Peppermint OS 3

Peppermint OS 3 has been released. If you aren’t familiar with it, Peppermint OS is a cloud-oriented distribution. It’s based on Ubuntu 12.04 (it’s actually a fork of Lubuntu 12.04).

Unlike most other distributions, it’s geared toward letting you use your favorite web apps as well as desktop software. Web apps such as Editor by Pixlr run in the Ice SSB framework, which makes these applications a part of your desktop rather than running them in a browser. This makes them feel like they are running locally rather than in the cloud.

Editor by Pixlr

Editor by Pixlr

SSB, by the way, is an acronym for “site specific browser.” Here’s more on SSB’s from the Peppermint OS site:

Ice is, by definition, a Site Specific Browser [SSB] that Peppermint creator Kendall Weaver wrote himself as a means to launch Web Applications and/or  Cloud Applications [SaaS – Software As A Service] from the new Peppermint Ice OS. When you launch a web based application using Ice it will call up a custom SSB using the default Chromium Browser. So, essentially, the Ice SSB acts as software that is installed locally but is actually delivered via the Web.

The difference in using an SSB as opposed to using a tabbed browser is that only one function is assigned to the Ice SSB.  In a tabbed browsing system, with several open for example, if one service or site in any given tab crashes you run the risk of losing data by crashing the other tabs and potentially the browser itself. since an SSB is isolated and dedicated to only operating the web application of your choice, if it crashes or hangs, it does not effect the rest of the system. And, because the Ice SSB’s are so sleek, they are perfect for running apps that display better using the most screen area as possible.

Using Ice you can add or remove web applications, including the ones that come with Peppermint OS 3 by default. Ice gives you a lot of power to control the web applications that you’ll be using in Peppermint OS 3.

To add or remove web applications, follow these instructions:

How to Add an App in Ice SSB

1. Click the Menu button on the panel.
2. Click the Internet category.
3. Click the Ice icon in the drop down menu.
4. Type in the URL and name of the web app you want to add.
5. Choose where you want it to appear in the menus.
6. Choose an icon for the web application.
7. Click the Create button.

Add app in Ice SSB

Add app in Ice SSB

How to Remove an App in Ice SSB

1. Click the Menu button on the panel.
2. Click the Internet category.
3. Click the Ice icon in the drop down menu.
4. Click the Remove tab on the Ice menu.
5. Select the app you want to remove.
6. Click the Remove button.

Remove app in Ice SSB

Remove app in Ice SSB

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Chromium stable repository enabled by default
Light theme and default art
Fewer web applications installed by default
GWOffice included
GIMP 2.8 is in the Peppermint repository
Peppermint OS uses Linux Mint’s update manager again

Chromium is the default browser in Peppermint OS 3, and it’s an excellent choice. Since the stable repository is enabled already,  you will get updates right when they become available.

The new, lighter them is attractive and clean. It works well within Peppermint OS, though the default wallpaper left something to be desired (more in the problems section on that).

The developers have opted to include less web applications by default. I have mixed feelings about this since some users may simply be unaware of all the great web apps available to use on Peppermint OS 3. However, I can also understand the developers not wanting to overload people with web apps. It would be nice if there was some one-click way to add a whole bunch of them at the same time.

GWoffice is now included by default. To use it just start it and login with your Google account information. GWoffice is a desktop Google Docs client. It’s still in beta though, so be aware you may see some burps while using it.

GWoffice

GWoffice

System Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

The absolute minimum required specs are as follows:

  • 192 MB of RAM
  • Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
  • At least 2 GB of available disk space

Again, do note that these are the absolute minimum required specs. We strongly recommend having something a little stronger to install on. Our minimum recommended specs are as follows:

  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
  • At least 4 GB of available disk space

Taking it a step further, the preferred minimum specs on a candidate for installation are as follows:

  • 1 GB of RAM
  • x86_64 or amd64 compatible processor
  • At least 4 GB of disk space

Download
You can download Peppermint OS 3 from this page. The file I downloaded weighed in at 558.4 MB.

If you’re a distrohopper then you might want to try it in VirtualBox before running it on real hardware. VirtualBox is free and open source software that will let you run distros on your Linux, OS X or Windows desktop.

You can get Peppermint OS 3 in 32 bit or 64 bit versions.

Installation
Since it’s based on Ubuntu 12.04, the install is extremely easy. It took about 7 minutes or so for my install to finish.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

The Desktop
The desktop is clear of icon clutter. The menu button on the panel has a cute peppermint icon in it. On the right of the panel you’ll see your network connection info, an icon to click to update your system, a notifications icon, a volume icon, the time, and the logout icon.

The Peppermint OS 3 Desktop

The Peppermint OS 3 Desktop

Applications are broken up into the usual categories:

Peppermint OS 3 Application Categories

Peppermint OS 3 Menu

So it’s very easy to find what you’re looking for, and it’s easy to access System Tools and Preferences via the Menu button as well.

