Linux Mint: A better Ubuntu

Linux Mint, while relatively new, has gained a lot of fans from the linux community, and is now the third most popular on DistroWatch, slowly crunching on openSUSE lead. It brings something a lot of distro have tried: simplicity, functionality, and of course looks. Let’s see what makes Linux Mint fresh and if it’s worth switching from Ubuntu.

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Launched about 2 years ago,

It’s one of the most community driven distributions. You could literally post an idea in the forums today and see it implemented the week after in the “current” release. Of course this has pros and cons and compared to distributions with roadmaps, feature boards and fixed release cycles we miss a lot of structure and potentially a lot of quality, but it allows us to react quickly, implement more innovations and make the whole experience for us and for the users extremely exciting. –Linux Mint Team

I’m your father, Linux Mint!

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While ignoring the reference to Star Wars, Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu 8.04 LTS (Hardy Heron), which guarantees  long term-support, APT package manager with the huge library and the best hardware compatibility so far.

Linux Mint benefits from the huge Ubuntu community, forums, websites; almost all tutorials written for Ubuntu work with Linux Mint.

Installation

Getting Linux Mint is fairly easy process: hit the download link, burn the .iso image and boot from the CD. You’re greeted with a fully functional desktop and a choice to install it – the same Ubuntu wizard we’re used to.

There’s no noticeable difference in boot-up time or install time, considering you’re getting a lot of extras from the start.

What’s new?

Booting up Linux Mint is like Christmas morning, and it’s not just eye candy either. There’s no need to manually install ubunru-restricted-extras to bring in those essential packages.

Screenshot-mintInstall Screenshot-EnvyNG Screenshot-mintBackup Screenshot-mintDesktop

  • Out of the box support for media playback, everything from .xvid to .avi, mp3 and flac. Default player: Rhythmbox, MPlayer.
  • Easy wizard for installing proprietary ATI/nVidia drivers, with some additional options not included in the default Hardware Drivers app. Default player: MPlayer.
  • Sun Java and Adobe Flash support out of the box.
  • Drops the Ekiga package and adds an IRC client.
  • Compiz Settings Manager: Allows advanced configuration options to the compositioning engine.
  • Mint Update: An application specifically written from Linux Mint that allows users to install updates while providing a safety-level indicator, allowing un-experienced users to skip updates that may need further configuration or are not compatible with Mint.
  • Mint Desktop: A configuration tool for various settings regarding the desktop. Makes useful stuff like hiding the mounted devices a one click affair.
  • Mint Assistant: A first-time configuration tool that let’s you choose to enable the root password and terminal quotes.
  • Mint Install: Allows installation of new applications from a simple 3 tab interface: .mint, getdeb.net and the APT repository. Useful for newbies, and definitely faster than loading Synaptic Package Manager.

Mint Backup: Easy wizard for setting up a backup.

Screenshot-mintUpdate Screenshot-Appearance Preferences

User interface

From freedom, comes elegance.                              -Linux Mint motto

Initially skeptical about the elegance part, once it booted-up I was in love. The attention given to every aspect of the interface is unbelievable. From the GRUB boot logo to the login, and desktop, everything  inspires elegance. Even the start-up sound is nice – the first time I didn’t disable it.

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The main menu resembles KDEs’ implementation – which initially made me wonder if this is Gnome.

Linux Mint’s purpose is to produce an elegant, up to date and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution.   -Linux Mint Team

Caveats

No operating system is perfect, and Linux Mint is no exception.

  • Not up-to-date with with the latest improvements in Ubuntu – 8.10 features like the new Network Manager are not yet implemented.
  • Doesn’t have the commercial backing of a corporation like Canonical or Novell.
  • The release schedule fluctuates. New features might be just around the corner or not implemented at all.
  • Google Custom Search instead of Google in Firefox. Can be fixed with ‘Add to search bar’ addon.

Conclusion

A lot of people may argue that the changes in Linux Mint are not that innovative or new. Some people will argue that you could spend a couple of hours and mod the Gnome panel to resemble Mints’. You can install all the Mint apps for Ubuntu. You can install ubuntu-restricted-extras  by yourself.

But that takes time – and why waste that when you can have everything you need out of the box? Linux Mint convinced me, and now has its own partition.

Visit Linux Mint website.

What about you? Are you happy with Ubuntu as it is? Share in the comments.

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39 comments
  1. I used Linux now for years….so when Ubuntu came into the “spotlight” I was happy that there was a “friendly distro” (because coming home from work after compiling all day…you don’t want to compile on you desktop!).

    I liked it but felt that it wasn’t “there” yet.. There was still things that I needed to customize and install.

    Then I tried Mint…

    Mint is the perfect example how someone took something that was already good…and made it better! This quote comes to mind…

    “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”
    – Henry John Heinz

    Mint is a perfect example of how someone can improve on improvement!

