Review: Linux Mint 6 'Felicia' - 25/01/2009 by Andrew
Distro Review

Based on Ubuntu 8.10, you might pass Linux Mint off as being yet another Ubuntu spin-off, though Mint has been around now for while (first release was on the 27th of August, 2006) and it's still a popular distribution, sitting in the number 3 spot on the Distrowatch page hit ranks.

It shares the same Ubuntu 8.10 repositories and can also benefit from Ubuntu's large user base for support as the majority of solutions will be applicable to Mint. So why use Mint? What are the benefits? Well, the main benefits are out of the box support for audio and video codecs, DVD playback and Firefox plug-ins. This was very important when Mint first hit the scene as Ubuntu didn't provide the user with painless codec installation or DVD playback. Mint provided users new to Linux or just users who preferred a good out of the box experience with a complete Linux distribution.




If you're currently an Ubuntu user you're probably wondering if this is still applicable as Ubuntu (since version 7.10, 8.04 and 8.10) provides a very good out of the box experience allowing for easy codec installation, DVD playback and enabling of proprietary graphics drivers. Well, this is the same thing I'm wondering, so I thought I'd put Mint 6 through it's paces to see if it can distance itself far enough from Ubuntu 8.10 to be a distribution in it's own right. It's good to note though that if you're installing a PC with no Internet access, Mint is your answer, unless you want to go to the effort of downloading all of the packages from the Ubuntu 8.10 repositories onto a USB hard drive and you better make that drive 500GB to allow for everything under x86 and x86_64.

I downloaded and burnt the LinuxMint-6.iso (32bit), which is the 'Main Version', packed with codecs and proprietary software. On the Mint website (http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php) you might notice that there are 6 versions of Mint on offer, three Main Editions: Main (with codecs etc), Universal (no codecs etc), x64 (64bit, current version is still a release candidate). There's also three Community editions allowing for KDE, XFCE and Fluxbox window managers. These three are community supported and lag behind official releases (these three aren't ready for version 6) and, in my opinion, shouldn't be considered anywhere as near as supported or complete as the official 'Main' version.

Booting into the live CD was a quick process, though I could tell by the locked 800x600 resolution that my monitor (22” ViewSonic, connected by DVI) wasn't detected. Unperturbed, I installed to the hard drive.




The installation process was quick and easy. It gave me the option to use a root password (though Mint didn't recommend it) and to ask if I was ok with 'fortune' being displayed when a terminal is started. For those new to Linux and haven't come across fortune, it's a terminal application that displays quote, quibs and sometimes bizarre statements. Some people may find these offensive and get spooked out when their PC says that they're going to have a horrible life. It's all in jest though, and many hours can be spent at the office, running fortune and pretending it's some hardcore work that you're doing.




After the installation had finished, I was looking at the gnome desktop and started to see the big differences with Ubuntu and Mint. The gnome panel has been set-up in a very Window's centric fashion, with the menu at the bottom left, time and volume at the right and a single desktop (not the default two that Ubuntu 8.10 has). The desktop contains a link to 'computer' and one to your home directory and the menu system is completely different to the standard 'top menu' gnome set up. The good news is that it is all gels and doesn't seem out of place. The update notifier warned of some updates available and so I downloaded all of these as I was soon going to attempt using the GUI to download and configure the Nvidia proprietary drivers.




I stated earlier that Mint 6 hadn't detected my LCD monitor, and that doesn't bode well with enabling the Nvidia proprietary drivers. I've had this problem with this hardware with some previous tested distributions (including Ubuntu 8.10, though 8.04, OpenSUSE 11.1 and Fedora 10 worked fine) and I know that the solution entails manually hacking xorg.conf and much trial and error. Once I had downloaded and enabled the Nvidia proprietary drivers, I rebooted with my fingers crossed though as I've found before, I get a blank screen and complaints from my LCD that the input is out of range. I don't blame Mint 6 for this, as this same issue is present in Ubuntu 8.10 on this hardware, though strangely not my other machine running 8.10 and uses the same monitor through a DVI KVM BBQ. Anyway, a quick reboot and a recovery of X later, I was back to the desktop using the 'nv' driver.




Hopefully future versions of Ubuntu and derivatives will allow the user to force higher resolutions and monitor types through a simple GUI interface. Old Mr Jones from down the road won't be happy with hacking xorg.conf to get resolutions above 800x600.

