and it is far more user-friendly and modern than the original.

Give this live distribution a try, and see if it doesn't give new life to your old hardware. I think many cash-strapped businesses would do well with Macpup.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

5 comments
chrisbedford
chrisbedford

I hope there are alternative desktops available - the illustrated version is a bit nineties Barad-Dur Gothic for my taste... :-)

yaseennoorani
yaseennoorani

Nineties? Are you sure? Have you ever used E17? This is the one WM/DE that screenshots don't do justice to. IMHO it's the most beautiful, functional and customizable WM out there. Anyways, each with his/her own opinion.

seanferd
seanferd

As always, pick whatever you want. As for desktops, this one comes with Enlightenment. If you can actually install this distro, you can probably install any DE you like (along with any necessary libraries).

chrisbedford
chrisbedford

(mean wallpaper). Having downloaded and installed Macpup, I was severely tested within a couple of hours and trashed it. Much too different from Gnome, Windows, and Apple to bother with. And that [i]uuurgly[/i] wallpaper... (which, BTW, is replaceable but you'd have to go looking. There is nothing bundled)

seanferd
seanferd

You'd think they'd drop in three or four images to choose from, if you didn't want to add any. But I now see other themes available at the site. This is the sort of reason I like to create a persistence file for live distros - I've rarely met a default I've liked.

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