Peppermint 3 Review

Peppermint three is the third major release of Peppermint OS, a lightweight LXDE-based web-oriented Linux distribution built on Ubuntu’s LTS release. The focus of Peppermint are simplicity, stability, elegance, and web integration. In this review I will give my experiences with Peppermint on my netbook, having used it as my sole Linux distribution for the past few months:

What does it come with?
Peppermint three comes with a balanced combination of lightweight and industry-class Linux applications, including:

VLC: The #1 most downloaded open-source media player, known for providing support for more audio and video codecs, containers, formats, and OS platforms than any other player.

Guayadeque: Don’t let the name fool you (honestly, I have trouble propounding it, forget spelling it!) this music player and manager is one of the most powerful and lightweight music applications Linux has to offer!

Evince Document Viewer: Popular mainly as a high-performance free alternative to Adobe Acrobat, Evince has been my PDF viewer of choice for quite some time now.

Pidgin Messenger Client: Pidgin was the first Instant Messenger client I fell in love with, and it’s still my favorite. Why some may prefer Empathy for its aesthetics, Pidgin remains the best choice for protocol support and functionality.

Chromium: The open-source counterpart to Google Chrome. Chromium may be a decent browser, it’s also one of Peppermint’s weak points, for reasons discussed later in the review.

Pyshot (Screenshot tool) a lightweight python-based screenshot tool, which came in particularly handy for this review.

Peppermint 3

Overall Experience
For the average user, and particularly for web users, Peppermint is everything they need, nothing more, nothing less. It’s a very simple and respectable distribution, and their emphasis on the KISS principle is an integral part of Peppermint three’s design.

As for myself, I found my experience with Peppermint to be very zippy and fluid, but it loses major points for customization and aesthetics. If I were to judge Peppermint for what it is: a lightweight, elegant, web-oriented distribution, I would probably give it a 8.5/10 stars. But because its simplicity limits the overall experience outside of its target demographic, the overall rating would be closer to 7/10 stars.

So what made the rating go down? Let’s take a look at some of Peppermint’s shortcomings:

1. Power options: As a netbook user, this was particularly obvious. For one thing, the sleep buttons don’t work at all, and the power options are a bit sketchy in their functionality.

2. Low Battery performance: When the batter gets low, even if my netbook is set to high performance, the computer will start to lag and freeze up. I’m guessing it clocks down the system to stretch out the effective time remaining, but this kind of thing has gotten really annoying.

3. Desktop aesthetics: I know this is more of an LXDE (upstream) issue, but the desktop feels empty, and a bit bland. Customization of the menu and taskbar is also tediously overcomplicated.

4. Chromium is the worst choice of browser: Originally Peppermint used Firefox, and forked the Chromium-based version as “Peppermint Ice”, but they have since merged development and replaced Firefox with Chromium as the default browser. While Google Chrome is an excellent browser, Chromium has been stagnating in both development and performance, particularly the “stable” versions Ubuntu uses in their LTS repositories. Combine that with Chromium’s bugginess, and you have a default browser that slows the system down, and bugs creating all this totally avoidable system drama.

Now, you might say “well that’s not a big deal, you can just install [Firefox/Google Chrome/Opera] and uninstall Chromium.” Yes, that part was easy, and (as is inferred by the screenshots) that’s exactly what I did. But there’s one major feature that really sets peppermint apart, and this feature really only integrates well with Chromium: the Peppermint Web Apps:

5. Peppermint Ice: Included with Peppermint OS are a host of Web apps that run in sandboxed Chromium browser windows, for superior web app performance and security. Default web apps include Gmail, Google Calender, Google Reader, GWoffice, and  Pixlr, as well as Dropbox’s proprietary client.

If you wish to create additional web apps for your favorite websites, you can easily do so with Peppermint Ice, a Chromium-based web app generator. But if you try to remove Google Chromium, *even after* installing Google Chrome, it will remove Ice with Chromium. This is because Ice depends on Chromium for web app creation.

I would say this is actually the biggest problem with Peppermint OS, that (despite its strong following with a preference for Firefox) they would build their app system exclusively around Chromium, without so much as including an option for building on other browsers instead.

Peppermint three is a truly excellent browser for those users who value lightweight distros with an emphasis on simplicity, so if you are one such user, I highly recommend this distro. But for everyone else, don’t be surprised if you find yourself a bit boxed in on functionality ;-)

Slideshow Image:

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