Once upon a time, I was happy to recommend Peppermint Linux to new users who wanted to test the operating system on older hardware. It was a lightweight distribution that made using Linux pretty easy. For a while, Peppermint had even become my go-to recommendation for new users. What the developers were doing was nothing short of brilliant.
That was then.
This is now.
Peppermint Linux has lost its sweetness.
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I recently installed Peppermint Linux 10, expecting it to wow me as it once did. Although it has been some time since I’ve tasted the distribution, I remember well how the last instance impressed me with its combination of user-friendliness and speed. And although the latest iteration has retained the speed, it has certainly lost some of the polish.
This led me to wonder, what is Peppermint Linux now?
Earlier iterations of Peppermint filled a very specific niche as a full-blown distribution that could perform well on older hardware while giving new users a shallow learning curve for using Linux. That was a crucial role to fill, and Peppermint filled it well. Any user who’d never experienced Linux could hop onto a Peppermint-flavored desktop or laptop and have no problem using the operating system.
That is no longer the case.
Just look at the system requirements for the latest iteration of Peppermint Linux.
Minimum system requirements:
- 1GB of RAM
- Processor based on Intel x86 architecture
- 10GB of available disk space
Recommended system requirements:
- 4GB of RAM
- x86_64 or amd64 processor
- 32GB of disk space
From my perspective, those recommended requirements don’t smack of older hardware.
My first impressions of Peppermint Linux
After a quick installation of the latest version of Peppermint Linux, I was surprised to find it not only didn’t include a familiar web browser, it also didn’t include a single productivity tool. And although the Welcome tool did make it pretty easy to install a web browser, it did not offer the ability to install anything else of real value to end-users.
So, via the Welcome tool, I installed GNOME Software, thinking that was the easiest route to getting the tools a typical user might need or want. After the installation, I fired up GNOME Software, only to be informed that no application data could be found (Figure A).
OK, so maybe the OS needed an upgrade. I click on the desktop menu and click Software & Updates. Nothing opened. Okay. Let’s try something else. Synaptic Package Manager is included (as the default software installation tool). That’s all fine and good because Synaptic rarely fails. This is when I’m reminded why I parted ways with Synaptic long ago. Yes, it’s powerful and makes it possible to get pretty granular with package management. But Synaptic is outdated. For example, You can just search for LibreOffice and install it with a single click. But, search for LibreOffice and you’ll get hundreds of hits. How is a new user going to know which packages to install to get what they want?
From a package management point of view, Peppermint fails new-to-Linux users.
Another problem I experienced involved themes. I’m not a fan of dark themes, so I immediately went to change the look of the desktop to a light theme. I opened the Appearance application and selected the Arc-lighter theme. There was no way to apply the change, so I clicked Close, assuming it was automatically applied (Figure B). Nope. The desktop immediately went back to the dark theme. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get the light theme to apply.
I realize Peppermint Linux is maintained by a small group of developers (as the original developer, Mark Greaves, passed away in 2020), and I appreciate how challenging that can be. But when you’re basing your distribution on Debian, which offers an amazing and thorough user-friendly experience, and you strip away the user-friendliness, you’re pushing Linux back a few steps. Upon installation, Debian contains everything a user needs to immediately get to work (such as Firefox, LibreOffice and Evolution) and when you apply a setting it actually sticks. Also, Debian doesn’t suffer from the same package manager front-end issue that haunts Peppermint Linux, so the sum total of the experience is far greater than that found in Peppermint Linux.
The Linux desktop needs more distributions placing user experience at the top of its mission statement. Yes, any seasoned Linux user could hop onto the Peppermint Linux desktop and do anything they need. But until distributions like this realize that preaching to the choir fails to expand the choir, their audience will remain small and niche. Although Peppermint Linux is still a good choice for aging (but not ancient) hardware, I would say if you’re not familiar with Linux, you should shy away from this distribution, as it will only lead to a frustrating experience sending you back to the operating system from whence you came.
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