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Linux Mint 5

It's been a while since I did a technological (read: geek) blog, so I thought I would update you on what's going on.

As you are aware, I am a full-fledged geek by trade and passion and I have gone from Windows to Mac to Linux.  My Linux evolution went from Linspire to Mepis to PCLinuxOS to Ubuntu.  I stayed with PCLinuxOS and Ubuntu for the longest.  However, I have always read good things about another distribution called Linux Mint.  It's based on the latest Ubuntu release but with a lot of add-ons.  The latest version is called Linux Mint 5, Elyssa.  So, at the office, I downloaded the latest iso and tried it out to see how it all worked.

First of all, there are always some things I keep in mind when trying any new Linux distro, the primary thing being, 'How would the average user feel about using this OS?'  'Is it (very) simple to install?  Is it easy to use?  Is it easy to get help?  Is it easy to add or remove applications?  Is the terminal (command line) used a lot?'  In my opinion, all of these are valid questions, especially if I am looking to recommend an open source alternative to proprietary software or hardware.  Which I am always looking for.  Some of my clients are non-profit companies that don't have a lot of extra funds or could use existing funds in a different way instead of spending it on software licensing.

So, how does Mint answer those questions?  Extremely well, actually.  I don't have a lot of knowledge with Mint, so I read through the release notes and downloaded the User Manual.  From what I have gathered, Linux Mint started a couple of years ago as mainly a way of getting multimedia codecs in Ubuntu.  However, it quickly became a thing of it's own and has been a favorite distro for many people and winning new fans every day (including me).

One of the things that sets Mint apart from other distros is it's mintMenu.  Upon first glance, I thought this was just the same slider menu found in Suse and in the new KDE4.  But upon further investigation, I found that it's something altogether different.  Something that I enjoy about the mintMenu is a new feature this release, something I have not seen in any other OS, whether it's another Linux distro or Mac or Windows.  Let's say you found an app that you really don't need or want.  How does one uninstall it?  It's very easy with mintMenu.  Just click on the menu like normal and find the app.

Then, right click on the app and select 'Uninstall' from the pop-up menu.

Mint then opens a window showing the application (and dependencies, if any) to be removed.  To remove it/them, just click 'Remove'.

And that's it.  Simple, right?  Right.  And that is a major thing I look for in a distro, simplicity.  And to me, Linux Mint comes through with flying colors.

[SUGGESTIONS: I would like to see the application that is selected highlighted.  As can be seen in the second screen shot, we aren't really sure which app is to be removed.  Keeping the app highlighted would be nice.  Also, I would like to see the wording the same.  That is, have both places say either 'uninstall' or 'remove'.  Consistency is a big deal for a new person wading into the uncharted waters of Linux and anything that is worded different (even if it means the same thing) makes some people uneasy.]

Since I'm trying this at the office, I need a different email client to interact with the Microsoft Exchange server.  This application is called 'Evolution'.  It works very well with Exchange and has all the features I need on a daily basis.  To install this app (and any other one you might need) you would launch the 'Software Portal' from the menu.  This opens an app called mintInstall.

Just type in the app you are looking for and it will then open Firefox to the Software Portal page.  Select the app from the portal and click 'Install now'.

You will be asked what to do with the file and you just accept the default (open with mintInstall).  MintInstall then asks you if you are certain you want to install the app and where to install it.  Keep everything as is and click the 'Install' button.

After a few minutes, it will install and appear in the menu.

Another thing I like is mintUpdate.  This is an application that keeps your system minty fresh!  First of all, it runs in the background and checks (as often or as few times as you want) to see if there are any updates to your system.  And not only the OS, but all the apps installed through the proper channels.  Here again is where Mint shines.

As can be seen, the menu is very well thought out and non-geek language is used which, again, makes it better for the end user.  As Mr Rogers said, 'Simple is better.'  MintUpdate does that very well.

One of the things I want to touch on is the 'Level' column.  There are five different levels of an update.  To quote the release notes:

  • Prefer level 1 and 2 upgrades to be safe and only apply level 3, 4 and 5 upgrades selectively and after you made sure they fixed a bug you needed fixed.

  • Always use mintUpdate to perform package upgrades, avoid to do so with APT or Synaptic; these tools are not aware of the stability level related to package upgrades.

I will state, however, that I have used level 3 upgrades without issue.

[SUGGESTION: Just another wording consistency issue.  I would prefer if they either used 'update' or 'upgrade'.  Since the app is called 'mintUpdate', I would like to see 'update' used throughout the app.]

