Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

Summary: If you want a Linux desktop that's both full-featured and comes with a familiar GNOME 2.x style desktop, look no further than the latest version of Linux Mint 12.

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Mint 12 with GNOME 3.2 & MGSE looks and works a lot like a Mint with GNOME 2.32.

Mint 12 with GNOME 3.2 & MGSE looks and works a lot like a Mint with GNOME 2.32.

I've been using Linux and Unix desktops since the big interface question was C shell vs. Bourne instead of KDE vs. GNOME and I'm very impressed by the newest edition of the popular Mint Linux distribution.

Generally speaking, Mint is built on top of Ubuntu Linux. This version's foundation is Ubuntu 11.10. Unlike Ubuntu though, which has gone its own way with its touch-friendly Unity interface, Mint's developers have elected to stick with GNOME 3.2 desktop… sort of.

What Mint has actually done is support three different variations of the GNOME desktop. These are pure GNOME 3.2; Mint Gnome Shell Extensions (MGSE), which is a desktop layer on top of Gnome 3.2, that that makes it look and work like GNOME 2.3x; and MATE, a GNOME 2.x fork.

The Three Faces of Linux Mint Slideshow

Although Mint 12 has just been released and is now available for download, I've been using it since its last beta.

I first installed the new Mint on my primary Linux desktop. This is a Dell Inspiron 530S powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. This box has 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set.

I also put it on my main work laptop. This system is a Lenovo ThinkPad R61 with its 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7500 and 2GBs of RAM. In other words, Mint worked well enough that that I went from experimenting with it to using it on my production systems even before it went final.

Both of these are older systems and far from being very powerful. In each case, though, Mint 12, Lisa, ran like a champ.

Along the way I found that, for me, GNOME/MGSE was the best interface. I continue to find GNOME 3.x to be more annoying than useful. I wanted to like MATE, since I'm very fond of the GNOME 2.x desktop, but it just isn't ready for prime-time yet. I kept running into errors. I'll be keeping my eye on it, but I can't recommend it for production use at this time.

MGSE does not turn GNOME 3.2 into a GNOME 2.32 clone. There are differences such as the use of a bottom panel for active applications. If MSGE doesn't meet your needs, I'd stick with Mint 11. Keep in mind though that, unless MATE matures in a hurry, for better or worse GNOME 3.x is going to stay Mint's default desktop.

Underneath Mint, you'll find the Linux 3.0 kernel. It also comes with the usual Linux open-source desktop programs. These include Firefox 7.01 for Web browsing; Banshee 2.2 for music management and playback; LibreOffice 3.4.3 for the office suite; Pidgin 2.1 for instant messaging; and Thunderbird 7.0.1 for e-mail.

These aren't all the programs I've choose, but Mint makes it easy to add Evolution, my favorite e-mail client to the system. It also includes Chromium, the pure open-source version of Google's Chrome Web browser. If you want Chrome itself you have to download it form the Web.

As before, in its DVD editions, Mint includes some proprietary software such as Adobe Flash and MP3 audio codecs. If you're a free software purist, Mint is not for you. Instead, you should be looking for a Linux distribution in the Free Software Foundation's list of free distros.

There is one "odd" addition to Mint. The default search engine in Firefox is DuckDuckGo. This is a new search engine that uses resources from other search engines, such as Yahoo, and crowd-sourced sites, such as Wikipedia. What makes it different from the others is that this search engine claims that it doesn't collect or share personal information. There is no search history, personal profile or any other information about you gathered, stored, sold, used, leaked, or uses it to bias--aka bubble--your search results based on your past search history. You can, of course, switch the default search engine to anything you want.

Installing Mint is a snap. All you need do is download the ISO, burn it to a CD, DVD, or USB stick and then re-boot your computer with it and follow the instructions. On my PCs, the entire process took about half-an-hour. One nice thing about Mint, and other Linux distros, is that they'll work well on old PCs with as little as 512MBs of RAM. For most people though I'd recommend running Mint on a system with at least 1GB of memory.

You cannot though do an in-place update of Mint 11. That's by design. Mint's developers feel that if you just upgrade an already existing Linux, you're likely to carry forward potential problems or out of date software. So, you'll need to back up and restore your home directories and files. I did this by backing them up to an attached USB drive. It's a trifle annoying, but it's not really a big deal.

Once in place, I again found that this new edition of Mint to be a pleasure to use. I think you will too.

