Monday, 2 February 2015

Linux Mint 17.1 Is As Good As It Gets

Posted by Gary Newell  |  at  23:07 12 comments

Introduction

Linux Mint 17.1 is the latest version of Linux Mint and has been available for a few months now.

The title of this article is "Linux Mint 17.1 Is As Good As It Gets" and as far as computing goes on a traditional laptop with a traditional style user interface this is definitely true.

I first tried Linux Mint at version 12 and it was fine enough but the Linux Mint developers have been perfecting this distribution for a number of years and now it is flourishing.

This review is going to look at all of the features of Linux Mint that the average user might be interested in as well as the new features that have been added for 17.1.

How To Get Linux Mint 17.1


Click here to visit the Linux Mint download page.

There are various options available including the choice of 4 different desktop environments (Cinnamon, MATE, KDE and XFCE), codecs or no codecs and 32-bit or 64-bit.

If you have a computer with decent specifications (i.e. your current computer comfortably handles Windows 7 at the moment) then choose the Cinnamon desktop environment or KDE.

If your computer isn't so powerful try out the MATE or XFCE editions. There isn't much to split them in terms of applications. MATE and XFCE are both highly customisable and lightweight.

Generally you will want to choose the version with codecs as opposed to no codecs as this will enable Flash and MP3s to play.

Finally choose 32-bit if you have a 32-bit computer or 64-bit for a 64-bit computer. (Click here if you need a guide for that).

The file size of the downloaded ISO file is 1.4 gigabytes and you will need either a blank DVD or USB drive to be able to try out and install Linux Mint.

If you don't have the ability to create a DVD or USB drive, you can always try Linux Mint out as a virtual machine.

To create a DVD from the ISO use your favourite disk burning tool or click here to create a bootable Linux Mint USB drive.

If all of this seems too complicated you can always buy a Linux Mint DVD or USB drive.

For this review I will be looking at the Cinnamon desktop as it is the flagship version of Linux Mint (and what a triumph it is).

Installing Linux Mint

Installing Linux Mint is incredibly easy and is probably the best example of an installer that Linux has to offer.


Here are some guides that I have written to help you.

First Impressions

The first thing you notice with Linux Mint 17.1 is the really attractive login screen with changing background images that blend from one to another seemlessly.

Yes I know that this is just eye candy but it is the small things that perfect a product.

After logging in you are presented with a welcome screen with options to see the new features, important information, user guide, access to the IRC chat rooms, forums and tutorials.

The welcome screen also has icons for restoring data and for accessing the software manager.

Finally there are icons for getting involved and donating to Linux Mint.

The help utility is really useful with guides for installing Linux Mint, installing software, navigating using the menu and useful tips and tricks.

For example to copy and paste in Linux Mint you can copy with the left mouse button and paste with the middle button. On a laptop this can be achieved by copying with the left mouse button and then clicking both buttons to paste.

To be honest the tips and tricks could do with a bit more padding because there are really just two tricks.

Spoiler alert!!!!

The other trick is to use Tomboy Notes for taking notes instead of LibreOffice Writer.

The Welcome Screen can be turned off by unchecking the box in the bottom corner.

Linux Mint uses a traditional menu for navigation with useful icons down the left, categories in the middle and applications on the right.

The search box can be used to search for an application.




There is just a single panel at the bottom of the screen (which is standard for all Linux Mint versions).

The menu icon is in the bottom left and is closely followed by icons which enable you to show the desktop, launch FireFox, open a terminal and open the file manager.

The bottom right corner has icons for user settings, removable drives, bluetooth settings, network settings, audio settings, power settings, notifications, the clock and view all windows.

Connecting To The Internet




Connecting to the internet is as easy as clicking on the network settings icon on the panel and choosing the network you wish to connect to.

If the network you are connecting to requires a password then you will need to provide one.

Flash And MP3

As long as you chose the version of Linux Mint with codecs, Flash should work straight away.

However, the browser that Linux Mint ships with is FireFox and the Flash player is therefore out of date and you get this annoying message every time you visit a new site which has Flash.


You only have to choose to allow Flash to work once and it will remember it for next time (unless you tell it not to) but it is a bit annoying.

