30 Days with Linux Mint

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30 Days with Linux Mint

Postby christopher.wortman on Wed Jul 20, 2011 6:07 pm

Linux Mint 11 32 bit Review:

An in depth review of any Linux distribution would be boring, however, I only have good to say about this distribution. It still uses old Gnome 2.32.0. It has the bottom Windows like menu and the interface is very easy to navigate. Finding where things are is not difficult by any means. I like to review random stuff. I much prefer “Software Manager” over Ubuntu Software Center. It doesn't hang as much, and seems to work very well. I found I was much better off switching to Metacity from Compiz which is fine. I ran into a couple issues with Wine, but nothing turning off all the pretty effects couldn't fix.

In this I will try to replace Windows and OSX as much as physically possible. In fact I will be using nothing but Linux Mint 11 for 30 or so days.

Day 1:
Installation and getting settled. I chose to use a USB stick and Universal Linux USB from http://www.pendrivelinux.com/universal- ... -as-1-2-3/ and selected Mint 11 and selected the downloaded 900mb ISO. It brought me to a live desktop with an icon to install the OS on the desktop.

AMD Athlon X220 Dual Core 2.0 GHZ
2G DDR3 1066MHZ
1TB HDD
Nvidia 8400GX 1G DDR3

Not a beastly system, but enough to give Linux some running room.

I usually tend to stay away from Gnome distributions as Gnome never has enough for me to actually enjoy life. Gnome 3 will be no exception to this rule. I am sure the interface will grow and yadda yadda yadda, but when KDE 4 came out it had a complete desktop. Sure people complained, and they took a while to get the features in there that people wanted, but KDE 4 offered something that was still missing in every other desktop. With that being said, lets kick off this journey.

It installed rather quickly and the included wallpapers and themes are very nice, however, still not as easy to install themes as it is in KDE. Not a big deal, but I look for the little things that people tend to miss. All in all, I can't tell I am using Gnome, I feel like I am using “Linux Mint” one thing Ubuntu failed to do, even with Unity. When using Unity I feel like I am using a cheap OSX knock off. So this is definitely a step up from there. Surfing around the Internet seemed to be a breeze and things popped up asking me to install flash and multimedia codecs, rather than waiting for me to go looking for them. This is a nice step, and reminds me of KDE based distributions.

Do I know you? You aren't Linux. You have smooth flash playback and quick video jumping and decent applications. I know it has been a year or so since I actually played with Linux, but this is not the Linux I remember from a year ago. It certainly is the same Gnome though. And Gimp hasn't changed at all. I will talk more about the applications tomorrow.

I installed a few things in Wine. So lets talk about them for now. WoW the game I enjoy runs flawlessly (after enabling metacity and disabling compiz). I am very impressed with this. I used to stay away from Wine, but since I set out to replace Windows, I might as well. Ill be probably using Arch with KDE next like a good KDE fan anyway, so it couldn't hurt to mess with Wine. Rosetta Stone 3.4.5, the application I use for work, works wonderfully. I am very impressed with Wine. Other things didn't work, Office 2010 installed, but didn't start, and QuickBooks 2011 started but didn't seem to want to do anything. This is not an issue and remnants of OSX, install VMWare Workstation and a stripped down XP specifically for this purpose. All I need to do is copy my image over from the Mac and I have all my work applications already installed. The in-house developed database application did not want to work properly. It would connect to the server at work, and it would run, but just randomly complain when trying to open databases about the data not being there, then open it anyway. It refused to save any changes made to existing databases though. I am sure Winetricks would probably fix it, but I am going to just use VMWare Workstation as I get it free from work anyway. Uninstalling the applications went smoothly enough. When I get home from work tomorrow I will be sure to bring home the VMWare disk and a Linux License out of the supply room. All in all, there is no way you can fully replace Windows. I am sure with the advent of Office 365 and Mint from Intuit, we might see Office and QuickBooks being replaced, but there are a slew of other applications for work that I use at home that makes this a very damp transition. Also I noticed Rosetta Stone randomly complain about some error requiring me to install it over and over just to get it to work after closing it.

