Linux Mint 13 Xfce released: Installation tour

Not just a refuge for those disillusioned with Gnome and KDE, the Linux Mint 13 Xfce distribution stands on its own merits
Topic: Linux
1 of 8 J.A. Watson/ZDNet

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.

2 of 8 J.A. Watson/ZDNet

Update Manager

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.

3 of 8 J.A. Watson/ZDNet

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. 

4 of 8 J.A. Watson/ZDNet

Panel control menu

Right-click on the Panel to get to the Panel Preferencesmenu.

That will bring up the Panel control window, where I select the automatic show/hide option.

There are other options here for size and positioning of the Panel, but my next interest is the Items tab, where I can add to the contents of the Panel. I like to have a Weather icon and a Logout/Shutdown control on the Panel.

Obviously there are quite a few other items which can be added to the Xfce Panel.

5 of 8 J.A. Watson/ZDNet


If you prefer to have either Panel launchers or desktop icons, the menu is a convenient place to set them up. Simply click and drag an item from the menu, and drop it where you want it. If you drop it on the Panel, you will get a dialog to confirm creation of the new Launcher.

If you drop it on the desktop, the icon will be created without further confirmation.

6 of 8 J.A. Watson/ZDNet

Media player assortment

Linux Mint is well known for including media players and codecs that are optional in Ubuntu (which it is based on) and the Xfce version is no exception.

Under the Multimedia menu you will find Banshee, the GNOME Mplayer, the Totem Movie Player and the VLC media player. That has to be considered a good assortment in anyone's book!

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Graphics menu

On the Graphics menu are the image processing applications and utilities. Here again Linux Mint includes a popular program — GIMP— which has been dropped from the Ubuntu distribution.

It also has gThumb for photo viewing, browsing and simple organisation, but if you are serious about photo management you will probably want to go to the Mint Software Manager and install one of the more advanced programs there.

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Office menu

The last of the application menus is Office, where they have the Libre Office suite, including the Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw and Base programs. This is, once again, a major difference from most other Xfce distributions, which usually include some of the more limited text and spreadsheet programs, and often do not have presentation or database programs at all.

So that is an overview of some of the highlights of the Mint 13 Xfce release. It's probably also worthwhile to include some details about what versions of various things are included. These are, of course, after all the current updates have been installed:

  • Linux Kernel 3.2.0
  • Xfce 4.10
  • X.org X Server 1.11.3
  • Firefox 14.0
  • LibreOffice 3.5.3
  • GIMP 2.6.12

I have installed this release on all of my laptops and netbooks, and I didn't have a single problem. That includes everything from the Intel and AMD CPUs (including CPU speed control), all the way down to the Bluetooth adapters — it all just works.

I didn't have to do anything special to find or install drivers, or compile drivers, or (as one of the more bizarre comments recently implied) compile the kernel. If you are still under the impression that sort of thing is necessary with Linux, you might want to take a fresh look, and get over your five- or 10-year-old misconception.

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