Mint 17: The best Linux desktop to date

Mint 17: The best Linux desktop to date

Summary: I've used hundreds of Linux desktops over the years, and Mint 17 with Cinnamon is my favorite one to date.


Over the decades—yes decades—I've been using Linux desktops, I've had many favorites. Now, I have a new one: Linux Mint 17. I expect it to be my favorite for a long time to come.

Linux Mint 17
Linux Mint 17 "Qiana"

I can say that because this version, now a late release candidate. like its base operating system, Ubuntu 14.04, is a long-term support edition. It will be supported until 2019. This makes this edition one that businesses should consider. 

In particular, I love Linux Mint 17 with the Cinnamon 2.2 interface. This GNOME 3.x-based desktop is a great windows, icons, menus, and pointer (WIMP) interface. Windows XP users will find it far more familiar than Windows 8's oddball tiled desktop. I also like the MATE interface, which builds on top of the GNOME 2.x interface; but for simplicity's sake I'm going to focus just on Cinnamon.

Like almost all Linux desktops, Mint is free and it can run on almost any PC you have at hand. All it requires is an x86 processor; 512 MBs of RAM (you'll be happier though with 1GB); 5 GBs of disk space; a graphics card that can handle 800×600 resolution; and a DVD drive or USB port. That's all.

A quick look at Mint 17 (Gallery)

Unlike most of its Linux brothers and sisters, Mint also includes many proprietary programs. So, for example, you can play Adobe Flash videos and DVDs from your Mint PC without jumping through any hoops. Mint doesn't include proprietary drivers such as the ATI or NVIDIA drivers; it does make it easy to install drivers.

Another nice feature, which Mint does shares with most modern Linux distributions, is that you don't have to commit yourself to it. You can try it out by running it from a live USB thumb-drive or DVD drive before actually installing it.

In my case — since I know Mint like the back of my hand — I went ahead and installed it not just on test systems but on my production desktop and laptop. Yes, I'm a brave Linux user!

My work desktop is a Dell XPS 8300. This PC uses a 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, has 8GBs of RAM, and an AMD/ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphic card. Mint 17 “Qiana” ran perfectly on it. The new Mint also ran flawlessly on my Lenovo ThinkPad T520 laptop. This computer comes with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 processor.

This didn't come as a surprise. I haven't had a hardware compatibility problem with any Linux in years. The one annoying thing about Mint, however, is that you can't just upgrade from one version to another. Instead, you must over-write your existing system.

Six Clicks: Linux Mint tips and tricks

On both systems, installing Mint was as easy as falling off a log. There's nothing complicated about it. You just hit yes to most of the questions, give your computer a name, give yourself a login name, and you're in business.

Another potential problem for some users is that to install Mint 17 on a Windows 8 PC with Secure Boot, you'll need to turn Secure Boot off. Since I find Secure Boot much more of an annoyance than a benefit this doesn't bother me in the least.

For its default programs, Mint sticks with its tried-and-true formula of LibreOffice 4.2 for its office suite; Firefox 28 for its Web browser; Thunderbird 24.4 for its e-mail; and Pidgin 2.10 for instant messaging. Personally, I prefer Chrome for my Web browser and Evolution for e-mail. Mint makes it easy to mix and match my software of choice to its distribution.

Indeed, in a related development, this new version of Mint makes both updating the system, your installed software, and your drivers much easier. For example, besides simply having a better display with more information, Update Manger now tracks all your system's upgrades no matter how they were made: Update Manager, apt-get, aptitude, gdebi or dpkg, whatever you use — it now records what you've changed.

The operating system and Cinnamon paired together have had many minor improvements. For instance, previous versions of Cinnamon came with a hard-coded list of system tray icons to hide. This list is now gone and Cinnamon now dynamically shows relevant system tray icons when applets are removed, or to dynamically hide them when applets are added.

Expert users will also appreciate that hot corners, settings to make use of the display's four corners, have now been made easy to customize.

