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Distro reviews, Emulation, Interviews

Puppy Arcade 5 & Q&A with Scott Jarvis – The puppy goes retro!

Puppy Arcade 5. For the sake of making the emulation dock more visible in this screenshot I elected to have no desktop background (which by the way Puppy Arcade's are very nice!)

What was your first computer?  For me I started my computing life with a ZX Spectrum.  A rubber keyed marvel with a massive 48k memory.   It makes me feel rather old to think that there are a generation of computer users who have never experienced loading software from tape.

It was only fitting then that my first experience of emulation came some years later when I owned an Amiga 500 and a Spectrum emulator.  Moving on  some years, my first emulator on the PC was the Windows binary Genem which only reached v0.19 and has been discontinued since 1997.

How things have changed today and the demand for retro gaming is reflected in the amount of emulation projects there are in progress.  Puppy Arcade aims to satisfy all your retro computing desires.  It’s based on tiny TurboPup Xtreme, which itself it a highly optimized version of Puppy Linux.

Puppy Arcade 5 offers emulation for the following systems:

Amiga, Atari, Amstrad, Arcade Machines, Colecovision, Commodore 64, GameBoys (GB, GBC, GBA), GameGear, Genesis, MasterSystem, MS DOS, NeoGeo, NeoGeo CD, NES/Famicom, PC Engine/TurboGrafix 16, PSX, Scumm, SNES and ZX Spectrum.

I don’t think you can argue that its got a comprehensive list packaged as default!

Installation/Operation

Emulation is the intent of this distro, but having said that its an equally capable distro in its own right.  Being based off Puppy Linux derivative TurboPup Xtreme (an optimized version of Puppy Linux) it has a solid base.  Puppy Linux is a well respected distro with a legion of users due to its breakneck speed & low system specs.

The LiveCD copies itself completely into RAM so if you are not intending on installing it free’s up your CD drive for game disks etc.  Booting from the CD to memory is a rather speedy affair, due in no small part to Puppy’s small footprint.

The emulators included (which cover the systems above) are solid and in the case of older systems have been pretty much 100% for quite some time.

The other package that should be mentioned is Firedog, Puppy Arcade’s own browser based on Firefox source.  Quick as lightning and rock solid stable is the best way to describe it and whilst it won’t replace my browser of choice on my main rig (Chromium) its certainly refreshing to have a browser packaged which when Puppy Arcade gets an install on one of my “retro rigs” I won’t be replacing.

A nice surprise was the inclusion of ScummVM which allows you to run some of those Windows classics like Kings Quest and has inspired me for a followup article on Dosbox v ScummVM!

Axelay on the SNES is just one of the games/platforms Puppy Arcade caters for. Bring a tear to your eye with memories of your younger days!

Conclusions

Excellent work, simply excellent.  The idea of a distro aimed at the emulation user is one I champion fully.  In order to make this review more than simply “great, get it”, I must include some points which I think would improve the product further.

Firstly the fact that you have to select the option to “turn on” the emulation tool bar seems a little pointless.  This distro is aimed at and will appeal to, emulation fans, therefore you would expect it to pop up immediately.  That being said, its merely a click away on the menu.

My router had to be configured manually (maybe just an issue with my router) but I don’t think its unreasonable today to expect all LiveCD’s to automatically configure this as a “minimum standard”, the matter though was solved in seconds.

My other devices were detected out of the box, which is good because I think for some people who are tempted with Puppy Arcade 5, they may never have used Linux before and might well be Windows users after an OS for a second rig to do just what Puppy Arcade offers.

The .iso size (a tight 109mb) is an effortless download for most and the fact that the LiveCD installed completely into ram makes for a superfast distro.

The emulators packaged are decent and run your retro software well, they are accompanied with a GUI which makes operating them very simple and those frightened of the command line – fear not! I doubt you will have to drop into it for anything that Puppy Arcade offers.  Having said that there are issues which a new user to Linux may find challenging, forgetting the router issue for a minute, you are going to need to install your graphics drivers in order to get better performance out of some of the more CPU demanding emulators, whilst its not a difficult task for any Linux user of over a few months, the creator of Puppy Arcade should keep in mind a new user and I think Puppy Arcade would benefit from an approach like Ubuntu (or any of the mainstream distro’s) when it comes to this subject.

I was surprised to see Snes9x included instead of Zsnes (as I was led to believe the later is faster/more stable) but having said that I did find Snes9x perfectly good.

My first computer! Just one of the many systems you can relive through Puppy Linux and the bundled emulators!

It goes without saying that the rom’s required by some emulators (i.e Kickstart in the case of the Amiga) are not present, but you will find many links to where to get those (or how to extract them yourself) on the net.

Whilst on the subject of rom’s, I cannot find a reference to Puppy Arcade on Distrowatch.  I am assuming that due to the intention of this distro, Distrowatch has decided to leave it out.  If I’m right then thats a shame as I think many people will miss out on an excellent project and in any case if you wished to avoid proprietary roms, there is a massive library of homebrew (public domain) software available on all the included platforms.

You can visit the Puppy Arcade homepage here: http://scottjarvis.com/page80.htm

Puppy Arcade creator Scott Jarvis has put much work into this distro, the results speak for themselves.  If emulation is an interest of yours, I would encourage you to get involved, support or donate to his work.  Its a really great project and a testament to the obvious love of emulation that Scott has.  Highly recommended!

Scott Jarvis also runs a web design business which can be found at http://scottjarvis.com and if the quality of Puppy Arcade is anything to go by, you will get a fantastic service from him.

Q&A with Puppy Arcade creator Scott Jarvis

I had an opportunity to put some questions to Scott in regards of the future of Puppy Arcade, I must thank him for his time and the fast and friendly response.  Another unsung hero in the FOSS world!

