Friday, July 15, 2011

Is Linux Mint a Better Choice than Ubuntu?

For many advanced Linux enthusiasts reading this, I doubt that any recent changes to the Ubuntu desktop swayed you very much. Most of you already have had plenty of time to select alternative distros -- from Fedora to Arch Linux -- should you decide you want to.
Each distribution has its own set of advantages and differences. But for those people who cannot bear to part with some features that are considered to be unique to Ubuntu, Linix Mint might be a viable option to look into.
Linux Mint is perfect for new users
I've used Linux Mint GNOME edition off and on for a few years now. I have mostly used it in testing, as I'm really not the target audience for this distribution. Yet I continue to be impressed with how simple and user-friendly this desktop is. In addition, there are other factors that I think give Linux Mint a huge edge over Ubuntu for the casual user.
When running the Linux Mint software updating tool, you'll find things are numbered from 1 to 5. Packages numbered with a 1 are from Linux Mint developers while those packages with a "2" or higher come from Ubuntu or a third-party.
This numbering system all but guarantees that you won't hose a system with a bad set of updates from a rogue repository you added and forgotten about.
The next big thing with Linux Mint is how concisely the menu layout is presented. Unlike the old Gnome menus or even Unity, everything in Linux Mint is tightly laid out to make the entire experience as logical as possible. This menu setup makes migrating from another operating system much less overwhelming for newer users. For "old hat users" such as myself, I enjoy finding everything within reach. And if it's not visible, the provided search box takes care of anything that's missing.
Another huge push in the right direction for newcomers would have to be the introduction screen that appears on the first boot. Documentation, support, and so forth is presented right away. From there, items that I think should have been provided by Ubuntu out of the box are a given with Linux Mint. Gufw is installed and ready to go. There is a Mintbackup utility that not only offers the same functionality as SimpleBackup on Ubuntu, but it even backs up your application titles. This means you can take this list to another PC, run the program and install the same software list as before. That’s always been possible via the command line, and now it's nice to see this functionality provided for newer users with a friendly GUI.
Without any doubt, the biggest reason for me to love Linux Mint is that I can install software by name from the control panel -- with greater speed than I could have with apt-get.
Plus I can avoid all the package managers and directly type in the application's name, which presents me with the option to install it. Best of all, it's done very quickly and without the bloat of the software center. It's almost like being able to run the terminal without needing to know how. I love it!
It feels like Ubuntu
One of the biggest reasons I still rely on Ubuntu is because of the huge number of software packages available for it. If there's software for Linux, then there's an Ubuntu package somewhere for that application title.
Luckily, these same applications also work well for Linux Mint as it offers a release based on Ubuntu. This means that should Ubuntu's direction force me to drop it completely I can stick with the same applications.
As a matter of fact, I can even install a PPA repository for software like MintBackup on Ubuntu, then backup my software list and take it with me if I switched to Linux Mint. The entire process is done with Linux Mint-based tools, which are designed to switch over to the Linux Mint way of doing things. Talk about convenience!

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