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I am playing around with Puppy Linux Wary 5.3 on an old machine (Pentium PII, 160 megs RAM, 6 gig HD). I did an install on the HD. I appreciate it's light footprint, the fact that it plays nice with the graphics card (Slacko Puppy and Precise did not) but am dismayed that it is very unlike Unix. No passwords (even when I set one up for root it still logs in automatically), no man pages (it actually tries to open a web-browser with google, the machine BTW is not networked) and most of the command line Unix user-land seems to be MIA.

I guess I can slowly configure it to my liking, but this would likely take a lot of time and this is certainly not my primary machine. I am wondering if there is a variant already set up which feels and behaves in a more traditional Unix style, with greater emphasis on the command line and less on the graphical side. I intend to use it mainly from the command line. Should I stick with Puppy and configure it or go for a minimal/ lightweight install of Slackware or one of the BSDs that I would use mostly from the command line.

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A minimal Debian install should suit your needs. –  jordanm Feb 13 '13 at 4:19
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Does a minimal (non-graphical) install of your favorite distribution work on the machine? It is much easier on you not to have to remember two sets of administration commands, check two streams of updates, ... –  vonbrand Feb 13 '13 at 5:13
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I'm afraid you'll have quite hard time making Puppy Linux more "normal" - plainly because it was just designed to be like this. I would suggest looking around for something else, since there are many other small footprint distributions.

I personally have quite good experience with the Slackware-based Slax (which is extensible with modules) and Damn Small Linux. You can also build a custom openSUSE (or Suse Linux Enterprise for that matter)-based distribution with the openSUSE Studio.

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