May 30, 2010 by openbytes
Linux and its diverse range of distributions are developing at a very fast pace. Nearly every day on Distrowatch I see something new and whilst I would like to take a look at everything, the popularity and demand for Linux distro’s means that I do not have the time to review everything. In today’s Linux world it takes something a little unique or new to get me to look at a new release (or it has to be one of the titles I champion regularly).
Peppermint Linux and its coming to pass is something akin to Puppy Arcade 8 (which we covered recently). Like Puppy Arcade is derived from Turbo Pup (which in turn came from Puppy Linux) Peppermint is derived from Mint which in turn comes from Ubuntu.
For me when the name Ubuntu is mentioned I usually get a feeling of “out of the box”. Speaking personally I have had only few, very minor issues when installing an Ubuntu distro and of all thats available in the Linux world, in my opinion its the simplest most “out of the box” there is. So Peppermint building upon those solid foundations is a recipe for success? Read on and find out!
The first thing that drew me to Peppermint was the fact that it depends in part (but not completely) on the Cloud. I think we are still some way off users wanting a total desktop cloud experience but as we head towards what will probably be inevitable, this is certainly a good way of breaking the ice.
Peppermint’s choice of Ubuntu foundations are a great choice , for those who are taking their first steps into the world of Linux and seasoned Linux veterans alike.
OS in the cloud or head in the cloud?
It’s funny how my view of cloud computing and indeed “always on” has changed over the years. During the early internet days, the thought of always being connected frightened me slightly with visions of a vulnerable PC on the world-wide web for people to drop in on whenever they wished. I remember only staying online for as long as I needed then logging out and continuing with my computing offline. How things have changed….
Now (and I hope some people can relate to this) if, for whatever reason, my net connection is down, my computing experience feels rather lonely, rather isolated and not very pleasant. I like my social media products to hand, I like my email to pop up and sometimes my Waves at my fingertips, often, if the net is down, my computer is off. I have read Mr Stallman’s views on the cloud and I do appreciate some of his concerns, however time will tell if a migration does happen and history will record if those concerns come to pass in respect of computing in the cloud. I will be running another article shortly looking at the question of cloud computing.
I think though when/if the time comes for a complete cloud migration, I’ll be more than ready to jump into the brave new world and (hopefully) 10 years on look back at this time and think how isolated/ narrow-minded I was. Either that or I will be held to ransom by the firms that provide me with my cloud experience and look after my data and look back with regret!
My diversion about the cloud has taken this review completely off track, so lets now return to Peppermint.
Looking at Peppermint
Peppermint is a tight distro using kernel 2.6.32 which whilst being light in the area of defaultly packaged software, balances that with cloud based offerings. Coming in at a 446mb download, within a few minutes the shiny new ISO was ready to burn. I don’t need to explain how simple and straightforward the installation process is, all I have to say is, Ubuntu simple.
Offering Google Docs in the taskbar menu, opens your Google Docs in a light window client (via Prism) as if it was a locally installed package. This seemless integration of online services is consistent with all the cloud packages incorporated into the Peppermint desktop. Under your “Office” menu you also have Google Calender, Google Mail, Google Reader and ePDFViewer. It should be noted that you do have a local text editor, if you are wanting to create a simple file locally and of course you’ve got a wealth of more traditional alternatives to install locally through the Software Manager.
Whilst this distro does lend heavily towards the cloud, it still does have a nice selection of default packaged software.Python 2.6.5, Leafpad 0.8.17, Gnome-mplayer 0.9.9.2 and many more. Its all pretty academic though with the software manager, you have a huge selection of software to download after install. Firefox 3.6.3 is packaged as default though for me this was an instant removal. I am an advocate of Chromium which for me has been a wonderful experience in the main since the very earliest builds.
Yes, this is a speedy distro! Boot up times are exceptionally fast as is shutdown and even with numerous tasks running on one of the many desktop’s around the house, my now prehistoric 1.8ghz processor never went above 22% on CPU usage. I took out ram to see how well Peppermint ran on half a gig, which is probably more relevant to those who intend this to be deployed on a low spec netbook or laptop and I can report that barring a little extra disk activity from time to time (as to be expected) the whole operation was still very fast with a reasonable amount of facilities being run at a price of only half my available ram.
Since Peppermint doesn’t come with any “play once” games and many of its apps are cloud based, the small 446mb file will be a very quick download for many.
I was very impressed with the cohesiveness between the cloud based apps and the locally installed ones. Ive used web dependent distro’s before, but never within a traditional desktop environment and previous reviews have been of “Web kiosk” type distro’s.
If I wanted to be really fussy I would mention that upon default install the browser shortcut is located very close to the “menu” button, which means from time to time you will miss and bring up another instance of your browser when what you really wanted to do was access the menu. This is a minor issue though and Im sure most people customize a distro to their own tastes after install anyway.
Whether you want a cloud experience or not, this distro is an excellent lightweight option for daily use, the cloud features whilst well-integrated are not “set in stone” and there’s nothing wrong with you replacing them with more traditional solutions.
I think Peppermint Linux serves two purposes, one its a great lightweight distro that will sit very nicely on any machine old or new, but also its a nice introduction to cloud computing which doesn’t “throw all your eggs into one basket”. For me personally it has eleviated some of the fears/myths about computing in the cloud and Im happy to say that Peppermint has a permanent home on one of my rigs now.
A strongly recommended distro which not only gives a solid desktop experience that is capable of handling any task you throw at it, but also introduces you to cloud computing in a very non-committal way.
Just like many of the distro’s I feature here, I encourage you to support this project, the hard work and professionalism this distro displays for me means its one I will be following with great interest in the future and as far as Ubuntu derived distro’s go, this is up there with the best of them.
I have been contacted by the devs behind Peppermint and have the pleasure of saying that a Q&A session will follow in a future article.
The Distrowatch entry for Peppermint can be found here: http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=peppermint
You can visit the Peppermint home page here: http://peppermintos.com/
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