I believe that there is a version of Linux out there for everyone. One of the hardest sells is trying to convince someone who is using Windows 7 that there is a version of Linux suitable for them.
I have already written articles giving 5 reasons why Lubuntu might be better for Windows XP users and that PCLinuxOS might be better for Windows XP users with more powerful machines and Windows Vista users.
For Windows 8 users, I would imagine that just about any flavour of Linux is preferable but I would probably lean towards Ubuntu as I think Ubuntu provides the killer new desktop that Windows 8 has tried to introduce but in a much better way.
Windows 7 users are not running out of support and there isn’t all that much wrong with Windows 7, especially if you have used it for a while. Windows 7 is probably the best version of Windows there has ever been.
The best Linux alternative for Windows 7 that I have found thus far is probably Zorin OS 8. That is up until now.
Today I am going to be reviewing Linux Mint 17 with the Cinnamon desktop environment which is the best that Linux Mint has to offer.
NOTE: There is now a new version of Linux Mint (version 17.1)
- x86 processor (32-bit) or x64 processor (64-bit)
- 512 megabytes RAM (1 gigabyte recommended)
- 10 gigabytes disk space
- DVD or USB support
Click here for my guide showing how to create a bootable Linux Mint USB drive.
Click here for my guide showing how to install Linux Mint as a virtual machine.
Click here for my guide showing how to dual boot OSX and Linux Mint 17 on a MacBook Air.
Click here for my guide showing how to install Linux Mint alongside Windows 7.
Click here for my guide showing how to replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint.
Click here for my guide showing how to install Linux Mint alongside Windows 8.1.
For now though I am going to take you through the installation steps to show just how easy it is.
You will need to follow the guide showing how to create the Linux USB drive first.
Before you begin, backup your computer using the Windows 7 backup and recovery tools.
Insert the USB drive and reboot your computer.
Your computer should boot into a live version of Linux Mint 17.
Click on the install icon on the desktop.
Choose your installation language and click “Continue”.
Everything is just where you would expect it to be. The panel at the bottom works in much the same way as the Windows 7 task bar. There is a menu, a set of quick launch icons and a system tray.
- User settings
- Bluetooth settings
- Network settings
- Audio settings
- Power settings
- Workspace selector
- FireFox Web Browser
- Software Manager
- File Manager
- Lock Screen
- Log Out
The second column in the menu is a list of categories and by hovering your mouse over a category the third column changes to show the applications within that category.
Dragging an icon from the applications column to the favourites column will make it more accessible next time you open the menu.
Connecting to the internet
Connecting to the internet with Linux Mint is generally incredibly simple. Assuming that you have a network card that is automatically catered for then all you need to do is click on the icon in the system tray and select the wireless network you wish to connect to.
You will then also need to enter the security details for the wireless network (assuming that it isn’t an open network).
To browse web pages use the FireFox web browser.
Flash and MP3
Some Linux distributions do not include proprietary technology such as the ability to play Flash videos and listen to MP3 audio.
Linux Mint has everything you need installed from the outset, so you can watch your favourite Youtube videos, play your favourite games and listen to your music collection with no further setup required.
Linux Mint has a great selection of applications that are installed by default.
Linux Mint is in a better state when it is first installed than Windows is and for the most part requires no extra specialist software to be installed for the most common uses of home computers.
- Archive Manager
- Document Viewer
- Text Editor
- USB Image Writer
- GIMP image editor
- gThumb image thumbnail viewer
- Image Viewer
- LibreOffice Draw
For those of you that haven’t heard of GIMP it is a fine picture editing tool. A lot of people liken it to Photoshop. Generally there is a debate to be had as to whether it really has everything that Photoshop has to offer but for the casual user it certainly is incredibly powerful.
- FireFox Web Browser
- HexChat IRC Chat Client
- Pidgin Internet Messenger
- Thunderbird Mail Client
- Transmission BitTorrent Client
- LibreOffice Writer (think Microsoft Word but without the awful Ribbons)
- LibreOffice Calc (think Microsoft Excel but without the awful Ribbons)
- LibreOffice Impress (think Microsoft Powerpoint)
- LibreOffice Draw
- LibreOffice Math
LibreOffice complements Linux Mint very well as it provides the same sort of continuation and familiarity that Linux Mint provides. There are certainly none of those stupid ribbon bars making it impossible to find settings.
For home use LibreOffice definitely has all the features you will require and is perfect for children who have homework assignments or for parents to create budgets.
Sound and Video
- Banshee Audio Player
- Brasero DVD burning
- Totem Video Player
- VLC Video Player
One thing that Linux isn’t lacking is good quality audio applications.
Off the top of my head there are Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarok, Clementine, GMusicBrowser, DeadBeef, Noise and QMMS.
Linux Mint comes with Banshee. I have had problems with this application in the past but it works perfectly within Linux Mint 17.
Importing music is as simple as selecting the “Import Media” option from the “Media” menu. This allows you to select the folders on your computer that contain audio files.
Banshee lets you listen to music from your own collection or you can listen to online radio stations.