At the end of Day 1 it was a lot like buying a Mac. It had all these quirky little features, but as soon as you went to do something you were used to doing, you have to find some work around. It is why you don't see more Macs. But I feel accomplished and was able to just find what I needed to get the little things done, which is more than I can say for Winodws 7 SP1. I remember jumping from XP to 7 and it was not this aquatic, it was very rocky, and I needed to figure out that I was using 64 bit and that it messed everything up and I needed 32 bit just to work.
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Re: 30 Days with Linux Mint

Postby christopher.wortman on Wed Jul 20, 2011 7:09 pm

Day 2:

USB 3 works swimmingly well, and I didn't even realize that it had support in Linux. I have 2 USB 3 devices, a Western Digital hard disk and an Android device I use like an ipod. Both work wonderfully with absolutely no configuration or drivers. Windows 7 after installing USB 3 drivers, needs drivers for both devices to work at all. The devices would load a dummy drive and install them, but the fact is that is one less thing I had to do. My USB 2 720P HP webcam worked but I needed to find cheese and install Kopete, a messaging application from KDE as Pidgin is unable to even think about webcams. Shame on me for thinking Gnome had finally stepped out of it's box lol. My printer simply printed without drivers once again and no configuration. Kodak EasyShare 5100 All In One with integrated flatbed scanner. Both Simple Scan and Picassa were able to scan from the scanner. Oddly enough the winfax dialup modem worked and I was able to fax a document into work with efax-gtk. Although without meaning to it was a picture of my dog, the fact is I can do it. I got a call within like 10 minutes asking about it and I told them I was testing Linux. Mind you I have yet to touch terminal or a configuration file.

VMWare Workstation DEB file installed without issue and I was not able to use the network to communicate with the Mac, however I think this is OSX fault because I can see the Windows laptop without issue. So I copied it to my external hard drive and just copied it over this way. All started and worked like a charm.

Sometimes I get the random itch to play an old SNES or Genesis rom, needless to say the emulators work beautifully. Even the gameboy advance one works without issue. I own every game I download the rom to, you should see my attic @_@, my wife is always asking me when I am going to throw them out.

Openshot provides me with basic tools to edit and slap videos together for the likes of YouTube. It reminds me of the likes of Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. Basic functionality with a “good enough” mentality that makes me really hate Gnome. It doesn't go above and beyond what I expected. It is a nice application to have though, and it is very speedy at what it does.

Audacity is an application I really enjoy. Again with a “good enough” mentality, however, neither Windows or OSX offer anything at a basic level that does what this application can. I am able to use this to record all of my old cassettes to digital format, and I am able to record to digital format from my thought recorder that uses tiny cassettes. This is a very nice application to have.

XBMC – I had to go to their website to get it, however this is a non-issue. It trumps Moovida imho. Moovida is too unresponsive and takes a few milliseconds for me to realize it did what I told it to. XBMC should be standardized upon. Moovida is a pile of trash that should be put down and forgotten about. XBMC is open source, and therefore should not be ignored. It is wonderful and I am able to use my Microsoft branded USB optical with Microsoft remote with XBMC with no configuration needed. Moovida acted like it wasn't even there. I really tried with Moovida too I went out to Google to figure out what to do and it wanted me to go in and edit some configuration files, and that was where I drew the line. I don't have time to mess with crap like that, so out with Moovida and in with XBMC. I am able to sit on my couch and relax with my computer hooked to my TV like I did with Windows 7. It sees my TV Tuner card which Moovida seemed to want to go through some shabeel with “copyright protection” then fail to use it. It is like night and day with these two applications but the one I had to go out of my way to find was the one worth using. It records TV shows and pauses live tv just like WMC. I am beyond impressed with this application.

I sat down and tried to work with LibreOffice just so I didn't have to open VMWare just to edit a spreadsheet for work and that was an utter failure. Nothing lined up properly. Needless to say LibreOffice will be coming off my machine to save space. It might be the greatest office replacement on the planet and can spout gold out of it's mouth and make monkeys do a rain dance, if I can't use it with the thousands of documents from the work server at home, it is useless. I like to sit at home and accomplish the 90% of work to save on gas. It gives me more time with my family. I really like Microsoft's cloud features and Skydrive works really nicely with Firefox. I might invest in Office 365 and write it off on my taxes. After trying the free trial it is beautiful and allows me to edit files on the Skydrive on the fly without saving it to my computer, keeping work at work. Microsoft may not be able to make an OS, but they sure do understand Office.

