These few weeks has seen the rise of different creative and radical ideas like Unity and Gnome-Shell. However it does not mean that you have to be forced to switch to these new interfaces. Ubuntu and Fedora have taken that decision. If you are one who doesn't like this approach and would like to stick to the good old gnome 2.32, then Linux Mint is a Distro you must definitely try out.
Introduction to Linux Mint
Linux mint is based on Ubuntu and comes in different flavors such as Gnome, KDE, Fluxbox, LXDE etc. There is also a flavor of Linux mint based on Debian (the parent of Ubuntu). It was first released in 2006 with the code name “Ada”. Linux Mint further enhances the usability of Ubuntu. This can be seen in its inclusion of proprietary drivers and software like Adobe Flash and other music codecs. Now, a new version of Linux Mint “Katya” has been released.
You can either download the Live CD or the DVD edition. The DVD edition contains all the proprietary software that you need to have a ready-to-work environment.
Linux Mint 11 “Katya”
This version of Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu 11.04. However, this version does not include either Unity or Gnome-Shell. It does however have all other improvement that come with Ubuntu 11.04 like the linux kernel 2.6.38, Gnome 2.32 and Xorg 7.6.
Here is a screenshot of the Linux Mint desktop running the gnome desktop manager.
The live CD does not come with the proprietary codecs, however you can install them now from the link provided in the welcome screen and in the Linux Mint menu. You can otherwise upgrade to the DVD edition to have the codecs installed by default.
This welcome screen provides quick links to commonly used sources like the community website, documentation, support and also as mentioned before, to easily install proprietary codecs.
Next, the software center also sports some nice GUI and functional improvements. For one, the software center now shows a splash screen while loading.
Also, the software now features a new fonts category. Also the software center now intelligently lets you know the impact of installing an application on your system like the download size, packages that would be added or removed and how much size the total installation process would take.
One more important visual change to the desktop is the addition of overlay scrollbars.
The update manager also features some improvements. Some of them are under the hood improvements like better package dependency handling and faster downloading of packages. Before this release, the update manager used to check your connection, update its rule and then check for package updates. However, now this has all been combined into one step. The rules are now part of the update manager, and only when a new set of rules are released does the update manager update itself. Otherwise, it now only checks for the package updates making it faster.
In addition to these changes, this release also adds a new system improvement called the “apt download”. The “apt download” command allows you to download .deb package along with all its dependencies. This helps in distributing applications to your friends who might not have a fast internet connection.
Also, as usual Linux Mint comes with a whole host of updated software like Firefox 4, Banshee as the default music player, gThumb as the default photo application and Libreoffice as the default office suite. This release some nice set of wallpapers. The theme however, is pretty much same as the previous releases.
Attention to Users
It is a known fact that one of the strong points of a linux distribution is its community. And Linux Mint has clearly taken its users into consideration regarding the Gnome-Shell and Unity mayhem. Unity has been under heavy development for the past 6 months. It can be argued that the Unity interface has been around a bit longer in Netbooks. However, despite that fact Unity is still not mature for public distribution. Such an important change such as this must go through the development phases longer, and only when deemed stable and complete, it should be distributed to the public. And in that sense, Linux Mint has taken a the correct decision.
Also, Mark Shuttleworth has mentioned some plans about the future of Ubuntu like switching to Wayland among other radical changes. It can be stated with certainty that Linux Mint on the other hand, will definitely wait to see the performance and consequences of such a change before making that decision.
Atleast for now, Linux Mint will use Gnome with Gnome-Shell, providing an environment which everyone is comfortable with. It is important to not introduce radical changes suddenly, but rather gradually. Linux Mint has introduced the overlay scrollbars in this release. Maybe in the future releases, once Unity or Gnome-Shell are stable, we could see it introduced, but at the moment they have made a decision and that is sticking to Gnome with Gnome-Shell.
Linux Mint strives for accessibility and usability like it parent Ubuntu, however it is a step ahead with this new release. It also maintains a neutrality with respect to the Unity and Gnome-Shell situation and hence not forcing it on its users. This makes it a viable alternative not only for Ubuntu users looking for a good old gnome environment but also for any other users who want a Linux distribution which sticks to stable yet latest software. This release features some nice updates like better usability features like multimedia codec installation and software center, presenting the users with a modern desktop environment.
Have you tried Linux Mint? Let us know your experience below. If you haven't tried out Linux Mint, you can download it at http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php. Read Muktware's comprehensive Linux Mint Manual.