Hands on with Mint 7
Now in its seventh iteration, codenamed Gloria, Linux Mint aims to bring easy-to-use Linux to the masses. It's based upon the ubiquitious Ubuntu, and as such it shares many of the same features; the installation routine, for example, is virtually identical and takes under 30 minutes to complete. However, there is far more to Mint than just Ubuntu minus the brown colour scheme.
If you read our guide to choosing the best Linux distro for you and want to know why this new release of Linux Mint is worth trying, read on to find out why we gave it a 9/10 rating...
While Mint, like many other distros, follows a six-month development and release cycle, the developers pride themselves on the community aspect. The net result is that a feature suggested on a forum today could find its way into the codebase in a matter of weeks rather than months, so it feels as if the OS is more organic than most, with updates appearing frequently.
Thanks to its Debian heritage, software installation is usually pretty simple, especially when using the standard Synaptic package manager. Mint sensibly places the task bar at the bottom of the screen, and calls the equivalent to the Start button the Menu button. As an added touch, this menu is laid out in a very Windows-esque way, making life much easier for refugees from Microsoft Windows.
Although originally intended as Ubuntu with built-in media codecs, Mint has mutated into a rather different beast. Those media codecs are still part of the overall package, but the main focus is now on making the OS as user-friendly as possible. This means that most of your hardware, including Wi-Fi adaptors, should work out of the box. Our install did choke when presented with a video capture card, but considering its exotic nature, that's hardly a surprise.
Linux Mint comes with non-free codecs installed for you, so you can waste even more of your time on YouTube and listening to MP3s.
If you're not a fan of Gnome, you can download a community edition tailored to the KDE, Xfce or Fluxbox desktops. However, these are one version behind the main release.
Another thoughtful feature is the Welcome To Linux Mint screen that appears after the first login. As well as browsing the list of new features and reading the release notes, new users can download a PDF user guide. Linux, with instructions? Whatever next?
The manual includes some useful tips, such as how to launch apps automatically, installing and removing software, and how to use the Mint Menu. It may not be everything you ever wanted to know about starting in Linux, but it's enough to get brand-new users on their feet, and is a welcome addition.
It's easy to see why Mint is so popular. The logical layout and the effort that has been made to make the OS as easy to use as possible really sets a standard in usability. If you're looking to make the switch from Windows, and want the transition to be as easy as possible, Mint really hits the spot.
Our verdict: A blessed relief from Ubuntu brown plus the hardware support and ease of use, make this a real winner. 9/10.
First published in Linux Format magazine