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?

:wink: :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

 



Comments

  1. steve says

    Linux distros comes and goes but still no unified standard for it at least for desktop/workstation/servers ! If you have software needs covered in respository then things go easy if not then installing from binary (dependacy hell) can be very much frustrating and one can even cripple OS ! I like to have freedom of choice for software/app installed but that in Linux is still light years away from windows installer not to mention no inter/cross compatibility between distros ! And i dont like to compile software again and again for frequently updated software ! On windows we have fresh install due often crashes the same os or upgrade to new version and tremendeus work involved to port data in Linux ugrading OS means exatly the same porting all data to new system ! I realy dont know which i worse ? Linux has gone long developer way thru but it is far from being user friendly OS ! Installing user choice software should be few mouse click away and that from binary with unified standard or converting packages to various distros from binary – what ever ! Until then i only watch what is going on ! If someone dont know yet for older comp we have some heavy mod win xp/2003 that runs with the same speed as linux does but safty of os is another question !

  2. bob says

    I feel that this system is not the best choice for newbies to install as there is a lot going on to take in regarding the cloud as well as getting used to what is involved in running a Linux OS. Overall, Peppermint installed well and it runs fine on this old computer once you get used to the cloud side of things.

    One thing that should be taken care of is that the Synaptic Manager shows that the Ubuntu 11.10 upgrade is available to download and install. I did a run of this on the first install and when I rebooted, Synaptic Manager and the Software Manager were not showing anything and would not work at all. The people who operate Peppermint should ensure that the Synaptic Manger is under their control as I know it can be done as I have the latest version of Bodhi installed.

  3. says

    I've been using Windows ever since it hit the scene. I've been programming since the early 70's. I am converting over to Linux due to a couple reasons. I downloaded about 14 Linux distros in search of one which would recognize and utilize my two routers and USB broadband sticks. Only two fit that bill…Bodhi and Peppermint. I've decided on Peppermint. As soon as I find an easy way to port my emails from OE over into LinuxLand I'll be coming completely out of Windows.

    This is my first experience with Linux. I think one of the things that got me hooked was that I received a tablet as part of my severance package when the plant I worked in closed down. It runs Android 2.2.

  4. jscottu says

    After many years of using linux…and being frustrated at not being able to figure out how to get wifi working with my desktop PCs…I finally discovered the Netgear wna 1100 usb wifi device. When used with either Peppermint 2 or Mint 11, I have had zero problem getting wifi. Now I have zero reason to ever use Windows 7. And who needs "dual core" when you have the speed of Peppermint.

  5. says

    Well, I suppose if we write here a few times, that might help a bit. I ran Peppermint Two last night. On my Gateway, I think it boots faster than anything else; right around twenty seconds, approximately. Most full featured distros bring up the desktop somewhere between thirty and forty seconds. Some, which go nearly a minute, waiting for devices to come online (PCLinuxOS, Mandriva) take over a minute to start up, close to what Windows 7 requires in order to be useful. Peppermint Two puts them in its rear view mirror, for sure! SimplyMEPIS and antiX are close, Absolute Linux is not too far away, but I think that Peppermint Two starts several things in parallel and does a good job figuring out what needs to start in order to provide a useful login, and it works well. Others should take note.

  6. says

    starskeptic wrote:

    RE: Wallpaper…

    dark – Yes

    dreary – a resounding NO!

    I guess beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder! :wink:

    Brian Masinick wrote:

    I am surprised that there are not more comments about this version of Peppermint; it’s a pretty good piece of software. Want something fairly simple, easy to install, fast to boot, fast to run, reasonably attractive, and even fast to shut down? That’s Peppermint OS Two.

    In my much longer review, I expressed concern about the Live CD and the difficulty of getting it configured. Notice that once installed, it ran great. The Live CD on my system created the wrong impression. This software runs BETTER installed; sometimes it’s the other way around, but not here; Peppermint OS Two is a nimble OS that carves a nice niche between a general purpose system and a Cloud-based system; it can do a lot of either, and both, and yet do them well.

    Yeah, it's quite good. I hope more people turn onto it and check it out.

  7. Brian Masinick says

    I am surprised that there are not more comments about this version of Peppermint; it's a pretty good piece of software. Want something fairly simple, easy to install, fast to boot, fast to run, reasonably attractive, and even fast to shut down? That's Peppermint OS Two.

