Linux Mint 5 Review

9 06 2008

IMPORTANT SECURITY UPDATE:Update mintAssistant to 2.5 and relaunch it from the mintMenu if you chose not to set a root password. See here for details. The bug is so serious that the ISO is being was rebuilt; I suggest waiting about three days (15 June) before downloading if you haven’t already done so. The new iso has been released. You can find it here.

The wonderful team over at Linux Mint has just released their fifth version (release notes, download) of the operating system, codename Elyssa, presenting yet another stable and elegant system. I’ve installed and used every version of Linux Mint since Celena (3.1), and have lurked around the forums for a while. I decided to write a review for this version as this will mark the first release for Long Term Support; I hate updating my system every six months, so I plan to make this version my main operating system for the next three years.

I’m lucky to have blindly bought a computer that is very compatible with Linux. Wireless and Compiz work automagically, even from the Live CD environment.

I decided to do a sort of mix between reviewing for Mint newcomers and for those who have used Mint in the past. This review is not intended for newcomers to Linux, however they are encouraged to download Linux Mint and see how they like it. Linux newbies (and Linux Mint newbies!) can download the user guide to see the system and its features.

Installation
This has been covered over and over; the installer has not changed for quite a number of releases, so please see a different review if you wish to have a step-by-step guide ;) . A few thoughts, though:

Choosing your timezone: Doing this sucks. You move your mouse over the map to select a city, and oops, you’re now in Australia. You’re careful to maneuver your pointer to eastern USA, and shoot, you’ve moved too far and are now in Hawaii. It’s faster for me just to choose a city from the drop down menu. Also: I had the entire Live CD freeze up on me (with the exception of the mouse) during this step while trying to listen to one of my songs. As a result, I had to restart my computer. Hopefully the cause of this was MPlayer and not the installer. This incident is one example of why you probably shouldn’t do ANYTHING while the system is installing. Don’t take any chances.

Using the manual partition scheme: This was the first time I’ve had to manually set my mount points, as I just recently moved /home to its own partition. (By the way, if you’re looking to do this, Linux Mint has an excellent tutorial on the wiki.) Manually setting this was fairly easy; I chose my 10 GB empty partition to be formatted as ext3 and mounted at / , and I chose my 120 GB partition to be mounted at /home. Simple as can be :) (for those who know about a little about partitions, anyway).

Booting
I didn’t time how long it took to boot, but thinking back, I believe this is one of the fastest boot times I’ve ever had in Linux Mint. And the boot screen looks delicious! It’s slightly different from version four (Daryna), but it looks cleaner and [therefore?] more professional. The default artwork is consistent; consistency is a quality that I hold very high.

Upon logging in for the first time, you are greeted with the mintAssistant, which asks you if you want to enable a root account (NOT recommended), and if you want fortunes to appear in the terminal. The fortune app is a great feature to enable; humor is always a good thing :) . In this release, the fortunes are read to you by various animals! Hit the “Show an Example” button to see. Unfortunately it might not be an accurate representation; the example box does not display with a fixed width font. The animal might appear squished.

The Desktop
As will be posted in many reviews, this is the default desktop for Elyssa:

The default artwork for Linux Mint Elyssa

The default theme, which has stayed similar since version three, does its job as a default: it’s sterile and unobtrusive, yet it has an edge. However, it’s not quite snazzy enough for my tastes. Not shown in the screenshot are the default icons that come on the desktop, which include “Computer”, “Home”, and any mounted harddrives you have. They can be removed through a program called mintDesktop, which I will discuss later in this review. One of the less important but still noteworthy features of this release is the quality artwork that comes with Elyssa. It’s absolutely stunning. The Mint Art Team has done wonders. This is how my desktop looks, and how it will stay :)

My Elyssa Desktop

There really is something for everyone when it comes to the themes present in this release. All wallpapers come in standard and widescreen forms.

