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Feature: Linux Mint

Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

By Jeremy LaCroix on November 09, 2007 (9:00:00 AM)

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Linux Mint is a derivative distribution of Ubuntu. Its purpose, according to its Web site, "is to produce an elegant, up-to-date, and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution." Unfortunately, it falls short in at least one of those areas, and suffers from several other disappointing shortcomings.

Mint comes in two primary editions: a main edition, which includes proprietary codecs and plugins, and a light edition, which does not. Like Ubuntu, both versions use GNOME as the user interface, though there are other versions of Mint available which include Xfce and KDE.

I installed the main edition of Mint on my test machine, a system that includes an AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ processor, 2GB of RAM, and an Nvidia 7300GT video card. No 64-bit version is available, so I was forced to use the 32-bit version instead.

Mint, like Ubuntu, is released as a live CD with a graphical installer that you can use as soon as the live environment is finished loading. In fact, the installer is the same one that Ubuntu uses, with the name of the distribution in renamed to Linux Mint where needed. The install process for me took only around 10 minutes.

Mint 3.1, codenamed "Celena," contains a unique theme that comprises a customized boot, splash, GNOME Display Manager, and GTK themes. The boot graphics and GDM are nice, but the default Murrine theme is not on par with the rest of the eye candy. The default theme layout of Mint includes only one panel as opposed to the two panels used by Ubuntu and most other GNOME distributions. In addition, instead of using the default menu bar to display and launch available applications, Mint instead uses the "Mint Menu," which resembles SUSE's Slab menu, with all applications scrollable within a context box rather than all over the screen. I found it to be a refreshing change.

My first mission with Mint was to enable the closed source Nvidia driver in order to enjoy full hardware acceleration on my machine. In Ubuntu, I was accustomed to the Restricted Drivers Manager notifying me that a binary driver was available for my card, but Mint doesn't offer that. I noticed Envy, a script that eases the installation of proprietary Nvidia and ATI drivers, in my programs list, and used it to enable the Nvidia driver. With just a few clicks, Envy downloaded all the necessary software to compile the driver, and installed the latest version of it from Nvidia's site. Following Envy's request to reboot my machine, the driver was in place.

Mint also includes MintUpdate, a customized software update tool. MintUpdate sorts available updates in different levels, and enables only certain levels by default in an attempt to prevent an update from breaking the system. However, if you like, you can opt for the higher-level updates.

Next, I tested the included codecs and plugins by playing several types of media, including videos on CNN and YouTube (Flash), as well as MP3 and OGG files. DVD support is also enabled out of the box and gave me no issues. Each media type I tried worked as expected without the need to configure anything manually. Even though having most if not all types of media enabled out of the box is nice, recent releases of Ubuntu itself make that easier.

Although Mint's boot process takes noticeably longer than Ubuntu's, the overall speed of the system is just as fast, and the system itself is just as stable as you'd expect any distribution of Linux to be. When it comes to performance while playing games, glxgears displayed the same frame rate as I would normally expect from my card, though I didn't find any games installed by default. Since Mint utilizes the same software sources as Ubuntu, however, installing Neverball and Chromium, two of my favorite Linux games, was effortless using APT.

On the downside

Unfortunately my experience with Mint was not without problems. First, while running the install, I clicked on the button to display the release notes, but instead of seeing them, I was taken to the front page of Mint's site.

While previous versions of Mint were available in releases that included Xfce and KDE, the current version is not. If you'd like to use other desktop environments, you have to either use the older version (Mint 3.0 "Cassandra") or use APT to install a different desktop environment.

Upon first booting the machine after the installation finished, you're presented with the Linux Mint Assistant menu, which allows you to choose whether to enable the root account instead of using sudo to run administrative commands. The menu also asks you to choose the default program to handle NTFS/FAT drives, and whether you want to enable Fortune, a program that displays a random quote in terminal windows when they are first opened. While the ability to enable or disable the root account was nice, having options for NTFS mounting and Fortune are unnecessary. Other hard disks on your machine should be mounted without your being prompted, and Fortune is out of place as an installation option. The Assistant menu would be more useful if it included a way of enabling the binary Nvidia driver, since Mint already enables other types of proprietary content by default.

