Battle of the Minis (The Rematch): DSL vs. Puppy

Greetings Linux fans from around the world. We are here again to witness the clash of two ultra-lightweight distributions. As you may know, these two distros have collided in the past and have fought until the end. One ended up victorious, while the other one was not as fortunate. So today, we shall give the losing distro a chance to even the score. Now, without further delay, let's welcome our two fully loaded distro warriors!

On your left is the challenger, weighing in at exactly 48.5MB, armed with the latest weapon version, please welcome the totally upgraded DSL 4.2. On your right is the defending champion, now leaner than ever and weighing in at exactly 87.1MB, put your paws together for the newly trained Puppy Linux 4.0.

If you are ready, then let's get this battle going. Fight!

Distrowar Arena (Test Machine Specs):
Board: Intel Corporation D102GGC2
Processor: 3.40 GHz Intel Pentium D
Hard Drive: Samsung 80GB ATA with 8GB allocated to VM disk
Memory: 2GB DDR2 RAM with 128MB allocated to VM memory

Tale of the Tape
Distro Name:Damn Small Linux (DSL)| Weight:48.5MB| Country Origin:USA| Distro Origin:Knoppix| Package Mgt.:DEB| Default Desktop:JWM| Distrowatch Rank:#9

Distro Name:Puppy Linux| Weight:87.1MB| Country Origin:Australia| Distro Origin:Slackware| Package Mgt.:PET| Default Desktop:JWM| Distrowatch Rank:#16

Speed Test
Download Time- Winner, DSL!
Boot/Start-up Time - Winner, DSL!
Responsiveness- Draw!

Decoding: The time it takes to download DSL is obviously less due to its smaller size, so it has an advantage over Puppy. DSL is again the clear winner for "Boot/Start-up Time" (measured from boot menu to desktop) because it took only around 29 seconds for DSL to reach its JWM desktop. Puppy meanwhile was slower and took about 36 seconds to boot. It is another draw for "Responsiveness" because the two distros are both nimble, and I cannot really decide which has the clear edge.

Default Theme- Winner, Draw!
Extras- Winner, Puppy!
Artwork- Winner, DSL!

Decoding: Since both are using JWM as their window manager, I gave a draw verdict for "Default Theme" in the aesthetics category. "Extras" went to Puppy Linux because it is now utilizing the more advanced GTK2 engine. For "Artwork", I have to give it to DSL this time because I love the new darker theme. Puppy won last time because of that cute Puppy wallpaper. I just love dogs, I guess :-)

Pre-installed Applications- Winner, Puppy!
Available Packages from Repo- Draw!
Ease of Use- Winner, Puppy!

Decoding: Puppy Linux is feature-packed and has plenty of pre-installed applications. I know it's unfair because Puppy is bigger hence it has more packages out-of-the-box than DSL. But as I always say, we are just having fun here, so be it. Puppy is also the winner for "Ease of Use" because of its much- improved overall GUI, like it's user-friendly package manager.

Hardware Detection- Draw!
Software Maintenance- Draw!
Error Handling- Puppy!

Decoding: Since both Puppy ad DSL have no trouble in detecting and configuring my test machine's hardware, it's a draw for "Hardware Detection". It's another draw for "Software Maintenance" because their package managers both performed well on several tests that I made. DSL's occasional failure to switch between window managers made me gave "Error Handling" to Puppy. I've never encountered a serious bug while in Puppy.

Final Score:
Puppy = 4
DSL = 3
*Winner Puppy!

The final score was close, with Puppy Linux emerging triumphant yet again. However, DSL should not be underestimated because it showed us that it has the capability to beat distros that are much bigger in size. Maybe I will give DSL a smaller opponent next time, like SliTaz. What do you think?

That concludes our battle for today. This is all just for the spirit of fun; I hope you enjoyed this one. As always, I am the sole judge of this so-called Distrowar, therefore your opinions are greatly appreciated.


  1. AnonymousMay 16, 2008

    Would love to see a shootout of all the sub 100mb distros i.e. Battle royal of the mini distos.

  2. @Thumos:

    I've been thinking about that also. Maybe I'll give it a go after trying those other mini-distros that I haven't tried yet.

  3. AnonymousMay 24, 2008

    I do not understand the basis of this review, as the design intent of both distros (older/minimal hardware) was ignored.

    Choose a more appropriate platform and repeat the review.

  4. I agree with Anonymous (above). Even Windoze Vista would run fast(ish) on a 3.4 GHz processor with 2 GB RAM. Try something like my computer, with a 700 MHz processor and 128 MB RAM. Anyone considering lightweight distros like these is doing so because of hardware limitations.

  5. Agree, too. On a fast machine like yours the differences in terms of responsiveness, memory usage and so on are not measureable.
    The same test, but performed on an old PC or notebook, e.g. a Thinkpad 380 (Pentium I, 80MB RAM max) or Compaq 4210T (Pentium II MMX, 80 MB RAM max) (the latter one is a serious and cheap answer answer to all the new "NetBooks" with one of the small distributions, btw) would make much more sense.
    Comparing on your fast machine is like testing a Porsche 911 on gasoline and on liquid gas: It will go over 200 km/h every way... ;-)

  6. I dunno, puppy is my main OS as it just WORKS, and allows offline installs, a major consideration when it comes to this.

    It has pretty much replaced vista off my dual core!

  7. Speedster217August 09, 2011

    My computer still runs Windows XP, but lately ive been using Puppy from a bootable flash drive. I tried ubuntu, but puppy is just so fast there's no comparison