Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Linux Mint: A Newbie's Perspective

After messing around with PCLinuxOS, I finally decided it was time to give Linux Mint a try. The funny thing was I had the torrent file around on my computer but I never got around to downloading it and decided to give PCLinuxOS a try because of it's popularity on DistroWatch.com. But I had some small hardships with PCLinuxOS that I couldn't get over, like that fact that my wireless connection would keep randomly disconnecting or the inability of mapping my multimedia keys correctly.

My would-be first gripe about Linux Mint was its inability to load correctly. Of course, this was later to be found out that k3b didn't burn it correctly, leading to errors. A second disk later on proved worthy. Booting up from the LiveCD led me to a screen showing the familiar-to-me gnome GUI with the panel on the bottom. On of my original gripes about Ubuntu was that fact that the panel was on the top and many new users converting from Windows didn't know that the "Start" button was now at the top left instead of the bottom left. However, Mint was friendly to a converted-from-Windows user by making it easy to find applications and control panel settings. Also, I noticed that my screen resolution was finally natively set to 1280x800, something that PCLOS failed to find. Also, Mint found my Nvidia card and loaded a driver with the Restricted Driver settings. Another pleasant surprise was finding all of my multimedia buttons mapped correctly to my HP Pavilion dv2000 laptop, yet another thing that PCLOS didn't do. Finally, alsamixer mapped my sound to Master instead of the PCLOS Speaker and Headphone split. I was able to mount my partitions with a doubleclick under gnome GUI. PCLOS could detect my partitions from a LiveCD, but I had to "mount /mnt/sda1" in order for it to recognize it. Pain in the neck for those with no console experience.

Some of my first gripes about Mint was no fluxbox yet. This is only a matter of preference however as fluxbox is more for convering power and memory for when it's needed, a perfect implementation for developers and servers. However, I'm more of an essentialist. I want my computer to run at full speed when I need it but at the same time to sit in the corner like a good little girl (I can dream) and not eat up processing power while idling. GKrellM was not a default on the LiveCD and was another small gripe I had. GKrellM is a great monitoring system than any newbie can set up with very little trouble. I would like to see some more plugins work (ahem, Sound Scope please, hint hint) but for small basic monitoring uses, its great. I will try out two others later on when I get more Linux experience.

One of the things that struck me as odd was seeing mintInstall. It's nice to see an install program with web integration. However the site doesn't have many options but provides extremely stable programs and can be monitored for any essential updates. This is nice to see for the new user end. Starting off in Linux, I had no idea how to install programs, nor did I get the concept of packages. Seeing mintInstall, new users can now install programs without having to find it using a package manager. Just click on the program they want, and mintInstall takes over. Synaptic still comes with Mint for those who want more advanced packages or development packages.

Mint comes with Compiz Fusion. I thought I was going to die trying to install Fusion onto PCLOS, but it comes with Mint from the LiveCD. All I needed was to enable my drivers for 3D acceleration, install the Compiz Config Manager, and I got all the great features that I've been wanting for a long time. Getting some of the extra plugins will take work such as the Compiz Fusion screensaver plugin, but someone with time and patience looking through Google should have no problem getting the dependencies for these extra plugins.

Sound is great. It finally uses the full effect of my Intel digital sound card and switches between using the speakers and headphones when I plug into my headphone jack. No problems there. While my multimedia buttons don't like the controls of XMMS, it works through sound players like Amarok, Banshee, and Songbird. I use Banshee now because of the ability to sync my iPod. To all those who hate Apple, I'm sorry but the iPod interface works well for me and I've had very few software crashes. With Banshee and gtkPod, Linux and the iPod love each other, or as much as Apple's contracts will let them.

Totem is my Movie Player right now. MPlayer comes with it too but Totem has the nicer interface. However, it seems that Totem seems to have upgraded their codecs recently as I'm able to play DivX and H264 encoded videos. No problems playing my anime (happy happy, joy joy). Even when playing an older anime with subtitles that weren't supported well, Totem still had the option to use them and show them. It was completely flawless, but the subtitles came up about 90% of the time with no lag in showing it. Video was synced well with the audio too.

Pidgin is the Instant Messenger that Mint uses. For those who remember Gaim, this is it, only with the changed name. It was nice to see this instead of the annoying Kopete (KDE's version of an instant messenger). Still highly configurable and now it has the ability the give an alias to your friends. But it does more than that. For example, if you had a friend with three screen names, you could make an alias for them and drag all three of those names under one alias. Simple!

Overall, Mint is like they say: Minty fresh. Any beginning user could jump in with some help from Google and install Mint with no problems. Granted I had some problems with burning the LiveCD, that was because I used my laptop's CD Burner and didn't run a check on the CD after burning. My two mistakes and two cents. ;) Being able to name my computer from install (unlike PCLOS), mapped multimedia buttons, sensing native screen resolutions along with my Nvidia card, Compiz Fusion, and a great install program (mintInstall) are all a plus. GKrellM (or some system monitor) would be something I'd like to see in Mint's install system. Fluxbox would be nice but is not necessary. With as much software there is and seeing many essentials being very stable, our End Users out there can finally enjoy computing again with Mint.

4 comments:

dakochan said...

Good article.
Now I'm still using PCLOS 2007 in my notebook, but I'm going to replace it with Linux Mint, due to some problems and unable to connect with my wireless modem.
I hope LinuxMint will give me a better performance than PCLOS.

anime-linux-gamer said...

dakochan:

Well, I hope you find Linux Mint to your liking. I had similar problems with the wireless. Some days it would connect, others it wouldn't. As for performance, I can't say. Mint does use more of my processor and graphics but that's because of compiz-fusion. With it off, Mint runs like a charm.

Rui said...

Nice article ;)

And about your Wireless issues?
Was solved by Mint also?

Regards

anime-linux-gamer said...

rui:

Mint solved all of my wireless trouble woes I had. Also, I forgot to mention my card: Intel Wireless 3945abg card, integrated with my laptop. Mint picked up on it and loaded it from the Restricted Drivers Manager with no problems.