Regular readers here will remember the Peppermint One review I covered recently. I was very impressed and the project has had me re-evaluating my views (and usage of Cloud based apps)
The feedback I have had from users Ive spoken to around the net is very good and a combination of a lightweight Ubuntu derived distro combined with great integration of a diverse range of applications (both locally installed and cloud) make for a superb system which has enough scope to cover everyone from Netbook user to Power desktop PC.
If you missed that review the first time around, you can read that here.
It was with great pleasure then that I was able to catch up with a couple of members from the Peppermint team and put to them some questions about Peppermint, their views on the future of the cloud and a variety of other subjects. It was greatly appreciated that both Kendall Weaver and Shane Remington took time out of their day to give their views..Now on with the questions:
Can we have an introduction of yourself and background?
My name is Kendall Weaver and I’m the lead developer for Peppermint OS. I also build and maintain the Fluxbox and LXDE editions of Linux Mint, as well as work as a developer for Astral IX Media in Asheville, NC. I also run a wholesale produce company. And yes, I drink a lot of coffee. I currently reside in Hendersonville, NC where I love living and I have to plans to move anytime soon.
I got started coding back in high school writing games for TI-83 calculators. My crowning achievements in this regard were a fairly rudimentary RPG and a semi-text-based version of TIE Fighter that my statistics class couldn’t get enough of. I eventually started dabbling into some “real” programming and settled on Python as my language of choice. At that point I didn’t really do anything constructive with it, I just thought it was cool and I loved the structure of the language. Eventually I took a “technology hiatus” for a few years (no phone, no computer, no TV, no microwave, etc) while I moved about the country working a variety of jobs ranging from barista to high performance automotive technician.
I first took note of Linux about the time Ubuntu 8.04 came out and my roommate eventually dual booted 8.10 with Windows XP. During the summer of last year I purchased a laptop loaded with 9.04. When Linux Mint 8 came out I installed and started brushing up on my coding and experimenting with building Debian packages. Within a month I was welcomed to the Linux Mint team as the new maintainer for the Fluxbox edition and after another month the Fluxbox RC was released and I started learning to configure LXDE.
I have been a web developer for a number of years specializing in design, SEO and marketing. Growing up I was always messing around with computers in one way or another and arcade gaming for pleasure. Eventually, in community college where I was studying radiology and MRI, I was exposed to DOS and fell in love again with the machines. It made me wonder what I was doing in the medical field for certain. During that time period it was still pre-internet/WWW and I met a group of local hacks who were involved in a dial-in BBS called Oblique Strategies or aka ‘The Whale Zoo’. Late nights on the BBS with my Amiga is where I witnessed the emergence of all the technologies that the ‘Net is today and I’ve been hooked ever since. From that point forward I have felt compelled to help others get their information onto the ‘Net as well as creating my own. Once my first daughter was born we moved to Asheville North Carolina. Before the move I sold my computers and took a total technology break to be close to my newborn girl. By the time she was three we had met a couple in town with a son the same age and that’s how I met Michael. He was the one who convinced me that I needed to get another machine, get back to what I enjoyed, and turned me on to Linux.
What is the inspiration behind Peppermint?
Originally the concept was rather simple, we were going to take Linux Mint and make it “spicier” (hence, the name “Peppermint”) by adding clean social network integration. I love the look of Sidux so we decided on a color scheme in that general neighborhood. I guess the single biggest inspiration is the fact that with more applications moving to the cloud, your OS serves less purpose as an OS and more of a portal. We decided that we wanted to build the best portal.
I knew Kendall Weaver from town but never really sat down and spoke with him at great length. That all changed this past winter when he and I sat up late at the local pub over several pints. I was happy just to have met someone who used Linux on a regular basis. But, as conversation went further and more pints kept coming, I realized that we had the beginnings of something really clever on our hands. What we really wanted when we had a final product was that anyone with simple computing skills could use the software right out of the box. So, providing a very familiar workspace for the beginner was at the front of the design and operation. We want very young children to use Linux. We want to show those who are tired of overpriced and unstable operating system software that there is an alternative that works. When people hear the word ‘Linux’ they have a tendency to feel that they would never understand how to operate a Linux based system. We created Peppermint to lay that notion to rest once and for all and pull as many new users into Linux as we can.
