Tag Archives: Android

Android Pie Is Filled with AI | Operating Systems

Artificial Intelligence plays a big role in Android 9, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, released Monday.

Called “Android Pie,” the OS is designed to learn from its users’ behavior, and apply those lessons to simplify and customize their phone experiences.

“From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritizing battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone,” noted Sameer Samat, Google’s vice president of product management for Android and Google Play.

google's android 9 pie

Adaptive Brightness and Adaptive Battery are two ways Android Pie uses AI to customize and improve a phone’s performance.

Adaptive Brightness learns what brightness levels a user likes in certain conditions and automatically adjusts the display to those settings when those conditions arise.

Adaptive Battery plugs into Google’s DeepMind systems and can learn a person’s phone usage patterns and make adjustments to optimize power usage.

“Users of the Android P beta program on Google Pixel phones found a 20 percent increase in battery life,” said David McQueen, research director for consumer devices in the London offices of ABI Research, a technology advisory firm.

“Battery life has always been a major pain point for the smartphone user, so this implementation of AI will be welcome relief,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Seeing Will Be Believing

The power management feature works without adding additional hardware, McQueen pointed out.

Huawei introduced performance-enhancing AI in its Mate 10 Pro product, he said, but to do it, the company had to add a chip to the device, which it called a “neural processing unit.”

“There’s not much going on in terms of new battery technology that can lengthen battery life, so Adaptive Battery could be a good thing,” suggested William Stofega, program director for mobile phones and drones at
IDC, a market analysis company based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The Adaptive Battery feature appears to be compelling, acknowledged Tuong Nguyen,
a senior principal analyst at Gartner, a research and advisory company
based in Stamford, Connecticut. However, he is withholding judgment on the feature until the verdict from users comes in.

“We see a lot of power optimization announcements, and I’m sure they work well enough,” Nguyen told TechNewsWorld, “but my perception as a consumer is that I can never stay sufficiently charged and am always using too much battery.”

Screen Slices

Another new addition to Android is App Actions. It makes connections between when and how you use apps and makes suggestions based on those connections. For example, it’s 5:15 p.m. on a Monday. App Action may ask if you want to open the e-book you’ve been reading on your commute to and from work for the past week.

Google also announced a feature for Android Pie called “Slices,” which won’t appear in the OS until later this fall.

Slices shows relevant information from apps depending on a user’s screen activity. So if a user started typing Lyft into Google Search, Slice would display a slice of the Lyft app with information such as prices to a destination and the ETA for a driver.

“Slices is great because it brings us a step closer to the post-app world,” Nguyen said.

“Instead of searching through a dozen of apps and individually opening them,” he continued, “the UI allows me to use them with fewer steps.”

Better Security

Android Pie also sports a new single home button for simpler navigation.

In addition, Android’s Overview feature has been redesigned to display full screen previews of recently used apps. It also now supports Smart Text Selection, providing action suggestions based on selected text.

Security has been beefed up in Android 9. It has an improved security model for biometrics. It uses a secure, dedicated chip to enable hardware security capabilities that protect sensitive data, such as credit card information.

Android 9 chooses the TLS protocol by default, as well as DNS over TLS, to help protect all Web communications and keep them private.

Multi-Camera and HEIF Support

Android’s photographic capabilities are expanded in Pie. It supports multiple cameras, which enables developers to access streams from a number of physical cameras simultaneously.

“Multi-camera support is a potentially cool feature because it impacts the trajectory of immersive augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality experiences,” Nguyen said.

“Anything that advances immersive is exciting for me, but it’s a long road, so don’t expect to see something with a super impact immediately,” he added. “It’s more of a building block for bigger things to come.”

Android Pie also supports a new image format, HEIF. The format provides better compression than the widely used JPEG format without a loss in quality. Apple has been using the format for awhile.

A common complaint among consumers is a lack of storage on phones, Nguyen noted.

“I’m not familiar with the technical details on HEIF, but I think all consumers can appreciate having more room because of better compression,” he said.

Fighting Phone Addiction

With concerns rising about how much time people spend with their phones, Google decided to add some time management features to Android Pie.

“While much of the time we spend on our phones is useful, many of us wish we could disconnect more easily and free up time for other things,” observed Google’s Samat.

