Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Inside Peppermint Linux - An interview with Shane Remington and Kendall Weaver

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  21:45 4 comments

Introduction

Everyday Linux User was created for the average person who uses their computer for ordinary everyday tasks.

The site includes how-to guides, product reviews and of course reviews of the latest Linux distributions.

On the other side of the fence from the users are the distro developers and in this series of articles I am trying to get into the mindset of the teams that make your favourite operating system what it is.

Previously I have interviewed Klaus Knopper, the founder of Knoppix, and more recently Jerry Bezencon from the Linux Lite project.

This time however I have been lucky enough to get not just one member of the team but two. I recently sent an email to the Peppermint Linux team with a series of questions and what follows are the answers provided by Shane Remington (COO of Peppermint) and Kendall Weaver (CTO of Peppermint).

I would like to thank in advance Shane and Kendall for not only agreeing to answer my questions but also for the time and effort they have put into the Peppermint Linux project.

I reviewed Peppermint Linux 4 just a few weeks ago and it was clear to me at that point that you could easily integrate web applications so that they would sit alongside standard applications giving you the full hybrid desktop experience.

If you think about the Chromebook then the one thing it lacks is the ability to run standard Linux applications (unless you use Crouton). With Peppermint you can integrate online applications into menus and the panels and you can also run standard Linux applications.

All in all this gives Peppermint a unique quality that doesn't exist in other distributions.

Who came up with the concept of Peppermint Linux?

Shane Remington:

It all started one night at the Black Rose Pub. At this point in time Kendall and I only knew each other as acquaintances but for some reason that evening the conversation switched over to desktop Linux and we were both on fire.

We both shared similar frustrations with Windows, Mac and certain Linux distributions. And we both agreed where things could be retooled and reworked in the operating system as well as a deliberately open and friendly community that we would nurture from the ground up.

Kendall Weaver:

As Shane mentioned, it was a conversation at our favorite local pub, the Black Rose.

It was a Monday evening in January 2010 when a favorite locally brewed pale ale was the daily special.

I can't quite recall exactly what started the conversation, but we agreed that we were both unhappy with pretty much all other desktop operating systems in some capacity.

I was working as a distribution maintainer for Linux Mint at the time, but Mint's tendency to err on the conservative side when it comes to included software left me wanting something edgier and more streamlined.

We came up with the name Peppermint because we wanted something kind of like Mint, but “spicier”.

What is the single most important feature that sets Peppermint apart from other distros?

Shane Remington:

Personally, its the cloud to desktop integration via the ICE application. After that, its speed. There's no other operating system as fast and responsive as Peppermint, that I've ever used...

Kendall Weaver:

For me it's a combination of the level of polish and speed more than anything else.

Peppermint serves as an excellent platform for putting together the desktop that many people want with minimal hassle. Most other distros that use the LXDE desktop tend to put function way over form and I feel we reach a very satisfying balance while not sacrificing in either.

Compared to some distros you have quite a large team, how do you determine what goes in to each release?

Shane Remington:

Another major difference in Peppermint from other distributions is that we are less focused on software inclusion and more focused on streamlined experience. So, we're more light on our feet in that regard.

Kendall Weaver:

Most of our team is focused on support, graphics, and the user interface.

What goes into each release tends to revolve more around those aspects and less around other things such as included software. We spend far more time working on the system components than we do testing applications.

Regarding the applications we don't actually include much locally installed stuff when compared to most other distros, rather we keep it simple and include some web apps that fill the gaps nicely.

Is there a new release of Peppermint Linux imminent and how do you determine the release cycle for Peppermint Linux?

Kendall Weaver:

The Peppermint release cycle is dependent upon Ubuntu's release cycle. We use the Ubuntu repositories for each April release so new versions of Peppermint tend to release in May or June of each year.

Shane Remington:

Peppermint Five is right around the corner. Can't wait!

Who is Peppermint Linux aimed at?

Shane Remington:

Peppermint is aimed at being user friendly and a perfect cross­over from Microsoft and Apple.

We wanted to show the world that getting into Linux should be an easy and hassle free experience. We've proven that you can give a Linux newcomer an out­of­the­box solution the just works. They love it and they're hooked.

Kendall Weaver:

Peppermint is aimed at pretty much everyone. We've seen adoption from new computer users, veteran coders, die­hard Windows junkies, and a host of others. We don't go out of our way to target a specific demographic.

With so many distros coming and going each year, how do you stay motivated?

Shane Remington:

The whole concept of Peppermint is to focus our energy on lightweight, portability, speed and the freedom of cruft and bloat. Making sure that you have the absolute best starting point as a base operating system is what we want to deliver.

Every release has new challenges and new technology keeps approaching so its not hard being motivated if you strive on delivering consistency, year after year...

