Linux Mint 9 Xfce

Last week I looked at the Debian version of Linux Mint. This time around I’m going to cover the Xfce version; this review was actually partly written before the release of the Debian version. I cast it aside and jumped into the Debian version, but I wanted to get this one done this week and out of the way.

We all know that there are passionate partisans of the GNOME and KDE versions of Linux Mint; yet, oddly, you rarely hear about people raving about the Xfce version. That’s a shame, because sometimes less is truly more. Linux Mint 9 Xfce has a lot to offer to those who have limited hardware, or who simply prefer not to deal with the eye-candy bloat of GNOME or KDE.

What’s New In This Release
There’s quite a bit of new stuff in this release, here’s a sample of what you’ll find:

New Software Manager
New Backup Tool
Improved Look & Feel
Thunar Move to Trash and Delete Options
Windows Installer
Usb Creator
32 & 64 Bit Editions
Faster Boot

I’ll cover the Software Manager in the software section of the review, and I’ll talk about the look and feel in the desktop section.

New Backup Tool
The new backup tool preserves your data and preferences. It also tracks the software you installed. When you go to upgrade to a fresh install of Linux Mint, the backup tool will restore your data as well as the software you had installed on your Linux Mint system.

You can also opt to restore your software selection on a different computer. The backup tool can perform incremental restorations and backups, and it can compress and archive “on the fly.” It also performs an integrity check on each file (but you can turn this off if you want to speed up your backup).

Thunar Options
Thunar is the Xfce file manager, and in this release the edit menu has “Move to Trash” and “Delete” options. Note that the “Delete” option now removes the item(s) permanently from your system.

Windows Installer
The Windows installer is back in this release. While I don’t really use Windows these days, I’m very glad to see this. It might help some of the folks that are considering giving desktop Linux a try.

USB Creator
Included in this release is the Ubuntu “Startup Disk Creator” that lets you easily put Linux Mint onto a USB stick. Hey, who doesn’t keep an extra copy of their favorite desktop Linux distro on a USB device? You never know when you might need it.

This version of Linux Mint 9 is based on Xfce. Please note that Xfce 4.6 has had two bug fix updates since the release of version 4.6, bringing it up to version 4.6.2. Here’s a list of new features and changes to Xfce 4.6 itself.

Hardware Requirements & Installation

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

  • x86 processor (for both 32 & 64-bit versions)
  • x86_64 compatible processor (for the 64-bit version)
  • 256 MB of system memory (RAM)
  • 4 GB of disk space for installation
  • Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution
  • CD-ROM drive or USB port

Installation
The install is typical Ubuntu, it’s very fast and easy. The screenshots below walk you through it from beginning to end.

Booting & Login

Bootsplash & Login Screen
The bootsplash and login screens are standard Linux Mint/Ubuntu fare. The login screen will let you change your language or keyboard settings.

The Desktop
You won’t find a bunch of junk cluttering up the Linux Mint Xfce desktop, it’s mostly clear of icons. If you click the Menu button you will notice that the large Linux Mint menu that you find in GNOME or KDE isn’t present in the Xfce release. Instead you’ll find the usual list of application categories, settings, help, etc. Those used to the menu in GNOME, for example, might miss it in the Xfce version, but that should last for all of about 2 minutes. It’s very easy to get used using Linux Mint Xfce.

You can customize your Linux Mint Xfce desktop settings by right clicking your desktop and choosing Desktop Settings. This lets you choose your wallpaper (there’s a number of Linux Mint themed wallpaper to choose from) and change your menu and icon settings. You can also adjust the brightness and saturation controls.

Note that there is no default Trash icon on your desktop, you’ll need to click the Icons tab in Desktop Settings to add it. I’m not sure why it’s not there by default, it does seem rather conspicuous to not have it there.

If you want to adjust your settings, click the Menu button then choose Settings then Xfce 4 Settings Manager. The Settings Manager lets you adjust all of the usual stuff:

Accessibility
Appearance
Desktop
Display
File Manager
Keyboard/Mouse
Panel
Power Manager
Preferred Applications
Removable Drives and Media
Session and Startup
Window Manager & Window Manager Tweaks
Workspaces.

There are also other settings that can be changed from the main Settings menu.

The Linux Mint 9 Xfce desktop.

