Linux Mint 11 - Vital Service or Prolonging Agony?

by Ostatic Staff - May. 27, 2011

Linux Mint 11 was released earlier this morning with some new features and lots of updates. One update that's been skipped is immediately apparent - big interface change. Two major distributions have shaken their base a bit with their latest releases and some folks just don't like to shift their computing into a higher gear that quickly. A lot of people have said they expect this release of Linux Mint to boost its numbers due to those that resist change. KDE 4 brought the same effect a couple of years ago, but here we are now and no major KDE 3 distributions are left. Is Mint 11 just delaying the inevitable?

The Mint project puts out the best release announcements, especially for writers. All the new and updated features are spelled out in green and white. For example:

New features at a glance:

* One click install for multimedia codecs and extra applications
* The Software Manager
-- UI improvements
-- New splash screen
-- Fonts category
-- More accurate package information
-- More application icons by default
-- More accurate search by default
* The Update Manager
-- Performance boosts
-- Improved dependencies handling
-- Better changelog retrieval
-- UI improvements
* The Desktop Settings tool
-- "Desktop-agnostic", detection and upcoming compatibility with other desktops
-- New setting for the fortunes in the terminal
* Artwork improvements
-- Backgrounds, overlay scrollbars, plymouth, Mint-X, search add-on.
* System improvements
-- new "apt download" command
-- Adobe flash plugins
* Changes in the software selection

There's just one big question. Mint has always been a wonderful distribution. In fact, it's been one of my favorites. But can its continued use of GNOME 2 this release be described as slowing ripping off the band-aid? GNOME 2 has been deprecated. There will be no more upstream work from the GNOME project on it. Just like with KDE 3, folks will talk of a fork or a continuation project; but just like with Trinity, progress will likely be slow and a difficult row to hoe as well as the stigma of not being embraced by distributions. Is Mint really doing its users a disservice by delaying the transition to GNOME 3 (or Unity)? Or is it serving a vital purpose by providing a familiar interface until a few GNOME 3 updates squash some of the bugs and usability issues?

One early reviewer said of Mint 11,

Starting an application or utility from the Mint Menu is as simple as clicking on the icon; they can of course also be started by clicking on icons in the Panel, if you have added any there, or by double-clicking icons on the desktop.

Wow, isn't that nice! A completely "normal" window, the buttons are at the right side, there are still three of them for minimize/maximize/close, the title bar is completely self-contained and not "shared" with a title bar across the top of the display. Whew.

This will undoubtedly echo many user opinions, but they will fall on deaf ears just as those leveled against early KDE 4. Determined developers with a vision trump public dissent and soon most dissent disappears.

Linux Mint was originally slated to feature GNOME 3 (albeit without the Shell). Developers have not commented publicly about version 12 yet, but they will have to bite the bullet and upgrade at some point. But for now, user comments show enthusiastic support for 11. Whatever your personal opinion, Linux Mint 11 is staying true to its niche by continuing the most important aspect of Linux and Open Source Software - giving users a choice. ...even if only for six more months.