Yeah, y'all have seen me distro-hop a lot over the (is it eight now?) years I've run this blog. Red Hat, Slackware, Mandriva, Ubuntu, and just recently, Fedora.
I don't know what happened with Fedora, but it seems to like my laptop, so it can stay there. But my desktops... these are old codger Gateway boxen I bought used, and even that was years ago. Let's just say that, if they were human, they would have been able to get their first periods by now. Fedora hates these boxes, and frankly, I'm not crying any tears over disengaging Fedora from them, either. Fedora runs great as long as you don't CHANGE anything, and then it becomes as durable as an inflatable dartboard.
I'd heard about this Mint, see. This new Mint thing all you hip young kids are grooving on. I finally broke down at a party and tried a puff of Mint and got hooked and next thing you know, I'm burning a DVD full of Linux Mint 14 Nadia, a name that sounds like a vampire from Slavic folk tales. Since I am a vampire from Slavic folk tales, we'd get along great.
First I tried it on my Dell "crash test dummy", an even older box, suffice it to say that it would end up in jail if it tried to have sex with the Gateway boxes. Just spun it in there (always use the crappiest computer you have to test a new disk, I always say) and running the DVD live came up with a decently presentable desktop at 1024x768 resolution. Not bad looking, I thought, wondering what ancient crawling horror of a graphics card I had in there... I reached in, and now remembered that I had left this brainless box with no graphics card, it was doing this off the motherboard. On a box that originally ran 640x480 when it was new.
Putting it on my intended Gateway desktop reaped equivalent rewards. Its install is the smoothest install I've ever had, even smoother than Ubuntu. When you reboot to a desktop, the login box flashes up with a snappy "ping". Not the blaring trumpet orchestral fanfare of Ubuntu, but a sharp, short cheep to attract your attention to the fact that it's ready to go to work now.
The whole point to Linux Mint is that it's an Ubuntu but with all the background stuff installed. Drivers, codecs, proprietary engines, and whatnot. I think it's great that we still have a choice in not having any non-free software installed by default, but seriously, who are these people who live without Flash, Java, audio and video support, OpenGL, and even most of the pretty fonts, yet still own a computer for some reason? Right, so what most of us end up doing is boldly downloading GPL'ed Linux while brandishing our patriot flag and making loud speeches about how we're not pawns of the capitalista overlords, and then tiptoe home to our closet in shame through the night installing all the proprietary stuff to make it do things anyway.
Hey, I have no problem admitting that while I am an anti-establishment punk at heart, my primary reason for running and loving Linux is that I am a cheap, cheap bastard.
Anyway, Linux Mint is one distro that even Ubuntu users can look down on for coddling. You thought Ubuntu holds your hand, but Mint will hold any part of you you ask it to. I was walking on the beach with Linux Mint 14 Nadia, and looking back, I saw one set of footprints. I asked Nadia about it, and it told me that those were the times when it carried me.
Minutes after install... well, no, I had to run updates, of course, and reboot, of course... but minutes after that, I flipped Firefox open and went around the web and Flash ran out of the box! Wait, I hadn't installed Flash yet... Then I went to see some Java games and dammit Java ran too! So I finally got out of installing Java (Installing Java is still used for torture in third-world dictatorships sanctioned by the UN). I went to Crackle and started watching a movie, it ran flawlessly! Linux Mint liked my Wacom pad! Linux Mint sang from my speakers! It opened a PDF from my collection for my reading pleasure while updates were finishing! And since I'd gotten the XFCE cut of the distro, I spent zero minutes and zero seconds looking at Gnome3, which is infinitely better than any time at all looking at Gnome 3. All out of the box!
So, yes, if you're tired of sitting up Googling "Firefox Flash plugin no sound" at Slavic vampire hours of the morning, Linux Mint is for you. Since you don't have to manually hunt down codec libraries this time around, this is one system where your family will thank Linux Mint for the four hours they didn't have to listen to you screaming behind the boarded-up office door.
Now, one caveat: the "Software Manager". There is a program by that name in the menus. Avoid it, it is a trick. Synaptic is in there too, go for Synaptic. "Software Manager" may be good for one-package-at-a-time installs, but that's exactly what it will let you pick is ONE package at a time. I got impatient and started picking more packages before it was done installing some. It bogged. I clicked on. It crashed. I gurgled in terror, running 'top' in a terminal and watching as various zombie package-install processes - now manager-less - lurched here and there in the guts of my system doing God Knows What. I think the reboot was well-timed enough to prevent too much damage.
Also, the "Software Manager" won't sort the install-able packages by any kind of logical scheme such as name or version, but instead by popularity, based on how many votes and YouTube-like comments the package gets. I'm not kidding, there's comments in each page for each package. What, am I supposed to quit using a tool I've depended on for 20 years just because some kid with a Guy Fawkes mask for an avatar tells me it's "for fags"? Mint's "Software Manager" also "helpfully" doesn't TELL you if something is installed or not until you click on it, and also whether the thing you're telling it to install now is part of the requirements for something you're already installing... I know the line of jazz about making things so easy to understand that grandma can handle it, but how about not handing grandma a box of dynamite and a book of matches while you're at it?
Alright, really, that one gripe, and then I'm sticking to Synaptic and apt-gets. Outside of that, Linux Mint is beautiful, beautiful beyond words. Not only is it well-thought out, stable, and well-behaved, but it looks damned good while its at it.