Peppermint OS is mainly an Ubuntu based (specifically ‘Lubuntu’ but also relies on few other tools from ‘LinuxMint’ too) GNU/Linux distribution that comes with the ‘LXDE’ desktop environment. It boots fast (takes about 22 seconds in my Dell Vostro V131, Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GB RAM, 7200 RPM SATA HDD) and has low memory requirements thus suits users with older hardware.
However, Peppermint OS is a little bit different than some other distributions, because the idea is to create an operating system that inherits characteristics of a ‘Cloud OS’ (an OS that runs from a remove location, such as using an internet connection) but also has the ability to imitate a ‘traditional’ desktop operating system, so users can run the OS even when an internet connection is not present.
In their own words …
For achieving this the OS comes with few tools: GWoffice (desktop application that lets you access ‘Google Drive’), Dropbox (you still have to manually install the proprietary client) and a utility called ‘Ice’ (designed by ‘Peppermint’ developers) that lets you configure and access web sites and their services as they were individual desktop applications.
For example, if you configured ‘Ice’ to view ‘Pixlr’ (online photo editor that you can use in your web browser), then you’ll still be running it online using Chromium, yet, with a minimal looking interface plus the browser will also inherit the look-n-feel of the OS (window borders, colors, themes etc) thus look more like a native desktop application (if I understand it correctly), as shown below.
‘Ice’ also adds a shortcut (including a Favicon) to the main menu, again giving you the feeling that you’re opening a desktop application. It comes with few other ‘shortcuts’ by default for services such as Gmail, Google Calender and Google reader are also available. But you can create/edit/remove new ones using ‘Ice’ with ease anytime you want.
The latest version is called ‘Pappermint OS Three’ (based on Lubuntu 12.04 core) and here’s a list of few ‘offline’ applications that come with it.
*. Uses Chromium 18 as the default web browser.
*. ‘Guayadeque’ 0.3-5 is the music manager (has to install the Gstreamer proprietary codecs manually though).
*. Gnome Mplayer 1.0.5 is the video player (an extremely versatile media player front-end that uses ‘mplayer’ for the actual playback. Plays proprietary codecs by default).
*. Transmission 2.5 is the bittorrent client.
*. Uses the software manager used in Linux Mint (7.3.5) ‘mintUpdate’ as the update manager (4.4.1) plus comes with ‘Synaptic’ as well.
*. Document viewer is ‘Evince’ (3.4).
*. Xchat 2.8.8.
Most of the rest of the applications are that come with the LXDE desktop (image viewer, file manager, text editor etc) so I’m not gonna go over them.
It uses the Ubuntu’s installer (‘Ubiquity’) and the installation went quite nicely (including a new slideshow), recognized all of my hardware and got everything up and running without any issues.
The desktop …
The LXDE delivers a near Classic Gnome desktop experience (start menu and a bottom task-bar) and if you’re a MS Windows user then you’d feel at home as soon as you log in :). Unlike in Gnome-Shell, the desktop has a context menu and you can create files or folders and configure few basic settings of the desktop with ease too.
Boot-up times & Memory usage?
Well, it’s a LXDE based distribution and LXDE is known for its speed. I measured it few times and after choosing ‘Peppermint’ from the GRUB menu till it loads to the desktop, it took about 20-22 seconds (without any manual tweaks). The memory usage is also low thanks to the LXDE, about 246-248 MB.
I don’t know if it’s a feature of the LXDE desktop or something that comes with ‘Pappermint OS’ (it probably has something to do with Lubuntu), it has this simple but an elegant notification message manager. In simple terms, while away from your computer, if you’ve missed a notification (s), then you can view them later using this tool. It’s pretty handy.
I also like the software manager. It’s simple and intuitive. However I was not impressed by its memory usage though. Upon the start, it uses about 60-70MB which is okay but then once I started to search for packages and read reviews etc it started to use 260-300MB+.
