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Linux Mint 12 preview

November 13, 2011

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.

Welcome Menu

Welcome Menu

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.

Applications Menu

Applications Menu on Bottom Panel

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.

What’s New
Here’s a sample of what’s new in this release:

Linux 3.0
Ubuntu 11.10
MGSE (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions)
MATE (a fork of GNOME 2)
Artwork improvements
New backgrounds
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.

:blink: :wink:

GNOME 3 Applications

GNOME 3 Applications

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.

GNOME 3 Menu

GNOME 3 Menu

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.

System Requirements
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.

Install 1

Install 1

Install 2

Install 2

Install 3

Install 3

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:

Pidgin IM

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.

Software Manager

Software Manager

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.

Linux Mint 12 Desktop

Linux Mint 12 Desktop

Final Thoughts
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.


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23 Responses to Linux Mint 12 preview

  1. RBlog on November 24, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Gnome 3 est une erreur de la nature …

  2. bertbiker on November 22, 2011 at 12:08 am

    Jim, I enjoy reading your reviews but “Linux Mint 12 breaking Ubuntu’s back” is a bit of a weird statement. First of all, Mint is only slightly different from ubuntu, heavily dependent upon both ubuntu and debian. Without those parents mint is nowhere so they don’t benefit from competing with ubuntu or a Canonical bankruptcy. Secondly, Mint’s “advantage” is perhaps that it doesn’t care about free software and so a lot of things work out of the box. I think users should at least be aware when installing non-free components, which in essence curb software freedom.

  3. Muratcan Simsek on November 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I disagree with most of what you said. As a newbie distro, noone can beat Mint right now but otherwise it doesn’t have any virtues that can make me install it. I like Gnome 3 very much, I even migrated to it after years of KDE; but what I like about it is its new approach to the desktop metaphor. MGSE is fine, I use some parts of it on my Arch machine, but not the parts that changes the way new desktop works. Media player indicator and status menu extensions are very fine.

    I think you missed the biggest and I believe the most important part of the new Mint. Mint is coming with MATE. This is big news. If they help maintaining it and keeping it up to date it would be great. This is probably the biggest news on D.E. front since the release of Unity.

    • TonyVanDam on November 23, 2011 at 7:41 am

      Fair enough that you finally gotten the hang of Gnome 3. But I need something that is a lot more user-friendly (like Gnome 2 used to be!) and doesn’t force me to make too many changes in my workflow, hence why I’ve switch to xfce4 & Enlightenment.

  4. TonyVanDam on November 16, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    Greetings Jim! :biggrin:

    After reading your positive review of Mint 12, I’m finally convince that there is some hope for Gnome 3 after all. But the great new ideas will definitely have to come from outside of the Team Gnome camp.

    Although I’m still a happy Mint Debian-user, I will keep an eye on Mint 12. The success of this version will plenty much be a preview of how stable most of Mint 13 (LTS) could be in 2012.

  5. sullyj3 on November 16, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Sounds great, but the one thing that puts me off is the software manager. Still nowhere near as good ubuntu’s softare centre.

  6. Joh on November 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Eerst had ik problemen met Grub. Ineens was het opgelost. Wel heb ik ondervonden dat het menu zo maar verdwenen is. Alleen een reset ook geen mogelijkheid om uit te loggen brengt het systeem terug. Heb Firefox vervangen door chrome en het lijkt stabieler.

  7. Don on November 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Jim,

    I’ve installed Linux Mint 12rc into a vbox machine that previously was running Fedora 16. Something is seriously wrong with the setup: mouse clicks fail or take very long times to be responded to, messages pop up and then cannot be made to go away. Keyboard delays are unreasonable.

    Any tricks to get this running in vbox for a test? I have the VM created with 3D display, two processors, 2GB RAM, yada yada but for LM12rc it is obviously hosed. Reinstalled Fedora 16 in the same VM–worked fine. Reinstalled Linux Mint, hosed the same way again. Hints?

  8. NOYB on November 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I tried Mint 12 and was impressed also. But, how do I put my program icons on the desktop?

    • thetall82 on November 15, 2011 at 12:47 pm

      I fear it’s not possible :( Is it?

    • dany on November 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      Yes,it is possible.Start Advanced Settings and turn on that nautilus take care of desktop.

  9. Imhoteps on November 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the review! Good job as usual, but… a little bit small (?) in text this time.

  10. Anon on November 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm


    You are clearly in the minority from the reports of how fast LM has been growing in the past few months. Just look at the DistroWatch stats for the past month to get an idea.

  11. KM on November 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve been waiting for news from Mint 12, as it was supposed to run Gnome 3. I’m using GS for some time and started to appreciate it’s new approach. (initially I wasn’t happy at all).

    I don’t like what the way they killed all what’s fresh in Gnome 3. Definately Mint jumps off my disto list. It’s like one step forward and two steps back…

    • Kirk M on November 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

      KM – You can turn off any or all of the MGSE extensions via Advanced Settings (Gnome Tweak). If you want a pure Gnome 3 (shell) experience then you just turn them all off and restart the shell–easy. LM 12 offers up the kind of choice of desktop GUI customization that the Gnome developers did not see fit to include. That plus any Mint release offers much more than just a new look or DE functionality and customization. A lot of work is done “under the hood” as well.

      Just wondering though, have you actually tried LM 12 at all or are you just going by the screenshots? No offense intended by that, by the way. :smile:

  12. Taomaster on November 14, 2011 at 3:02 am

    I have been a hard core Ubuntu user for years, and I must say Mint 12 is very nice. It’s like they blended Ubuntu & Opensuse and make a really good operating system. I have no problem supporting the Mint team. Keep it going… :alien:

  13. john on November 14, 2011 at 12:26 am

    I’d like to use Mint but the green is a complete turn off. Regardless of what I did, I wasn’t able to get rid of the green folders. There needs to be different color themes.

    • The_Advocate on November 14, 2011 at 2:11 am

      there are 20,000 different folder themes you can choose from. They are very easy to install.

  14. tdockery97 on November 14, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Thanks for the favorable quick look at Mint 12. As a Mint user since Mint 8 I’ve always had confidence in Clem’s decisions regarding each new version. I think he hit it spot-on with Mint 12.

  15. MacLone on November 13, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Can you tell me why i was reading your article with a funny mix of english and spanish at the same time? a have no plugin to automate this translation …so why?
    Yo hablo ambos idiomas, por eso lo digo. I speak both languages that’s why i say it.

    • Holy Diver on November 14, 2011 at 6:21 pm

      :biggrin: Very interesting. I am Czech and I am reading this article with english/czech mix.

  16. Jim Lynch on November 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks, Brian. Glad you liked it.

    Yes, that view works great unless you’re on a slow connection. Ha, ha. Nothing like tons of screenshots loading on the same page in a DLR review.

    :w00t: :cwy: :wink: :whistle:

  17. Brian Masinick on November 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Nice quick review, Jim – and I read it using the Single Page view, which is even easier in these “Quick Look” reviews than it is with the full reviews, such as the Kubuntu 11.10 review. Please continue to offer this view; when performance is good, I will use it, and when I need to cut down on what’s transferred, I’ll use the page by page view; nice to have choice, just as in the systems we use!

    Looks like this Mint is a winner.

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