Put it all together and you have a very fast, very secure, and very smooth and easy to use desktop. While other operating systems lately seem to be determined to make things harder for users—and no, I'm not just talking about Microsoft and Windows—Mint's developers keep improving an already superb desktop experiences.

You don't have to take my word for it. Download and install it for yourself and you'll see what I mean.

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Topics: Enterprise Software, Linux, Open Source

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  • Secure Boot

    It is ABSOLUTELY NOT necessary to disable UEFI Secure Boot to install Linux Mint 17. Both the Live USB image and the installed system are Secure Boot compatible, and both work with absolutely no problem.

    It would be a lot better if you actually knew what you are writing about. Or at least actually tried it yourself.

    • I wouldn't be too hard on him

      I did read in a fairly recent Mint blog before the release candidate that it did not support secure boot but that they were working on it, they must have gotten it done the rc & he just missed it
      • Steven is known to hate secure boot

        He probably does turn it off before installing GNU/Linux.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Release Notes for Linux Mint 17 MATE

        Known issues

        EFI support
        If your system is using secureBoot, turn it off.

        Note: Linux Mint 17 places its boot files in /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu to work around this bug.
        • I move from Windows to Ubuntu, from Ubuntu to Mint...

          ... and found Mint as the most user friendly, easy to install, easy to learn, easy to use Linux OS for pc. It's fast, stable, secure and not co-operating with Amazon snuffling your data like Ubuntu. Yes - Mint is the "better Ubuntu".
          • for windows user?

            Can anyone honestly say that if I LOVE Windows, this will appeal to me.
          • No, but I can honestly say...

            That if you LOVE Windows, you have been deluded into thinking that the OS should control what you do, not vice-versa. I've been using Windows since 3.0; it took me about a year to get truly comfortable with Linux, spcifically Mint 13 Maya. Is it the same as Windows? Nope. In some ways it is better, in some ways it's worse. There is less hand-holding with Linux, and thus, more potential for making a system that does exactly what you want. I can further honestlty state that, while I still have Windows 7 on half my computers, if it wasn't for one program that will not work with Linux even with WINE, I would switch over to Linux 100%.

            Make yourself a bootable USB image and check it out; while there are some things that are done differently, I think you would find that enough is similar where the learning curve is more of a gentle hill than a mountain.
            Iman Oldgeek
          • Linux vs Windows

            I am coming into this conversation a little late but I thought I would express my experience with this.

            I am definitely interested in switching away from Windows, so I found a previous article in ZDNet regarding Makulu quite appealing. Not at all experienced with Linux I thought this would be a good transition, so I did as the article recommended and downloaded it to be installed on one of my other, older, laptops.

            I was (am) quite impressed, although there are some initial bugs. One thing that kind of bothered me is that the install indicated that this was some kind of test build. The other is that I am not quite sure how the software gets updated, although there is an application that seems to indicate this. I have tried running this and after quite a lot of chugging it finally aborts.

            Then I read from the Makulu site that there is another version 6 xfce that is ready. Thinking that I need to install this as this might not be a test version I posed questions to the Makulu forums as to what this xfce is, how is it different from mu Mint version and can I update to xfce or do I have to overwrite what I already have? I have had no responses.

            Finally, I read here at ZDNet about Mint 17 is the best out yet, Comes in 2 flavors of Cinnamon and Mint? These are both RC versions? I go to the Mint site and this release candidate is not the stable one. The previous one is?

            So, here is my frustration. I am ready to switch from Windows, but there is just way too much clutter (although I am sure some these as options). Which version or flavor do I pick? What is the pecking order of all these flavors? I have to install RC and then later in order to get the stable version I have to overwrite everything I have already loaded?

            As much as I would like to switch from Windows this is getting way too complicated, especially since I don't understand why there are so many options with Linux.
          • Let me break it down for you

            If you had one version, you'd be happy, right? Kind of like Windows, or Ford Model T's? OK, wait for the new Mint to come out (should be less than a month) and install the Cinnamon version, and be happy for 6 years.

