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Peppermint OS Two review

by Gareth Halfacree

A self-styled ‘hybrid OS,’ Peppermint Two has a lot to offer those looking for a lightweight web-friendly distribution, but is it a realistic alternative to Lubuntu? Gareth Halfacree finds outs…

Pros: A lightweight distribution, Peppermint Two is perfect for those who rely on web-based applications day to day.
Cons: If you lose your Internet connection, the distribution becomes little more than a tweaked copy of Lubuntu.
Peppermint homepage

Back in Issue 91 of Linux User & Developer, we took a look at a new Ubuntu spin-off project called Peppermint Ice, which took aim at the same target market as distributions such as Jolicloud: Internet-connected users who want a lightweight, fast operating system without sacrificing features.

Originally available in two flavours – Peppermint One, built around Mozilla’s Prism and the Firefox web browser, and Peppermint Ice, built around Google’s Chromium browser – the project showed promise, but a lack of features above and beyond a standard Ubuntu install left us disappointed.

Since then, the Peppermint team has been back to the drawing board and produced Peppermint Two, an altogether more polished distribution based on Lubuntu 11.04. We dived into this latest release to see if it could win us over after the project’s somewhat inauspicious inaugural release.

Peppermint OS Two review
Installation will be familiar to anyone used to Ubuntu and its many derivatives

Installation of the OS is straightforward, with the distribution being supplied as a bootable live CD. Anyone used to installing an Ubuntu derivative will find the menus and slideshow remarkably familiar, if a little graphically uninspiring.

With this release, the team has also made a 64-bit build available for the first time, although the 32-bit version remains the default download option. While two architectures are now supported, there’s only one root operating system: the days of choosing between Firefox and Chromium are gone, with Chromium winning out as the default browser.
The primary reason for this is Ice, a site-specific browser based on Chromium and created by Kendall Weaver for the Peppermint project. Designed to make web apps feel more like a desktop install, it replaces the now-defunct Prism project and makes the Firefox spin redundant.

In Peppermint Two, Ice has had a few tweaks: the most obvious being the ability to delete, as well as create, site-specific browser shortcuts, a major omission from its initial release in Peppermint Ice. The OS also benefits from a few new default Ice-based SSBs, including impressive image editing tools from pixlr.

Peppermint OS Two review
The Software Manager includes plenty of packages for offline use

As you would expect from a platform that prides itself on its use of cloud-based technologies, Peppermint Two is somewhat lacking when your Internet connection goes down. Thankfully, that’s when the Lubuntu base shines through: an attractive Software Manager gives users the ability to install software from the Ubuntu repositories for offline use, augmenting – or replacing outright – the web-based apps available by default.

The distribution’s main focus, however, is on web-based applications accessed via Ice along with other apps designed for Internet-connected systems. Popular cloud-based file storage service Dropbox is included as standard, with many of the bugs from Peppermint One and Peppermint Ice corrected, while Google Docs makes a reappearance as the default office suite.
Despite its billing as a ‘hybrid’ OS offering the best of both worlds, however, Peppermint Two is a difficult beast to recommend to those with a transitory Internet connection. While it’s true that you can install software from the Ubuntu repositories for offline use, you can do that with a straightforward Lubuntu installation as well. Ice is an impressive enough system for creating shortcuts to web apps, but can be replaced by the more technical user with a command-line switch in a Chromium shortcut.

Peppermint OS Two review
Bugs in the Dropbox implementation have been resolved in Peppermint Two

That’s not to belittle what the Peppermint team has achieved, however. This latest release features an impressively smooth look and feel, and performs well on older hardware. While it inherits some bugs from its upstream parent – including issues with selected models of Nvidia graphics chips, and a crash when the desktop background is set to a solid colour with no image file selected – it’s by and large a stable distribution for production use.

Verdict: 3/5
The team’s decision to standardise on a single Chromium-based distribution has really helped make Peppermint Two more polished than its predecessors. Sadly, the same issue we raised with Peppermint Ice still apply: the OS is, at its heart, yet another lightly-tweaked Ubuntu spin-off, and Ice – while handy – isn’t enough of a draw to recommend a switch.

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    • video hijacked

      tried peppermint
      but when playing a video,..the screen was split,..half of the film was hiding behind the desktop wallpaper,…really weird never seen anything like it

      the red stripes on the standard wallpaper hid part of the film
      decided to bin peppermint and have Salix fluxbox ,..much faster and stable

    • oldrong

      Well taste is everything, and it is quite clear you have none! Many, many folks LOVE Peppermint One, Ice, and Two. Of course we aren’t snobs, and know exactly what we want in a distro, and opinions are like rectums, everyone’s got to have one I guess. ;-)

    • kenjaminicus

      Did you file a bug report for your video issues? At the very least did you jump on the forum to see if this was a known issue with a possible solution? When Salix has a hiccup what will be your next distro of choice?

