Linux Mint 11 was justed released on May 26th, and has been awarded the Best Distro for your Desktop for 2011 by TechRadar.com . I really hadn't taken a look at Mint, being very satisfied with Ubuntu, until this latest release.
In previous posts, I've talked about the new release of Ubuntu 11.04, Natty Narwhal, more specifically about the Unity desktop. The latest release of Ubuntu featured the new Unity desktop, which to me, was not ready for prime time. I've reviewed the new desktop, and posted another article on how to go back to the Gnome 2 interface, if you didn't like the Unity desktop. The Unity desktop provided a launcher and something called the Dash to speed application launches. However, I found this cumbersome, and not as quick as the much better Gnome-Do. Unity blocked the Gnome-Do hot key, and I posted an article about how to get Gnome-Do up with the Unity desktop.
I am here to admit in the course of going back and forth between Unity, Gnome 2, and Gnome-Do, in the course of writing these articles, I hosed my video driver and was not able to load Gnome 2, and was stuck with the Unity desktop. I decided to reload Natty Narwhal.
As you know, it's nice to have a CD of the operating system, thus enabling you to load the operating system from the CD if your system messes up. I didn't have a CD of Natty Narwhal, nor of the long term support 10.04 version of Ubuntu. As long as I was making a CD of one, I might as well get both. I also decided to make a CD of the new Mint version, in case Natty Narwhal messed up again, and I wanted to switch distros. It's just as easy to make three CD's as one, since all require the same steps to make the CD.
I downloaded all three iso files. ISO files are just disc images, and need to be translated into files your computer can read. I loaded my ISO to CD burner program, which for Windows is called ISO Recorder. The program takes an ISO file, and sets up the CD with files so you can load the CD on your computer.
So here I am with a messed up Natty Narwhal, and I decided to take a look at Mint. I put the CD into the drive and booted from the CD. It looked nice. My immediate impressions were it was very close to the Windows interface with the minimize, maximize, and close icons on the right hand side, as opposed to Ubuntu's left hand side. I decided to install it.
Mint has a good installer that walks you through the process. You will need 3.7Gb of disk space. The first time through the process, the installer took 26 minutes, the second time, it took 20 minutes.
Choices for the installer, were your language, your time zone, your keyboard layout, your user name and password. The main choice was how to install. You can install next to Ubuntu's Natty Narwhal, and use a dual boot to choose Mint. I do not like dual booting. I prefer to turn the computer on and go. So that choice was out for me.
The next choice was upgrade Ubuntu 11.04 to Mint. Mint is built on top of Ubuntu. This would allow me to keep my preferences and data currently on my system. I chose this one initially, not knowing I had a video driver problem, and thinking my problem was in the Gnome 2 files. I thought that reloading would fix the problem. Mint loaded smoothly, but at the very end it told me it had an installer error which caused me problems when my system came up.
I restarted the CD and choose my next choice. Erase 11.04 and install Mint. I already had my data backed up so I was ok with starting fresh. This erases everything on the drive, in the process of partitioning, formating, and mounting the hard drive. You end up with a clean installation of Mint. This install took 20 minutes and went without a problem.
There was one other choice in the installer entitled, "Somthing else." I was amused, and clicked on it. What came up was the partition manager, showing my current partitions, and asking me how I would like to repartition my drive. None of these choices were one way, they all had back buttons if you changed your mind. I was impressed, Mint did a nice job with their installer.
Alright, Mint is loaded. First impression. When you turn the computer on with Ubuntu, you get about a 30 second black screen where it seems like nothing is happening before the login screen loads. At first, I thougt something was wrong with Mint, because instead of the 30-sec black screen, I got a screen with random, colored, horizontal lines. It looked weird, like something was wrong, but there was nothing wrong, and the login screen started without a hitch.
One of the problems with starting completely over is you have to reconfigure and load the software programs again. This takes time. I tend to do it gradually as I need new programs.
First impression of Mint, it looks more like Windows than Ubuntu. Everything starts from the Menu button on the bottom left bar, like the Windows start button. Ubuntu has a separate menu on the upper right for shutdown, Mint does it from the Menu button. Inside that menu you can have a favorites or all application show up. The top picture in this post show the favorites and the bottom picture the all applications. You can easily toggle between the two.
As far as different from Ubuntu, Empathy the default Ubuntu email client is not there, instead Thunderbird is loaded, which I like better. One thing I missed that was installed from scratch with Ubuntu Gnome was worksapces, usually in the lower right status bar. Workspaces are not there initially. To get them, right click on the task bar, select "add to panels" and scroll down and select "Workspace Switcher," and your back to your the Workspaces you had in Ubuntu. Mint has panels, or toolbars, that you can use for a launcher, for example. You add a panel by right clicking in one of the toolbars, and picking "Add a Panel." You then add icons, like Firefox, to the panel as your program launcher. Although I have to admit, one of the first applications I loaded with the Mint Software Manager was Gnome-Do. Panels can be placed along the edges.
That's about it for now. Mint seems like a very nice distro. I'll let you know more as I load software and get more use to its interface, which is different than Ubuntu Unity and Ubuntu Gnome, but not that different.
Here's a final shot of Mint after I've loaded a new desktop picture, turned on the Workspace panels, added a panel up top for my quick launch buttons for gEdit and Firefox, dragged the gEdit icon to my workspace, and clicked the bottom lower menu so you can see how the menu is laid out. I'm writing this article in Mint with gEdit, and it's shown on the bottom panel. I'd say it's starting to look like home.