Here’s where I find things to pick at about this. I’m a picky guy, which is why I’m always able to find something… though to be fair, like what happened with my original review of Peppermint One last year, I really had to nitpick to find things to complain about in Peppermint Two, so you won’t find a rant or a long laundry list of problems here. Just minor stuff.
Live CD didn’t work
As I had mentioned in my overview section, the “Try Peppermint OS live” option didn’t work at all on either of my laptops, which would have made me more paranoid about doing a blind install of the operating system if I hadn’t already been resigned to wiping this particular laptop to begin with. Since a lot of folks use the Live CD options out there to test their hardware in an OS before installing it, this might be a barrier to installation for some who aren’t willing to risk an install on a computer which couldn’t run the Live CD.
When I was testing ACPI stuff, while the suspend option worked perfectly (which is actually a first for me on this particular laptop, in ANY operating system, including Windows), hibernate was a complete no-go. It basically hung forever in limbo, and eventually just barfed completely. I had to do a full cold boot to recover from the hibernate function, and it behaved the exact same way every time I tried it.
This actually isn’t that big a deal for me, as I never use the hibernate function, but it was something that didn’t work right, so I figured I’d mention it. ACPI is still one of the problem areas in the Linux universe, sadly, even on 6+ year old hardware, so I’m sure that while it’s not a showstopper for me, it probably is for someone else.
I noticed that the update manager doesn’t run automatically, or not that I could detect. It’s available to launch for users (under the “System Tools” menu), but there doesn’t seem to be a way to get the update manager to run on startup (graphically, anyway), which I find odd. Users have to manually start it in order to check for updates.
While this isn’t really much of a problem for me, since I’m technical and I know how to edit the Openbox autostart script that launches things on login, for a non-technical user, this might mean that they’d potentially go a long time without any updates, and not realize it.
Furthermore, once you do manually launch the update manager from the menu, the top of that screen says “Welcome to Ubuntu” (see the screenshot I posted for it on the next page of this review and you’ll see what I’m talking about). While this isn’t a problem, it’s a minor branding quibble that might confuse some users. If nothing else, it appears to be an oversight or an inconsistency in what otherwise seems a really slick, comprehensive experience.
I noticed that unlike in Peppermint One, workspace switching doesn’t work by mouse-wheeling over the desktop, and no workspace switcher is on the taskbar by default, which I found to be an annoyance. This is probably more of a complaint about this version of LXDE (with regard to no workspace switching via mouse-wheeling on the desktop), but I’m sure there’s a way to make this work, and I wish it worked out of the box. It makes workspace switching easier in my opinion.
I was, of course, able to add the workspace switcher to the taskbar, but I’m of the opinion that it should be there by default, otherwise it’s nearly impossible to easily switch from one to another.
For the record, I discovered that ctrl+alt left/right arrow will switch you through the workspaces, but that’s cumbersome if one is mousing at the time, because it takes two hands to do it.
I tested a few DVDs to see if I could watch movies on Peppermint Two, and was disappointed to find that none of the DVDs I tried worked at all. I’m sure I could probably do a little hacking and get DVD playing to work, but that’s not something the average user would likely do, and this is the kind of thing that can be a barrier to adoption if people can’t do it.
So, nitpicky stuff over with, on to the stuff I liked!
Peppermint Two is, as I mentioned in my overview, extremely resource-friendly, particularly on limited hardware. Because of this, I was able to turn what would otherwise be a pretty sluggish laptop into a fast, usable (if kind of heavy) netbook out of which my wife and I both get a lot of use. Peppermint Two, like its last release, is fast in everything it does, whether it’s booting, logging in, launching and running local applications or the numerous Ice webapps set up by default for you, or shutting down.
You don’t waste your time waiting around for things to happen in Peppermint, they just go, go, go.
Like I said, until the other day when I installed Peppermint Two on this old laptop, I had been running Peppermint One on it for the past year, and my wife and I both have enjoyed it a lot, and I think that the speed of it and good performance played a big part in the enjoyment. Peppermint Two is still wicked fast, and as a result it’s just as enjoyable.
