Linux Mint 12 GNOME 3

The moment so many have waited for is finally here. Linux Mint 12 has been released! This update to Linux Mint has had many people on edge since it marks the move from the older version of GNOME to GNOME 3.2. GNOME 3.2, as you might already know, has had many detractors. Linux Mint users have wondered how on earth such a popular distribution would make a transition to such a reviled and hated desktop interface.

Well I’m happy to say that Linux Mint 12 has survived the move to GNOME 3, thanks to the ingenuity of the Linux Mint developers. Until I saw how the Linux Mint developers implemented GNOME 3, I’d feared that Linux Mint might become another GNOME 3 casualty. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened and you’ll find out why in this review.

Live DVD Desktop
Linux Mint 12 Live DVD Desktop

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a sample of the new features in this release:

Ubuntu 11.10
Linux 3.0
GNOME 3.2
Mint GNOME Shell Extensions (MGSE)
MATE (fork of GNOME 2)
Two new themes (Mint-Z and Mint-Z-Dark)
Backgrounds (includes photos from India and Yellowstone National Park)
New default search engine is Duck Duck Go

Mint GNOME Shell Extensions make it possible to use GNOME 3 the same way you used previous versions. It includes a bottom panel, application menu, window list and it makes GNOME 3 into a more task-oriented desktop. I’ll have much more to say about them in the desktop section of the review. Suffice to say that they are the biggest things in Linux Mint 12, in my opinion. Other developers using GNOME 3 should add something similar in their distros.

Application Menu
Application Menu

MATE is a fork of GNOME 2 that some users might find helpful. The Linux Mint developers warn on their What’s New page that MATE is still new and is thus not completely stable. So be aware of that if you decide to experiment with it.

I didn’t spend much time with MATE since the focus is really on GNOME 3 for this release. However, I expect that some users might gravitate toward MATE if they still dislike GNOME 3 even with the extensions included. If you spend any time with MATE, please post your experiences with it in the comments. I’d be curious to know how well it worked for you. You can choose MATE from the login menu.

(Edit: I just did a full review of Linux Mint 12 MATE. So that should give you a better idea of what you can expect from it.)

MATE
MATE

Linux Mint 12 comes with two new themes. Mint-Z and Mint-Z-Dark are based on Mint-X and Zukitwo.

Themes
Themes

The new default search engine is Duck Duck Go. This is part of the Linux Mint developer’s strategy of using search engines as a business model to help support Linux Mint financially. Duck Duck Go doesn’t track or record user information, nor does it show different results depending on who does the search.

Duck Duck Go
Duck Duck Go is Linux Mint 12’s new default search engine.

No worries if you prefer to use a different search engine, you can easily switch Duck Duck Go for another search engine. I actually like it and I urge you to give it a try for a while before deciding to change it. It works well and it has the extra benefit of helping to finance Linux Mint. So check it out and see how you like it.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

Hardware Requirements
Here’s what you’ll need to run this distro:

  • x86 processor (Linux Mint 64-bit requires a 64-bit processor. Linux Mint 32-bit works on both 32-bit and 64-bit processors).
  • 512 MB RAM (1GB recommended for a comfortable usage).
  • 5 GB of disk space
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD/DVD drive or USB port

Installation
The installer is very easy to use, as you might expect. Newcomers to Linux Mint should not have a problem using it. The screenshots below walk you through the install, from beginning to end.

Install 1
Install 1
Install 2
Install 2
Install 3
Install 3
Install 4
Install 4
Install 5
Install 5
Install 6
Install 6
Install 7
Install 7
Install 8
Install 8
Install 9
Install 9

Booting & Login
Here’s what the booting and login screens look like:

Boot Menu
Boot Menu
Login
Login

The Desktop
The first thing you’ll see when you boot into your desktop is the usual Welcome to Linux Mint menu. Newcomers to Linux Mint should pause for a moment and check out the links in the menu. You’ll find quite a few helpful things there that can get you started using Linux Mint, and can also help you if you run into any problems. Give it a read and take note of what it has to offer.

