Its been a while since I wrote a distro review on Openbytes and its also been a while since I visited Peppermint developments. To this day I still have a Netbook (Acer) which many years ago I installed Peppermint on and whilst in the days of tablets and just about every device in your house having a CPU and net access, I’ve not been back to see how the project has progressed as far as the rigs I’m using today. I have written this review rather differently and taken into account readers and users who may have little interest in the “bones” of computing and merely want a decent computing experience, for those people the sections are marked as “new user” although if “experts” want to have a look, I’m sure a few of them will feel slightly perturbed by some of my observations of them. This review serves two purposes for me, one to highlight Peppermint which I recently looked back into and another to highlight where Linux (as far as advocacy of others) has gone a little wrong over the years with it’s “do as I say” or “you can’t do that” attitude.
Its interesting for me to look back at my original review (found here: https://openbytes.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/review-peppermint-cloudlightweight-distro-considering-the-cloud/ ) as it was a time when cloud computing was still gaining traction. There were fears about storing your data on the cloud, fears about using web based apps (or machines that required a permanent net connection to be fully functional) and people still harboured strong feelings to owning “physical” things – the idea’s of app purchases or indeed pay for streaming, were still seen by many as things of the future. – One look at the volume of app purchases on mobile devices today suggests to me that the majority of users are boldly moving into “non-physical” purchases at warp 10. Back in May 2010 when I first looked at Peppermint, I had reservations, but unlike some of the more vocal “do it our way or not at all” GNU/Linux/FOSS advocates, I kept more of a “lets see” attitude. Whilst the rights or wrongs of cloud computing and non-physical purchases still have the jury out, it was obvious to me at the time which way the wind was blowing with the mainstream consumer.
I digress, back to the Peppermint 4 review which offers itself in both 32 and 64bit flavours for the user.
Running the LXDE desktop environment, Peppermint 4 begins the race at a fast pace. After selecting it at boottime via the GRUB menu (please see below), its about 20 seconds from being Net ready. Peppermint has always focused more towards the cloud computing ethos, so the installed apps (as in locally stored) are few in number and mostly relate to system admin/config utilities you will require when refining your desktop.
You’ll find a media player, bittorrent client and IRC client amongst the locally installed applications, however most of your other needs will be served via web based applications through what is called ICE (again see below)
Peppermint offers a very simple and straight forward approach to installing, infact its doubtful if you will really want to start changing things (especially if you are a new user) and one of the things it offers you is to dual boot (that is to install Peppermint along side whatever operating system is already on your machine)
Since I don’t wear a tin foil hat, I facilitate the Chromium ability to store all my passwords, links, history. For me as soon as the installation was complete (about 30mins on a very slow net connection) I was able to log into Chromium and have my browser exactly the same as it was in my other OS, complete with all my links and saved passwords.
As was touched on above, the majority of local applications (those installed on your harddrive) relate to modifying your system and customizing it for your needs. Tranmission the BT client is one of the exceptions, as to are the media players.
You’ve got Google integration (for your drive etc) here already, although to be fair, any distro can be set up in the same way in a matter of seconds, but the nice thing here is that Peppermint is, (as far as installation of local applications goes) a bare-bones system which offers complete functionality at first boot. Dropbox is also present, but most users (both expert and not) spend most of their time in the browser (I’d guess)
As I said many years ago Peppermint OS is a great system. Whilst it has a strong leaning to the cloud, it does not force you down that route and is a powerful Linux distribution that will run very quickly on your hardware. Peppermint is not bogged down with “fluff” and packages that you won’t use, since most of the software is browser based, removing it is merely removing a link.
In the past, I’ve crossed paths with some of the Peppermint team (in a good way) and they are a dedicated, friendly team who have remained true to their vision of a Linux distribution all these years. Peppermint is a reflection of this dedication which doesn’t force you to adopt their vision, merely presents you with a very fast operating system which you can customize to your own needs very simply and regardless of how much of a toe you dip into the cloud world, Peppermint will serve your needs very well.
Whilst my Acer Aspire One with its old version of Peppermint gets little use now (its tablets, Playstations and desktop’s in our house) I can certainly see Peppermint remaining on my main rig now for a considerable time. Maybe that’s an indicator that my usage of computers has changed? Or maybe it’s simply that like it or not, the cloud is inevitable and the best way to stay on-top of this without having to put all your eggs in one basket, is with Peppermint.
