Sunday, July 31, 2011

Moving from Ubuntu to Linux Mint, Debian Edition

Linux Mint Debian Edition
Ubuntu has been as my primary Linux distro since Breezy Badger hit distrowatch in 2005. As a loyal Debian user, I loved the concept of an easy to use Deb, geared toward the desktop. I am far from a 'newbie', having used Linux since 1999. Contrary to myth, power users want simplicity too. We like it when our hardware "just works" or when an upgrade goes flawlessly. Yes, we can often fix things when they go wrong, but we prefer to spend our late nights working on projects we are interested in, rather than just getting our wireless card or sound to work. This ease of use, with the power of Debian just below the surface, has kept me loyal to Ubuntu through the years.

Now things are changing at Ubuntu. I understand the reasons and respect the work that Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth have done. No one can doubt the huge contribution they have made to the Linux world.

Mint Menu
I will leave the debate over Unity vs Gnome, button placement and compatibility with Debian repositories and file structures to others. But, as Ubuntu moves more in its own direction and away from its Debian roots, I find myself again looking for an alternative which still feels like Deb, but includes a polished desktop, multimedia codecs, drivers for popular hardware and a sensible software library. These are the same reasons I tried Ubuntu way back when and are the reasons I recently took the first steps away from Ubuntu and installed Linux Mint, Debian Edition on my netbook.*

I downloaded the dvd image and used unetbootin to load the .iso to my flash drive. Instructing my bios to boot from USB, the live desktop loaded without a hitch. In just a few minutes, I was booted into an elegant UI (see at top), with a very usable slab menu (mint menu) instead of the traditional Gnome Application, Places and System drop down menus. The chimes at startup told me my sound card had been loaded and was working properly.

Compiz works smoothly
A pop up message informed me that my wireless  network was available and after entering my password, it logged in and I was online, painlessly. YouTube videos played out of the box. A simple fix located on the Mint Debian webpage got the touch pad working quickly, including two finger scrolling and right click. Compiz was enabled and in a few clicks my wobbly windows and desktop cube were working smoothly.

Exploring the main menu, I located a nice Software Manager which offered packages listed in searchable categories with reviews and screen shots. Very nice. Also available was the familiar Synaptic Package Manager, which I had heard was removed from Linux Mint. Not true.

Software Manager
An icon in the lower right corner informed me there were updates available from the Mint repositories but these failed with a complaint about broken packages.  However, running apt-get via the terminal allowed me to update/upgrade without a problem. This is fine with me as I prefer Synaptic and apt-get to the Mint Upgrade Tools and the documentation states it is fully compatible with Debian repositories. However, this may be a problem for new users.

I like this Debian derivative and plan to keep it on my netbook. Eventually, I plan to replace Ubuntu with it on my desktop as well. For now, I am enjoying exploring this minty Debian which may be just the flavor I was looking for.

*Hardware specs:
Asus eeepc 900
16 + 4 GB SSD
900 MHz Celeron Processor
Atheros AR5001 wireless adapter
Intel 915GM Graphics Controller

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