31 January, 2010

Screenshot Du-Jour

Today's Screenshot features a retro 'apple-fied' puppy wallpaper, the BlueHeart GTK theme, and the LaGaDesk-Bluenight icon set. Cheers!

Good Puppy! / Bad Puppy!

Nearly three weeks now since my first experience with Puppy (or any Linux for that matter) and I thought it might be helpful to you to know some of the things that work really well versus things that... don't.

  • Abiword- reads and writes my existing Open Office files, Word files, and Works files correctly (some formatting is a bit off) and does everything I need in its native format.
  • Gnumeric- no problems handling my existing Open Office sheets.
  • ROX File Manager- More powerful than Winblows File Manager. While some operations are not immediately intuitive, they become obvious once you're aware of them.
  • PET Pacages- This is a clever system that makes software install painless for novices just learning Puppy's Non-Windownian file system.
  • GIMP Image Editor- Download this PET package. GIMP is a sturdy, full featured, image manipulation suite for any ability level.
  • SeaMonkey Web Applications- This Mozilla bundle takes the place of FireFox and Thunderbird. Upgrade to the latest version asap. Functionally, I am content with it and see no need to migrate to FireFox.
  • Transmission Client- An easy to install and use Torrent client.
  • Puppy's Verbose Nature- Not a software package. This was the first thing that struck me about this OS. Barry Kauler and the Development Team love paragraph length prompts that actually explain what's going on to the novice! If your new to Linux, READ THEM even if you think you know what's goin on as they contain lots of insight into Puppy's workings. Add to this a sea of online tutorial and manual guidance and there's no reason to stay a Noob for long!
  • X Windows can be unforgiving. DO NOT HAVE A POWERFAILURE. Pay close attention to battery life as it seems Puppy sucks up more juice than Winblows. X will not be happy with you for abnormal termination.
  • Gxine- Basically "Puppy Media Player" works eventually... most of the time... maybe.
  • Mplayer- Gxine substitute. Wound up reinstalling Puppy after attempting to install this app, three times. BEWARE!
  • Pwidgets, Conky, Pet Maker
Please remember that any problems I have had on my system in no way imply an overall disfunctionality of any part of Puppy. It takes alot to get EVERYTHING working on EVERY hardware and any problems I have may simply be these sorts of compatibility issues. BUT HEAR THIS: EVERYTHING on my system worked FROM THE GET-GO with my first boot of the Live CD and that is no mean feet! Somebody deserves a cookie for that!

27 January, 2010

OrangePup Wallpaper for your Puppy

It's Orange... It's Puppy... It's OrangePup a modern, abstract wallpaper for the Puppy Linux community to enjoy!

25 January, 2010

Icon sets are fun & easy to make!

If you enjoy messin' about with graphic design projects, then try your hand at putting together a set of icons for Puppy! This set, Noia-Warm, is originally a beautiful piece of "Eye-Candy" offered under the GNU GPL. Puppy uses many fewer icons than this so the job was a simple one of shaving the set down and making some minor modifications to a few pixels here and there. If you want this set, or any other great Puppy eye candy, stop by the Puppy Linux Discussion Forum and snag some treats.

24 January, 2010

A matter of trust

It's been a little over two weeks now since I first booted up my new Puppy Live CD. In that time I've had to re-install system more times than I can count. Heaven knows I can't blame the OS for all - or even most - of them. And there was variety in the mix with problems coming from a number of directions.

  1. USB Flash frequently decided to stop booting.
  2. .PET installations went awry.
  3. Power failures screwed up X (remember to LOOK at the power meter Tim!)
  4. Crash during normal shut-down.
I blame the USB failures on Bill Gates. The stick I was using came from a Bill & Melinda Gates library conference I attended. The power failures I blame on yours truly (see above). The .PET installs were my own fault. I didn't really need to install that application (and truthfully a more competent user could have probably worked around the problems). This only leaves one unexplained crash during normal shutdown (and that could have resulted from some muckin' about that I can't recall now). Bottom line: I really can't blame the distro for any of these woes.

Unfortunately though, this realization has done nothing to let me trust Puppy with my data at this point. I practice multiple redundancy with my important docs anyway, but until this dog and I come to an understanding, I won't be able to view this OS as anything more than a curiosity - a toy. But damn it if it aint fast and pretty and fun!

23 January, 2010

Desktop Du-Jour

Mark your territory - Puppy style!

As promised, let's look at "icon sets, GTK themes, and that oh-so-nifty clock on the right hand margin".

