Puppy Linux History

Puppy Linux was originally created by Barry Kauler in 2003, as a smaller, leaner version of Vector Linux.

From the beginning, the idea was to make a small, lean, yet complete edition of Linux distribution that was useful from the get-go: the downloaded ISO contains all the standard applications to handle usual computing needs: word processor, spreadsheet, and web browser.

Another central idea that the OS would work off as a Live-CD, but with support for “persistence” - that is, keep data between reboot sessions. This way, the Live-CD can be used as if it is a fully installed operating system. However, if user data is corrupted in any way, in a flick of a switch the persistence can be turned off and Puppy would boot in its pristine, Live-CD state.

Size has always been a major consideration. Linux of these early days did not have good hardware support, thus Linux machines tend to be older and more obsolete computers with older CPUs and little RAM and storage. Also, broadband internet was not popular yet back then - many users were still on dial-up which limited the download speed to 38Kbps. So conscious decision were made to choose software components which provides the maximum functionality at a given size; e.g. the choice of ROX Filer as the file manager (which has stuck until today).

The very beginning - Series 0.x

The first few releases were marked as 0.x versions, the last being version 0.9. These early releases didn’t use unionfs, thus the persistence support was minimal; and only a few directories can keep user changes.

Packages in Puppy Linux of this version was taken from Vector Linux as well as self-compiled.

Series 1.x

Series 1.x included major changes; the most obvious one being its use of unionfs. This means entire Linux filesystem root can now be persisted.

Another major change was the UI make-up, this version started to use GTK as its widget toolkit, replacing the original Xlib toolkit used in version 0.x.

This version also introduced the ever popular “Remaster” option which enables anyone to make customise their Puppy installation by adding / removing packages and configuring their system; and then make a new Puppy ISO which contains all these changes.

Series 2.x

Series 2.x was a breakthrough in many ways.

It saw the update of GTK from GTK1 to GTK2, as well as support for more persistence modes - not only Puppy was able to keep its session in a harddisk, but also in USB flash drive, and even in it is own CD (if the CD is a CD-R or CD-RW).

With the Linux kernel supporting better hardware support around the time of 2.x release, Puppy was able to run on newer machines with complete support for networking, wifi, USB, sound, and video - making it the idea work-and-entertainment Linux distro.

It also introduced the first version of Puppy whose packages were built independently using T2 build system.

It also introduced “Puppy Unleashed” build system, a tool for advanced users to build their own customised Puppy from scratch.

Series 2.x was very popular, and it was longest-running series ever. The last version was 2.14, and that branch was kept alive and upgraded by dedicated enthusiast forum members even until today.

Series 3.x

Series 3.x is a short-lived branch. It was the first experiment of basing off Puppy from other distributions - in this case, Slackware.

While some people stood by this series, many felt that in many ways this was too experimental. The usage of a big-distro packages (Slackware) made it consume more memory than earlier Puppies, as well as made it slower.

The latest version of this series was 3.0.1.

Series 4.x

In this series, Puppy went back to its roots and used its own self-compiled packages from T2, which made it lean and fast again.

In addition, this version introduced the “Woof” build system. The difference between “Woof” and “Puppy Unleashed” is that while “Puppy Unleashed” used pre-packaged Puppy packages, the “Woof” build system is able to build a Puppy directly from completely foreign distro packages.

While the official Puppy distributions in the 4.x series were all based on T2 builds, Woof support’s for other distro resulted in an explosion of community-initiated puplets based on them:

This version also introduced the release of “Quirky” - which was meant as a special release of Puppy Linux that contains experimental features. The idea being, once those features matured (and considered useful by the community), they would be integrated back to the mainstream release.

It is also in this version Barry indicated that he would step down from his role as Puppy benevolent dictator and would focus instead on maintaining “Woof”; hoping that the community would take the baton and do the Puppy-building themselves.

The latest version of 4.x was 4.3.1.

Just like Series 2.x, there where community members who hold steadfastly to this series and keep maintaining it beyond long after Barry was finished with it, until today.

Version 5.x

This version saw the first official Puppy Linux distro (“official” as in being endorsed by Barry) which was not released by Barry. It also marked the first time that there are four concurrent official Puppy releases.