    In my much longer review, I expressed concern about the Live CD and the difficulty of getting it configured. Notice that once installed, it ran great. The Live CD on my system created the wrong impression. This software runs BETTER installed; sometimes it's the other way around, but not here; Peppermint OS Two is a nimble OS that carves a nice niche between a general purpose system and a Cloud-based system; it can do a lot of either, and both, and yet do them well.

  8. Harry says

    I had been running Peppermint One on an Intel, dual core, 2.8, with 2 gig of ram, and it was very responsive. I updated another desktop with, a 600 watt power supply, MSI 760GM-E51 mobo, AMD quad core 640 processor,16 gig DDR3, and a 1.5 TB HD.I have XP, Win7, PCLOS, and the 64 bit version of Peppermint Two on this machine, Peppermint is by far the fastest OS I have ever ran, and it replaced Mint 10 on this machine. Windows I only use for games, all of my REAL work is done on Linux. :biggrin:

  9. Brian Masinick says

    I've liked Peppermint OS from the beginning. Lubuntu is a light, clean OS, but to me it is just a framework. For those who like a base OS and nothing else, then Lubuntu is pretty good, but for those who want something pre-packaged and ready to go, Peppermint OS is just that. Built nicely on top of Lubuntu, it demonstrates that Lubuntu makes a solid foundation upon which to build your system.

    As far as comments on the system itself, when I went to grab the image, I was pretty excited about trying it out. I got less excited when the initial Live image would not boot up, and that was after the first image burn failed and I reburned it at low speed.

    The first start of the live image stopped without a GUI, though the command line appeared. I was unsuccessful getting the GUI working until I restarted the system. I tried running with noapm, dropped the quiet argument and the — argument on the boot line in an attempt to see what was going on, and that was enough to get it going.

    The initial graphics when running live suggest that on my system, there were conflicts while attempting to set the display resolution. I blame that on the new X server and the setup that goes with it; I never had problems in the past.

    Getting past that, I was still concerned that the bootable system might not work when installed, but I tried it anyway and it turned out better than the live system.

    Like Jim, I think I like the original distro graphics the best of all. I didn't care all that much for the Ice graphics, but this version is pretty good, but that original was especially nice, just the right blend of color without being "too much".

    This system, overall, with the exception of the spotty graphics initialization in live mode, is overall as well or better polished than any of the others and certainly better in my mind than the previous Ice releases. I couldn't get the 2.6.35 kernel in the previous update to work right for me, so I had been using the 2.6.32 kernel, and was concerned that the 2.6.38 kernel would not work because of the initial messed up initialization when running live, but it all worked out fine for me.

    I ended up liking this one just like the original release and better than the Ice release. As far as Chromium compared to Prism, I find that Mozilla uses fewer memory resources, but the newest Firefox and Chromium browsers, at least on my systems, work about as well. I have to wonder about the aggressive caching algorithms with the latest browsers, regardless of the brand. Either the caching is too aggressive and defective, the DNS servers in my area are pretty shaky and inaccurate, or maybe a bit of both.

    Two years or more ago (let's say before 2009) I rarely had address parsing errors in the browser. These days, hardly a week goes by when some site doesn't warn me about being wrong, or it goes off line, or something erratic happens. This never happened before, so the overall browsing quality, in terms of consistency, to me, has declined sharply as these browsers have "gotten faster".

    I have not seen any issues with Chromium over the past two or three days so that's good. This release seems pretty good too, but like my complaints about Web browsers, the X servers have been coming back into the spotlight again, and once again, as the servers change, they add features in one area and break something somewhere else. Perhaps Mark Shuttleworth is right about looking for another display server technology. Are they patching and cobbling together too much and breaking as much as they are fixing? I sometimes wonder.

    It could be, then, that Peppermint and many other distributions are at the mercy of these things. Peppermint, once installed, fared well, but it had a pretty low average showing as it was running live and did not create a very good first impression. Fortunately, the installed impression was at least an order of magnitude better; the X server worked, the Web browser worked, the appearance was smooth, as was the installation, and the software, once installed worked quite well. This one is worth keeping, so it replaced Peppermint OS One on my Gateway 17" portable.

  10. Neill says

    I have been using peppermint ice for about 4 months now on an old eeepc 701, I love it, it makes the thing fly. Would like to know how ice and two compare. Maybe I'll try a live install, although that can be quite deceptive.

  11. oldrong says

    Firefox 4 doesn't have Prism available any longer, and Mozilla is dropping Prism all together, so it is very nice that Kendall has created this SSB for Peppermint. I personally like Chromium better too, so I think it was a super choice. :biggrin:

Leave a Reply