Linux Mint 9

Introduce some minty freshness to your PC with the free Linux Mint 9 operating system, a variant of Ubuntu 10.04

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  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Handy for users who don't know their way around the old Debian/Ubuntu apt-get utilities, free

Cons

  • Thunderbird is default e-mail client

Bottom Line

We're very impressed by Linux Mint 9. To us, it really does feel like a fresh start for desktop Linux. That's why this author has decided to make it the new default Linux for his laptops. Give it a try. We think you'll agree. Linux Mint 9 is one wonderful desktop Linux.

Would you buy this?

Linux distributions come through our office in a constant flood. Most of them stick around long enough for a quick try-out on one of our test systems or on a VirtualBox virtual machine. A few find permanent homes. We currently use OpenSUSE on servers; and Ubuntu, Fedora, and MEPIS on desktops and laptops. Now, we have a new resident on our desktop: Linux Mint 9.

We've been fond of Linux Mint for years, but our affection for it never quite reached the point where we wanted to use it on a daily basis - until now. It's not that Linux Mint 9, an Ubuntu-based Linux desktop distribution, has made any great strides forward; it's that the distro has continued to get better and better with each release.

Linux Mint 9 is based on Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx, so if you're already a Linux user chances are you already know its foundation. On top of Ubuntu though Mint layers a much more attractive, to our eye, default GNOME 2.30 interface. The colour scheme is green with a very clean and simple desktop. We find Linux Mint 9's desktop to be both restful and inviting.

Considering how many people have looked over our shoulder at LinuxCon and OSCon and complemented us on it, we think Mint's designers are on to something.

Our observers were watching us use it on a faithful old laptop companion, a Lenovo ThinkPad R61. This 2008-vintage notebook is powered by a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7500 and has 2GB of RAM.

We also tried it out on a Dell Inspiron 530S powered by a 2.2GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800MHz front-side bus. This box has 4GB of RAM, a 500GB SATA drive, and an integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set.

Like any modern Linux, installing Linux Mint 9 is as simple as downloading and burning a Mint image to a CD or USB stick, booting up, and clicking a few buttons. Besides the default GNOME version, there are also editions that use the KDE and lesser-known Linux desktops such as Xfce, LXDE, and Fluxbox.

Regardless of your choice in desktop, you'll appreciate Linux Mint 9's Apple App Store-like Software Manager. In Linux, long before the iPhone was a glimmer in Steve Jobs' eye, there was often an app for whatever you wanted to do. The problem was finding and installing it.

With Linux Mint 9's software manager, it's easy to find the program you need. Another handy feature is that you can click your way down a program's description to screen-shots, fuller descriptions and, in the case of more popular programs, reviews and a score from other users.

It's not perfect, but it's pretty handy for users who don't know their way around the old Debian/Ubuntu apt-get utilities.

One thing you won't need to do though is seek out programs to watch Adobe Flash videos, MP3 music files and the like. Linux Mint 9, unlike the vast majority of Linux distributions, comes with all the most popular proprietary media codecs and programs ready to run.

If that bothers you, there are lots of other choices, like Fedora, Trisquel, and gNewSense that makes a point of avoiding any trace of proprietary software. As for us, we’re more pragmatic.

The new Linux Mint 9 comes ready-to-run with all the usual popular open-source programs such as OpenOffice.org, Firefox, and Pidgin for instant messaging.

For some reason, Mint's elected to use Thunderbird for Linux Mint 9's default e-mail client. We wish we could like Thunderbird, but this is one program from the Mozilla/Firefox family that continues to have real problems. Fortunately, Linux Mint 9 makes it easy to install other programs so we were up and running with Evolution for our e-mail and calendaring in a matter of minutes.

Linux Mint 9 also has a variety of other small default programs of its own to make using it a pleasure. The most important of these is the new Backup Tool. This comes with an easy-to-user interface and features incremental backups, compression, and integrity checks. You can also tag your installed software, save this as a list, and then restore the selection on a different computer or on a new version of Linux Mint.

This is a rather handy trick if, like us, you find yourself often moving from one PC to another and don't want to jump through the hoops required by imaging software.

Finally, this version of Linux Mint 9 comes with three years of support. Now, we’re more than capable of supporting ourselves on Linux, but this will make Linux Mint 9 more interesting to new users or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) considering offering a desktop Linux already installed on their PCs.

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