Lucid Puppy

The first official Puppy Linux of Series 5.x grew up from Upup - a Woof-built Puppy from Ubuntu packages. It was called Luci during its development and proclaimed as Lucid Puppy (aka Lupu) upon release. It was developed and maintained by Larry Short (aka playdayz).

Lupu proved to be very popular. It was the first good-looking Puppy, it was the first Puppy which had great focus on user-friendliness (“Linux distro for Windows refugee” was first coined during Series 5.x), it was the first non-CE release that was built from community feedback, and it had the backings of immense number of Ubuntu packages, many of them directly installable and usable from its package manager.

Lupu was and is very popular and different forks are still maintained by different people until today, after Larry stepped down and ended his support. It is still popular even after Ubuntu itself discontinued support for Ubuntu Lucid Lynx, the distro on which Lupu was based.

Wary Puppy

The second official Puppy is from Barry himself, and not as popular as the Lupu or Slacko: Wary Puppy.

Wary Puppy was offered as a direct upgrade to Puppy Linux 4.3.1 and was targeted for older computers with milder requirements compared to Lupu or Slacko. It also featured older kernels with support for older and obsolete hardware, like analog dial-up modems which are no longer supported by newer kernels. Wary Puppy intended to keep these older computers functional and useful.

Wary Puppy was built from self-compiled T2 packages; it was offered for those who considered that Lupu/Slacko was too heavy for their machines.

Slacko Puppy

The third official Puppy Linux of Series 5.x is Slacko Puppy, aka Puppy Linux Slacko, which grew out of Slackpup - a Woof-built Puppy from Slackware packages. It was called Slacko during development and the name stuck for its released name as well. It was developed and maintained by Mick Amadio (aka 01micko).

Like Lupu, Slacko was also very popular due to its friendliness and incorporating a lot of community feedback, just like Lupu. It went through a few releases on its own, the latest being Slacko 5.7; which still has its fan base till today.

These two releases marked the beginning of Puppy support for more modern hardware. They both have higher requirements than Puppies of the past but they offer much better experience on those whose hardware can support them.

Racy Puppy

The fourth official puppy in the 5 series was another by Barry; Racy Puppy. He billed it as “Wary on steroids” and featured a PAE kernel and a later version of Xorg.

Racy Puppy was like Wary but is targeted for newer computers, and is offered as a utilitarian Puppy with lesser bells and whistles than either Lupu or Slacko (traditionally, all prior Puppies were like this).

Racy Puppy was built from self-compiled T2 packages; which were the same core packages that were used to build Wary Puppy.

Precise Puppy

Precise Puppy was the fifth to be released in the 5 series again by Barry. This was built with Ubuntu binary compatibility from Precise Pangolin packages and was typical of Barry’s pups with less bells and whistles but still required a slightly more modern machine than Wary’s target.

Barry promoted Precise as an “LTS” release much like Ubuntu Precise Pangolin. Updates were released for almost a year making it very well supported.

It proved to be the most popular of Barry’s offerings in the 5 series and still has its fan base today.

Series 6.x

Series 6.x Puppy is a fully community effort.

Barry stepped down from Puppy and Woof effort, leaving everything to the stewards of the community to continue development of everything Puppy-related. From then on, the Puppy Linux Team is in-charge to keep Puppy moving forward.

The Woof build system is renamed as “Woof-CE” (Woof Community Edition) to further reflect its status that it now accepts community contributions. The first release of Puppy Linux built on Woof-CE marked the beginning of Series 6.x Puppy.

As of this date, there are two Series 6.x puppies.

The first one is Tahrpup CE 6.0, a Puppy whose packages comes from Ubuntu Trusty Tahr. Tahrpup started as a project to upgrade Lupu to make use of the newer Tahr packages, so it is the spiritual successor to Lupu. It was developed and maintained by Phil Broughton (aka 666philb).

The second one is Slacko Puppy 6.3, direct successor to Slacko 5.7.

This release also marked Puppy Linux moving forward to support 64-bit machines (previous Puppy have always been able to run in 64-bit machines, but only in 32-bit mode). Both Tahrpup and Slacko Puppy offers 64-bit editions as well as the regular 32-bit versions.

Community Editions

Community involvement has been the tradition of Puppy Linux from day one.