The GNU/LINUX experts (for new Linux users)
“Experts” come in all shapes and sizes with probably some of the most intimidating (in a tech sense for a new user to Linux) in the GNU/Linux world. You’ll read all manner of rants about software freedoms, proprietary software and its “evils”. For most people who use their machine as they would any other device around the house, they leave the experience baffled. New to Linux? Then get ready to be baffled by “experts” who will tell you about DE’s, proprietary, opensource, GRUB and many more terms.
Linux “experts” and the type who are most likely to baffle you with software “ethics” et al can be quite easy to spot. Amongst the most obnoxious can be the ones who show screenshots of their Linux system running in the command line. To them, the less aesthetically pleasing it looks, the more advanced they must be (or thats my theory anyway).
Let me hopefully make this simple for you: Select what is right for you, learn (if you wish) at your own time, then if you find yourself with opinions on certain software/configurations you can make changes then. – If you listen to many of the sites that will rant on about KDE or BASH and how to use script files to solve all of life’s issues, you will end up confused and nowhere fast, migrating back to Windows or that delicious fruit branded operating system. This is, I think the problem desktop Linux has had over the years and I think deep down many of these “experts” with Linux and FOSS don’t actually want the mainstream using them as they can then feel special or important that their machine runs on software very few people use – or know how to use.
Whats GRUB? – Its the menu system you get when you switch your machine on that allows you to chose between say Linux and Window (if you have what is called dual boot). What’s ICE? its basically your Chromium browser stripped down of all the fluff and menus and allows a web page to be run (for example Twitter) like a application. – See? two terms which at first seemed complex, explained in a few lines and shown to be rather simple.
Myths dispelled (for new users)
Here are some of the comments you will hear from people online in respect of Linux. It’s unclear if these people are just sincerely ignorant or if they have a vested interest in keeping you away from software which is free and will complete the tasks you are currently doing on software you’ve had to pay for.
1. You have to compile your own Kernel. – Rubbish. I won’t explain what the Kernel is at this time (its not required) but suffice to say, in 2008 I started reviewing Linux distro’s (having used Linux for a long time) and not once have I had the need (or desire to compile the Kernel). If someone makes this remark, you can ignore it completely.
2. You have to compile your applications, its difficult to install software. – Again rubbish. For many years most Linux distro’s have the equivilant of the app store that you see on your mobile phone. Software is categorised with reviews and screenshots within the software center (or similar) and installing is merely a click away. There’s no zip files, no compiling, no editing script files. If you can install an application on your mobile phone, then you’ll have no difficulty on Peppermint.
3. Linux doesn’t work with your hardware – Rubbish again, of course there can be issues (just like when some people tried to install Windows Vista for example) so when it comes to installing any new operating system on the plethora of hardware options out there, it’s impossible to say before hand if there are going to be any issues. I’ve installed Linux on over 100 machines and not had issues – is this an indicator of a “perfect” Linux anymore than a naysayers claiming Linux won’t work? No of course not. This is why anyone considering Linux should follow the suggestion I make below, if you are wanting to swap your current operating system experience and find out for yourself.
4. You can’t play Windows games on Linux – This is half true. Just as you wouldn’t expect to play Xbox One games on a PS4, you can, for the moment take it that if you buy the latest Windows game, it won’t work on Linux. Whilst you are new to the Linux environment its best you stick with that, there are ways to get Windows games running on Linux (using a package called WINE) however, this is something that should be looked at later when you’ve become used to how Linux works. For now, if you want to play the latest Windows games, stick with Windows, moving to Linux for the sole purpose of playing games made for Windows is not worth it.
5. You can’t run Microsoft Office – For now agree that you can’t, but why do you need to? Do you have a specific need for the Office suite of Microsoft or are you one of the millions of users who merely need a Word Processor et al and it just so happens you’ve always used Office? There’s plenty of options. My first book which is awaiting publication was 80,000+ words and went nowhere near anything of Microsoft. GoogleDocs? (as stated above Peppermint already has the integration there for you) Libreoffice? – A great Office Suite that will cost you the princely sum of £0.00.
