This musing comes as a result of a topic brought up over on Usenet.
The crux of this article is around a fictitious headline of:
BREAKING NEWS: MICROSOFT RELEASES ITS OFFICE SUITE FOR LINUX
Take a few seconds to consider how you would feel, then maybe be kind enough to hear my view.
So it’s great? Microsoft’s flagship product now available to those who in the past had only LO, Abiword etc to chose from. Now you can run natively on your Linux box that which Windows users have been for years.
Bad idea? Yes completely, here’s why. Let me just add before someone mentions it, yes I know Microsoft produces code for the Kernel. Have I an issue? No, because in that respect it is as part of a team of developers who all have various quality checks and testing – kernel devs don’t mindlessly accept all code and say “cheers mate” as they paste it in with a text editor. The process I’d suggest is more complex and even if Microsoft wanted to (which I’m sure it wouldn’t) there’s little chance of anything “naughty” going on there. So for me, Microsoft contributions are welcomed, if with a little surprise at myself saying that.
Microsoft moving its products to Linux? Different matter. I should say that my feelings about Microsoft having its product on Linux would be similar with any large corp, Adobe or anyone else. This article isn’t so much a critical piece on Microsoft in that respect because this is only a theoretical question and to my knowledge Microsoft have not discussed or made moves to bring say Office to Desktop Linux.
Microsoft, like any large corp can afford losses much easier than most. They can sell or provide at a loss for a long period in order to recoup the amount later. Bill Gates (to use an example) was quoted as saying:
About 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.
And to be fair, large corps can have long term strategies where small ones cannot. Its smaller ones that we are going to consider. I’m not going to use the name of a real Linux distro because its unfair to second guess what they would do, so for the purposes here, lets say the most popular distro is Really Good Goblin Linux (or RGGL)
So RGGL gets in its flashy app store Microsoft Office. Do you think its beyond the realms of possibility that Microsoft would want people (and the store) to favour its product? I think its very reasonable. Large firms don’t make money by giving it to competition. Large firms don’t give a swift handshake and a “Jolly good show” to a competitor when they lose a sale. So could it be reasonably considered that Microsoft could offer the Distro maker incentives for sales of their product over the other alternatives in the store? A sort of commission? I’d say yes.
Is that fair? Well its possible, if Microsoft spend money on development, bring it to Linux, they are going to want a return. They are not going to say “Before you buy our product, check out Libre Office first”. How could Libre Office compete with a Microsoft marketing machine on Linux? What if Microsoft gave it away with a view to charge later? When we look to the past allegations against Microsoft, that doesn’t seem too unrealistic.
And we know Microsoft deals in huge amounts of money, we know that Microsoft can and does market aggressively. So here is our RGGL and their app store. Here is Microsoft with their investment and wallet full of money. What do you think will happen? I’m not necessarily suggesting anything underhanded, I’m suggesting business – big business from a firm who in the past has been to court and been accused of quite a few dodgy practices. It may not happen, but I think its reasonable to suggest and certainly cause enough for concern for me to say that out of choice I’d not like to see Office on Linux.
We don’t have to cast our minds back far when Canonical and Amazon news was released. Now whilst then it wasn’t anything like Microsoft bringing Office to Linux, we can see that when you have partnerships, people can get upset.
One of the general arguments for Office on Linux is that it would bring more users to desktop Linux. I’d say no because peoples need (either imagined or real) for Windows is far more than just Microsoft products, products which they would be needing to look at using Wine as an alternative. Wine is excellent but for a new Linux user straight from Windows trying Wine to get other binaries working? I’d say that’s not ideal and I don’t think on the strength of Microsoft’s Office suite alone you’d get users moving from Windows to Linux.
And what of the Linux users now? What of the FOSS advocates? Will they warm to the idea? Would they be buying the Microsoft products that until now have not been native to Linux? I’d say no in the main, I’d say the Microsoft of the past and the fact its a proprietary office suite would stop purchase.