Wallpaper
I have some…er…feedback on the default wallpaper I encountered in the problems section. To change the wallpaper just right-click your desktop and pull up the Desktop Preferences menu. Then click the wallpaper drop down menu. I like the first choice (peppermint.jpg) in the list of included wallpapers.

Desktop Preferences

Desktop Preferences

Wallpapers

Wallpapers

 

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Available in Software Manager

Graphics
Document Viewer
Editor by pixlr
Express by pixlr
Pixlr-o-matic
Simple Scan

Internet
BitTorrent
Chromium
Dropbox
Ice
IRC Client
Online User Guide
Peppermint Forums

Multimedia
Media Player
Music Player

Office
Gmail
Google Calendar
Google Reader
GWoffice

Software Management
Peppermint OS 3 uses the Linux Mint Software Manager. So it’s very easy to find desktop software to install on your system. You can browse categories, search for an application, or use the Featured category to find top desktop Linux applications.

Software Manager Categories

Software Manager Categories

Software Manager Featured Applications

Software Manager Featured Applications

Adding & Removing Software
I covered how to add or remove web applications in Ice SSB earlier in the review. It’s just as easy to add or remove desktop applications. Just find the application you want to add or remove in Software Manager, and click the Install or Remove button.

VLC in Software Manager

VLC in Software Manager

Problems & Headaches
One minor thing I didn’t care for at all is the default wallpaper. There are some sort of very blurry, red shapes on the wallpaper. Frankly, they reminded me of drops of blood. Yuck! That’s a bit on the morbid side for a Linux distro. Maybe the Peppermint OS developers have been watching too much “Dexter?”

I seem to remember Peppermint OS as originally having some kind of stripes or something. I would have preferred some kind of peppermint candy background. I hope the developers change this in the next release. Eeeew.

The help functions within the power management tool are not working, since Peppermint OS 3 uses the Xfce tool. The developers have noted this and plan to eventually disable the feature later. See this from the release notes:

Peppermint Three uses the power management tool from the Xfce desktop environment. Due to this being the only Xfce utility installed, the “Help” functions within the application and the applet are not functional. I hope to push an update that completely disables this functionality in the near future.

Beyond these two issues, I didn’t see much in the way of problems with Peppermint OS 3. If you ran into anything, please share your problem(s) in the comments section. Someone else might have also had the same issues, and somebody might have a solution for you.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

You might also want to check out the Peppermint User’s Guide, FAQ & Support page, and the Community page.

If you’re new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it at Amazon. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on. You can also save lots of money with deals on laptops and tablets, desktops and monitors, components, and computer accessories.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Peppermint OS 3 is an excellent choice for folks that truly want the best from the cloud, while still maintaining the ability to run whichever desktop applications they prefer. The Ice SSB makes web applications blend right into your desktop, with an absolute minimum of fuss or work.

Once you get used to having access to your favorite web applications right from your desktop, you really notice them missing in other distributions. Peppermint OS 3 is a unique distribution, and it’s well worth a download.

Peppermint OS 3 is well suited for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

BTW, if you’re really into the whole peppermint theme, be sure to browse Amazon’s selection of peppermint products. There’s bound to be something there to complement Peppermint OS 3.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Peppermint OS 3
Web Site: http://peppermintos.com
Donate to This Distro: http://peppermintos.com/sponsor/
Price: Free
Pros: Web applications are integrated well into the desktop. Easy to add or remove them in Ice SSB. Chromium is the default browser.
Cons: Strange default wallpaper that looks like drops of blood on a glass slide under a microscope.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4.5/5


Peppermint OS Two

There’s been quite a lot of talk about “the cloud” lately so what better time to do a review of one of the best cloud-oriented desktop Linux distributions? Peppermint OS One came out a while ago and its successor has just been released. Peppermint OS Two is based on Lubuntu 11.04 and, for the first time, comes in a 64-bit edition. Lubuntu is a good choice as a base for Peppermint OS Two since it runs well on older or slower hardware.

Peppermint OS Two uses web-based applications for much of its default software. These applications are integrated into the desktop by the Ice SSB framework and essentially make these applications as much a part of the desktop as applications that run locally. They run in a window on your desktop even when you aren’t using your browser.

SSB stands for “site specific browser” and it’s how Peppermint OS Two runs web applications on your desktop. Here’s a bit of background on SSBs from the Peppermint OS site:

Ice is, by definition, a Site Specific Browser [SSB] that Peppermint creator Kendall Weaver wrote himself as a means to launch Web Applications and/or  Cloud Applications [SaaS – Software As A Service] from the new Peppermint Ice OS. When you launch a web based application using Ice it will call up a custom SSB using the default Chromium Browser. So, essentially, the Ice SSB acts as software that is installed locally but is actually delivered via the Web.