Mint Tools
One of the strongest highlights about Linux Mint is the tools they have developed. The mintMenu is the most useful and efficient menu system I have ever encountered. It’s similar to KDE’s Tasty menu, but more competent. It allows you to quickly search for installed applications by name, title, or description (hitting enter after filtering calls Tracker to search for that item); it allows you to create a custom “Favorites” menu for even quicker access to commonly used apps; and in this release, it allows you to uninstall applications directly from a menu! Just right click -> Uninstall. Also with a right click, you can choose to have the program launch when you log in. By right clicking the menu button itself and choosing “Preferences”, you can customize the menu to your taste. Options include showing your recent documents, opting to click the application sections instead of hovering to reveal them, and changing the text shown in the menu. One complaint I have with the menu is that it doesn’t automatically update when you install a new application. You have to right click the menu button and select “Reload Plugins”. In fact, if the menu gives you any problems, this is usually the solution. Another complaint: the Edit Menu option sends you to GNOME’s menu editor (alacarte), which thoroughly sucks. Moving an entry to another menu duplicates it, and then leaves the original still checked! On my wish list: the ability to drag a menu item to a different section, and to remove and add items to a section, from within mintMenu. Also on that list is the ability to change what hitting enter does after filtering the results; this is possible to change from gconf-editor but not from the preferences dialog. And my last compliant (sorry): If any of the “Computer”, “Home Folder”, or “Networks” buttons receive focus, I can’t start typing an application name without clicking on the “Filter” text box.

Another integral tool to Linux Mint is the mintUpdate. This program adds to the stability of the system, as it puts classifications on the updates and by default disallows those which might harm your system (updates to X11, the kernel, etc.). Classifications range from 1 to 5, with 1 being the safest and 5 being “dangerous”. For descriptions of the various levels, click the Preferences button in mintUpdate. A few notes: after you first turn on your system, mintUpdate will “refresh”, but it needs to be running as root to actually see if there are updates (open it and it will ask for a password). From the preferences, you can set how often it refreshes. One thing that annoys me is the icon used for when Synaptic or apt is running: a broken lock. It worries me because I’d expect that icon if my dependencies were broken, something which has happened twice in my experience with Linux (both my fault). Maybe just an X over the lock would be better? Just a suggestion….

Subtle tweaks to the desktop are manipulated through mintDesktop. You can display which icons to show/hide (Computer, Home, Network, Trash, Mounted Volumes), choose the [annoying] “spatial mode” for the file browser, enable GNOME’s new composite engine (it’s okay, certainly not as good as Compiz), and restore splash screens to GIMP and OpenOffice (which are usually overwritten if they receive upstream updates).

I’m not using Synaptic to install applications anymore. mintInstall is integrated with the Linux Mint software portal, and allows you to get a tiny .mint file which contains instructions for installing the application. Among the applications available in the portal are Google Earth, Open Arena, and Skype. Searching for applications on the portal can be done either from the web interface or from mintInstall. Searching the popular GetDeb.net from within mintInsall is also possible, as well as apt itself. One thing that usually needs clarification: the .mint file IS NOT another package manager. It uses the apt protocol to install applications. Some complaints: no error was produced when attempting to install “somerandomapp” in the APT tab, and clicking “Search” gave me a window with an empty text box. However, the ability to search, show, and install applications from apt is a great feature of mintInstall. Another thing that nags me is that when installing an application, it will ask if you want to install using the Default or Local repositories. In my mind, Default == Local. Not so, however; “default” means the repository defined in the .mint file, and “local” means your own sources.list file. Maybe the label “mintInstall’s Repositories” or “Application.mint’s Repositories” instead of “Default Repositories” would suit better?

Linux Mint comes with its own solution to backing up your Home folder with mintBackup. You can choose which files/folders to exclude from the backup, as well as which hidden files/folders to include. To restore, simply double click on the backup file. You can choose to overwrite existing data. On one of my attempts I received errors on both the backup and the recovery, but both were successful. Upon double clicking the .backup file, the contents are unpacked to /tmp, so I suggest making sure there’s enough room (or not. Remember, I have a 45GB /home folder, and /tmp only has 7GB of free space). The file seems to be a simple tar archive. My one complaint: There isn’t a progress bar for backup or recovery. A minor issue, but it would be nice :) .

One last tool that isn’t mentioned in many of the reviews that I’ve read is mintUpload. Right-clicking a file and selecting “Upload” will allow you to upload any file which is under 10MB to Linux Mint’s server. Select the Default upload service, choose your file, click upload, and you’ll receive a link to your file which will be kept on the server for two days. It beats using Rapidshare for quickly sharing a file ;) … It is also integrated with mint-space, a web hosting service provided by Linux Mint (Note: the Linux Mint Store seems to be closed, so I’m not sure if the ability to purchase an account on mint-space.com is possible at this time).