Peppermint is a great way to experience cloud computing without having to “throw your eggs in one basket”, what made you decide to go partly for cloud computing instead of a more traditional desktop release?
We decided on what we’re calling a “Hybrid Desktop” because it gives the user more freedom and more choices while offering a comfortable and familiar computing experience. It’s possible that everything is eventually going the way of MeeGo or ChromeOS, but what happens in between what we have now and what we’ll eventually end up with? The transition between, say, Windows XP and ChromeOS is not an easy one for a lot of people, but the transition between Windows or Ubuntu and Peppermint has proven to be rather painless for a lot of people. By offering cloud applications in the default install (via Prism) we’re exposing a lot of the possibilities of what can be done in the cloud without taking away the ability to easily install local applications to handle all of the same functions.
I feel that this one question led us to the tipping point with Peppermint. In the beginning we were out to build a simple desktop and then one night I read a very interesting article on Read Write Web stating that according to research that by 2014 there will be nearing 130 Million enterprise workers that will utilize the Cloud for collaboration tools on a daily basis. I pointed this out to Kendall one night and we started down another path that led us to what is Peppermint today. This is what we started calling a Hybrid Desktop for lack of a better term.
We also realized that mobility and choice promotes freedom and this was critical to us in giving users both environments. Others were trying, and still are, but they are so chunky and slow. When you are working, living and playing at the speed of modern life, being slowed down is not an option. And, we also realized that putting a bunch of graphical [GUI] smoke and mirrors in front of people as a way to imply computational speed and power was absurd. People desperately want simplicity, speed, security and freedom and it should “Just Work”. Now. Not next year and not for $2000.00
Cloud computing has received its far share of criticism in the past, with critics saying that it could lead to your data effectively being held to ransom and/or security concerns regarding remote storage, what are your views and what would you say to people who may have reservations about trusting their data to the cloud?
I certainly think it’s a valid question and a lot of those concerns should be raised for legitimate reasons. All I have to say is that using private data for such things is immoral and unethical on the part of whatever companies are and will be doing such things, but we have a choice to opt for something else in the cloud or to opt for local storage. With Peppermint, we’re not trying to force users into having all of their data in the cloud and controlled by one company. We’re trying to make people aware that there are options for where they put their data and how they can interact with that, both in the cloud and locally.
Are critics those closed minded types told Magellan that if he went to far that he’d sail off of the flat rectangle we all live on? Hmmmmmm….There is always a concern for security no matter what you are doing, especially on the Internet and the new Cloud type structures that are being built. However, what the world needs to know now is that if they expect to entrust their interactions with the Cloud to an operating system that is prone to virus and malware attacks in everything they have ever offered then there is real reason to be frightened. The other major player is too busy with their Closed System and mp3 players to put the job in their hands. Linux servers will deliver the cloud securely to your home and mobile device and Linux operating systems will keep you safe as you interact with them no matter where you are. Peppermint and other distributions like ours will lead the way in educating the world when it comes to your data storage on the Cloud and its security. Most of the personal data and identity theft issues we are facing can be corrected with better educating people on how to keep yourself and your data secure. Using operating system software that is Not Secure should be at the top of that list of subjects.
Whilst Firefox is a great choice as the default browser, what was your reasoning behind choosing it over say Chrome or Chromium? Since Peppermint facilitates the excellent Google Apps and with reports claiming faster browsing than Firefox more in line with your speedy distro?
During testing in the beginning, there were a lot of issues with partially rendered pages and some pages that simply would not render at all. Speed is not the only main goal here, stability is every bit as important. With an issue like the default browser, we decided that opting for stability was the wisest course of action. I do want to make it very clear that the default application selection is just that, a “default application selection”. We want people to install other browsers, we want people to create Prism launchers to other web applications, we want people to screw with it and play with it and make it their own in every way.
