Peppermint OS: a review

What do you get when you combine the flexibility, versatility and ease of maintenance of Ubuntu, the blinding speed and simplicity of LXDE, and a focus on social media and the cloud?

You get Peppermint OS, that’s what! Brought to you by the same developer responsible for Linux Mint 8 LXDE Community Edition, and for resurrecting Linux Mint Fluxbox CE as well, Peppermint OS is a lightweight, fast, stable implementation of what Kendall Weaver’s vision of the perfect Linux distro might be for speed and the web.

And I think he’s onto something.

Overview: The liveCD, the installer, and what you get

Being based on Ubuntu, Peppermint brings some familiar concepts along with it to the table, namely the fact that you start with a fully operational liveCD that brings you to a default desktop from which you can give it a spin. Aesthetically speaking, the default desktop is clean, slick, and (in my opinion) pleasing to the eye (click the thumbnail below for the full sized version):

The installer is also familiar to those who have worked with Ubuntu in the past, and suffice to say that there isn’t anything shocking or surprising there.

I utilized my favorite platform for reviewing new Linux distros, my trusty and aging Toshiba Satellite A75 (Pentium IV 3.06 GHz hyperthreading CPU and 1.25 GB of RAM). Wireless worked fine right off the bat, as I’ve come to expect from any of the Ubuntu-based distros I’ve tried over the past year or so, so there were no issues there.

The installer took about 20 minutes or so to complete, and once it was done and rebooted, I was able to see what I had on my hands.

Applications

Peppermint is, as I had mentioned, focused on social media and the cloud, so most of the applications aren’t local apps at all, but webapps. As a result, there is no default mail client, no default installed office suite, no image editing software… as a matter of fact there really aren’t very many local applications installed at all.

What Peppermint does come with is an array of cleverly implemented webapps utilizing the Mozilla Prism application to make those webapps seem a bit more like local ones, even though they’re not.

As such, for mail, there’s a Google Mail launcher under the “Office” submenu (which I found to be a bit of slightly odd categorization), which launches a no-frills separate browser window with no controls that navigates to a GMail login page.

Likewise, there is a Google Docs launcher, and a Google Calendar launcher, and Google Reader (for RSS feeds), and all of these live in their own, separate windows, just like they would if they were local applications.

Along the same lines, for those of you who use Twitter and Facebook, there are launchers under the “Internet” submenu for Seesmic (a web-based Twitter client) and Facebook, which, like the various Google webapps I already mentioned, are both launched in stripped down Prism windows to make them look and act like local applications.

There is also Aviary Phoenix image editor, an image editing webapp, as well as Aviary audio editor (called “Myna”), and a couple of handy music stream site launchers for Last.fm and Pandora, along with something I thought rather novel called The Cloud Player.

While it might sound like there really isn’t anything installed at all when it comes to applications (since all of the ones I just listed are in fact simply webapps that live in a trimmed down browser window), there are some real apps included on a Peppermint installation.

Peppermint is built around LXDE, so it comes with PCManFM for a native file manager. Also included is Galculator (a lightweight, basic calculator program), the Leafpad text editor, a basic screenshot app, the ever-present Firefox browser (of course), Xfburn for CD burning, Transmission for torrenting, and a number of other basic applications. One app that stood out as a bit of an unusual inclusion was the now discontinued music player known as Songbird. More on that later.

So while many of Peppermint’s bundled applications are webapps (as one should expect in a cloud-centric distro like this is intended), it does come with an array of other useful tools and applications, and with only a couple of exceptions, these were chosen with speed and minimal resource intensiveness in mind.

System

Peppermint OS uses the NetworkManager Applet for network connectivity (including wireless), and mintUpdate as its update manager, both of which seem to work perfectly on my laptop. Xscreensaver is also included by default, though only a couple of the usual screensavers (“Fuzzy flakes” and “Fiber lamp”) are installed out of the box. I like variety in my screensavers, so I manually installed the rest via apt-get, but I am sure these were left out due to space considerations. Peppermint also comes with the Peppermint OS Software Manager, which is an easy way to add any of the very numerous applications out there that work on Ubuntu-based distros.