Included Software
Most of the software present in Linux Mint is standard in major distributions: Firefox web browser, GIMP image processor, Pidgin IM client, OpenOffice office suit, Tomboy note taking application, XChat IRC client. EnvyNG is provided for those who need to install drivers for their graphics card. Like Ubuntu, Linux Mint included the Transmission BitTorrent client (I’ll most likely install KTorrent) and the Brasero disc burner. Thunderbird is used in Linux Mint for email. Tracker is there for searching files, but I will probably end up using Google Desktop. I’ve never had any luck with Tracker, or even Beagle. PPPOE was added.

Gnome-Do was also included in Elyssa. It’s a nifty little application (start it up with Super+Space), but it takes some getting used to. Play around with it to see what I mean. It seems super-efficient once learned.

I was disappointed when I saw the beta/RC of Firefox 3 was included instead of the more stable version 2. This was a decision made by both Linux Mint and Ubuntu. The Linux Mint team has fixed Firefox from crashing when Flash does, however I was not able to get Flash to work again by simply refreshing the page; I had to restart Firefox. Linux Mint 5 uses Firefox RC1 with Flash 10. I really like bleeding edge software, but for goodness sake, it’s supposed to be an LTS release! Yeah, I understand version 2 of Firefox probably isn’t going to be supported up to three years from now, but it would have shown seriousness by the distributions to be stable.

Another disappointing decision made in this release was the replacement of Amarok with Rhythmbox. Rhytmbox pales in comparison to Amarok’s abilities. Changing the ID3 tags is a hassle in Rhtymbox (you have to do it through a dialog box), there are no Global Shortcuts (sorry, you have to stop what you’re doing if you want to change the song), there aren’t nearly the amount of features present in Rhythmbox as there are in Amarok, and being able to see only fifteen songs at a time in my 5000+ song collection is annoying (I saw no option to change the font size). I suppose I’m ranting because I’ve used Amarok for so long. All is well though; removing Rhythmbox with mintMenu and installing Amarok with mintInstall is fairly simple ;)

Other Notes
The terminal got a boost of color. Users see their name in green, while root shows up as red. Using grep highlights the results in red. This is a very cool feature which spices up one of the blander things about Linux (this as well as the fortune application). I’m going to steal this screenshot from the release notes because I’m lazy and don’t want to open up GIMP to blur out my name ;) :

Terminal Colors in Linux Mint 5 Elyssa

Don’t forget you can print to a PDF! Ubuntu came with this feature, but Linux Mint kept its own implementation which they’ve included in the OS for a few releases. This definitely comes in handy when you want to save web pages, but don’t want all those files hanging around (the html, all of the pictures, javascripts…).

You can now open a folder as root from within the Nautilus file browser through the context menu. Doing so will open the radically different XFE file browser to ensure you know that you’re browsing as root. A very nice feature, I must say.

Conclusion
Linux Mint 5 Elyssa is the best release I’ve seen to date and is something that I would feel comfortable running for the next three years. It feels very stable (apart from Firefox 3 and the hiccup from mintAssistant), and it’s definitely a distribution I could recommend to the young and old alike. It’s polished, consistent, and well thought out. I’d like to thank the people who run the distribution for their hard work and continued efforts to make the best desktop OS yet!

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NOTE: I wrote a lot of this review while under the second release candidate of Elyssa. Please correct me if I am wrong on any of these points. As always, comments are welcome.

UPDATE: I was stupid and didn’t include a download link! You can find the download here.

UPDATE 2: A reader suggests that Linux Mint cannot dist-upgrade. It can, but it’s not recommended. See the upgrade instruction section of the release notes.

UPDATE 3: See this thread on the LM forums for someone’s experience doing a dist-upgrade.

UPDATE 4: The lead developer, Clem, responded to this review.

UPDATE 5: Fixed the download link

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42 responses

9 06 2008
ve2vq

Good first review of Linux Mint 5. Live 5 works with no problem on both of my on line computers. Your point of view will help me with my full installation later this week of Mint5, which will replace Mint 4.
I also expect to see some upgrades to the system over the coming months.

10 06 2008
Me

There is one thing with Mint linux which makes this distro unusable for me, the inability to upgrade (dist-upgrade). I’m installing apps, I change prefrences but then I have to erase all and reinstall everything. What’s the point? If ubuntu can dist-upgrade, why can’t mint?

