Linux Mint 15 review
Linux Mint’s comparatively short development cycle means new releases tend to bring evolutionary improvements. New features in Version 15 include flexible, themable login screens; a new software management tool called Software Sources; a driver management tool; and a unified System Settings view – an improvement over previous versions that split settings icons across two different windows. The latest version of Cinnamon also brings support for what Mint calls “Desklets” – also known as desktop widgets, or “Gadgets” in Windows 7 and Vista.
Overall, Mint is very slick: the technical challenges and inconsistent interface elements that were once part and parcel of Linux are nowhere to be seen. It’s no surprise that it’s gaining popularity: the Linux-specific DistroWatch website (www.distrowatch.com) reports more visitors seeking information about Mint than any other distribution, including Ubuntu.
If you’re thinking of hopping on the Mint train, however, be warned that there’s currently no officially supported way to upgrade from one version to the next. Unlike Ubuntu, which offers in-place upgrades via the Software Updater tool, Mint emphasises stability, and discourages users from upgrading as a matter of course. If you insist on doing so, you’ll have to back up your data and perform a fresh installation.
Alternatively, you could go for the Linux Mint Debian Edition, which is a continuously updated “rolling release” – but this isn’t compatible with Ubuntu. As the name indicates, it’s based on the unmodified Debian distribution, and calls for, in the developers’ words, “a deeper knowledge and experience with Linux, dpkg and APT”.
Still, no operating system is perfect, and Mint is overall a slick and businesslike Linux that reaches out persuasively to Windows users – and to anyone who isn’t bowled over by Ubuntu’s Unity interface. It isn’t your only option: Kubuntu, for example, is an Ubuntu variant that offers a taskbar-based interface not dissimilar to Cinnamon, while derivatives of Mint are freely available with KDE, Xfce and GNOME-based front-ends. But if you’re mulling over which distribution to test-drive, Linux Mint is an appealingly capable and fuss-free place to start.
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