Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Linux Mint 10 Review

Linux Mint 10, codenamed "Julia", is almost here. I have downloaded the release candidate that went live a few days back and put it to the test. I will be sharing my thoughts and findings in this article, but before you continue reading, I recommend you check my Linux Mint 9 REVIEW and Ubuntu 10.10 REVIEW, which should provide some background to better understand what this Linux Mint 10 release has to offer.

WHAT'S NEW

When Linux distro releases happen, it is sometimes difficult to find out which new features made it into that specific release. In some cases, there really is no other way to find out but to go through the project change log and try to decipher what has changed and how many of those changes will actually have a noticeable impact on end user experience.

Linux Mint 10 release notes are the complete opposite, and I have to say that I am very thankful for that. The Linux Mint team has released an extremely clear and easy to understand LIST OF NEW FEATURES, which I recommend reading. In any case, I will provide a summary along with my opinions below.

New Looks

Linux Mint 10 represents a noticeable change in terms of Look&Feel. When previous releases used and abused of green colors and themes, this time out things are more balanced, with some sleek grey and metallic textures here and there. My first impression is that this is a change for the better, a desktop environment that I will not grow tired of quickly, as often was the case with Mint in the past.

The default icon theme is a customization of Faenza, which is both good and bad news. On the one hand, Faenza is a great theme, a definite community favorite. Its diverse colorful nature helps evening tones out. On the other hand, it is mixed with some custom Mint icons, which do heavily rely on green tones and don't really fit that well.


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Linux Mint is a great distro with lots of following, so just reusing someone else's icon theme doesn't sound like such a great idea. While I appreciate this is an improvement over past icon themes, I would love to see a Mint icon set as good in quality as Faenza. I believe that would be another step forward in establishing Mint as an independent distro, not so much an Ubuntu derivative that relies on community resources.


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Controls and Window borders have also been polished and they look great. Wallpapers were created by community artists this time around, but they retain the top quality that was already there in Linux Mint 9.


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All in all, Linux Mint 10 Look&Feel changes are mostly for the better, but there is a bit of an unfinished feel to it. It's easy to tell the departure from green tones was intentional, but at the same time, it feels somewhat incomplete. It's like there was a desire to step away from old looks, but also lack of confidence in leaving behind what has been the signature style of this distro for so long.

Welcome Screen

The welcome screen has received some nice additions and a cool face lift. As is the case with the new Mint menu (covered in detail in the next section), this new welcome screen also displays a nice brushed metallic texture.

In terms of information, there is more and it's better organised into categories. Unfortunately, this welcome screen suffers from the same problem as its predecessors: Most of the information is not stored locally, so a working Internet connection is required to get to it.


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Considering that connecting to the Internet may not be straight forward for anybody using Linux for the first time (wireless card detection and/or configuration problems are not uncommon) and the fact that most of this information is made of html files, I think it should be part of the LiveCD, at least a reduced version covering the basics. It would be easy to throw a message so that users understand that such documentation is not actively maintained after the release date and that they should refer to the complete and up-to-date online documentation eventually.

Mint Menu

This is one of those elements that can truly make a difference from a user experience point of view. The Linux Mint menu has kept some nice momentum over the last releases, continuously developing and evolving into a very powerful and eye-catching part of the desktop. The latest features introduced for this release are nothing short of amazing.


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There are some nice new features that the Mint developers have included so that the menu integration with the GNOME environment is tighter. That should allow community artists to develop themes that are menu-specific. A good example of such customization is the brushed metallic texture in the default Linux Mint 10 Mint Menu.

The menu customization options are now more flexible than ever before. For example, users can now change the size of icons in pretty much any category, which has some interesting side effects. Making the System and Places icons grow provides more room which can be used to stick more entries in the Favorites section, as shown below.


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The search feature in the menu has been heavily improved, becoming a very powerful tool. For example, the menu is "aware" of the packages available for installation, so users can actually search for them straight from its search field. In the example below I searched for "chromium".


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Clicking on the menu to continue the process brought the following message:


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Once installed, Chromium is highlighted as a new addition to the set of installed applications... Now, how cool is that?!

