While we wait for the release of some of the major distros' mid year upgrades, I thought I'd present a new Linux flavor which looks and performs very well: Peppermint OS.
I recommend you pay a visit to their official SITE for a full summary of features, but here's a list with some highlights:
- Peppermint OS foundations are designed to provide optimum performance. As a result, it is particularly fast overall, specially with the default window manager, LXDE.
- Along those lines, many of the popular applications usually preinstalled in other Linux distros were left out in favor of low disk space usage. Instead, Peppermint OS approach heavily leans towards the cloud, including Google Docs, Gmail and Google Reader among others.
- Ease of use is another priority, with applications working from the get go. In my experience, minimal tweaking was required, none for basic functionality.
Peppermint OS uses the popular LiveCD for installation. You can download the ISO image from HERE. Simply copy it to a CD and boot from it.
The boot process is not worthy of any special attention. Starting with a simple text menu, the OS loads considerably fast for a LiveCD and before you know it, the LXDE desktop is in front of you. From there on, simply click on the "Install Peppermint OS" shortcut and follow the usual steps.
Peppermint OS lineage includes Debian, Ubuntu and Linux Mint. That shows on the installation wizard as well as on many internal features.
PEPPERMINT AT WORK
So how does it do? Pretty well, actually!
As expected, the boot process is quite fast. Getting to the login screen is particularly quick, after briefly passing through a splash screen similar to the latest Ubuntu's.
There are three window managers available: KDE, OpenBox and LXDE, which is the default. For me, it was the first time using it and I found it interesting and quick. Don't expect much in terms of eyecandy tweaking, but I can't say it looks bad either.
The Peppermint OS desktop and the Internet applications available.
As I mentioned already, Peppermint OS is Internet and cloud oriented. Using Prism, it presents several such applications wrapped as if they were installed locally. Gmail, Google Reader, Google Docs, Seesmic web and others come as default Internet and Office applications. I particularly liked finding Dropbox preinstalled as well.
The Peppermint OS Office applications installed are all cloud based.
Seesmic is among the Cloud based applications available, a great Twitter client.
Using LXDE, the PCMan file manager is the default. For those favoring speed over other criteria, PCMan is a dream. Look&Feel changes are very limited, though.
The Peppermint OS LXDE PCMan File manager.
Interestingly, you can access Dolphin from LXDE, so it is a bit of having the best of worlds.
KDE's Dolphin is also available for those leaning towards good looks.
Most system features I tested were working smoothly and fast. Reconnecting to the default wireless connection when logging in was particularly simple and quick. Inserting a USB drive brought up the usual dialog, as displayed below:
USB plug-in dialog.
The system appearance settings are managed through the LXDE manager as expected, but I found it confusing to see the System settings managed through KDE's own manager. In fact, that happens as well when using KDE, which shows the LXDE system manager. For instance, trying to change system fonts from KDE was apparently changing those of LXDE and viceversa. I guess it is easy to work around the problem once you get the vibe, but seems like this piece requires some polishing.
Another system application I found very interesting is the Disk Utility.
Peppermint OS Disk Utility.
Among the features available, I found the Benchmark one to be very nice. After just a few seconds I was getting a nice graph showing read speed on my drive. (As you can see, I installed Peppermint OS on a USB drive)
Peppermint OS Disk Utility.
Firefox is the default Internet browser, sporting the latest 3.6.3 release. Although not as fast as in PCLinuxOS, it feels quicker than in does when running in Ubuntu. Flash player codecs were installed during installation, which is a nice thing.
Firefox is included and on the latest stable release.
Installing and updating Software
Peppermint OS uses Linux Mint's Update manager and Software Center. If you have used Linux Mint, you know they are both easy to use. My main complaint about both has always been their poor performance in general.
The Software Center is quite nice, using an interface that is very similar to that in Ubuntu. I don't know who's copying who, but they are almost identical. In all fairness, I think it was Linux Mint who first started using this concept, back when Ubuntu relied solely on the Synaptic Package manager.
Mint's Software Center main screen.
Many of the applications available have user reviews, as well as long descriptions which provide great explanations for the end user. Screenshots are mostly missing, but I am guessing they will be populated eventually. Aside from the categories displayed, the search feature works pretty well, returning search results quite quickly. It is the installation process that can get painfully slow.
Mint's Software Center search results screen for Minitube.
The Mint Update manager particularly can get ridiculously slow. I am not sure if this is down to Linux Mint's own repositories lacking bandwidth, Peppermint's repositories or both, but it can easily get frustrating.
Mint Update main screen.
Audio & Video
As could be expected, most audio and video apps are cloud based. Some interesting ones are installed locally though, such as the great Banshee audio player or the lightweight Asunder CD burner.
Peppermint OS has Audio and Video covered with a number of cool applications.
All in all, I think there is enough here to get your thirst for video and music satisfied both while connected and when offline.
WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE...
Peppermint OS is a very nice project with a fresh and very interesting approach to how Linux should shape up for modern users. Far from the extremely minimalistic approach taken by Google with Google Chrome OS, Peppermint OS actually keeps enough local weight to keep your attention when you can't go online.
In fact, one thing I specially like about Peppermint's approach is that it provides lots of flexibility. On the one hand, you may choose to go minimalistic, going for an OS that can take as little as 512MB of hard drive space. Nothing would prevent you from installing many of the applications available and beefing up the local catalog though, consequently getting closer to a standard desktop OS.
All in all, Peppermint OS is a very nice Linux twist which I definitely recommend trying.