Linux Mint 11 - Vital Service or Prolonging Agony?

by Susan Linton - May. 27, 2011Comments (18)

mintLinux Mint 11 was released earlier this morning with some new features and lots of updates. One update that's been skipped is immediately apparent - big interface change. Two major distributions have shaken their base a bit with their latest releases and some folks just don't like to shift their computing into a higher gear that quickly. A lot of people have said they expect this release of Linux Mint to boost its numbers due to those that resist change. KDE 4 brought the same effect a couple of years ago, but here we are now and no major KDE 3 distributions are left. Is Mint 11 just delaying the inevitable?

The Mint project puts out the best release announcements, especially for writers. All the new and updated features are spelled out in green and white. For example:

New features at a glance:

* One click install for multimedia codecs and extra applications
* The Software Manager
-- UI improvements
-- New splash screen
-- Fonts category
-- More accurate package information
-- More application icons by default
-- More accurate search by default
* The Update Manager
-- Performance boosts
-- Improved dependencies handling
-- Better changelog retrieval
-- UI improvements
* The Desktop Settings tool
-- "Desktop-agnostic", detection and upcoming compatibility with other desktops
-- New setting for the fortunes in the terminal
* Artwork improvements
-- Backgrounds, overlay scrollbars, plymouth, Mint-X, search add-on.
* System improvements
-- new "apt download" command
-- Adobe flash plugins
* Changes in the software selection

There's just one big question. Mint has always been a wonderful distribution. In fact, it's been one of my favorites. But can its continued use of GNOME 2 this release be described as slowing ripping off the band-aid? GNOME 2 has been deprecated. There will be no more upstream work from the GNOME project on it. Just like with KDE 3, folks will talk of a fork or a continuation project; but just like with Trinity, progress will likely be slow and a difficult row to hoe as well as the stigma of not being embraced by distributions. Is Mint really doing its users a disservice by delaying the transition to GNOME 3 (or Unity)? Or is it serving a vital purpose by providing a familiar interface until a few GNOME 3 updates squash some of the bugs and usability issues?

One early reviewer said of Mint 11,

Starting an application or utility from the Mint Menu is as simple as clicking on the icon; they can of course also be started by clicking on icons in the Panel, if you have added any there, or by double-clicking icons on the desktop.


Wow, isn't that nice! A completely "normal" window, the buttons are at the right side, there are still three of them for minimize/maximize/close, the title bar is completely self-contained and not "shared" with a title bar across the top of the display. Whew.


This will undoubtedly echo many user opinions, but they will fall on deaf ears just as those leveled against early KDE 4. Determined developers with a vision trump public dissent and soon most dissent disappears.

Linux Mint was originally slated to feature GNOME 3 (albeit without the Shell). Developers have not commented publicly about version 12 yet, but they will have to bite the bullet and upgrade at some point. But for now, user comments show enthusiastic support for 11. Whatever your personal opinion, Linux Mint 11 is staying true to its niche by continuing the most important aspect of Linux and Open Source Software - giving users a choice. ...even if only for six more months.

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I think it's quite reasonable. They release a solid, usable release based on the reliable gnome 2, so that they have the time to adapt to the newly introduced desktop. Gnome 3 need also some time to mature and become more usable. Would it be better if they just released a half-baked product like Ubuntu did this time? Also, consider this:

Mint is based on 11.04, and Ubuntu's gnome3 still needs a *LOT* of work from the Ubuntu team. Gnome 3 under Ubuntu kind of sucks, at least for the moment.

1 Votes

weak review, if i could call it a review. We all know what is included, but did it work for you? Could you play MP3, MKV, MP4, etc? Did your browser work as expected? Could you find stuff..options or files? Did your hardware work as expected with a linux distro. I can answer 'YES' to all these questions.


Steve, Linux Mint 11.

1 Votes

As a Mint user I am glad that the team has put GNOME 3 off for 6 months. I really respect that Mint releases when the product is ready, and not simply when it is time. With an extra six months to work on the UI, I imagine that it will be a nice, solid, usable experience when Mint finally takes up GNOME 3.