My first login after enabling the closed source Nvidia driver prompted Ubuntu's Restricted Drivers Manager to appear, and pointed to the top of my screen as if I were supposed to click on an icon. Mint, however, uses only the bottom panel, which is where the icon actually was. The Restricted Drivers Manager shouldn't have come up at all, since I didn't use it to install the driver. And while Envy is a good tool to enable proprietary drivers for ATI and Nvidia products, new users might not know how to find it or what it's for.

Mint claims to be an "up-to-date" distribution, but I didn't find that to be the case. While the Nvidia driver that Envy downloaded was the newest available, Mint 3.1 includes GNOME 2.18.1, the GIMP 2.2, Pidgin 2.1.1, and OpenOffice.org 2.2.0, all of which are currently out of date. The current development branch, 4.0 "Daryna," will probably catch up with current software.

The default desktop configuration is also not without shortcomings. At one point I decided to move a file browser window to a second workspace. When it came time for me to access that window, I noticed there wasn't a workspace switcher on the taskbar.

Finally, while Chromium ran just as well as I remember it, Neverball looked great but sounded terrible; it produced an annoying static sound through my speakers. I tried adjusting all of the volume sliders and disabling unneeded sound features from the mixer, but I was not able to get the problem resolved.

Conclusion

Overall, Linux Mint did not perform as well as I expected it to. Mint features great out-of-the-box media support, but the lack of a 64-bit version and various shortcomings throughout have a negative impact on what could be a fantastic release. Mint has great potential, which I hope will be fully realized in future releases.

Jeremy LaCroix is an IT technician who writes in his free time.

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on Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.6.68.51] on November 09, 2007 09:54 AM
Linux Mint was previously featured on Linux.com, for its 2.2 version : http://www.linux.com/articles/60538

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Re: Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.35.107.135] on February 29, 2008 05:32 PM
What babel!!!! With such rapid development as Linux ,how would one go about being so critical of a system that has already been updated with a newer version? And to take such an odd approach as you have taken. I agree, I think you needed filler for what you thought was a good article name!?

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.68.85.104] on November 09, 2007 10:40 AM
Was the purpose of this article just to use a cute title? I saw nothing in the whole article to justify the poor review given. Mint is certainly a step above Ubuntu. I am a KDE user and I do not like Gnome but, I either apt-get KDE or wait for the KDE version. I have found Mint to be a good alternative to Ubuntu and easy to use and pleasing to the eye.

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: pashabear on November 09, 2007 11:04 AM
I think it's unfair to criticize Mint for not being "up-to-date" when you evaluate an older version. As you mentioned, the current development branch ("Darnya") should address these concerns, and it should be out very shortly. As you also noted, Mint is built on Ubuntu, so to expect the latest version of everything immediately after an Ubuntu release is unreasonable. Hope you enjoy the new release of Mint more.

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 82.237.148.57] on November 09, 2007 12:05 PM
A 64-bit version is useless for the moment. The differences between 32 and 64-bit are negligible...

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Re: Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 195.4.207.69] on November 17, 2007 11:41 PM
Totally bullshit.

You've ever tried to run >=4GB RAM on 32bit?

64bit is state-of-art is absolutely nevessary. And there are several other distribution which are already 100% working (including flash, java, wine, etc).
Even Ubuntu 64bit version works like that.

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Re(1): Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 70.168.46.247] on November 23, 2007 09:37 PM
Who gives a shit. What do you need 4GB of RAM for, anyway? To run a memory hog like Vista? VMware? Heavy graphics video games? Not everybody plays video games, ya know...

32bit does just fine for most people. If your not like most people, that's cool, but don't tell everybody it's a "necessity". That's just plain FUD.

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 72.145.79.190] on November 09, 2007 01:55 PM
First of all, I prefer the new Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsty Gibbon but you should understand. This article is late and Celena is based on the last version of Ubuntu (Feisty).