10 06 2008
Hexadecimal

@ve2vq: Thanks! I’m glad it’s working for you!

@”Me”: It can. See this section of the release notes

10 06 2008
James D Hartland

Amarok was taken out because its not a gnome app. Simple as that.

10 06 2008
Me

and I quote:
“We strongly recommend fresh installs (downloading the CD and installing from it), for the following reasons:” and then come lots of good reason why not to upgrade.
In ubuntu (as it should be in any distro), upgrading is the logical path. This is still a strong reason for not using mint.

10 06 2008
davemc

“In ubuntu (as it should be in any distro), upgrading is the logical path. This is still a strong reason for not using mint.”

Both Debian and Ubuntu have upgrade options, but while Debian is extremely easy to upgrade any part of your system at any time as upgrades become available (newer kernels, etc), Ubuntu becomes a bit more restrictive. Mint (I suspect) becomes even more restrictive because each successive overlay on top of the base becomes ever more complex to weave in. In short, Mint is built on top of the Ubuntu base, which is built on top of the Debian Unstable base. While Ubuntu really just recently perfected their dist-upgrade system, Mint has yet to really deal with that issue it seems, and that is indeed quite sad. While there are some neat new GUI tools available in Mint, there is nothing which truly sets it apart from Ubuntu’s innovative codebase. In the big wide world of Debian, all is interchangeable, so there really is not much in Mint that one could not do in Ubuntu given an hour or two of free time. Inclusion of the nonfree codecs can hardly be considered an earth shattering thing, as that already could not be any easier to do in Ubuntu. For these reasons and others, I think of it like this – Debian = the great base/Linux not too easy or too hard, Ubuntu = Linux made easy/easier for beginners/many tasks automated or already done for you, Mint = Linux for dummies/Learning opportunities all but eliminated. Pick the poison that suits you best.

10 06 2008
MacLone

I think Linux Mint has done a lot of work for being a much better ubuntu, this means there is a lot of customization made. There is another distro called Dreamlinux which has a lot of customizations, much more than any other distro, they managed the full upgrade problems developing a special backup tool which restores all the changes after a full system upgrade. I think Mint devs can do this as well.
I use Mint as my main and I’m very happy with it, is not perfect but just works quite well for me.

10 06 2008
Lim-Dul

To set some things straight:

Mint includes all the features Ubuntu has (including upgrade options) but comes with some additional tools to make the OS easier to manage. You can dist-upgrade and in fact Mint HAS innovated upon the upgrade system with the MintUpdate tool that assigns safety levels to all upgrades (apt, synaptic etc. can be used as well). It also has a software portal which is really nice because you finally know what you’re installing or supposed to install instead of looking at cryptic package names and descriptions. Kinda like an improved getdeb.net.

As to dist-upgrade being the logical path in Ubuntu – yeah, a messed up (not my fault) dist-upgrade was what made me get mad and uninstall Ubuntu Edgy Eft after using it for like half a year – I didn’t want to have to reconfigure everything from scratch.

Also, Mint has a tool for backing up your configuration (called MintBackup) just like Dreamlinux.

As to davemc’s comments:

“Mint = Linux for dummies/Learning opportunities all but eliminated”
“There really is not much in Mint that one could not do in Ubuntu given an hour or two of free time. Inclusion of the nonfree codecs can hardly be considered an earth shattering thing, as that already could not be any easier to do in Ubuntu.”

Your attitude is representative of the elitist Linux snob that has absolutely no understanding what makes a good desktop OS and why Unix-like systems have only ~1, maybe 2% of the desktop market share despite around 40 years of evolution. When not dissing Mint you probably spend your time discussing how awesome Linux is compared to Windows, the latter being of course the crap of the crap, and how only morons and unfair market practice have flung MS to the top of the desktop computer sector.

A normal user doesn’t care about “2 or 3 hours of configuration”, reading tutorials or browsing thousands of packages in strange repos – end users expect a system that works straight away. If it does, then it encourages them to explore it further.

No learning opportunities? You must be joking – you said yourself that Debian distros are interchangable so you can do EVERYTHING you want in Mint – it just makes the first steps easier. You have to learn to walk before you can run.

Also, designing a user friendly OS is innovation all in itself and a task at which many distros fail – from the choice of certain packages to the wallpaper and that’s what Mint excels at.