1 Votes

lol prolonging what?

it's just a sane and smart move to wait until either gnome shell or unity actually become stable and usable - if ever. my money's on gnome shell, in that context.

in the meantime canonical/red hat useful idiots can beta-test those DEs and suffer pain for the greater good of mankind.

btw i used mint for 15 minutes once, it wasn't for me, but it's a great distro for a lot of people. it's solidly put together and if i weren't an "install-base-and-customize-your-own-debian" junkie i'd easily go for mint's xfce/fluxbox, and such, versions.

0 Votes

The fact that you consider Mint to be a wonderful distribution, and has been one of your favorites, is an answer to your own question.

M. Clement LeFebvre, THE force behind Mint, refuses to be swept up in the mania which grips the software industry which mandates that one MUST build and release new software regardless of whether or not it's ready to be released.

There's no excuse for Microsoft's doing this (who started this nonsense), as they have no pre-ordained release cycle, but it's unconscionable for Canonical to do it, which has resulted in Mark Shuttleworth's lame, pathetic excuses re 11.04's disastrous performance. According to the latest from Shutleworth in an interview, 11.04 really wasn't supposed to work properly, but it's the first release IN A CYCLE OF IMPROVEMENTS which will result in a properly-working operating system; BUT: only for those users who have the advanced hardware required to get it operating correctly. There are some Linux distribution leaders who don't talk out of both sides of their mouths.

"The Mint project puts out the best release announcements, especially for writers. All the new and updated features are spelled out in green and white." They are also the best release announcements for users. When was the last time you saw Canonical be totally up-front and honest with the community about one of it's releases? This is one more example of the classy way in which M. LeFebvre works. He is totally transparent and honest with his users and potential users. He continually states that no version of Mint will be released until it's ready.

One may view Mint's lack of a "modern" interface to be a negative, and an "update lack" (some have even referred to it as an example of 'luddite-ism); I consider it to be one more example of Mint's unwavering commitment to get it right the first time, and assurance that the latest Mint offering is exactly what the press release says it is.

0 Votes

Agree with the other commentors that Mint is taking a 'Wait and see' approach, and I feel this is sensible. If this were 18 months down the line, this article would have a point, but Unity and Gnome 3 are just too new and too full of bugs right now. Mint's purpose is to deliver a solid, easy to use, stable desktop, and Unity and Gnome 3 just can't deliver that experience yet.

0 Votes

Agree with the other commentors that Mint is taking a 'Wait and see' approach, and I feel this is sensible. If this were 18 months down the line, this article would have a point, but Unity and Gnome 3 are just too new and too full of bugs right now. Mint's purpose is to deliver a solid, easy to use, stable desktop, and Unity and Gnome 3 just can't deliver that experience yet.

0 Votes

I've tried at least 20 different Linux distros over the last 3 years (mostly Debian based starting with Ubuntu 8.04) and Mint is by far my favorite. I've been using it as my primary OS since Mint 7 and I've seen many small but steady improvements. What I like about Mint is it's usability out of the box in terms of hardware, drivers, and software. While I like having the option to customize the OS, I also appreciate a computer that just works out of the box (a rare luxury). Small things like flash, DVD, and .mp3 support (which I know can be installed after the fact with Ubuntu) are just nice to have working by default. It saves me an extra step in the setup and makes life that much easier for first time Linux users.

I've tried Mint on many devices and it seems to have the best hardware compatibility of any distro I've tried. As for the GUI, I think it is a little premature and harsh to criticize Mint for holding off on adopting something that new. I tried Ubuntu with Unity, and although it is not bad, there are still some minor issues that need to be addressed before I would want to use it. I can't speak to Gnome 3 as I have yet to try it, but I suspect it could benefit from another 6-12 months of updates and tweaks. I trust that when Mint finally makes the move, it will have all the bugs worked out. That trust is why I use Mint as my primary OS.

0 Votes

"developers with a vision trump public dissent and soon most dissent disappears" is a statement reminiscent of Apple or Microsoft. It's the main reason I'm looking into switching to Windows 7 - if I have to learn a whole new way of doing things and taking longer to do each one I might as well go someplace I have some hope things will last longer than 6 months and I can get support for the additional hardware requirements needed. I've been using Linux since 1996 and have had enough with the constant throwing the baby out with the bathwater instead of simply fixing the bugs and providing solid applications.