The difference in using an SSB as opposed to using a tabbed browser is that only one function is assigned to the Ice SSB.  In a tabbed browsing system, with several open for example, if one service or site in any given tab crashes you run the risk of losing data by crashing the other tabs and potentially the browser itself. since an SSB is isolated and dedicated to only operating the web application of your choice, if it crashes or hangs, it does not effect the rest of the system. And, because the Ice SSB’s are so sleek, they are perfect for running apps that display better using the most screen area as possible.

Some of you might wonder why this is desirable since you can always just fire up a browser and then go to GMail or whatever the web application is that you want to run. Well it’s quite a bit more convenient to have web applications integrated into your desktop when your first boot into it.

It’s also quite easy to add additional web applications or remove the default ones (more on that in the software section of the review). Once you get used to using web applications in an SSB you start to wonder why you had to do it the old way in the first place. It really makes the web a part of your desktop environment rather than something that exists outside of it.

Live Desktop

Live Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Chromium is the default browser now instead of Firefox
The Ice SSB now comes with the ability to remove SSBs
Additional SSBs added from pixlr
Look and feel has been changed
Dropbox integration improved
Guayadeque is the default music player
Gedit replaces Leafpad as the default text editor
LXKeyMap is now included

The developers felt that Chromium was a better fit for Peppermint OS Two instead of Firefox because the Ice SSB was created for Chromium and apparently Mozilla’s Prism (which was used in the last release for Firefox) project is having problems or whatever. I have no problem with this decision though others may disagree. I’ve always rather liked Chromium a bit better than Firefox anyway, so I’m fine with the change. I’ll be interested in seeing in the comments though how others feel about this.

The ability to remove SSBs is a no-brainer and I’m glad to see it. The default selection of SSBs is fine by me, but your mileage may vary. So it’s a good idea to be able to remove them if you don’t like them.

The additional SSBs are geared toward image editing. I personally don’t care too much about this since my image editing needs are modest, but I suspect others may enjoy these web services. So check them out in the application menus when you boot into your Peppermint OS Two desktop.

I don’t use Dropbox so the better integration doesn’t hold much appeal to me. But regular Dropbox users will appreciate it. When you go to start it you’ll see a popup that asks you to download a proprietary daemon. Click the okay box and it’ll download for you automatically.

Dropbox

Dropbox

The look and feel of windows and icons has been changed. You can compare the new look to the old one by browsing the review of Peppermint OS One that I wrote a while back. Here’s a screenshot of Peppermint OS One, you can contrast it to the screenshot of the Peppermint OS Two desktop above. The wallpaper is a bit different though I think I still like the old version better.

The choice of the Guayadeque music player is an interesting one and might surprise a few people. The developers picked it for various reasons including “…ease of use, speed, install footprint, and scalability.” I can’t really quibble with their choice, it seems like a good player to me. I don’t listen to a whole lot of music these days though so perhaps my take on it is different than yours. But it’s there if you want to use it and if you don’t like it you can always use something else.

Guayadeque Music Player

Guayadeque Music Player

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

The absolute minimum required specs are as follows:

  • 192 MB of RAM
  • Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
  • At least 2 GB of available disk space

Again, do note that these are the absolute minimum required specs. We strongly recommend having something a little stronger to install on. Our minimum recommended specs are as follows:

  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
  • At least 4 GB of available disk space

Taking it a step further, the preferred minimum specs on a candidate for installation are as follows:

  • 1 GB of RAM
  • x86_64 or amd64 compatible processor
  • At least 4 GB of disk space

Installation
Peppermint OS Two uses the Ubuntu installer so it’s quite easy. The installer has been customized a bit to show you a slideshow that provides helpful information about Peppermint OS Two. Those of you who are completely new to this distro should find it very useful.

Remember that Peppermint OS Two is a Live CD distro so you can simply put it on a CD and boot into it to check it out without having to do an install.

The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

Install 4

Install 4

Install 5

Install 5

Install 6

Install 6

Install 7

Install 7

Install 8

Install 8

Install 9

Install 9

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu

Boot Menu

Login

Login

The Desktop
The Peppermint OS Two desktop is rather dark. There are no icons on the desktop and the panel is dark. The bright spot is the cute, little peppermint start button on the panel that lets you access all the usual stuff. The application menus are well organized; it’s quite easy to find what you are looking for while using Peppermint OS Two. Newbies will have no problems jumping right into it.

Menu

Menu

Desktop

Desktop

Themes
You can change the look and feel of Peppermint OS Two easily enough.

