Linux Mint 15 is based on Ubuntu, which means that all the same software repositories and drivers can be used. Both the Cinnamon and MATE desktops look similar to Windows, offering a taskbar at the bottom of the screen and a start button (labelled “Menu”) at the bottom left.
Getting started with Mint is really easy, even for those who've never used Linux in their life. The installer guides you through the installation process, helping you partition your hard disk and automatically detecting and installing drivers for your hardware.
When Mint starts for the first time you’ll find that additional software such as supplementary media codecs and the Java engine – optional components in Ubuntu – have been installed by default. There's a suite of applications preinstalled as well, including Libre Office, Firefox, Thunderbird, the Banshee media player, the Pidgin IM client and the GIMP image editor.
Additional software can be installed by way of the Mint Software Manager. Available software is divided into twelve categories, including Featured applications and a view showing all 60,000+ available packages. Within each category, packages appear with descriptions and user ratings.
When it comes to getting work done, Mint is a breath of fresh air to get around in. If you've used Windows Explorer you will have no difficulty finding your way around in Mint's Nemo file manager. The MATE desktop environment lets you place a tiny overview of your virtual workspaces directly on the taskbar (or the “task panel” as it’s called in Mint).
Linux Mint’s new releases tend to bring evolutionary improvements. New features in Mint 15 include themeable login screens; a new software management tool called Software Sources; a new driver management tool; and a unified System Settings view – an improvement over previous versions that split settings icons across two different windows. The latest version of Cinnamon also brings support for what Mint calls “Desklets” – also known as desktop widgets, or “Gadgets” in Windows 7 and Vista. Cinnamon Desklets float on your desktop, providing at-a-glance information.
Linux Mint 15 is really slick! No surprise that it’s so quickly gaining popularity. DistroWatch (www.distrowatch.com) reports far more visitors seeking information about Mint than any other distribution including Ubuntu.
Be aware that upgrading Mint from one version to the next is not a straight forward task. Ubuntu offers version to version upgrades via its Software Updater tool. Mint on the other hand makes usability and stability priority one with its releases, and discourages users from upgrading from one version to the next as a matter of course. If you insist on doing so you’ll have to back up your system's data with the Mint backup tool, then perform a fresh installation before reinstalling your data. Not all that hard, and it gives you a perfect result this way, but another step or two you need to be aware of.
Alternatively, you could choose to install Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), a continuously updated “semi-rolling release”. It’s based on Debian instead of Ubuntu, and calls for “a deeper knowledge and experience with Linux, dpkg and APT”.
While no operating system is perfect, Mint 15 is, overall, a slick, easy to use distro that greatly appeals to long time Windows users. If you're mulling over which distribution to test first, Linux Mint is a highly capable, problem free distro to take those first steps with! Won't take more than a few minutes to become entirely comfortable with it, and from there on it's a revelation as you discover just how capable a modern cutting edge Linux distro like Mint can be!
Mint is kinda like the Toyota Tacoma of Linux distros, beautiful, virtually bullet proof, and good to go wherever and whenever you put it in gear and hit the gas!