“In fact, over 70 percent of people we talked to in our research said they want more help with this,” he added. “So we’ve been working to add key capabilities right into Android to help people achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for. “

The new “digital well-being” features that will be added to Android Pie this fall include the following:

  • A Dashboard that helps users understand how they’re spending time on their devices;
  • An App Timer that lets an operator set time limits on apps and grays out the icon on their home screen when the time is up;
  • A Do Not Disturb mode, which silences all the visual interruptions that pop up on a screen; and
  • Wind Down, which switches on Night Light and Do Not Disturb and fades the screen to grayscale before bedtime.

While the new digital health features may be embraced by some users, they could be annoying to others.

“I can see things like Wind Down and app timers getting in the way,” IDC’s Stofega told TechNewsWorld. “I thiink people want to use their devices whenever and however they want.”

Possible Pain Points

For many Android users, all the goodies in the latest version of the OS are likely to remain out of their hands for some time, since Pie works only on Pixel models, and a few other phones that participated in the beta program for the software.

“It will be telling how quickly Android P is able to migrate to Samsung and Huawei smartphones, and then on to those that run Android One,” McQueen said.

Even for those who are able to get their hands on the new OS, there could be challenges.

“The issue always is how quickly will people be able to recognize some of these new features,” and whether these devices are “getting too complex for their own good,” Stofega said.

“These devices are becoming Swiss Army knife-like,” he remarked. “Device makers have to figure out and adjust to what people really need versus what’s technically possible.”

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.

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Pinguy OS Puts On a Happier GNOME 3 Face | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jul 17, 2018 11:06 AM PT

Pinguy OS Puts On a Happier GNOME 3 Face

Pinguy OS 18.04 is an Ubuntu-based distribution that offers a non-standard GNOME desktop environment intended to be friendlier for new Linux users.

This distro is a solid Linux OS with a focus on simple and straightforward usability for the non-geek desktop user. If you do not like tinkering with settings or having numerous power-grabbing fancy screen animations, Pinguy OS could be a good choice.

The GNOME desktop is the only user interface option, but Pinguy OS’ developer, Antoni Norman, tweaked the desktop environment with some different software options not usually packaged with GNOME.

His refusal to settle for the run-of-the-mill software typical of mainstream GNOME choices is one of this distro’s strongest features. The developer gives you better application options to create the best user experience within the modified GNOME environment.

Pinguy OS is a great pick for beginning Linux users because it is easy to use and offers a satisfying experience. It is also a no-nonsense computing platform for seasoned Linux users who want a GNOME environment that makes more sense.

Pinguy OS comes with user-friendly enhancements and out-of-the-box support for multimedia codecs and browser plugins. The modified GNOME user interface has enhanced menus, panels and dock bars. It includes a handpicked selection of popular desktop applications for many common computing tasks.

Sensible Modernizing

I last looked at Pinguy OS four years ago and found it both useful and easy to use. The developer offers a major upgrade about once yearly. This latest release, which arrived earlier this month, shows significant updating.

For instance, it includes GNOME 3.28. The developer tweaked many of the components to ensure a fast and modern OS. Gone are the gEdit text editor in favor of Pluma. In addition to providing better performance, Pluma is a suitable clone replacement. The file manager app is Nemo 3.8.3.

No email client is bundled with this latest release, but Thunderbird is readily available from repositories. The developer suggests using the GNOME email notifications, which is part of the GNOME desktop and works once you enter online account info into the GNOME account panel.

One of the benefits of running Pinguy OS used to be its support for 32-bit systems. However, the latest tweaking done to Pinguy OS made 32-bit versions a bad user experience. This latest release does not run on very old hardware.

Changes That Work

Earlier versions of Pinguy OS ran Docky, an aging launch dock app. It did not mesh well with the latest Pinguy OS build, so gone it is. In its place are Simple Dock and Places Status Indicator.

Pinguy OS 18.04 panel bar

Pinguy OS 18.04 combines application listings, system panel bar tools and workspace switcher into one multifunction panel. Plus, it provides a panel bar for notifications and a Simple Dock for quick launch.

Simple Dock and Places Status Indicator are GNOME extensions. Like Docky, Simple Dock places a quick launch bar at the bottom of the screen. Places Status Indicator adds a menu for quickly navigating places in the system.

Simple dock at the bottom of the screen and the panel bar across the top of the screen provide easy access to all system tools. The menu button at the left of the top panel has additional tweaks and improvements.

Some of the default GNOME apps have been replaced with MATE versions. This is another example of why Pinguy OS is not just another retread built on standard GNOME 3.

Earlier versions came with the Conky desktop applets, but all the adjusting done in the Pinguy OS 18.04 made it a distraction at best. The developer reasoned that the OS did not need Conky because it confused new users.

I can not agree more. I have found Conky to be clunky. Most of its displays focused on system readouts. Putting them on a desktop just adds to the clutter.

Under the Hood

Pinguy OS is basically Linux Mint infrastructure under the covers, but the GNOME 3 environment is redesigned with many nice usability features. The tweaking in this latest Pinguy OS goes well beyond the GNOME 3 you see in Linux Mint, however.

Pinguy OS has only one desktop flavor. It comes in two options, though: full version or the mini edition. This supports the developer’s goal of making an uncomplicated desktop environment.

The mini option gives you less prepackaged software, but you can add the software not included with a few mouse clicks.

This release uses Linux Kernel 4.15.0-23-generic. It also includes OpenGL version string 3.1 Mesa 18.1.1.

If you are a game player who fancies Window games, you will like the inclusion of Winepak’s repository. This makes it easy to install your favorites.

Pinguy OS 18.04 also ships with a new GDM and GTK Theme, which contributes greatly to giving the OS a more modern look.

Look and Feel

The desktop itself is clutter-free. You can not place icons there. That is a feature (or not) of the GNOME 3 desktop.

However, it also reinforces one of the distro’s driving principles. The goal of Pinguy OS is to give users a clean desktop with a fine-tuned interface that works without confusion. This distro does that.

Simplicity is not the only distinguishing trait. Pinguy OS is a thing of beauty. Pinguy OS comes with an eye-catching collection of artwork that randomly displays as a new background every five minutes or so.

Pinguy OS 18.04 desktop weather applet

Pinguy OS has a clutter-free desktop and a handy weather applet built into the top panel.

This process is controlled by the Variety application. You can change the timing interval and other options for the background images in the Variety Preferences panel.

Pinguy provides a reasonably solid out-of-the-box experience, but the GNOME 3 desktop limits functionality for the sake of simplicity. That is an important distinction.

A panel bar sits at the top of the screen. It holds the traditional menu button in the left corner and system notification icons on the right half of the bar. You can not add or remove any items from the bar.

A Matter of Taste

Do not get me wrong. Placing simplicity above functionality is a point of user perspective about the GNOME 3 desktop — I do not mean that as a criticism.

GNOME 3 is the foundation under several popular desktop environments. What you can see and do with it is a matter of what the developer does. This developer does a lot.

Pinguy OS is not your typical plain-Jane GNOME desktop. Pinguy OS is a solid, functional OS.

New Linux users will not be frustrated by it, but seasoned Linux users might want an advanced setting tool, which does not exist.

My personal preference is a bottom panel that puts notifications, quick launch icons, and a virtual workplace switcher applet a single mouse click at hand. I’d like to see a few icon launchers on the desktop for added convenience.

That is my comfort zone. Standard GNOME 3 dumbs down the process of navigating quickly. It unnecessarily hides access to moving around open applications on numerous virtual workplaces.

Pinguy OS has enough tweaking to build in a suitable workaround for such limitations. So in that regard, this distro gives you a better integration of the GNOME desktop.

Change for the Better

Earlier versions of Pinguy OS used the default full-screen display to show installed applications. The current release has a much better menu system. The far left corner of the panel bar has a Menu button and a Places button.

Click Places for a dropdown listing of folders such as downloads, documents, music, pictures and videos. Clicking on any of these opens a file manager with more options.

Click the Menu button to open a trilogy of functionality. This is a handy mechanism that pulls together what usually is done with several clicks in standard GNOME.

The Simple Dock provides quick access to a few essentials. The apps there include the Web browser, software store, terminal, trash and system monitoring tools.

Multipurpose Panel Bar

When you click the Main Menu button, a panel drops down from the top left corner of the screen. Across the top of this panel are buttons to restart the GNOME shell, suspend /shut down /log out user, lock screen, view Web bookmarks, view recent files, toggle startup apps view, and view applications in list/grid view.

A search window makes finding applications fast. As you type letters, a list of icons for matching applications appears. Click the gear button in the far right of this top row to open a GNOME Menu settings panel. It is here that you can turn on/off numerous features such as activating hot corners.

Down the left edge of the main menu panel is a list of categories that includes Frequent Apps and Favorite Apps. You see that list in the large display area in the center of the dropdown panel. Depending on whether you set grid or list view, a vertical list of program titles fills either the display area or a mini version of the full-screen display that you see in standard GNOME 3.

Built-in Workspace Switcher

What I really dislike about the usual display for virtual workspaces is having to push the mouse pointer into the top left hot corner to slide out the panel from the right edge of the screen. Pinguy OS has a much better solution.

The right edge of the Main Menu panel automatically shows the virtual workspaces in thumbnail view. What a concept! It is simple and efficient.

This approach makes it very handy to navigate among different virtual desktops with a single mouse click. Other features lets you use window actions to move an application to another workspace or jump to a new location using shortcuts.

Settings Supremacy

The top panel bar in GNOME (including Pinguy OS) does not dock open applications or provide any panel applets. That short-circuits many of the special features the panel provides in other Linux desktop environments.

However, Pinguy OS makes up for that by providing a consolidation of system settings. This is a very useful alternative.

Access the system settings from the Main Menu /System Tools /Settings. The list of settings and preferences resembles the dropdown top panel on an Android device. It is very straightforward and complete.

Pinguy OS 18.04 preference panels

A design based on simplicity puts nearly all of the system settings into an Android-style set of preference panels.

A second settings panel of sorts is available by clicking the Gear button at the far right top of the Main Menu. Click on a category to see a full panel view of preferences to turn on/off. This settings panel provides much of the functionality that would otherwise be provided in a fully functional panel bar at the top (or bottom) of the Linux screen.

Bottom Line

Pinguy OS may not satisfy power users who like to control navigation with keyboard shortcuts and advanced system settings. However, if you just want your system to work from the start, Pinguy OS has a lot going for it.

Do not let this distro’s self-avowed fervor for simplicity let you misjudge its power and usability. If you think it is too basic for serious users, your thinking might be skewed.

Even if you do not prefer the GNOME 3 desktop, give Pinguy OS a try. It is not your standard GNOME. This OS improves upon most of GNOME 3’s shortcomings. It offers a solid, better GNOME integration.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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Android P Tackles Phone Addiction, Distraction | Operating Systems

Google on Tuesday revealed some major new features in the next version of its Android operating system for mobile devices.

Now in public beta, the OS known as “Android P” includes features designed to address growing concerns about phone addiction and distraction.

For example, a dashboard will show users how often, when and for how long they use each application on their phone. What’s more, they can set time limits on usage.

With the help of artificial intelligence, Android P also will watch how a user handles notifications. If notifications from an app constantly are swiped away, Android P will recommend notifications be turned off for that program.

“Do Not Disturb” mode has been beefed up in Android P. Users will be able to set the mode so there are no visual cues at all on a display of notifications, not even in the notification drawer.

The mode can be activated simply by placing the phone face down on a flat surface. If a phone is set up to separate work from personal apps, it can be configured to mute all apps at once with a single toggle.

Moreover, there’s a “wind down” feature that will take the phone into Do Not Disturb mode at a bedtime set by the user.

Fighting Addiction

The new application dashboard and notification muting features target a growing social concern about smartphones.

“Google is making the product far more user-friendly and directly addressing at least some of the problems associated with smartphone addiction,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

That strikes a contrast with Android’s chief competitor, iOS.

“Apple is more focused on ensuring privacy and doesn’t seem to be as aggressively addressing the addiction problem,” Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

It remains to be seen whether users will take advantage of the tools.

“Folks should care more about this — but, like any addiction, they likely feel they can deal with this one without help,” Enderle remarked.

The success of the features will depend on Google, noted Gerrit Schneemann, senior analyst at IHS Markit Technology.

“I firmly believe that many smartphone users do not use all the features of their phone to their full potential,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It seems like that could be the case here.”

“If Google focuses on things like ‘wind down’ to expose users to the capabilities, I think there could be traction,” Schneemann said. “However, depending on users to discover the dashboard alone will be problematic on a broad scale.”

More Than Well Being

In addition to the new “digital well-being” features, Android P will provide a new way to navigate phones.

There’s the familiar home button, but with modified behavior. With new gestures, a user swipes up to get an overview of open apps, and swipes up further to go to the app tray.

The back button is still there, but it only appears inside apps.

Google has added screenshot editing to Android P, allowing users to mark up screenshots without having to use another app.

Google also has injected smarts into app searching in Android P. When a search is performed, things that can be done with an app appear along with its icon. So if you search for a ride-sharing app, for example, the results might include a button to hail a ride.

The Android P team partnered with
DeepMind on a new Adaptive Battery feature that optimizes app usage, noted Dave Burke, VP of engineering for Android.

“Adaptive Battery uses machine learning to prioritize access to system resources for the apps the user cares about most,” he wrote in an online post. “It puts running apps into groups with different restrictions using four new ‘App Standby buckets’ ranging from ‘active’ to ‘rare.’ Apps will change buckets over time, and apps not in the ‘active’ bucket will have restrictions in: jobs, alarms, network and high-priority Firebase Cloud Messages.”

Android P Adaptive Battery

Personal Touch

Android P shows Google wants to make the OS more personal and relevant for individuals, noted Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner.

“There’s a lot of new features in Android, but they all center on how can Google users have a more holistic and personal interaction with technology,” he told TechNewsWorld.

With Android P, Google is making a pitch to use less technology, Blau maintained.

“They’re saying you don’t need technology at every last pinpoint in every day of your life,” he continued. “Maybe you need more effective technology with fewer interactions. With Android P, Google is taking away the rough edges. That, over time, means what you will see is an Android that caters much more to the individual.”

From a feature and user interface perspective, Android P is one of the more significant rollouts for the OS in a while, noted Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

“They’re also letting the beta run on more third-party phones,” he told TechNewsWorld. “In the past, betas only ran on a Nexus or Pixel device.”

Those third-party phones include the Essential Phone, Sony’s Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2S, Nokia’s 7 Plus, Vivo’s X21, Oppo’s R15 Pro and the soon-to-be-released OnePlus 6.

John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.

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Peppermint 9 Offers Some Cool New Options | Reviews

By Jack M. Germain

Jun 28, 2018 5:00 AM PT

Peppermint 9 Offers Some Cool New Options

Peppermint 9, released June 22, accomplishes something most other Linux distros don’t: It melds the best components from other desktop environments and integrates them into a solid operating system.

Peppermint OS is a lightweight Ubuntu-based distribution featuring a desktop environment mashup of Xfce and LXDE components. The latest release nearly completes a process begun several upgrades ago, using more Xfce elements and fewer LXDE components.

Peppermint is a good alternative to the Linux Mint Xfce release with a sprinkling of Cinnamon to spice up the desktop a bit more. Peppermint also uses Ice — a cloud and Web application management tool — which makes the operating system refreshingly different.

A site-specific browser, or SSB, Ice lets users easily create a launcher that connects to a website with desired content or services. It enables Peppermint OS users to connect to cloud applications and Internet URLs by clicking on menu items Ice adds. It also makes it possible to run apps without constantly being tethered to the Internet.

Given its Debian and Ubuntu roots, Peppermint 9 does not offer a radical change for most users, with possible exceptions being those coming from Arch Linux, or Fedora-based or RPM-based distributions. Peppermint 9 is based on Ubuntu 18.04 Long Term Support and features only several small changes over 8, released a year ago.

Combine all of what Peppermint 9 offers, and you get a Linux distro that is familiar and comfortable to use, as well as one with a collection of tools and tweaks not duplicated elsewhere. The result is an almost hybrid distro with its own unique flavor.

Peppermint OS background images and settings menus

Peppermint OS comes with a collection of vibrant background images for the desktop and handy settings panel to configure the platform your way.

Cures Linux Lament

The availability of so many Linux desktop environments can be problematic. After reviewing old, new and renewed Linux distros every week, I often get frustrated when I find a unique and particularly interesting distro that stands apart from the many look-a-like options. I have a growing list of favorites and an equally growing collection of computers with multiple Linux OSes installed.

Selecting a distro for regular use involves making a choice of which desktop features or user interface innovations justify not having other fanciful features the chosen distro left out. Peppermint 9 makes that choice easier, thanks to the Peppermint community’s success in fusing bits and pieces of other distros into a well-oiled integrated platform.

For instance, the developer team replaced lxrandr with xfce4-display-settings for monitor settings that add functionality without weight, continuing the migration away from the few remaining LXDE components.

The Xfce Panel Switch utility now is installed by default. This makes it simple to back up and restore any custom panel configurations and switch among them.