Welcome to Linux Mint
Welcome to Linux Mint

The second thing you’ll notice is that GNOME 3 in Linux Mint is a bit different than GNOME 3 in other distros. I mentioned the Mint GNOME Shell Extensions earlier in the review but let me elaborate on why they are so important. They add a bottom panel, a window list, an application menu, tray icons and a task-oriented desktop. All of this was sorely missing in GNOME 3 and my hat is off to the Linux Mint developers for having the wisdom to see what was wrong it. There’s even a media player indicator included.

Application Menu
Application Menu

The application menu in the screenshot above is particularly helpful and I find it much faster than using the GNOME 3 menu (in the screenshot below) to open applications. I understand though that others might feel differently. If that’s the case then you might consider Fedora 16 instead of Linux Mint 12 since Fedora uses the generic GNOME 3 desktop rather than the extensions found in Linux Mint.

GNOME 3 Menu
GNOME 3 Menu

The larger issue here, of course, is the stupidity of various developers who seem intent on foisting dreadful mobile interfaces on desktop users. We’ve seen this with Unity and GNOME 3, of course. But we’ve also seen Microsoft fall prey to it with the horrific “Metro” interface mess in Windows 8. Mobile is mobile and the desktop is the desktop. There’s absolutely no need to try to mix the two; it just ends up making a horrible experience for desktop users who work in a task-oriented way not an application-oriented way.

Thankfully the Linux Mint developers understood this and fixed GNOME 3 by including the Mint GNOME Shell Extensions. Now I wish other developers would get a clue and emulate them. I tried the Fedora 16 version of GNOME 3 and found it absolutely awful to use for any length of time.

Linux Mint 12 Desktop
Linux Mint 12 Desktop

The desktop itself features the usual Computer and Home icons, and that’s about it. You won’t find a zillion icons cluttering it up.

Themes & Wallpaper
To change your wallpaper, just right-click the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background. Linux Mint 12 comes with a nice selection of wallpaper. The wallpapers are mostly Linux Mint themed, but there are a few nature scenes as well.

Themes and Wallpaper
Wallpaper
Themes
Themes

Admin Tools

System Management
Here’s a look at the system settings menu. It covers all of the usual things.

System Settings
System Settings

Bundled Software

Here’s a sample of the software included in this release.

Games
No games are included but you can download them from the Software Manager.

Graphics
GIMP
gThumb
Image Viewer
LibreOffice Draw
Simple Scan

Internet
Firefox
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Banshee
Brasero
GNOME MPlayer
Movie Player
VLC

Office
LibreOffice

Software Management
As far as I can tell, there were no changes to Linux Mint’s software manager. That’s not a problem though as it works very well just as it is. If you’re new to it then I think you’ll find that it offers an amazing amount of software (more than 36,000 packages). I suggest spending a few minutes browsing around to familiarize yourself with its interface. It’s quite easy to use and you’ll find plenty of applications to add to your Linux Mint system.

Software Manager
Software Manager
Software Manager Internet Category
Software Manager Internet Category
Chromium Browser
Chromium Browser

Adding & Removing Software
It’s very easy to add or remove software. Just find the application you want and click the Install or Remove button. You can also view user reviews and ratings of a particular application before deciding to install it on your Linux Mint system. I opted to install Chromium, as I generally prefer it to Firefox. Firefox is still a fine browser but Chromium just floats my boat a bit more.

Sound and Multimedia
YouTube & Flash
I had no problem running flash based content. Flash was installed by default so I didn’t have to do any fiddling to get things to work in my browser. I opted to try Carly Simon’s video “You’re So Vain” and it ran fine.

I met Carly Simon when I was in my 20s and working at a movie theater on Martha’s Vineyard. She was coming out of the theater and I chatted with her briefly. I asked her who her song “You’re So Vain” was about – Mick Jagger or Warren Beatty. She gave me a witty answer that, alas, has been lost in the mists of time. I suspect that the song was about Warren Beatty though. And who could blame her? Back in his “Bonnie and Clyde” days, he was a great looking guy.