Themes

Themes

Wallpaper
As I noted earlier, I don’t particularly care for the new Peppermint OS Two wallpaper. It’s too dark and makes the distro’s default desktop a rather dreary affair. The dark wallpaper contrasts poorly with the brightly colored Peppermint OS candy icon. There is another version of the wallpaper included but this one is just the default one in red. I like the old one better. Aaaah well, most people will probably just change it to whatever they want anyway. But it would have been nice if the developers had included more choices.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

System & Preferences Tools

System Management
You can see the system tools and preferences options in the screenshots below:

System Tools

System Tools

Preferences

Preferences

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
Available in the Software Manager

Graphics
Editor & Express by pixlr
pixlr-o-matic
Simple Scan

Internet
BitTorrent Client
Chromium
Dropbox
eBuddy IM Client
Ice
IRC Client
Peppermint Bug Tracking
Peppermint Forums
Seesmic Web

Multimedia
last.fm
Media Player
Music Player
Sound Mixer
The Cloud Player
YouTube

Office
Gmail
Google Calendar
Google Docs
Google Reader

Software Management
Peppermint OS Two manages software in two different ways. Local applications can be installed or removed via Linux Mint’s Software Manager. Web based applications can be installed or removed via Ice.

The Linux Mint Software Manager is one of the best around. You can browse ratings and reviews from other users. You can also submit your own reviews of applications that you’ve used on your system.

Software Manager

Software Manager

Featured Applications

Featured Applications

VLC

VLC

 

Adding & Removing Software
Installing or removing applications in the Software Manager is quite easy. Just find the application you want or you want to remove and click the Install or Remove button.

If you want to add a web application, you’ll need to start Ice (it’s in the Internet applications menu) and then fill in the boxes, specify where you want the application to appear in the menus, select an icon and choose Create. The screenshots below show you how easy it is to do this in Ice. You can also see how to remove a web application.

Ice Add

Ice Add

Ice Remove

Ice Remove

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
Flash is installed into Chromium by default, so there’s no fiddling necessary on your end to watch YouTube content. I had no problem running the “Orcas Attack Seal” video shown below. Alas, it appears that things did not turn out well for the seal. He seemed unable to grasp the beauty of the orcas’ strategy to roll him off the ice and devour him. The orcas proved themselves quite cunning, however.

YouTube

YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Peppermint OS Two comes with a blend of local and web based multimedia applications including last.fm, GNOME Media Player, Guayadeque Music Player, The Cloud Player and YouTube. If you need more just fire up Software Manager and there’s a bunch of applications you can install locally to get your music or video fix. I recommend snagging VLC. It’s just one of those must-have applications.

Cloud Player

Cloud Player

GNOME Player

GNOME Player

Guayadeque Music Player

Guayadeque Music Player

Problems & Headaches
I mentioned my wallpaper trepidations earlier, so I won’t harp on it too much here. Suffice to say some additional choices would be appreciated in future releases. The name and the icon that represent this distro are upbeat, cheery and – dare I say it? – rather sweet (as in candy). And yet the theme and wallpaper are very dark and project a rather downbeat look and feel. Perhaps the developers could add two choices next time? One for those who like it dark and depressing, and one for those who want something a bit lighter?

😉 :whistle:

Beyond that, I didn’t really find much to complain about in this section. If you ran into any overt problems please post them in the comments section so others can benefit from your experiences.

Peppermint OS Two seemed quite speedy and reliable to me. That’s not really a big surprise since it’s based on Lubuntu 11.04.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Peppermint User’s Guide, FAQ & Support page, and the Community page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Peppermint OS Two is a solid update to Peppermint OS One. It’s a potentially great option for web junkies that find themselves using web applications at least as much as the apps they run locally. Although it might seems strange or unnecessary to have the web integrated into your desktop so tightly, it quickly becomes something you come to appreciate more and more as you use this distro.

Frankly, I’m rather shocked that other distros haven’t attempted something similar, given how much we all hear about “the cloud” in media stories day in and day out. I had expected to see more and more distros following in the footsteps of Peppermint OS One but that doesn’t seem to have happened. That’s too bad since this sort of web integration can be quite useful for some users.

I highly recommend downloading Peppermint OS Two and giving it a shot. As I noted earlier, it’s a Live CD distro so you can run it without doing an install (though I also recommend installing it in VirtualBox to give it a more thorough testing). Distrohoppers should definitely check it out because it’s a fun alternative to the usual distros that are geared almost solely to running applications locally.

Peppermint OS Two is appropriate for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Peppermint OS Two
Web Site: http://peppermintos.com
Price: Free
Pros: Integrates web-based applications into your desktop. This release uses Chromium as the default browser. Now available for 64 bit systems. SSBs can now be removed as well as added. Additional SSBs from pixlr added. Better Dropbox integration.
Cons: Dark, rather dreary wallpaper combines with a darkish theme to contrast poorly with the cheery peppermint icon that symbolizes this distro. A more upbeat aesthetic would be welcome in future releases.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4.5/5

 

Peppermint Ice

Peppermint OS One made quite a splash when I reviewed it. Many people had never heard of it, and there was a lot of curiosity about a web-oriented remaster of Ubuntu. Some time has passed and there’s a related version that has been released. This new distro is called Peppermint Ice. Why is it called Ice? Well read on to find out.

