I always see the Debian as distro born for Linux, with its top class package management, stable system performance, huge repository, less customization of applications and easier configuration. Once it was my main development system at home. When Ubuntu was introduced I switched over to Ubuntu, seeing it as “user friendly Debian”, with the features of Debian. Recent trend in Ubuntu development, has made me to think of another distro as main system after 5 years of Ubuntu. Unity and aesthetics of Desktop at the cost of stripped down basic features of a linux distros has moved me in this direction. I want my bare bone Debian + features missing (proprietory codecs, drivers and Desktop fine tuning) in one Linux distro. Since Linux Mint Debian edition looks like fitting my requirement, I tried and here is the review. Let’s see how it works out.
What is Linux Mint Debian Edition
Linux Mint is basically a Ubuntu based distribution. Recently Debian derivative has also been introduced named as LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition). It deserves its own name than this descriptive one The beauty of this distribution its rolling in nature. The software is keep updated once it comes to Debian Testing branch. So you need not to upgrade once in 6 months, which many of leading distros like Ubuntu and Fedora use to release. On top of Debian Testing, Mint adds its own tools and customization to make non techie users to get started with Linux distros. Let’s see how it behaves in my laptop.
- Sony Vaio VGN-CS15GN/B Laptop
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P8400 (2.26 GHz)
- Memory 2GB
- Hard disk Drive 250GB
- LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) GNOME 64-bit 2001109
Linux Mint links
- Web site: http://www.linuxmint.com
- Download: http://www.linuxmint.com/download_lmde.php
Under the hood
$ uname -a
Linux blackbox 3.0.0-1-amd64 #1 SMP Sun Jul 24 02:24:44 UTC 2011 x86_64 GNU/Linux
$ cat /etc/lsb-release
DISTRIB_DESCRIPTION=”Linux Mint Debian Edition”
Linux kernel: 3.0.0-1 x86 64-bit
Since it is a rolling distro, the above versions are as of this writing (Oct 2011).
Installation is pretty straight forward, highly user friendly. Inclusion of GParted for advanced partition management is good choice. I don’t have much to talk on this.
All the hardware was up right out of box. No tweaking. To make it specific, Graphics (Intel Corporation Mobile 4 Series Chipset), Audio (Intel Corporation 82801I ICH9 Family HD) Ethernet (Marvell Technology Group Ltd. 88E8040 PCI-E), Wi-fi (Intel Corporation WiFi Link 5100), Bluetooth (044e:3017 Alps Electric Co., Ltd BCM2046) were just ready. Usually in Debian installation, I use to spend time on this side to make it up. Mint makes it easy. Another one important aspect is working of Special Function Keys in laptop such as Volume and brightness keys. External Sony 32″ TV detected and main display mirrored by default out of box. Adding a printer was cake walk with Printing tool in Control Center, I configured my HP Photosmart C4588 printer in wireless mode.
Mint addresses this important aspect of a OS in a nice way. Highly user friendly mintInstall Software Manager and Synaptic Package manager for power user. Though I use command line tool apt-get for all my purpose, Synaptic is my pet when we consider GUI. mintInstall is a well organized catalog based software manager. I like it more than Ubuntu Software Center. For installation of .deb package file, GDebi is there always.
It is powered by Debian Testing repositories. Apart from Debian repositories, it has its own repository serving many of the proprietory and customized applications. It includes Opera, Skype, Firefox, Thunderbird, Dropbox, VirtualBox, Flash plugin and Mint’s own developed applications. This makes it easy to install these applications and stay up to date. Chromium browser is available in Debian Main repository itself.
IMHO Software update manager (mintUpdate) in Mint is the best compared to any other OS. It has source selection, selective update and history features.
All system configuration can be done from one control center.
Backup Tool (mintBackup) does the job neatly. It can backup and restore files and package selection. This package selection feature is a good one for every distro hoppers. The file backup can be archive or standard file system hierarchy mode. The archive can be .tar, .tar.gz and tar.bz2. The update is optimized with criteria based sync like MD5Sum mismatch, Size mismatch or Modification time mismatch.
Nautilus File browser has been provided with my favorite two features – “open as administrator” and “Open in Terminal”. No unnecessary customization, just to the point.
Domain blocker is another tool, which blocks a domain for users. It is highly useful as a child safety tool. I tested it with Google Chrome, which is not default browser out of box (Firefox is the default one) – it works well.
Simple user friendly firewall manager available, which works in terms of applications, services and network ports. This is really a easy to use tool for any home user. Must have.
System Services can be managed with “Services Settings” in Control Center. But there is no runlevel selection for each service (BTW Desktop runs at run level 2).
In most of the other distros PDF Printer is configured as hidden one (can be seen in print dialog only that too not user friendly). Here it is shown as a dedicated printer in Control Center. Good touch.
I very much like the custom Mint Menu (mintMenu) tool. Neatly orgainzed categories like Applications, Favourites, Places and System makes it easily navigable. All the categories can be enabled/disabled. In short entire menu is highly customizable. Context menu items for shortcuts is worth mentioning here. Apart from Menu preference tool it has usual alacarte Menu editor tool also.
Mint has customized Faenza icon theme with greens shade. It is one of the complete and colorful icon theme for GTK based desktops. It looks neat and clean.
Nautilus Actions Configuration tool is worth to get mentioned here. I was looking for such tool. It makes context menu extensible for power user. One example is already given in this tool – MD5Sum option.
Desktop settings tool does some of the frequently used gconf entry based settings. Identifying this kind of small but most demanded customization is the strength of Linux Mint.
Giver is a file sharing tool, I am yet to try. As I have understood, this is another value addition to make file sharing simple at least in home network.
1. Stable and robust Debian base
2. Huge Debian repository and Mint’s repository to add value to it
3. Perfectly balanced customization to satisfy both Power user and beginners
4. Highly responsive applications
5. Mint developed system tools add value to this desktop
6. Aesthetically pleasant workspace
Minor glitches here and there such as Seahorse (Encryption Key manager) asking for Master password occasionally, absence of splash (personally I consider this as Pro), Occasional misfire of Mint Menu through Ctrl+Super_L key.
Linux Mint is the best value addition to Debian compared to any other Debian derivative. This is how Ubuntu started, but it has taken its own direction now. Though Ubuntu has contributed enough to fine tuning of Linux desktop, I have to admit that it has stripped down all necessary features and trying to imitate OS X. LMDE is my new Ubuntu. +1 to Linux Mint Fan Club