Okay, that’s it for my trip down memory lane. Back to the review. :angel: :lol: :tongue:

YouTube
YouTube

Multimedia Applications
Linux Mint 12 comes with Banshee, Brasero, GNOME MPlayer, Movie Player, and VLC. So you’ll get a good default selection of software to use for multimedia content. If you need more, just check the Sound and Video category in Software Manager. There are more than 100 applications available there, so you should be able to find what you’re looking for and then some.

Banshee
Banshee
VLC
VLC
Multimedia Category in Software Manager
Multimedia Category in Software Manager

Problems & Headaches
My experience with Linux Mint 12 was mostly very positive. It was quite stable and seemed relatively speedy. I did not experience any application crashes.

I did, however, notice some odd rendering behavior by the applications menu at the bottom of the screen. Certain categories did not display properly. Here are two screenshots that show the problems. The first screenshot should show the applications menu, but as you can see most of it isn’t showing. The second shows the menu but some stuff on the right isn’t rendering properly.

I’m not sure what the problem is here. I installed Linux Mint 12 into VirtualBox so perhaps it’s a VirtualBox problem? I’d be interested in knowing if others have seen something similar on their hardware. If so, please post your experiences in the comments section.

It was still possible to use the applications menu by simply moving the cursor around (most of the categories do show up), but it’s definitely something that should be fixed.

Application Menu Error 1
Application Menu Error 1
Application Menu Error 2
Application Menu Error 2

There is a list of known issues available on the Linux Mint site in the release notes. You may want to browse this before installing Linux Mint 12 on your system, just in case any of the problems might be issues for you.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum; everybody is welcome. Feel free to post a message in the forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, as well as other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

You might also want to check out the Linux Mint forums, tutorials, community site, and the documentation page.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
The Linux Mint developers have really done what I thought would be impossible. They’ve taken GNOME 3 and managed to make it usable. Linux Mint 12’s implementation is the best version of GNOME 3 I’ve seen in any distro, and other developers should borrow from Linux Mint 12 in their own distros. I’d wondered for a while what would happen to Linux Mint when it finally moved to GNOME 3. I’m pleased to say that it has made the transition quite well.

As good as Linux Mint 12’s implementation of GNOME 3 is…well, it’s still GNOME 3. So the desktop doesn’t function quite the same as GNOME 2. There are certain things you can’t do and certain things that are just different. This could be a significant problem for those devoted to the GNOME 2 type interface and you should think carefully before doing an upgrade to Linux Mint 12 if you are happy with Linux Mint 11 or other prior releases.

Other desktops such as KDE, Xfce and LXDE also offer viable alternatives to GNOME 3. So you might consider checking some of those out if you decide that you can’t stomach GNOME 3 in any form. You could also try using MATE to see if it will work well enough for you.

While there are a few warts in Linux Mint 12, it’s better than I had hoped for considering the move to GNOME 3. If you aren’t sure if it’s for you then try running it in VirtualBox before you make a decision to install it on your system.

Linux Mint 12 is suitable for beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit Eye On Linux for Linux opinion columns and distro quick looks; visit JimLynch.com for other technology coverage.

Summary Table:

Product: Linux Mint 12
Web Site:  http://linuxmint.com/
Price: Free
Pros: Mint Gnome Shell Extensions help make GNOME 3 usable by providing a bottom panel, application menu, system icons and a window list. MATE has potential for those who prefer GNOME 2. New artwork and backgrounds. Duck Duck Go default search engine.
Cons: Applications menu rendering problem. MATE is still early and could be unstable. MGSE helps but might not be enough for those who truly despise GNOME 3.
Suitable For:  Beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users.
Rating: 4/5

 



Comments

  1. says

    Comparison OpenSUSE 12.1 vs Fedora 16

    Both offer similar download options. You can grab a DVD or try installable live CDs for your favorite graphical environment. Gnome or KDE. Both also have loads of theme-based spins or derivatives, with apps and tools for deployments in specialized fields.

