Peppermint OS: Cloud Oriented Desktop Distro

Released in July, Peppermint Two is based on Lubuntu 11.04, an Ubuntu-derived distribution using the LXDE desktop environment (see our overview). Its main distinguishing feature is that it mixes traditional applications with cloud applications that are closely integrated into the desktop.

Previous versions of this distro made use of Mozilla Prism for running web applications directly on the desktop, but Peppermint has now switched over to Chromium. This means that Chromium is the web browser and also powers the rendering of web applications thanks to the ICE SSB (single site browser), a framework developed by members of the Peppermint OS team.

The Peppermint OS desktop looks fairly standard, consisting as it does of a combined task switcher and application launcher menu. Some of the default applications are conventional in that they are installed on the hard disk and these tend toward lightweight choices. For example, the music player is Guayadeque and the file manager is PCMan, the default of the LXDE window manager.

The main feature that distinguishes this distro is the fact that it integrates cloud-based applications alongside the more typical fare. In practice, what this amounts to is integration in two forms: The SSB is basically a plain window that renders web content. This allows a properly designed web application to have a look that is consistent with software that executes locally on the computer. In addition, the cloud applications populate the application launcher in the usual way.

The first such application that I examined was Pixlr, a photo retouching and drawing application. It's surprisingly fast, both in terms of launch speed and responsiveness in use. If I didn't know, I might not have guessed that this is a cloud application that is loaded from the web and is, effectively, running in a stripped down web browser. For doing actual work, it's a fairly full-featured tool, rather than just being a proof of concept cloud app. Other cloud applications include some Google office apps such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs.



The congruence between traditional and cloud applications falls down a bit when it comes to software management. Traditional applications are installed and removed using either Synaptic or the slightly friendlier mintInstall, both standard package managers. Cloud applications are added to the system manually through the use of a dedicated dialogue. So, for example, you could add the Linux Journal website as an “application” that would appear in the “Internet” section of the application launcher. Once added, clicking on the icon (and the system can attempt to fetch the icon from the site itself) would launch the site within a dedicated window. Naturally, how well this works depends on how application-like the webpage that you add is. Of course, the web resource that you point the SSB to could be a publicly available resource or a web application that you provide.



Adding the Linux Journal website as a "cloud application". A site such as this isn't particularly well-suited, but it illustrates how the system works.

Conclusion

In summary, Peppermint Two is a respin of Lubuntu 11.04 with the addition of cloud application integration features. The default application set is biased towards software which is lightweight and fast.

When setting up the distribution up for personal use, its success probably depends on the preferred working style of the user. A user who makes a lot of use of web-based applications might appreciate being able to give them greater parity with traditional applications. An administrator might appreciate the ability to offer users a lightweight desktop with the addition of cloud applications in a consistent and easy to explain overall package.

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UK based freelance writer Michael Reed writes about technology, retro computing, geek culture and gender politics.

Comments

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Great Looking OS

FB-Mark's picture

This is a great looking OS. We are planning on testing this out on one or two office & administration desktops to see how well performs.
I believe that this type of Cloud orientated desktop OS is exactly what is needed to take on the MS Windows / Office combo, which is a hard nut to crack :(
For those that are interested we will be blogging our conclusions over at http://www.farbyte.com/blog

....

JShuford's picture

Thank you

...I'm not just a "troll", but also a subscriber!

Like it but wont use it mainstream

Anonymous's picture

I like the os, it's a great Idea and I use it for old equipment and for a kick around tablet in the house b/c it's so light weight. Cloud based is nice but security will keep it out of the main stream as many other distro's come with security built in out of the box. For an OS to kick around with at the house or on the go, it's perfect. For my work or a business, I'll stick with my Suse desktop.

PeppermintOS 2

Oceania68's picture

ALL OS's have the niche, faults and favours. Oldrong, people are entitled to be concerned about security regarding access and control through clouding and justified, granted some more blasae than others about it but still entitled all the same. Peppermint 2 is a wonderful OS once i got it working.. and its been great since, having the ability of both traditional style and web style applications allows the user the freedom to choose according to their needs, and to learn about the fad that is clouding... The use of clouding allows the user remote access from anywhere to their documents and or apps of their choice, without the usual "access ur own machine" syndrome.. though their own machine can be set up as such if they chose to, and PeppermintOS One, Ice, or Two would be a great OS to use via live cd/dvd or thumb drive. There is no new technology that will (as yet) enhance the users operational experience use of clouding than what PeppermintOS Two and its predecessors currently offer today, no different to any other OS offering the same experience currently.

Best of both worlds

Broadband Providers's picture

The hybrid approach is perfect for our current era. Running applications & storing data in the cloud have obvious advantages, like central access and backup but until internet connectivity is fast and everywhere it's hard to see local solutions being entirely replaced.

However, when connectivity is eventually fast enough and everywhere, will there be a need for local applications & processing power or will VNC-style computing on demand mean we only need dummy devices for input and display?

I use it, and love it

oldrong's picture

All this crap about security is BUNK! What the hell is an average user got to hide in the first place? Good Lord, all this foolish whimpering about security. In the first place Peppermint, is called a hybrid for a reason, you can use the cloud, or install your own "secure" programs if you like very easily. The point of the OS is ease of use, out of the box, and SPEED. All this other drivel is just that, drivel. I have used Peppermint since it came out, and will not use another unless it falls by the way. But life is full of skeptics, and "experts" who poo poo anything they don't like, or understand, and it will always be that way. Opinions are like rectums, everyone has to have one.

Cloud Security

xyzzyxyzzy's picture

I like the idea but the security of the could has something to be desired. there are at least rumors, and i believe them to be more substantial than mere rumors, of the ability of government officials being allowed to access your information WITHOUT A WARRANT.

I'm not talking third world/Communist block/dictatorships countries... this is here in the USA and other western "free" countries

until such problems are addressed i suggest that this flavor of linux be avoided like the plague to our freedom that it opens

Favorite OS

Jlane01's picture

I like ubuntu 11.04, but with the gnome 3 desktop. Though, truth be told, I also like Unity as well, but gnome 3 is more polished, in my opinion, and more intuitive. Unity is very nice too, but still seems a little new. Give Unity a couple of releases and it'll be a contender.

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