Hands-On with Raspup on Raspberry Pi 4: Puppy Linux for Tinkerers

Raspup Raspberry Pi


At the request of some of my readers, I decided to review the Raspup Linux distribution on the Raspberry Pi, a port of the lightweight Puppy Linux distro optimized for Raspberry Pi devices.

If you never heard of Raspup before, let me tell you that it’s a Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution built from the Woof-CE build system that was originally developed by Barry Kauler, the creator of Puppy Linux, and binary compatible with Raspbian (the official Raspberry Pi OS). As such, Raspup is a Puppy Linux port for Raspberry Pi.

Raspup was created by Michael Amadio and it’s designed to run on ARMv7l hardware, specifically on the Raspberry Pi Zero, Raspberry Pi 1, Raspberry Pi 2, Raspberry Pi 3, Raspberry Pi 3+, and Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computers (SBCs).

First time setup and initial impressions

Like many of the Raspberry Pi distros I reviewed in the past, Raspup comes with a binary image in the .img file format that you can easily write on a microSD card (I always recommend using a fast one like Class 10) with a USD flasher utility like the Raspberry Pi Imager or Manjaro ARM Flasher.

However, Raspup is available in two variants, with a dedicated swap partition and without. I believe the version with the dedicated swap partition is there for Raspberry Pi models with 1GB RAM, so it’s good to have it. I also reviewed this version even if I am using a Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB RAM.

During the first time configuration, which is fully automatic, Raspup will create a 512MB swap partition so your future system will be faster under heavy stress. But you shouldn’t worry too much because Puppy Linux is know as a very lightweight distribution that uses the IceWM window manager as default graphical environment.

Once the system starts, you’ll be greeted by a Quick Setup dialog that lets you set the system locale, timezone, overscan or underscan settings, audio settings, hostname, network settings, and more. If you don’t want to do this now, you can always access the dialog from the Setup and Desktop menu.

But if you decide to set up all these things at the beginning, get ready for a long ride because you’ll be prompted by further dialogs to configure the time server, overscan/underscan, etc., which will be followed by several reboots. But first, make sure you are connected to the Internet!

Then, once you finish all the configuration from the Quick Setup, you’ll be greeted by a Welcome screen to help you get started with Raspup. Here you can experiment with upgrading the video drivers, configuring printing, mouse, keyboard, sound, country localization, and more.

Bottom line, you can do a LOT of setup in Raspup that you may end up spending half a day only doing that! That’s why I think Raspup is the Raspberry Pi distro for tinkerers, those who like to fully configure every single thing in their systems.

The desktop and included software

As I said, Raspup offers a classic Puppy Linux desktop experience. If you’ve used Puppy Linux before, than Raspup won’t be much different to you, but if you’re not familiar with this distro it might take you a while to familiarize yourself with it.

And it’s packed with so many software, starting with all the utilities you may need on a daily basis and continuing with more advanced apps like the Inkscape SVG editor, Gnumeric spreadsheet editor, Osmo personal organizer, irssi IRC client, gFTP ftp client, Sylpheed email client, Abiword text processor, GNOME Player video player, and Midori web browser.

What works and what doesn’t work

Most things work, like Wi-Fi, all the utilities, spreadsheet and word processors, image and documents viewers and editors, email, chat, etc. I can even install new packages from the repositories.

However, I wasn’t able to browse the Internet with Midori. I also wasn’t able to install Firefox as it couldn’t be fetched by any of the included package managers, so I can’t tell you if YouTube or other online services work.

I also wasn’t able to play a locally stored Full HD (1920×1080) video (audio works after some tinkering, but video is so very slow no matter what I do). I even installed MPV and there the video is very slow and audio doesn’t work.

Conclusion

While Raspup is the ideal system for tinkerers, it may not be so friendly with newcomers that just want to flash a distro on a microSD card, insert it on their Raspberry Pi, and that’s it. There are so many dialogs and confirmations, and whatnot in Raspup that may be overwhelming for the average user.

But in the end Raspup is a very fast Debian/Raspbian-based distro for the Raspberry Pi, and I bet advanced Linux users who know what they’re doing will be very pleased to try it out right now. You can download the latest release from the official website.

Last updated 5 months ago