Linux Mint Logo(Sorry Folks, No Video This Time)SaGeek Recommended

(Also note that I am heavily flu’d up and medicated when posting this, I tried my best to keep it typo, grammar, spelling, and general error free. Notify me of any snags and I’ll gladly correct…)

Linux Mint 10 Julia has been around for a while now, but I have not gotten around to reviewing it.

Now after using it for a while and getting to know it I decided to write up and post a review of this, arguably the best Linux Distro available.

For this review I am using the DVD edition of Linux Mint 10 Julia.

First Impressions

I like Linux Mint. I am a bit of a fan, and I believe I have good reason for it. Those who know me well have heard me criticize previous releases, but since Mint 8 my reservations have been addressed.

On first impressions Linux Mint 10 does not disappoint. It is clean, elegant (to borrow a term from the Linux Mint slogan) and there are custom touches everywhere that improves the user experience.

There is a new theme, as is the case with every release of Mint, and a host of improvements to the custom bits that Clem and the guys added to the Operating System.

Adding Ubuntu One is seamless, and even the “updating” and “updated” icons appear on the folders.

The real win for me with this release is the MintMenu. I will devote a section to it later, but suffice it to say that I rate this as the best menu of any operating system out there, not even the new fangled Gnome-Shell or Unity menus can compete.

Mint 10 Welcome Menu

The Very Pretty Linux Mint 10 Julia (Click To Enlarge)

Installation

The Mint installer borrows heavily from the new Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat installer. It has the same features – like installing the system in the background while you set your options like user-name and locale.

A notable difference is the lack of an option to install codecs and flash. The reason for this is that the Mint DVD edition already includes those codecs etc that might be missing from other mainstream distributions, as well as the CD edition of Mint.

Another difference between Mint 10 and Ubuntu 10.10 is that where with Ubuntu you can choose to install immediately OR go to the live desktop, in Mint you boot to the desktop by default. I am not sure which approach I prefer – if you are looking for a live boot-stick or disk the Mint approach would be preferable, it can be a pain to have to select “Try Ubuntu” every time you want to live boot somewhere.

Other than that the installation is as smooth as is to be expected with Linux distributions geared towards the desktop these days, and in minutes you have a desktop ready to use.

Twenty Five Part Test

Linux Mint did surprisingly well, even though there are areas where it falls behind.

Tests Mint 9 KDE Win7 Ubuntu Unity Mint 10
Join Wifi Network 80 80 100 100 100
Join Wired Network 100 50 100 100 100
Set Proxy 70 57.14 66.67 66.67 60
Get Network Info 80 25 50 50 50
Change Desktop Background 100 80 100 75 100
Change Theme 75 100 100 75 100
Set Screen Rez 80 100 80 80 100
Set Up Network Share 66.67 80 100 0 100
Access Network Share 100 66.67 100 0 100
Get Hardware Info 66.67 100 66.67 66.67 66.67
Get System Usage Info 66.67 100 66.67 66.67 90
Open Program Accessibility 85 80 85 90 85
Play Audio CD 75 100 100 100 100
Access USB Drive 100 50 100 100 100
Play Youtube 100 33.33 80 80 100
Play MP3 100 100 80 80 100
Open PDF 100 33.33 100 100 100
Look For Specific Software 100 28.57 75 90 100
Check For System Updates 100 50 66.67 66.67 100
Supported Architecture 100 100 100 100 100
Shut Down 66.67 66.67 66.67 66.67 66.67
Battery Life 80 90.91 75 85 85
Atheros Support 100 100 100 100 100
Codec Support 100 100 75 75 100
WEP Support 33.33 100 100 100 100
Totals 2125.01 1871.62 2133.35 1913.35 2303.34
Percentage Score 85.0004 74.8648 85.334 76.534 92.1336

Good as the MintMenu is, it got in the way of some tasks, forcing the user to jump through one more menu in order to access a specific function – a notable example is setting the Network Proxy, where Mint scores really badly.

That said, we again have our best Linux Distro!

Software Choices

Linux Mint generally uses a different software set than what you would get with Ubuntu. Gimp is included, and – rather oddly – Pitivi is not.

Fspot is preferred to Shotwell, and Thunderbird to Evolution.

On the Media Player front Gnome-Mplayer, Totem and VLC are all there. A bit of overkill if you ask me.

