Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Exploring Peppermint OS - Cloud-based and a Cinch! @peppermintos #m90z

http://peppermintos.com/2010/07/peppermint-ice-faster-lighter-aiming-for-the-clouds/

The words "easy" and "GNU/Linux" usually don't go together, although many distro developers have done their darnest to make it a reality! The juxtaposition of those words is what comes to mind when I consider the Peppermint ICE distribution (a.k.a. distro), though! Having installed a wide variety of GNU/Linux distros, I have to confess to some disappointment. For example, I found JoliCloud intriguing as a cloud distro for netbooks, as nice as it was, it doesn't compare (IMHO) to 
Peppermint ICE.

You see, after booting up a traditionally Windows computer off of "live" media--that means that I can start up a whole operating system off a USB flash drive--then setting up that distro as a dual-boot on a computer, I expect to spend a lot of time getting things workings...like wireless, sound, etc. Fortunately, distros like Ubuntu and Linux Mint (based off Ubuntu) have lessened the time it takes to get productive. Of course, productive is a term that includes watching video off the web....
Watch Diane Ravitch on the Jon Stewart Show via Hulu (Available 03/08/2011)
However, I have to admit that with the focus on cloud-computing, a lot of the stuff I install is usually superfluous. Now, the browser is THE gateway to all the great stuff that's out there...GoogleDocs, Web-based social networking tools (e.g. Twitter, Plurk, Facebook). 

Peppermint ICE, which has been out for awhile and I completely missed it until someone sent me a tweet, is fast, ultra-light distro. For awhile, something about the logo had me thinking...Why does this look familiar? Then I realized the connection--Resident Evil's Umbrella Corporation.

All joking aside, I installed Peppermint ICE and customized it for my favorite applications...to be honest, I only added VLC Media Player and Shutter (Screen capture); I plan to also add Shotwell. Aside from that, Peppermint ICE provides easy access to my favorite cloud-computing apps that I use more than the apps installed on any computer (word processing, etc).



I had wanted to install GNU/Linux on the Lenovo ThinkCenter m90z Touchscreen (read my series on the m90z) as a dual-boot with Windows 7 since it first came in. Of course, I didn't want to mess it up so I sweated the install a bit when doing the partitioning (I use GParted Live USB flash drive I carry for just that purpose). I had no hope that the TouchScreen would work, but sure enough, it does! Fortunately, I didn't have to wipe out any partitions (just re-size one) or lose data (good thing, since I hadn't made a backup or taken time to create the media (Lenovo ThinkCenter makes it easy to accomplish this so....). Those concerns aside, I've done this countless times and felt confident of the process. I don't recommend folks doing this unless they've made a backup (check out FSArchiver). 
Note: Usually, it's hard to find computers that appear to work completely with GNU/Linux. I'm actually shocked about how well Peppermint ICE--a lightweight distro--is working on the Lenovo m90z! It's a testament to both ICE and the m90z!
One of the neat things about Peppermint ICE is the site-specific browser...
Ice is, by definition, a 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] 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 Web.
Here's what ICE looks like in action with the image editor, which is a web app that looks like a regular desktop app:
Editing Images with Pixlr
Audio/video worked without problem (although I did add VLC Media Player), and, surprisingly, so did the touchscreen on the Lenovo m90z! Check out the pictures below (ok, I couldn't resist putting the umbrella corporation wallpaper on it just for fun...yes, that's a good word to describe Peppermint ICE...fun!):


Social Media on the m90z while watching Resident Evil...sigh.
This background is fun...Umbrella Corporation as the desktop wallpaper.

On top of all that, as I was exploring the Peppermint web site, I was surprised to find some awesome tutorials that are just great to read for GNU/Linux newbies and that I wished I'd had access to!
The How-To's that are posted here vary in range from beginner to advanced user levels so use caution when applying them to your system. The Moderating Team is working as fast as we can to transfer over the How-To's to our new template that spells out the level of difficulty for each one. As always thank you for your understanding on the matter. (Source)

Some of my favorites:
  1. Reversing Time with FSArchiver - This is a nifty tool you can use to make backups of your computer's partitions. I used it just yesterday to reimage a Dell computer running Windows XP and FSArchiver was the tool I used!
  2. How to Change the default operating system during startup - When you start dual-booting Windows and GNU/Linux on your computer, Windows isn't setup as the default. That's fine for some folks, but others (like my daughter) prefer to have Windows OS be the default when the count runs down to zero. So, instead of starting up GNU/Linux, it starts up Windows.
  3. Reinstalling GRUB - This is something I've had to do once or twice...I'm grateful for the tutorial that walks you through this potentially scary problem.
  4. How to Run MS Office with PlayOnLinux - Although I've come to loathe MS Office as bloated, too many features few use, expensive, I'm sure folks will like this.
  5. How to Make a System Backup 
  6. And the forums are handy, too. For example, I wanted to have my computer auto-login to ICE.
There are other nifty tutorials available. One I didn't see but wish was there--although perhaps it's not possible--is how to add application launchers for apps to the panel at the bottom of the screen. I've grown accustomed to that instead of cluttering up the desktop with icons.  Another tutorial that would be helpful to new users is how to make a persistent USB flash drive with Peppermint ICE. That way, you could save your work to your flash drive, make changes and they would be remembered...you can read how to do that here.



And, though it's documented, I should mention that I had to uninstall Peppermint's Dropbox and then install Dropbox...once that was done, Dropbox worked smooth....


In short? Peppermint ICE is my new favorite distro and moves to the top of the list!

How do you get it on a 1gig drive (any size is fine but 1gig is minimum)?

Follow steps....
  1. Download Peppermint ICE ISO file - http://peppermintos.info/idl1/Peppermint-Ice-20110302.iso
  2. Download UNETBOOTIN - http://unetbootin.sourceforge.net/
  3. Plug in a 1 or whatever size gig usb flash drive
  4. Run UNETBOOTIN and browse to the ISO file from Step 1
  5. Point UNETBOOTIN to the 1gig USB Flash drive
  6. Tell it "OK" and let it go.
  7. When done, RESTART and boot from USB flash drive.
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

3 comments:

pshircliff said...

I have not worked with Linux for a while. I had a few Edubuntu machines (some Dell, some homemade) and the students really would not use them,so they went away (to the back room). Maybe I need to bring them out and put Peppermint on them. Maybe I should send them home with a student

Miguel Guhlin said...

Sure, why not? Show them how to take an ISO, use Unetbootin or USB Universal Installer to put that ISO file of PeppermintICE onto a 1 or 2 gig USB Flash drive. Then, show them how to boot any computer to that flash drive.

You'll have transformed their computing experience...fundamentally.

Anonymous said...

The distro, (both of them) is awesome, and I agree that the tutorials are very good, but one weak point in my view is the lack of presence on the forums by either a developer, or moderator, on a regular basis. I see questions go, some times for days, with no replies. The members do their best to try and answer some of the issues that pop up, but someone with more experience would be a large help.

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Disclaimer

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure