Thursday, December 27, 2012

Where Peppermint OS fits into mobile computing

Tonight I happen to be using a Linux distribution that is desktop based, but takes features from both the classic desktop that most of us have been used to, and the newer cloud-based (read that Internet-based) applications that have become increasingly available as we use more mobile devices - first laptops and portables, then PDAs (Personal Data Assistants), then cell phones, then portable music players, which gained network access, then smart phones, which started to integrate the features of cell phones, music players, and personal data assistants.

More recently, netbooks and tablets have come onto the scene.  The netbooks were popular at first, but when the simpler and more powerful tablets appeared, the netbooks began to fade, though they have not disappeared entirely.

What is common about all of these devices is that they access the Internet and most of these devices can access the Internet without having to be fixed in a single location.  Because of wireless technology, the network can be accessed in many places.  Through what's known as "Wifi", which is really a Wireless Internet Router, you can connect to the Internet anywhere one of these devices exists.  The Wireless Router connects to a wire, which is, in turn, connected to an Internet Service Provider (ISP).  The typical inexpensive router has four wired ports plus the connection to the provider, and it has an antenna that transmits its signal over a limited distance.

People who are smart about configuring their Wireless Router use encrypted signals, and they create an access point with a name, such as MyRouter, TheMasNET, 28Router, or whatever.  Often, your cable or Internet Service Provider will set one of these routers up for you.  Public places, such as malls, coffee shops, and other gathering places offer wireless router services, or "Free Wifi).  This is one way to connect to Internet-based services.

Another way to connect to Internet-based services is another class of service that is typically provided by cell phone and smart phone service providers.  These providers offer both phone services we're used to with cell phones and data services we've come to know as 3G, 4G, 4G LTE, and who knows what else we'll be given.  The "G" in these names stands for "Generation"; we're now on our fourth generation of wireless data services, which have become increasingly faster and expensive!

Getting back to the Linux distribution I am using tonight, this distribution recognizes that people want access to their information wherever they are, and they often view their information as an application, so this distribution, Peppermint OS 3, has created Web applications, which are nothing more than stand alone instances of Web bookmarks that can be called directly from a menu to invoke a particular application, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google GMail, Google Docs, and so forth.

I currently have an instance of Facebook, Yahoo Mail, Google GMail, a Screensaver program, and a more traditional Web browser active with two Blogger tabs active.  This approach is really nothing more than a blending of a traditional Web browser with a traditional application window appearance.  The Google Chrome and Chromium Web browsers started offering this feature, and Mozilla, along with a number of other Web browser vendors, have their own different implementations.

We have not really seen this approach take off because Smart Phones and Tablets have turned out to be far more popular.  Still, when you have a lot of typing to do - perhaps when you publish your own Blog, having a laptop or a desktop system, or some other form of system with a keyboard to use, you can take advantage of faster typing interfaces, which remain a key reason why many people still use laptop and desktop systems.  That's the reason why Peppermint OS emerged; it is a blending of Web-based technologies from the traditional desktop and the newer Internet-based mobile applications.