The first release candidate for Linux Mint 12 is out now, and I couldn’t resist doing a sneak peek of it. I’ll do a full review on DLR when the final release comes out.
Linux Mint 12, as you may have heard, uses GNOME 3.2 as its desktop environment. But the Linux Mint developers never do anything quite the same as other distros. In this release they’ve added MGSE (Mint GNOME Shell Extensions) that make it possible to use the GNOME 3 desktop in a way similar to previous releases of GNOME.
MGSE makes GNOME 3 much, much better than it would be otherwise. In fact, I actually found myself liking GNOME 3 in Linux Mint 12 where I more or less despised it while using Fedora 16.
Do you want to know what my initial reaction was to GNOME 3 in Fedora 16? Remember that scene in Spinal Tap where they are talking about one of Spinal Tap’s albums called “Shark Sandwich” and the film’s narrator mentions that a reviewer published a two-word review simply called “Shit Sandwich.” Well that’s how I felt about GNOME 3; it was a shit sandwich until the Linux Mint developers got their hands on it.
MGSE basically gives you a bottom panel, an application menu, a window list, tray icons and a desktop that is geared toward tasks instead of application switching. And yes, you can minimize applications to the bottom panel if you want.
In short, you get all of the good technology that underpins GNOME 3 without being stuck in the awful desktop choices of the GNOME developers. The Linux Mint developers have essentially done the unthinkable. They’ve made GNOME 3 enjoyable to use.
Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release:
MGSE (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions)
MATE (a fork of GNOME 2)
Search engine changes
I covered some of the MGSE stuff above, but one thing to remember is that if you are a masochist and want a “pure GNOME 3 experience” then you can easily turn off all the MGSE stuff. So bear that in mind if you find yourself turned off by using MGSE. I cannot imagine a single user who will want to do this, but there are always weird people out there so you never know.
MATE is a GNOME 2 that lets you keep both versions of GNOME on the same system. The LM developers note that it’s not completely stable yet in the release notes.
Mint-Z is a new theme that is included in Linux Mint 12. It’s based on Zukitwo and Mint-X. New backgrounds include some pretty photos from Yellowstone National Park and India.
The search engine changes are very interesting. Duck Duck Go is the default search engine now. The LM developers are attempting to use search engines to help fund the Linux Mint project. I think this is a good idea on their part. I’m sure there are significant costs associated with maintaining and developing Linux Mint, so I’m quite happy if my searches go to help fund the project on an ongoing basis.
Here’s what you’ll need to run this update:
- x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
- 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
- 5 GB of disk space
- Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
- CD/DVD drive or USB port
Linux Mint 12 Install
One that really pleased me with Linux Mint 12 is that it runs in VirtualBox with no configuration headaches to get GNOME 3 to run. Compare that to Fedora 16, which is a pain in the ass to deal with since you have to work to get GNOME 3.2 to actually load.
Note though that if you boot into the live desktop in VirtualBox you will see the fall back desktop (not the GNOME 3.2). Don’t let that bother you, just do the install and make sure that your virtual machine has 3D set to on. When you boot into your installed desktop, GNOME 3 should load without a problem.
The install is as easy as usual, and it should not be a problem even if you’re a Linux beginner.
Here’s a peek at some of the software that comes with Linux Mint 12:
The default software selection hits all the sweet spots in terms of desktop functionality. There’s obviously quite a bit more software available in the Linux Mint Software Manager, so browse around to find more stuff.
Using Linux Mint 12
Linux Mint 12 is now my default Linux distro. That should tell you a lot about how much I enjoyed using it, compared to Fedora 16 or generic Ubuntu 11.10.
Somehow the Linux Mint developers did it again. They identified the problems with GNOME 3 and then fixed them. They turned a shit sandwich into a delicious, seven course meal that one can savor without a hint of the disgust felt while using GNOME 3 in other distros.
There’s been a lot of talk about Linux Mint catching up to and surpassing Ubuntu in terms of the number of users it has. Well Linux Mint 12 might just be the straw that breaks Ubuntu’s back. While I found Unity slightly more tolerable in Ubuntu 11.10, Linux Mint’s implementation of GNOME 3 blows Unity right off the map and it sets THE standard for GNOME 3 implementations in all distros.
Frankly, the GNOME developers themselves ought to take a look at what the Linux Mint developers have done and make it standard in all GNOME 3 desktops.
Hats off to the Linux Mint developers, again. My stomach has been tied up in knots wondering how they would deal with GNOME 3 and now I can just relax and enjoy Linux Mint again. Linux Mint 12 is really that good.
What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments. For full distro reviews, visit Desktop Linux Reviews.