Now everybody retweet after me:

"Say NO to Flash"  or "Die Flash Die"
The European Union decided that everyone in Europe needed to know when a website is using cookies to store information and so every time you visit a new site it inevitably tells you that the site uses cookies and you have to click accept to get the message to go away.

Whilst I appreciate the sentiment it is incredibly annoying because pretty much every site uses cookies.

MP3 audio can also be played instantly without installing any other codecs.

Applications

Linux Mint has all the applications that the average user needs to get started.



As mentioned in the previous section Linux Mint has the FireFox web browser (version 33). The latest version is 35.

Thunderbird is the default email client and Pidgin is included as a messenging client.

HexChat is available for IRC chat and Transmission enables you to download bittorrents.





















For image editing there is the GIMP which is a really powerful tool along the lines of Photoshop.

If you just want to view your photos there is an application called gThumb or to view a single image there is an image viewer.

















For productivity, Linux Mint includes the full LibreOffice suite which includes Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheet), Impress (presentations) and Draw (think Visio).

The version of LibreOffice included is 4.2.6.3. The latest version of LibreOffice is 4.4.





















If you like listening to music whilst you work there is Banshee. You can import music, create playlists and do all the sorts of things you normally do with an audio player.

Banshee is compatible with external devices and apparently works with iPods but I don't have an iPod to be able to test this for sure. It does work with my Sony Walkman, Samsung Galaxy phone and a Creative Zen Micro.

VLC Player is included to enable you to watch videos but you don't really need it because you can use Banshee to watch videos as well.

Banshee can be used to listen to podcasts and you can also add links to your favourite online radio stations.

You can also integrate your Last.fm account with Banshee.

Finally there is the internet archive which lets you watch old movies and trailers, listen to music and speeches.

Linux Mint includes Minitube which is a desktop application version of Youtube. Brasero is also included for creating DVDs.

Installing Applications

The Mint Software Manager is used to find, install and remove applications on your system.

You can either browse the different categories or use the search box in the top right corner to find what you are looking for.

Each item comes with a description, file size, list of dependencies, a rating and a list of comments regarding the package.




Customising The Desktop


The Cinnamon desktop is beginning to mature and therefore there are a number of customisable features such as changing the background, adding panels and launchers and also the inclusion of desklets.

Click here for a guide to customising the Cinnamon desktop environment.

New Features For 17.1

Click here to read about all of the new features of Linux Mint 17.1

In essence the changes are as follows:

  • Various performance improvements were made to the Cinnamon desktop
  • The Cinnamon desktop starts with a zoom animation
  • Super + E opens up the home folder
  • Single button touchpads are now supported and actions for 2 finger and 3 finger clicks are configurable
  • Localisation has been improved
  • Theme and background settings were completely redesigned
  • Privacy and notification settings were added
  • The Nemo (file manager) toolbar was redesigned and buttons are now configurable
  • Support for emblems were added to Nemo
  • The Nemo side bar was improved
  • The update manager has been improved
  • The Kernel selection screen has been improved
  • The Language settings screen has been improved
  • Login window preferences were redesigned

Upgrading From Linux Mint 17

Click here for a guide showing how to upgrade to Linux Mint 17.1 from Linux Mint 17.

Note that Linux Mint 17.1 will be supported until 2019.

Summary

Linux Mint is great if you are a traditionalist and you like the way things have pretty much always been.

Nice little touches are built upon again and again and the improvements are steady but not spectacular.

Linux Mint is just a really good, stable and solid Linux distribution and it is obvious why it is so popular.
 
Questions that are often asked on Reddit include:
  • Which Linux distribution should I use for developing software
  • Which Linux distribution should I use for gaming
  • Which Linux distribution is best for newbies
  • Which Linux distribution can I use on my old computer
  • Which Linux distribution is good for students
  • Which Linux distribution would be good for my parents
  • Which Linux distribution is good for children
I could have made that list much longer but the point is that the answer to all of those questions really could be "Linux Mint".

There is a myth that surrounds Linux Mint (and Ubuntu) that suggests they are only used by people that don't really know Linux that well and once people know what they are doing they should move to something more serious.

This sort of thinking seems frankly nonsensical. Making life easier for yourself by pointing and clicking shouldn't be seen as a bad thing.
 
I wrote an article last week comparing Linux Mint 17 with Windows 8.1 as a resource for Windows 7 users to refer to when deciding whether to upgrade Windows or switch to Linux.

