Hi. This has been my first shot at Mint, so I thought I'd share my experience in benefit of the community and future development. I love the project and the direction it's going. And the MATE/Cinnamon alternatives to Gnome3/Unity is another strong point. I love the look and originality, and hope to be using Mint in future distributions. My overall experience so far with Mint 13 XFCE 64-bit, none the less (after one week), has been more negative than positive. May it be noted that all comments and impressions are made with the intention of being helpful and constructive by providing one user's experience and point of view, and in no way mean to undermine all the hard work and effort of all the people working on this project.
So...here it goes:
Was previously running WattOS R5, and decided to switch to Mint because of looks and personalization options. WattOS is FAST and VERY lightweight - perfect for a netbook or any old/low-spec PC - but not particularly good looking and, more importantly, lacking settings and config options. The first impression of Mint xfce was fantastic: ran it live from USB on my HP netbook and was charmed by the looks and pleased with system speed and fluidity, software collection: VLC, Banshee, Brasero, OpenOffice, gThumb, Gimp, all out of the box. Wireless forked flawlessly (during initial test) and overall general impression. So...I installed it on my netbook, and my girlfriend's (to be her divorce from Windows and iniciation into Linux! Hurrah!). After installation, having updated the system, installed applications and copied documents to hard drive, the bugs began. On both netbooks.
Internet connection often fails. Speed varies between normal speed one third of the time and back-to-256k-modem kind of sluggish the other 2/3 of the time. Web page connection timeouts are frequent. Very frequent. (Not a card or driver issue, as both netbooks are using differend adapters).
System speed has become terribly slow for no apparent reason. New software has been installed since system installation, but nothing out of the ordinary (inkscape, skype, chromium, jdownloader, dropbox). Nothing that could sensibly justify it being slower than when I was once running Kubuntu on the same machine, with visual effects activated and pretty much the same software installed. No odd software installed, no full hard-drive, no background apps, plenty of swap space...System works fine when first booted, but after browsing with Firefox for a while, and then using Transmission or Jdownloader, the system becomes terribly sluggish, as if all CPU were being used or no RAM were available. Checking task manager, there's no apparent reason for this (although task manager DOES reveal that one of the CPU's cores is working at almost 100%, all the time, while the other one never reaches 50%. Reliable info or task manager bug?). With such memory hogs active, it's no surprise, but even after having closed all programs, performance remains the same until reboot, as if RAM were never freed up after its use.
The sofware manager is very slow and buggy. Synaptic proves much more dependable.
File manager is unable to eject external hard drives (No problem with flash drives, though). These have to be unmounted and powered down via disk utility or terminal.
File manager is unable to open an entire folder on external HD due to ONE corrupt file within said folder. File cannot be deleted, even from terminal. Deleting via inode might work, but that's beyond the point I'm trying to make.
I've been using Linux since Jaunty. I can more or less defend myself within the terminal, using my vast list of pdf's and text notes if necessary...move, copy, delete, install, add repositories, compile from source (when not too many complications arise). I still see myself as a complete newbie, but since I first switched over from Windows, I've been enthusiastic and willing to learn. Linux is my primary OS, and the only reason Windows is even on (my other, decent, laptop), is because of video editing software. I enjoy using Linux, and believe in what it stands for, and feel that it's worth the effort of learning, taking the time to get things working, when necessary, and generally taking an interest.
In this case, though, unlike in the past, I've opted for switching over to another flavour of Linux. I loved Mint, but will have to give it another shot in the future. Right now, this netbook is my only computer, for work and personal use, and I need things to work...now. And I'm sure these problems all have solutions, but at the moment, I don't have the time to navigate the forums looking for fixes or posting my individual problems and having to wait several days until a working fix can be found. Am I'm sure there are many other users in similar circumstances, who don't have the time to spend on this kind of tasks, or the interest to investigate a little and learn how to resolve small bugs of this sort.
Since I installed it on my girlfriend's netbook, I'm very conscious of her perspective, user profile and approach to personal computing, and am afraid that, as a first time Linux user, this kind of issues could scare her off. As many others, she uses her computer to check her e-mail, edit text, watch movies and listen to music. And that's about it. She's not interested in what's under the hood, or why her wireless connection keeps failing - and sure as hell isn't going to do any research or attempt to solve it or get anywhere near the terminal. She'll go for the OS that works the best and the fastest, and gives her the least headaches, bumps and glitches. Period. And it's precisely the GUI-oriented, user-friendly, straight-forward, efficient, stable, out-of-the-box functionality that has won over so many new Linux users in the past few years - no matter how much purists may resent this
I've yet to try any other Mint desktop environments, but in the XFCE flavour, I feel the Mint is spot on as far as looks, ease of use, hardware support, package availability & customisation, but lacking a bit in the performance and general stability/lack of bugs departments. More updates to solve this type of problems seems crucial to keep adepts on board.
One more idea: I'm a Firefox adept, and will choose it over Opera or Chromium anytime (mostly because of stability and commitment to the ex-Netscape for their contribution to the development of open-source), but being a lightweight desktop environment, wouldn't Chromium or Midori make more sense?
Having said that, Mint is a very young distribution that has achieved a great deal in its short trajectory. It's a very promising project, and I'm expectant to see how it develops in the future. These small issues aren't big enough to be discouraging, and will surely disappear as the distro matures, but should be addressed in order to keep users happy and maintain support in the project
Regards, congratulations and encouragement from a Spanish-American Linux enthusiast living in France!