I think I am going to scrub my Ubuntu 10.04 system (the one I am typing on is Linux Mint Debian), and do another Arch Linux install. At that point Ubuntu will have been totally jettisoned. For an Ubuntu done better than Ubuntu, I have Linux Mint. LM is great for an easy productive installed Linux. However, it is so easy that it does not do much for my need for a Linux “geek” fix. So, that is what Arch is for. Not an easy install. I have to actually think, read, and learn to do stuff properly on it which is why I fell in love with Linux in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not an Ubuntu hater. The Ubuntu team did some really great things and set some really high bars that I think had a great influence on the entire Linux world. However, I think they have taken a wrong turn with their emphasis on the Unity desktop and have dumbed down the system far too much. I do appreciate their reasoning for doing this in that they want to get as many newbies and hopeless end users onto Linux and expand the user base. I really do applaud that and wish them all the best. However, it is just not for me. I am a hardcore geek. I write code. I do geek for a living and for pleasure. I just need something more chanenging and interesting. Fot me comptuing is not just a means to and end, it an end unto itself. So, of to greener pastures. I have done Arch before, and really like it. Even when I got stumped a few times on how to do something, I really liked it. Linux Mint for my everyday utilitarian computing and Arch for my geek needs. That’s where I am at now, but given time all this too will change. I love the ever changing Linux landscape.
I have just realized that I have not done an Ubuntu install in … well … a long time. And it seems that the last time there was this crazy user interface called Unity that completely, utterly, turned me off to that distribution. With all the very many things I do like about Ubuntu, the simple fact is that if I hate the interface I simply won’t use it or recommend it to others. So, what to do? I did do something. I switched to Linux Mint. Being basically build on top of the Ubuntu repositories, but with many improvements and the with the basic understanding that the application centric interface systems (like you see on the iPhone) are NOT suitable for use as a desktop environment. All I really want is a normal desktop environment. I did not need or WANT a new computer interface paradigm forced upon me. I am convinced that most Linux users feel the same way. Not only that, but I am very certain that Unity is also not the way to introduce new users to Linux. Linux Mint has everything in it that I wanted and liked about Ubuntu, but without the terrible monstrosity of a non-dekstop called Unity and without the arrogance of thinking they know what is best for all us. The Linux Mint developers have been committed to the needs and sensibilities of the users and that has won my loyalty. I now tell folks that I use Linux Mint, and I recommend it to others.
Linux Mint, 2 thumbs up!
more about Unity badness…
After facing so many frustrations with Ubuntu 11.04 and uncertainties as to where Ubuntu is going in the future, I finally decided to bite the bullet and try different distributions. The latest two that I have tried I can give 2 big thumbs up. These were Linux Mint 11 and Linux Mint Xfce.
Linux Mint 11 is based on Ubuntu 11.04, but the Linux Mint team chose to not include the Unity desktop. This distribution is everything that I would have hoped Ubuntu 11.04 could have been. In fact, the level of polish and completness in Linux Mint 11 exceeds that typical of most Ubuntu releases. This is saying a lot, because most Ubuntu releases are quite good. However, one thing still worries me – GNOME. Linux Mint kept the GNOME 2.3x desktop, which I prefer, but I must wonder if they will it be forced into GNOME3 in the next release? I like GNOME2 and am not looking for wholesale changes of my desktop. This type of uncertainty about the future of the desktop has given me enough pause to cause me to explore other desktops, which leads me to my next big thumbs up.
Linux Mint Xfce is NOT based on the Ubuntu upstream package sources. Instead, it is based on the upstream Debian Testing packages. This is also a “rolling” distribution as it is continuously taking updates from Debian Testing rather than being locked in until the next big release. In essence, there will not be a next big release, or need for a reinstall, or a major “upgrade”. It will simply update right along with the Debian updates. I like this! Also, it is not a GNOME based distribution, it is Xfce. I have long been a fan of Xfce as an alternative to GNOME. Like GNOME, it is based on the GTK+ libraries, but is lighterweight in its resource usage. This is turning out to be what I would consider to be an ideal Debian based distro and may be where I call home for a while. Were there any issues? Yes, but only a minor one. Linux Mint Xfce does not include the jockey-gtk package that the GNOME based distribution does. This package makes for easier installation of restricted hardware packages, such as the Broadcom STA wireless driver. I would strongly urge the Linux Mint team to consider its inclusion in the future or provide their own alternative. However, this was easily overcome once I found the instruction on the Debian site for installation and configuration of the WL package. This was straightforward and simple. Here is the link. Debian WL driver install. Also, this distribution came configured with the Linux 2.6.32 kernel. This is understandable since it was the kernel used in Linux Mint 10, which this is essentially a continuous update of. I chose to update the Linux 2.6.38 kernel and did so via the Synaptic Package Manager. This upgraded flawlessly. I do not know if the update system would have eventually provided the kernel update to me, but it was reported my system as up to date so I am guessing it was not going to do so.
I would recommend either of these offerings from Linux Mint as an alternative to Ubuntu. For those simply wanting a good GNOME desktop experience with no hickups, go for Linux Mint 11. For those wanting to try a different desktop altogether, but one similar to GNOME2, give Linux Mint Xfce a try. I think you will enjoy either of these. Remember, Linux is all about CHOICE. You are not locked into any distribution or desktop system. Don’t be afraid to try out new things. If enough folks decide not to adopt Ubuntu 11.04 or its Unity desktop, they will get the message.