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Topics: Linux, Hardware, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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102 comments
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  • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

    Mint now looks able enough. I think that I keep a eye out for this capable distro and give it a spin.
    After all just because something done differently does not mean that it's wrong.
    It's just different - that's all.
    Agnostic_OS
    • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

      @Agnostic_OS The best operating system in my think of view is that one: http://www.technologyfazer.com/microsoft-upcoming-operating-system-windows-8-news.html
      nomikhokher
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @nomikhokher : HAHAH, your kidding, right?
        LinuxRocks
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @LinuxRocks - it's his point of view he's neither right or wrong.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @ItsTheBottomLine: It's not even out yet. How can anyone be so quick to pass judgement on it? Remember before Vista was out, how everyone thought it would be awesome, given that they had to wait 6 years for it? And look how it turned out..
        [deXter]
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @nomikhokher NOT!!
        rocketman67
  • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

    <q>"You cannot though do an in-place update of Mint 11. Thats by design. Mints developers feel that if you just upgrade an already existing Linux, youre likely to carry forward potential problems or out of date software. So, youll need to back up and restore your home directories and files. I did this by backing them up to an attached USB drive. Its a trifle annoying, but its not really a big deal. "</q><br><br>But it was a Really-Big-Deal(tm) for some Linux people who used to complain about upgrading from XP to Vista/Win7, like<br><br>One of the "Seven reasons to skip upgrading to Windows 7":<br><a href="http://blogs.computerworld.com/14542/seven_reasons_to_skip_windows_7" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://blogs.computerworld.com/14542/seven_reasons_to_skip_windows_7</a><br><br>or one of the "5 Reasons why Ubuntu 9.10 is better than Windows 7":<br><a href="http://blogs.computerworld.com/15035/5_reasons_why_ubuntu_9_10_is_better_than_windows_7" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://blogs.computerworld.com/15035/5_reasons_why_ubuntu_9_10_is_better_than_windows_7</a>
    Samic
    • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

      @Samic next Mint upgrade, configure to put /home on a separate partition. Really saves me time during upgrades.
      Ashm1r
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @Ashm1r
        Yup, learnt that lession long time ago actually.
        What I don't like is how sjvn bushing other OS. It's not like backup up stuff is a hard thing to begin with.
        Samic
      • Second that approach!

        @Ashm1r

        Yes - /home on it's own partition is the way to go - 'Course, then you need to futz with the setup and make sure it does NOT format /home!
        Spikey_Mike
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @Ashm1r I like to put /home /boot and /var on their own partitions.
        paulfx1
    • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

      @Samic
      Great links. Some classic SJVN FUD including this gem;

      "Windows 7 is no more secure than Windows has ever been."

      Yeah right...
      boycottFUD
      • The sad part is.....

        @serendipity24

        SJVN is right and you are wrong. Until Microsoft writes a new OS from scratch without trying to make everything one huge ball of speghetti, then Windows will always be insecure, and unstable.
        linux for me
      • The sad part is

        @Samic
        @serendipity24

        You're linux zealots without any grasp on reality. For a change SJVN wrote an article about Linux, not Microsoft and you can't leave it alone.
        bmonsterman
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @linux for me - well one your nuts, but that's OK. I have had windows since 3.0 and never had a issue wiht a virus or unstable - EXCEPT - windows ME, which was a piece-o-crap. Sorry, but I have linux too and it has issues.
        ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @ItsTheBottomLine<br><br>Isn't that the typical windows fanboy reply... I've been using windows since blah blah and never had a virus so it must be secure, well have you heard of TDL-4? I bet there will be at least 4.5 million people who agree that windows has security problems.
        guzz46
      • Or the typical guzz46 reply

        @guzz46
        Not sure why Linux users feel the need to pull MS into a story written about Linux?

        I guess you just proved that Linux isn't as good as Windows, as you seem to feel that all your replys can't stand on their own in a Linux only reference.
        William Farrell
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @William Farrell

        I didn't pull M$ into this story about Linux, I simply replied to a fanboys comments on windows.

        Have you read all my replies? how should I reply to someones comments on a subject without talking about the subject?
        guzz46
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @guzz46,

        Sure...but if you look at the top of the thread, the initial off topic comment came from Samic. He brought MS (not M$, grow up) into this. So it wasn't an MS fanboy who started this.
        bmonsterman
      • RE: Linux Mint 12: A Great desktop Linux stays Great

        @bmonsterman

        It swings and roundabouts, read an article on Linux and it won't be long before some M$ fanboy posts some FUD on Linux, and the worst part is they have never even used Linux, at least Linux users have actually used windows.
        guzz46