On this evidence there are an plenties of reasons to choose Linux Mint.

Thankyou for reading.



About the Author

Gary Newell started the Everyday Linux User blog in 2010 and has written reviews on dozens of different Linux based operating systems. He has also written a number of tutorials.

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12 comments:

  1. Mint is it, I keep a copy of the latest Mint on my mail PC. as an old distro hopper
    it is one of the very few distros I keep around for a while..

    ReplyDelete
  2. I would totally use this distro if it wasn't based on Ubuntu. I have always preferred RPM-based distros more. I use Fedora/Cinnamon. Best of both worlds. However, if I was to choose a distro for other people that I would never have to support, I would probably recommend they use Mint.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm a heavy tweaker, using a mouse-only: no keyboard stuff. Mint, & Netrunner (another Ubuntu-based distro) allow this, just like the Windows & Apple operating systems do. So I very strongly agree with your comment, that if it can handle Windows 7 ok, then KDE is ok too.

    I found the font handling for Mint to be not as polished as Netrunner (Ubuntu-based, not Manjaro-based). So Mint is second best in Linux operating systems.

    Being so medically crippled myself, I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking (Windows), Android tablets, but for speed and simplicity of heavily customized desktops, Netrunner is often preferred.

    ReplyDelete
  4. For newbies maybe a good choice but for the others no. Linux Mint is fragile. I installed it and I tell everyone what I think. A extremely fragile distro . A root kit can easily enter a computer with Linux Mint. Best choice for a secure distro and to feel safe is for sure a BSD distro.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am running Linux Mint 17.1 Rebecca Cinnamon x64 on Brutux, my 8GB RAM with 1.5TB USB-HDD. It takes a bit of time booting, but performance and stability are keys. I shopped around quite a lot before coming back to Linux Mint and that's where I'm staying ...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi! thanks for the excellent advice on your website!

    I have a crappy HP netbook:
    -AMD 8032 Processor 1.4GHz (1MB Cache)
    -4 GB SDRAM RAM
    -500GB 5400rpm Hard Drive
    It came with Windows 7 home premium and it was always incredibly slow (to boot and to start programs). It has Avast antivirus which also doesn't help with speed.

    Right now this computer is just gathering dust on a shelve, and I'm hoping Linux will convert this crappy Windows netbook into a highly usable, fast computer.

    Which of the desktops should I go with based on the computers' specs? Will Cinnamon be close in performance to Windows (i.e. slow)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I actually recommend easypeasy for an old laptop like that. I recently revived an old acer aspire one zg5, and it works beautifully now. I have had 0 problems since the install. That particular acer has 1 gb of ram, an intel atom processor with 160gb hard drive, so it cant really handle higher end distros and easypeasy just fit the bill perfectly. one thing that is a bif funky about easypeasy is that it has a weird ui but its easily learned.

      Delete
    2. I had an old Inspiron 1525 with a Core2 Duo 2GHz and 3GB RAM. I installed LUBUNTU on it a couple months back and added Chrome for flash based sites, but mostly because it allows me to run Netflix on it where FF doesn't. It runs faster than my Lenovo with a i5 and 4GB RAM does Windows7. The only thing that didn't work on it was the built in mousepad, so I hooked up a USB mouse and it doesn't like my Canon printer.

      Delete
  7. As far as I can tell, every version of Mint after 13 is garbage.

    Unless they only thing you do with a computer is read email and troll people on Facebook, look for a more stable and compatible distro elsewhere.

    This is a steaming pile and a time waster.

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Majestic_Lizard

    Why don't you tell folks what exactly you don't like it?

    Because I'm liking the ease of install, and pretty well every thing works as advertised.
    Wine let me install the few odd Win apps that I want to use.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Linux Mint saved my old Dell desktop 4600. Dumped windows and got Linux Mint 13 three years ago. Updated to 17.1 about six months ago.
    Thanks a million to the Linux team.

    ReplyDelete
  10. someday someone is going to make a download that can be used from and sd card file instead of DVD or USB. i have tried all morning to get my desktop to burn a DVD with the Linux mint 17.01 Rebecca' cinnamon LTS files and all it wants to do is send it to my sd card drive. i had one new blank DVD and itwont burn! !@#$%^&*

    ReplyDelete

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