  2. Wow, great comment custangro, thanks for your insight! I feel the same way! :-)

  3. I’m testing Ubuntu 8.10 to see how it compares to Leopard. So far it looks very good! I’m defintely trying Mint!

  4. Zelleie said:

    I’ve been using Mint for a while now and couldn’t be happier :) It’s a nice looking, well put together Distro.

  5. Daeng Bo said:

    I’m not a Mint user, but I’ve taken to installing it for friends who want some help with their computers.

    The bonuses for them include:
    ==========================
    Windows-like desktop and no real confusion about where things are
    Good choice of default applications so they don’t need to install much
    Everything works out of the box, including Java and Flash
    Web-based application installation if they DO need to install something

    The pros for me are:
    ====================
    Short setup time so that I don’t have to tweak anything
    I’ve used Debian and Ubuntu for years, so the administration is easy.
    It doesn’t fork the Ubuntu packages and uses official repositories so that I can count on security upgrades.

    Mint’s weaknesses:
    ===================
    The package installation system is really confusing. There are Mint packages. There are Ubuntu .debs. There is a search for GetDeb. There is the web system. The first three ways are in a tabbed application interface. It’s utterly inscrutable,
    It uses Pidgin instead of an IM client which supports video chat. Most of my Mint users are heavily into chat and need voice/video.

  6. Due to the high traffic the site was down momentarily. We’re discussing with Bluehost.

  7. Coy said:

    Can we also request a copy (like ubuntu) for Linux Mint?

    I would appreciate it if they also gave this out for free. Just one is enough.

  8. OK, so yeah I can make my ubuntu desktop look like mint in a couple of hours. But you pose a great question: why? Well, there is no reason why–if you’re about the looks, just download and run mint. However, the big kicker for me is that it’s not the most up-to-date release of ubuntu. Half of the excitement is getting the latest and greatest. It may take me two hours to customize and install everything to look like mint, but it could take months to get everything working like the latest ubuntu.

  9. @Coy: There is no Shipit-like service unfortunately.
    @Oktober Five: I mostly agree with you; however I installed 8.10 before Mint and I really couldn’t see a major feature that I absolutely needed. I can wait a couple of months for the next release of Mint.

  10. Linux Mint has been around since Dapper Drake (6.06) that over 2 yrs. I’ve loved every minute of Mint. I’m with October Five on Ubuntu being the main distro of choice. I think to have the latest you have to be even more into it and roll your own LFS.

  11. David W said:

    Thanks for the article. Can Install WebCam using Windows Driver in Mint? Mint Elegant OS … I like it.

  12. Jimbo said:

    To all those saying it is not as up to date as Ubuntu… Geez! Ubuntu 8.10 is only 11 days old. Do you expect them to have a derivative distro out within days of the thing its based off? Seriously.

    Mint usually brings out a new version a month after Ubuntu, that is really not that long to wait, and ensures a smooth transition.

  13. Bill Goldberg said:

    The last few lines of the article are a bit overkill.

    “Some people will argue that you could spend a couple of hours and mod the Gnome panel to resemble Mints’.”

    Make that a 1 minute download and install.

    Mint is a nice distro for beginners or people who don’t want to put much time into their OS.

    I prefer Ubuntu, I tweak it to perfection.

  14. Looks like 8.10 Ubuntu is better… at least to me. I mean, Mint looks fine and all… but seems to be just Ubuntu with a theme pack.

  15. Tom Tootle said:

    I started using Mint Linux a couple of months ago. Previously used Mandrake, Mandriva, SUSE, openSUSE, Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu. All these have strengths. Mint is very easy to install and use. I’m still sorting out Ubuntu/Mint in terms of Samba, Wine and NFS file sharing. Meaning I know openSUSE better and can use them there but still learning it under Ubuntu’s wings. Mint is so good I don’t know how Windows can charge $199 for Ultimate. You can get all the functionality for free with Mint and it is easier and quicker to set up. And the advantages of stability, security? I highly recommend Mint Linux particularly to those that want to try a Linux distribution for the first time, or if you just want an easy, fast system.

  16. RK Veluvali said:

    I have been using linux from years together and tried various distributions till now. I started with Caldera linux and used various distributions including the Mint’s father Ubuntu. But none of them appealeed me and all they were lacking some thing or the other…. But MintLinux rocks….
    I absolutely fdind this distro as the coolest with awesome performance and an easy to use interface. And installing apps on this is a real fun. If you are connected to the internet, connect to MintLinux’s site, click on the type of Mint on your PC, then you have a lot of choices and softwares to install…. All you need is just a click away….click and, sit back and relax, the Mint will take care from downloading the packages till installing them and gives you a prompt once everything is setup….
    Finally I could say… Mint simply ROCKS….

