Peppermint OS Four Review: The distro in the clouds!

Peppermint Four is a sweet blend of the cloud and the desktop

By , ITworld |  Software, peppermint four review, peppermint os four

Remember Bespin, the planet with the city in the clouds in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back? Cloud City was the place Han Solo and Princess Leia flew to in hopes of temporarily escaping the wrath of the Empire. Unfortunately, it didn't work out very well for them since Darth Vader nabbed all of them (though Luke did show up eventually to try to save them).

Cloud City on the planet Bespin

But there's also a Linux distro that also lives in the clouds and it's called Peppermint Four. No need to worry though, the Empire doesn't know about Peppermint Four so you should be safe. Peppermint lets you run your favorite web applications right on your desktop.

Peppermint Four Boot Menu

How does it do this? Peppermint Four uses what is called a Site Specific Browser to run applications on your desktop:

Peppermint makes heavy use of what are called “Site Specific Browsers” or SSBs. Essentially many modern web applications offer much advanced functionality and SSBs allow these apps to be more directly integrated with the desktop. Peppermint One made use of Mozilla’s Prism application to create and manage SSBs. Peppermint Two uses Google’s Chromium though an application called Ice.

You may wonder about the difference between Ice and Chromium’s built in “Create Application Shortcuts…” tool. The answer is that Chromium’s built in tool does not integrate with the LXDE menu at all and doesn’t give the user the opportunity to remove SSBs. Both of these issues are resolved in Ice.

SSBs allow an application to function in more of a standalone method than running them directly through the web browser. In addition they allow for the user to take advantage of additional screen space as they don’t include all the functions and menus of a browser.

How to Install Web Applications with Ice
1. Click the Menu button on the panel.
2. Click the Internet category.
3. Click the Ice icon in the drop down menu.
4. Type in the URL and name of the web app you want to add.
5. Choose where you want it to appear in the menus.
6. Choose an icon for the web application.
7. Click the Create button.

How to Remove Web Applications with Ice
1. Click the Menu button on the panel.
2. Click the Internet category.
3. Click the Ice icon in the drop down menu.
4. Click the Remove tab on the Ice menu.
5. Select the app you want to remove.
6. Click the Remove button.

What's New in Peppermint Four
Here's a sample of the new features in this release:

Software Bundles
Games in the Menu
Based on Ubuntu 13.04

Software Bundles
You can now download a bunch of packages based on categories in Peppermint Four. To access these, open the Software Manager, then go to the Featured category. Scroll down and you'll see the following list of packages:

Peppermint Build Tools Pack
Peppermint  Graphics Arts Pack
Peppermint Kids Edutainment Pack
Peppermint Networking Pack
Peppermint Office Pack
Peppermint Photography Pack

To install these, just double click them, then click on the Install button when the install page loads. This is a nice idea for those who would rather skip downloading individual packages in these categories. It's a quick and easy way of downloading multiple packages in useful categories.

Peppermint Four Applications Bundle

Games in the Peppermint Four Menu
If you click on the Menu button in the panel, you'll see a category for games (see the software section below for details on which games are included). You can also get plenty more games in the Software Manager.

I'm not much of a gamer these days, but it's nice to see some included with Peppermint Four.

Based On Ubuntu 13.04
Peppermint Four is based on the Ubuntu 13.04 code base. If you aren't up to date on what Ubuntu 13.04 offers, see my review on Desktop Linux Reviews.

System Requirements for Peppermint Four
Here's what you'll need to run this distro:

Absolute Minimum:

  • 192 MB of RAM
  • Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
  • At least 2 GB of available disk space

Recommended Minimum:

  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
  • At least 4 GB of available disk space

Preferred Minimum:

  • 1 GB of RAM
  • x86_64 or amd64 compatible processor
  • At least 4 GB of disk space

Peppermint Four Download
You can download Peppermint Four from this page. Peppermint Four is available in 32-bit or 64-bit versions. You can also buy it on a USB or a CD.

If you're a distrohopper then you might want to try it in a virtual machine via VirtualBoxVMWare, or Parallels before running it on real hardware.

Peppermint Four Installation
Peppermint Four is a live distro, so once the preinstall boot menu pops up, you can run it live without having to do an install. This is a good way to take a peek at it before going through a full install.

Peppermint Four uses the Ubuntu installer, so it's quite easy and fast to install. Note that you have the option to download updates during the install, and to install third-party software. I recommend that you opt to do this since it will save you time later on.

The Peppermint Four Install Preparation

Peppermint Four Install Type

The Peppermint Four Desktop
The Peppermint Four desktop is very easy to navigate, it uses LXDE so it's very fast and lightweight.

The "Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment" is an extremely fast-performing and energy-saving desktop environment. Maintained by an international community of developers, it comes with a beautiful interface, multi-language support, standard keyboard short cuts and additional features like tabbed file browsing. LXDE uses less CPU and less RAM than other environments. It is especially designed for cloud computers with low hardware specifications, such as netbooks, mobile devices (e.g. MIDs) or older computers.