0 Votes

I tried Fedora 15 with the new Gnome 3 or Gnome Shell desktop,whichever you want to call it. I hate it. It is as different visually from Gnome 2.32 as Unity is. It does not look as though it is even a first cousin of Gnome 2.32. I do understand that "under the hood" it is Gnome but, as it is presented on the desk-top it is not Gnome at all. This is a new animal that I have to spend more of my time learning how to use. WHY? Was Gnome 2.32 broken? Of course not. So,why fix it? Will this change make me more productive? I doubt it. If I did not like the menu and panel system of Gnome, would I be using it ? Would I not be using KDE, Xfce, LXDE, or some other desk-top. So, why remake Gnome into something totally new and still call it Gnome? Why not fork the project if you are going in a completely different direction?

What it will mean is that , If I decide to use Gnome 3 in future,I will have to spend countless hours finding extensions that will make this horrendous thing look and behave like the older Gnome. Something that I can customize the way that I want. Not something that the developers want. Hey! Forward into the past. I read that this is the future, deal with it.It wasn't broken but, we fixed it anyway. We will release it now and fix it later, let it mature.You have to learn to adapt to the new and better "stuff" even if you don't like it. God, it so sounds like the Microsoft Philosophy.

I don't like any of the desk-top.Panels.What Panels? Menus. What menus? Heck, I was so lost that I could not find the shut down button.Stupid user syndrome? How intuitive a design is that? I think that this design is not as intuitive to the desk-top as it might be to a tablet or a smart phone with their thousands of little "apps" icons littering the screen. Is this the direction that we are headed? Change for changes sake. Death to the desk-top computer,we all use netbooks and live on the cloud. Rant,Rant. Sorry.

Most people on this thread have many valid points as to why this "change" is just wrong headed.Keep complaining, maybe someone will listen.I truly was delighted by all the intelligent and insightful comments and arguments presented here. I trust that Clem and the Mint team will listen.They have an developed a wonderful distro by going their own way. The design of the Mint Menu is just one small achievement of that independent thinking. I hope that they do not get caught up the Gnome 3 Shell unless there is an option not to use it.

0 Votes

I will try out mint soon. I'm using Ubuntu and hated the switch to unity. Don't ever change a user interface this radical especially if there is no necessity for it. Luckily it was easy to reverse on Ubuntu. Gnome 3 looks similar chaotic and I will not use any distro that doesn't offer the old Gnome 2 desktop that I just started to get used to.

If there is one principal that those desktop designer should learn it is: don't mess with the users work-flow. You can add new features/ways to achieve things faster, but don't force it down the users throat by taking away old established and reliable designs.

The Ubuntu developers obviously have a different philosophy thats why I no longer feel comfortable with their product. Maybe the Mint people are smarter I will try it out and see.

0 Votes

I used Ubuntu 11.04 from its release. I am now typing this in Linux Mint 11. For the moment, I will stick with the Gnome 2 desktop. Even Ubuntu 11.04 using the classic desktop has problems.

Another user commented how he felt Mint was snappier. I have to agree. I believe Mint did the right thing to wait.

If you go to distrowatch, you will see that Mint is nipping at the heels of Ubuntu for the 6-month and 3-month stats. With the 30-day stats Mint is just ahead of Ubuntu. Over the longer term, I believe Mint will at least be the equal of Ubuntu and could even be better despite the fact that Mint is based on Ubuntu.

By the way, my students (I'm a teacher) are one-by-one abandoning Windows after they started using Ubuntu or Linux Mint (except when they want to play Windows games). This bodes well for the future. When I was still in school, people used to laugh at Japanese cars. Linux will show its worth in time.

0 Votes

I'm not a Mint user, but I've been following this release for some time, as I was curious earlier on as to whether or not it'd adopt GNOME 3.0 or Unity. Once I saw it stuck with GNOME 2.x, I admit I was a bit shocked, but after thinking about it, it was a decision I couldn't disagree with.

