Puppy Arcade is one of the few Linux distro’s that Openbytes tries to keep following. Since version 5, Puppy Arcade has not only been a favorite with friends and colleagues, but also has a home on a few of my machines around the house that would otherwise be obsolete. Ive had the pleasure of a Q&A with Puppy Arcade creator Scott Jarvis and Im pleased to say that he continues to keep me updated every time a new version is released.
Puppy Arcade is one of the more difficult distro’s to review because of the plethora of systems it covers and often when I try to write about Puppy Arcade, my article turns into individual reviews of the emulation packages it contains. I will try to look at Puppy Arcade as a whole and how it performs in respect of a multiple platform emulator (and desktop distro too) For the purposes of this review, the test machine is a 1.6ghz machine with 1gig of ram and a rather ancient gfx card. I am reviewing this distro on pretty old tech, so its important to keep that in mind to appreciate how good Puppy Arcade actually is.
Puppy Arcade – The Desktop
I will only briefly mention Puppy Arcade as a desktop, since I would assume that users main requirement for it will be the default packaged emulation. Since Puppy Arcade is based upon Puppy Linux, its requirements are low and it will absolutely fly, even on the lowest of specs. The download for Puppy Arcade is only 105mb, which will be pretty speedy even for the slowest of net connection. The ISO burnt without error and since its a LiveCD, simply throw it into your drive, reboot and you’re off.
Puppy Arcade offers numerous tools and util’s for standard desktop functions (when you are not playing with the emulators) but I’d suggest that to many users most of these will be of little consequence. There is no Word Processor as such (No Abiword or OpenOffice.org) however I doubt users will be downloading Puppy Arcade with anything else than emulation as their main priority. Basic text/src editing is handled by Leafpad 0.8.16 or Geany 0.16, the later of which is rather good for src. You have other utilities available and whilst I could list and comment on everything, it would make this review far longer than it needs. What I will say is that CD/DVD burning software is included, as well as various media players and rippers.
A point to note is that unlike previous versions of Puppy Arcade, there is no default packaged web browser, you can choose this from a sort of ballot screen, which works very well. This does pose a slight issue if you are booting from a LiveCD, that being you are going to have to install a browser to ram every time you boot (unless you install to HD). The reasoning behind the removal of the browser is to reduce the download and to be fair its a great idea. I don’t think many will mind. I was pleased to see Chrome offered as I have championed it for a long while and since I have never been a fan of Firefox plugins, the faster browsing experience of Chrome on any desktop is a big plus for me.
All in all as a standalone desktop Puppy Arcade 8 is great on any machine (new or old) and whilst in respect of a home desktop machine, it might seem a little lacking in util’s, there’s a plethora of software to install should you require, that can make Puppy Arcade 8 whatever you want it to be.
Puppy Linux has come on in leaps and bounds over the years and this is reflected in the out of the box experience. Puppy had no issues detecting any of my hardware, from USB keyboard to monitor settings.
Puppy Arcade – The multi-platform Emulation distro!
Here is where we get to the real “meat” of the review. This afterall is why you downloaded Puppy Arcade. What is included? What can it emulate? How well does it do it? and what do I need?
As I said earlier on my specs for this test are very low, but regardless of that, the experience is blisteringly fast. The machines emulated in Puppy Arcade 8 are: Amiga, Amstrad, AppleMac, Arcade, Atari (8/16bit). Colecovision, Commodore, Doom, Gameboy, Genesis, N64, Nes, NeoGeoCD,PCEngine, PSX, Snes, Sega Saturn, Sega (8bit) and ZX Spectrum. You’ve also got compatibility with DOS binaries (via Dosbox 0.73) and ScummVM to play many of those point and click games from yesteryear. Openbytes featured a comparison of Dosbox and ScummVM which you can read here.
The standard desktop menu has been hidden by default (expanding when your mouse is over it) in favour of a custom dock with icons for all the emulators included.
Keeping it legal – No system roms included!
It’s often discussed in emulation forums about the legality of rom’s from obsolete machines. Puppy Arcade removes this problem by not packaging any as default and instead having a simple GUI that allows you to download the system roms as and when you need them. It’s a completely automated process and it will keep track of the rom’s which you have downloaded. It’s a great little package which works well.
Whats new in version 8?
The rom loader (for starters) which I detail above. I look forward to seeing this mature over the next releases of Puppy Arcade. Importantly VLC has replaced Xine which is a great media player which can handle just about anything you throw at it. As detailed earlier the removal of a default packaged web browser and theres been many GTK frontends updated (as well as the emulators themselves with later versions) is a change over the last version.
You can read more about the changes here: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm
Yet another great release for Puppy Arcade. I like the idea of having a poll for the browser, which means that not only do you get a smaller .iso download, but you don’t have to waste your time downloading a browser which you are going to replace anyway. The size of the download is another massive plus and will have you enjoying emulation in no time at all. It’s quite amusing to think that the whole distro is downloaded in 105mb which is less than many PSX games themselves!
I think Puppy Arcade 8 is a landmark release, Scott, its creator has now had a few versions to fine tune and tweak the direction in which he is taking this project and now as we see more intuitive interfaces, it provides a solid foundation for future versions. The delivery of Puppy Arcade reeks professionalism and from install to messing around with system BIOS files , there were no broken menu’s or incomplete features. The only limitation to the emulation Puppy Arcade offers are the limitations of the emulators themselves, of which I’m pleased to say with my testing were very few.
You can download a copy of Puppy Arcade here: http://scottjarvis.com/page105.htm
And if you are interested in reading previous reviews on Openbytes:
So what are you waiting for? Give yourself a little computing nostalgia and download Puppy Arcade!
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org
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