Please note that development of Peppermint OS One will continue. Peppermint Ice is a separate distro and the Peppermint developers will be supporting both versions. The developers got a lot of requests from the Peppermint OS One community to do a version with Chromium as the browser and thus Peppermint Ice was born.

What’s New In This Release
The biggest difference between Peppermint OS One and Peppermint Ice is the inclusion of a new Site Specific Browser (SSB) written by Peppermint Ice developer Kendall Weaver. Ice is the name of the SSB, and it uses Chromium (the default browser in Peppermint Ice) to run web applications. Using an SSB, instead of running applications in a tabbed browser, for example, helps provide greater stability and uses screen space more effectively.

My experience with using web applications in Peppermint Ice via the Ice SSB was very good. I opened a bunch of web applications and everything ran very well, I had no problems with speed or stability (with the one exception of Facebook, which I’ll talk about in the problems section). I left the applications running for hours and didn’t notice any problems with them.

Since Peppermint Ice uses LXDE as its desktop environment, it’s very fast. If you have older hardware, you’ll be particularly pleased with Peppermint Ice. Booting up or shutting down happens very quickly.

Facebook running in an Ice SSB.

Some might be thrown off by the inclusion of Chromium as the default browser for Peppermint Ice, but I think it’s a good choice. Firefox is still available via Software Manager if you want it, but Chromium seems to be significantly faster to me. That said, I also think it’s a good idea to keep Firefox around in case you bump into a site that isn’t quite compatible with Chromium.

And please note that Peppermint OS One will still have Firefox as its default browser.

Chromium is now the default browser in Peppermint Ice.

As you can see from the Live CD desktop screenshot below, the desktop wallpaper and peppermint logo are different from Peppermint OS One. The red and white wallpaper and logo are gone; they’ve been replaced by blue and white versions. I’ll talk about that more in the desktop section.

The Peppermint Ice live CD desktop.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

As you might expect, the hardware requirements to run Peppermint OS are quite modest. Here’s what you’ll need to run it:

* i386 or derivative processor (AMD64 and x86_64 are fine as well)
* 192 MB of RAM
* 4 GB hard drive space (this is an overestimate just for good measure)

Installation
The install is vintage Ubuntu. It’s quick, easy and painless even if you are completely new to Linux. The screenshots below guide you through the installation from beginning to end. Please note that Peppermint Ice is a Live CD distro, so you can test it without actually installing it. Just pop the CD into your system and boot up.

Booting & Login

The bootsplash screen has the blue and white logo and branding. The login screen also has the new colors, and features the Peppermint Ice desktop wallpaper in the background.

The bootsplash screen.

The Peppermint Ice login screen.

The Desktop
One of the things I found most attractive visually about Peppermint OS was the red and white wallpaper and peppermint logo. Peppermint Ice’s logo and wallpaper are blue and white instead. The blue and white is, frankly, a bit bland.

I very much prefer Peppermint OS One’s color scheme. Your mileage may vary, however. It’s easy enough, of course, to simply change the wallpaper if you don’t like it. So no biggie.

Beyond the branding and new colors, there hasn’t been much of a change to the Peppermint Ice desktop. It’s still clean and uncluttered, without a bunch of icons all over the place like some distros.

The installed desktop.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
No Games

Graphics
Editor by pixlr
Screenshot

Internet
Chromium
Dropbox
Facebook
Ice
Peppermint Forums
Seesmic Web
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Hulu
Pandora
Sound Mixer
The Cloud Player
Xnoise
YouTube
last.fm

Office
Google Calendar
Google Docs
Google Mail
Google Reader
ePDFViewer

There are some great web applications included with Peppermint Ice. I’m a heavy user of GMail, Google Reader and Google Docs. Hulu, Pandora and YouTube are also excellent multimedia choices. Facebook is there, of course, for the social media junkies. And there’s plenty of music with last.fm, Pandora and the Cloud player.

There are also useful local applications included such as Ice, Chromium, Drop-Box, X-Chat, Transmission and Xnoise.

Peppermint Ice comes with pretty much every web application you’ll need to do most basic computing tasks. If you want to add more, simply click the menu button on the panel and then choose Internet then Ice. You can quickly and easily add any web application you want and it will run in its own SSB window.

Use Ice to add additional web applications to your system.

Software Management
As you might expect, Peppermint Ice doesn’t come with a great deal of locally installed software. Not to worry, if you want more software just open the Software Manager. You’ll find all of the usual programs (GIMP, OpenOffice and lots more) waiting to be installed. Just click on a category, choose your application, and then click Install or Remove.

I didn’t bother installing any of them, however. I really wanted to use Peppermint Ice as is, without a lot of software running locally. I found I could do pretty much anything I needed to do just by using the included web applications. I’m not sure if I’d use cloud-only applications all of the time, if I were going to use Peppermint Ice as my main OS permanently. However, most of what I needed to do could be done with web applications instead of local software.