The developers improved menu and launcher management as well. It may be a small thing, but the ability to create a new launcher with a right-click is a convenience that matters. So is being able to send any file by email with a mere right-click within the Nemo file manager.

Peppermint 9 Highlights

Its many tweaks and refinements make Peppermint 9 both delightful to experience and productive to use. Some of them resulted from the policy to migrate away from the older LXDE components. Other improvements reflect the goal of designing a better UI that combines the best computing elements in other desktops.

For instance, the Settings Panel’s system notification settings have a Do Not Disturb function. You can enable or disable notifications on a per application basis.

New Gtk themes are based on Arc but display with a few tweaks and some added color choices. Qt applications such as VLC incorporate the system Gtk theme. Gtk overlay scroll bars are enabled by default.

The Mintinstall software manage coexists with the Gnome software manager for users who want Snaps and Flatpaks. Plus, you can use the Synaptic Package Manager.

Developers switched the graphical screenshot application from pyshot to xfce4-screenshooter. The inclusion of Symlinks enables installed Snaps and Flatpaks to show up in the main menu.

Peppermint 9 Whisker menu

Peppermint’s desktop has no launch icons. Click on the main menu button to open the Whisker menu to change that.

License to Chill

The Ice concept has been part of the Peppermint ecosystem from the distro’s beginning in 2010. In fact, the developers consider it the distro’s best feature.

I am surprised that the Ice technology has not been integrated in other distros, but it is a distinguishing feature that makes the Peppermint OS more flavorful.

Ice allows Web content to function more like a standalone application window rather than a connected URL in a standard Web browser. This approach also offers the advantage of additional screen space. SSBs do not include all the functions and menus of a browser.

With the Ice app in Peppermint OS, it is easy to copy and paste a URL into Ice’s location window along with other basic information. This one-time site setup creates a launcher icon on the desktop as well as a main menu entry.

Disappointing SSB Support

What is new in version 9 is a collection of Microsoft Office Online SSBs. These are links to the free Web app version of Office, which includes Excel, Word, OneNote and PowerPoint. The Internet section of the main menu also has SSB locations for connecting to Skype, the Peppermint User Guide Online and the Peppermint Forum.

I was more enthused over using SSBs in earlier versions of Peppermint. That process is similar to configuring Android devices and Chromebooks to open a solitary Web browser window separate from other tabs in a running Web browser.

In essence, the Ice app is a glorified bookmark and menu entry-making tool. It has the appearance of being a standalone app, but it actually is an isolated Web browser window — the default browser is Firefox. You can specify other installed browsers to open an isolated window instead.

I was disappointed with the lack of more pre-installed Ice launchers in the current release. Creating launchers is simple enough, but without a prepared list of sample locations, I suspect that typical users will not bother creating their own.

Look and Feel

If you are familiar with either the Linux Mint Cinnamon or Xfce editions, you already have a feel for the Peppermint UI. At first blush, they all pretty much have the same appearance and configuration flexibility. As you use Peppermint, however, the subtle tweaks will become noticeable. You will experience the blended desktop elements.

The toolbar sits across the bottom of the screen and closely resembles the Cinnamon real estate. It is preconfigured with a workspace switcher applet set with two virtual desktops.

Right-click on the applet and select “Workspaces” to add or remove virtual workspaces. Right-click on the bottom bar itself to open a settings panel to adjust the bar and add more applets.

Peppermint 9 menu options, applets

With Peppermint 9 you can right-click on the desktop for specific menu options that let you avoid going to the control panel settings. Right-click on the bottom bar itself to open a settings panel to adjust the bar and add more applets.

Peppermint comes with a collection of vibrant background images for the desktop. It otherwise is devoid of any launch icons. Of course, you can click on the main menu button to open the Whisker menu.

Right-clicking on an application lets you place its launcher icon on the desktop, on the panel bar, or in the menu’s favorites category. You can right-click on the desktop for specific menu options that let you avoid going to the control panel settings.

Bottom Line

Peppermint 9 comes in both 64-bit and 32-bit versions so older hardware is still supported. It runs the 4.15 Kernel series.

Originally based in the U.S., the software company that developed Peppermint OS now operates out of the UK. It offers commercial versions of Peppermint OS for the enterprise as well as the free version.

Installing it is smooth, fast and hassle-free. The process is fully automated and makes dual-booting a snap.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.

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