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Linux Mint "Bianca" KDE Edition Beta 020: A Small Review

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Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based distro whose goal in life, per its website, "is to produce an elegant, up to date and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution." The developers have released both GNOME-based and KDE-based versions in the past, and their latest version, v2.2 "Bianca," is already final in its GNOME incarnation. They just released a beta version of "Bianca KDE Edition" using KDE v3.5.6. The final version is to be released later this month.

Mint also comes with proprietary multimedia components such as libdvdcss2 and w32codecs preinstalled, so that it'll play DVDs and most video formats out of the box. It has the Flash plugin and Java preinstalled as well, for all your web-viewing needs. This version of Linux Mint uses kernel 2.6.17-10 (by contrast, Debian Etch will use 2.6.18).

The 803 MB DVD is live, like the other Ubuntus, so there's no need to install it to test it out. Like many other live CDs, it uses unionfs to give the feel of a writeable filesystem, so that, given enough memory, you can install quite a few things on it.

1. Default look 'n' feel

This is what it looks like when first started: Very green and very zen. At the bottom, there are two panels on top of one another; the bottom one has a news ticker going, monitoring the Mint forum's RSS feed (there are a bunch of other feeds to choose from in its configuration). The top one contains a KMenu replacement called the "Tasty Menu" which feels like a "lite" version of the Suse menu some of you may be familiar with.

2. Tasty Menu in action

The distro also includes a new, simplified file manager application for KDE, named Dolphin. Word is that this will be the default file manager in KDE 4. (Konqueror is still available; you will have to run it from the command line or from the panel button, however.)

3. Dolphin file manager

Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment, it's time to get back to blue, and something a bit more familiar. So stand by while I repaint the walls and switch around the furniture...

4. Linux Mint reloaded

Ahhhh. Same distro, different look. Much better, IMHO. Nice that KDE is so configurable.

5. Suse menu in action

You can, of course, switch to the new Suse menu if you like it better. In other words, you can choose from between 3 different menu styles.

Beyond the usual suspects -- digiKam; the GIMP; K3b; KOffice, and MPlayer -- Mint comes with a DVD ripper named "k9copy" and a CD ripper named "KAudioCreator."

6. CD and DVD rippers

If you'll pardon a bit of editorializing, one thing Ubuntu does that causes pain to hardened Linux users is to (over-)simplify things. Since Mint uses the default Ubuntu repositories, it contains such Ubuntu "gems" as System Settings, which aims at replacing the KDE Control Center. Each of the icons in System Settings, when clicked, brings up a KDE Control Center module, so I'm not clear on why this needed to be done. Perhaps it's to bring KDE and GNOME closer together. In any case, here are both:

7. "kcontrol" vs. "systemsettings"

The default package manager is named Adept. You can run it in two modes, one of which appears much simpler to use than the other. (Note the "Kubuntu Hardware Database Collection" applet in the background. Evidently the Kubuntu folks are trying to keep up on what hardware does and doesn't work. The applet collects information on your hardware and sends it to Kubuntu.)

8. Adept

Finally, you can install and run Beryl from the Mint live CD, given enough memory. (If you have an nvidia card, as I do, the easiest way to get this working is just to run the proprietary nvidia installer and do some editing of xorg.conf by hand. They include a script named "envy" that will install and uninstall nvidia/ATI drivers, but it didn't work well for me. The DVD includes the kernel headers, so using the nvidia installer is relatively painless.)

9. Beryl

Finally, one cute thing: every time you log on, "fortune" pops up a witty joke or phrase. (It has blonde jokes, fer cryin' out loud.)

I found Linux Mint to be an easy-to-use distribution with a growing forum and wiki. Release notes are here. Download links are here.

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Linux Mint "Bianca" KDE

I took it for a teny tiny test drive on my HP laptop. I love the default menu. It's better than the suse menu in that you don't have all this 'clicking back and forth to see anything' going on. I think the third panel that reveals the contents of subcategory with just a mouse hover is nice. I really liked it. So much so that I was thinking of installing the system until I couldn't get my wireless to work. That's where my test ended.

I hated the default wallpaper. Ugly color and I don't like people on my desktop, even in silhouette - especially female (being female it has no allure for me). This one isn't offensive by trying to allude sexuality, it appears she is meditating. So perhaps it's suppose to have a calming effect or reveal some philosophy of the Linux Mint project. Still, I didn't care for it. Of course wallpapers can be changed.

I liked the log out menu as it has suspend and hibernate as options. Very few linux distributions include those options there. It's a nice touch. I'm still new to this modern laptop business, but I'm assuming suspend means suspend to ram and hibernate means suspend to disk. Also still being new to this whole thing, I'm not sure if these options should work from a livecd or not. In this case, they don't. But since wireless doesn't work, I see no point in installing to harddrive to test.

It must be said that my wireless chip requires ndiswrapper to load the windows driver. A natively supported chip would probably work just fine.

Also, I liked your review eco2geek. It was a nice refreshingly different approach. I really appreciate the contribution.


I like its default menu too. Much nicer than Suse's for the reasons you state. Unfortunately Tasty menu isn't available in Debian (yet?). The closest thing is kbfx.

(The adept package manager and the dolphin file manager, the other two things really new to me, are both currently available in Debian.)

Glad you liked it! Honestly I don't know much about Mint, but it certainly seemed like something you could get comfortable with on a workstation, after a few UI changes. (It was way too green for me, the news ticker was distracting, and my dirty mind kept trying to "fill in the blanks" on that female silhouette Smile . Sorry...)

First review

I thought Phoronix was going to beat you to it, but I believe this is the first review -- however small -- of this interesting Kubuntu alternative (with codecs).

Nice screenies. Ta for that!

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