How to explore Linux
When I’m introducing someone to Linux, I don’t believe the “all or nothing” approach works, so if you are new to Linux and would like to see the benefits it can offer you, download and burn onto disk the latest version of Peppermint and follow these steps.
1. Run it from the DVD/CD – Now that you’ve burned your copy of Peppermint, you can run it from the disk without having to install anything at all. So put your disk in reboot the computer and look out for a message similar to “press f12 for boot options” select to boot from your DVD and in a short while (please note if you do install Peppermint it will load far faster) Peppermint will boot to the desktop, where you can access the net and have a play around with Linux.
I normally tell people to boot from a CD for about a week, get on with the tasks that they need to do and see fully if they enjoy the Linux experience. If, after a week they are happy, I suggest the next step.
2. Install Linux alongside your existing operating system. Peppermint (and many other distro’s) offer you the facility to install alongside what currently installed on your PC. Doing this will mean that every time you reboot, you will be presented with a menu giving you the option of which operating system you wish to run.
After step 2 has been completed, I usually leave the user for a few weeks to see how they get on. If they are still happy, then they can make the decision to either remove the old operating system or leave it in there. And finally:
3. Once they’ve had Linux running on their system for a few months and are happy with the experience, I tell them to let other people know. Probably the biggest myth that needs to be dispelled about Linux is that it is the remit of “experts”. Ironically since 2008 and this sites creation, the most complex issues I’ve had to fix on friends PC’s have been on Windows machines. Could I merely be saying that in order to promote Linux? Well I could, but just like a recommendation of anything from anyone, the only way you find out is if you give it go yourself and come to your own conclusion.
You can check out this punchy, simple to use desktop on their homepage: http://peppermintos.com
Having a paid extension on my Google Drive capacity (100gb) cloud storage is something which I am increasingly coming to rely on in the days where I am not limited to one particular form factor for my productivity.
Unlike many users, my use of Google Drive is a little more than merely family photographs/video and is also a place for me to conduct the draft versions of much of my on-line writing.
Today, some users are experiencing Google Drive issues, be it intermittent connection or nothing at all. Funnily enough I first encountered the problem (without being aware of the issue) when trying to access the drive via my Samsung S3. I put that down to being in a bad signal area and not a fault on Google’s part.
Since returning home, my desktop PC connects, albeit slowly and I find the matter has been reported by other news outlets.
The affected users are unable to access Google Drive. We will provide an update by 3/18/13 4:10 PM detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change
I also noticed another error today on the Google Drive (which does not seem to have been reported). In one of my folders I have a collection of birthday pictures, it seemed that when I selected a picture from the preview thumbnail on my desktop PC, the picture shown was not the one selected. Could this issue also be linked to the problems with Google Drive? We shall see.
In the meantime it does raise some important questions. How does a cloud storage outage affect you? For most, it will be nothing more than an inconvenience but for a business, the results could be catastrophic.
It will be interesting to see what the cause of the issue is and one thing can be sure, with Microsoft’s competing Office 365, we can guarantee a slew of articles showing why you should choice Microsoft’s offering.
We can also expect this issue to be held up by the anti-cloud crowd as being the flagship reason why you shouldn’t trust your data to it and maybe cloud computing/storage’s greatest test of consumer confidence (depending on the severity of the issues Google Drive has)
Press release received from the Peppermint dev team. Due to a shortage of time (and a desire to get this news out) here is the release in full. Peppermint Ice will be discussed/reviewed in depth next week:
Peppermint Ice: Faster, Lighter and Aiming for the Clouds
Asheville, NC, USA July 18, 2010
Just three short months ago Peppermint OS released its first operating system and since then has been riding a virtual tsunami of popularity and served over 250,000 downloads of its OS One to 149 countries. On Monday July 19th, 2010 this same feisty team of developers are ready to release Peppermint Ice, another variant its operating system that is even lighter, faster and more cloud application focused.
Peppermint Ice will boast Google’s Chromium as its default web browser, which is speedy on its own, but is boosted to even faster performance on the super sleek and lightweight Peppermint Ice platform.
What is Ice?
Ice is, by definition, is the new Site Specific Browser [SSB] that Peppermint creator Kendall Weaver wrote himself as a means to launch Web Applications and/or Cloud Applications [SaaS – Software As A Service, PaaS – Platform as a Service] from the new Peppermint Ice OS. When you launch a web based application using Ice it will call up a custom SSB using the default Chromium Browser. So, essentially, the Ice SSB acts as software that is installed locally but is actually delivered via the Cloud.
