I remember the time I discovered Linux Mint some years ago. It was version 2.2 codenamed 'Bianca'. I instantly took a liking to this wonderful distribution and by version 3.0 'Cassandra', Linux Mint had become my go-to distribution.
On the 12th of November, 2010 the Linux Mint team graced us with yet another iteration of their vision of the Linux desktop - Linux Mint 10 codenamed 'Julia'. Judging by the announcement on the Linux Mint home page at the time of writing this, the small band of developers that are at the core of Mint have really made their mark on the Linux landscape.
"Our apologies. The release of Linux Mint 10 is creating a lot of traffic at the moment. If you're looking for Linux Mint 10, please choose a download mirror below. If you're trying to access another part of the website, please come back later. Thank you for choosing Linux Mint and our apologies for the inconvenience."
So let us dig right in and find out what treats Clement Lefebvre and his team have in store for the hoards of users flooding to get this release!
I have downloaded and installed the Linux Mint 10 i386 DVD image. The DVD image is what I would recommend you download as it comes with all the Linux Mint goodness that you have come to know and love. It is only 130 MB larger than the CD image which lacks Java, VLC, F-Spot, OpenOffice.org-base, Samba, additional wallpapers and ttf-dejaVu fonts.
Linux Mint 10 is built on the Ubuntu 10.10 'Maverick Meerkat' base. This means we get Linux kernel version 2.6.35, Gnome 2.32, Xorg 7.5, Firefox 3.6, Flash 10.1, Thunderbird 3.1, OpenOffice 3.2, Pidgin 2.7, the GIMP 2.6, F-Spot 0.8, Gwibber, Giver, Transmission, XChat,... and the list goes on.
In short, they have included pretty much the latest available versions of the applications they believe will provide the best user experience. And you would be hard-pressed to falter their selection.
System requirements as stated by the release notes are:
* x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors). * 512 MB of system memory (RAM) * 4 GB of disk space for installation * Graphics card capable of 800Ã—600 resolution * CD-ROM drive or USB port
At first boot, after installation the system was using 235MB of RAM and 4GB of disk space while the CPU was idling at a few percent usage.
Today, when general consensus seems to dictate that in order to have a modern desktop, not only in terms of looks but also feature-wise, you need the latest and greatest hardware, Linux Mint (and Linux in general, to be fair) flies in the face of that and proves it wrong.
Linux Mint uses the trusty Ubuntu installer, Ubiquity. It is probably the easiest OS installer bar none. New users will find it easy to understand and intuitive while the Linux veterans could probably run through it with their eyes closed. All in all, it works like a charm and has done so for years.
One of the first things you will notice is that Linux Mint 10 now has a new look. Gone is the dark gray and green theme which has now been replaced with very stylish gray tones and a brushed metal look and feel. This has always been one area where Linux Mint has stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Their artwork team, release after release, keep stepping up their game by notches. The default icon set is Faenza which has quickly become a personal favorite. The squared-off proportions, brightly coloured and professional design is simply amazing. Linux Mint's slogan "From freedom came elegance" has never been more fitting.
On first boot and until you disable it, you will be greeted by the Mint Welcome screen. It is a great place for users both new and old to familiarize themselves with the system and the community that runs and supports Mint. Some very useful links and launchers are present and well worth having a look at.
Even though Mint is built on the Ubuntu base, it has certainly developed in its own right as a unique distribution, and even a competitor to Ubuntu. This is very clear in many aspects of the operating system and especially exemplified by the custom Mint tools that have been built in-house at Mint.
Most importantly, is the MintMenu. This menu is a lesson in innovation both for other distributions and OSs at large. It is divided into 2 main sections.
One contains some location shortcuts, the Gnome bookmarked folders (if enabled) and launchers for frequently used applications. The other section contains a configurable set of launchers for the user's favorite applications.
A button at the top right swaps the favorites for the conventional applications menu which is separated into categories. Now this is where the magic starts. Right-clicking on a menu entry provides options to place the launcher on the desktop or panel, in the favorites section, add it to the applications launched at startup, and even uninstall it! And there's more.