Bundled Software

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

Games
Available Via Software Manager

Graphics
GIMP
OpenOffice.org Drawing
Simple Scan
Document Viewer

Internet
Firefox
Mozilla Thunderbird Mail and News
Pidgin IM
Transmission
XChat IRC

Multimedia
Brasero
Exaile
GNOME MPlayer
Mixer

Office
OpenOffice.org
Dictionary
Osmo

Software Management
Linux Mint Xfce uses the excellent Linux Mint Software Manager. If you’ve used it in GNOME or KDE, you’ll be quite familiar with it. Applications are broken down into the following categories:

Featured
Accessories
Education
Games
Graphics
Internet
Office
Science
Sound and Video
System Tools
Programming
All Packages

Adding & Removing Software
To add an application, just find it in the Software Manager and click the Install button. To remove it just click the Remove button. The Software Manager makes managing applications on your Linux Mint Xfce system easy and painless. And there’s a huge range of software available.

Sound and Multimedia
As can be expected with Linux Mint, flash is installed by default so watching YouTube videos and other multimedia content on the Web is no problem.

This distro also comes with Brasero, Exaile, GNOME MPlayer and Mixer installed by default. Oddly, VLC is nowhere to be found. I’m not sure why it’s not installed by default, but you can find it in the Software Manager. It’s one of my favorite applications for multimedia, so I miss it when I don’t see it as one of the default multimedia applications.

Problems & Headaches
My experience with Linux Mint Xfce was quite good, I didn’t run into any stability problems or other noticeable burps. I’m a heavy web browser, as you might imagine. So at any time I usually have a ton of tabs open in various browser windows. I never noticed any slowdown or browser crashes nor did I see any problems running various other applications on my Xfce desktop.

The Linux Mint developers, however, have released a list of known problems. I’ve reproduced here so you have a heads up about what you might expect in that regard.

Splash screen resolution
If the boot sequence only shows dots and no logo, you can make it look better by following these instructions.

Moonlight
Moonlight was removed from Linux Mint 9 because of a bug that made Firefox crash. The bug was fixed upstream and you can install the Moonlight plugin from the project’s website.

Problems with Xfce mixer
The mixer doesn’t set up the audio device automatically. You have to left-click on the panel plugin to set up the audio device. You also need to right click on the panel plugin to set up mixer plugin.

Desktop and delete options
The right click delete option on the desktop still moves item(s) to trash.

Gigolo and Windows Shares
Gigolo requires gvfs-fuse to be installed to connect to a Windows Share.

Small fonts
The default font size is set to automatic, but this may cause problems for some applications. The solution is to use a Custom setting of 96. You may still need to adjust the DPI if that’s still too small.

fusion-icon installs Compiz KDE packages
To make sure that installing fusion-icon doesn’t install KDE, install compiz-gnome and compiz. Now when you install fusion-icon it won’t pull in KDE packages. This shouldn’t cause any problems as fusion-icon has the correct settings for Xfce.

YouTube videos worked well, flash was installed.

Where To Get Help
Please take a moment to register for the DLR forum (registration takes less than a minute and you can login with your Facebook account if you want); everybody is welcome. You are welcome to post a message in the Linux Help section and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. The forum contains discussions about Linux, but also many other topics. Please stop by and say hello when you have a chance.

Drop by the forum to get help, talk about Linux or just hang out.

You might also want to check out the Linux Mint 9 Xfce forum or community site.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
Linux Mint 9 Xfce was a genuine pleasure to use. It’s very fast and doesn’t require a whole lot in terms of system resources. It’s an antidote to other desktop environments that some might argue are bloated with unnecessary eye-candy and unused features.

Personally, I can see the advantages and disadvantages to full-featured desktop environments, as well as minimalistic environments like Xfce. Each user will have to come to his or her own decision as to which suits them best. Frankly, I tend to switch back and forth when the mood suits me.

Linux Mint 9 Xfce is suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced Linux users who want a fast, minimalistic desktop environment.

What’s your take on this distro? Tell me in the comments below. Visit the DLR forum for more discussions. Visit JimLynch.com for opinion columns.

Summary Table:

Product: Linux Mint 9 Xfce
Web Site: http://linuxmint.com/
Price: Free
Pros: It’s fast and requires less in the way of system resources. In that sense it’s perfect for those with limited or older hardware.
Cons: Those craving eye-candy and the feature sets of GNOME or KDE might find this distro lacking as a daily desktop environment.
Suitable For: Beginner, intermediate or advanced Linux users.
Summary: Linux Mint 9 Xfce is a near-perfect blend of the minimalist advantages of the Xfce desktop environment and the tools/features of Linux Mint.
Rating: 4/5