  17. Mark said:

    I have been using Mint ever since the Bea release, and it is excellent. Don’t forget one of the main advantages – lots of codecs installed by default. For example, if you insert a DVD it will just magically play.

  18. Jon said:

    Goodness me, typing “sudo apt-get install ubuntu-restricted-extras” takes me all of 5 seconds…. Better switch variants!

  19. Alec said:

    I have been using mint since version two. At that time, people were calling it “Ubuntu with Automatix pre installed.” To be fair, it was not much more than that. However it provided those features in a manner that would not break the system’s built in update feature. That alone was enough for me to give it a spin.
    Since then, Mint has continued to improve and add innovations that set it apart from Ubuntu. Often yes they are simple adjustments that you could do yourself, but why should you need to. Some of the simple features such grading your updates so that you are less likely to break your system, or right click access to a folder as root. Oh, and yeah, the codecs work out of the box…
    I personally am quite happy with the direction that mint is going, and regularly offer it as an option to users

  20. Pebbles said:

    I switched to Ubuntu from windows about 1 year ago, linux is my OS of choice now, I’ve played with linux for years before that but always used WinXP as my desktop OS.

    the only thing I want from Mint is the Menu system, the rest can stay, there are certain things that are broken in Mint that “leave a bad taste in my mouth”, otherwise it’s a very useable variant and very capable. I love the menu system, and it’s nice that codecs and java and stuff are there without me having to install manually, but you know, the ubuntu community maintains very good docs on how to get this stuff up and running pretty quickly.

  21. anticapitalista said:

    While Mint is an excellent distro, why not have a look at MEPIS, especially for those that prefer KDE.
    MEPIS has been around longer than Mint, in fact longer than Ubuntu and was one of the first (if not the first) new user to linux friendly distro.
    MEPIS doesn’t get much publicity, but it really is a great distro for linux noobs and gurus.

  22. @anticapitalista: Thanks, I’m going to review Mepis next.

  23. yamawho said:

    I have been using Mint since version 4.
    I switched to ubuntu 8.04 when it came out and stayed with it until Mint released Mint 5 XFCE which is what I use today. I noticed Mint 6 RC1 is on Distrowatch so a final should be released soon. Mint also has KDE XFCE and Fluxbox edtions.

  24. Philosopher said:

    Sorry, but I couldn’t let this snarky put down stand after reading it.

    “and why waste that when you can have everything you need out of the box?”

    Seriously? Did you think about that before writing it? By that logic, why waste the hour or so downloading the distro? Why waste the time burning and installing? Why even bother with Linux at all? Everything most people (at least a sizeable chunk of the population has decided so) need out of the box is an pre-installed windows PC (usually with office and a dvd player) you can buy off the shelf and run in 5 minutes(or even better from Apple, shudder). So, seriously, think before you go saying comments like that.

    As Hyneman from Mythbusters would say, “Think then act, not act then think.”

    And just to clarify, I am a happy 5 year Linux user. And Windows (lifetime). Not Apple though. I’m no apologist for Windows or Linux. Both have huge flaws that need correcting.

    As to the actual content of your article, I find this whole “lets simplify the move to Linux” thing a bit silly. Yes, it’s convenient that most of this stuff comes out of the box. That doesn’t mean more people will use it. If I’ve seen anything in my lifetime it’s that the majority of the western population (can only really account for America and Canada) is dead stupid when it comes to computers, a good majority I don’t even know how to burn the ISO for the distro without some outside guidance. They certainly couldn’t install any distro or keep it running after. The initial set up for mint might be easy, but how long till a problem eventually comes up? It will inevitably, and once they reach their frustration threshold they’ll call tech support for the OEM and be walked through reinstalling windows.

    I’m not saying making linux is easier is a bad thing. I just don’t think it’s the factor that will get linux mainstream or used by more of the population. The biggest hurdle to over come is three fold, the general ignorance of the populace, their apathy combined with “it works well enough” syndrome (i.e. inertia), and business interests seeing no profit in free software. Might also add a general saturation of the tech market especially desktops to that list as well.

    That’s my rant for the day, take it or leave it. My second point needs much more thorough developing but I don’t have time to go into it. Adieu.