Personally, I have to say that I found the highlighting of new installed applications a bit too subtle. I think it should be more extreme, more easily noticeable, perhaps even displaying a dialog next to the new entry.


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This search feature is not limited to installable packages only, though. Users can search for pretty much anything, and the menu is smart enough to tell whether the search term fits a package name or not. If it does not, users may decide to search for the term on Google, Wikipedia, etc.


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The Linux Mint menu is without a doubt one of the most impressive features in Mint 10. It is growing more powerful and with the new style features, it shouldn't take long before we see some creative designs by community members.

Software & Update Manager

Back when Linux Mint 9 was released, its Software Manager was an awesome feature. It was the first to enable commentaries, scoring, an improved navigation model and other interesting features. Come Linux Mint 10, developers were less ambitious and probably decided to solidify those features instead of adding new ones. As a result, the most notorious update is the addition of categories, which should make navigation easier, but doesn't make for an exciting update.

The Linux Mint 10 Update Manager has not changed much either, just got some minor cosmetic changes, such as the size of the update packages about to be installed. On top of that, it is now possible to disable updates for packages if the user so desires.

FINAL WORDS

Linux Mint 10 is a good release that builds upon great features from both Ubuntu 10.10 and Linux Mint 9. The new features are not an example of aggressive development, but still provide enough enhancements to justify an upgrade/installation. In fact, I would still recommend Linux Mint 10 to those Mint users who can't be bothered to upgrade, if only to enjoy the latest Ubuntu, Kernel and GNOME updates and features.

Enjoy!

19 comments:

  1. Mint will get a whole lotta refugees once Ubuntu's netbook UI hits desktop computers.

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  2. If you are allergic to BS, back stabbers, drama queens, head games, liars, two faced fake people, poop stirrers & down right nasty pieces of work, don't use Mint.

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  3. WOW! Care to elaborate at least?

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  4. Thank you again Chema for this great review.
    I am using now Linux Mint 10 and it is a good release.
    But you do not have to forget that this release is still the Release Candidate, to not confuse the users.
    Though it is very stable with some minor issues.
    I can recommend it to Mint users too if they want to have the newest software and the new Look and Feel, what is an improvement for me also.

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  5. I saw you mentioned it that it is an RC, sorry, the title confused me.

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  6. Awww whats wrong Suhana?

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  7. I'm using Mint 10 with Gnome Shell instead of the default Gnome. It's great!

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  8. Your link to mint 9 review (first link in post) links to this page.

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  9. Nice catch, thanks. I have fixed the link now.

    Thanks all for your comments.

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  10. Eu gosto muito do Mint, até estou usando-o espero que essa nova versão seja tão boa quanto a 9!

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  11. Hi,

    My Toshiba laptop has Ubuntu 10.04 installed.
    Speaker/Headphone not working in that. When the headphone/speaker jack is fully inserted i hear no sound. When it is partially inserted, i hear sound from both headphone and the laptop speaker.

    Checked in net and came to know that driver (ALSA) needs to be updated. I don't know how that driver can be updated. Let me know how this can be resolved.

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  12. Hi,

    I appreciate your Ubuntu 10.04 problem, but I am afraid this is not the best forum to bring that kind of issue to.

    In any case, Google is your friend:

    http://www.stchman.com/alsa_update.html

    Good Luck

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  13. Can you mention the final release date?

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  14. nobody can! maybe at the beginning of the next week... But that’s just my two cents

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  15. I don't know why Linux Mint is so secretive about the release schedule, every other distro gives dates out all the time.

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  16. Linux Mint 10 “Julia” released!

    See:
    http://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=1581

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  17. ...Mint isn't 'secretive' about their releases--they release when ready, not by date...

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  18. Life is a journey
    What you have gone through can help others
    Please share

    http://wikijourney.org

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  19. Having a friend who loves to try out different operating systems, be it new or old, since he thinks that each and one of them have a certain charm in it. But in my opinion, this looks like a fine OS for the newbies to this kind of desktop environment, due to its user-friendly appeal.

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