Kendall Weaver:

A large part of it is the sense of accomplishment associated with knowing that I'm working on a system that genuinely makes life easier for a number of people in the world.

Are you looking to expand your team and if so what are you looking for?

Shane Remington:

We're welcome to anyone who wants to contribute. In fact, I'm in need of a dedicated, Peppermint and Linux and Open Source loving, positive minded, cloud believing, social media / community manager type. If you want to join an open source project in a unique and challenging way by using your social media and marketing skills, I need you now!

Kendall Weaver:

I'm always willing to accept a hand from other developers, but honestly we're not doing an awful lot of coding at the moment.

Rather what I'm looking for is people who can test unconventional desktop configurations, properly research and file bug reports, and provide general desktop and application support in our forum.

If somebody said to you that they were thinking of starting a new distro what advice would you give them?

Shane Remington:

Most Linux distributions don't survive very long. Do you see yourself doing this, with consistency, with a sustained level of conviction, combined with a sacrifice of your free time and little to no payment in return, for over a five year period? Yes? Perfect, you are now ready for Phase One ;)

Kendall Weaver:

Unless you have something legitimately new to offer, then don't start a new distro at this point.

There are now distros that cover pretty much every major concept that exists in the world of desktop Linux. Many of those distros are extremely good and the vast majority of them could use an extra hand rather than increased competition from a new distro.

Peppermint started because nobody else was doing it, not because we simply wanted to make our own distro.


Does everyone in the team use Peppermint Linux and if so in what capacity?

Shane Remington:

I have used Peppermint exclusively since the first testing versions. I haven't needed anything else for the past five years.

Kendall Weaver:

I keep a Peppermint partition on my desktop for development and for playing Minecraft, but outside of that I rarely use it.

In order to try and keep fresh ideas coming in I'm frequently distro­hopping on my laptops, which I use most of the time.

The other partition on my desktop is Windows 7, which I use for some Adobe programs my other business requires that don't run particularly well in Wine.

If not for the need to be drumming up new ideas and my other business requirements, I'd be on Peppermint 100% of the time.

Summary

I think there are a number of things that can be taken from the interviews that I have conducted thus far (and there is another one on the way next week) but the one overriding point is that if you are thinking of starting a new distro the advice is to really think hard about it.

Do you need to create a new distro? Is there another project that has similar ideas and beliefs to you that you can participate in? Do you really have the time and motivation not just for today but for years to come?

Kendall and I share the common requirement to distrohop. Kendall distrohops to glean new ideas for Peppermint and I distrohop in order to write reviews for Everyday Linux User.

I think that if I didn't write this blog I would still distrohop and I think that it is a syndrome and on Friday I will be posting an article about that very subject and my theory that distrohoppers have acquired "CTS" (Cable Television Syndrome). If you want to read more about that why not subscribe to this blog by entering your email address into the box on the right hand side.

To find out more about Peppermint Linux visit http://peppermintos.com/ and to find out more about the team visit http://peppermintos.com/about/.

Once again I would like to thank Shane and Kendall for their help and to all of you who have read this article.




About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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4 comments:

  1. I don't get an impression of what Peppermint is like, or how it differs from other "windows user friendly" distributions. Presumably it is like Mint, following Ubuntu every six months. But how does it differ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alex,

      Read this review and it should hopefully help http://www.everydaylinuxuser.com/2014/03/peppermint-4-turns-netbook-into.html.

      Basically Peppermint has an application called ICE. It takes a web application (for example Google Docs) and then integrates it into your desktop by adding it as a menu option and/or a quick launch style icon. When you run the application it runs it it's own window and behaves like a desktop application.

      In addition to this you get all the features that you would get with other distributions like Lubuntu.

      So you can basically integrate your web experience with your desktop experience.

      If you do online banking you can turn the online banking app into it's own icon and menu item and have instant access without having to load a browser and navigate to the bookmarks etc.

      Delete
  2. I find Peppermint OS 4 to be mostly like Lubuntu. Here are the "Value-added components" that make Peppermint a worthwhile download in addition to (or instead of) Lubuntu:

    1. Both Lubuntu and Peppermint are fast, easy to install, and run well. Peppermint has a much nicer appearance, a more consistent selection of applications that allows you to perform the things you are most likely to do often,
    2. As Gary says, Peppermint includes a tool that allows you to create Web-based application instances that run in a stand alone instance of Chromium. They're called ICE. Chrome, Chromium, and Firefox actually have this capability (to some extent), but Peppermint not only creates the Web application instance, it also creates a menu item for each Web application instance, complete with its own application icon, which the browsers do not do by default.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting Brian. I think there are merits for both Lubuntu and Peppermint. If you find that most of the things you do are web based though then Peppermint has clear advantages

      Delete

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