I could go on and on.  Most of what people do when they review a new distro is talk about how to install it, how to update it, how to install/remove applications, etc.  All of this can be found in the Users Manual.  It is a great resource that is very easy to follow.

Personally, I have found Mint to be the best distro I've used.  It makes the switch from Windows very easy.  Which is the whole point, especially for my line of work.  Mint comes with all of the features of the other distros I've used: Firefox, OpenOffice, etc. so you can use it with other systems in a network settings, be that a home network or an enterprise.  I was so impressed by this distro, I installed on my home system.  It has replaced Ubuntu and I haven't been happier.

My only hesitation is the same one I had with PCLinuxOS -- it seems that there is only one lead developer of Mint ('Clem').  This gives me concern for the future of the distro.  What happens if Clem 'moves on'?  What if he won't or can't continue to work on Mint?  What becomes of this most excellent OS?  I am not certain but in the meantime, I will continue to use Mint and recommend it to all of my clients.

Peace be with you.


[EDIT: I should point out that I have tweaked the look of Mint for my tastes.  The default look is different.  It uses different icons, window borders, color scheme, etc.  This ability to change the look is one of the things I like most about Linux.]


Dark Star said…
Nice review :) Linux Mint is nice OS for all out of the box supprt.. But its a bit sluggish.. Have you tried Mandriva ? If not pleas give it a try :)
Zoltan said…
I like your review, but all together I think Mint is still Ubuntu, spiced up with some great modifications.
However, they doing well - and on a right road, where Ubuntu takes slowly more and more the business side, and Mint takes the Home Desktop value.

MintInstall is my also an favorite prog in it's idea. I think THIS is the right way to create an great desktop. The user must reach directly every desk and app function, what uses in daily basis or frequently.

I have fed up with many tools together to use more bunch of tools with couple of windows, to reach one thing: clean and fast, and secured system. I remember the old days, where Amiga's desktop were soo cool, or Tracker of BeOS was SO great... But these times are the past... I hope the future to how to make clean desktop brings us ONE, that most of the users are waiting.
Jansen said…
Good review. Yes, Mint is Ubuntu-with-some-extra's, but actually it is what Ubuntu should have been ....... This release is wonderful, again.

And Mint is not sluggish on my pc's.

Linux means freedom of choice! Choose the flavor you like.

At this moment I like Ubuntu Ultimate Edition and -brandnew!!- PARDUS 2008. You should give this one a try. You really should.


[...] Linux Mint 5 Some of my clients are non-profit companies that don’t have a lot of extra funds or could use existing funds in a different way instead of spending it on software licensing. [...]
Odysseus said…
Thanks to all for the comments. I'm not one of those people who distro hops (well, not anymore). I did at the beginning because I was looking for a good enterprise alternative and settled on PCLinuxOS at the time. During my hopping days, I did try many other distros, including Mandriva and SUSE. Mint, for me, does all that I need it to do. I really don't have the desire to switch. The reason I came to Mint was some limitations (though, they were easily remedied) in Ubuntu. This OS is very clean and stable. And sluggish? Not on my system. My personal laptop is roughly 5 years old and Mint is very responsive. In fact, I find it to be quicker than any other distro I've installed on it.

Thanks again for all the comments and views.

Peace be with you.

Jonathan said…
Thanks for the review on mint. I tried it out but also found it was a slug! So I wiped it and put puppy 4.00 back on,it flies in comparison to ubuntu derivatives.
next I,m trying slitaz which also zooms along.
Keep up the great work of testing,regards,Jon.
[...] Linux Mint 5 [image] It’s been a while since I did a technological (read: geek) blog, so I thought I would update you on [...] [...]
deanjbaker said…
interesting to see this, thanks
Gaberoo said…
I have been trying the new distros as of late and have to choose Ubuntu Ultimate over anything I have tried lately. I have not been a big Gnome fan since it feels foreign to me but the system is so stable and everything works so well, I am very impressed. I currently have 3 distros (Suse 11, Vistix, Ubuntu Ult. 1.8) to try out and also Win XP.

Boot order is key for the best distro recognition and boot splash - Suse should be installed last - it identifies all distros.

I did not like the PClinux Gnome 2008 and had problems with its stability and install. I know, I loved .93 and 2007 but was extremely disappointed with 2008 gnome. I hope the 2008 final is better when it comes out after KDE 4.1 (I am assuming).
Eddie G. Wilson said…
Nice review. I have LinuxMint 5 and Ubuntu 8.04 installed on my system. Mint was the easiest to run out of the box so to speak but Ubuntu was very easy to set up also. As others have stated I find Mint to be a little sluggish compared with Ubuntu. I'm not sure why tho. Mint is not what Ubuntu should have been but was forked from Ubuntu with a lot of extras and care. Its a great distro. I agree about the one developer system making one uneasy. Look what happen to Mepis since Warren has moved on to other things. Hopefully Mint will be around for a long time.
Repowzki said…
Mint is cool but sooo slow!
Give Zenwalk 5.2 Live a spin and see what you think!
It's REALLY fast!

