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A conversation with the creator of Puppy Linux
(Jul. 14, 2005)

Foreword -- After publishing the review of Puppy Linux by Michael C. Barnes, we couldn't resist siccing the little canine critter on our 4-year-old 366MHz Pentium II Vaio PCG-Z505R notebook. Following some initial experimentation, we managed to coax the Vaio into dual-booting the Puppy CDROM image using Grub as the bootloader, resulting in a slick little Puppy/Win98 system that shares mail folders between Mozilla Mail on Puppy and Thunderbird on Win98, and boots up Puppy in just over 15 seconds!

Puppy on the 4-year-old Vaio notebook
(Click each image to enlarge)

Charmed by the frisky little mini-distro, we asked Puppy Linux creator Barry Kauler to share a few thoughts with the readers of The brief interview, conducted via email, follows . . .

A conversation with Barry Kauler, creator of Puppy Linux

Q: What was your motivation to start the Puppy Linux project? What were your objectives?

I didn't really have any clear objective, Puppy was just something I did for fun, and to learn more about Linux. I started with reading the "Boot disk HOWTO" and then just kept on adding to it -- first booted from floppy, then multiple floppies, then CD, then kept doing more things. It became an obsession.

Q: When did you start working on Puppy Linux, and how long did it take to get to a first version?

I started on the project early in 2003 and released the first live-CD in June 2003. It was version 0.1. At that time I was using Red Hat 8.0 as the host for compiling, but that does not mean Puppy was based on Red Hat -- basically I was compiling packages and then placing files file-by-file into Puppy, trying to learn about the inner working of Linux by this very grass-roots incremental method.

Q: How many people are involved in the project at this point? Is there any sort of structure to the project?

It was only me for most of the time, with occasional input via the [Puppy Linux] forum. It is still a "benevolent dictatorship," that is, I'm in charge, but there are now several people actively contributing in a significant way. Some of these guys have released their own custom versions of Puppy, which is very easy to do since I created Puppy Unleashed.

Project management is laissez faire. There is a project page with suggestions, and very active discussion on the Forum. Anyone can get involved. No committees. Just find something interesting and work on it.

People have suggested things like Bugzilla and CVS, but I'm too laid back. I like to let individuals do their own thing, a kind of semi-chaotic project management.

Q: What are your plans for the future of Puppy Linux, both near term and long term?

Puppy has a "mission statement," which you can see on the main Puppy Linux page. Apart from that, it's open. We discuss things on the forum, some guys try stuff on their own custom versions of Puppy. I pick up what looks good for the official version.

Q: Please tell us a bit about yourself -- Are you a software developer by training or other background? What are your background and interests?

I have a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electronic Engineering, Master of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering, Graduate Diploma in Education. I have run various businesses, but mostly lectured at Curtin University and Edith Cowan University, both in Western Australia, as well as at some technical colleges. My main field was digital electronics and the hardware side of computing. I'm now retired and live on a rural property north of Perth, Western Australia. I was doing a bit of part-time lecturing last year, but Puppy Linux has become such an obsession that there is now no time for anything else.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share with the readers of

Sifting through the feedback on the [Puppy Linux] forum, the most common reasons that people give for using Puppy are that they find it great for learning about Linux, while being very easy to use. Also, again and again the sentiment is expressed that "I haven't had so much fun in ages!"

Each new version of Puppy is exciting, and the guys on the forum have their tongues hanging out in anticipation each time. Version 1.0.4, the latest [which is scheduled for release around July 19th], has so many exciting new "goodies", like Gnumeric (spreadsheet editor) and MUT (a drive mounter program developed by Jesse Liley especially for Puppy), plus heaps more . . .

Thank you, and good luck with Puppy!

Further information about Puppy Linux can be found on the Puppy Linux website.

About Barry Kauler -- Barry Kauler lectured at various universities and TAFE colleges, including Curtin and ECU, for many years, ran various businesses, and wrote some books. He's now retired and "totally obsessed" by the Puppy Linux project.

Barry Kauler at home, somewhere in Western Australia

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