Use Software Manager to add or remove programs.

Sound and Multimedia

I had no problems running YouTube videos or any other web-based multimedia content in Peppermint Ice.

The range of choices found in the Sound & Video applications menu insure that Peppermint Ice users have access to great multimedia without ever having to touch a file locally. This built-in web content is one of the best things about Peppermint Ice; it makes it very easy to focus on enjoying the content rather than managing it locally.

Problems & Headaches
One of the things that stood out for me was the lack of games. Oh sure, there are plenty of games in the Software Center. But it’s somewhat odd that there are no online games bundled with Peppermint Ice. You’d think that there would be links in the application menu to some of the more popular Internet game sites at the very least. Perhaps this can be added in a future release.

YouTube videos worked quite well in Peppermint Ice.

Hulu provides a huge range of movies and television shows.

Find a range of music via the Cloud Player.

The distro itself was quite stable. The only burp in that regard that I noticed was when Facebook crashed. I’m not going to hold that against Peppermint Ice because…well…Facebook is Facebook, and it’s certainly not the first time I’ve ever seen it go belly up in a browser window.

Beyond that, I didn’t run into any noticeable problems with Peppermint Ice. It seems to have mostly lived up to its billing as a fast, web-centric distro.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Peppermint Ice FAQ page, and the Peppermint Ice Community page. The community page lets you submit bugs, access the Peppermint Ice forums, and chat via IRC.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Peppermint Ice is perfect for anybody looking for a fast, reliable, cloud-centric distribution that uses Chromium as its default browser. My experience with it was quite positive and I’ll definitely be keeping it around for when I want a more web-centric Linux experience. While I still prefer the look of Peppermint OS One, I’m glad to see the Peppermint developers being so responsive to their community. The community wanted a version with Chromium and they got it, so kudos to the developers.

Peppermint Ice is fine for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users. Beginners who are just getting their feet wet with the cloud will really appreciate the easy install and good selection of web applications included in Peppermint Ice.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Peppermint Ice
Web Site: http://peppermintos.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Includes the new Site Specific Browser (SSB) functionality, and a great selection of web-based applications. Chromium is now the default browser.
Cons: The wallpaper and logo colors are a bit bland compared to Peppermint OS One. No web-based games are included.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users who want a cloud-centric, fast distribution.
Summary: Peppermint Ice is a great alternative for Peppermint OS One users that wanted Chromium as their default browser. It’s also perfect for anybody that wants a web-centric distro that is extremely fast and stable.
Rating: 4/5

 

 

Peppermint OS One

I’ve covered a lot of remastered versions of Ubuntu since DLR launched. But, every once in a while, I bump into one that is particularly interesting to review. Peppermint OS One is definitely in that category.

Peppermint OS One is a web-centric Ubuntu remaster that passes up common desktop applications like OpenOffice.org in favor of web-based alternatives such as Google Docs. And it doesn’t stop with office applications either; Peppermint OS One integrates video sites like YouTube and Hulu right into the desktop experience.

LXDE and Prism
Peppermint OS One uses LXDE for its desktop environment. This means that it’s very fast and should work well even on machines with limited CPU and graphics horsepower. Since it makes great use of the cloud, you’ll definitely need to have a network connection available to get the most out of Peppermint OS.

Mozilla’s Prism is used to integrate web apps into the desktop. When you click on a web app in your applications menu, it will open in a desktop window. Prism lets web-based apps run even if you aren’t using your browser.

You can also click Prism on the Internet applications menu to create your own launchers for other web-based applications. You’ll just need to know the URL of the site and you’ll need to make some choices such as whether you want a link added to your desktop, status messages enabled or whether you want to use navigation keys. You’ll also need to select an icon or try to download one from the application’s site.

You can add other web applications to your system by using Prism.

Cloud and Desktop Applications
Peppermint OS One comes with a good selection of cloud based applications:

Editor by Pixlr
Facebook
Hulu
Last.FM
Pandora
Seesmic
The Cloud Player
YouTube
Google Calendar
Google Docs

Although the cloud is definitely the focus of Peppermint OS, there are installed applications included as well:

Firefox
Drop-Box
Exaile
Prism
X-Chat
Transmission

See the software section of the review for a full breakdown of applications by category.

In addition to the cloud and desktop applications listed above, Peppermint OS also comes with the following:

Linux Kernel 2.6.32
Xorg 7.5
Openbox 3.4.10
PCManFM 0.9.5
LXSession 0.4.3

Linux Mint and Peppermint OS
If the name “Peppermint OS” reminds you of Linux Mint, it’s no accident. Kendall Weaver, one of the Peppermint OS developers, is also the maintainer for the Linux Mint Fluxbox and LXDE editions.

Peppermint OS also makes use of some of Linux Mint’s tools such as mintInstall (software manager) and mintInput. If you pull up the Update Manager, both of these are at the top of the update list. Given that Linux Mint is one of the best Ubuntu remasters ever created, I’m happy to see what looks like some cross-pollination between the two projects.

