Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Linux Distro with a cool minty Flavour

Since Katrina arrived last year with her personal effects and Isabelle, her desktop computer has been sitting in her room, languishing. It has been ignored and not been allowed to fulfil it's intended life mission as a computer. The problem has been its operating system. It has Windows XP Professional on it, not that its a bad OS, in fact there are a number of positive strengths to it. The problem was the installation process, it wasn't quite right and since someone else did it, there were a number of issues.

So it sat.

Now, if you know me, a unfulfilled computer means one thing and one thing only:

Linux. In particular, Ubuntu. You know I have installed and used Ubuntu, both on a desktop and a laptop. In fact I have installed Ubuntu on the main desktop, turning it into a dual boot computer. I must admit I haven't done the installation on the new Dell for two reasons. One, its still under warranty and I don't want to mess that up. The second point has to do with iTunes, because Steve Jobs doesn't want to expand iTunes to the Linux community. Oh yes, sure, MacOS is based upon Unix, but Linux, forget it, blasted proprietary closed system.

Right, so much for my bit of a rant. I thought of installing Ubuntu on the machine since I am used to it, but I recalled that Katrina once complained about Ubuntu. I don't know why, it's wonderful and works right off the disc. I had thought of installing Kubuntu, but I'm not a great fan of KDE. However, as I thought about it, Kubuntu was becoming the system to install, at least so I thought.

Then I found Peppermint.

I found it and installed it and its working. One of the problems Katrina had was the loss of sound, not any more. There is sound on her computer. The only problem is with her DVD-ROM drive. It's very sketchy, something I'm going to work at over the next little while. There's a fix out there and I shall find it.

What can I say about Peppermint. First of all, it is based upon Ubuntu and Linux Mint. So it is part of the Ubuntu family, with a few differences.

All the articles I've read discuss the same points and in particular the point as to its speed of booting. It is a slim and trim distro, just at about 400 MB to download for the .iso. To compare it, Ubuntu is now over 700MB for the latest release. So now it broken the 'available on one CD disc'. Yes Ubuntu is now a real hog. Tragic I know. It is light and fast. It is also not brown, which is the main color of Ubuntu. It is also very much a distro that depends on the Cloud. The reason for the small size is the fact that many of the apps are not installed but are available on the web. Instead of Open Office, it uses Google Doc. As well, instead of GIMP it Photo Editor by Plixr. It is cloud based and I think this is both its strength and its weakness.

Let me explain by the weakness. To access the Office programs you need a google account. This means Google gets to know more about you. Also, Google Doc may not be the best Office alternative out there, personally I use Zoho.

Its strength is the fact that much of the apps are web based. The developers behind Peppermint use Mozilla Prism, which means specific sites can run directly on the desktop, out of the browser. You can access the Doc directly as well as gmail, Facebook, YouTube and other goodies. With this the age of social networking, if it gets you to these sites quicker, the better for many people.

Even though it speaks much of the cloud, it's not like Chrome OS, which is totally cloud based, this is a typical Linux distro and one can install applications to the hard drive. The advantage, because the main apps are web based, then you can have it on a smaller hard drive and have room for more programs. It is light weight, so it can run on older computers.

The Inquirer writes a positive review and makes this comment on the resource usage:
The team reckons that Peppermint Linux needs only 4GB of hard drive space to install and claims it can run in 192MB of memory. We won't be too surprised if this claim is correct, given that this review clocked Peppermint using just 82Mb of system memory.

On just an evening, I would say my experience is positive, it is light weight, but not a lightweight. One can't dismiss it as a cloud based OS, because while it may have its head in the clouds, it still keeps its feet on the ground.

If you want to bring life to an older computer, give it a try. You will enjoy the experience.

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