Linux Mint has never been my favourite. Except, maybe, for the short-term flirt with Mint Xfce, which I ran on my laptop for several weeks. The end of that story was not as happy as the beginning. Mint Xfce was based on the testing branch of Debian, so another update of the codebase broke the system to an unrecognisable state. Finally, I got rid of Mint Xfce. It is no longer part of my laptop's landscape.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to avoid news about this operating system, because it is widely discussed. There are several reasons for this. They are somehow interlinked, but let me list them separately.
Linux Mint is currently #1 in the Distrowatch's popularity rating.Linux Mint's team decided to avoid the way of their major codebase owner, Ubuntu, and forked 2 (two!) desktop environments for use with their distribution, on top of standard KDE and Xfce. These desktop environments are Cinnamon and MATE.
This is the second reason I have an impulse to look at Linux Mint today. I downloaded both Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon and Linux Mint 13 Maya MATE. It was a dilemma for me which one to start from. The draw favoured Cinnamon.
If you are unaware, Cinnamon is the Mint team's rework of the GNOME3 interface. It is built on GNOME3, but the user interface is different from the default GNOME Shell. This may sound familiar to some readers of my blog, because I've written some articles about distros that take the same approach: for example, Zorin OS. However, Zorin and Mint are different. Where Zorin aims to be as close as possible to the Windows interface, Linux Mint does not have this goal.
Linux Mint 13 Maya in general is based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.
I used Unetbootin to "burn" the ISO image to the USB stick. The size of this distribution, Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon, is 817 Mb. When the USB stick was ready, I plugged it into the USB port of my Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo Pi 1505 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from USB. Let's go!
Unetbootin presented its usual boot menu. It included the usual items, like Boot Linux Mint and Boot Linux Mint in Compatibility Mode. The latter, I believe, means that all the fancy drivers are replaced with the more basic ones, for the systems with not-so-well supported hardware. Apart from these items, the Unetbootin menu listed elements, which allow checking the boot media, doing a memory check or booting from the HDD.
I chose the normal boot option for my Live USB run of Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon.
Once the boot process started, the screen became empty and black. There was no fancy splash screen. It stayed like this until the very end, when the ready-to-use system was presented with the working Desktop. The only exception was the mouse cursor which appeared a little bit earlier.
Should I say that the boot process was quick? Probably not. Because it was very quick! Just a few seconds passed from the selection of boot menu item to the fully working desktop.
|Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon|
uses about 188 Mb to bootThe freshly booted
Technically speaking, Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon runs on Linux kernel 3.2.0-23.
The default desktop in Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon has the classical layout. That was the purpose of Cinnamon: to get rid of the controversial GNOME Shell interface and revert it back to a more “classical” one.
There are some icons on the desktop: Home folder, Computer and Install.
The default wallpaper in Linux Mint has not changed for the last few releases. It is the name of the distribution, LinuxMint, written in a specific font and colours on a grey background. The only difference now is that instead of a version number in the circle at the bottom of the LinuxMint word, the word Maya is in the same circle.
There is a choice of about 20 alternative wallpapers in the default distribution, if you don't like the Linux Mint standard one. Most of the alternatives are landscapes, predominantly seaside or mountains.
There is a panel at the bottom of the screen. It is black, and there is no way to change the color, as far as I know. That’s a generic GNOME3 issue.
The bottom-left corner is taken by the Menu button with a cogwheel icon. Next to it, you can find the Show Desktop button and quick launch panel with shortcuts for Firefox browser, Terminal and Nautilus file manager.
Here you may start struggling with icons, because Linux Mint has a long-term tendency to use non-standard icons for the applications. In particular, I've never seen these Firefox and Nautilus icons in any other distribution. You can find more cases as you dig into the menu.
The right part of the panel has the usual set of elements in the notification area: clocks, power meter, network manager, volume control, USB device manager.
Couple of observations here.
First of all, all the elements are in white on a black background. The only exception is the battery status icon, which is green. Why? From my point of view, there is no particular reason for it to be green.
Second, the Removable Devices icon has the image of... desktop computer. I don't understand the logical sequence how a removable device has become the computer itself.
The central part of the panel, as you would expect, is the taskbar, where all the current applications have their own buttons with icons and names.
You may have noticed that there is no switcher between the virtual desktops in the default Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon operating system. Of course, this functionality is still available. If you need the switcher, then you can add this applet to the panel, using the menu from the little triangle in the notification area.
There are some desktop effects available out of the box. They are not annoying like exploding menus or wobbly windows, but rather mild ones: windows minimize, appear and close with scaling animation. Strangely enough, the Cinnamon configuration window had the checkbox for desktop effects unticked. I ticked it for an experiment, but nothing changed.
