Mint 11: The "Un-Unity" Ubuntu desktop Linux

Mint 11: The "Un-Unity" Ubuntu desktop Linux

Summary: Like Ubuntu, but don't like its new Unity interface? Then give Mint 11 a try.


I like Ubuntu's Unity interface, but I wouldn't use it all the time, and I know many of you don't like it at all. Like me, you like getting your hands dirty with the operating system and Unity is meant for new Linux users. That's why for day-in, day-out use I'm now using the Ubuntu Linux-based Mint 11.

Instead of Unity, Mint 11, which is now at the release candidate stage, uses the old Linux Mint desktop layout, mintMenu system, and the same desktop elements featured in previous releases. It also doesn't use GNOME 3.0. That's fine by me since I don't care for GNOME 3 at all, but my reasons for that are a story for another day. Today, I want to tell you why I think Mint 11 is a great desktop Linux for experienced Linux users.

To put Mint 11, Katya, which is based on Ubuntu 11.04, through its paces, I first installed it on one of my main Linux workstations. 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.

How well did it work? Well, after a week on it, I also installed the Mint 11 release candidate on my main work laptop. This is a Lenovo ThinkPad R61 with its 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7500 and 2GBs of RAM. In other words, it not only worked well, it had already proved trustworthy enough that I'd switched to using it on a production machine.

I was willing to make this shift so fast for several reasons. First, Mint 11 is fast. Before this, I was running Ubuntu 11.04, openSUSE 11.4, and Mint 10 on these machines, or in the case of the PC, its twin brother. I don't know what special sauce the Mint team added to Mint 11, all I know is that it's faster and more responsive than the other Linux distributions I've recently used on these machines. As for Windows 7 SP1, please, these machines are barely adequate for today's version of Windows.

With the GNOME 2.32 interface, Mint looks as good as ever. This desktop, unlike Unity, also makes it easy for me to tinker with the operating system to get it working just the way I want. GNOME 2.32 has some GNOME 3.0 features though that I didn't like. For example, some GNOME compatible applications have, instead of a permanently displayed right-hand slider for moving up and down a page, they have a slider that only appears when your mouse hovers over a windows right-side interface. I find this more annoying than useful.

There have also been some desktop application changes. One, which I really approve of, is the switch to LibreOffice in place of OpenOffice for the office suite. Again, the new model office suite was faster than OpenOffice. In addition, LibreOffice does much better with Microsoft Office document compatibility. Most, if not all, of the Linux desktop distributions are switching to LibreOffice. It's a smart move.

I also like the use of Banshee, which has long been one of my favorite media-players over Rhythmbox. I'm neutral about Mint switching out gThumb for F-Spot as the default photo application.

Since this is Linux, if you don't like the default applications, you can always replace it. Like the Ubuntu Software Manager it's based on Mint's Software Manager makes it mindlessly simple to add new programs. This program does have one default I don't care for though. When you install a new program, it doesn't give you a message letting you know when the installation is complete. Instead it simply gives you a momentary 100% installed on the bottom "ongoing action" bar and the application installation page still shows the program as not being installed. You'll only see that the program has indeed been installed after you refresh the page.

On the other hand, the Update Manger works very smoothly. It makes it easy to keep your Mint PC up to date.

Page 2: [Installing & Upgrading Mint] »

Installing & Upgrading Mint

Like any modern Linux, Mint's simple to install. Just download your Mint 11 image of choice, burn it to a CD, DVD, or USB stick, and boot it on your PC and you're ready to either run it off the media or to install it. Personally, I prefer to download the version that comes with all the proprietary media codecs, but it's up to you.

You can't, however, do an in-place update of Mint 10 or Ubuntu. That's by design. Mint's developers feel that if you just upgrade an already existing Linux, the chances are you'll also carry forward potential problems or out of date software. So, you'll need to back up and restore your home directories and files.

In theory, you can place these on another partition on your hard drive and you can tell Mint to automatically retrieve them to your working system. Alas, it doesn't work. It only copies over your topmost visible directories My work-around, since almost all my computers have multiple operating systems, was to just mount the other partition after installing Mint 11 and manually do a copy and paste of any files and directories I wanted to restore to my new Linux. The total time for this operation was about 20-seconds. Still, it was a trifle annoying.

Once I had it all up and running though I found that I really preferred Mint 11, even although it not finalized yet, to my other Linux desktops. There's a lot to be said for fast and smooth operating systems that also give you fine control over the operating system. If that sounds good to you, and Unity bugs the heck out of you, give Mint a try. You'll be glad you did.

Related Stories:

Shuttleworth on Ubuntu 11.04 Linux & Unity

What you need to know about the new Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux 11.04's Target Audience: Casual Windows Users

The new Ubuntu Desktop: Unity

My favorite Linux desktop: Mint 10

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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Message has been deleted.

    • Message has been deleted.

      • Message has been deleted.

    • Message has been deleted.

      • Message has been deleted.

      • Message has been deleted.

      • Message has been deleted.

    • RE: Mint 11: The


      Wow... the carnage, the carnage!!!
      Hallowed are the Ori
  • RE: Mint 11: The

    "LibreOffice does much better with Microsoft Office document compatibility." --> Could you elaborate?