After I decided to going back to dual-booting Linux I went through ALL the major (and some minor) distributions and I chose Mint simply because it was the one distro that ran perfectly out of the box. The other one was Dreamlinux (to a lesser extent also distros like PCLinuxOS, Sabayon, Debian, etc.) mentioned by MacLone and vanilla Ubuntu, which I won’t be installing any time soon after the disaster I went through and the problems with screen resolution and refresh rates that neither I nor any Ubuntu guru could fix for half a year (they’re probably gone with updated X.org, GNOME and nvidia packages but I don’t care). Mind you, many Linux gurus share my opinion since not everybody has the time to spend 2-3 hours on system configuration when there’s other work to do. Not to mention beginners that will have to spend hours after hours browsing the net for answers.

Read: not everybody is a Linux geek and that’s why Microsoft has such a big market share. It’s not “evil M$ taking over the world”, it’s the ignorance and smugness of certain Linux proponents, shown e.g. by davemc who clearly looks down on “dummies that have to work with Mint” that makes it all too easy for Windows – even the Linux community itself is scattered, fractured and quarreling all the time. Yes, Ubuntu was a step in the right direction – at least when it comes to desktop OS-es. Now we need further steps and the brilliant minds behind PCLinuxOS, Linux Mint or Dreamlinux are the ones that made them (not that we didn’t need any more evolution and innovation).

10 06 2008
mandog

Wow people the guns are blazing again and some very good points are raised by LIm-dul, For me Mint has always been a step up from Ubuntu and a little faster, but not mint menu I like the standard Gnome menu.

10 06 2008
Hexadecimal

@James: I believe it was also because the lead developer thought it had become more competent than in the past, in addition to being a GNOME app (I can’t find a reference for this, I’ll look later). Otherwise I’m certain he wouldn’t have chosen it.

@”Me”: All of those reasons apply to Ubuntu as well.

@davemc: I don’t think you bothered to read the review. Nowhere in it did I mention codecs. It’s merely a tag. This review is chock full of ways Mint differs from Ubutnu. You say Linux Mint is Linux for dummies, so you’re saying that I should hand a newbie a CD with Linux Mint instead of Ubuntu? I believe that’s a compliment.

@MacLone: I’ll have a look at DreamLinux again; I haven’t looked at it since it failed to boot on my computer (I think that was a year ago, though).

@Lim-Dul: I’m sure you could have said all that in a more concise manner :)

@mandog: I didn’t realize the guns would be blazing this bright :-/

10 06 2008
Slem Fisk

Yepp, agree with Lim-Dul. Any Linux distro that is more complex to use than Windows, will fail to gain popularity in the mass market. Most people don’t use PCs for fun, they use them at work. As long as time continues to be money you won’t find a boss who’s willing to invest in using Linux.

Personally I use Linux because I sense a small chance in the market that maybe Linux can increase it’s popularity, and as an IT professional I want to be there when then fun begins. Linux Mint is in my opinion the only distro with the necessary smoothness, stability and user friendliness to compete with Microsoft Windows. The Vista version has even done it easier for Linux Mint, but there’s still a long way to go before Linux is in the position to challenge MS Windows. In my opinion Linux Mint 5 is the best candidate to do so.

10 06 2008
Lim-Dul

@Lim-Dul: I’m sure you could have said all that in a more concise manner :)

I sure could. That’s just my ever-popular writing style and me being annoyed by this “Linux shouldn’t be newbie friendly attitude”. =)

I mean – I won’t hide the fact that I have no hard feelings towards Microsoft. Vista has been very stable for around 1 1/2 years now – not a single BSoD or complete system crash – and I don’t think that everything MS does is automatically crap and evil.

However, I’m always on the lookout for new alternatives and as an experienced PC user I consider it good etiquette to have some Linux distro around (preferably dual-booting on your computer).

I WANT Linux to be a viable alternative to Windows because competition is always good for the end customer. However, for every nice and helpful person I meet in the Linux community there’s always one smug a-hole who laughs at newbies, disses Windows users and has, of course, to jump on the MS-hate bandwagon as if using Linux came with a set of rules and ideals you must automatically adopt if you want to be “1337”.

I use Linux mainly for network devices (all my routers, file-/printservers etc. are running Linux) because it’s not very useful in my line of work: I’m a video game journalist (that says all =) and a translator and the tools running on Linux are sadly not up to the task – even when it comes to translation (certain CAT-tools). OpenOffice, although I’ve been using it for a year, still isn’t as feature-rich and stable as MS Office for the advanced user (for basic users anything would suffice).

