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Linux Mint 13 Xfce
It's been a relatively long time since the Release Candidate arrived, but the final release of Linux Mint 13 Xfce is now available.
The release on Saturday will be good news to those who are looking for a solid, stable alternative to the Gnome and KDE desktops, but to describe it only in those terms would not do it justice. Xfce is a very good desktop itself, and although it is generally thought of as a 'lightweight and fast' alternative, in this distribution it has been configured as a fully-loaded system, essentially the same as the Mint Gnome and KDE versions.
The distribution ISO image is approximately 800MB, which is too large to fit on a CD, so it would have to be burned to a DVD. A better option, in my opinion, is to install from USB flash media. If you have a running Linux system already, you can simply dd the image to a USB stick, or you can use the unetbootin utility to create a bootable USB stick from it.
Either way, once you boot the live image you can run the mintInstall utility to install to your hard drive. The installation process will take about a quarter of an hour: once that is finished you can reboot, log in via the MDM (Mint Display Manager, which replaces the normal GDM or Ubuntu LightDM) and you will get this desktop (pictured).
This should be a very familiar-looking desktop to most Linux users (and Windows users, for that matter) with desktop icons to access your home directory (folder) and the overall file system, and if you have other partitions on your hard drive, they will have icons on the desktop by default at this point also. Mine looks a bit cluttered here because I have a lot of partitions for a lot of different Linux distributions on my systems.
The first thing to do after booting the installed system is to set up a network connection, either wired or wireless, and then let the mintUpdate utility (shown by the shield on the right side of the bottom panel) download and install all the latest updates. All you have to do is click the mintUpdate icon in the panel, which will bring up the following window, and then click Install Updates.
There are a lot of updates available already (roughly 300 at the time of this writing), so this process is likely to take longer than the installation itself did — but even at that with a decent internet connection, it is not likely to take more than 30 minutes or so.
Once that is done, the next thing I do is some 'fine tuning' of the desktop. Most of my computers are netbooks or sub-laptops, with small screens (10"-12", the screen shots shown here were made on my HP Pavilion dm1-3105ez with an 11.6" 1366x768 display), so I don't want to permanently give up the space used by the Panel.