Friday, 11 November 2011

All change in the Linux world.

With the release of Ubuntu 11.10, we have Canonical's Unity desktop offered to us. Many Linux users are up in arms, some love the new look, and others have moved away from Ubuntu to pastures new, not happy at all with the direction the desktop is going. On the face of it, Unity on 11.10 is an improvement over 11.04 but for me, indifference and disappointment has relegated the live CD to the pile of 'Works, but not for me', of which there are a growing number. Kubuntu 11.04 on the other hand, is very polished, smooth and is working well on my i5 4Gb desktop, with only a few minor worries creeping in since I installed it on the day of release back in October.

I keep abreast of the new innovations that are to be found with the modern Linux desktop. Gnome 3, KDE 4.7 and now, today, a release candidate of Linux Mint 12 with a radical take on Gnome 3 (Clem and the LM team have chosen this over Unity) and have developed scripts to make the user feel more at ease with the new desktop. The 1Gb .iso file has just this minute finished downloading, so I'll be burning it and trying it out to get first impressions. At this point, I have only seen a screenshot on the Linux Mint blog, so I am a little apprehensive as to what I will find. Watch this space....

    
Linux Mint 12 (modified wallpaper)

The 1.0Gb DVD was still warm when I rebooted my faithful Kubuntu 11.10 and started Linux Mint 12. As with Mint 11, there is a splash screen, then this disappears giving way to worrying darkness as the DVD loads. Reassuringly, the mouse cursor is first to appear, then the Mint desktop, showing icons - just like the Gnome 2.32 desktop many know and love. Down at the bottom left of the screen, there is the familiar 'Menu' button. When pressed, this looks very different to Mint 11, with a dark background. Personally, I like this, and the font rendering is very good indeed (important for me) with anti-aliasing on by default. I don't like the grey/silver wallpaper, so this was changed to a blue from the default selection offered, and navigation was fast, even from the live DVD environment compared to my Kubuntu desktop. At the top left-hand side of the desktop, the user will find a button that looks like a figure 8 rotated 90 degrees. On pressing this, the desktop changes to Gnome 3. I found that opening an application reverts the desktop back to the Mint alternative Gnome 2 emulated (would emulated be an acceptable term?) environment, whether by design or flaw.

To sum up:

Frankly, I am very surprised, and very impressed indeed with the way Clem and the Mint development team have actually managed to pull this off. It will do a lot to pacify those that are resistant to change, while still using the new technologies available in the Gnome 3 desktop. It seems to be the very best of both worlds, and I predict Mint 12 will take the Linux world by storm, with the exception of those who do not like change at any cost - they will moan and groan by default.
Linux Mint is currently number one in the Distrowatch top 100, toppling Ubuntu off this spot which it has held for a very long time. On the strength of what I have seen and used today, this will not be changing any time soon. Some say Ubuntu deserves everything it gets by foisting Unity onto the user, but it is still important to remember that without Ubuntu, there would be no Mint. If I gaze into my crystal ball however, I think the future will hold something different for Mint:- Debian-based? Even an stand-alone? We will have to see - this is why I love Linux.   

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