Also, Linux might not suffer from so many vulnerabilities but all the packages you install sure cause problems – I have virtually not seen a single program that doesn’t have some bugs that are easily spotted even when you use it the first time. These might be minor quirks or the odd behavior here and there but it’s still annoying.

Nevertheless it’s distros like Mint, PCLinuxOS and others that make me believe in a bright future for Linux on desktops. For specialized applications it’s, hands-down, the better OS but the desktop functionality is still waiting for the great breakthrough.

10 06 2008
Ubuntu Look » Linux Mint 5 Review

[...] Read more at The Gay Hacker [...]

11 06 2008
straight-admin

First, kudos to GayHacker for this nice and timely review, and massive kudos to Clem and team for building and maintaining Mint 5. Like others, I have tried many distros over the past decade and have more or less settled on Mint. The following comments assume that broader adoption of Linux would be a good thing, that we want it to become more than a hacker’s playground.

Having co-configured BSD 5 with Samba for a small department to replace NetWare 6, and having built and maintained servers running UNIX, NetWare, OS X, and Windows 2003, I know IT. For web/data back-end services Mint is not the best choice, but as a friendly desktop it comes closest to Windows.

I concur with Lim-Dul and Slem Fisk: This really, really matters. None of the various bosses I have had in half a dozen organizations, public and private, would have considered Linux. Even getting non-technical University folks to try it is difficult. Managers play it safe – better the devil you know than the devil you don’t – and Windows (since 2003) has worked. I may not like some aspects of its architecture, security, or pricing, but corporate and government buyers are not idiots. They know that Windows, at least in a standardized and controlled configuration, gets the job done.

A huge selling point for Windows is Office 2003/2007. I favor Open Office Writer but still use Excel when I need to do something really tricky because there’s usually a macro or method out there for what I want. Also because I can get my boss to OK the investment. No need to invent a more “open” solution, however elegant or philosophically “right” it might be, for which I lack the authority to create and/or the time to maintain.

Apps and usability drive business decisions. ANY glitch in usability or essential apps will instantly kill whatever interest the typical user might have had in Linux. They could care less about its ostensible technical superiority. In their experience, XP works 99% of the time and runs critical apps. There is zero tolerance out there for the sorts of Linux glitches that I’m sure most of us have seen: no codecs, Flash dies, video driver needs tweaking, half-baked apps get redone or replaced in the next distro, sound misbehaves…

To me, the selling points of Mint are (a) it just works – usually, and (b) the Mint installer makes it very easy to add and remove apps. Even Synaptic is complex for users who have no idea what “package” means. Double-click installation saves time and trouble. If there’s one thing I’d like to see enhanced and expanded over time, it’s the .mint installation options in the default repository. It’s a fabulous approach but the pickings are sparse.

As for the anti-Microsoft snobs (I was once one), spend ten minutes with any line-of-business manager outside the tech world and see how far you get advocating for Linux. Better brush up that resume while you are at it.

11 06 2008
manmath sahu

Lil-Dum,
Thanks for sharing these bitter-truths about Linux. I also agree that Linux enthusiasts should step down from being too geeky and telling others to do so. In this direction I found only 3 distros are doing great job, they are: Mint, Mepis and PCLinuxOS. But again, they need to do a lot of work, for example the desktop linux should work towards improving support for wireless and other peripherals. Though I am using using Linux for last 8 years, still i find it an uphill task to configure wireless, printers and cameras on linux. It seems linux has to go a long way before being ready for home desktop.

11 06 2008
Linux Mint 5 Review - TechEnclave

[...] The wonderful team over at Linux Mint has just released their fifth version (release notes, download) of the operating system, codename Elyssa, presenting yet another stable and elegant system.

[snipped by Hex (people don't need to read my review again ;) )]

The animal might appear squished. Linux Mint 5 Review The Gay Hacker [...]

11 06 2008
Kazuya

In all a wonderful review. The review is fairly accurate. I agree with both arguments here. Different distros are targeted to different users. I viewed Mint essentially as Ubuntu with codecs and extra required stuff already included. My experience using it has been that way. Linux Mint 5 is the first release where the polish and work put in by Mint really shined. It was very well improved upon. Different distros have their aim. The future is open source whether we want it or not. The success and prevalence of linux over Microsoft is inevitable.