Peppermint Two uses the “Peppermint Orta” theme by default, and the Faenza-Darkest icons, both of which combined I find very pleasing to look at. Along with the slick, new default wallpaper, Peppermint Two looks pretty nice and professionally packaged and designed. Not that Peppermint One felt “thrown together”, that is. But Peppermint looks like it is maturing as a project, and the attention to aesthetics is a good indicator of this in my opinion.
Ease of use
I mentioned before that LXDE was a good choice of desktops for Peppermint, and a big part of that is the “ease of use” angle. Whether one is a Windows user, a Mac user, or someone who enjoys other Linux desktop environments, LXDE is simple to use with little or no instruction.
The Peppermint OS team’s configuration of LXDE for Peppermint Two is a step up even from there. One notable example is the simple fact that menu applications are named by what they do, rather than by the sometimes obscure names so many open source apps have (“text editor”, and “music player”, for example).
This makes it easier for the average user to dive right in and do what they need to do, rather than spend time figuring out what the hell “PCManFM”, “Guayadeque”, and “Catfish” are for the uninitiated. I think more distros need to use this approach. Unlike a lot of things one can do for the “average user” in a Linux desktop out there, I don’t consider this “dumbing down” the interface, just making things a bit more plain in terms of what they do, rather than rely on their knowledge of sometimes bizarre application names.
One discovery I made almost right away in Peppermint Two was that the keyboard and mouse preferences screen gives users the option to disable the touchpad! That’s always been a pet peeve of mine, because it seems like such a simple thing to offer as an option, and yet I’ve encountered it pretty rarely.
As a bonus, if you disable the touchpad on a laptop in Peppermint Two, it actually stays disabled. This also seems like a simple thing, but I’ve had to fight with that in other distros, and frankly it seems pretty stupid to me.
So while it’s simple and minor, it’s one of those little things that makes for a better experience in my book, so it put a smile on my face to discover this.
I made no secret in my review of Peppermint One last year that I thought this was a great project, and Peppermint Two lived up to the expectations set by its predecessor.
Because I plan to use Peppermint Two on this laptop going forward, I did install GIMP, LibreOffice, and Firefox, mainly because GIMP is a bit more useful for more involved image editing, LibreOffice offers a lot of functionality and flexibility that Google Docs still just doesn’t do, and, well, I can’t stand the Chromium browser, and my wife prefers Firefox as well.
However, that said, all of those things were easily available via Peppermint Two’s software manager, so within minutes I had everything I needed, locally installed. No muss, no fuss.
Likewise, similar to Mozilla Prism, with the Ice application one can create custom webapps for pretty much any website one desires. Don’t use Gmail? You can use Ice to make a Yahoo! Mail webapp. Don’t use Last.fm? Use Ice to make a Pandora music webapp. Don’t use Google Docs, but still want to use a cloud-based online document solution? Fire up Ice and make a Zoho webapp. This is very simple to do, and that flexibility means that Peppermint Two can be easily tailored to individual users’ needs, and that’s always a powerful strength of any OS in my book.
Peppermint Two continues in the footsteps of Peppermint One in breathing new life into older hardware, which makes it useful, and we all like things that are useful.
Community is important too, and the community that has grown around the Peppermint operating system is strong, vibrant, open, and helpful to technology veterans and Linux newcomers alike. In my time working with the OS and participating in Peppermint’s community, I’ve gotten to know a few people that I otherwise wouldn’t, and I think I’d be missing out if I hadn’t.
So in the end, Peppermint Two is a fast, flexible, functional, and visually pleasing operating system that provides users with a cohesive, slick overall experience, a fun and informative community, and a bright future.
I can’t wait to see what the Peppermint team has in store for us down the road, but if their first couple of products are any indicator, I’m excited to see what’s next!
Give Peppermint Two a try!
And check out the next page for plenty of screenshots. Enjoy!