15 Dec 2010

On What Does Mint Grow?

Linux Mint. It claims to be 4th most popular operating system in the world. Only Ubuntu Linux comes ahead of it, other two being Windows and MacOS.
I heard about this Linux distribution ages ago. But there were other systems to try. And then I read the message in my blogroll linked site: Three months is not a bad run. That gave me additional impulse in that direction. Now I can put my hands on this one.
So, let's use standard way: download CD iso-image from the official web site. My choice was in Linux Mint 10 Julia. It has GNOME desktop environment, which is default for Linux Mint. Although, other versions are also available as "community editions". Burn it to disk. Reboot the computer. Choose to boot from CD. Let's go!

From the very start, there is something very familiar for me. You can see Linux Mint logo when booting. Right underneath there are five dots which show that something is happening. This is very similar to one system I have seen before. Which one? Let's see later.
There are not many questions to be asked during the boot. To be precise, the only question was whether I want to boot Linux Mint or not. My answer was obvious, no other options were explored.
When booted, you can see very familiar GNOME environment with taskbar at the bottom and few icons on the desktop. No alternative multiple desktops by default though.
Something surprised me right after booting. Linux Mint found my WiFi  card. But it did not activate it. Instead, an icon was placed in the taskbar showing that drivers are available. Again, I definitely saw this behaviour somewhere before. Do I remember where? Yes I do! But let's wait!
When I clicked the taskbar icon, I was given a choice of 2 drivers available for the WiFi card. Both of them are proprietary. That's why Linux Mint did not install them by default.
And, as I know now, that is the reason why many distributions cannot use the WiFi card. They are too much ring fenced to free and open software. From my perspective, that is not correct direction for development. If software is available, user should be either informed that proprietary software was used, or at least given a choice to install it manually. Linux Mint uses the second of those options, and I don't mind.
Let me choose any of the drivers available, and then try to activate it. Bingo! Not that I can use WiFi card at this point of time. But error message which appears in front of me definitely says why I had so many hints about ground-hog day. Linux Mint tries to download drivers from... Ubuntu servers! Yes! Ubuntu has same 5 dots at booting. Ubuntu gave me same clue to download proprietary driver. And now Linux Mint follows these steps. You can see... Linux Mint roots are deep in Ubuntu.
And that is not the secret. Linux Mint team says it directly in "About" section of web site.
But what is the difference then? Why does Linux Mint exists as separate project, but not as part of *untu community? Because Linux Mint adds something new to Canonical's Ubuntu. This is what they call "usability".
Having seen Mint just for few minutes (what else I can do there without Internet connection? Just to try and taste!), I can definitely say that Mint is more user-friendly than Ubuntu. That does not say that Ubuntu is unusable for newbies. No, not at all! Ubuntu is one of the most user-friendly LinuxOSes I've seen so far! Only Puppy Linux can be considered as more friendly than Ubuntu! But Mint exceeds Ubuntu! I can't say if Mint exceeds Puppy or not, but they are very close.
What is in initial CD image? Gimp for graphics! Gnome media player! Video player! Open Office (I still remember that no all Live Linux CDs have it included)! Internet messenger (Pidgin)! And, of course Firefox. What else you can imagine as a "must have"?
What is missing there? Proprietary software I needed - drivers for Broadcom WiFi card. And definitely Chrome (or Chromium) as my favourite browser. But these are definitely not the show-stoppers for those fans who want to use Linux Mint.
In terms of speed, Linux Mint only took 3 minutes and 16 seconds to boot from main menu to ready-to-use system. Of course, without network connection. To be precise, taskbar icon with drivers proposal appeared another 30 seconds later. But I still consider system to be ready after 3.16, because I could launch my applications while network card was being recognised. And this is currently highest speed for CD-based Live Linuxes, except for DSL which runs with very limited functionality.
Just before today, I had preference of Fedora to become first candidate to replace any of OSes currently installed on my Hard Disk. Now I am in hesitation. Fedora stays on one scalepan. Another scalepan is occupied with Linux Mint.

Linux Mint 10 Julia is actually not the only current version of Mint. The team made an attempt to get closer to the roots on which Ubuntu stays. They created Mint Debian. Should I try it? Definitely yes! But not this time. Sometime later.


  1. I have tryed Mint myself. But its not the only Linux distribution that "works out of the box" with preinstalled mediacodecs.
    A good choice are Pardus 2011 with the KDE desktop. My personal favourite if I want run a single operating system on a PC:

    And its a original not based on any other distribution to.

  2. Thanks for the comment!
    Will review Parus as some point...