11 06 2008
Lim-Dul

The success and prevalence of linux over Microsoft is inevitable.

Well. Currently Linux is in a kind of deadlock. I don’t think it’ll gain any boost in popularity just through improving the distros. Like straight-admin pointed out it’s really hard to convince business executives about Linux. What would help is if commercial software made its way onto the system since then the change would be almost imperceivable (“Wait, so I can use the same management suite I was using on Windows? Great!”).

I know what the OSS proponents are saying but I think the notion that OSS will rule the world one day is a bit wishful thinking. I mean – software developed e.g. as a hobby and with PASSION isn’t something that would come through in the business world. I’m not saying that it’s bad but managers understand the commercial way of doing things, when they know that the company who makes the software wants to make money off it and hence has to implement strict quality control and most important of all, has dedicated support staff (in some cases Linux software has (usually non-free) support packages as well but that’s not the rule).

Once the managers go the “commercial Linux” way they may find out in time that OSS alternatives to commercial software exist and that they work just as well.

Many Linux proponents simply forget that while everything they say is true in theory (like: Linux has less security vulnerabilities, OSS software isn’t worse than its commercial alternatives and it’s free etc.), you have to convince some people to make the first step and not try to push them into deep waters straight away. The sad truth is that in order for Linux to become more popular it has to become a bit more like Windows (which is already seen in the friendlier desktop distros) – only AFTERWARDS can it start showing the differences, advantages etc.

The problem with Linux is a bit like the problem with utopian socialism. Yes, it WOULD be the best social system in the world where everybody would be happy etc. but it simply doesn’t work in practice and the human nature is to blame for that.

11 06 2008
Hexadecimal

@Slem Fisk, Lim-Dul, straight-admin, manmath sahu: I also hope that Linux one day succeeds in the business world. I unfortunately get so frustrated at Windows that I probably come off as a Linux nut to some people :]

@Kazuya: Thanks for the thoughts!

@Lim-Dul: Yes, commercial software being available (IMHO, Adobe being the most valuable) would be something that would spur a lot of adoption of Linux.

11 06 2008
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[...] Linux Mint 5 Review The wonderful team over at Linux Mint has just released their fifth version (release notes, download) of the operating [...] [...]

12 06 2008
12 06 2008
Clem

Hi,

Thanks for a great review. As you can see on the trackback above I took the opportunity to discuss each point you’ve risen.

You’ve given us some fantastic feedback here. Thanks a lot for that.

Clem.

12 06 2008
Greg

‘Something I doubt Ubuntu would ever consider.’

Actually, after the SSH ‘disaster’, soon a little after the release of hardy, all unsent ShipIt CDs were thrown away and new ones manufactured with the fix.

13 06 2008
Hexadecimal

@Clem: You’re welcome, and thank you! I left a comment on the blog :)

@Greg: I didn’t realize that. I’ll remove that line from my review; thanks.

13 06 2008
Kevin

I have to say that Linux geeks are their own worst enemys! They are puzzeled that Linux is slow to be adapted for the desktop, yey they mock anyone who is not a fellow geek. It seems they want their ‘cake and eat it too’. Come down off your trees guys! Linux will only be a popular desktop OS when you cater to the average ‘real world’ user.

My website has links to Mint, Mandriva, PC-BSD and Mac OS for good reason. To help convince the real world users that there really are alternatives to Window$.

13 06 2008
Kevin

Also, I forgot to mention… Great work Clem and the Mint team!!! Keep up the hard work. I am promoting Mint everywhere.

14 06 2008
Raihan Hasnain

Well, I have only one question.
Does it sleep and suspend perfectly?

15 06 2008
ml2mst

Great review dude! It was nice to read.

15 06 2008
Didier

Greetings, it´s a very good review, i will translate it for the LinuxMint Hispano Portal in spanish language.

Best Regards,

Didier
Adminitrator
Linux Mint Hispano

15 06 2008
Hexadecimal

@Kevin: Thanks for promoting Linux Mint!

@Raihan: I haven’t tried either of those yet, so I can’t say for sure ;)

@Didier: Thank you! I appreciate it being translated!