All the standard features are available such as the ability to create playlists.
Banshee works very well with external audio devices and picked up my Sony Walkman and Samsung Galaxy S4 without any issues.
The VLC media player can be used to watch online videos and also to watch videos stored on your computer.
One area where Linux Mint is better than Ubuntu is the graphical tool used for installing applications.
The Ubuntu Software Centre is probably the biggest let down and the one area where Ubuntu really needs to improve.
Linux Mint’s software manager is actually pretty decent.
The default view provides a list of categories and a search box in the top right corner.
If you just want to browse applications click on a category and a list of applications will appear.
The applications are listed by title, description, rating and number of people who voted.
To get more information about an application double click on the name.
The details page includes screenshots, version numbers, file sizes and reviews.
To install the application click “Install”.
One thing that isn’t installed by default is games.
There are various ways of installing and playing games in Linux Mint.
The first way is to open the software manager and browse the games section.
PlayOnLinux sits on top of WINE which allows you to run Windows applications within Linux Mint.
Customising the desktop
New features for Linux Mint 17
- Improved update manager
- The driver manager can now install drivers without an internet connection
- Refined MDM login manager and multi monitor support improved
- HTML greeter comes with HiDPI support
- MDM now has a recovery command
- Language Settings tool added to make it easier to select your language
- Improved Software Sources display
- Welcome screen now uses less resources
- Improved graphical interface for system settings
- Power management and screen saver settings redesigned
- Menu improvements
- HUD and Hover Management Improvements
- MPRIS support added
- HiDPI and Retina display support added
- The “WACOM” plug has been re-introduced
- Windows opacity improvements
- Better integration with Gnome
- Better support for GDM
- Support for MDM failback shutdown sequence
- New shutdown hotkey
- Lots of bug fixes
This list doesn’t cover everything and may not make sense to new users so it would be beneficial to click the link above to get the full list.
What is important with Linux Mint 17 is the LTS strategy. Linux Mint 17 will receive support updates until 2019.
Until 2016 Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 17 making it easier to upgrade.
Until 2016 the developers won’t begin work on a new base and will be focus completely on the current base.
Hot Corners and Workspaces
The Cinnamon desktop has a configuration tool called “Hot Corners” which lets you determine what happens when you move your mouse into the corners of your screen.
Before thinking about hot corners it is worth discussing workspaces first.
In Windows you only have one workspace. This means if you have lots of applications open then you either have to make windows smaller to place them side by side or have them overlay each other.
To switch between applications you have to either alt and tab or click with your mouse.
Linux has virtual workspaces which means you can have for instance one workspace which you use to do work and another for emails, chat, Facebook etc.
To use hot corners open the settings screen and select “Hot Corners”.
You can specify what happens when you click or hover in a corner. The choices are to show all workspaces, show all windows, run a command or show the desktop.
All four corners can be customised to work the way you want them to.
For instance if I hover into the top left corner on my computer I will see the following screen:
By default there are two workspaces and switching is as simple as clicking the workspace. To add a new workspace click the plus symbol.
There are a number of known issues listed as part of the release notes:
- The “Replace OS with Linux Mint” option doesn’t just replace the operating system with the Linux Mint it erases the entire disk. This is important for people who dual boot. You need to use the “Something Else” option.
- There may be an issue with Skype which can be fixed by installing “ia32-libs”.
- If VLC does not find your DVD player, click on Media->Open Disc, and specify ‘/dev/sr0’ as the disc device.
- HiDPI is detected automatically. You can however force Cinnamon to run
in low or in high DPI mode by going to Menu->Preferences->General.
- If your system is using secureBoot, turn it off.Note: Linux Mint 17 places its boot files in /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu to work around
- Freeze issues with NVidia cards (there are workarounds provided via the release notes)
- Booting with Non-PAE causes issues (refer to the release notes for the workaround)
Something that isn’t on the list but that was reported via Reddit last week is that copying from a device to Linux Mint via the file manager can cause the file to get lost.
To try this out I plugged in my Samsung Galaxy S4 and moved files from the Samsung Galaxy to my Linux Mint 17 installation.
As you can see from the images above I wasn’t able to reproduce this issue.
My advice when moving files from one device to another would be to copy the files first and then when you are sure they have reached their destination delete the source files. This prevents the chance of the files getting lost.
I haven’t had any other issues whilst running Linux Mint 17 and I have had it installed for around 2 weeks now.
Linux Mint 17 is a great choice for the everyday Linux user. It is easy to install, easy to use and has a good selection of applications.
There is nothing revolutionary about Linux Mint. It isn’t like Ubuntu daring to enter new territory with a new user interface. It sits firmly in the camp of “things were and are working just fine so lets not change them”.
The user interface for the Cinnamon desktop is visually pleasing and very professional.
The hardware support is extensive and the stability is incredibly good.
I would recommend Linux Mint for all users and not just Windows users looking to try Linux for the first time.
Linux Mint is a great example of how good an operating system can be.
Thankyou for reading.