    Behind the scenes, both are running on patched versions of Linux kernel 3.1. which boasts improved support for Wi-Fi drivers and lots more. SystemD, the replacement for the SysV init daemon, was already a part of Fedora 15. but it’s been further improved here. The Red Hat developers also collaborated with OpenSUSE to get SystemD onto 12.1.

    While OpenSUSE is still using Grub Legacy for booting duties. Fedora has finally switched to Grub 2. Conversely. OpenSUSE, like the latest Ubuntu 11.10. uses the lightweight and zippy LightDM display manager, while Fedora continues with Gdm.

    http://linuxconfig.net/media/featured/comparison-

  2. joeblog says

    Mint 12 ? Mais quelle déception! Un foutoir complet pour la gestion des paramètres. Ils manquent tellement de chose que j'ai réellement l'impression que Linux a reculer de 10 ans! Lourd, peu réactif, police mal ajusté, dimension des barres mal foutues et non paramétrable. Impossible de paramétrer quoi que ce soit de correct sans passer par le bidouillage de geek. On perd tellement de petite choses qui étaient si importante et si simple avant que c'est comme un suicide cette nouvelle version. J'espère qu'ils vont compléter rapidement l'amas d'erreurs car c'est extrêmement nuisible pour l'image du libre ce genre de distribution. Avant on pouvait ajuster pleins de trucs selon nos goût et notre convenance et là rien n'est plus statique en imbriqué dans le faux que Mint 12. je suis peut-être négatif mais je suis surtout réaliste et non menteur. J'ai pas de sucre à donner si c'est pas mérité.

  3. says

    @epidenimus – Gnome 3/shell and MGSE plus the MATE desktop are planned for LMDE. Thye should be included in Update Pack 4 when it's released. It will be awhile though as the Mint devs are currently working on the Linux Mint 12 KDE and LXDE editions. KDE will still have an Ubuntu base by the way, not LMDE as previously talked about.

    @Jim – There is a Linux Mint MATE (only) edition being planned for sometime in the future. When depends one how long it takes to completely flesh out and stabilize MATE.

  4. says

    While ArchLinux is awesome, I find that usnig Mint is nice for end user stuff. It just easier to get WiFi going out of the box. I still use Arch for all my server stuff though.

    Problem with Mint right now is touchpad issues and random mouse clicks where the cursor happens to be.

    Mint 12 is cool the for sure. Use it at work everyday.

  5. jim says

    I'll be sticking to Linux Mint 11(64bit) for now – it works great and is extremely stable so why should I want to change to a dog's breakfast like Gnome 3? These idiots need to get it thru their heads that our regular computers ARE NOT SMARTPHONES! Thank god the Linux Mint team seems to realize this and also for the developers of MATE forking from Gnome.

  6. rijnsma says

    It is fantastic what Lefebre and crew have done.

    I can really work now with Gnome 3 and MGSE this way.

    But indeed like the article says it is Gnome 3 and that one is not finished yet.

    The most annoying for me is the shift of windows in the workspaces when one deletes for instance all Windows in workspace 1 and all windows of workspace 2 shift to 1. And 3 to 2. And 4 to 3 etc. I don't want it and it should be configurable.

    If it is I have not written this. But I dont't know how yet.

    Further the long distances the mouse has to move to let things work. This not a very productive tool for me…

    Sound is not simple te get working with some applications.

    Recording sound can be configured, but not with all apps when one does not how via alsa.

    But then: not finished yet and heavy developed now, pieces of it don't work yet, but I prefer MATE, which is also in the package under the switch * of the password-window. It looks like Gnome 2.3 and it works great and I like it very much too. :smile:

  7. Stan says

    I'm taking the dive today, installing in about an hour as I'm downloading something. It is scary but I think it is worth it. I even have another HD just for Mint 12 so my current install will not even be touched so I can switch back if I want.

