The next version of Mint has been released, Mint 12, codenamed Lisa. Mint code names are always female names ending in "a" with the version number determining the starting letter of the code name. L is the 12th letter of the alphabet, so "Lisa" it is.
You can download the new version of Mint, but it is not trivial. I downloaded the full DVD version which clocks in at a mere 1 Gb. The download took about 3.5 hours even with my fast Internet connection. I suspect the problem was the large number of people downloading from the site, since it was the first day Lisa was available for download. You can download a CD fitting version which is smaller, but you will then have to download additional codec's after you get the new version installed. If you don't want to spend the time to download the iso image and burn a DVD, I recommend you buy the DVD from Mint for $15, which will support Mint development.
I checked the downloads checksum value by running "md5sum linuxmint-12-gnome-dvd-32bit.iso," from the terminal window, checked this with the checksum on the Mint web site, ee3d6e2ca498bc7685b7f17cdb5f2eea, and got a match, all set. I'd hate to cut the DVD and encounter problems later, caused by trouble with the download. Those problems would be tough to find. Better to check the checksum and have peace of mind.
Mint 11 comes with a nice DVD burner program, Brasero, which burned the downloaded ISO image to a DVD in about 10 minutes. I'm ready to do the upgrade to Mint 12. Time to reboot the computer, and say goodbye to Mint 11.
I loaded the DVD into my drive and rebooted. Mint 12 came up from the DVD in about 3 minutes. The new interface is not that far off of the Mint 11 and Gnome 2. I did notice my home folders now have icons on them, and there are more icons in the Menu with a slightly different layout.
On the desktop is the icon to load Mint 12 on the hard drive. Clicked the icon...everything worked fine, except, ALL STOP! You are presented with three choices to load Mint 12: Choice 1: Load Mint 12 next to Mint 11 and retain all your Mint 11 data. This means you have a dual boot. On each boot up you can pick Mint 11 with your old data, or Mint 12 with new data. Choice 2: Blow away all your data, blow away Mint 11, and replace it with Mint 12. Choice 3: Repartition your disk to something else. I didn't like any of those choices. I choose to remove the Mint 12 disk, get out my trusty Lexar 16 Gb Firefly (my favorite USB jump drive), and save my data.
Back to the installation, Mint 12 requires an Internet connection and 5.6 Gb to load. I clicked on the install button on the desktop and decided on Choice 2 above. It takes about 15 minutes to install depending on your hardware. There are no more difficult choices and everything runs smoothly. Once you remove the DVD and reboot, the operating system loads in about 2 minutes. Welcome to Linux Mint 12.
On the upper right task bar you may find an icon on the left end to install additional drivers. I needed to install a Mint tested Nvidia driver for 3d graphics. Next to that is a shield icon, which is the update manager, click on this and install the latest updates. The driver and software updates take another 15 minutes to load. Your all finished.
Things I notice different are the icons on the left in the lower right menu for your most frequently used applications, see the first picture. The menu system is fast and responsive.
There is an infinity icon in the upper left task bar, click on this and your open desktop applications show up. If you click on an application window, you expand to that screen. The infinity icon is on all screens, this then is a fast context switcher between the windows of your open applications.
In the infinity view there are two menu choices, the default is windows, if you click on the applications menu in the upper right, all your application icons appear. In the applications view you can pick a category in the right sub menu, and the icons are filtered to just show that category. This reminds me of the Ubuntu Unity Dash, but I like the look of this Gnome 3 interface better. I wonder which came first Gnome 3 or the Unity Dash with right menus? Since the right menus appeared in Unity in the second release, I give a nod to Gnome 3.
Another thing new is if you bring up your browser, you'll find duck-duck-go as your new default search engine. This allows Mint to share in search revenues. Duck-duck-go is a different type of search engine. You can read about it here, and there is an illustrated guide to duck-duck-go here.
The new MSGE interface that Mint has designed is a pleasant mix between Gnome 2 and Gnome 3 and allows users to gradually get use to the Gnome 3 interface. This is really Gnome 3, but with the Gnome 2 application menu, bottom panel, window list, task-centric desktop, and visible system tray icons. If you want, you can gradually turn off Gnome 2 features and end up with a complete Gnome 3 desktop as you get used to Gnome 3.
To shut down and turn off your computer, like in Gnome 2, you click your name in the upper right task bar, and click "Shut Down." You also have a choice to restart from the "Shut Down" menu. System settings are also configured from this upper right menu.
The developers at Mint are to be commended for the way they had the interest of Gnome 2 users in mind when designing the MSGE desktop. They could have taken the easy way out and just moved to Gnome 3 like everyone else has had to do.
This is a responsive, beautiful desktop. Yes, it is a nicer interface than the Unity desktop. So far, I like what I see. I highly encourage you to back up your data, and update to Lisa. You'll love her just as much as Katya, if not more.