DSL vs Puppy Linux 28 December, 2008Posted by aronzak in Uncategorized.
Today, in Ken Hess’s Linux Blog, the top 10 Distrowatch distros are listed as ones to try out by downloading and burning them to disc or virtualising. Using the Distrowatch top10 makes sense: you don’t have to put any effort into making the list and it isn’t ever controvertial since it isn’t your own work. What annoys me is that Damn Small Linux (abbreviated DSL because it’s a bad name) got into that list, but not Puppy Linux. This is something that annoys me, as I think that DSL gets far more attention than it deserves. Why? Four reasons.
1. First, Take a look at a few screenshots. This is DSL version 2.2b:
And this is version 4.4.1:
As you can see, the colourful background has been replaced with a drab one, and the icons on the desktop are gone. I could say that just from these desktops, it should be evident that there has been a shift in focus away from prettiness and usability. Another thing to note is the information displayed in the right hand corner of the screen. It shows some things that are useful, like how much memory is in use, but also shows information like how many processes there are. This is something that most people wouldn’t understand, let alone find useful. This leads on to point number 2.
2. Let me illustrate this with the DSL panel:
In order to set up a network interface, you have to understand what any of this means. Now, most users don’t understand what FTP, NDIS, SSH, PPPoE or DHCP mean. In order to set up their network though, they will probably need to use one of these programs. In short, while DSL may be fine for adept users, most people are never going to be able to figure it out. I don’t have a screenshot of Puppy’s network manager, but sufice to say that it uses plain English.
3. DSL’s goal is to put as much into 50 MB as possible. This is an interesting goal, but in the attempt to fit as many applications as possible in, the quality and usefulness of those applications is lost. One of the classic programs that users want is a WASYWIG word processor. DSL bundles a program called Ted. Ted can open up .rtf documents. Technically, it is a word processor, but it is not very useful in the real world as few people use rtf documents now. Yes, technically, there is a word processor in the suite of applications, but not one that many people would find useful. In contrast, Puppy gives Abiword by default, which supports MS Word documents as well as ODF. Additionally, the full OpenOffice suite can be added to the system by downloading a single file and just putting it with the others.
4. DSL uses techniques to raise funds for its developemnt that to me, draw me away from the project. The project has an “income guide” that talks about how to make money in these projects;
1 I want my project to not cost me money
2 I want to make a little when I help so many others
3 Make enough to quit your day job and really have your project shine
My desires are clearly directed to goal #3…
#1 is a good aspiration. Really, I think that it is up to the community to decide how much financial support the developers get for the project. That means that I don’t think that the developers should not actively try and make money. One donation suggestion is fine, using more to me isn’t. The projcet also sells CDs, USB sticks and small computers with DSL on it. I don’t really like this.
So there you have it.
My main point is that while DSL may suit your needs, it is not likely to suit an ordinary user’s. That means that there is effectively no chance in trying to spread open source. Pupp, in many ways, is the universal distribution. It is small enough to fit on all portable media, fast enough to run on most computers, simple enough for most people to use it wihtout having to think about it, and powerful enough to do most things. I think DSL is overratted and Puppy is underratted.