            If, someday, you get curious about other desktops or distros, you can pull your old laptop out of the closet again and play with that until you get a new favorite. I did that, and I'm coming back to Mint.
          • Out of curiosity ..

            I think I will be happy with Mint, but out of curiosity why do you prefer Cinnamon over Meta?
          • The most common mistake...

            My feeling is that the most common mistakes made by new users of Linux is to use the newest, least tried and true, distribution. Yeah, someone pitches it as the greatest new thing since sliced bread but new doesn't mean lots of users who support the newbies on a forum or IRC chat.

            Choose instead one of the distributions with strong user groups and a real history of strong support and development. Maybe steer clear of Fedora the distribution of my choice but also the distro of bleeding edge reputation. Maybe be suspicious of Ubuntu which has gone off the main line with a desktop manager no one else uses. Go for Mint or for some other highly regarded, well-supported distribution that is refined before release.

            It's simple. You wouldn't buy a new car from a company that was established 3 months ago. Don't go with a voice crying in the wilderness--go with a distro that is established, has a reputation of working and "just working." A distro that has myriad satisfied users who support the distro to new users.
            D Soup
          • linux vs windows

            If you are that inept, please stay with windows so we are not subjected to these kinds of posts anymore. Seriously, some of the stuff I read here is asinine.
          • Be nice.

            This person is asking a simple question. Are you still using RedHat? Those days are over.
          • running windows within linux mint

            Have you tried to run your window's os in anything other than wine? I, like you, have programs that I use that only run on windows. I need these programs for my business. I found to be a great solution. It allows me to run windows 7 in a VM and runs all my programs flawlessly. I think the only way to truly take advantage of what linux mint has to offer and run windows is to run it through robolinux for mint.
          • Plus it doesn't have the vile name "Ubuntu"

            Now if Mint could just get rid of every "Ubuntu" label still associated with it...
    • Whoa...

      I enjoy both of your blogs - lets not fall out on a small detail!

      Last time I used linux mint, I felt like it was making too many efforts to appease windows->linux converts (much like pclinuxos). Am I simply wrong about this? Is the Win95 paradigm really the best? I really liked gnome 2 and the crunchbang style. I think in theory unity would be the best style for taskbar placement, but I just can't get on with it's details.
      duncan j murray
      • It is not about "best" or something else

        For me it is about familiarity for the people I am trying to help. Most are in their middle to late 70's. The ONLY reason they have a computer is because their children bought them one as retirement gift and it just happened to be a WIN XP machine. Then the kids or grand kids set them up on email and later Facebook to keep the family connected. Along the way they found they could do a few other things but they are not and never were power users.
        They just want it to come on and be able to go to their favorite web places.
        • it is wrong to setup noobs with linux desktops today

          When you can set them up with a sub $100 android tablet that gets the cloud computing done quicker, easier and cheaper, in more ways and more places.
          Shackling noobs with a linux desktop is cruelty when noob friendly OS like Android is easily obtainable.
          There is no distro of Linux that is dead easy and foolproof no matter what linux fans will tell you.
          Certainly, nowhere near as easy as Android for complete noobs.
          As for upgrading XP, why bother. Just clean up XP and be done with it if they MUST use that old machine. Upgrading to Mint has more problems than just cleaning up XP.
          • EPIC Bad Advice

            "Just clean up XP and be done with it"

            Terrible, terrible advice. Windows XP has passed end-of life, and will no longer be patched for security issues. And new security issues are constantly being discovered, and will receive even more focus now that an exploit will remain open indefinitely.

            So "Just clean up and be done with it" means "Just let botnet operators steal all of your parents data and then use their machine for DDOS attacks, bitcoin cracks, and spam, rendering it slower than molasses in January".

            What did they ever do to you to deserve such abuse?

            XP is dead, Jim. Get over it and move on!
          • XP will still get patches

            Just not automatically thru windows update without a registry mod.
            Follow a few security measures and modifications and XP can be fairly secure.