The article wasn't bad but is just seems an unfair comparison.

I would note that for the first time I slightly prefer Gnome. Yet, that doesn't matter.

I also like the fancy Mint menu at first. Now I prefer the stock Ubuntu gnome menu.

You get what was put forth with Mint Celena. 32 bit and codec installed. Some may prefer that.

While for some strange reason we are not supposed to state what we think is the best, I say go for Gusty and add what ever you need to get exactly what you want it to be. It is markedly better than "Edgy" or "Feisty" as they somewhat lived up to their name. Which I did not like one bit. Gusty seems to be taking the world by storm. :) No, nothings perfect. Gusty is the closest "desktop" software system to it. Especially now with the first set of current and free upgrades to it.

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Outdated review makes no sense

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 89.8.23.186] on November 09, 2007 02:49 PM
I am not a Mintuser but this really is pointless. Gnome 2.18 was the latest edition when Mint was released. As the Mintversions are somewhat behind Ubuntu as regards releasedate perhaps the number of bugs or flaws are lower?

Compare latest Mandriva, OpenSuse 10.3, Fedora 8 and Ubuntu 7.10 - you can add Mint when the new version is released.

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.166.43.178] on November 09, 2007 03:15 PM
I seriously have to disagree with you on that. Mint is on a way higher level than any of the other distros I have ever tried. Even more than it's parent, Ubuntu at times. It is better setup for newbies and power users alike. You want multiple virtual desktops; Just right click and add it. You do not like the theme, just select or install another one. There is an appearance menu where you can change all that.
Min is very upto date. Just look at sysnaptic. PS: Mint 3.1 was an older release. Have you looked at the 4.0 beta.. Simply incredible. That is what I use now. It is more bloated than say Zenwalk or vector linux or arch, but as fast as the rest. linux mint 4.0 xfce edition beta is simply wonderful to work with. You can choose to install gnome and kde from it if you choose to..

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 199.80.105.129] on November 09, 2007 03:35 PM
Thanks for the review Jeremy. I use Mint on my home desktop. I believe Darnya will update some of the issues you have with Celena. I actually like Celena the way it is now. Have I added a top panel? Yes, and I also added my gnome favs like Exaile! Also, personally, I like not having games on my machine. I have an AMD 64bit processor but think a 64bit version of Mint is not necessary yet. I think STABILITY is key with Mint. It comes across in the apps choices and decisions (including root account and updating procedure) made by the developers. Yes, some installed software is slightly dated, but it's because it's STABLE. I'm looking forward to Darnya, and thanks again for reviewing my favorite linux distro.

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.248.89.66] on November 09, 2007 04:46 PM
A major point of LinuxMint is to use the precompiled 32 bit binaries, A 64 bit Linuxmint would make little sense to exist. Why do you need 64 bits? You only have 2 gigs of ram, 32 bits is what you need, a 64 bit install is more likely to slow down your machine.

Also complaining that all the packages are not up to date when a new version is getting ready to come out, seem rather pointless and dumb. The point is that LinuxMint comes out with more than 2 version a year in order to keep it up to date. Are you looking for a system the redoes their release every single time a new version of a package hits the street? That makes no sense at all. Gee I guess I should have submitted a Fedora 7 review last week.

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But Linux Mint 3.0 is refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 12.219.197.3] on November 09, 2007 11:07 PM
I've got to say, I'm very happy with 3.0. Not keen on Gnome. I use KDE

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.158.6.210] on November 10, 2007 04:11 AM
I'm currently running the Gnome version of Cassandra 3.0 at a senior citizens centre...and I don't like Gnome all that much, I'm more of a KDE fan. But, at the time the Gnome version of 3.0 was out...and the KDE and XFCE versions came out a little later. But, I found that Linux Mint's implementation of Gnome was sort of "Gnome for folks who don't like Gnome"...I thought it was excellent. I've since installed the XFCE version of Linux Mint on a somewhat older box at home and found it works quite nicely. KDE fan that I am, I still haven't gotten around to testing a KDE version of Linux Mint.