If you’re going to use it on older hardware then the included ‘Synaptic’ is a better alternative in my opinion. Then again, you won’t be having them pretty thumbnails and ratings :). If you don’t like the graphical tools, then you can also use the built in Debian’s awesome ‘apt-get’ as well.
Because it’s based on Ubuntu, you can install any software tool available in the Ubuntu repositories. So the shortage of the availability of wide variety of applications is not a concern :). For instance, if you don’t like to use the Google Docs as the office productivity suite, then you can manually install ‘LibreOffice’ or ‘AbiWord’ easily.
The update manager (again a Linux Mint tool) look very nice and clean too. It notifies you about updates on the notification area and as soon as you move your mouse pointer over it, it shows how many updates are available and the size (in MB). Then when you click its icon, it opens up and starts to download and install the updates. Simple and does its job … excellent :).
Multitasking, performance & power usage …
I ran into some issues with the OS responsiveness under openSUSE 12.2 recently. That KDE desktop wasn’t impressive, if I tried to open other applications while copying a large file for example then I usually have few ‘stuck-seconds’ (where everything seems locked) or the load balancing isn’t that good (not always but most of the time), in other words.
With ‘Peppermint OS’ it’s the total opposite.
I started to copy a large file (3GB) and then opened the Chromium web browser, text editor, terminal emulator, software manager, media player and the task manager and opened the ‘/etc’ folder using the ‘PCManFM’ (file manager in LXDE). The OS responsiveness was excellent. Unlike in openSUSE, in Peppermint I never had any such issues, of course the apps opened with delays but both the performance and the responsiveness was excellent!.
‘Peppermint OS Three’ uses a Xfce utility (the only Xfce tool they say) for the power management configuration. When compared to the ridiculously simple one that you get in Ubuntu and Gnome, this one gives few more very useful configuration options (such as enabling/disabling HDD spin down, built in ‘power modes’ etc).
And also while charging it shows the current charged percentage (where Ubuntu only shows the remaining time).
I also checked the power usage when ‘idle’ using the ‘powerstat’ tool (available in Ubuntu repositories) and the average reading was around 12-12.10 Watts which is pretty decent. However Ubuntu 12.04 usually touches the 10.5-11.5 Watts mark in my notebook PC though.
Gnome-Media player stopped working few times (now seems okay) and I cannot run the ‘Users and Groups’ tool (it just fails to run). And my battery’s discharging level reading is not accurate. If I unplug the battery after a full charge, then after like few seconds it says ‘84%’ left …’ which in truth is ’99-98%’ should be remaining (I checked it with Windows). So perhaps it’s a bug with the ‘Xfce’ power management tool.
Update: This actually seems to be an issue with the Ubuntu’s Kernel as now I’m facing the same problem in Ubuntu 12.04 too (it was not there before though).
Other than that it’s running like a champ :P.
‘Verdict’ (yikes, me hates those :D) …
Except for these few issues (there’s always something) I’m very pleased with both the performance and the user-friendliness of the ‘Peppermint OS 3’ (for an OS that’s about 2 years ‘old).
It would also be nice if the music player was able to play proprietary codecs (as with the media player) by default. As said above, it doesn’t come with LibreOffice or the more lightweight ‘AbiWord’ (word processor) or any other offline office productivity suite. But one can’t really blame the developers, after all it’s a ‘Hybrid OS’.
So anyway, if you’re looking for an Ubuntu based lightweight GNU/Linux distribution that tries to integrate cloud computing technologies into the system but still gives you a fully functional (almost, I meant without manually installing anything) ‘offline’ desktop operating system, then ‘Peppermint OS 3’ seems like a solid looking operating system.
For downloading please visit this ‘Peppermint OS’ home page (minimum hardware requirement is 192MB of RAM and 2 GB HDD space but a 512MB of RAM and 4GB HDD space is recommended). Saw it first on ‘MakeUseOf‘.