On the application front, the list is the same as Ubuntu 8.10: Kernel 2.6.27, OpenOffice 2.4.0, Xorg-server 1.5.2, Gnome 2.24.1, Firefox 3.0.3 and Mplayer 1.0rc2. On the game front, Nexuiz 2.4.2, OpenArena 0.7.7, Glest 3.1.2, SuperTuxKart 0.5.0, FreedroidRPG 1.10.3, Warsow 0.42 as well as many other games – basically if it's in the Ubuntu 8.10 repositories, it's available under Mint 6.

Conclusion

Linux Mint 6 achieves what it set out to do, namely create an easy to user Linux distribution that had audio and video codecs, DVD playback and Firefox plug-ins enabled and ready to go. This creates an excellent 'out of the box' experience.

It's hard not to compare Mint 6 with Ubuntu 8.10, as Mint 6 is based on 8.10 and shares the same Ubuntu repositories. Yes, you can get Ubuntu to enable codecs, DVD playback and Firefox plug-ins without too much effort and yes, if you don't like the standard look of Ubuntu 8.10 then you have the power to change how the panels operate and how the menu is laid out. This takes effort, an Internet connection and some basic Linux knowledge. Linux Mint 6 allows you to get to this stage immediately and I find that it's a perfect distribution for people new to Linux to try out or for any machine that's not connected to the Internet.

On the downside, it obviously shares some of the problems that Ubuntu 8.10 has, one that affected me in particular was my ViewSonic 22” LCD (connected by DVI) isn't being detected and requires xorg.conf hacking to fix.











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Andrew http://www.headshotgamer.com/
21/07/2009 7:57:47 PM

Unfortunately I didn't resolve it, though I know that manually installing the nvidia drivers and manually hacking xorg.conf will solve it. For me, this is where the Linux desktop has to evolve more; 100% detection of resolution OR manual over rides in a GUI so that even if proprietary drivers aren't a goer, you can at least set your resolution properly.

Arjen
11/07/2009 10:55:29 PM

Hi Andrew.Thanks for your review.I have comparable probs with my installation of Mint 7 (Gloria): no monitor detected. When I installed the recommended nvidia driver for my old mx440 card, the res went down to 640x400. Totally useless, of course. Did you solve the res rob and if so, how did you force Mint to detect the (right) monitor? Having said this, I really like Mint: a good replacement for the day-to-day XP used I am (well was) (surfing, mailing, writing, spreadsheet, that stuff). I guess we all have our specific desires when wanting an OS, and Linux users usually have more desires than MS users (higher geek %, no offence, on the contrary). Best arjen

lolipro
20/05/2009 1:19:03 PM

I have to install it and check it.

rizzeh
20/04/2009 8:22:18 AM

Brilliant OS, I've had many distros over the years and Mint by far the best for me, all the technical ubuntu stuff but without brown ugliness. Runs all my games too in SLi - i also had to hack xorg.conf to get it going - i haven't seen a distro that can configure SLi yet.

someone http://311entertainment.com
5/03/2009 1:55:38 PM

I think this was a decent review,but could have been better if you have told everyone about all the mint toolds and how they are useful. Also how Mint comes with Envy Ng which can work wonders.

aiya
1/03/2009 2:51:00 AM

I really want to install it but my country is Malaysia so i cant download it since the mirror and server is not supporting.I wan to know is there any way that i can download it ??? 10q

JD
12/02/2009 3:08:23 PM

Great Review! , i think they shouldn't even bother making a edition with no plugins (which they offer) because that's basically ubuntu ! It's a pretty good os.

Roy
2/02/2009 10:37:36 PM

I'm a musician and have many floppy disks full of midi data, I have 3 Yamaha musical keyboards that use floppy disks, hdd and usb flash drives they are great for when saving sequences from pc and popping into any one of my keyboards so while I have the hardware I'll be using floppy's for while yet.

aviynw
30/01/2009 5:32:51 PM

This review didn't discuss the many tools that mint adds which separate it greatly from ubuntu. If you really want to know what makes mint unique check out their website or wikipedia, there is a good entry there.

Johnf
30/01/2009 2:05:01 PM

Had similar issues with one of my monitors. I wasted hours trying to fix this. My previously detected monitor was suddenly "generic" and would not have proper resolution. I finally unplugged it from the wall and then after plugging it back in, it just worked perfectly and was properly detected. Hope this can save someone aggravation.

Andrew http://www.headshotgamer.com/
30/01/2009 7:44:25 AM

Old, old PC's :)

Dave
30/01/2009 7:25:27 AM

Who uses floppies anymore...???

