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Linux Mint 14 Review – The Best Desktop Linux

Linux Mint returns with updates all round, but has it addressed the minor issues we had with Mint 13 along the way?

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Coming around much faster than 13, Mint 14 Nadia is the latest version in the popular line of Linux Mint distros, based on Ubuntu. 14 itself is based on Ubuntu 12.10, and as usual replaces the Unity desktop with their own DE offerings of Cinnamon and MATE. It also comes with the Mint developed MDM display manager, which debuted in Mint 13 as a replacement for LDM and GDM, and their own Software Manager.

Images come in two flavours, MATE and Cinnamon, both of which have 32 and 64-bit versions. Installation of the distros is about as easy as it gets, with the installer software showing its Ubuntu roots, even if it has been heavily rebranded. There’s not much control over which repos are included, and whether or not you’d want to add, say, MATE as well to the installation, however it keeps it simple for the more novice users who might find that a bit overwhelming.

Ubuntu Cinnamon MATE
Linux Mint 14 is a fantastic desktop distribution

While you cannot get an official ISO with both desktops pre-configured, MATE is easily accessible from the Mint repositories. The few extra Mint repos are included along with the standard Ubuntu repos, meaning that Linux Mint has access to the vast package selection available to Ubuntu, and even to the PPAs as well. Instead of using the Ubuntu Software Centre, Mint again uses their Software Manager, a much plainer version that’s just as easy to navigate.

Since Mint 14, the flagship desktop environment Cinnamon has come leaps and bounds. The developers themselves admit that the largest contributions have gone towards it over the past six months, and people using Linux Mint 13 will be familiar with how its changed via updates over the past few months. Workspaces have been updated, with the ability to create a persistent number of named spaces. Notifications now work similar to Android, popping up and either being dismissed or clickable for more information. Otherwise they live in a little applet you can bring up at any time. Alt Tab now has window previews, and there’s an applet that lists all windows open in all workspaces. A huge amount of work has been done to pretty much all the parts of Cinnamon, which benefits the user with a faster and more usable desktop, even in the new, low-resource Cinnamon 2D mode.

Ubuntu Cinnamon
MATE has now resolved most of its prior problems

MATE may not have had as much attention, but it’s still had a lot of updates and bug fixes, including notifications that have been finally implemented, as well as bluetooth and the mate-keyring being fixed. Aesthetically speaking, it looks and feels like any modern desktop environment, with a great theme that keeps it completely practical.

One of the issues we had with the last version of Mint was the new MDM Display Manager, which included a very basic login screen that required you to type in your username rather than choose one from the now standard userlist of other display managers. While the default version of the newer MDM carries on with that style, it now fully supports all legacy GMD 2 themes, and a handful of included themes allow you to add the user list. We’d much prefer this by default, but at least the option is much easier to obtain now.

Ubuntu Cinnamon MATE
MDM Display Manager now has access to over 6000 themes

This is without a doubt the best Linux Mint yet. The additions changes that the Mint team are making to Ubuntu each time have really matured over the past year, which has resulted in Cinnamon showing up in a lot more distributions as standard. Installation wise, it’s not as easily customisable as some of the Red Hat based operating systems, which may not make it as suitable for businesses that like to distribute new distros with little hassle. However, for day-to-day user experience, you can’t beat it.

Verdict

5/5

An absolute pleasure to use thanks to its Ubuntu base and alternate desktop environments, Linux Mint is one of the great examples of how Linux can be shaped by the community for the better. Perfect for home use on a main PC, and still great in an office or development environment.

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