A Taste of Peppermint

Michael Haney thezorch at gmail.com
Wed Sep 29 11:32:40 BST 2010

I've come to the conclusion that Ubuntu is starting to become a bit
too much for my aging desktop to handle.  Its go through a couple of
motherboard changes over the years since I built it in 2004.

Here's the specs:
CPU:  AMD Athlon XP 2000+ 1.2GHz
Mobo:  PC-Chips K7
RAM:  1GB PC2700
GPU:  8x AGP Nvidia Geforce FX 5600 w/256MB DDR-RAM
HDD: 160GB Maxtor, 80GB Hitachi
Sound:  Sound Blaster Live 24-bit
LAN:  10/100 Ethernet Realtek Adapter
Optical:  Sony 16x DVD-RW

Ancient isn't it?

I've been considering a lightweight Linux distro for some time now and
I had been looking at Xubuntu or even Linux Mint 9 XFCE.  Then on
Linux Today, I saw a blog about a new Ubuntu derivative called
Peppermint One.  So I downloaded the LiveCD, burned a copy, and tried
it out.  Needless to say, when I saw done I backed up my files that
weren't in my Dropbox folder and did a clean install.  I usually don't
make snap decisions like that about a new Linux distro without first
looking into all alternatives but I really liked Peppermint One.

PO is a lightweight derivative of Ubuntu 10.04.  It uses Lxsesson
0.4.3 and Openbox on top of Xorg 1.7.6 with PCmanFM 0.9.7 as
a file manager.  It requires at least an i386 CPU and comes in 32 &
64-bit flavors requiring only 192MB of RAM to run and 4GB of hard
drive space.  This is lightweight enough to run on a netbook.  The
LiveCD is just over 400MB so its a pretty small distro.  Installation
is very easy from the LiveCD desktop much like Ubuntu's current

The distro books fast, very fast, even on my ancient hardware.  The
desktop is spartan with no icons.  The panel at the bottom has the
usual menu with software listed in categories, an app launcher,
virtual desktop selector with 4 virtual desktops, a task manager,
system tray, a similar clock & calendar app like Ubuntu has, and a
button for shutting down or restarting the system.  The color scheme
is similar to Linux Mint using LXDE but the menu's icon has a red &
white swirly mint candy rather than the green icon for Mint 9.  The
Preferences menu contains everything you'd find on most other Ubuntu
derivatives, and YES this distro also has the same "screen resolution"
issue after installing the Nvidia drivers.  I had to manually edit my
/etc/X11/xorg.conf file to make my monitor work correctly.  You still
can't manually change your monitor settings directly from the GUI like
you could many moons ago on Ubuntu.  Why this was changed I don't know
but it annoys the hell out of me and the "thousands" (no exaggeration)
of others who have had the same problem.

Despite that annoyance the rest of PO is actually a joy to use.
Ubuntu was starting to really feel sluggish on my computer.  I think
that may be due to Gnome, which has been gaining quite a bit of weight
lately and seriously needs to go on a diet.  Even when I had two huge
file copies going in the background I was still able to do other stuff
and the system never became completely unusable.  Ubuntu would bog
down really bad during heavy disk activity, and would even low down
considerably when videos in Youtube were still downloading.  This
doesn't happen as much in Peppermint One.  The heavy activity slowed
things down but didn't make the system unusable.

PO employs Cloud Computing rather heavily using Google Docs in place a
native app, Gmail in place of a native email client, and image editing
via Pixlr.com.  Websites like Hulu, Facebook, Google Reader, Google
Calendar, Seismic Web (cloud version of the Twitter client), Pandora,
Last.fm, The Cloud Player, eBuddy (cloud based IM client) and Youtube
are offered as Prism apps.  The Webkit based Software Manager lets you
download native apps while also letting you read or write reviews of
the software.  Updates are done via Synaptic Package Manager and you
can use Aptitude from the terminal.  One of the apps in the
Preferences menu is Disk Utility 2.30.1, a surprisingly feature rich
little tool which told me my 80GB drive had some bad sectors and let
me run some tests using the SMART data.  Dropbox is also included with
the distro ... without needing Nautilus!  I'd like to know how they
pulled that off.  Stuff like Wally and Desktop Drapes wouldn't work.
The apps would run but they couldn't change my desktop image.  The
available screen savers were also pretty spartan so I had to download
them via Synaptic.  The makers of this distro were going after a
small, speedy Linux install and they certainly achieved that here.

As the name PepperMINT suggests, this distro takes the route of its
greener, as in color, cousin and pre-install codecs for many popular
and "restricted" audio & video file formats as well as the ability to
play DVDs.  Flash is also pre-installed along with Firefox 4 Beta,
which I replaced with Google Chrome from the stable PPA and setup Sync
since Xmarks is apparently going under soon.  Video playback is done
via Gnome Mplayer, but I intend to use VLC.  The music player is
Exaile.  Its very different from Rhythmbox but its also not as clunky
as Rhythmbox either.  I may decide to stick with it.

So far, despite the unexpected twists and turns this is turning out to
be a rather pleasant experience.  Peppermint One is very polished for
a distro that is so new.  Its tiny, and light on system resources so
it should work very well on Intel Atom netbooks.  I haven't run into
any show stoppers just yet.  There still a few things I'm trying to
figure out.  Like why Wally or Desktop Drapes didn't change the
wallpaper at all, and why I can't get Compiz desktop compositing to
work.  If anyone has suggestions I'd like to hear them.  Otherwise, so
far Peppermint One is definitely worth the download if you're look for
a small, lightweight Ubuntu-based distro that also includes media

Michael "TheZorch" Haney
"The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history may be the hijacking
of morality by religion." ~ Arthur C. Clarke
"The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion and
politics, but it is not the path to knowledge, and there is no place
for it in the endeavor of science. " ~ Carl Sagan

Visit My Site:  http://sites.google.com/site/thezorch/home-1
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Free Your PC from the Bondage of Windows http://www.ubuntu.com

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