On the previous laptop run, I had fiddled with vanilla Ubuntu for a short time, so I had something of an idea as to how it would look and feel. With that as my “baseline”, I went ahead and installed Mint, since I had heard it was essentially Ubuntu with some optimizations and a cleaner way of organizing things. I’m a big fan of things that simplify my life, so I was all in favor of that!
In all fairness, I haven’t really looked “under the hood” that much. My point of view is pretty much, “having used Ubuntu before, does Mint make it easier for me to do what I need to do, or is it about the same?” Upon first glance, Mint looked a lot like normal Ubuntu, albeit with a more greenish tinge. Most things were where I expected them to be, and it only took a brief moment for me to figure out where basic things were (wireless network, sound control, etc.) So I went ahead and opened the “Menu” menu.
Right off the bat, the interface looked pretty intuitive. That big “favorites” button includes hotlinks to commonly-used applications (Firefox, Thunderbird, etc.), although I haven’t yet figured out how to change those from the defaults. (I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out eventually.) Coming over from a Windows XP environment, the interface was familiar, even if the purpose of the assorted applications wasn’t necessarily intuitive.
Mint does include a handful of its own applications, independently of Ubuntu. MintUpdate, for instance, is another take on auto-update, but still uses APT as the underlying engine. The big advantage to MintUpdate is that it provides more detail on what is being updated, and adds a “safety level” setting, so you can decide the relative risk for performing the update. For instance, the most recent OpenOffice.org update was rated a “3”, presumably because it’s an outside application from a somewhat reputable source.
MintInstall (aka “Software manager”) is also worthy of particular note. It’s another package manager, but the various packages are split into far more intuitive categories. Additionally, it includes screenshots, thumbnails and community reviews.
So what’s my overall feeling? I like Mint, I really do. However, as I mentioned before, these laptops are really, really slow, and Gnome is something of a resource hog. If I were using a more up-to-date laptop, or had more RAM, Mint would very much be in the mix.
Unfortunately, the realities of the situation dictate that I have to go lean and mean, and it’s looking like Fluxbox will remain the window manager of choice. Whether I’ll run Fluxbox on top of this Mint install remains to be seen. As mentioned previously, the prototype started as a Xubuntu box.
Honestly, I’m still on the fence. Should I leave my Mint install intact and simply set up Fluxbox as the default WM, or would it be worth walking away and pulling down a minimalist Debian install and going from there?