Linux Mint “Katya” LXDE Edition – First Impressions
Last week I began a review of Linux Mint. Specifically I took Mint’s LXDE edition for a spin and I’d like to share with you first impressions. Those of you that follow my blog know well Ubuntu is my distro of choice, let’s see how Mint stacked up against Goliath.
Upon boot up the user is prompted with a typical login and Welcome screen. While these are typically least interesting to most users I like to review ‘New features’, you never know what you’ll find.
Typically one of the first areas I review, is the launch menu otherwise known in the Windows world as the Start menu. Keep in mind this edition of Mint is based on XFCE, therefore ‘minimalist’ comes to mind. When you look at the options available they are rather scarce. But before you send out the hit squad, let me explain. When I say scarce, I’m thinking of new users, typically someone that has little or no Linux experience.
In my opinion new users require much hand holding and while other sub menus like ‘Internet’ are packed with everything one would require on the Internet, other areas like System Tools and Preferences sections are rather light. This may not present a challenge for seasoned veterans, new users expect more. To be fair, XFCE is a minimalist desktop approach, in my opinion not well suited to new users. Therefore accept some of my criticisms with a grain of salt.
On the other hand I really like Mint’s notification area, especially update icons. I really think they convey the message loud and clear. A green check mark screams ‘safe’ and you can’t miss a red ‘x’ when an error occurs. In fact Mint has done a great job in making updates simpler. They’ve written a number of custom apps for their distribution, including the Update Manager. I think many new users find it challenging and confusing when attempting to update their software. We all know Windows DLL nightmare, but sometimes Linux isn’t much better with dependency hell. Mint has taken another approach in their update manager by categorizing updates. They apply a value between 1 and 5 which conveys the system instability risk level. In other words if I apply this update how likely will it blow up my system.
Other custom applications include the Software Manager. I found it really useful and easy to use. So how did Mint accomplish this? Easy they added a social aspect to the Update Manager by allowing users to review and rate software. For instance if I’m looking for (VLC – the best media player) I’m not only given a typical description but I have the ability to read other users comments and best of all judge the software by looking at its rating. I think this little gem is absolutely fantastic!
I can’t tell you how often I’ve wasted my time installing some software that in the end turned out to be useless for what I needed or the user experience was horrible. With a rating system and user reviews I can decide in a matter of seconds if a piece of software is worth my time by relying on the community. It reminds me of Apple and their pursuit of the perfect user experience. It’s such a small thing, yet so useful.
Another unique gem is the included backup utility. It’s one of those things we know we should perform regularly, yet many of us don’t do it. I think Mint’s decision to make this process easier should be applauded. While the utility user experience is pretty good I do have one small criticism, no scheduling. I think if Mint adds scheduling capabilities in a future release this utility will be rock solid. From a user experience its very easy to use. It borrows from Microsoft’s wizard methodology, by providing a number of easy to follow options with a final summary screen.
Other things I liked were the file manager and Mint’s default application choices. The file manager user experience is clean and crisp. No confusion in sight, seasoned and new users will have zero problems. The icons and theme are cool and I was impressed how well they work with the chosen theme. I wish Ubuntu would tweak its default theme and dare I say borrow from Mint.
With so many Linux distribtuons out there diferentiating one from the other is tough. While some distributions drop default installed applications for many different reasons, it was nice to see Mint chose to keep them. For example, Ubuntu dropped Gimp graphics software from the default list, it was nice to see it alive and well in Mint.
Overall the user experience in Mint was superb, there are many nice touches including software choices that help make Mint distinct from its Ubuntu roots. While I wouldn’t recommend this edition for new users I think seasoned Linux veterans would feel quite at home running Linux Mint LXDE edition.
Next week Linux Mint DVD edition, stay tuned.