So would this be bad for Microsoft? Well I thnk so. If I think Windows users have more than Office in their Windows needs in the main, then I can’t see either home or business turning around and saying “Right, pack the bags, Office is on Linux, we’re leaving”
Moving outside of Microsoft and looking at the general picture, we need get away from the circle of proprietary file formats. We have fantastic packages here promoting the use of open formats and providing a great end user experience. Libre Office and what its dev team provides to millions of people around the planet is outstanding and its not there to keep you in any ecosystem, its merely providing great software and accessibility for all. This is but one example – but its relevant to the subject at hand.
We are slowly moving towards less of a locally based application ecosystem. In the cloud, software as a service, web based – all words thrown about and used to show that we are moving away from the idea of having apps and working “traditionally”. There are users with concerns here and unfortunately for those they will ultimately end up wherever the mainstream masses decide. And the mainstream masses in my view have very little concern. If they did then all the allegations about Facebook et al would have seen a mass exodus overnight. – This further reinforces that this musing is merely theoretical and in the future it will be all about services rather than OS’s for users and its this reason why I think Microsoft’s future plans will not be looking at other platforms for their software, but rather web-based services/apps that can be sold to anyone with a browser.
If you believe that Office coming to Linux would be a good thing, I’d love for you to have your say. Maybe there is facet of this view missing? Maybe you can offer another outcome to my views about Office on Linux? – This article was written on the back of some disagreement in Usenet.
As always though, thanks for reading.
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
In 2008 I tried a well known distro called Mandriva, even back then the bar was set pretty high for what you could expect out of the box from Linux. Suffice to say it failed me, from regular yet apparently random freezes to a bug in its update manager pestering me to “upgrade” to a previous version, I suffered with it for a few days before replacing with Ubuntu 8.04 and swore that I would never again look at Mandriva.
Years passed and I stayed with my comfortable Gnome environment, I tried KDE numerous times and couldn’t warm to it, so it seemed fitting that with a new distro on the block and KDE considerably more mature than when I last gave it try, that I dive into both, giving them the OpenBytes treatment.
Mageia is a fork of Mandriva Linux formed in September 2010 by former employees and contributors to the popular French Linux distribution. Unlike Mandriva, which is a commercial entity, the Mageia project is a community project and a non-profit organisation whose goal is to develop a free Linux-based operating system.
So here is Mageia, the fork of the Mandriva product, three years on the scars are still visable but I’m ready to put aside those dark days and delve into a distro that is not only “new to the market” but also offering me a DE (KDE) which I have to date never really felt at home with.
I had an “interim” distro on my main rig (Mint 11), so after one last Dent declaring my departure, I burned and booted the 64bit DVD iso for the first time. As modern distro’s go the installation process was very simple. This is probably to be expected in today’s Linux, but even so, it offered a punchy installation process which took around 15 minutes to complete. One thing that did disturb me was the absence of a live boot, which often allays any reservations I have of “throwing my eggs in one basket”.
Everything was detected successful by Mageia and as is par for the course with Linux these days, on first boot my machine was functional and ready to go.
It would be a time-consuming exercise to list all the packages included in a vanilla install of Mageia and since users will “dilute to taste”, there are a few items of note. The first would be the sheer number of apps presented to the user upon first boot. The default browser (as you would expect) was Firefox 4.01, which whilst arguably the most popular browser for Linux users, its not mine. That would be going if indeed I was to spend any time with Mageia. LibreOffice 3.3.2 is included as default and certainly an office suite most people cannot do without. I was pleased (though not surprised) to see K3b present as a default package and even with Gnome, ranks as my favourite disk burning package.
I was disappointed that Thunderbird was not present as default (although obtainable through the repo’s) as I would defend the position vigorously that it’s the best all-in-one mail suite out there.
So where to start? Lets start with KDE and some points which have no relevance to Mageia at all. Ive decided that KDE is definitely not for me. I said many years ago that whilst it was very difficult to put into writing what I didn’t like, I said it felt, cheap, plastic and uncontrollable. The plethora of GUI’s and utils to customize your system (in comparison to say Gnome) is akin to travelling from the UK to America via Saturn. KDE still for me, goes around the houses to perform the simplest of tasks and I have neither the time nor inclination to flick around in menu’s and sub menu’s to do something I could accomplish in Gnome within about 2 clicks.
