Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Linux Mint Celena - Initial review

Linux Mint is a user friendly variant of Ubuntu and many of its users refer to Linux Mint as "Ubuntu done right". Their website says that
"Linux Mint's purpose is to produce an elegant, up to date and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution". Wow, sounds impressive. Hence when the new version of Linux Mint, Celena, was released, I could not resist the temptation and decided to try Mint on my desktop. While the Mint iso torrent was downloading, I went ahead and read some of the reviews here and here. The jest of the two reviews is that Mint is Ubuntu made simple by including browser plugins, media codecs, support for DVD playback, Java and other essential non-OSS softwares.

This article will collate my initial experiences with Linux Mint, if I like it I might keep it for some days and do a full review in future.

The download was slick and the LiveCD booted to a very impressive looking desktop. The artwork was awesome, I was simply bowled over. However, an error popped up informing me that Linux Mint Menu has quit unexpectedly. I tried reloading, but to no avail. That apart, the desktop looked very impressive and had an icon for installing Mint to hard disk. The install proceeded like normal Ubuntu install, but took a huge time to install. I utilized this time in viewing some videos from youtube, yes!! Linux mint Live CD has the capabilities to play videos from youtube.
A simple reboot brought up a Minty grub menu and thirty seconds later I saw the most elegant gnome login. One first login, Mint takes you through Mint Assistant which helped me in adding cute and funny fortunes to my terminal window.
Immediately after the login I faced my first major problem :
Problem :
Linux Mint Menu quit unexpectedly and no amount of reload, re-login or even creating and adding to new panel would help. Now without a menu, all the commands have to be executed through terminal, this can be very frustrating even for a long time Linus User like me.
Steps taken to Resolve :
  1. This gave me the opportunity to test the Mint Forums. It appears that Mint users did not find this problem critical enough and I got only one reply in two days.
  2. Luckily I ran sudo aptitude update and sudo aptitude upgrade.
Solution:
Upon logging in the updated system, I was greeted by the beautiful Mint Menu, which appears to be an adaptation of SUSE Gnome menu. Its beautiful, elegant and very intuitive. Though I loved the Mint Menu, but this leaves me with some questions - Should a user be expected to download 147 MB of data and upgrade his newly installed system ? What about the users with no internet connection ? Isn't Linux Mint supposed to work out of box ?

Now that my system was working, I had the time to look at the installed applications and admire the aesthetics of my beautiful desktop. Linux Mint comes pre-installed with almost all the applications a normal user might need. To name a few
  1. OpenOffice 2.2 and Sunbird Calender
  2. Gimp
  3. Firefox & Thunderbird with java and flash plugins
  4. Pidgin ( Formerly known as Gaim )
  5. Sun Java jre
  6. XChat IRC client
  7. Amarok, MPlayer and Sound Juicer CD Extractor
  8. Beryl 3D Effects
  9. Tomboy Notes
  10. Mint Upload, now this is a unique tool which helps to upload a file ( upto 10 MB) on internet and share it with friends.
  11. Ntfs support to auto mount Windows XP partitions.
These combined make a very good combination and does not require much new softwares to be installed. What I missed from my usual KDE desktop was a dedicated torrent client, default gnome torrent client sucks badly, and the mighty k3b. I think that when Mint devlopers can add Amarok they can as well add k3b and ktorrent.
Anyhow, I wanted a torrent client and bittornado appeared a good one. While installing with Synaptic, I met with my problem number two
Problem :
segmentation fault ( core dump) while installing openoffice.org-common.
Steps taken to resolve :
  1. aptitude install -f. This asked me to remove xchat and install language support for french and spanish, although my system has en_US as the language. Still the problem persists.
  2. Remove all openoffice stuff and reinstall - problem persists.
  3. Post this problem to the forum. Waiting for a reply.
Solution:
No Solution yet.
Just thinking that when a long time Linux user like me cannot resolve this problem, can we expect this from a newbie ?

Going further, I found that Firefox and OpenOffice open very quickly and the system is overall very responsive, kudos to Linux Mint for this.

Well this is a new install so I did not have the time to evaluate it further.

Conclusion:
Mint is definitely got one of the finest artwork I have seen in any Linux distribution; add to it the ability to play youtube and MP3 out of the box and we have a winner. Wait!! does PCLinuxOS also provide the same ? YES; then lets do a quick comparison.
  1. Browser plugins and other non-OSS stuff. Tie. Both ditros perform the same.
  2. Artwork -- Mint wins hands down.
  3. Default applications - The absence of good torrent client and K3B makes Mint loose this round.
  4. Performance, I could not make much difference. Tie.
  5. Stability. Mint Menu not loading on first boot itself. On the other hand PCLinuxOS prides itself on its amazing stability.
  6. Package Management. Both use Synaptic which is fairly easy to use. However, in PCLinuxOS I never came across dependency problem. Mint developers have to improve on this.
  7. Updated packages. Mint still has OpenOffice 2.2 while PCLinuxOS has the latest OpenOffice 2.3 in its repositories.
  8. Community support. Now this is one of the most important aspect of a free distribution. PCLinuxOS has a small community, but a very helpful one. Mint has an even smaller community and I am yet to get a good reply. I hope it will improve.
In my opinion PCLinuxOS wins this comparison by a huge margin. However, Mint still is an interesting distribution and I will keep it for few more days to evaluate.
Do look forward for more articles on Mint on this blog.

9 comments:

Miguel said...

Howdy! My curiousity was piqued by Linux Mint Celena, but I'm grateful for your write-up since it saved me installation woes. Instead, I began with PCLinuxOS and, being successful on a Dell Desktop and Latitude D810, have dumped Ubuntu and I'm switching to PCLinuxOS!

I can only say, "Wow!" PCLinuxOS is that easy to use...thanks for the write-up. Any way to get the artwork from Linux Mint Celena onto PCLinuxOS?

Thanks,
Miguel Guhlin
Around the Corner-MGuhlin.net
http://mguhlin.net

Abhay said...

Hi Miguel,
Nice to know That I could be of help.
Definitely PCLOS is the best desktop Linux Distro right now.
Regarding the artwork, I have raised a post in PCLOS forum http://www.pclinuxos.com/index.php?option=com_smf&Itemid=58&topic=32406.0

Surely we will have replies.

plasticahc said...

In the default ubuntu installation, the package openoffice-common depends on some evolution packages, making difficult to really get rid of evolution, wich takes a lot of memory and time during system startup. Mint gets rid of memory-hungry evolution in favor of performance, so this is probably the cause for your problems in package management. That's the kind of problem you get from running one distribution that just supperficially changes another one.

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