Linux Mint 8

The recent release of a major new version of Ubuntu means that it’s time for new versions of various remastered distros. This time around it’s Linux Mint 8. Linux Mint, as you may already know from previous releases, takes Ubuntu to another level by slicking it up with tools, multimedia codecs and more.

Before I get into the meat of this review, please note that I’ve expanded the review template to incorporate additional details and changed the structure slightly.

Please let me know what you think of the new format and if you’d like to see other things added to the reviews. Thanks in advance for your feedback.

What’s New In This Release

As usual, there’s quite a bit of new stuff in this release and here’s some of what you’ll find. Be sure to review the What’s New page on the Linux Mint 8 site for more info and screenshots.

Linux Kernel 2.6.31
Gnome 2.28
Ubuntu 9.10 Improvements (boot sequence, notifications, etc.)

Menu Improvements
Software Manager Improvements
Update Manager Improvements
Two New Applications: Upload Manager and File Uploader

Menu Improvements
Your Places are now configurable. You can now add additional choices and they will appear in the Places menu. You can also disable or enable any button in the System or Places menus. And you now have a “lock screen” button on the System menu.

I’m sure that some users will appreciate the ability to add more choices to the Places menu and will use it; it didn’t do much for me though as I’ve never felt the need to add any choices to the defaults. But it’s nice that the option is there for those who want it.

Software Manager Improvements
Software Manager now has screenshots in the bottom left corner of the application. It’s also now possible to see more reviews and information about an application.

There’s no need to refresh Software Manager now, as you’ll be notified when stuff is available via Update Manager. Software Manager is also now aware of the APT status of applications. And you can now mark multiple applications for installation or removal.

I like the screenshots a lot and it’s always interesting to see what other people have to say about an application. Helpful information and constructive feedback from other users can help save users from wasting their time downloading a lame application.

And I definitely enjoyed not having to manually refresh Software Manager. Anything that automates updates, installation/removal, etc. is a big plus to me. The less time I have to spend keeping track of software, the better.

Update Manager Improvements
You can change the columns shown in the list of updates and you can resize Update Manager. You’ll also see download progress information since Update Manager uses Synaptic to track updates. You can also add other repositories in Software Sources.

Two New Applications: Upload Manager and File Uploader
The tool formerly called mintUpload has been split into two applications: Upload Manager and File Uploader. The Upload Manager lets you add services using FTP, SFTP and SCP.

Once you’ve added your services you can then launch the File Uploader and your upload services will appear in your system tray. Click the ones you want and you can then upload files by dragging and dropping files.

The Live CD version of the Linux Mint 8 desktop.

The Live CD version of the Linux Mint 8 desktop.

Hardware Requirements & Installation
As always, Linux Mint is a Live CD, so you don’t have to install it to run it. You can simply boot into it and use it since it will run right off the CD (albeit a bit slower than if you had it installed). I booted into the Live CD desktop to do the install and had no problems using the Live CD desktop.


Hardware Requirements
Before I get into the install, here are the hardware requirements for running Linux Mint 8:

A minimum of 512MB of RAM is recommended. Once installed the system works fine with as low as 256MB RAM. The installation process deals with 2.5GB of data compressed on a 700MB CD and it can hang or fail on systems with less than 512MB RAM. If you have between 256MB and 512MB RAM you may have to try to install several times.

Installation Steps
Step 1: Welcome

Step 2: Choose Location
Step 3: Keyboard Layout
Step 4: Partitioning
Step 5: Who Are You?
Step 6: Ready To Install
Step 7: Installation
Step 8: Conclusion & Reboot

As you might expect, given that Linux Mint 8 is based on Ubuntu, the install was easy and quick. I had no problems getting Linux Mint 8 installed. During the install interesting factoids about Linux Mint 8 and its applications appeared.

Setting up your hard disk for Linux Mint 8 is easy and fast.
Setting up your hard disk for Linux Mint 8 is easy and fast.

Installing Linux Mint 8

Booting & Login
The bootsplash screen simply shows the Linux Mint logo. It’s attractive, floating in a sea of black. But that’s about it.

Login Screen
The login screen lets you login using the name and password that you picked during the install. You can also click Other to choose another ID and password if you set one up later on.

The login screen also contains a Universal Access Preferences button (the blue one with the stick figure in it on the panel at the bottom of the screen). If you click that you have the following options:

Use On-Screen Keyboard
Use Screen Magnifier
Enhance Color Contrast
Make Text Larger
Sticky Keys
Bounce Keys
Slow Keys

You also have the option of clicking the quit button to put your computer into hibernation, shut it down or restart it.

When you click the name you want to login with, you can type in your password. Note though that there are options that appear on the panel below including language, keyboard and session options. You can change these if you wish.

You can change the language, keyboard and session settings on the login screen.
You can change the language, keyboard and session settings on the login screen.

The Desktop
As always the first thing I notice when the desktop loads is the sound. It’s just a quick tone or whatever that happens when you first login. I like it because it lets me know that sound is working fine.

The second thing I noticed was the Welcome to Linux Mint menu. This menu is great because it lets you discover the distro, get help, or contribute to Linux Mint. There’s a list of new features button (handy for reviewers like me), release notes and also a user guide in PDF format that you can download.

Since it uses GNOME as its desktop environment, Linux Mint 8 will be immediately familiar to anybody who’s used GNOME before. The panel at the bottom of the desktop contains the Linux Mint Menu button (similar to the Start button in Windows), a notes app icon, a show-the-desktop icon, and the usual updates, network, sound and date/calendar icons and links.

To make changes to your desktop, the easiest way is to click the Menu icon on the panel and then choose Control Center. The Control Center incorporates all the usual stuff including:

Look and Feel
Internet and Network


Linux Mint 8 comes with a number of themes including the following:


You can also click a link to get more themes online.

