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 The red and white wallpaper and logo are gone; they’ve been replaced by blue and white versions.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