Next page: The Peppermint OS experience

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21 thoughts on “Peppermint OS: a review

  1. I’m afraid I must agree with you regarding PCManFM2.
    I’ve been using LXDE for about a year and I really like it’s speed and small memory footprint. But PCManFM has been the weakest link. Searching for files is horrible. I was hoping that would be fixed. Now that function was been removed also.
    PCManFM was re-wriiten from ‘scratch’ supposedly. But it seems to be going backwards. In the spirit of ‘netiquette’,
    I won’t say what I really feel. Other than that, LXDE rocks and is a great choice for peppermint.


    • I’m afraid I must agree with you regarding PCManFM2.

      What I’m thinking is going on with PCManFM2 is related to (as you mentioned) the complete rewrite of it, from the ground up.

      I think the state it’s in right now reflects the fact that not all of its former features have been re-implemented yet, even if the main ones have.

      I hope. Really, I do. Because if this isn’t the case, and it was supposed to be lacking this basic stuff, it’s just failure in my opinion. That commits quite possibly the worst New Version Sin I have in my book:

      “Thou shalt not release a new version that has less functionality than the previous version.”

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  3. ‘ve been immersed on few LXDE based linux distros and i’m really impressed on it’s performance. i’m writing this using SliTaz and i’m testing lubuntu on the newer machines. i’m also fond with pclos_lxde_2010 because of compiz-fuzion and tvtime. there’s not perfect LXDE based distro for me yet anyway :) i think there are reasons not to stick to one distro but rather appreciate each for the specific task or purpose they’re intended to. well, i’m waiting for PeppermintOS and give it a try. nice review :)

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    • For me, Peppermint OS has a special role as THE PERFECT LIVE CD!

      A live CD is a temporary system, so a simple desktop that requires little setup and emphasizes webapps is ideal. Webapps tend to store data online so it can be referenced by other online systems, either temporary or permanent. If I boot Peppermint OS on my brother’s Windows computer, I’ll be able to create documents that I’ll be able to retrieve at home… or anywhere else on the web that I boot the live CD, or even, God forbid, if I’m forced to use a Windows computer.

      Of course, it’s based on Debian, and that means the simple, friendly desktop can be made to do just about anything that Debian can do.. I like to install emacs and chromium-browser, like so

      sudo apt-get update
      sudo apt-get install emacs chromium-browser

      Depending on which machine I’m using, I have either 1 or two gigabytes of RAM, plenty of room to install these applications to the ramdisk.

      Because peppermint is based on mint, it has all the codecs I need in place. Again, this is especially valuble in a live CD. You don’t want to have to download a bunch of codecs every time you use the disk. Unlike Debian and Ubuntu, it has mplayer installed by default. I like to use mplayer from the command line, from which it excels. The GUI versions generally seem a little dicey. As alkways, it’s easy with a little practice. As always, the manpage is the fiirst place to look for information.

      I also think that, as a live CD, Peppermint OS is a great introduction to Linux for the li-curious. It’s an incredibly easy desktop that opens webapps that most windows users will find familiar. It just couldn’t be more painless.

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  10. I’ve just installed the “second respin” of PeppermintOS and wouldn’t have noticed the lack of a tree-view in PCManFM 0.9.5 until I read your review.

    This isn’t such a big issue for me, though. What is important is what you pointed out. This distro is fast and stable and it’s perfect for my netbook. What more can I ask for?

  11. I’d just like to point out that songbird for linux isn’t dead– Builds are still made, they just aren’t officially supported by the songbird development team.

  12. Our group here at Sandia Labs reviewed Peppermint OS and was pleased with the operating system. Although the customer support on their IRC channel was rude and disrespectful to their guests. Also Kendall did not seem to entertain the idea of making more money or being funded for working with us on the cloud products. He was more worried about going for a drink at the local tavern. Good OS but not very delightful work ethic and customer service. Thats why linux doesn’t make it in this world. To many hacker want to bees and not enough real world business experience. Xubuntu has a flavor that is made with more quality and a much more stable environment. They also have better customer service and reliable upgrades.

    • Anecdotal comments about IRC conversations? You have a pastebin link? Group #99201 said “Thats why linux doesn’t make it in this world.” In an open source world with 100s of 100s of distros how could one possibly blame the few that are less than formal on your perception of a failure that is debatable in of itself? Also Linux isn’t a corporation competing for market share, its an OS kernel. Some distros may be using the kernel to compete in the market, that’s their choice. Linux is about choice. Sorry you had an apparently bad experience if that indeed did occur. Cheers.

  13. I’m running peppermint on my Tecra 8000 128mb 300mhz laptop and it is working like a charm. Haven’t figured out working the sound yet.

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