I just began using GNOME 3.0 (testing Fedora 15) and I admit that I am loving it, despite the total lack of customization. It does take a little getting used to, but after using it since Fedora 15's release, I've found myself to be more efficient with work, and up to this point, I haven't experienced a single big issue related to the environment itself. I didn't expect to like GNOME 3.0 at all when first loading it up (seeing as I dislike GNOME 2.x), but it's impressed me.

Unity... let's not even get into that. I tested both betas of 11.04 prior to launch, and just the other day tested out the most up-to-date build of Ubuntu, and sure enough, some obvious bugs still exist. I am in awe of Canonical releasing the environment in this state. It shouldn't have been pressured by GNOME 3.0's launch... gotta be smarter about these things.

For these reasons, I can understand Mint's decision to stick with what's tried and true, but like the author mentions, I'm not sure quite how long it will be able to hold off on an upgrade. A problem I have with Mint 11, and I know people are going to disagree, is that it's not visually attractive, or at least lacks a certain level of polish aesthetically. The last time I took Mint for a test spin (7), "unpolished" isn't even a word that came to mind. In this regard, I think the switch to GNOME 3.0 could have had benefits, since it looks great out-of-the-box, but again, if there's an absolute lack of tweaking-ability, the only thing Mint could really do to differentiate itself from a default install is to change the wallpaper. How ridiculous is that?

Though not for me, I commend the Mint team for delivering an outstanding distribution that appeals to both experienced and inexperienced users alike. I think the fact that Mint ranks so high at DistroWatch pretty much sums-up that while it's not for me, it's for an awful lot of people.

0 Votes

I just switched back from Linux Mint 11 to Ubuntu 11.04.

I use Gimp a lot and Mint hung 2 or 3 times while I was using Gimp and when I re-scale an image, it is 10 to even 20 times slower than when I use Ubuntu 11.04. I thought the problems would go away after a couple of re-boots but no dice. The creep in Gimp stayed.

I restored Ubuntu 11.04 from the Clonezilla backup I made and the speed in Gimp returned. This problem is not in Mint 10, so I can only assume that by staying with Gnome 2, there is some incompatibility with the newer Ubuntu 11.04. Pity. I hope the MInt developers will have this problem fixed in an update or in the next version of Mint.

0 Votes

I've bee messing with Linux for years now, I started with Ubuntu, Fedora, Ultimate Linux, until

I came across Mint 8, I stayed with mint up through 10 and have tried Mint 11 as a LIve CD.

Mint is an awesome distro, and I believe it is doing wonders in bringing people over to Linux from Windows. It's very easy to use and there is hardly no setup required, as everything just works out of the box. The Mint team care about the work they put out and I admire them for that and all the hard work they do.

In my opinion, I believe Mint will drop Ubuntu for a strictly Debian based distro. I have moved on from Mint, Crunchbang kept me interested for a while. I now run Archbang Linux, enough said on that, this is about Mint and Gnome 3 or Unity. It doesn't matter what Mint goes to as far as Gnome 3 or Unity the team will work their magic on it and it will be just like every other Mint release, "Fast, Stable, Enjoyable".


0 Votes

It's a great pity that so many reviewers only look for a "new" look on the desktop, rather digging in and actually using the distro. In my opinion, this review falls under that category. Personally, I'm not a fan of change just for the sake of change. Mint 11 works very well on all 5 of my machines, and I feel that them Clem feels that when Gnome 3 is ready, he'll incorporate it. I read another article this morning about the "dated" look of Mint 11. Same comments. I left Ubuntu because of their direction, and it looks like I was right, what with them moving to Unity. I used to use KDE, but couldn't stand V4.

Please, look deeper into a distribution before making comments about the "look" of the desktop. Remember, that can be changed very easily.

0 Votes

There is no guarantee that Mint will adopt Gnome 3, it may well move to XFCE or LXDE if Gnome continues down this path. so to wait and see is a perfectly sensible move.

0 Votes

i have been using gnome 3.0 for some months now. i find it quite satisfactory. it will get better with time. hope they adopt it in the next release.

0 Votes
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