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.
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.