@ml2mst: Thanks! I did remove the comment about “Flatfish”, however, it wasn’t necessary, and I very much doubt they are one in the same. I did want to say that I visited your site and listened to some of your songs; they sound awesome :D

16 06 2008
CaptSaltyJack

By the way, “sudo apt-get dist-upgrade” != “sudo do-dist-upgrade”. Two totally different things, as I understand it. The first one will update your distribution with major changes that are usually held back (e.g. kernel updates). The second one upgrades your entire distribution (e.g. 7.10) to a newer one (e.g. 8.04).

16 06 2008
Lim-Dul

Well – anyways, Mint still supports both methods. =)

19 06 2008
FatFox

I use Mint 4 on my laptop, and now Mint 5 on my spanking new Desktop (with the power to fully use ComizFusion).

It just works (my USB Linksys wireless dongle works out-of-the-box, rather than the disk based driver install necessary on Vista), is elegant, stable, and allows me to be more productive.

The only gripes I have are not with Mint, but Linux in general –

1) My Canon printer/scanner has no Linux drivers (only the paid-for TurboPrint)

2) Open Office is simply not as visually powerful as MS Office (2003 or 2007)

3) Adobe.Or lack thereof. GIMP may suffice for PhotoShop, but there ain’t any real Acrobat Pro, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. etc. that will do the business in an integrated way. (Not that I could print the results in any case!!)

So, 1. is my own fault for not researching before purchasing a printer (and on principle I’m never buying any other Canon product, ever again. Lazy C**ts)

2 & 3 are serious issues/problems for widespread Linux adoption.

Please don’t try and tell me that running XP inside VM Ware or VirtualBox is a solution for the masses.

So I’m left with my laptop up and running Mint 4 for my email, calender, web adventures, etc., and my desktop thrashing away at my hard disk (if you run Vista you’ll know what I mean) whilst running Office & Adobe apps.

Except when I want to show off Desktop Cube, wobbly windows, ring switcher etc. when I’ll boot into the lovely Mint 5.

And then back to an operating system I despise in order to get some actual work done.

Great review, and on another point I personally prefer a fresh install (just back up your email etc. first!)

Oh, and Rhythmbox is just rubbish. A few clicks on the Mint Software portal and we have Amorak back. I think it’s an app-size thing for the live cd.

btw, I notice that openSUSE has a DVD installer clocking in at over 4 gigs – wtf is on that thing??

I for one am more that happy with mint as it stacks up against other distros, it’s just that I can’t use it 24/7, which annoys me immensely.

Still-waiting-for-the-killer-apps Fox out.

19 06 2008
Hexadecimal

@FatFox: I’m glad it works for you; sorry about your printer though. For my use, I’ve found OpenOffice to be enough. As for Adobe software, I really hope they adopt the Linux platform for their programs. I know Inkscape was better than Illustrator CS1 when I used them, except Inkscape doesn’t have brushes :(
I wasn’t going to tell you running XP in VirtualBox was a solution, becuase it’s not. I literally have to close everything I’m working on because my computer grinds to a halt when I use it. It does beat dual-booting, though. Hopefully in the years to come Linux will be more supported by major commercial products.
In any case, I’m glad you’re happy with it :)

23 06 2008
McLovin

As the head of the the Mint Art-Team, I would like to say for the entire team, thank you for your positive comments about the art work that is being produced. Mint has always been a distro that has had some great art work, and having started the art-team has made things come out faster, and of higher quality, also it has made a standard for the wallpapers, so official wallpapers are always available in both full screen, and wide screen formats, most are also available for both the main Gnome edition, and the KDE CE edition.
Mint has recently joined the Opendesktop.org community, and gotten a community site similar to Gnome-Look.org, and can be found at http://www.linuxmint-art.org/ where users can get everything for their Linux Mint system. We are also working on getting more themes and wallpapers into the default repositories to make it easier for users to install new themes and art-work.

21 11 2008
JDS

I like your review(s) except you are gay. Not sure if I can trust a review from a gay person.

22 11 2008
Hexadecimal

@JDS: You’re right, you can’t trust me. My affinity for men completely discredits everything I say.

18 01 2009
Just my experience with FOSS - your mileage may vary..... - Page 3 | keyongtech

[...] state of the desktop OS-es nowadays. I admitted myself that Jim may have raised some valid points. http://gayhacker.wordpress.com/2008/…mint-5-review/ Some days ago it took me several hours to automount a Samba share provided by another Linux [...]

29 11 2010
Johnny

Thank you for this, appriciated!
Greets,
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