I’ve long been a fan of not judging a system by what they include by default unless they don’t give give the option to easily switch. Sometimes the defaults simply represent a preference of one of the developers which is great so long as other options are available. Sometimes the defaults represent an attempt at forced adoption by large corporations with few or obscure alternatives which I think is still the predominant mentality that most people use when approaching situations like this.
For those who like Chromium more than Firefox, it’s an extremely painless procedure to install it. The same can be said for other browsers. Personally Midori is my browser of choice and has been for quite a while, so one of the first things I do on any clean install (regardless of distribution) is to install it.
However, In the near future we’ll be releasing Peppermint Ice. It will feature Chromium as the default browser and will likely be even more cloud focused as we’ll likely drop printer and scanner support for it and replace more of the default applications with either smaller ones or cloud based alternatives. Once we launch Peppermint Ice we will be working towards bringing integration with Google Cloud Print as the next logical step in development for Ice and all other Peppermint versions
Very funny that you asked that question. We made a decision last week to pull our minds together and create Peppermint Ice, which would feature Chromium as the default browser. Prism will still be there for those web/cloud applications that simply perform best in its delivery. Again, Peppermint is based upon freedom, the freedom to take it and make it into your own hot-rod. We are also a forward thinking company that listens and delivers, next week, not next year for more money. We were finding a large group of people who love Peppermint and Chrome and this is our gift to them, we are excited to see where we can take this one as well….
What features can we look forward to in the future with Peppermint?
Peppermint Ice and a 64 Bit version will be in the immediate future. Kendall and I have a lot more planned for Peppermint for the long term and this is what we are working on now. More news on that later.
Prediction time now, how far do you think we are away from a complete desktop cloud operating system in the home? or do you think that the future will be more reliance but not total dependency on, the cloud?
I think “more reliance but not total dependency on” is going to be the direction things go in the future. Regardless of the advancements in cloud computing there is still going to be a market and a need for locally stored files and locally installed applications. Downtime and immediacy of access are things to consider here. I’m all in favor of moving things to the cloud, but I still want a functioning system if I’m offline and I don’t believe I’m the only one with that sentiment
I can’t ever see a complete and total “Give up” of all data to the Cloud. Its this “all-or-nothing” and “the-sky-is-falling” yammer that makes me concerned the most. There will always be a need for locally stored data. Its not going away. So, why create a total Cloud OS that leaves a single point of failure which is the connection itself? When your Cloud OS loses connection, Peppermint can keep on trucking until the connection comes back. To be honest, I think the most amazing things that Linux and the Cloud have to offer will be seen in home appliances and the management of energy consumption from remote locations. Its not all about your personal files and Mp3’s, you know?
Are we going to see Peppermint on Twitter soon?
We’re already on top of that. The official Peppermint accounts are @PeppermintOS for the main account and @AskPeppermint for support questions. My personal Twitter account is @Kendall_Tristan, Shane is the notorious @roadhacker, and Nick (our support guy) is @Asheguy.
You can also find us on Facebook
If you had to name one FOSS application that for you represents the value of FOSS, what would it be?
For me it would be the GIMP. What was originally “just a program” has been used, developed and modified to where now it’s so much more. Think about GTK, the framework for what the majority of desktop Linux is built upon. Think about the improvements in what can be done with image manipulation. Think about the fact that it’s a free application that easily holds it’s own against the $700 industry standard. Sure the learning curve is different, but I fail to see the downside of learning something useful.
I’m with Kendall on this one: The GIMP. Its the first FOSS application I show to a new Linux user and Its the first one I showed to my own two daughters. Learn the GIMP and the LAMP stack and the Web is yours….
And that concluded the Q&A with the Peppermint. I hope you’ve had a chance to download the ISO and take a look yourselves.
Peppermint, like many distro’s do need your help and support, whether its reporting bugs, telling people about your good experiences with the distro, making a donation or visiting the Peppermint store….it all helps to support and enables the development of excellent projects like this.
The Peppermint site can be found here: http://peppermintos.com/
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