Some good inclusions are a Firewall GUI, the excellent in-house developed Giver to share files with other people, MintBackup, Mintnanny and Mintdesktop – all of which add great functionality to your desktop experience.

A note on Thunderbird

If you would allow me a simple observation about every implementation of Thunderbird that I have seen in every distro that uses it as it’s default mail client – Why no calendar?

Thunderbird has an excellent calendar plugin.

Come to think of it, Thunderbird has a ton of awesome plugins that extend its functionality – why the bare-bones implementation of Thunderbird by Distributions?

Evolution – as much of a train wreck as it currently is – at least has proper calendaring and handling of meeting requests. The bare install of Thunderbird that Distributions currently give us do not offer this functionality.

MintMenu

The Mint 10 Customise MenuMint 10 Favorites MenuMint 10 Applications Menu

MintMenu is awesome. It offers more functionality than just getting you to your programs.

With MintMenu you can:

  • Install software.
  • Find Files and Folders.
  • Find and Launch programs with keyboard only, great for those who are used to Gnome-Do. (You cannot run command-line utilities from it like “sudo fdisk -l”)
  • Arrange your favorites for quick access.
  • See your recently used documents.
  • Access your Nautilus Shortcuts.
  • Skin it!

Wow. I am not even sure that I covered everything that MintMenu can do! On top of all that it does not get in the way like the KDE4 kickoff launcher does.

MintMenu is a complete control center for your computer, other Operating System designers should seriously take note.

One note with it though – sometimes when you want to add an application to the favorites menu it does not show up. Bug somewhere?

A quick glance at Mintbackup

Mintbackup has improved a lot. Besides the expected backing up of files and folders, Mintbackup also includes the option to backup your software selection and restore it as well.

This is great for migrating between desktops and installs. I wonder how long it will be before a complete migration tool similar to what MacOS has will be available for Linux…

Complaints

No review I do would be complete without some constructive criticism, and MintMenu is first up in the firing line.

The default selection of favorites is… odd. MintMenu includes the “System” area where the available shortcuts include the Terminal, among others. Why include the Terminal under Favorites as well?

Rather remove the Terminal from Favorites and include Network Proxy.

Mint feels a bit slower than Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat. It could be just me being used to working with Unity – which has become really snappy.

I noted the odd software selection above, and the lack of added functionality for Thunderbird.

Desktop Readiness

There are a lot of Linux Distros that feature everything a desktop user might need software wise. Many, or dare I say most, are not completely desktop ready though.

Having the software available in a default install does not make a distribution desktop ready. Having as much software as possible installed often detracts from the end-user experience.

Besides the installed software there is the question of stability, hardware support, polish.

Ubuntu is continually pushing the envelope of desktop readiness in this regard. With the inclusion of a video editing suite and a continued search for the best software for every given task that most common users will want to perform they are setting the standard for desktop Linux.

Linux Mint has always looked to improve on that – Adding MintNanny, a proper Backup tool and a firewall utility are good additions to any desktop operating system.

I am a bit perturbed by some of the choices and exclusions in the software selection, why no Pitivi – or at least something similar? Why the inclusion of so many media players?

Taking all of this into account I have to score Linux Mint 10 exactly the same as I have scored Ubuntu Maverick Meerkat – Four out of Five. With more thought given to the software selection Linux Mint might just have cracked a perfect Five…

Mint Scores 4/5

Feature Completeness

This is a new Review Category. I thought of including it in the Twenty Five part test – making the test a 26part affair – but I realised that feature completeness can be very subjective.

I needed a category where I could give a score to a distro or product based on how, erm, feature complete it is. One question I ask is “Do I need to install a ton of packages to be able to perform my dayjob?”

Linux Mint scores predictably well here. Everything the average computer user needs is there from the get-go. Even things like Flash, Java and codecs are included by default.

I have mentioned some omissions to the software selection, and I will not harp about the specifics again.

Given that Mint 10 is the first Operating System that I am giving a score to in this category I am purposefully conservative in my scoring, and give it a THREE OUT OF FIVE. One factor that contributed to this is the lack of calendaring integration in Thunderbird.

Mint 10 Score 3/5

Ease of Use

In general Linux Mint is easy to use. The MintMenu greatly adds to this.

