2010-10-21

Preview: Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME (RC)

Main Screen
For the few years that I've been reading software news and reading about new Ubuntu releases, I don't think I've ever seen one that's generated as much talk and/or hype as version 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat"; this is rather anticlimactic as well considering that this version isn't close to as revolutionary as version 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" was (versus 9.10 "Karmic Koala"). But aside from that, a new Ubuntu version means a new version of my favorite and current distribution, Linux Mint, is just around the corner. Although the developers have a policy of "releasing it when it's ready", they are pretty good about releasing the main GNOME version not more than a few weeks after the corresponding Ubuntu release. This is no different, because only a week after the release of Ubuntu 10.10 "Maverick Meerkat", a release candidate (hence the "RC" in the title) of Linux Mint 10 "Julia" GNOME has been let out for the world to see. (Isn't it a coincidence that this release of Linux Mint also happens to be version 10?) Unlike what "Maverick Meerkat" was to "Lucid Lynx", "Julia" plans to be more revolutionary compared to version 9 LTS "Isadora".
The biggest change, of course, is the theme. The developers and contributing artists have created a new theme that mixes a green Elementary icon set with the also very popular Faenza icon set; the GTK+ theme is also a modified version of the Elementary theme, with brushed metal window decorations and slick black icons. There are some other changes, including the Mint Menu as well as the Mint Update Manager.
So how does it compare? I will say right now that I won't upgrade, but it has nothing to do with the distribution itself. (I'll say why later.) Follow the jump to find out what it's like.
Boot Menu
The boot and startup times are reasonably fast, though I think I've been spoiled by the more lightweight environments. The boot menu theme looks pretty nice, but for some reason, the Plymouth boot splash only shows 4 dots instead of 5 as well as "Linux Mint 10" in text instead of a nice shiny logo. Peppermint OS Ice (not One) suffered this problem as well (and Ice is newer), so it could be an issue with newer versions of Plymouth. I'm not going to hold that against the Linux Mint developers until I see more counterexamples to this.
Mozilla Firefox
The default desktop actually looks pretty retro Linux Mint (though definitely not in a bad way), with green icons, a black background, and a light-colored panel. The panel looks like a fairly standard panel, with one exception: the Linux Mint icon is missing in the MintMenu button (it's been replaced with a generic star/gear logo). I don't know if this is because the Mint logo would stick out like a sore thumb (probably) or because the developers want to make it stand out and look a little more professional (though what's wrong with a monochrome Mint icon? I would love it!); I'm not really sure whether the decision was good or bad, but whatever. The icons look really nice, and the GTK+ theme is well-done as well; for some reason, when I tried to install them in Linux Mint "Debian" (because they have appeared in the Linux Mint "Debian" unstable repositories), the GTK+ theme looked like it came from Microsoft Windows 95. This is not a knock against Linux Mint 10 "Julia" — this is just something the developers of Linux Mint "Debian" should work on.
MintMenu
Due to the limitations of the VirtualBox (1024 MB RAM, FYI) environment, the MintMenu takes up literally 75% of the screen real estate. On a full-sized screen, it probably wouldn't look too bad. I really like the look of the new icons in the menu; also, with the big "Applications" title gone (replaced by "Favorites" which changes to "Applications" when the arrow is clicked), the menu takes up relatively less space than before. More importantly, however, searching for things in the menu gives options for seeing results in Google and Wikipedia (as well as searching for them on the desktop and in Synaptic Package Manager, which were both present before), which is quite handy.
Nautilus, as always, is the default file manager, though there are a two smaller changes. First, the background is now dark to better contrast with the icons. Second, the breadcrumbs (the hierarchy on top that traces your path) look a lot like the breadcrumbs in Nautilus Elementary (which, incidentally, doesn't need anything else Elementary-related to work). That makes me wonder: wouldn't it be cool if Linux Mint could include Nautilus Elementary? Given all these theme changes, it seems like a no-brainer, and that's doubly true given Linux Mint's reputation for being ahead of even Ubuntu in terms of user-friendliness.
OpenOffice.org + Nautilus
Mozilla Firefox has been present and works well with the new theme. Most proprietary codecs seem to be included, as YouTube and sites filled with Adobe Flash work well. OpenOffice.org is included, though it uses the same generic theme as in Linux Mint "Debian" and exhibits the same menu quirks as well. I guess it's a problem with builds of more recent versions of OpenOffice.org. Other applications are pretty much unchanged (save for being newer versions) compared to the applications in version 9 LTS "Isadora".
Well, that's all about this one. I definitely recommend that anyone even remotely interested in Linux try this one out. I'd be really surprised if things didn't work. (On that note, the Linux Mint website has been having some issues lately. I just thought I'd let you all know.) Also, the reason why I won't be installing this one is because I'm already using Linux Mint 9 LTS "Isadora", which works almost perfectly (it doesn't work when I'm fiddling with it) and is supported for 3 years instead of 1.5 years. Finally, if you like this material, please do subscribe!

4 comments:

  1. From Indonesia, currently using Mint V9 in my office and at home. So far very satisfy with Isadora. I don't think I'm going to upgrade to Mint V10.

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  2. @Anonymous: Linux Mint 10 "Julia" is a great release, but in the interest of maintaining stability, I too won't be upgrading. Thanks for the comment!

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  3. I have to agree I see no compelling reason to upgrade

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  4. @Anonymous: That sentiment is probably the reason why there are so many articles now about whether Ubuntu's release cycle NEEDS to be 6 months even if there aren't many changes. The other alternative, of course, is to switch to Linux Mint "Debian", which I may do after version 9 "Isadora" is no longer supported. Plus, that gets all the new features of Ubuntu-based Linux Mint releases as they happen. Thanks for the comment!

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