Recently I acquired another old Gateway laptop, an M460 model from 7 years ago that was using Windws XP. I was able to upgrade the RAM to 2 GB, and decided that it would be just right to try out the latest version of Peppermint OS, a lightweight version of Linux that I like a lot. Here is my review of Peppermint Four, 32-bit version.
This laptop has a 40 GB hard drive, 2 GB of RAM (originally came with 512 MB), a Pentium processor, and has an Intel integrated graphics card.
As it was with Peppermint Two last year, installation went smoothly and took less than half an hour. Peppermint is based mostly upon Lubuntu and uses the Ubuntu installer as far as I’m aware. There is an option in the beginning to install updates, and you can also choose to install restricted files such as support for mp3s and Flash. I chose to do so, but declined to install updates until the entire process was done. Java is not installed by default in Peppermint OS.
Luckily for me, the M460 BIOS fully supports booting from a USB thumb drive, so there was no need to chainload GRUB in order to install Linux on this laptop. The useful utility UNetbootin allows you to make a bootable thumb drive in 4 easy steps.
Peppermint uses the Ubuntu 13.04 repositories, so you will always be kept up to date.
Peppermint OS is heavily cloud-focused, so although you have a decent selection of applications, many assume that you have internet access. Here’s the full list of main apps:
Accessories: the archive manager, calculator, character map, disk visualizer, file manager (PCManFM), file search, screenshot, the LXTerminal, and the Gedit text editor
Games: Chess, Entanglement, Mah Jong, Solitaire, Tetris (first person). All are online web-based versions.
Graphics: Evince pdf viewer, Pixler (online image editor), an image viewer, and Simple Scan
Internet: Bittorrent cliet, Chromium web browser, a Dropbox link, the Ice utility, Xchat client, the Peppermint online user guide, and the forums for Peppermint OS.
Office: Evince pdf viewer, Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. If you are signed into Google on Chromium, the Google apps will also be logged in when you run them.
Sound and Video: Gnome MPlayer (for media), the Guayadeque music player, and a sound mixer.
System Tools: package installer, ibus, printer wizard, software manager, software updater, Synaptic package manager, task manager, time and date settings, and User/Group settings.
Preferences: over 15 different areas in which you can set up and customize your workspace appearance and keyboard.
Although the initial selection of software seems sparse, it all works well and the <700 MB size means that you don’t need to burn a DVD or have a large USB thumb drive. Additional software can of course be installed as desired via the repositories. Unlike some lightweight distributions, Peppermint installs Chromium (the open source version of Google Chrome) instead of the Midori web browser. This is because of the main killer feature that is exclusive to Peppermint – their “Ice” technology that allows you to make dedicated menu items, called Site Specific Browsers. You can install web-based games, your Facebook or Twitter web page, or any other website you care to use. These are separate from the main Chromium browser and stay signed in if you want.
I haven’t heard of Guayadeque before, but this nice little music player includes last.fm intergration, lyric lookup, and the Shoutcast radio listings.
New in this release of Peppermint OS are two other features: the use of the mintInstall Software Manager (includes ratings for applications) and within it, a small set of software bundles (found in the “Featured” section of the Software Manager). These are packs of related programs for such activities as programming/packaging, kids edutainment, photography tools, office, and networking. I hope that Peppermint will be able to add more such packs, since only 6 are currently available.
Gaming is easy of course. All the games and emulators found in Ubuntu 13.04 are here as well. If you have a laptop suited for it, the Linux version of Steam will work here.
My wireless printer was detected but the correct driver was not installed at first. Once I added the “hplip” additional software for HP printers (22 files, 39 MB space), I had no problems adding it and did not have to choose the correct one from a list.
According to the Release Notes, Peppermint uses the mintInstall Software Manager (including reviews), and the Xfwm4 window manager rather than Openbox as it did in the past. There’s a very minimal selection of wallpaper, but you can easily add more.
Things I liked
– Peppermint Four adds five games to the menu, so you can have fun immediately after installing it.
– The issue I had in version Two with the outdated flash plugin no longer occurs.
– The virtual desktop switcher is visible on the taskbar this time, unlike in Peppermint Two. You start off with 2 desktops by default.
– The website for PeppermintOS features a User’s Guide that I recommend you read over.
– Unlike Ubuntu, Peppermint includes the Synaptic package manager in the menu in addition to the Software Manager from Linux Mint.
Things I didn’t like
– The only things I found frustrating were due to the limited optons in LXDE, not to Peppermint itself. Customizing the menu by adding or removing things manually takes some research to learn, and configuring the clock on the taskbar could be a bit confusing for someone not used to it.
– I don’t like the default wallpaper this time around.
Once again I can highly recommend this distribution of Linux. I still don’t own a netbook, but the specs on this laptop are pretty close to one, and Peppermint OS just works fine. I’ve encountered no bugs at all. Being based on a solid distribution like Ubuntu and focused on the more light weight applications, it will serve you well.
If LXDE isn’t a desktop you are happy with, you can always install one of the other ones available – Xfce would also work well on a lightweight system, and you can choose GNOME or KDE if you have more RAM available.