Breaking with past tradition, the Linux Mint folks have done away with “Community Editions”, instead bringing the non-Gnome flavors of Mint fully under the Mint umbrella. Linux Mint 9 LXDE is now in general release. Here are my thoughts.
Unlike past reviews and tests which have relied on older and underpowered hardware, I’m now testing with a modern machine (Intel i5 with adequate RAM), but under VirtualBox. If you’ve read my previous reviews and comments, please keep that in mind, as “fast” is relative.
The installation process
As usual, the installation process is via LiveCD. One minor nit I have to pick is that the only available LiveCD is 32-bit. People wanting a 64-bit Linux Mint 9 LXDE will need to roll their own or upgrade from the Gnome version. Fortunately, Kendall, who maintains the LXDE and Fluxbox versions of Linux Mint, is also more than happy to help answer questions (although you’ll have to do the actual work yourself!)
Linux Mint 9 LXDE uses the same Ubiquity installer as the main version of Mint. If you don’t have a lot of RAM, this can lead to a fairly slow installation process, but it absolutely flew on my test machine. Actually, I was quite surprised how fast it went, but I don’t know whether that’s due to optimizations to the installer or because my hardware is more modern. Regardless, installation was very fast and quite painless. I won’t rehash the step-by-step process because it’s essentially identical to the main edition.
Right off the bat, we see that SLiM is the login manager. I’m a big fan of SLiM: it gives me the functionality I need, but is very fast and lightweight.
Coming over from the Linux Mint 8 LXDE CE, several things were expected, but there were a few surprises along the way. The inclusion of PCManFM 0.9.5 as the file manager was not a surprise to anyone. Other “non-surprises” include Exaile as the music player, VLC for general multimedia purposes, Firefox, Thunderbird and the GIMP image editor. After a brief dalliance with Empathy, Pidgin returns as the default IM client. The big surprise is the absence of OpenOffice.org In its place, they’ve inserted AbiWord as a word processor and as the spreadsheet program. To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about this. I like OpenOffice.org, and it’s become pretty much the standard-bearer for free office suites. On the other hand, there are other quality offerings out there which many distros tend to give short shrift, and Kendall is trying to give them their due. At the end of the day, though, I prefer having OpenOffice as my office suite, but it’s also the sort of thing that is easily rectified with Mint’s Software Manager, Synaptic Package Manager or good old-fashioned apt-get.
Overall, I generally feel this is a worthy LXDE distro. I do wish OpenOffice.org were included, and I can’t help but shake the feeling that there’s a fair amount of software mish-mash that is inconsistent with the rest of the Mint family. Part of that is unavoidable: some of Mint’s standard software depends on Gnome (such as Gedit), so an alternate had to be found (such as Leafpad.) Any software-related shortcomings are easily rectified with Software Manager or apt-get, and the Mint management tools I like so much are all present and accounted for (other than Mint4Win, which has known issues.) Is there a compelling reason to move from Mint 8 LXDE CE to Mint 9 LXDE? Probably not. But this is a solid long-term stable release which should hold the Mint LXDE community in good stead for a long time.
I’ll be back later with a more in-depth review. Meanwhile, I recommend giving this one a spin!