At long last, Linux Mint 15 is a step forward in the Linux world instead of five steps backwards. While not quite as polished as Ubuntu 10.10, Linux Mint 15 is a solid attempt to reclaim the ease-of-use Ubuntu 10.10 still offers today–only with updated software and noticeable improvements.
What Is Linux Mint?
Linux Mint is a derivative of Ubuntu that was originally intended to be easier to use than Ubuntu. Since it is based on Ubuntu, the same Ubuntu repositories are compatible with Linux Mint.
Linux Mint 15 corresponds with Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring). Since Linux Mint is a derivative of Ubuntu, for the longest time, it suffered from the same quirks as Ubuntu 11.04 and onward.
The main issue was Unity (along with many other fundamental changes for the sake of making changes, in my opinion), and GNOME 3 was just as pathetic. Both desktop environments abandoned the user-friendliness that made Linux attractive to begin with.
In response to these complaints, two new desktop environments were developed: MATE and Cinnamon.
There are two versions of Linux Mint 15 available that offer these desktop environments. Linux Mint 15 MATE installs with the MATE desktop, and Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon installs with the Cinnamon desktop environment.
Both are polished and more easy to use than ever before, so take your pick. Either version is faster and easier to use than Unity or GNOME3. Both Linux Mint distributions are the same Linux Mint 15 but with a slightly different look and feel. The same repository software runs on both, so there are no worries of mutually exclusive operating systems (in most cases).
Installation is speedy (from “Install” to “Reboot”) from USB to a standard 7200 RPM hard drive, and installation to a 10,000 RPM hard drive or a solid state drive (SSD) is even quicker.
In fact, Linux Mint 15 installs in about 10 minutes compared to 25 minutes for Ubuntu 13.04 on the same machine. Updates are faster as well.
Each new Ubuntu release requires more time to install and adds more bloatware, but not Linux Mint 15. On the same system, Linux Mint 15 installs in the same amount of time as Ubuntu 10.10. Very fast.
Installation Times (From USB to 10,000 RPM Drive)
(Approximate times measured with a stopwatch.)
Ubuntu 10.10 5 minutes Ubuntu 13.04 25 minutes Linux Mint 15 10 minutes
Upon a fresh installation, both versions of Linux Mint 15 require little hard drive space or RAM and are almost the same with their appetites.
OS Drive Space RAM --------------------------------------------- Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon 3.4 GB 284 MB Linux Mint 15 MATE 3.7 GB 293 MB
I tried both the MATE and Cinnamon versions, and they are nearly identical. Neither is faster or slower than the other, so performance is about the same. Programs load and run as speedy as the system allows.
Hardware is supported by default. Graphics work. Sounds works. Networking, both wired and wireless, works out of the box. There is nothing to complain about. Aside from some hardware compatibilities on newer netbooks, it just works.
Linux Mint 15 runs remarkably well on real hardware, but what about VirtualBox? I installed both MATE and Cinnamon versions in VirtualBox 4.2.12 to find out.
Actually, installation and performance are practically the same inside a virtual environment as they are on real hardware. Installation times are the same, programs load and run in the same amount of time. There is no lagging. It’s great! In fact, if VirtualBox is switched to full-screen mode, it can fool you into questioning, “Is this running on real hardware or inside a virtual machine?”
This is exactly how Ubuntu 10.10 performs in VirtualBox, and this makes Linux Mint 15 suitable as a full GUI virtualized OS.
However, the main menu in Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon tends to lag a little. Not much, but it is noticeable. Cinnamon has always demonstrated this menu lag inside VirtualBox no matter the version. The rest of the OS runs fast and snappy.
The MATE main menu is fast and responsive, so there is no lagging in MATE.
VirtualBox performance is more than welcome because the past few versions of Ubuntu bog down and almost refuse to run in VirtualBox. For example, Ubuntu 12.10 and 13.04 menus and Unity lenses can take as long as 15 seconds to appear after selecting them. On the other hand, Ubuntu 10.10 runs blazingly fast and responsive inside VirtualBox running on the same hardware.
Ease of Use
Users pining for the simplicity of GNOME 2 will love MATE. Many of the familiar programs found in Ubuntu 10.10 and GNOME 2 are present by default in MATE. For example, there is no need to install much needed programs, such as the Synaptic Package Manager, in Linux Mint 15 as required in Ubuntu 13.04. They are already present and ready to go to make life easier.
Unlike the recent versions of Ubuntu that require users to install multiple programs separately to make the system usable and customizable, Linux Mint 15 installs these programs by default for added convenience just like Ubuntu 10.10.
Linux Mint 15 is a step forward in the right direction. The MATE and Cinnamon desktop environments are more stable, and they do not get in the way of using the computer. The latest Ubuntu mainline kernels can be installed without wrecking the system. Both have excellent hardware support for most hardware but not all.
