For the past year or so, Ubuntu and its derivatives have been regarded as a good entry point for those looking to dabble with a Linux distribution. Granted, the world of Linux changes at a pace that could render those words redundant in six months, but for now, the statement stands true.
Linux Mint is a further derivative of it, with a pleasing focus on being a media-friendly distribution. If a common complaint among Linux newcomers is that getting things set up, installed and working can be a little troubling, then Linux Mint is trying its utmost to resolve the issue (for example, playing DVDs straight out of the box, with no tinkering around required). It does this by using what some Linux devotees refer to as ‘dirty software’, that is the bundling of tools that don’t subscribe to the open source principle, although the end cost remains free to your wallet.
The version we’ve looked at is a beta of version 2.2, codenamed Bianca. Fresh betas arrive at regular intervals, with stable releases following soon thereafter. It’s a download of just short of 700MB, which the site offers either as a direct download or via a torrent file. Once you have the ISO file, simply burn it to a CD and you’re ready to begin. It’s available as a bootable ‘live’ CD, so you can try it without writing a file to your PC. But should you opt to install to your hard drive, the process is quick, simple and pretty painless.
Given the bells and whistles of the new Vista desktop, though, the opening screen of Linux Mint is like a step back in time, albeit not an unwelcome one. Bells and whistles are firmly on the sidelines here, but in their place is a functional, accessible operating system that does much of the configuration work for you.
Take, for instance, wireless network configuration. We’ve stumbled when it comes to doing this in Linux before, but with Linux Mint the job was exceptionally problem-free. Included with the installation, as is the case with most Linux distributions, is a plethora of tools and applications and it’s arguable that once set up, you’re not likely to need to add anything for some time.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the rest of it is perfect, though. While the quality of the distribution is high, we still struggled with some driver compatibility and it occasionally gave hints of an OS that could still use some development work. But we nonetheless rate it as a terrific distro, and given the pragmatic approach by those behind it regarding what to include (which shifts, seemingly, from release to release), we expect it to gather still more momentum as the year moves on.
Company: Linux Mint Project