What was your first computer & your first piece of software?

A Pentium 2, 32mb ram, windows 95, no brand, just a generic locally built machine – my parents bought it and wouldn’t let me touch it!

How long have you been a Linux user?

I first used linux when i was 16 or so, using Damn Small Linux, which I preferred to Red Hat on my old AMD K6 PC – it was much quicker… But I never stayed with linux for more than 2 or 3 months until last year when i found Puppy Linux.

What was your first experience of emulation?

Playing SNES games (unirally!!) with my brother, using snes9x on win 98..Then trying to get GoldenEye to work (well) in UltraHLE on a 12mb 3dfx voodoo 2 card.. Not good :( So disappointed…

What inspired you to create a distro aimed at emulation?

I created Puppy Arcade because I noticed long ago that lots of people wanted a lightweight live CD, designed especially for videogame emulation, that works well on older PCs and laptops.

AdvanceCD is a MAME only solution, but many people left comments around the web stating they wanted a multi-system solution. When I first saw Puppy Linux, I realised it would be the perfect platform to attempt such a project – and Puppy Arcade was the result.

What plans do you have for Puppy Arcade in the future?

I plan to release Puppy Arcade v6, which will be based on Puppy Linux 4.3.1 or a derivative of it, as it uses a newer kernel and works better on netbooks, Eee PCs and so on.. However, Puppy Arcade is ‘stripped-down’ for maximum free RAM and speed on all hardware, and this takes a while.

Putting aside Puppy Linux & Puppy Arcade, what is your distro of choice?

Aside from these, I still like Damn Small Linux – I like the home-made feel of certain Linux distros. I’ve yet to try many distros that interest me, but like anything small, clever and fast.

A good distro, for me, should be small, preferably running in RAM and installable to USB/SD…

What do you consider the most exciting emulation project today?

I’m currently loving the fact that lots of SDL based emulators (which includes a large number of linux emulators) are being ported to the Nintendo Wii, and ported VERY well indeed… UIsing the Wiimote on ScummVM is great!

And not to sound boring, but Puppy Arcade is a good development, as there’s nearly nothing else that can facilitate such great gaming options on such old, slow hardware – which I still own, because I’m skint – not because I’m an enthusiast! :(

Whats your browser of choice, Chrome/Firefox/Safari or other?

My main business is in website design, so I cannot say Internet Explorer!! Standards-compliant browsers are always best. When designing ScottJarvis.com, I use Firefox (with lots of great design addons), and only use IE to check it’s working as expected. I like Safari, Chrome and Opera as well..

However, my favourite browser by far is ‘Firedog’, which is my own, customised version of Firefox for Puppy Linux.  It’s very good, with a TON of cools features added as standard, making browsing very fast and productive.

Windows 7 or Linux? ;)

Linux. Every time. I’ll always say Linux, because it’s FREE and because, for anyone who can be bothered to learn a little, it’s so powerful, rock-solid, and does the job.

Linux will never compare to Windows for gaming and compatibility, but if you take some time, Linux can do nearly anything you like! Windows 7 looks nice, but a lot of the ‘clever new ideas’ can already be found in other operating systems, and it’s still very expensive, compared with Linux.

Also, when Microsoft release a new OS, new software will often require this OS (as that’s what Bill wants) which in turn means that people have to update their OS, not just their libs!

Also, and here is a KILLER point for me, Microsoft’s releases usually require more and more power, forcing people to upgrade to new hardware and throw away or waste old hardware (if they can afford it) … NOT GOOD!

So there you have it.  Into retro emulation?  Go no further than Puppy Arcade.  Get yourself over to the site and support this worthy project!
You can visit the Puppy Arcade homepage here: http://scottjarvis.com/page80.htm and also find links to services Scott offers.
:)
Goblin – bytes4free@googlemail.com

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About openbytes

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturalism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

Discussion

8 thoughts on “Puppy Arcade 5 & Q&A with Scott Jarvis – The puppy goes retro!

  1. Hi,

    Does the emulator available for both linux and windows? I’m a microsft oriented guys..when it’s come to user friendlyness..for me microsoft is still the best.. :)

    Cheers,
    DVD Replication Services

    Posted by DVD Replication Services | January 23, 2010, 1:35 pm
  2. Emulators are available for Windows, Puppy Arcade is a complete OS (Linux) with Emulators packaged as default, you do not need Windows (or even a harddisk) to run this off a CD.

    That being said user friendliness? Have you actually tried Linux? A good starting point is Ubuntu, Fedora, Mandriva etc…

    Regards
    Goblin

    Posted by openbytes | January 23, 2010, 1:53 pm
  3. The included SNES emulator is NOT vanilla SNES9x. It is SNES9x-gtk.

    ZSNES is good, but it doesn’t do online like SNES9x-gtk. I tested the netplay and it worked solid at least over LAN.

    Posted by ale | January 27, 2010, 11:41 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Puppy Arcade 5 & Q&A with Scott Jarvis – The puppy goes retro … | Drakz Free Online Service - January 19, 2010

  2. Pingback: Puppy Arcade 6 – The retro pup goes from strength to strength! « OPEN BYTES – cave quid dicis, quando, et cui. - January 30, 2010

  3. Pingback: 7 reasons to play retro titles – Puppy Arcade 7 is released! « OPEN BYTES – cave quid dicis, quando, et cui. - February 20, 2010

  4. Pingback: REVIEW: Puppy Arcade 8 (LiveCD 105mb) « OpenBytes - May 24, 2010

  5. Pingback: Puppy Arcade 9 – New release! « OpenBytes - August 27, 2010

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about.me

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast and writer for both OpenBytes and Goblin's Domain. Supporter of free and open source software.

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