At the bottom there is a search field that will filter installed applications, provide shortcuts to various web and local searches and even an option to install a package if a match is found in the repositories! Should you install a new application, MintMenu now highlights the new entry making your new apps even easier to find. Also, a comprehensive set of configuration options has been added to the menu in Mint 10. This is one menu that is a pleasure to use.
Then there is the package manager. Save the commercial software store, the Linux Mint Software Manager can hold its own against the Ubuntu Software Center and even sports a few extra features. First off, the number. There are 32,270 applications available in the repositories. This does not include library packages!
They are neatly separated into categories and sub-categories. It supports background installation of packages. This means after selecting an application for installation it will perform the installation while you continue to browse for other packages.
Where the Software Manager trumps Ubuntu's Software Center is in the integration of the Linux Mint Community's rating process right into the manager. By entering your login details in the Software Manager you can rate and comment on the various applications available.
This is really helpful as the best applications rise to the top. Finding the best tool for the job has never been easier. Synaptic Package Manager is installed by default as well and for those of us who are even more old school, my favorite, aptitude is available.
While still on package management, the Update Manager has received a few improvements as well. If you are new to Linux Mint, the Update Manager separates packages into levels; level 1 being Linux Mint packages and other tested packages to level 5 which are packages known to cause problems in Linux Mint.
By default, the Update Manager updates packages in level 1, 2 and 3. With Linux Mint 10, you can now finely control, at a per-package level, what gets updated. This will allow you to block updates that are buggy, or allow updates for a level 4 package, for example.
The Update Manager now also shows you the total size of the download which could be essential information depending on you network connection. This is another Mint application that trumps its Ubuntu counterpart.
The Upload Manager is a cool little tool that I have found useful many times in the past. And in Mint 10 it has received many updates. Currently is supports FTP, SFTP and SCP. It has a simple interface for configuring your servers after which the Upload Manager will automatically start at login. Thereafter, uploading content to your server is as simple as selecting the server and then dragging and dropping your files. In this new version you can check the connection to your server, set your transfers to run in the background, get information on the transfer rate and an ETA.
Another Mint-specific application is the Backup Tool. It provides an easy way to backup and restore both files and your installed software selection. The interface simple and straight to the point. It is positively the easiest backup tool I have used.
When it comes to the out of the box user experience, Linux Mint gives the user one of the best around on any platform. This is mainly attributed to the rigorous testing that every release that bears the Linux Mint name has to go through.
The team has always been very particular about maintaining this level of quality and it shows. As most of us know and have come to expect of Mint, multimedia support is stellar across the board. It doesn't matter what codec or what format the file is in, neither if the content is local or streamed, if the bytes can get to your system, Linux Mint will play it.
The default application set works well and covers almost all aspect of day to day computing. Hardware support is on par with Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick i.e. it is very good.
Firefox uses a customized Google search as the default search engine. Some people do not like the custom search and that can be changed easily to the default Google search. However, I would like to point out that Clement has mentioned before that this single customization to Firefox is what brings most of the income to Linux Mint.
It is what pays the bills for the Mint servers and allows Clement to work full-time on Mint. So, I would urge you to consider that before you decide to switch it to the default Google search, or alternatively, consider donating to the project.
One feature that helps many a new user is the fact that when you start up XChat, the IRC client, it automatically connects to the Linux Mint help channel. It is something that has been in Mint for ages but it is this kind of attention to detail that shows the lengths to which the team goes to make the user experience as pleasant as possible.
The community members in the channel are very helpful and patient. Should you face any problems, this would be a great place to start looking for help. The same goes for the Linux Mint forums. Links can be found in the Mint Welcome screen and the Mint home page.
There is one thing I would have liked to have seen in the DVD install - a video editor. In this age of flip cams, HD capable smartphones, YouTube and vloggers, video editing has become a task that many computer users do regularly; be it for public or private viewing. I know that installing Pitivi, OpenShot or Kdenlive is a trivial issue, but having an application that has gone through the stringent quality control tests at Mint would inspire confidence.
Other than that, I don't think that there is anything that I can say that isn't firmly positive about Linux Mint 10 'Julia'. And that is not a surprise considering previous Mint releases. Linux Mint remains my general go-to operating system with this release. I would strongly recommend it to everyone, regardless of your experience level. At least give it a spin. You owe yourself that much.