Back in the days of Ubuntu 8, 9, and 10, Ubuntu quickly gained the reputation of being the most user-friendly and the easiest-to-use Linux distribution available while sporting the best hardware compatibility.
I was amazed that Linux had progressed to the point where it was less hassle to install, use, and maintain than any version of Windows. I switched to Linux immediately and have never looked back.
Then, along came Linux Mint, which simplified the Linux experience even further. Best of all, Linux Mint was based on Ubuntu, so it shared the same programs and simplicity of design. Everything I liked about Ubuntu was also present in Linux Mint. The main difference, aside from appearances, is that Linux Mint was even easier to use than Ubuntu. This made Linux Mint the perfect Linux OS to recommend to new Linux users.
Linux Mint has changed much over the years as Ubuntu has changed, and this is a quick, informal comparison between my favorite Linux Mint distribution, Linux Mint 10 64-bit, and the current stable release, Linux Mint 12 64-bit.
How does the newer Linux Mint 12 compare to Linux Mint 10?
Linux Mint 12 “Lisa” was released on November 26, 2011. It is based on Ubuntu 11.10 and uses Linux kernel 3.0 and GNOME 3.2. If you download Linux Mint today, this is the version available by default.
Linux Mint 10 “Julia” was released on November 12, 2010. It is based on Ubuntu 10.10 and uses Linux kernel 2.6.25 and GNOME 2.32.0. This is still a fantastic Linux distribution despite being a year old. In fact, it exceeds the newer Linux Mint versions as we shall see.
There is a full year’s difference between the two, but that difference makes these two versions of Linux Mint seem like different operating systems. However, since Linux Mint shares roots with Ubuntu, it shares Ubuntu’s high points and its faults. This is important because the problems involving Compiz and Emerald, for example, in Ubuntu 11 also appear in Linux Mint 12.
“Does Linux Mint Run in VirtualBox?”
Yes. Both versions install fine in VirtualBox 4.1.10. However, navigating menus and opening programs in Linux Mint 12 felt sluggish compared to Linux Mint 10’s snappy response times.
“What is most noticeable at first?”
The user interface. From the start, the wallpapers are different, but the real difference is the desktop environment. While Linux Mint uses its own modified desktop environment based on GNOME, versions 10 and 12 are different. Linux Mint 10 is based on the tried and true GNOME 2, so it’s familiar to use and easy to navigate.
Linux Mint 10.10
Linux Mint 12
Linux Mint 12 bears a close resemblance to Unity while providing the familiar Linux Mint look and feel. In addition to the panel at the bottom of the desktop, there is now a notification bar and another panel at the top containing an icon that brings up a program selection screen similar to Unity’s Dash.
You can choose programs from this screen or from the Menu in the bottom panel on the desktop.
Linux Mint 12 shares much in common with Ubuntu 11. Even the login screens are identical.
“Are there any differences in hardware requirements?”
No. Both Linux Mint 10 and 12 install and run well on low-powered hardware. (I used 512M RAM and 8G hard drive space for each virtual machine and experienced no problems.) This means there is no need to upgrade your hardware to run Linux Mint 12.
Sluggish Menus in Linux Mint 12
Menus in Linux 12 felt sluggish in VirtualBox 4.1.10. Not sure why. It might be because of GNOME 3, but that is only a guess. As I moved the mouse cursor over menu options, it took about half a second for the menu highlight to follow the cursor and highlight the menu item. Overall, Linux Mint 12 felt slow and sluggish compared to Linux Mint 10. Programs also took longer to open.
On the other hand, Linux Mint 10’s menus and windows were quick and snappy without any lag.
Essential Programs Installed by Default
Ubuntu 12.04 beta 2 needs extra programs installed just to tweak and customize the desktop. With Linux Mint 12, those programs are installed by default to spare you the hassle. One such program is Advanced Settings that allows you to tweak GNOME 3 settings.
“Does Compiz Run?”
Yes and no. In Linux Mint 10, Compiz is installed by default and runs flawlessly — complete with the desktop cube. No hassles, and the cube rotates fluidly inside VirtualBox exactly as it would on real hardware.
The Compiz desktop cube runs flawlessly in Linux Mint 10 inside VirtualBox 4.1.10.
Linux Mint 12 is another story. Even though Compiz is installed, it requires compizconfig-settings-manager in order to enable the desktop effects. Also, Compiz was not as easy to activate as in Linux Mint 10. In fact, Linux Mint 12 displayed a few problems, such as disappearing menus, when Compiz was activated.
The only quick method I could find to enable Compiz in Linux Mint 12 was to open a terminal and enter compiz –replace. (Other methods had problems that required a forced reboot to fix.)
The panels disappeared after enabling Compiz from a terminal.
Instantly, the panels disappeared leaving me without a GUI to open programs or to shut down the system, and I was left with a two-panel desktop. It rotated, but this was not what I had in mind. Clearly, something is not working properly, and fixing it is beyond the skills a new Linux user.
Enabling the Compiz desktop cube in Linux Mint 12 is not a user-friendly experience.
Linux Mint 10 is much, much better to use if you want Compiz.
“Name something you liked”
The silly, random quote in a new terminal. Upon opening a new terminal in Linux Mint 10, I am greeted with a funny quote displayed inside ASCII art.
Of course, you can use the programs cowsay and fortune to achieve the same result in any distribution, but Linux Mint 10 enables it by default. It’s a small bonus that easily breaks monotony and evokes a chuckle. The random quote is gone from Linux Mint 12.
Between Linux Mint 10 and Linux Mint 12, I pick Linux Mint 10 because it performs better than Linux Mint 12 by running smoother and offering hassle-free Compiz effects, which I absolutely must have.
Linux Mint 10 has snappy, responsive menus, it supports Compiz flawlessly, it has excellent hardware support, it runs superb inside a virtual machine so new users can try it out alongside an existing OS, and Linux Mint 10 is much easier for new Linux users to grasp than Linux Mint 12.
Linux Mint 12 is good as well, but I can barely recommend it over Ubuntu 12.04 or either Ubuntu 11. Linux Mint 12 is better placed in the hands of an experienced Linux user who understands its inner workings in order to resolve any issue that will undoubtedly arise. Something was lost with the switch to Unity in Ubuntu 11, and it shows in Linux Mint 12.
For new users seeking to explore the world of Linux, I would always recommend Linux Mint 10 because it contains a desktop most users are already familiar with and it provides the most hassle-free installation and use. I still do. When others ask which Linux distribution to try, I continue to recommend Linux Mint 10, and I also advise skipping the newer versions because their idiosyncrasies can annoy and put off new Linux users.
GNOME 3, Unity, Linux Mint 12, and Ubuntu 11 and 12 all seem to have made the mistake of improving the wheel, and in doing so, the wheel no longer turns as smoothly as it once did. As a result, the older wheels are preferable.
Linux Mint 12 is good, so, by all means, give it a try. I would prefer it over Ubuntu 12.04 beta 2 had I not experienced the lag and slowdown inside VirtualBox. (Ubuntu 12.04 beta 2 runs better and without lag in VirtualBox.)
Innovation is good to see, but I find that Linux Mint 10 is still the best OS to choose both for new users and for serious everyday use.
Linux Mint 10 works well.