Fancy a freshened up SLAX or ChromeOS replacement Peppermint OS?

Slax, one of the lightest-weight Linux distros around, and Peppermint OS, a web-centric Debian remix, both put out new versions this week.

Slax is a very lightweight live-medium distro from Czech developer Tomáš Matějíček (Czech language). As The Reg mentioned at the time, earlier this year, Slax got its first update in a couple of years. That update, version 11.2, was based on Debian, as the last few Slax releases have been.

Slax goes back to its roots

Now, Slax 15 is out. After nine years, Slax is returning to its Slackware roots. Slax 15 is based on the recently-released Slackware 15 - which itself is the first new Slackware release in six years. (Slax's version numbers denote the version of the underlying OS.)

At just 242MB, Slax 15 is even smaller than Slax 11.4. However, because Slax 15 is 64-bit only, the Debian-based edition lives on as well. If you need a live graphical Linux OS, which will let you go online and install additional software, Slax is here for you. And because it's tiny, it's quick to download.

Minty fresh

Peppermint OS is a more conventional distro: it's intended to be installed and run from a hard disk. Its name is a reference to its origins in Linux Mint, although since then, it switched base, first to Lubuntu, and more recently to Debian.

Sadly, the project lead of Peppermint 6-10, Mark "PCNetSpec" Greaves, passed away early in 2020. After this loss, it took a couple of years for the distro's next version, but this year, it returned with a new edition based on Debian's stable release.

This month, another new edition based on Devuan joined the stable, meaning a total of four editions: 32- and 64-bit Debian-based versions, plus 32- and 64-bit Devuan-based ones.

We tried both the 32-bit editions. They look absolutely identical - in fact we had to check which was which by looking for systemd-related commands such as systemctl. The Devuan-based edition used slightly less RAM, but otherwise they're indistinguishable.

The desktop is a custom blend of the Xfce panels and menus with the Nemo file manager from Cinnamon. Although not many full-fledged apps are installed by default, there's an abundance of accessories and tools, including things like Vim, Gdebi, Gparted, dconf Editor and Synaptic which aren't commonly seen.

What are SSBs?

Peppermint OS seems to be a distro for those who want to experiment and customize their OS. It's quite web-centric, and offers a choice of multiple web browsers, and it's quite easy to accidentally install all of them at once. We found some rough edges: the welcome screen and app-launch menu have cryptic (and badly punctuated) messages, for example about "ICE" and "SSBs", without explaining what these terms mean. The custom system-update script failed first time around, failing to notice that it was clashing with the background unattended-upgrades daemon. A reboot and rerun worked.

Peppermint OS, for us, isn't quite what we'd hope to see from a fully FOSS replacement for ChromeOS. We feel it needs a lot more simplification to hit that target: instead, there's a lot of twiddling available. It's not ready to be put in front of your grandma. Saying that, it's good to see an easy, friendly Devuan remix and we'd be happy to see more of those. ®

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