    I think the only OS that is integrating apps into a desktop environment is Apple right now, they are not switching everything but taking things from IOS and adding it to OSX but at the same time you can use OSX just like before and use the IOS like stuff if it is faster for you. I bet Gnome will emulate this with one of their Gnome 3 releases, or I hope they do.

    I have not read your Mate review yet but does Mint install both by default and you choose which to boot into? I guess I'll find out in a hour or so!

  8. K Scharf says

    I've installed mint 12 amd64 on a new computer (PhenomII X4 970, 12GB dram) and I find myself lost since I'm used to Gnome 2.x. There are NO applets: I have the Weather applet, clock, volume control, network indicator, cpu core speeds, power off, workspace switcher and update manager on gnome 2 in mint 9 that I'm currently running. Granted SOME of these functions have equivalents in Gnome 3, but other are missing. There is NO screensaver! I guess I can install xscreensaver, but that has no equivalent to the one I'm currently running that cycles through my 'pictures' directory.

    The 'desktop' directory seems to be missing, the app menu is organized into different categories, and I don't know if there is a way to configure my own application launchers either on the desktop or into the app menu as there is on Gnome 2.

    I may end up sticking with Mint 9 LTS until Mint 13 comes out. Hopefully by then both Gnome 3.x and Mints extensions to it will be a bit more fleshed out with options. Maybe Clem will add the latest KDE to the mix, I wish KDE didn't have to play third or fourth fiddle in the Mint world to Gnome, LXDE, and XFCE!

  9. liquidkermit says

    I have decided to stay with Mint 11. It looks like I need to wait for Mint 13 (codename Melissa, maybe?). I believe MATE would be much more stable in 6 months. I simply refuse to migrate to Shell. I'm sorry, it's a laptop not a tablet. So, see you later in May 2012. Linux Mint 13 LTS Melissa

  10. Bill Julian says

    Here I am on Linux 12 Mate and let me tell you, Jim, Mint-lovers had better hope that Clem & Co. can make this work. It is the ONLY way I would consider running Mint 12.

    Why? (1) Running from my external USB drive and comparing performance against Mint 12/G-3, Mate is more responsive. It is almost as good as Mepis 11 and Fedora 16 running from the same drive. (2) The Mint menu is much more manageable in Mat, especially with regard to favorites. (3) I can place icons on the bottom panel if I find that more convenient — which I do. In fact just why do we need all this dock/launcher/favorites business when we can just drop icons on the bottom panel?

    I simply would not consider running Mint 12 with its Gnome 3 underpinnings. The virtues of the Mint Menuing system have been lost in trying to make it work with G-3. Can the Mint team get this right? Talented as they are I have to think so. I also expect it may take until Mint 13-14 before that happens.

    For now I'd like Mint with a side-order of Mate and thank you. People looking for the traditional virtues of the Mint Menu might want to explore that possibility as well.

  11. TonyVanDam says

    Thanks for another review Jim!

    Just like I thought the first time, Mint 12 is THE Linux distro to watch. Although I'm a little disappointed that nothing was said about MATE (yet?), the review about LMSE in very interesting.

    As a happy Mint Debian-user, I will play it safe and hold out for the Mint 13 (LTS). By then, I will finally have my first ever laptop and I'll use it for Mint while maintaining my desktop with Mint Debian.

  12. Imhoteps says

    Jim Lynch wrote:

    ..I do not want one application taking over the screen and I want to be able to easily switch between applications, minimize windows, etc.

    Golden words!

  13. says

    Hi Hawkeye,

    Thanks for the feedback. :smile:

    Good question on the touchscreen. I suppose it depends on how it is implemented. Would they do it like Apple with the Magic Trackpad thing? So you use the trackpad rather than touching the screen itself?