      Distro’s are like people sometimes they fart. Don’t give up on them without at least giving them a chance to “excuse” themselves.

      Now I am not advocated that we need to stick with one bistro. We all have our own tastes. What I am advocating is that we help the developers out. and offer constructive criticisms, not blanket statements.

    • athenroy

      Hmmm! oldrong’s comment sounds like’s We’re right and everyone else is wrong and we don’t want to hear any thing bad about it. With a remark like his, I certainly will not be trying Peppermint in any flavor!

    • S. Green

      U mm lets see, issues issues. When will I be able to use most distros.? You see I’ve got an Acer Aspire
      with a widescreen 15.6 screen and almost every Linux I try can’t run on this machine. Seems the cheapo
      Intel board and graphics is not recognized by 99% of the current crop of Linux distros. A real drag..
      Blank screen computing is not my cup of tea…

    • me

      to green >>> try linux zorin >>>>

    • Howard

      I have been testin P.O.1 & 2 x64 for some time and really like it.
      Very snappy !
      W/ exception of gmail, not a cloud user but it is a really nice OS.


    • istok

      i’ve been unable to boot into the live cd. it drops to command and startx won’t help.
      this was on two computers, new thinkpad, old fsc, and the same happened with a lubuntu cd some time back.
      and, this type of thing never happened with any distro in living memory, and i test a lot.

    • OnoSendai

      I see oldrong is still a hotheaded, immature, thinskinned idiot who`s supposed to be an adult. You spoke the truth with this article, Peppermint is just another boring Ubuntu spinoff. (Btw, they made oldrong a mod out of pity, now he`s their attack dog, lol.)

    • Ingo Thomas

      I switched my whole bunch on PCs, netbooks, notebooks, and workstations from Ubuntu to Peppermint. There is absolutely no need to wait even a split-second for window effects and the death blow was the removal of a window list in Unity, a netbook(!) interface.
      Keep in mind, an OS and even a window manager is for WORKING with files and applications, not for the joy of finding and starting them.
      I improved my Peppermints by adding Nautilus as optional shell for serious file operations (and Gnome Commander for more serious ones) and Kupfer to skip the start menu. Surprisingly the heavy Nautilus is as almost as quick as pcmanfm.
      For Mac glare, I would recommend Linux Mint now, for those who cannot live without. But the core of the matter is: Keep it simple. Booting in 20 secs (a discarded Ubuntu promise), waking from standby in 3 secs.
      Just saw a ‘whoohoo’ about Google Chrome OS’ instant-on ability. I have that for over a year now, along with -ALL- the desktop apps I need. Let me rephrase: …all -I- need. GIMP, OpenOffice (huh? – LibreOffice is not in the repositories yet), Inkscape, XARA LX, light and heavy, it’s there and it doesn’t slow the train.

    • jscottu

      Peppermint Two running on my Compaq 866mhz 256mb…lightning fast. Now when I give someone my older computers I can feel really good that they are getting a quality system.

    • I have a LG flatron e1600 monitor that has 1360×768 res. my primary req from a distro are stability, support for my widescreen res and mobile broadband internet (’cause i don’t have landline).

      so I have tried almost every standard distro from ubuntu to vector to wolvix (now dead) to debian 6 to mint to arch… but all of them had some or the other shortcoming.. sometimes my res was not supported other times no straight way (sometimes no way at all as in wolvix!) to connect with mobile internet.

      but then i recieved peppermint one from a cd i got with a linux magazine.. i installed and woohoo! it passed EVERY criteria of mine! support for wide screen, mobile broadband and yes optimum stability mostly! now i am about to install this new version of peppermint. hope it will be equally great… :)

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    • Pete

      I used to like Ubuntu-type distros..used to! I have been plagued by the same problems over and over: Internet connectivity. Its the whole point behind the time I spend trying to get these systems to work properly.
      All the live CD’s work fine, except the ones that give a black screen with” ISOLINUX etc,Peter Anvin, blah blah”, all the time I spend downloading them and burning to a cd is lost and wasted.
      Further, the live cd’s that DO boot, usually auto eth0 works until its installed on the HD, only to fail after the first boot. I never can get wireless to stay reliably there from boot to boot, so what gives?
      Now Peppermint is in the above category, seemingly a waste of time…..

    • I know it’s been about a year since you wrote this comment, but if you are still interested in trying out linux distros, WITHOUT wasting CDs, I’d recommend an article I wrote about this EXACT subject, a tutorial and a video guide.