KDE also has this silly tradition of sticking a K infront of its native apps, which whilst I’m sure is very “cool” and obvious to seasoned KDE users, to me who has spent his years with Gnome, it makes menus look like I’ve accidentally selected the wrong language setting at install time – its all rather confusing, with a game of “what on earth does that application do?” – Having now been reminded of a KDE desktop, I certainly won’t consider exposing a new Linux user to the complexities of the “K” naming system and Ive yet to see a KDE desktop where the taskbar doesn’t look crowded and cramped.
So lets now look at Mageia, on first impressions it was quite impressive, everything appeared to be working fine and within a few seconds I was proudly sending my first dent to say I had returned with my new distro.
It didn’t take long though for cracks to show and probably the first major one was when I innocently plugged in a USB stick with some bookmarks/newsfeeds that I’d exported out of their respective clients prior to installing Mageia. As soon as the USB stick was inserted the screen when black (albeit with a few graphical artifacts) and the system completely hung, forcing me (for the first time in many years) to perform a hard reset. Yes, I can report this bug, yes I’m sure it will be fixed, but with no error message or indeed any clue as to what had just happened, I had no time to perform surgery on the distro. It should be noted that I have not researched this bug and have no idea if it is widespread or merely unique to me.
As would be expected, the Mageia repo’s are tiny, software that I would have liked to have seen was not present (Mupen,E-UAE) and for example, the emulators section (GUI apps) were little more than Dosbox, Wine and Zsnes. I know you can add your own, I know Mageia is new, but the level of expectation in today’s distro is far higher than in the past. If Mageia is to be offered to existing Linux users, I’d ask what is it offering that they don’t already have, if its being offered to new users I would ask what is there here that would make their transition from a Windows lifestyle as painless as possible? In both cases with Mageia in its current state I’d say very little.
Whilst installing packages of my choice from the repo’s, I noticed a rather annoying “feature”. Despite specifically selecting an application of my choice from the rather limited repo, I was prompted to put in the Mageia DVD. I believe this is due to the package already being including on the disk and the package manager is being “helpful”, but this feature was rather annoying since like most people, upon install, the DVD is thrown into some dark corner of the room. I am sure this feature can be disabled easily, but at this point it became clear Mageia would not be staying on my rig, so I went along with its demands for the sake of time.
On the plus side CPU usage was surprisingly low. I’ve taken the opportunity over the past few weeks to keep an eye on quite a few distro’s demands on the processor. I’d say that at present Mageia is the best performer, as when I was going about my daily net activities none of the cores went above 10% and if they did it was for a very short period of time. Memory wise Mageia held at around the 1gig mark and I was impressed at the low demands a modern distro was putting on my resources.
There has been much work put into Mageia but in today’s computing world your product has to be far more than merely functional With so many other distro’s competing for your attention, I think Mageia is not yet ready to become a player at the top of the league for Linux distro’s with the RC seeming more like a beta. My requirements of an OS are not satisfied with Mageia and should I remain with this distro, I would not be as productive. That is not acceptable and so for me its goodbye, with an appreciation that KDE is not for me either. I will certainly be looking at the Gnome flavour of Mageia on a secondary rig and I would expect a more favourable opinion since I do love Gnome.
On a positive note, I have already spoken to some members of the Mageia team. They are certainly open to all comments and very keen to continually improve Mageia, for many people I expect the improvements will be exciting to watch as they are part of the Mageia user base and it is nice to see a distro in its infancy, with the last one I covered at this stage being Peppermint. I wish the Mageia team all the best for the future.
You can visit the homepage of Mageia here: http://www.mageia.org/en/
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
Salix, a slackware distro, is one I’ve looked at previously on Openbytes. It has a history with Zenwalk, but not in just the fact that they are two Slackware offerings, it was reported that a group of developers left the Zenwalk project and created the Salix project, lucky for us as Salix has matured into an accessable product and yet another option for those looking for a different distro.
