I've been eyeing Linux Mint for quite some time now. I've been using Ubuntu for many years and became quite disillusioned with it when Unity first appeared - then it seemed like each subsequent release just applied updates and bugfixes to Unity, ignoring many other issues. I installed Linux Mint Cinnamon and MATE in VMs and practised on them, getting the desktop just the way I like it and verifying everything works. When Ubuntu 13.10 was released and I found it was more of the same, I finally switched.
My main concern was the loss of all my program preferences. It would have been nice to keep my home directory with all its hidden configuration folders for all the programs but all my research showed it was inadvisable to reuse the home folder. So I made a copy of my home folder and put it on a separate partition so that I'd be able to move over files and keep the configuration folders for reference until everything was running smoothly.
The actual install itself was tricky - for some reason all the Linux USB drive ISO writers did not make bootable keys. This was the same for Ubuntu when I upgraded from scratch so it's not specific to Mint. I did what worked for Ubuntu - I used Universal USB Installer, a Windows
program, from my work laptop running Windows XP. Sad but true, it seems to be the only one that makes bootable Linux USB keys every time...
Anyway when I finally installed it, I put the skills I learned on the VM to good use and configured Cinnamon just the way I wanted it. Very, very attractive - I especially like the bar applets. The weather applet can be very small and unobtrusive and there's a great monitor applet that I'm using. The software update applet is usable and functional while not taking up much space too.
I'm a stickler for having full choice when it comes down to how my computer looks and runs. Ubuntu gave me back that control (over Windows) at first but gradually took it away and 13.10 is almost more inflexible than Windows now, especially the Unity bar. Linux Mint has given me back full control and it really feels refreshing.
- Nemo is a fantastic file manager. I don't know if I'll miss Nautilus' tabbed functionality, I only used that occasionally. I really like the "Open as Root" right-click option, it's come in quite useful as I configure the system. I also like the tiny bars below drives indicating capacity. Small, unobtrusive, yet highly functional, requiring just a glance.
- lower resource usage. Maybe it's the new monitor applet, but CPU and memory usage seem a lot lower...particularly memory.
- lighter, more functional software manager. Ubuntu's was getting very buggy and unwieldy. However it still doesn't beat good ol' Synaptic.
- Ubuntu codebase. Ubuntu is still the most widely-supported distro out there and everything in Ubuntu still runs fine in Mint. All the configuration instructions, all the mirrors and archive servers, everything. I still get to have all the good things about Ubuntu - wide support, lots of documentation, but I drop what irked me about Ubuntu (Unity and Canonical's increasing "do what we say" attitude.)
Almost everything is working now. I still have to tackle that annoying keyring prompt after auto-login (IIRC this was easy to fix in Ubuntu) and the one big thing is filesharing. I always had to futz with that for days after upgrading Ubuntu and it looks like I'll have to again. But I'll get there.
Thanks for Linux Mint everyone!