    I think leaning forward to touch a large screen would be awkward and rather uncomfortable after a while. But if you were working off a trackpad or some other device that was near your keyboard then perhaps it might work.

    But I think the larger question for interface design on the desktop is whether or not you are application-centric or task-centric. Unity & GNOME 3 are geared toward being application-centric while MATE, Xfce and KDE are task-oriented.

    I very much prefer the task-oriented approach. I do not want one application taking over the screen and I want to be able to easily switch between applications, minimize windows, etc.

  14. Hawkeye52 says

    Jim,

    As always, a great, balanced review. It does, however, bring up this whole 'dumbing down' of the desktop thing. Nothing has polarized the Linux community like this since I have been involved — early 2004.

    Not wanting to throw any more gas on the fire, I am still curious about your opinion on one aspect. At what monitor size does touchscreen become a practical, usable element for the desktop? I know there hasn't been any real research on this (or we wouldn't be headed down this perplexing development path), but my gut level says:

    Touchscreen becomes usable for the average user at 42 inches or larger.

    Do you want to hazard a guess?

    Hawkeye52

  15. Imhoteps says

    Interesting review (as usual). Thanks alot! And yes – MATEd Mint review would be super. As by me – merging Mint with Gnome 3 Shell was mistaken. Xfce/KDE would be much much smarter move. In the worst case even Unity would be more reasonable change than Gnome Shell. As I can see, people spit less after using Unity compared with Shell. But well, what`s done is done.

  16. mandog says

    I have not tried Mint 12 but it offers nothing you can't already do with gnome shell in Arch Linux or any other distro the extensions are all there. The negativity of reviewers is unbelievable not only with Gnome shell but with Linux in general. thank goodness you do try to give a quality review even if i don't always agree i always read yours.

  17. epidenimus says

    Thanks for the overview. I am a long time LinuxMint fan and am very much interested in how it approaches what I see as the Vista of Linux desktop environments. Even though I am on to the XFCE LMDE variant at this point, I wonder if they have provided the shell extensions to GNOME LMDE. I might be tempted to switch my work box over if rolling release is added to the feature list.

    Also, I remember reading several pieces where Carly Simon cited David Geffen as the source of inspiration for "You're So Vain." ;) I understand why it wasn't just put out there years ago; the song incites the listener to introspection without this detail.

  18. says

    Thanks, Brian. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Hmm. Liquidkermit, thanks for the feedback. Perhaps I'll do a quick look for Eye On Linux of it. That could be interesting.

  19. liquidkermit says

    Everyone is focusing on MGSE on their reviews. Too bad because I want to read a MATE review. I content to stay with GNOME 2.x and if MATE in Mint 12 is not good enough, I might not upgrade my Mint 11 boxes.

    Still waiting for MATE review

  20. Brian Masinick says

    Well Jim, I knew that you would get off your duff and review Linux Mint within a week or so of its release, so congratulations on doing so.

    For GNOME lovers, Mint really is saving the day, and if GNOME developers and distro builders are smart, they will at least provide something like what Mint has done to provide users with alternatives. Try as they may, not everyone will – today – or any time in the near future, sucumb to the urge to run touch devices. I have stuff from the Droid family. Yes, it's good for quick access to stuff, but I wouldn't use it in a million years when I have to be greatly productive, fast, and efficient. The only thing it's fast at is clearing out SPAM Email, and a REGULAR Email client does a better job any day; it's just good to have a mobile device when you are away. As far as I am concerned, mobile stuff won't replace traditional devices in my lifetime, unless revolutionary improvements are still in the works. The "inventions" we have recently seen are disasters when they come to replacing traditional desktops, which, at least to me, were the optimal in speed and efficiency.

    As far as the rest of Mint goes, I think it's good for the novice and casual user. It can be used by veterans as well, but hobbyists who want access to everything may not be quite as thrilled with it. I can do without it myself, but I wouldn't want to see it go anywhere; it's great for bringing usable technology to thousands of new potential Linux converts! :-)

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