New features include,
- A consolidated System Settings control panel. Instead of installing separate programs or going to different locations to customize the system, everything is located in one convenient place. As new customization software is added, such as the CompizConfig Settings Manager, it is added to the System Settings panel as well.
- Updated software. For those still using the remarkable Ubuntu 10.10, the newer software is a welcome bonus. This includes LibreOffice 22.214.171.124.
- No Unity or GNOME 3.
- Caja (MATE) and Nemo (Cinnamon) file managers offer excellent features including dual-pane mode. Nemo shows drive capacity as a horizontal bar graphic in the sidebar places view. This provides an easy way to find out how much hard drive space is left.
- Gimp and many essential system tools are installed by default.
- MATE is easy to customize just like GNOME 2.
- Attractive, animated login screens created in HTML5.
- Stable. Linux Mint 15 has never crashed…at least not yet.
- More and more and more features! For more information, please see the Linux Mint web site.
Compiz is cool eyecandy, but does it work with Linux Mint 15? Yes and no. Compiz effects (desktop cube and more) do not run in Cinnamon, but they do run in MATE. This is not a fault with Linux Mate 15 because Cinnamon uses a different system that is incompatible with Compiz. This is normal operation.
Compiz performance in Linux Mint 15 MATE is quite good, but some plugins are buggy and cause the graphics system to freeze. One example is the 3D Windows effect that is installed from the Compiz extras package. When enable, the cube disappears when manually rotated. The easy workaround is to disable the 3D windows complete and then Compiz runs fine.
Since Ubuntu 11.04, Compiz support has been buggy and unreliable. Some improvements have been made since then, but Compiz still runs the best in Ubuntu 10.10.
While Compiz performance is improved with Linux Mint 15, it is still not as good as Compiz in Ubuntu 10.10, which is practically perfect.
I love to see new ideas that enhance the current user experience, and one of these is a customizable login screen using HTML5. Yes, the previous login screens are available and easily selectable, but Linux Mint 15 allows users to create their own animated login screens.
Choosing new login screens is as easy as clicking Administration > Login Window and then choosing one from among many default options. I had to try this out and found it to be quite entertaining and fun! For testing, I chose the Mechanical login screen, and upon my next login, I was greeted with Steampunk blimps, animated gears, flying planes, and moving spotlights. The entire scene felt…alive!
I always thought that the standard Linux login screen was rather boring, but this adds to the wow-factor. Sure, it might seem like pointless eyecandy, but for myself, this is one of the coolest features added to Linux Mint 15.
Since the login screen is usually the first screen to greet new Linux users, what they see here will make an impression. If they see fancy eyecandy effects that other operating systems do not have, then they will think “Wow” and wonder what else is in store for them.
Yes, an animated login screen is a valuable feature to have to attract users–especially when a computer is idling at the login screen. Best of all, anyone can create a customized login screen using HTML5.
Linux Mint 15 exceeds my expectations, which have not been much since Ubuntu 11.04 regressed into a dumbed down behemoth. Ubuntu 10.10 was the last great Ubuntu release that did everything right, and it has been a search to find a modern replacement.
Even Linux Mint suffered in quality as a result of the changes made to Ubuntu. Previous versions, such as 13 and 14 would crash and freeze for no reason, so I could not rely upon them. Ubuntu 11, 12, and 13 were utter disappointments that threw away everything that made me want to switch to Ubuntu in the first place.
What was left? Other distributions offered varying levels of performance, but there was not a single, easy-to-use distribution that I could recommend to new Linux users.
Until now. Finally, Linux Mint 15 offers a Linux operating system with excellent hardware compatibility, useful features, and an unobtrusive user interface. Certainly, most of this is based upon my personal experience with my hardware so others might have varying levels of performance, but by far, Linux Mint 15 works the best for me out of the numerous Linux distributions I have tried.
I am often asked the question, “I am new to Linux. Which Linux distribution should I use?” Up until about two years ago, my answer was a resounding “Ubuntu 9 or 10” because the Ubuntu of then did things right, Compiz effects worked, and people who tried it loved it because it was something most people were already familiar with.
But that was lost starting with Ubuntu 11. Radical changes alienate users. So, for the past two years, I had to recommend Windows instead and tell new uses to wait on Linux because the new versions of Linux (especially Ubuntu 11, 12, and 13 and their derivatives) were too hard and unfriendly to use, too quirky, lacking in easy customization, and too frustrating for new users. Those who did not heed this advice soon discovered its truths and ended up hating Linux as a result due to the frustratingly negative impressions that Ubuntu Unity and GNOME 3 left upon Linux novices.
New Linux users want an operating system they can pick and use quickly and easily and with a minimum of frustration. Linux Mint 15 offers this, so now when asked the question, “Which Linux should I pick?” my answer is definitely, “Linux Mint 15!”
I have not been this excited about a Linux distribution since Ubuntu 10.10. At last, a usable Linux with updated software.
Linux Mint 15 is a free download, and well worth checking out.