It's very easy to navigate the Peppermint Four desktop. Just click the Menu button on the panel. You'll see a list of application categories, system tools, preferences, etc. It's quite simple to use, even if you're totally new to Linux.

The one thing I didn't like is the morose, dark wallpaper. The last version of Peppermint (Peppermint 3) also had an ugly wallpaper. It seems clear that the Peppermint developers are technically astute, but not great with wallpaper design. Okay, I'm nitpicking here as it's very easy to change the wallpaper.

Peppermint Four Desktop

But I still maintain that the default wallpaper sets the tone for how a distro is perceived. For some reason, the Peppermint Four wallpaper reminds me of Ubuntu: Satanic Edition but without the evil coolness.

Ubuntu Satanic Edition

I urge the Peppermint develops to emulate Linux Mint and release some sort of snazzy wallpaper that helps with Peppermint's brand identity and that impresses the user.

Linux Software Included in Peppermint Four
Here's a sample of the linux software included in this release.

Games
2D/3D Chess
Entanglement
First-Person Tetris
Mahjong
Solitr

Graphics
Document Viewer
Pixlr
Image Viewer
Simple Scan

Internet
BitTorrent
Chromium
Dropbox
Ice
IRC Client

Multimedia
Media Player
Music Player
Sound Mixer

Office
Gmail
Google Calendar
Google Drive

Linux Software Management Tools in Peppermint Four
It looks like Peppermint Four is using the Linux Mint Software Manager. Kudos to the Peppermint developers as I love the Linux Mint Software Manager. It makes it very easy to find and install software, and you can read user reviews and ratings.

Peppermint Four Software Manager

Peppermint Four Featured Applications

Transmission in the Peppermint Four Software Manager

All of the applications are broken down into categories. I recommend checking out the Featured category first as there's lots of great stuff there. There are more than 64,000 packages in the Software Manager, so you won't lack for software.

It's very easy to install or remove an application. Just find it in the Software Manager, then click the Install or Remove button.

Problems & Headaches Found in Peppermint Four
Peppermint Four ran very well for me, and I didn't notice any overt problems with it. However, you should check out the release notes before doing an install as there are some things there to bear in mind before doing an install.

If you choose to install directly from syslinux without first loading the desktop and use the “Install alongside” option, the installer will crash. The crash will not happen with other install options and will not happen if you load the desktop first and select the “Install alongside” option.

Peppermint Four makes use of the Xfwm4 window manager and the LXDE desktop environment. This is unlike other Linux distributions that use LXDE as the default desktop environment as it is common to use the Openbox window manager. As a result, there are more window manager features, however some things within the window manager settings may not function as they were originally intended to in Xfce desktop environment, where Xfwm4 was originally intended to run.

The keyboard shortcut for opening the file manager has changed from “Ctrl+Alt+D” to “Ctrl+Alt+F” by default. This was done to prevent a conflict with the default window manager shortcut that shows/hides all windows on a particular workspace.

Software ratings with the Software Manger, mintinstall, are based on feedback submitted by users to the website http://community.linuxmint.com. This website is part of the Linux Mint project and is not affiliated with Peppermint or Peppermint, LLC, however we do encourage Peppermint users to submit feedback as we all benefit from this feedback.

Peppermint Four is based on Ubuntu 13.04 and makes use of its package repositories. As a result, any bugs that affect Ubuntu 13.04 are also likely to affect Peppermint Four. Please report bugs for Ubuntu’s packages to the necessary bug trackers and please report bugs for Peppermint specific packages to Peppermint’s bug tracker.

Where To Get Help for Peppermint Four
If you're having problems, please post your questions in the comments below or register for the Desktop Linux Reviews forum. Other readers might be able to assist you. You might also want to check out the Peppermint Four forumsuser guide, and release notes.

If you're new to Linux, you might want to check out some of the books available about it. You can learn quite a bit that you will probably find useful later on.

Final Thoughts About Peppermint Four
Peppermint Four is a decent upgrade to an already fine cloud-based distro. There's not a huge load of new features in this release though, but that's fine. Peppermint didn't need tons of new features, it was already great.

The best thing about Peppermint Four is that you get a sweet blending of desktop and cloud. All of the usual desktop software is easily accessible via the Software Manager, but you also get the convenience of running all of your favorite web apps via Ice right on your desktop. It really works out to be the best of both worlds, and it makes some other distros feel somewhat restricted since they don't offer the SSB feature that is in Peppermint Four.

Peppermint Four is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What's your take on Peppermint Four? Tell me in the comments below.

Summary Table:

Product: Peppermint Four
Web Site: http://peppermintos.com
Price: Free
Pros: Games added to the menu; software bundles available in the Featured application category in Software Manager; based on Ubuntu 13.04.
Cons: Dreary, dark wallpaper that almost makes me feel like I'm looking at Ubuntu: Satanic Edition, but without the evil coolness.
Rating: 4.5/5



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