Jozsef said…
Yes, nice review. I love Linux Mint 5 better than any other distro. Yes I am a practical guy, I like to stay in front of my laptop but I do not have time (especially for configuring things which should work out of the box); however it seems to me that Linux Mint 4 was a more stable version than Linux Mint 5 (same feeling I had with Ubuntu Hardy versus the 7.10 version). I think they are running in the development phases, to have everything done in time, but they leave to little time for testing (beta versions). This is very disappointing.
Jozsef said…
What I wanted to say that I expect from a new version to be better than the old one, not the opossite.
Nanang said…
I love this distro. I think Mint is the best. It is more and more lovely than ubuntu.
Felix Bianchi said…
Mint is certainly better than Ubuntu. The issue is that Ubuntu itself is not a great distro. It sucks in many areas, including security.

There are plenty of distros MUCH BETTER than those ones. For instance: antiX Mepis, Vector, Zenwalk, etc.

But THE BEST choice is PC-BSD or DesktopBSD, both FreeBSD variants with KDE. (They would be perfect with XFCE.)

Yes, FreeBSD is a really WONDERFUL operating system the whole Linux community should know sooner or later. The more I use it, the more I love it!

What`s the difference between Linux and FreeBSD? Well... Do you know the difference between an ordinary wine and a Porto or a Champagne?
shumsoid said…
I have installused many linuxen but this one first distro PASS ALL ACID TEST YAY!
Karl Weissmann said…
@shumsoid: What passes the Acid Test is the Web browser, not the distro...

@Felix Bianchi: I must agree with you. FreeBSD rules all. But Linux is TOO MUCH EASIER. (Well, I love simplicity and stability, much more than friendliness. My distro of choice is Vector Light.)

In my humble opinion, I think MEPIS (with KDE) is the best for newbies. By the way, Mint seems to be an excellent option. Linux is a clear winner on the multimedia desktop field!
James Reader said…
I found Linux Mint to be the best distro I have ever encountered. For the first time ever, I found myself wanting to contribute to the development of OSS. I made a donation, in hopes that it will continue to be improved and evolved. Hopefully Clem will stick around!
bobo said…
LinuxMint, for me anyways, just plain works.

I love Debian, Ubuntu (any Debian due to best package management via apt) but, by far, I have had the best experience with Mint. Hardy Heron, which I installed, required more than a few tweaks to get it up to snuff. WiFi, while better, never worked right on Hardy. LinuxMint did everything, I mean everything, right during the install. I use a Dell Vostro 1000 for my Linux machine and unfortunately can't run Compiz on it. Oh, I can run it but, then video won't play. So, I'd rather be able to play video (via VLC).

Purists whine about the software portal but, they miss it's purpose. I have Mint on my 75 yo mom's PC and for her to use the portal is huge. My 75 yo mother got Google Earth running fine on an Ubuntu based distro! Yup. Try doing that with Ubuntu. I use portal too. I have to say that Mint comes closest to being a distro that Windows users can transition to with ease. I commend the guys at Mint. It's my choice and will continue to be.
Conker1r said…
-"I found Linux Mint to be the best distro I have ever encountered. For the first time ever, I found myself wanting to contribute to the development of OS. I made a donation, in hopes that it will continue to be improved and evolved. Hopefully Clem will stick around!"-

I agree. This is the only distro for which I actually want to contribute to. I can't contribute financially so much. But I do help with the forums and helping other users.
BTW. Linux Mint loves my Sony Vaio laptop!
nickispeaki said…
Hi, all!

yes, mint - rules!

but for now i have a little problem: mintUpdate is hanging and don't update my system (mint 4.0 'cuz i have prob with videodriver on my note). It's update prob have 3 monthes..

2 years on Mint. From 2.2 to 4.0. tried Ubuntu 6.
Humpty Dumpty said…
I have played with most of the new distros as they appear, but my main PC's are all running Mint now on Elyssa (5R1). Over the last three weeks, I have been continuing my "Linux Missionary" work in darkest Microsoftland (XP & Vista) and another 5 people (7 PC's) have been liberated to Mint Linux this week! Converts have found it very easy to change to Linux Mint and I am on hand to help if needed. Long live Mint! Who needs to waste money on a new computer now!

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