Menu>Desktop>Desktop Icon Switcher
This simple tool presents you with 5 nicely composed icon sets. Switching between them is straightforward. Additional icon sets can be installed through Puppy Package Manager or directly from the net. The Puppy Linux Discussion Forum has a number of lovely sets made by users. Any new themes added get listed in the Switcher utility.

Menu>Desktop>Chtheme GTK Theme Chooser
Cleverly, the appearance of this window reflects the currently highlighted theme. To see another theme in action, just click on it! Like with icons, check out the Package Manager or the Forum for more choices than you'll really need.

Those clever widgets you'll see in Puppy screen shots
All of those are part of the Pwidgets package. This package is found in the Puppy Package Manager under Desktop and is easily installed from there. It installs itself to Menu>Desktop>Pwidgets and offers a wide array of extraneous crap to clutter your desktop with (my screenshot from last post shows analog clock, calender, and local weather).

21 January, 2010

What color is your doghouse?

Puppy comes with a suite of utilities to help you customize your desktop experience. Allow me to get personal for a moment and show you my desktop du-jour.

These customizations require four tools under the DESKTOP menu item - let's explore these operations one-by-one.

Menu>Desktop>Nathan Wallpaper Setter
This utility opens a dialogue box listing a number of wallpapers that came pre-bundled with your Puppy Live CD. Initially your wallpaper is set to "default.jpg" (original huh? figure the odds). The interface is not unlike windows and anyone above a guy on disability who uses his eMachine to play blackjack all day long should be able to navigate it with little trouble. Notice the file path shown as a string of buttons at the top and as a path string at the bottom. You might expect to find these images in /root/my-documents but instead the powers that be put the wallpapers in /usr/share/backgrounds. Use images from either location, Puppy doesn't care.

Menu>Desktop>JWM Configuration
This theme manager "controls the behavior and appearance of the windows and the tray" (thanks for spellin' it out for me there help screen!) When this app starts we find ourselves looking at the JWM tab. Selecting the Choose a JWM theme button allows us to select a theme for window borders and taskbar. Try them out.

Next time we'll cover icon sets, GTK themes, and that oh-so-nifty clock on the right hand margin.

20 January, 2010

Love at first sight

I downloaded the latest ISO and a CD burning program - this was a "live CD" which allows you to sample all of Puppy's functionality with ZERO hardware investment. The CD booted and I found myself presented with maybe 5 simple, straightforward questions about time zone and graphics compatibility - not the "HOW MANY MEGA-FLOPS IS YOUR RASTER PEGGED AT?" sort, but the "Can you see this box?" kinda thing.

Guess what? your running Linux! At this point I just screwed around a bit with desktop appearance to get a feel for the interface. This is a great idea as there is no real chance of screwing much up in the process. Mess things up? Just re-boot off the Live CD and try something else.

Eventually you'll want to "bring Linux home to meet the parents" and the best way to do this is making a boot-able flash drive. Click the INSTALL icon on the desktop and choose BootFlash USB installer. As suggested you should try the USB-HDD option first (I had to resort to USB-ZIP myself as I couldn't get the other to work).

When done, boot from your flash drive - but DON'T BLINK - you might miss it entirely. Your Puppy Linux USB boot-stick can be treated just like a hard drive system. Programs can be added to the USB, data can be saved, it can even migrate from computer to computer. Screw it up? Just re-initialize the Flash Drive.

TO DO: Wonder where your old CPU found all this youthful vigor.

Just like that?

Why walk out on a perfectly 'happy' relationship with Windows XP? For me, it was the promise of speed. There I was one week ago, head cradled in my hands, waiting for my XP desktop to conclude some basic process (was I ZIPing a file?). Waiting... waiting... I was used to it by now. Not the wait, no, but the way it made me mad every-damn-time!

Later on that night - had I finished ZIPing or had I just hit the big red
X that "speeds up" my operations? - I stumbled upon the Puppy Linux home page. It promised speed, reliability, and Ease of Use. What's more, I could boot it from my flash drive? Where did I sign up?

This blog is going to be about my adventures with my Puppy Linux distro. "Timmy and his Puppy" if you must. It's NOT going to be my quest to become a super-user. I'm a Noob today and I intend to be a Noob years from now. While I freely admit to being an elitist, nerdy, schmuck, I got stuff to do and I want to see if I can get things done with Linux but WITHOUT a PhD. So far it looks that the folks who develop Puppy are gonna let me do that.