You can run Peppermint OS as a Live CD before deciding to install it.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run Peppermint OS One:

i386 or derivative processor (AMD64 and x86_64 are fine as well)
256 MB of RAM (possible it works with as little as 192, but not positive)
4 GB hard drive space (this is an overestimate just for good measure)

Installation
The Peppermint OS One .iso file weighs in at a very petite 427.5 MB. That’s quite small in comparison to some of the other desktop distros.

It uses the same installer as Ubuntu, which means it’s fast and easy. My install took less than 15 minutes.

I noticed that there was no slideshow while the install completed. That’s unfortunate as that is a great opportunity to teach people about what a distro has to offer.

Booting & Login
When you first start Peppermint OS One, you’ll see a message saying “Automatic Boot in 5 Seconds” and then Peppermint OS will boot into the Live CD desktop. You can install Peppermint OS or simply use the Live CD version to play with it.

Bootsplash
After installing, you’ll see the Peppermint OS bootsplash screen pop up for a few seconds. Then it disappears and the login screen appears. This works fine until you update your system (more on that in the problems section of the review).

Peppermint OS One takes you to the login menu from this bootsplash screen.

Login Screen
The login screen has the Peppermint OS logo, candy graphic and the gorgeous red/black wallpaper in the background.

The login screen features the colorful Peppermint OS One wallpaper in the background.

The Desktop
When you first load up the Peppermint OS One desktop, the first thing you’ll notice is the wallpaper. It’s got a black background with fiery red swirls all over it. I really like this wallpaper a lot. It’s distinct and stands out from other distros. And it compliments the Peppermint OS mint logo pretty well (although they do seem to be two different shades of red).

The desktop is uncluttered; there are no icons on it. For the most part, I approve of this. But I would like to see a link to the file manager added. Why? Well new users might not know where to look to access their folders, the File Manager icon is buried in the Accessories menu. I found it there but I’m not sure how many people new to Linux would think to look there, it’s an odd place for it.

The panel is black and contains the Peppermint OS menu button. You can’t miss it; it looks like a piece of peppermint candy. I liked that; it’s a nice touch and distinguishes this distro’s desktop from others in a small but noticeable way. The panel also contains multiple desktop icons next to the Firefox icon. On the far right you have volume control, networking, update manager and the time.

Controls
Click the Peppermint OS menu button then choose Preferences. There are a number of different controls available in the Preferences menu. You should be able to customize your system easily from there, depending on what you want to do. I had no problem changing my screen resolution or otherwise managing my system.

Themes
The default theme is Onyx Black. It’s attractive and works well. If you find that you don’t like it, right-click your desktop and choose ObConf (or click the Peppermint OS menu button on the panel then choose Preferences then OpenBox Configuration Manager). There’s a bunch of themes to choose from and you can install others if you prefer.

Wallpaper
I already covered how much I liked the default wallpaper in Peppermint OS. If you want to change it, just move your cursor toward the upper part of your desktop and right-click. Choose Desktop Preferences and then Open to browse to your new wallpaper. Peppermint OS does not come with other wallpapers bundled into it so you’ll need to download some or use your own images if you want some alternatives.

Icons
Peppermint OS One uses GNOME-Wine icons by default. You can use GNOME if you prefer or you can install others. Click the Peppermint OS menu button and then go to Preferences, then Appearance. Click the Icon tab and then the Install button to add different icons to your system.

The Internet applications menu in Peppermint OS One.

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
No Games

Graphics
Editor bypixlr
Simple Scan

Internet
Dropbox
Facebook
Firefox
Prism
Seesmic
Transmission
XChat
pyNeighborhood

Multimedia
Asunder CD Ripper
Cheese
Exaile
GNOME MPlayer
Hulu
Last
Pandora
Sound Mixer
The Cloud Player
Xfburn
YouTube

Office
Google Calendar
Google Docs
Google Mail
Google Reader
ePDFViewer

Others
Openbox Session

As I noted earlier, Peppermint OS comes with some great web-based applications. If you prefer desktop-based applications, you can download them via Software Manager.

Software Management
Software Manager is actually mintInstall, the same software manager used by Linux Mint. It’s very easy to use and there’s a LOT of software available. Favorite applications such as OpenOffice.org and VirtualBox are all waiting to be downloaded in Software Manager.

It’s a great idea to have desktop-based alternatives to the web applications bundled by default into Peppermint OS One. That way, if you lose your Internet connection, you can always use your desktop applications as an alternative to your web applications. You should definitely spend some time in the Software Center, poking around for applications that you might need if you lose your Internet connection.

Software Repositories
If you want to add or remove software sources, just click Edit in Software Manager and then click Software Sources. Given the huge range of software that’s already included in Software Manager, you really don’t need to add any more repositories. There’s so much to choose from, right at your fingertips that you’d have to be a real software junkie to bother adding another repository.