I am able to mount ISOs and actually edit them like a live filesystem which is really nice. I am able to auth DVDs of my family videos before burning them with DeVeDe (another KDE application) and use the ISO before burning it to see how it plays so as to not waste disks. I am finding that I am able to really stay away from Windows with a lot of ease. I only needed to boot the VMWare image for Rosetta Stone, and QuickBooks. After I was done I paused the image and went on with my day. I am beyond impressed with this free OS and all it's free applications.
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Re: 30 Days with Linux Mint

Postby christopher.wortman on Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:09 am

Day 7
So today Tuesday, July 26 marks day 7 of using Mint 11. It has been very out of my comfort zone using Gnome. I was able to get an older version of Rosetta Stone to work in Wine, 3.3 which seems to work with all my language packs, apparently the old adage is true, newer does not always mean better and updating is optional. Boy do I have a lot to say though.

Gnome needs to be ditched, there are so many other desktop environments available and making your own is not that difficult. LXDE, is one of my offshore favorites, but it seems to be developed second for Mint. In Mint 11 I expected Gnome 3, but it is still Gnome 2. My guess is they couldn't figure out how to make it look like old Gnome and Gnome 3 Shell, is absolutely horrid. KDE 4.6.5 is utterly fabulous and 4.7 is around the corner and doesn't contain nearly half the issues both Gnome 2.x and 3 have. There is a part inside of me that wishes Gnome would grow up and deliver, but it is slowly dieing and a dawning comprehension of the childish nature that is the mindset of the developers. In the open source circles this may very well be widely accepted, however, the world votes and it does not like it. From random happenstance disappearances of panels to random hangs I know are not caused by my fully working Intel hardware. It should not be centered around or standardized upon. It is garbage, pure and simple, and rarely does any world class applications come out of GTK, because nothing in GTK is standardized. If people could pull together and a few leaders with a lot of followers could be had, we might have something worth using. The fact remains, everyone wants to be frocking amazing, with no follow through game. Face the facts, Gnome sucks. Linux being at barely breaking market share 1% should tell you that. Dump it, time to move on, especially if Gnome 3.5 is no better, but don't hold your breath, because the developers don't care about completion, and it takes them nearly half a decade to release an interim build with barely any changes.

At least Ubuntu is using Unity, but even in their next release they need to include QT and develop for QT to make up for the lack in GTK as a whole. I say stand out and go ahead and fully standardize on QT and either make your own desktop, or try some tricks with KDE, you can do so much with it, and it is super stable. I really think Unity may be going somewhere if they finally woke up and decided to use QT.

You might not realize this, but you have to be popular if you want your OS to thrive and win a whole lot of market share, and that may mean doing somethings you might not like. I am not saying, sell your soul like Novell did, however, be your own thing, not just “Ubuntu 2.0” I get so sick of seeing this “me too” attitude in open source circles. You need to understand people, they are finicky and the least little thing may set them off so sick of you back to Windows. Why? “I paid for it, therefore I have a promise from the company that eventually they have to uphold” Enter Windows 7 and the next version Windows 8. I have used Windows 8 betas, and they are nothing short of incredible. Faster than Windows 7 and even more stable.

I have been saying this for years, you need three things to be successful in the operating system market:
1. Keep It Simple Simon
2. the 3 'S'es stability, speed, and stability
3. applications

The first one doesn't mean dumb it down, it means collaboration, and organization. You can have an interface so easy a baby can use it, however, if it doesn't empower me, it's useless.

The second one is I think one of the most prominently important. Redundant checks, and balances and make it behave in a manner that people can pick up on, random issues for no reason piss people off.

The third, you need to give it something it can apply itself with. Again if it is so simple and pointless with no power, it might as well not exist because it is a waste of time. OpenShot is a prime example. It is good, maybe decent, but it isn't world class. It is “good enough”. Nobody is making anything I would pay for. “Well that's open source Chris” You can have an open source version of your applications and also have somethings I want to pay for because it supports you, and it allows me to get my work done.

If you don't do these things, expect failure and ridicule. I give my constructive criticism before going into this next part. I find Mint 11 very useful and there are a lot of areas that implement this level of professionalism. The menu for starters, I am in love with it. It is absolutely brilliant and very organized. Software manager is simply a joy to use, and is a far cry better than Ubuntu's Software Center. Computer is wonderful and its simply wonderful that it mounts everything like in Windows. Microsoft spends literally a billion and a half dollars on research and development on how users react and interact with computers. Following their basic interface rules cannot hurt you so long as you don't become a carbon copy cat. A lot of little things here and there remind me so much of KDE, I might as well install KDE. The icon changes are a bit much, though, and left me scratching my head and thinking, “they went too far here, but didn't cross any lines, they just need to take it back a bit and stick with default icons for 3rd party applications like Firefox and VLC.” There wasn't anything I couldn't figure out, and for the first time, I could use this and stand on my own two feet with Linux without having to go to Google or IRC and ask “how do I do this?”