Linux Mint 13 Maya automatically recognised and configured the wireless network card of my laptop Intel 3945 ABG. My home wireless network was in the list of networks shown by the manager applet. It took me a few seconds to type in the security key and to connect.
The default keyboard layout in Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon is English US. There is a Keyboard Layout element in the Preferences part of the menu. It calls up the standard Ubuntu/GNOME configuration window. I was able to configure it to my taste, replacing the English US with English UK + Russian and activating the Ctrl-Shift switch hotkey.
The touchpad was also automatically configured to my own taste, with edge scrolling and tapping working as I like them.
The major reason why I did not like Linux Mint in its previous GNOME-based versions was the menu.
Many people fancy the Mint menu. I hate it. It is far too complicated for me: several columns of shortcuts, working almost independently from each other. And when it takes almost the whole screen, it drives me crazy. Menu is not an application to me, it's a tool to start an application. It should be simple and small.
Did Cinnamon bring anything new here? Thank God, yes! Linux Mint 13 Cinnamon features a less complicated menu. It still has several sections. But it became smaller, from my point of view. Also, I start to get the logic in its organisation. To be honest, the logic is very similar to the one of GNOME Shell itself.
The menu can be called either by clicking on the panel button, or by pressing the Super (Windows) key on the keyboard.
To start with, the left column has some shortcuts which you can configure. By default, there are shortcuts to Firefox browser, Nautilus file manager, Terminal, Cinnamon Settings, XChatIRC and session management (shutdown, logout, lock). You can add more shortcuts by dragging-and-dropping them onto the menu section. I noticed a bug there. When you move a new icon towards the menu area, it adds a space for the future element. But if you change your mind, and do not drop new item to the shortcuts section, it still leaves an empty space.
The rest of the panel is the menu itself. The middle section shows menu groups, like All Applications, Office, Internet, Graphics and so on. The right part shows elements in that group. As I have said, this is similar to the principles of the GNOME Shell menu.
What is in the menu? The list if rather big, so you won't be left barebones.
Firefox 12.0 is the default and the only browser in Mint 13 Cinnamon. Other than Firefox, the Internet section includes Pidgin instant messenger client, Transmission torrent client, Desktop Sharing, XChatIRC and Thunderbird e-mail client. You may have noticed that Mint 13 does not a include remote desktop viewer application by default, so you would need to install it from the repositories.
LibreOffice 126.96.36.199 is the main element of the Office part of the Mint menu. There are applications like Writer, Calc, Impress and Base. There is no LibreOffice Math. Other than LibreOffice, there is also a Document Viewer. Something is wrong with LibreOffice in Mint 13. Apart from the extremely long initial startup time for this application, it used so many resources that fans of the laptop went bananas during the LibreOffice Calc startup.
LibreOffice Draw is a part of the Graphics section of the menu in Mint 13 Cinnamon. This section also includes GIMP, gThumb, SimpleScan, Document Viewer and Image Viewer. The collection here is quite powerful and logical, apart from the duplication created by the presence of both gThumb and Image Viewer.
The Sound & Video section of the Mint 13 menu has even more duplications: VLC, Banshee, GNOME MPlayer and Movie Player are all the same in their purpose: multimedia players. Why would you need all of them together? This collection of players is complemented by the Brasero disk burner and Sound Recorder.
The Accessories section includes a more or less standard set of applications: Tomboy notes, Calculator, Disk Utility, gEdit, Nautilus File Manager, Screenshot utility, Terminal. There is some controversy, I must say. I can understand why the Screenshot utility was moved from Graphics to Accessories: this is a small and light tool for everyday use. But I cannot understand who in his right mind could place Disk Utility in the Accessories section? This is an administrative application, not an accessory!
Nautilus File Manager in Mint 13 has the same issue with file sizes, as I saw in Fedora 17 GNOME: the actual file size of Mint 13 Cinnamon distribution 817 Mb was shown as 856 Mb, because it is actually 856,686,592 bytes. My dear GNOME3 / Nautilus developers, there is a difference between Megabyte (Mb) and Million of bytes!
The System Tools in Linux Mint 13 Maya are also standard ones: Disk Usage Analyzer, System Monitor, System Settings, Power Statistics. GDebi intstaller, Log file viewer.
There are many more interesting tools in the Administration section of the menu. There is GParted (in addition to Disk Utility from Accessories), Backup tool, Firewall configuration, Network tool, Synaptic, Update Manager, Software Manager (Mint’s package manager), Ndiswraper tool and some others.
