Mint Linux Review: Get It!

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About two months ago the company changed my MacBook Pro for a Dell laptop. I loved the Mac, but it was getting old and everyone complained that the Office versions – despite claims of being compatible – were too different for collaborating on documents. From the first moment I got the Dell with Windows 7 I had just one thought on my mind: making a second partition and installing some flavor of Linux. I haven’t played with any of the problems in Project Euler, and I just hate running Python or Java in a Windows machine. Yesterday, there was surprisingly little to do in the office, and I found myself downloading Mint Linux just for the aesthetics. I know this is a bad excuse, but it was a choice between Ubuntu (bent on Python) or the shiny desktop of Mint.

Linux MintI downloaded the ISO image from the website, which took a little over twenty five minutes, and burned a DVD. Installing Mint Linux is very easy. Just burn the DVD and insert from the Windows 7 desktop. Click on Install with other OS and Mint does the rest. Someone mentioned I should shrink my main partition and manually create a partition adjacent to Windows for installing Linux, but Mint does everything for you. It will suggest a partition size, install the OS, download updated packages, and then install a boot program so you can easily decide between Windows and Linux at start-up. The whole process takes around 25 minutes, and you are set to go.

The basic installation comes loaded with software for all the common chores:

  • OpenOffice for word processor, worksheet, data base and presentations
  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird email
  • Tons of multimedia programs for playing music, video, and what not
  • Gimp image program
  • Excellent terminal
  • Very easy administration panel

My version of Mint runs on Gnome, but there are KDE versions available. I never understood how to program C and Gnome libraries, but then I am not that good at C++ to use Qt libraries either (I have read Qt manuals and because of my Java background understand a lot more about how it works, but I will stick to Swing for the moment.) If you have no idea what this means, rest assure it’s all transparent for the user. Let’s just say Gnome is cute, and now you know where Windows Vista stole its look.

The system uses a Software Manager that simplifies updating and installing packages. I like using apt-get but I found the Software Manager so friendly and inviting, I have hardly used the command line at all. Repositories and a little bit restricted unless you look from Universe and Multiverse, but I guess that is intended to keep the integrity of the system. I downloaded wxPython libraries in a breeze, and installed Netbeans in less time than what it took to do the same in my Mac. I had problems installing Komodo Edit, a great editor for Python, Php, Perl and Ruby. I can not still make the program run from desktop icon, but launches from the command line (and I guess it’s my mistake for not setting properties for the folder correctly…)

When I look at Linux Mint, I can not believe how far it has come from the early versions of Linux of days past. This is such a mature system, that I wonder how much leverage a Windows computer has. I would recommend Linux Mint any day for the beginner to medium user who wants a fun, easy to use Linux distribution in their machines.

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