    • WindowsNoMore said:

      Wow, what a narrow viewpoint for one called "philosopher". I work for an IT firm as their Account Manager working with clients needs. The 2 reason people do not switch to Linux is (A) Marketing of the product, and (B) Comfort in what is "familiar". Linux does not have the obvious marketing power and advantages of Windows and Apple. I personally see the increase in Linux marketing and thus the increase in Linux usage over the years. They go hand-in-hand. It's not a bad thing that people are ignorant regarding availability of software, that is why they hire companies such as our to introduce creative solutions to their IT needs. Do you know brain surgery? Do brain surgeons mock your ineptness in their field? C'mon, be reasonable when you make such a statement of being "dead stupid". My last point is, yes, people cling to the familiar, what is comfortable to them. Linux, by attempting to bridge that gap, is not "silly" it is a great thing! I speak from personal experience and the clients I work for that there is a slow perceptible growth in Linux use because it is being made more Linux friendly. I also use Ubuntu, though I have tried Mint and like it. Ubuntu was my stepping stone into Linux and any distro that achieves that end is a good thing!

  25. Ghost_BOFH said:

    Well, just FYI, there’s a reason why Ubuntu doesn’t do all those nifty things right off the bat. It’s because to do so, makes it a proprietary OS, not a 100% open one.

    Add to that the fact that it’s technically illegal to use the mp3 and dvd decoders in most countries, and you have a distribution that breaks several laws without the user being aware of it.

    Hence the reason this is a nifty version of Ubuntu – provided you’re either A) In some strange part of the world where those laws don’t apply to you, or B) don’t care.

    Cheers,
    Ghost_BOFH

  26. thesandstrom said:

    Ghost_BOFH, are you by any chance American? These laws apply to an absolute MINORITY of the people in the world. Unless you are counting Europe and Australia as strange places not worth mentioning? ;)

  27. James Cain said:

    @Ghost_BOFH I’m glad to hear you care so passionately about international laws. Linux Mint rocks. And if you actually took the time to read about Linux Mint and the comments from its lead developer, Clem, you’d know that this is really no big deal.

    Seriously, how many people out there running Ubuntu are doing so without adding one restricted element from the repos or from a 3rd party site?

    From the lead Mint developer Clem: http://tinyurl.com/54ufwl

    Makes sense to me.

  28. Philipe said:

    On my Tecra 8200 old laptop, Mint, like Ubuntu and everyone except Mepis 6.5, doesnt recognize my screen.

  29. Thring said:

    Im not sure but isnt the point of difference at present the fact that Ubuntu can be updated to a new version via normal update while new versions of Mint have to be a clean install? which is why I use Ubuntu notwithstanding the "out of the box" features of Mint are appealing for newbies.

  30. rob enderle said:

    I still think PCLinuxOS is the best derivative distro out there.
    Maybe its my allergy to Gnome or Mono or the fact that their underlying mentality is 'we know better than the use how they want to mod their desktop' but I found the changes made to be cosmetic and minimal.

    Its 'nice' though and god know we've learned that people are willing to overpay for something that looks nice.

  31. rob enderle said:

    >Hence the reason this is a nifty version of Ubuntu – provided you're either A) In some strange part of >the world where those laws don't apply to you

    Spoken like a true twit who thinks anywhere outside the US is 'strange'.

    Leave your mom's basement once in a while….

  32. totalcapitalista said:

    Hear, hear…I cut my Linux teeth on a Mepis distro.

  33. Endless Linux said:

    I thought Mint was great. I had been using Ubuntu from 7.04 till 8.04 and Fedora 8 in between. And I still like Mint's simplicity and elegance.

  34. Hooty said:

    Great review. Felicia still has Flash video issues that are annoying as hell though. These issues were bad enough to force me back to Ubuntu.

  35. SoggyDoggy said:

    @Hooty. I found that all the flash content I've tried works perfect for me out of the box. Whereas with Ubuntu I did have problems (possibly due to the way I installed flash.. who knows). I think flash can be a bit odd depending on how it is installed/compiled :-) That's why I like Mint – it's done for me!

    Mint is a great distro to stick on a partition as a failsafe. I know when I've been messing around on a second partition with a new distro and have torn most of my hair out trying to get something like sound drivers to work, or flash/java, it is nice to just switch back to mint for a while – where everything 'just works' and relax! Then once I'm feeling brave enough to venture back into the frustrating (but rewarding) world of a more manual distro, I can do happily.

    For those bashing Mint due to being easier to use out of the box, you need to open your eyes to newer users – who want to dip their feet in the Linux water and not drown. Mint is the perfect distro to start on, hopefully then developing a taste for Linux and furthering their penguin escapades.

    I thank Mint for lowering my blood pressure in between technical gremlins <3

  36. shivkumar said:

    Mint is really awesome! i just tried a year back, nut not that much impressed that time. Now i checked out new mint version and its cool. !

  37. Linux noob said:

    I tried Linux Mint Fluxbox CE.. and I am a long time Windows user and developer.
    When I decided to find a Windows alternative.. I gave Ubuntu and Linux Mint a try!
    The best out of box experience comes from Mint. I'd recommend anyone who wants to try linux out to give Mint a go. Its simple and just brilliant.

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