As you can see, there are applications in Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon for almost all possible tasks. To be honest, there are many applications that duplicate each other, and some of them are misplaced in the menu. But generally, the selection is not that bad.
If you need more applications, then Software Manager is your likely place to search for them. Of course, if you don't want to use Synaptic for whatever reason, this Software Manager is a package manager developed by Mint's team as an alternative to Ubuntu Software Centre.
The sources of Linux Mint 13 include Mint's own repositories plus Ubuntu 12.04 standard ones. There are no PPAs in the default Mint distribution, apart from medibuntu repository.
To try the Software Manager in Linux Mint 13 Live USB run, I tried to install the remote desktop viewer Remmina. When I clicked the "Install" button in the Software Manager, the button disappeared, but there were no indications of the progress, no additional questions, no messages, no feedback at all. The end result was that I found no changes in the system.
My second attempt to install Remmina was with Synaptic. This time round, I was given the list of dependencies and the size of downloaded and installed files. But, unfortunately, I was not able to install Remmina packages: they were not found on the server, for whatever reason. I don't know whom to blame here, either Linux Mint or Ubuntu repository.
At the same time, I was able to install Gigolo network partition manager from the same repository using Synaptic. Honestly, I have not tried Software Manager for this. But not everything was shiny and polished here… Even though the installation went smoothly in Synaptic, I could not find Gigolo in the Mint menu. I could only start it from the Terminal.
Nautilus file manager includes a function to browse the network. Unfortunately, this function was useless for me: it could not see the fileserver in my home network.
It was the time for Gigolo to come into play. This application very often helps me to map remote partitions in different Linux distributions. But, unfortunately, it did not work for me in Linux Mint. Gigolo could not retrieve the list of shares from the server.
My first guess was that Linux Mint 13 does not include the Samba client (smbfs) package, which is required for mounting of remote Samba partitions. I installed it from the Software Manager itself, and this time I was pleasantly surprised: I saw the "ongoing action" in the SM's status bar, and then the package's status changed to "Installed".
Unfortunately, even this installation did not help Gigolo to mount the external partition. As the last resort, I went for the manual mounting in the Terminal. And even this operation failed!
I was in despair! I tried to ping my local addresses for the server or router, and none of them was reachable! In contrast, the external Internet addresses were accessible. Unfortunately, Linux Mint 13 did not see any devices in my home network! That was not an issue of Gigolo or Samba client, then.
mint@mint ~ $ sudo mount -t cifs //remoteserver/folder /localfolder -o guest,nolinux
mount error: could not resolve address for remoteserver: Unknown error
I saw a very similar issue in Zorin OS 6 Core: it could not resolve IP addresses of my local devices. Zorin OS 6 and Mint 13 share the same root: both use Ubuntu 12.04 + GNOME3. This is not an issue of Ubuntu 12.04 itself, because I do not have this issue in my Xubuntu 12.04 installation, so I can only blame GNOME 3 here. However, I did have positive results with connecting from Fedora 17 GNOME. To be honest, I am lost in my guesses.
Even though I could not connect to my external network drive, I could still test the playback of multimedia files: I keep some MP3 files on the laptop's own hard drive.
From all the available applications, the less expected Movie Player is the default player for MP3 files. It started the playback straight away.
As you may know, Mint 13 comes with all the necessary codecs included, unless you specifically downloaded the version with trimmed codecs.
|Linux Mint 13 includes necessary multimedia codecs|
and Flash player
Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon Live USB run left quite a strange impression on me.
From the positive side, this operating system exceeded my expectations in terms of speed. It both boots and works quickly. I saw no significant delays, except for extremely long startup time of LibreOffice Calc, but this is a generic issue of LibreOffice. Also, Mint 13 Cinnamon includes a nice set of applications, codecs and Flash player, which give you a workable operating system right out of the box.
On the negative side, there are still issues to work on.
The menu has too many applications for the same task. Some applications are definitely misplaced in the wrong menu sections.The issue with file sizes in Nautilus is very disorienting.And, of course, the bug with local network devices is definitely a major one.
Weighing all these pros and cons, I would say that Linux Mint Cinnamon team has lots of tasks to work on.
Would I recommend someone to install it for the production use? Only if you fancy to be a guinea pig or a beta-tester of the operating system. That’s not my cup of tea, you know.
Apart from Cinnamon, Linux Mint team released a MATE variant of Linux Mint 13 Maya. Is it any better? Follow the link to check it out!
Do you want to try the latest version of Linux Mint yourself? To help you, here is a Buy Linux CDs site.
Video used in the screenshot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkmET8y-RiM#!
This post was edited by djohnston.