Although Mint shares the same core as Ubuntu, as well as the package repositories, there’s a world of difference between the two; and that difference is what makes Mint stand out from the crowd.
Ubuntu, for all of its Linux for Human Beings ethos, decided some time ago to opt for a totally new, and radical at the time, Desktop Environment. Of course, we are referring to the much maligned, Unity. It’s quite remarkable really, just how much animosity can be generated toward the visual interpretation of a few lines of code.
In a community that tolerates almost any eccentricity, Unity achieved such notoriety throughout the Linux population, and was hated as much as any offering from the likes of Microsoft. The other versions of and related to Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu and so on, have kept their theme and as a result have managed to retain their fan base. However, it was the core Ubuntu direction, and its alleged flagrant disregard for heeding the views and opinions of those using the software, that forced a number of stalwarts to jump ship.
In more recent times Canonical’s decision to revert back to GNOME 3, and the whole data privacy issues surrounding the distro, forced the users who were on the brink of moving to finally make the transition to other Linux distros.
Many of the refugees of Ubuntu found solace in the form of Linux Mint, which at the time was still operating with a classic GNOME 2 desktop environment. The world was changing though and the GNOME development team were taking things in one direction, while Ubuntu were taking theirs in another. Mint, finding itself between a rock and hard place, were loath to adopt either the true form of the newly released Gnome 3, an environment that caused just as much controversy as Unity had in the early years, or the Ubuntu implemented Unity. Instead the team employed an eclectic mix of desktops, a learned choice of environments for the user to opt for during installation. The Mint team were listening to the views and comments of those in the community and as a result, they offered the user a compromise.
Looking at the previous releases of Mint, from Linux Mint 12 “Lisa”, based on Ubuntu Oneiric, to Mint 13 “Maya”, based on the Precise Pangolin, we see a Linux distribution that offers the advanced and casual user alike an experience that retains the classic look and feel of the desktop, without the commercialisation or look-alike branding that appears to have become the norm these days. In particular, we could enjoy the pleasures of MATE and Cinnamon, considered as the true Linux users’ desktop environments.
However, it’s not just the choice of Desktop Environment that makes Mint different. For example, the layout of the Mint Menu grants easy and logical access to the installed apps and administration of the system. It’s intuitive and for those who want a modern approach, it also includes a search function.
The Mint developers have also included some specialised tools: Mint Install, Mint Update, Mint Backup and Mint Upload, all of which are designed to make tasks easier, and create a better user experience.
Mint also includes media codecs out of the box, so you don’t need to install them once the operating system is set up. There’s also Java runtime and Flash Player installed by default, along with productivity apps, media players such as VLC and even Gimp.
Overall though, it’s the Linux Mint community that makes this such a stand out and different distro. Within the Mint forums you can find a helpful and dedicated set of users, from all walks of life and at differing levels of skill and knowledge, ready and willing to help a beginner. Sign up at www.forums.linuxmint.com, introduce yourself and get involved.
It’s these differences that make Linux Mint a great choice of distro for beginners and advanced users.