So here is release candidate 1 of a distro which from previous experience offers a punchy performance (and is here in an LXDE flavour) Whilst the plethora of Ubuntu based distro’s continue with them ranging between unique and more of the same, its refreshing to have a chance to take a look at another Slackware distro (and especially one which I was pleased with before) The features listed by the developers on Salix’s homepage state:
- one application per task on the installation ISO
- fully backwards compatible with Slackware
- optimized for desktop usage
- high quality package repositories with dependency support
- incredibly fast package tools
- simple & fully localized system administration tools
- nice artwork
- installation ISO fits on a single CD
- supports 32-bit and 64-bit architectures
and they say:
Based on Slackware Linux 13.1, it features the lightweight X11 Desktop Environment, with a clean look and feel. The main applications that complete the LXDE experience are the lightweight and fast PCManFM file manager and the popular Openbox window manager. As with the standard Xfce edition, this CD image allows installation to be performed in three different modes – core, basic and full. The core mode is identical to the one you get from the Xfce edition. Basic will only install a minimal LXDE desktop with only Midori and gslapt installed as extra and full will install everything that is included on the CD image. That includes the lightweight Midori web browser, the Claws-mail e-mail client, the Transmission BitTorrent client and the Pidgin instant messaging client.
Compatibility wise, Salix had no problems detecting anything. The test machine for this review was an AMD Athon II x4 635, with 3gb of memory and an shared/integrated Nvidia 9200 graphics card. The liveCD booted far faster than my current distro of choice did when I was installing. The fresh, clean and aesthetically appealing wallpapers for Salix are a testament to the effort being put into it and the “little things”.
Installation was offers three options – Full, Basic and Core. You’re probably not going to opt for core unless you have a beard, so for many the option will be Basic or full.
The .iso clocks in at around 526mb which is hardly going to challenge anyone’s connection and as commented on by many, Salix LXDE has a blisteringly fast install time (around 10 minutes)
Whats packaged as default?
So lets look at some the packages you expect to find installed as default on this distro. For the complete list of whats packaged, you can check here. It’s refreshing to see none of the play once games included, if you really have a desire you can fill your boots in the repo’s and Ive long said that the “time is up” for the generic games of solitaire, snake et al on a distro.
Abiword is present here as default in version 2.8.6, which is the latest release. This for me is welcome since I don’t need an entire office suite packaged as default and I find AbiWord fits the bill for an all purpose word processor.
Theres plenty of help to be had on the liveCD and if you are coming to Salix from a more “nannied” distro such as Ubuntu, help is on hand should you require it. The liveCD has a desktop link to a web-based Freenode IRC client (and the Salix chat room) The installation of multimedia codecs is a case of merely clicking an icon.
I’m pleased to see Transmission included since I’ve not been convinced by Deluge and it’s “busier” GUI.
Midori is the browser packaged with Salix, which whilst I’ve always liked and found to be a very punchy, solid experience, I’ve never replaced Chromium with.
Gslapt handles package management and I think its a given that this is a rather user-friendly, simply way to handle your package needs.
As I say, Ive deployed Linux quite extensively, from friends and family to friends of friends and our local computer club. Most of these people have no clue what an operating system is or how to install one and merely want an escape from their Windows desktop. When looking at a distro for OpenBytes, I consider two things – would I want this on my main rig? and; How easy will this be to deploy and provide support for to a user who may not have any experience of Linux. In both cases Salix received a favorable answer. Little things like a package that installs the multimedia codecs is very welcome as if I am around a friend’s house installing it on their desktop, I want things handed on a plate, so that I spend as little time as possible.
The speedy install times, make this a very attractive distro for me to deploy to others too and with the one click installation of all the codecs I could wish for also appeals greatly to me (although is not unique to Salix and Sabayon 5.3 (currently on my main rig, offers the same feature at install time)
The installation itself was simple and I think shows just how far Linux on the desktop has come. Not so long ago, there were only a handful of distro’s that truly offered a user friendly installation, now it seems a “minimum standard” of any new release.
Salix (thanks to its LXDE flavour) is very fast. Whilst some will find LXDE too simple looking and would probably migrate towards KDE or Gnome, LXDE affords even the lowest of specs a very fast, functional performance and a great introduction to a Slackware distro. If you are after a Slack distro that spares a thought for the new or inexperienced user, give Salix a go. Either way, seasoned Linux expert or Linux newbie, Salix LXDE is a great release and very worthy of a look.
Salix has its Distrowatch entry here: http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=salix
You can download (directly) from here: http://downloads.sourceforge.net/salix/salix-lxde-13.1.1.iso
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:
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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.
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/
Goblin – email@example.com
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the Openbytes statement, here.