Linux Mint, A Big Bear Review


After being involved with Linux in general for a while now, off and on since RedHat 6, more during these last two years, I have come to classify Linux in two general categories: Commercial and Community. The top commercial offerings I would consider are RedHat, Novell Suse and Ubuntu. Yes, I classify Ubuntu as a commercial distribution. There are two top Community distros I keep on my short list, PCLinuxOS and Linux Mint. Each of these represents to me the best of the .deb and .rpm offerings, with PCLinuxOS being the top .rpm distro. Linux Mint is what I consider the top .deb distro, and it is this top rate community distro I would like to discuss today.

Where does it come from?

Linux Mint is based on the Ubuntu distro and has begun to "evolve" it's own personality since it's first release. Much the same as PCLinuxOS is based on Mandrake/iva and has evolved on it's own also. Now, I have read many reviews of Linux Mint, trying to compare it to Ubuntu and that's really not fair. Especially if one does not make use of the customized tools that the Linux Mint team has developed.

What makes it stand out?

In it's third release now, called Bianca or Linux Mint 2.2 The team has developed tools like Mint Config, Mint Menu and Mint desktop, to name a few. Mint Config is what it sounds like, it is a very easy to navigate sytem/computer configuration menu that presents the user with a very "clean" menu of apps and tools to customize and modify key administrative systems of their Linux Mint OS.

Mint Desktop provides a modification of the default "Gnome" desktop, into what is a nicely laid out and neatly ordered desktop, with all "place" pertinent icons lined up on the left side and the menu bars and panels in a more recognizable location that recent immigrants from another OS will appreciate. Mint Menu is a "slab" type menu that is very user friendly and actually helps the user find the applications they want to use and choose from. Combine all these unique tools with custom wallpapers and graphics and you have the dawning of a "New Buntu" or what I like to refer to as Ubuntu done right.

As they approach the next release, code named "Cassandra", They will be adding even more "Mint" custom applications and tools that will set it apart from the original base. For example, while they will use Ubuntu's "Feisty Fawn" as a base, they will add their very own "Mint Install". This is not a hardware installer but rather intended to be a "better Click-n-Run" applications installer the likes of Linspires offering, only " Minty-er".

Linux Mint draws upon the vast Ubuntu software archives and add their own Mint archives as well. Using the APT installer, (PCLinuxOS users can relate to APT for RPM) installing applications and tools is a snap. As I mentioned above, Linux Mint is Gnome based, but have recently added a KDE version.

How well does it run?

I personally have been able to install Linux Mint on just about any machine I have tried. It is very similar to PCLOS in that arena, as it can install and function on hardware that is not perhaps the newest yet able to make it run as though it were new. For the older hardware, They are planning an XFCE version beginning with "Cassandra". No review of a "Community" distro is complete though, without discussing the community and forums that support it.

What about the Community?

I am pleased to say that many a PCLinuxOS user would feel right at home in the Mint forums. They are friendly, welcoming, and very helpful. While still a "smaller" community, they do a pretty good job at trying to keep up with new users (and all users for that matter) requests for assistance. You will almost never see the dreaded "RTFM" in one of Mints threads, even when it is a question that has been asked and answered a few times already, I notice the mods are ready with the answer, and only after do they prompt the questioner to try using the handy helper PCLOSer's know and love, the search tool.

The leadership of Linux Mint is strikingly similar to PCLinuxOS also. The lead dev, Clement Lefebvre or Clem, like PCLOS's own Tex, is a very involved in the forums kind of guy. He is known not only for providing outstanding assistance on the forums but is "notorious" for his nonchalant wit and personable candor there.

In Linux Mint, as with our own PCLinuxOS, there will always be things to be tweaked, modified and improved upon, that's part of the creative and open minded perspective of these types of leaders like Clem and Tex, they're never content with what's in front of them, there is always something they find they think can be better.

And this all means what?

Linux Mint is a very solid distro with a great bunch of people in the community, and while PCLinuxOS is known as the distro hopper -stopper, if you ever want to see another shining example of the true spirit of Linux in action and want to broaden your experiences with a dependable, solid Linux distro, I wholeheartedly recommend you give Linux Mint a fair chance. It will certainly be worth your time.