I paid for a year of Office 365 and it only cost me $36. I have all of the availability and features of Office 2010 on Linux for next to nothing. I never thought I would see the day. Of course if you are wise, at least for now, you can keep making new emails and getting 30 day trials and editing and saving the documents on your desktop and keeping them off your live account, but for the price it is not expensive at all.

The community all seem to be a lot nicer than those that surround Ubuntu. Not to mention more helpful when it comes to figuring out what I am asking. I have no qualms to speak of here and it is very nice to have a forum where everyone has respect for one another still. Maybe it is the entirety of the Ubuntu community with the hundreds of thousands of users all at once trying to get a Windows replacement, expecting a free Windows, not being Windows, and running away crying or just way to hyped up. I like the mature user base of Mint.

This is the first time in ever that I sat down and used a Linux distribution without it exploding and not booting or some other randomness. I am able to use applications and not play with system files. I don't have to know my /usr/ directory by heart in order to change my resolution. I have this issue where if it is the correct resolution my TV doesn't display the entire image, so I have to change it down then back up just to get it to work properly (cheap TV). I also can take it over to my monitor on my desk and change the resolution to 2460x1900 and back so I can take it back to my TV.

It is nice to print and receive faxes and have everything just meld together properly. My video camera shows up as a mounted device, things seem to work really well together. Other than a few Gnome centric issues, this is a really solid OS. When the KDE version comes out I will be switching over to it, and I will be trying it out on my dad.
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Re: 30 Days with Linux Mint

Postby christopher.wortman on Wed Jul 27, 2011 10:35 am

From a Windows user standpoint:
Day 8
My dad

I tried Mint 11 Gnome on my dad and he seemed to get along with Mint 11. There were a few things he disliked. The lack of a decent solitaire game so I installed KDE games as the gnome ones are just plain ugly. I need to mention that my dad is really finicky when it comes to things. He has been an avid Windows user since Windows 3.1, and knows how to swap ram and swap out a power supply if need be. He can reinstall Windows and all that jazz if he needs to. He is really self sufficient and hates to ask others for help. If he can't figure it out on his own he wont use it.

So after sitting down with him and stuff, he really didn't like Linux Mint, and is completely turned off to Linux all together. Gnome is to blame. Random disappearing panels and hangs existed there too. I only experience these issues with Gnome. Even Gnome 3 is extremely unstable.

What did you like most about it?
Everything seemed to work great at first, things talked and I didn't have to install anything to make my printer work. My web-cam worked, but you needed to install Kopete, there was no default good application that seemed to work with it. I like the KDE applications you installed.

What did you like least about it?
It kept crashing. Things kept disappearing and I couldn't figure out why, like the bar would stop showing my tasks. There were a certain number of applications that I didn't like. Chrome would not work with my bank I had to use Firefox, which is ok I like Firefox, but Chrome on Windows worked where on Linux it seemed to have a lot of issues.

Final thoughts?
Yeah I don't like it, it looks nothing like your laptop. I want what you have if I am going to try anything again, I used your laptop and I loved it, but this is garbage.

I have Arch with KDE, which I will be installing on his system next. From a Windows “super user” (I use the term lightly) standpoint, he could figure it out but it took a while. Gnome centric issues kept popping up everywhere like his printer failing out when I went to print out a guide on something for Arch. I had to restart just to get it to work. Would I trust this on a system I am getting paid to fix? No. Would I install this on a system I use all the time? Probably but only as a secondary machine. I am finding it an uphill battle to get along with Gnome on my home machine too. When it works it is great, but then there is that random invisible brick wall I run head long into from time to time that makes me question anyone's choice in Gnome. Usability issues just don't exist like this in XFCE, LMDE, and KDE. There is a lot that works great like VMWare Workstation is swimmingly good, and other random applications are amazing, but it's the problematic symptoms of Gnome that will be the Achilles heal.
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