    "Most, if not all, of the Linux desktop distributions are switching to LibreOffice. It?s a smart move." --> Why is smart the idea to go for the latest fork? Why is forking so good? And no, don't just tell me "Oracle". FLOSS or not, we're living in a world of corporations. We want FLOSS and independence, but then we need corporations to pay some of the developers. I don't see any logic in the FLOSS business model...

    "I?m neutral about Mint switching out gThumb for F-Spot as the default photo application." --> gThumb was perfect for what it is. F-Spot sucks.
    • RE: Mint 11: The

      I'd avoid blanket, cliched dismissals, such as "xxx sucks" in the same post wherein I chided an author for not elaborating on and backing up opinions regarding tangential points.

      I'd make the following observation about forks. They mean potentially significant elements of a development team believe the project's priorities should change. If one agrees with the rationale for forking and one sees traction as the code is adapted to the new priorities, than one goes with the fork. If not, stay with the old code. There is the potential for NIH duplicative effort. That's undeniable. That doesn't seem to me as wasteful or pointless as religious flamewars between the forking and base project camps. Why do you care? It doesn't cost any more to run, LibreOffice, or both.
      • RE: Mint 11: The

        @DannyO_0x98 As a user, it cost me, even under Windows or wherevere I can choose bewteen Oo.o and LibreOffice. Which one to install? In which of them has bug #NNNNN (reported 7 years ago in Oo.o) been fixed? Oh, in none of them, because there is not enough workforce -- precisely because forking (i) diminishes the available workforce for either of the projects and (ii) duplicates the effort, supposing that there is indeed a will to fix some bugs or to add some new features?

        Many Oo.o extensions are described in on Oo.o website. Are all of them working with LibreOffice? If not, how to fix them? There have been years of development, pages and forums on Oo.o!

        To me, LibreOffice is AN ABJECTION!

        As for F-Spot, I won't stress on the fact that it's Mono-based (I don't care it's about cloning a Microsoft technology, but I don't want UNNEEDED EXTRA DEPENDENCIES in GNOME just for a single application, the same way I don't want mono in KDE either; well, of course Mint is using Mono extensively, but I was talking generically). I would nevertheless say that gThumb was the perfect application: (i) small, (ii) simple, (iii) doing what it was supposed to do. I don't need photo collection managers and all those crappy concepts for idiots -- I very much liked gThumb for what it is.
      • forking

        Hi :)
        Forks can appear for many different reasons even just for testing some pet theory held by a small bunch of devs on the team. As for duplicating effort how about using copy&paste?

        Having such similar code-base allows me to use OpenOffice Extensions on LibreOffice. I have heard that they don't all work but most do. LibreOffice appears to have incorporated some Extensions into it's main code-base where a lot of users were keen for it.

        As it happens, LibreOffice has apparently allowed several previous forks to re-combine. Ubuntu didn't use OpenOffice but added some modifications and a few changes making it Go-OO rather than OpenOffice proper but Go-OO has now had all it's modifications incorporated into mainstream LibreOffice. Several long out-standing bugs have been cleared up where Sun and Oracle wouldn't push through the code that had been written to solve the issues.

        Finally one of the fears that pushed people into creating The Document Foundation to run LibreOffice (as Mozilla runs Firefox and other projects) has happened. It seems that Oracle announced they would drop OpenOffice.

        So, forking encourages innovation and competition, collaboration and increases the chances of a project surviving beyond it's owner's whims.

        A smart move indeed :)
        Regards from Tom :)
    • RE: Mint 11: The

      @beranger I've used them both. LibreOffice is simply better.

      • RE: Mint 11: The

        @sjvn In which way is better? just because you say so? It's only a recent fork, how could it become better overnight?
      • RE: Mint 11: The

        Before there was LO, the was GOO, which Novell took the lead in maintaining a patch set improving performance and some other things. These weren't committed to OO.o because of various reasons, one being code ownership.

        All of those patches could be immediately rolled into LO, though, making the product significantly better than OO.o (though not WRT GOO) literally overnight.
      • Works

        @sjvn@... <br><br>Works for me. I choose not to trust the ego-maniac Ellison.<br><br>Nice to see so many distros moving to LibreOffice.<br><br>Although I prefer KDE to GNOME or Unity any day.<br><br>A happy Mint KDE/Debian/Slackware user...
        Tim Patterson
      • RE: Mint 11: The

        [i]A happy Mint KDE/Debian/Slackware user...[/i]

        Have they ever fixed that VLC issue on Mint KDE yet?
      • RE: Mint 11: The

        @sjvn@... True. And OO is simply dead, so why bother?
      • RE: Mint 11: The

        @sjvn@... <br><br>I've used both minimally, even when I was still using windows I was using OO.o for years, but I am not much of an office suite user. I spend less than 2 hours a week in an office app. I dont see any difference, except maybe LO loads the splash screen about 500ms slower.<br><br>I still tell people to use LO, simply because the only company I hate more than Oracle is SAP. Although Novell comes in a pretty darn close second...

        Posted from my Notion Ink Adam, running the Beast Rom
    • It's not a business model

      @beranger I write Free Software because I want to. I make it Free because I want to.<br><br>It's not a business model. Perhaps the reason it doesn't make sense is because you're pretending it's something it's not.<br><br>We are a community of people that work together because we want to, and we want to write software which is freely available and which anyone else can modify to their liking too.<br><br>It's not a business model. It's a community of like-minded people.<br><br>You don't have to do it. If you want to do something else, go do something else.<br><br>Cheers.
      Bret Waldow