For some reason the new default Linux Mint 8 wallpaper leaves me cold. It seemed warmer and classier in Linux Mint 7 than it does in this release. I don’t like the bubbles and the color gradient.

Your mileage may vary, however, so take my comments with a grain of salt. And, of course, it takes two seconds to change the wallpaper so it’s really not that big of a deal.

I was pleased to note that the old wallpaper is available if you right-click the desktop and choose Change Desktop Background. And there are a few other choices as well. Plus you can get more wallpaper online too.

If you prefer to have a cleaner desktop, you can use the Desktop Configuration tool in the Control Center to get rid of the default icons that appear. You can remove Computer, Home, Network, Trash and Mounted Volumes.

The Linux Mint 8 welcome menu greets you after you login.
The Linux Mint 8 welcome menu greets you after you login.

Bundled Software
Here’s a sampling of some of the software included in this release:

GIMP Drawing
Scanner Utility

Mozilla Thunderbird
Pidgin IM
Sun Java 6 Web Start

Gnome MPlayer
Totem Movie Player
Sound Recorder

Office Database Spreadsheet Word Processor Presentation

Linux Mint comes with a good selection of software. Most of your computing needs will probably be met without needing to add much software but if you need to, it shouldn’t be a problem (see the managing software section).

One of the first things I did was to check Software Manager for Google’s Chrome browser. I was disappointed but not really surprised to see it wasn’t available. I downloaded it from Google’s Chrome page instead and added it to my Linux Mint 8 system.

So far I’m extremely impressed with Chrome in Linux (and on Mac OS X and Windows). It is much faster than Firefox and I think it’s a good candidate for inclusion in all distros at this point. Until Firefox begins to match its performance, Chrome will be my default browser. I hope to see Chrome included by default in the next release of Linux Mint.

Managing Software
Adding & Removing Software
Managing software in Linux Mint is very easy. Just click the Linux Mint menu button on the panel at the bottom of your desktop and choose Software Manager. I noted some of the changes to Software Manager above in the earlier part of the review.

Suffice to say that using Software Manager is very easy and even newbies to Linux Mint 8 shouldn’t have problems adding or removing software as it’s a very comfortable tool to use.


Software Repositories
Linux Mint 8 makes it easy to add additional software repositories. Click the Linux Mint menu button then Administration then Software Sources; then choose Other Software and click the Add button; then type in the apt line to add your repository to Software Sources.

The default repositories include Linux Mint’s own (listed under the Linux Mint Software tab) and other repositories (including Canonical’s) are listed under the Other Software tab.

Browse the Linux Mint 8 software manager to add more applications.
Browse the Linux Mint 8 software manager to add more applications.

Sound and Multimedia
One of Linux Mint’s biggest strengths has always been that it comes bundled with codecs that make it work beautifully for multimedia. This is one of the reasons why I usually recommend it over generic Ubuntu for desktop use. Why bother downloading additional stuff to get multimedia working properly? Linux Mint makes it about as easy as it gets in Linux.

YouTube & Flash
I fired up Chrome and headed to YouTube. This time around I searched for Led Zeppelin – one of my all time favorite bands – and blasted the Immigrant song. Sound and video quality were good. I had no problems enjoying Zeppelin on YouTube.

I decided to keep going with the Zeppelin thing so I pulled out my Led Zeppelin video DVD and popped it in. I used Totem Movie Player to play the disc. I was pleased to note that the opening screen had sound and the video played fine. But when I clicked to watch a particular section all I got was video. The sound didn’t work right. Here and there I got what seemed to be a blurb of sound but then it stopped.

Thinking that the Zeppelin DVD might be the problem, I grabbed another DVD to check it out. This time around I picked Spinal Tap. It started fine though the screen was black for a moment as the actors goofed on their “black” album. I saw the menu load and I clicked “play” to start the movie. The movie played fine.

I’m not sure what the problem was with the Zeppelin DVD. But that DVD has a crappy menu structure and I don’t know if that had something to do with it or not but I’ve never liked how it is organized or how a viewer is forced to navigate it.

Problems & Headaches
Beyond the multimedia burps, I didn’t encounter any really significant problems to note in this section of the review.

I have seen feedback from some folks who thought that Linux Mint 8’s boot time could be faster but I didn’t see much to complain about there. It seemed acceptable to me.

If you ran into any problems installing or using Linux Mint 8, please note them in the comments below so others may benefit from knowing about them and there might even be a comment or two posted that could be of use to you in solving your problems.

The Immigrant Song playing on YouTube.
The Immigrant Song playing on YouTube.

You are always welcome to post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews forum and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. For additional information be sure to check out the Linux Mint forumblog, wiki and professional support.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Linux Mint 8 works well for pretty much any desktop Linux user. Since it’s based on Ubuntu 9.10, it has all of the advantages of that release but with the additional value of the Linux Mint tools, multimedia codecs and other goodies.

Newcomers should definitely consider Linux Mint; it’s a great distro to get started with though it might spoil a newbie. Experienced Linux users can also appreciate what Linux Mint has to offer though it might be a bit too easy for a “roll your own” kind of advanced user.

Product: Linux Mint 8
Web Site:
Price: Free
Pros: Software Manager & Update Manager upgrades, configurable places, Upload Manager & File Uploader added.
Cons: Slightly less attractive default wallpaper, no bundled games, Chrome browser not available in software repositories.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced desktop Linux users.
Summary: Linux Mint 8 brings Linux Mint up to speed with Ubuntu 9.10 and adds some custom upgrades of its own. An excellent desktop distribution that any Linux user should consider using.
Rating: 4/5