Slackware 13.37 was giving my gyp, so I decided to give Linux Mint a go. Here’s my first impressions. First, I had to choose between MATE, Cinnamon, KDE and Xfce. Now, everybody knows what KDE and Xfce is, but what is MATE and Cinnamon? Clicking on the link wasn’t particularly informative. I presume that they’re both derived from Gnome, one from Gnome 3, and the other from Gnome 2. That’s a guess on my part though. anyway, I did a bit of Googling around, and Cinnamon seemed “redundant”, and MATE was the big new thing, so I decided to go with Mate. Installation was straightforward enough. I recently discovered the joys of having a separate home partition (on ext2, so that I can easily access them from Windows 7), and was happy to see Maya accommodate that. There was one confusing section, though, where it asked if I wanted to import a previous used on “Windows 7 ext2”. Very confusing! I wasn’t sure whether it was referring to my user account on Windows 7, or my user account on the ext2 partition. I accepted the import, and later I discovered that it actually meant my account on the ext2 partition. Towards the end of the installation, Mint downloaded a language pack. Urrgh! That’s straight out of the Ubuntu playbook. To my mind, it would have been more logical to include language packs on the DVD, and load from there. None of this “your updates are downloading from the interweb” nonsense. Upon rebooting, I was presented with a Grub screen. It had correctly included my Windows 7 partition. Good stuff. The first problem I hit was when I tried to log into Mint. I got some error about .xsession-error. I fiddled around a bit, and was able to log in, and discovered it was due to “Failed to connect to the VirtualBox kernel service”. Huh? That sounds like an Ubuntard thing. The problem with Ubuntu is that it’s often a case of 2 steps forward, 1.5 steps back. Gnome 3. Need I say more? Ubuntu is about piling on sparkly new features without regard to whether they work properly. By trying to come up with new artwork every 6 months, they effectively ensure that all of it is going to be mediocre. Having said that, the Mint desktop looks nice and clean, my hardware was detected with no problems, and get this, top points: Firefox was pre-installed with Abode Flash, so sound and Youtube worked straight out of the box, no problemo. My DVDs also played without problem. Nice. Mint is good, but not perfect – but then, what distro is?
Another nitpick is the selected window: it’s difficult to know which one is your current window. You get a clue from the fact that the font is slightly bolder. However, what they should do is make the title bar a different colour.
Here we see a particular problem with the way that desktops are evolving, especially on Linux. Well-established lessons are being jettisoned in favour of shiny shiny. Also, oversized fonts, especially in terminals. Come on guys – think of the screen real estate. Shameful.
I don’t want to sound too negative on Mint, though. It’s actually quite good. The big gains are Flash and DVDs. It also doesn’t need much in the way of configuration out of the box. I like to think of it as an Ubuntu that sucks less, in a nice way. I will keep going with Mint just now, at least until Slackware 14 comes out.