Adding & Removing Software
Adding or removing software is easy. Just find the application you and click the Install or Remove button. You’ll need to type in your password before the application will be installed or removed.

Updates
To update your system, click the Peppermint OS menu button on the panel, choose Preferences and then choose Update Manager. Or simply click on the Update Manager icon on your panel.

Use the Software Manager to add or remove programs.

Use the Update Manager to keep your system up to date.

Choose your application and then click the Install button in Software Center.

Sound and Multimedia

YouTube & Flash
I did my usual test of YouTube videos and I was pleased to note that I didn’t have to install flash or otherwise configure anything. YouTube videos looked and sounded great.

Web-Based Multimedia
One of the more intriguing things about Peppermint OS is its inclusion of web-based video sites like Hulu in its Sound and Video applications menu. This makes it, in a webbish-way, an excellent distro for multimedia. It adds a greater range of multimedia content choices to the desktop, with little or no effort on the part of the user.

I tested Hulu and I had no problems watching Glee. Sound and video both worked perfectly. I also tested last.fm by playing a Michael Jackson song and it worked perfectly. Pandora Radio also worked well.

Flash is installed by default, so YouTube videos play without the need to download anything.

Once I got used to being able to access sites like Hulu from your application menus (via Prism), I started feeling that this is something I’d like to have in all of my distros. It adds a whole other dimension to multimedia on the Linux desktop. You’ll see what I mean if you try it in Peppermint OS. It just feels so right for those links to be there and for you to be able to fire up sites like Hulu with one click, outside of the traditional browser interface.

Problems & Headaches
As I noted earlier, there is no slideshow while the Peppermint OS One install happens. I’d like to see the developers add one in the next release. It might seem like a small or unimportant thing to experienced Linux users, but a slideshow can help educate newbies about the features offered by a distro. It’s a great chance to educate and every distro maker should take advantage of it by including an install slideshow.

There are no games bundled into the Peppermint OS One desktop. Given that Peppermint OS is cloud-oriented, it would be nice to see links placed in a Games menu to browser-based games. That would add a “fun-factor” to Peppermint OS that would lighten things up a bit. The developers could probably also include a few desktop games as well. There are plenty of games available in the Software Center though (1160 packages last time I checked it).

I ran into the annoying problem of giant fonts in certain application menus. I didn’t have time to fix this but the fonts should adjust themselves when the screen resolution changes. In my case, I bumped the resolution up to 2560 x 1600. I have a 27-inch monitor, so a higher resolution is a must for me. Plus I love the extra screen space.

Another problem I ran into was seeing an ugly GRUB menu when I rebooted, after updating my system. Before the update, I simply saw the Peppermint OS bootsplash screen for a few seconds and then the login screen appeared. After the update I saw the ugly black and white GRUB screen. This really isn’t a huge problem; it’s more a cosmetic thing than anything else. The Peppermint OS developers might want to dress up the GRUB screen with the distro’s logo and colors, or find a way to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Peppermint OS One features web-based office applications by default.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Common Questions/FAQ, and Release Notes. You should also keep an eye on the Peppermint OS Community page for news about the Peppermint OS community. There is also a community-based support option available at GetSatisfaction. You can also make a donation to support Peppermint OS One.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Peppermint OS One is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.

It provides a great blend of desktop and cloud computing, and it wraps all of it up in an attractive package. Peppermint OS One is fast and I found it to be extremely stable too. Distrohoppers will have a ball with this one; it’s definitely not your run of the mill Ubuntu remaster.

Peppermint OS One also has an informative and well-designed web site. I write a lot of distro reviews and I’m dismayed by some of the icky sites I see. Some of them have very little information about the distro and it makes my job as a reviewer much harder, since I have to track down information to include in the review. The Peppermint OS team did a fantastic job on their site, and provided a great deal of helpful information. I urge other distro developers to take a look at it and consider using it as a basic template when setting up a site.

Peppermint OS is a breath of fresh air and I’ve had a lot of fun using it. Grab a copy of it; I think you’ll enjoy it.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Peppermint OS One
Web Site: http://peppermintos.com
Price: Free
Pros: Excellent selection of web-passed applications built right into the desktop’s application menus. Fast and very stable. Software Manager includes a huge range of desktop applications. Attractive wallpaper, unique logo and brand identity. Fast and easy install.
Cons: Lacks educational slideshow during the install. Does not include bundled games or links to browser-based games. Updating the system resulted in a GRUB bootsplash screen appearing at boot up time. Font size errors appeared in some menus.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Summary: Peppermint OS One is a breath of fresh air. It provides a terrific blend of cloud and desktop computing that is accessible to any kind of user. Highly recommended for those looking for such an interesting blend and for those who simply want a fun, new distro to play with in their virtual machines.
Rating: 4/5