I have been using Mint since edition 7. So far, every new release has been a step forward at least in looks or in functionality, if not both. Most releases were right away more stable, than the underlying Ubuntu. However, Mint 12 is different. I want to say up front, that I appreciate the efforts of the Mint team, to try and make Gnome 3 more usable and easier to digest, than what the pure Gnome 3 is. But Mint 12 seems to me more like a milestone, a showcase what can be done to Gnome, not really a ready to use release. I have tried to use it for a while and have to say, that it doesn't work for me at all.
We as users will have to go with time and accept that Gnome 2 times are coming to an end. So we have to get used to a new desktop. Maybe over time Gnome 3 will become more usable, than what it is right now. Maybe it is time for some of us, to have a closer look at other desktops, KDE4, XFCe, LXDE or even Unity.
What bugs me most about Mint 12 is, that neither the top nor the bottom panel can be set to auto-hide. You either have the bottom panel switched on, in order to make the desktop look a bit more like what we were used to from previous releases, or one has to switch it off and deal with the stock Gnome 3 look and feel. On my 10.1 inch notebook both panels take up a quite a bit of screen and application windows look very much "sandwiched" in between. MATE might be the retro answer, but it is not yet there, were Gnome 2 has been in the previous release.
I have then tried Ubuntu 11.10 with it's Unity desktop, in order to see, what the fuzz is all about. I have to say, it works more stable and is a lot more usable in my opinion, than the current state of Mint 12. The launcher hides away nicely and there is enough space for application windows.
For my desktop, I am still trying to decide whether to go back to Mint 11 or try and get used to KDE 4, which apparently is a lot more flexible (and stable) than Gnome 3.
For now, I will give Mint12 a skip. I will certainly keep my eyes on Mint and will at least try out future releases. Once usability is back, I will happily join the community again.
However, at this stage, I have to question, whether it is the right decision for Mint to stick with what is now called Gnome. Since users have to get used to something new anyway, why not work on a different desktop environment? Why not try and enhance Unity for example? Or switch the main edition over to KDE?
I am sure, there are good reasons for that.
And I want to say thanks to Clement and his team for years of trouble free computing. Great job well done and I am sure, you guys will overcome the current hurdles.