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