Linux Mint is an adaptation of Ubuntu, with packages for browser plugins, java, media codecs etc forming part of the default install. Their latest release Linux Mint Celena is compatible with Ubuntu Fiesty repositories.
Having spent some time with Linux Mint Celena, I am all praises for it. The punch line for Celena is From Freedom came elegance and I could not agree more. This is the most elegant Linux desktop I have seen. The artwork is just out of the world. You may see some screenshots here. The experience starts right from GUI GRUB menu, against the text based menu in Ubuntu, the beautiful splash screen and GDM login screen, the gnome splash and finally the Celena GNOME theme. Every thing is an eye candy but with elegance, there is no in-your-face blatant display of colors and the color scheme is well integrated. In terms of artwork Celena easily matches OSX and Vista.
Celena provides a complete desktop right from booting the Live CD. It has all the required software for Office, email, calendar, listening to songs and even watching youtube videos. Most modern distributions have very easy install procedure through the installable Live CD, Celena also follows the same and does a good job of installing to hard disk. I have described the install and my initial experiences in my previous blog entry.
Celena is Ubuntu Fiesty:
Celena has base in Ubuntu, which is considered as a benchmark in desktop Linux. Keeping this in mind I started evaluating Celan. To check the difference in default packages, lets not bash Ubuntu for not having some essential non-OSS packages like java by default.
- Celena uses Amarok for playing music, whereas Ubuntu uses Rythembox. Amarok is now becoming industry default and is more user friendly.
- Celena uses Synaptic for package management, Ubuntu uses 5(five) GUI applications for package management including Synaptic and Add/Remove Programs. I feel a single application reduces confusion.
- The Update Manager and Update Notifier were removed from Celena so users would not perform un-educated upgrades. With more than 2 releases a year and many modules affected by upgrades, stability was preferred to security in Celena. No more pop-ups telling you a new version of Ubuntu became available, no more pop-ups telling you to download the latest kernel... your system is stable, tested and it should stay that way.
- MintAssistant in Celena proves very helpful in initial system configuration.
- MintUpload allows the user to upload any file smaller than 10MB on the Internet. The user doesn't have to worry about getting an FTP client or finding Web-space to store his files. It's never been easier to share files with friends. MintUpload is also compatible with the mint-space service which allows files to be as big as 1GB.
- MintMenu looks like an adaptation of SUSE gnome menu but is much more elegant and useful. Ubuntu still uses the lackluster GNOME menu.
- Celena only has a bottom panel, a la KDE/Windows, as opposed to twin panel of Ubuntu.
- Celena uses Thunderbird instead of Evolution, which is default in Ubuntu.
- Lastly, Mint Control Center provides a more user friendly experience than the GNOME Control Center of Ubuntu.
Apart from these Celena is just like Ubuntu Fiesty and provides for wholesome desktop experience.
Desktop Usage Experience :
Celena believes in Stability so it does not have the latest version of certain software like OpenOffice, GNOME and Firefox in its repositories or shall we call them Fiesty repositories. However, the installed packages perform very well. Celan applications have an amazing lead over Ubuntu when it comes to performance. Big and resource hungry applications like OpenOffice load very quickly in Celana. Here is a list of common applications I use.
- Media Player:
- Amarok for all MP3, oog songs
- Totem for playing Videos, though I prefer VLC and have installed it through Synaptic
- Photo Organizer/Editor
- Celena does not come with any Photo organizer as default, but installing Digikam, F-Spot or Picassa is easy.
- Gimp is installed by default and is the best image editor.
- Internet Utilities
- Firefox, with all plugins
- Pidgin - one of the best IM client, though I prefer Kopete.
- XChat - Its a must. All my IRC queries are through this.
- OpenOffice 2 - Do I need to say anythig ?
- Desktop Notes
- Tomboy does this job perfectly. I actually like the known yellow background in it.
- 3D Effects
- I do not have a 3D enabled video card so could not test Envy to install the proprietary driver, but from the reports I have from other blogs, Envy performs its job very well. Also Beryl is installed by default. We just need to enable beryl to have those beautiful and wobbly windows.
- Out of the box almost all type of media works. I have tried mp3, avi/mpg videos and even flash videos through youtube. All work perfectly. Though there can be media types which may not play by default, for those we can follow the normal Ubuntu procedure.
- Personal Finance
- GnuCash is present, however, this is such a complicated application that it is really difficult to use for an average user. It is more suitable for small businesses. I use Buddi or KmyMoney2.
The above applications pretty much make my desktop an almost complete desktop. I am using the word almost complete as still many useful applications are not installed by default also there are some stability issues. Let me list them
- Default bittorrent client is gnome-bittorrent. This is probably the most user unfriendly client I have seen. Imagine a scenario, where I am downloading the DVD of a Linux distribution. This might take more than a few hours, so I shut down my system and go to work, only to resume the download after I return home. The gnome-bittorrent will not remember where the torrent file is, so we need to download the torrent file again and tell gnome-bittorrent about its location. Oh!! miss the blissful world of ktorrent.
- Celena is for average desktop user, so it must have an easy personal finance client, GNU cash is for pro.
- No default Photo organizer and no k3b.
- I faced a strange device mounting problem. Here it goes. Suppose I have connected a USB device to my system, it will be auto mounted and an icon displayed on the desktop, now if I simply remove it and then re connect it, the device will be mounted ( I checked in terminal through mount command) but the icon will not be placed on the desktop.
- I was unable to mount VCDs, let alone playing them.
- In the default install MintMenu was crashing, I had to do a full system upgrade ( 147 MB) to resolve this. One of the major goal of celena is stability - Well I had a different out of box experience. However, apart from that I never faced any stability issue. No applications crashing, no system hang, nothing. It is stable in those terms.
- Full system upgrade lead to a dependency problem with openoffice-common, which is still not resolved. Though it does not deter any other program to install, but always gives the error. However, this can be my fault as Mint developers advice against doing upgrades. One question though - In the age of distributions like Gentoo, Arch and PCLinuxOS which have a rolling tree releases and new versions are just a snapshot of the current stable stack, does it make sense to ask the users not to do an upgrade.
Whatever said and done, I think Celena is a breath of fresh air. It is the best GNOME distribution I have ever used. The artwork is simply amazing, I think PCLinuxOS must take a hint or two from Celena. Strong emphasis is given to integrating the theme with applications, as demonstrated in the Firefox screenshot. I can see the hard work Mint developers have put behind custom applications like Mint Menu, MintUpload, MintAssitant and Mint Control Center. They have done a commendable job and made our lives easy. They have not followed the trend and have included KDE applications, wherever they felt the need.
Looks like the hard work of Mint developers is paying off as Mint is steadily rising on distrowatch popularity. I am surely going to keep Celena as a Live CD and even recommend my friends to use it. For my desktop -- Sorry but SUSE 10.3 is releasing and I need space to install and my primary hard disk contains PCLinuxOS.