Unlike Ubuntu Linux Mint seems to have hit the sweet spot between catering for new users and making tools available for power users. If you don’t believe me, take the MintMenu and see how much you can customize it.

Compared to other staples of the Desktop Distro crowd like PCLinuxOS, Linux Mint offers all the power, with none of the clutter or confusion.

Taking into consideration that the interface itself should be very familiar to Windows users, and that there are utilities to do some of the tougher tasks (Activating WiFi cards that need Ndiswrapper, or setting up a firewall) means that Linux Mint 10 scores FOUR OUT OF FIVE for ease of use.

4/5 Ease of Use for Mint 10

Disqualifiers

This is the third review to feature the Disqualifier Rating. The less there is to bar the average user from using Linux Mint 10, the lower the score will be.

The lower the score is, the better for this distribution.

Right.

There is little to stop the average user from choosing Linux Mint 10 for their Distro of choice. Sure the absense of a video editing suite and calendaring stick out a bit on the software selection front, but they are easily installed.

The inclusion of a backup utility and the option to backup and restore your software selection is a great plus.

For home use, especially for parents with children, MintNanny makes perfect sense.

As always I have to consider that there are people who need/want to play the latest and greatest games, or who need to use software that only works on Windows.

Because of that I cannot give Linux Mint 10 a perfect 0/5 disqualifier rating (remember lower is better!) but because there is little else that would stop anyone from using it I give it my best score in this category so far of 1/5!

Mint 10 Scores 1/5 in Disqualifiers

Q Rating

The Q Rating is very important to me. If you want a quick and nasty opinion on a Distro you can almost take the Q Rating as a quick overview of the whole review.

That said…

Linux Mint 10 is worth a try. If you are looking for a Linux Install for your house, if you are looking for something to put on your wife’s laptop, something to give to your dad, something for yourself to use as a work OS – Linux Mint 10 can fill all those needs with aplomb.

Given the vast repositories of software available to it, the customized utilities and the rock solid stability that has become a staple of Linux, you can be confident that Linux Mint 10 is going to give you the best of many worlds of computing in one package.

I give it a FOUR OUT OF FIVE.

4/5 score for Mint 10

Summary

My reviews are getting longer by the release. If you have suffered through my long winded review and come this far, there is not much else to say about Linux Mint 10, Julia.SaGeek Recommended

In summation I would conclude with this – if I was told that I had 24hours to pack for an important assignment and that I had to set up a notebook to take along, Linux Mint 10 would go on it.

If I were to use one operating system for the next year I would not hesitate to go with Linux Mint 10.

Mint 10 Gets the Recommendation!

Besides scoring awesomely well in all the tests Linux Mint 10 also cracks the nod as an SaGeek recommended product. Mint 9 was also similarly recommended, and Mint 10 continues the tradition.

Get it at the Linux Mint Website

Tests Mint 9 KDE Win7 Ubuntu Unity Mint 10
Join Wifi Network 80 80 100 100 100
Join Wired Network 100 50 100 100 100
Set Proxy 70 57.14 66.67 66.67 60
Get Network Info 80 25 50 50 50
Change Desktop Background 100 80 100 75 100
Change Theme 75 100 100 75 100
Set Screen Rez 80 100 80 80 100
Set Up Network Share 66.67 80 100 0 100
Access Network Share 100 66.67 100 0 100
Get Hardware Info 66.67 100 66.67 66.67 66.67
Get System Usage Info 66.67 100 66.67 66.67 90
Open Program Accessibility 85 80 85 90 85
Play Audio CD 75 100 100 100 100
Access USB Drive 100 50 100 100 100
Play Youtube 100 33.33 80 80 100
Play MP3 100 100 80 80 100
Open PDF 100 33.33 100 100 100
Look For Specific Software 100 28.57 75 90 100
Check For System Updates 100 50 66.67 66.67 100
Supported Architecture 100 100 100 100 100
Shut Down 66.67 66.67 66.67 66.67 66.67
Battery Life 80 90.91 75 85 85
Atheros Support 100 100 100 100 100
Codec Support 100 100 75 75 100
WEP Support 33.33 100 100 100 100
Totals 2125.01 1871.62 2133.35 1913.35 2303.34
Percentage Score 85.0004 74.8648 85.334 76.534 92.1336

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