The difference in using an SSB as opposed to using a tabbed browser is that only one function is assigned to the Ice SSB. In a tabbed browsing system, with several open for example, if one service or site in any given tab crashes you run the risk of losing data by crashing the other tabs and potentially the browser itself. since an SSB is isolated and dedicated to only operating the web application of your choice, if it crashes or hangs, it does not effect the rest of the system. And, because the Ice SSB’s are so sleek, they are perfect for running apps that display better using the most screen area as possible.
Peppermint Ice will release to the public on Monday July 19th 2010 @ http://peppermintos.com/download
More About Peppermint:
Peppermint Ice boasts automatic updates, easy step-by-step installation, sleek user friendly interface, increased mobility by integrating directly with cloud based applications, ready to use out of the box, and best of all Peppermint Ice is Free of Charge. In numerous tests, even on older model laptops, from pressing the Power On button until completely booted-up, connected to the Internet and ready for work, Peppermint takes 20-25 seconds to fully load!! When you are ready to quit you don’t need to wait five to ten minutes for the system to shut down because Peppermint Ice powers down in 5 seconds. Impressive indeed.
“Let me be absolutely clear about one thing: Peppermint Linux OS is fast. Really fast. On this tired old laptop, Peppermint boots up from a cold, powered down state in just under 25 seconds from me hitting the power button….. I can’t even imagine what this OS would be like on newer hardware. It’d be unbelievable.” – The Linux Critic [ http://bit.ly/aAxs1G ]
Peppermint In the News:
For additional information, Contact:
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/
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.
Vulnerability in Internet Explorer Could Allow Remote Code Execution
….An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could gain the same user rights as the local user.
Taken from the Microsoft Security Advisory posted on 23rd November 2009.
We are beginning (IMO) a new era of computing, the once merely discussed computing in the cloud is starting to come into fruition.
For me the “turning point” will begin with Chrome OS and its retail release. success or failure, the idea of trusting the cloud for your computing needs will be one step closer to something which I believe will be commonplace in the home. Why do I think this? Lets look a little earlier in history and consider when the Internet was gathering pace, I remember the concept of “always on” net access was feared as being the harbinger of death and destruction with the idea being an exercise in exploit suicide. Those days are long in the past however as a throwback of that “fear”, out of habit I still switch my computer off after use and unplug my router!
The first quote of this article is in relation to the latest set of patches to be released on “Patch Tuesday” or as I call it “Catching up Tuesday”. Microsoft is allegedly releasing 6 security bulletins on the 8th of December. Lets look at how the latest round of (finally) discovered exploits is described by Zdnet:
Microsoft urged customers to pay special attention to the IE update because of the availability of public exploit code and the fact that attackers could launch malware attacks to take complete control of a Windows machine running a vulnerable browser
So what does this have to do with the subject of Cloud Computing?
One of the arguments that I see when people are stating the case not to move to the cloud is fear over the security of their data. I ask that this article is read on the basis of the home user and not enterprise merely because the diverse needs and sensitivity of data would mean that talking about all permutations within enterprise and their suitability for the cloud would make a never ending article.
If we agree that Microsoft Windows has a majority “chunk” of the market (at the moment ;) ) and we agree that people have a fear over the security of their data, what on earth does this say about the future of Microsoft Windows? Time and time again exploits are discovered, fixed and then the whole process starts over again. A reader Richard made a remark to me about retracting a comment I made in relation to Microsoft blaming a 3rd party for a Windows exploit and I think that highlights a very important point. Are customers not paying Microsoft money for a system that is secure? Sure, the exploit may have been a product of another party but does Microsoft not have any blame for allowing that exploit in the first place? and even if its proved that there was nothing Microsoft could have done, is that any consolation to the user who has fallen victim to a Windows exploit?