Before the launch of “Woof”, Barry was fully in charge of releasing Puppy Linux. Once a while however, Barry encouraged the community to take the latest release, enhance it in any way they see fit, and release it as a “Community Edition” (CE) Puppy with his endorsement.

A CE release is usually coordinated by a community-appointed “project manager”, and supported by a few “core” developers who did the actual customisations - code, packages, artwork, etc, based on feedback on the community. CE project usually runs between one to three months with many releases in between to test for community feedback before the final release.

CE releases usually provide richer experiences than standard releases; they are usually better looking and more user-friendly due to many contributions and integration of feedback from community during their development.

Every series had its CE release. Series 1.x has 1.09-CE; Series 2 has 2.15CE, series 4.x has 4.2 and 4.2.1CE.

After the release of “Woof”, every Puppy release is virtually a CE release. With woof, everyone can build their custom Puppy from scratch in the same way that Barry himself built the official Puppies.

For example, Series 5.x Puppy is virtually a CE release by every definition except by name. Series 6.x Puppy (Puppies based on Woof-CE) are all CE releases - both Slacko Puppy and Tahrpup (Tahrpup even has CE as its name).


Another aspect of community involvement in Puppy Linux is the popularity of puplets (“puppy lites”).

One of Puppy design aspect was to make it easy to make a “remaster”, that is, a new Puppy ISO that contains pre-installed applications and configurations.

The ease on how remasters is made has made various members of community to make their own custom remaster, specific enough for their purposes, but general enough for use by others; so they offer them up for others.

These custom remasters are known as “puplets”; and there are hundreds of them. You can almost always find a puplet that meet your needs.

There are puplets that are tailored for heavy office applications; these comes with Libreoffice included. There are puplets meant for use in kiosks; these comes with only web-browser pre-configured to run in kiosk mode. There are puplets for authoring audio; puplets for running webservers; puplets for numerical computation, puplets for multimedia entertainment, “barebone” puplets meant as a base to build others, etc.

Although they are not considered official in any way, they are by any means part of the Puppy Linux family and its rich history. They are the best examples of the values that Puppy Linux can offer - its flexibility and its enthusiastic community involvement.

Puppy Linux Family

Puppy Linux is an old, mature distribution. Its ideas, principles and spirit have been well tested and well known for many years. It is therefore of no surprise to see other distributions that share the same principles and ideas. Some of them even behave very closely like Puppy.

These are distributions which are inspired in one way or another, from Puppy Linux. We consider them as a “derivative” in spirit, in idea. We call them as “offshots” to differentiate them from puplets, which is a true derivative.

Some of these offshots are forks of Puppy. Fatdog64, for example, was forked from Puppy Linux when it was at version 4.0. Although it is now an independently managed distribution and shares almost no code with the original Puppy it came from, it still claims to live up to Puppy’s ideals: small, fast, and versatile.

Some of the other offshots are inspired by the idea of Puppy Linux and adapts it for use in another distribution. DebianDog, for example, is an offshot of this type. It takes Debian Live-CD and molds it so it behaves very similarly with Puppy Linux.

Some takes a puplet and molds it into something that is more user friendly and called it something totally different (but acknowledges the source), for example, Simplicity Linux.

All of these distros are no longer considered as part of Puppy Linux distribution, but one can be mistaken to think that they are - because of their likeness and their similar behaviours. All of these distributions acknowledge that they owe their existence to Puppy Linux; if not directly in code, then in idea or in spirit.

Many of these distributions cross-share their improvements to each other; many of these distributions’ discussion are hosted in the same Puppy Linux forum (in different, distro-specific threads). Many of their developers and maintainers cross-post and comments on distributions different than their own. Many users of these distributions hop from one to another, and talk about them as if they are all Puppy. Indeed, in spirit, they all are. All of these distribution developers and maintainers were Puppy Linux users in the past, who decided to improve it on their own, one way or another.

As such, it is just natural to consider them as part of the larger Puppy Linux community. This larger group is called as Puppy Linux family distributions: it includes all of the Puppy Linux distribution releases, puplets, and these offshots too.

Closing Note

If you have read it this far, you may also be interested to know more about various Puppy Linux distributions that have been released in the past, and their relationship to one another. Head on to Puppy Linux Family Tree to satisfy your curiosity.

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