Andrew http://www.headshotgamer.com/
27/01/2009 7:34:47 PM

Yes, IE 6/7 and Firefox 2/3 are fine, though w3 fanboy is right, there's a bunch of xhtml issues behind the scenes that would cause other browsers (like Opera) to show things incorrectly. Ahh the joys of coding websites from scratch. I'll fix it all up I promise, I just have to dedicate some time to coding and not playing ET:QW!

John
27/01/2009 8:04:01 AM

Website works fine in FLOCK and FIREFOX for me no problem at all.

Andrew http://www.headshotgamer.com/
27/01/2009 7:04:07 AM

Cheers for the feedback, I'll look into it. It's time that this site gets a refresh!!

Philippe
27/01/2009 5:31:15 AM

I agree with w3 fanboy.This page isn't correctly displayed in Konqueror too. Text and pictures are overlaid.

john
26/01/2009 11:30:10 PM

Coming back on my issue with ATI HD3200 in 3D. I'd tried Envy without success. I finally downloaded the ATI driver for this 3200. did a chmod +x to it and a ./ati*.run Graphics were OK now in GoogleEarth and gl-117. Still tux snow racer does not work but getting close john

royalpainintheassss
26/01/2009 4:05:32 PM

Funny thing with these buntus is I never keep them. I download em, install em, use em for a day till I get so peeved over a permissions issue(like trying to use the floppy drive!)or something else, I just move right on to the next. Mint is no different. Sure it has more bells and whistles but they all have the same inherant problems. They boast about being windows replacements and easy for newcomers to use. What a crok. I've got Crunchbang installed right now and its the same bs. Click on a mp3 and transcode opens. Now who would release something like that. Most people want to PLAY the music not convert it right off the bat. Try to access a linux data partition with these beasts. Drag the file back as root and then try and burn it as a user - it don't work! Now security and such is important but lets not go overboard. These buntus have to work on their file associations and permissions. What good is an operating system you got to fight all the time?

Andrew http://www.headshotgamer.com/
26/01/2009 1:13:42 PM

Yes, I know things aren't perfect in browsers other than IE6/7 or Firefox 2/3 - it's a work in progress that's written from scratch, at least it's not another crappy wordpress site!!

w3 fanboy
26/01/2009 12:04:18 PM

What is this site ? The layout and code is just borked... The text doesn't even appear with opera. To the webmaster : i strongly suggest that you visit this URL : http://validator.w3.org/ How do you want to be taken seriously with such bad rendering issues ?

Andrew http://www.headshotgamer.com/
26/01/2009 10:12:42 AM

RE: John's comment - yes, I've experienced similar things, on the same hardware I had 3D working (without having to hack xorg.conf) with 8.04, 8.10 alpha 4 and OpenSUSE 11.1 - though not with 8.10 final, Mint 6, Fedora 10. Ubuntu 8.10 was fine on another machine, detected the monitor and enabling 3D with the GUI was fine. Googling this shows that it's random, depending on hardware and kernel/xorg versions. I *hope* that this randomness is removed in later versions of distros, with a pop up or something saying "Dood, you Monitor wasn't detected, what are you running? Oh you want to enable Nvidia proprietary drivers? But without a monitor entry you'll just get a black screen!!" - or something like that.

Roy
26/01/2009 5:05:44 AM

Easy to use floppy just type sudo modprobe floppy from CLI and floppy is available for the current session, to use floppy all the time type sudo gedit /etc/modules and add the word floppy to the bottom of the list click save and your done.

john
26/01/2009 3:41:49 AM

well, I have a gigabyte mobo with integrated ATI HD3200 Mint 5 was running fine in 3D. Since I went to mint 6 (new install, not upgrade) I do not have 3D anymore. Rest of the applications are OK john

mike
26/01/2009 1:02:49 AM

Try and use a floppy with Mint. Unbelievable.

linuxiac38
26/01/2009 12:56:04 AM

Donated computers, such those Compaq 2.4GHz systems for $40 (including monitor, keybd, mouse) at my local "Friends of the Library" bookstore in Seminole County Florida, have no OS installed, and who would want an 8 year old, un-supported, Microsoft Virus magnet like w2k? I give out free installs of Linux Mint to all those bargain seekers. It does much more than they ever expected! Some 26,149 FREE and Open Suites of programs, games, and applications for education, science, math, and office productivity programs! I highly recommend Linux Mint, and run local research based K-12 home schools, and registered Florida academies, with Mint!


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