Now if a fear regarding Cloud computing is security of data then surely this is a reason to avoid Windows? Lets remind ourselves of some of the Windows exploits stories for 2009 (keep in mind though this is a very brief and far from complete summary of all the Windows issue this year)
Early in January this year we had reports that one in ten Windows machines were not patched to protect themselves from the worm that was the source of so many articles. If we think of the number of machines worldwide that run Windows, then you are looking at massive number of machines infested. The Register ran an article on that here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/01/19/conficker_worm_feed/
March this year saw a story break regarding a one year old exploit which Microsoft had allegedly done nothing about and we saw headlines of sites such as “Why Microsoft Puts Our Nation At Risk: Year Long Un-mitigated Risk, Now In The Wild” and the same article reported that:
What makes it even worse is that it work on both Windows Server 2008 and Server 2003. The exploit creates a backdoor shell after it steals the SYSTEM token.
This was also said at the time:
This is yet another example of a black-eye that Microsoft could have avoided. To repeat, the company had notice about this issue one year ago and despite evidence of proof-of-concept code, there is not patch for affected Windows users.
Its BSOD time again for Vista users!
9th of September 2009 saw an old friend hit the headlines again. Its time for the Blue Screen of Death! this exploit attacks machines that have the Server Message Block 2.0 protocol enabled and presents users with a BSOD! It allegedly affected Windows 7, however it was reported to NOT affect the retail Vista 7
Windows 7 users – Don’t worry! you’re next!
Vista 7, the only pig outside of the Muppet Show to wear lipstick (IMO) is now getting a little taste of the exploit action. On November 16th Slashdot reported a 0-day Windows 7 exploit affecting Windows Server 2008 r2 and Windows 7.
Microsoft at the time were alleged to have said (as reported in the article):
Microsoft said it may patch the problem, but didn’t spell out a timetable or commit to an out-of-cycle update before the next regularly-scheduled Patch Tuesday of December 8. Instead, the company suggested users block TCP ports 139 and 445 at the firewall
Which for those who enjoy computing as a hobby or professionally makes perfect sense. I wonder what the average user made of that afvice….clear as mud? Which maybe explains why so many exploits where only a workaround is offered are allowed to run rampant. The exploit described at Slashdot allegedly allows a hard crash of a vulnerable system.
You can also read about that exploit here
But wait! Theres more!
If the few highlighted exploits of 2009 were not enough, there was (in June 09) reports of Microsoft taking control of your PC with a bugged forced update! Windows secrets reported:
Many readers have reported seeing updates being installed at shutdown or reboot time without any notification, much less an opportunity to select which updates will or will not be applied
Adrian Kingsley-Hughes of ZDnet allegedly said:
I have been receiving reports of these stealth updates for a while now
which is not as worrying as an observation made at the time:
Perhaps it’s well past time Redmond respects who owns the computers they commandeer and who is in the best position to know when updates can safely be applied!
So it appears you can lose control of your PC to Microsoft as well as a vulnerability in their software. Still think the cloud is any more of a risk than this sad chain of events?
You can read that article here: http://windowssecrets.com/2009/07/02/03-Forced-updates-plague-Windows-users-worldwide
So those were but a few of the issues Windows had this year. There were plenty of others. People say that we shouldn’t trust our data to the cloud (or at least without some promises from the service provider) I ask is your data any safer when running a Windows system?
Chrome OS is due out next year, we are seeing the rise in popularity of services such as Ubuntu One and Dropbox, online apps are coming to the fore with Google Doc’s and Twitter to name a few…how much longer are we to rely on a locally based storage medium?
I don’t believe local storage will disappear over night, there is (IMO) a consumer hunger for “owning” media and good examples of this hunger can be found with the proud owners of TB’s of MP3/OGG files or disks crammed with Xvid/DivX video. Security of data?, sure its secure on your storage device, but how secure is your OS? What about the apps you are running and what promises can Microsoft make that the data stored on your hard disk is any more secure than that stored on the cloud?
Is not the argument to “not trust the cloud” more of an argument to get rid of Windows? – I’ll let you decide.
Questions I think which will be answered very shortly when ChromeOS hits the shelves.
I often see:
Yes, but Windows has more attacks because more people use it! Thats why Linux doesn’t!
A point with maybe a small amount of truth. I’d suggest though, thats of little comfort to a Windows user who has fallen victim to another security hole in their OS.
If security of your data is a reason why you don’t want to consider cloud computing why are you using Windows and what about considering Linux? – Just an idea.
 There were so many Windows issues this year, I have detailed only a very small amount. They are included to make a point. You can find more for yourself with a quick Google.
Goblin – email@example.com