I also agree that it was silly to post this review at this time with the Gnome, KDE and XFCE versions of Linux Mint 4.0 just about ready to released. It's pretty obvious what happened...Linux Mint develops on Gnome first...and then KDE and XFCE. And...for Celena 3.1, they simply skipped doing KDE and XFCE releases. Big deal! Linux Mint "releases early and releases often".

















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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 71.60.42.43] on November 10, 2007 09:17 AM
This review is very poorly done. Why do I say that? The only negative that I see is the sound issue with the one game that was mentioned. All the other so-called negatives are simply silly and nit-picking at best. Linux Mint 3.1 (and even 3.0) gets so much right. Multi-media out of the door. Amazing. Good looking fonts. Try that with another distro. Everything installed for proper website viewing with FireFox. Easier said than done. For instance: I have found a website that refuses to work with any version of Linux other than Linux Mint 3.0 and 3.1 and this is using FireFox. Same website has no issues using FireFox under WinXP but no Linux distro (using FireFox) can display this website correctly EXCEPT for Linux Mint. Why? Who knows. It works. It works well. Get it.

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 192.168.11.26] on November 10, 2007 04:31 PM
I have to agree with the previous commentors. A comparison of Linux Mint versus the latest ubuntu is skewed right off the bat. It should have been compared to ubuntu fiesty. That being said your sound issue is the only useful piece of information. Also there are other aditional applications the new users will find helpful that even gutsy doesn't come with. This review was more of a passing opinion then an honest look.

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 85.124.171.21] on November 10, 2007 07:10 PM
I'm currenty running Mint 3.1 Gnome/Beryl on my Laptop. I simply like the way everything is done on this distro.
Theme: Boot Theme, gdm theme, Background really nicely done
All codecs you would install anyway etc.....
I really don't get the reason why you wrote this review, I mean obviously it is outdated - so get the beta-release of 4.0.

The Headline really sounds if Mint really pissed you off!?

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Linux Mint 3.1 is not especially refreshing

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 69.158.6.210] on November 11, 2007 05:11 AM
I might add that my decision to install Linux Mint 3.0 Cassandra over Kubuntu 7.04 Feisty was over support for an oddball onboard soundchip. With Kubuntu 7.04 I was going to have to do a kernel update, muck with config files etc. to get the chip to work. With Linux Mint Cassandra I just booted it in live CD mode and the chip worked out of the box...decision made!

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The author is right!!

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: unknown] on November 12, 2007 12:29 PM
I feel I have to come to the defense of the author here. He has some valid points, and being the one guy who until recently served as Mint's "one-man-support-center" ("scorp123" ... 2299 postings on the Mint forum) I think I am qualified to say that Mint *does* have some rather annoying bugs and rough edges in some places. Don't get me wrong: I do admire "clem" for his efforts to create his own distro. Mint is more or less a one-man-show. On one hand that's admirable. On the other it also explains a few of the rough edges or other shortcomings which do exist in Mint. Maybe it will improve with the next releases, mabye it won't ... time will tell. Regardless of this one has to appreciate this author's criticism and his review. Ultimately it will only help "clem" to improve his distro. And it's sad that so many Mint users feel they have to attack the author for the technically valid points he made. It does not matter that he reviewed an older release -- the release he reviewed is the latest "stable" release; this is not a review of "alpha" stage software e.g. Mint Daryna vs. Ubuntu "Hardy Heron". "Celena" is what's currently out there and it's the authors right to review it and to compare it vs. others distros that are out there *now* (and not in half a year or so!). But that's precisely the narrow-minded noobish attitude some Mint users display -- they use Mint, they love it, and God forbid you criticise it on technical merits ... like anyone owes them anything because they use Mint now. It's sad to see that Mint attracts this kind of users. SCORP123 <== yes, the real one.

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Other reviews

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.100.209.150] on November 12, 2007 12:48 PM
In a review last week Jeremy also criticized linux-2.0.1 for lacking support for his brand new wi-fi card and GNOME 1.0 for being fugly and outdated.



(Sorry Jeremy, couldn't resist.)

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