I picked a distribution at random, and Linux Mint turned out to be a pretty good choice for someone like me – ie, completely incompetent with electronics.
The installation was actually really quick, easy, and painless. It consisted of a few clicks, a few passwords, and that was about it really. Almost everything I needed was installed from the beginning, and installing programs, drivers, etc, turned out to be very simple thanks to the assorted managers. The main issue I’ve run into is compatilibility – right now I’m struggling to figure out how to get EnigMail to work in Thunderbird (the program claims that it is not supported for 64-bit Linux) – [resolved while typing this post].
So far, most of the software I use is open source (Firefox, Thunderbird, R) or already has an open source alternative (Open Office). However, this doesn’t mean that the alternatives are solid replacements for their proprietary inspirations. Take Windows Live Messenger and the Plus! extension. While aMSN gets the job done and has webcam support, it doesn’t offer creature comforts like floating desktop contacts, merged consecutive messages, or support for games with Windows Live contacts. I also completely forgot that most fonts are proprietary – my beloved Georgia is gone!
One of the more annoying things is that I can’t figure out how the hell to access R. Unlike my other programs, I had to install this through the terminal, and it doesn’t appear in my list of applications. Installing it always confused me even when I used it in Windows, so I’ll probably have to work at it a bit before I get anywhere.
My main gripe with all of this free software is that, frankly, it looks like crap. Every program seems dull and grey, and if you want to change it, you need to go and get a plug-in. I’m currently running Mint with the Max OS X theme because I couldn’t stand how everything looked. I tried the Vista theme, but it just wasn’t working, so I gave up, whored out, and went crawling to Apple (sort of, anyway). As I mentioned before, a lot of the applications are missing creature comforts – stuff like having the play/pause key be the same in RhythmBox, or having those stupid little taglines in Windows Live Messenger. In no way do I require these features, but it’s little things like this that keep a user interested in a product. We’re all quite easily distracted by blinkenlights.
Installing and updating software was extremely easy. I went into the either mintInstall, mintUpdate, or the package manger and got what I needed. I used the package manager to install R, but found that it didn’t have the latest version, so unfortunately I had to install it through the terminal.
Linux Mint came with several media players and codecs installed, and they all worked very well. Unfortunately, my two preferred video players (The Core Media Player and Media Player Classic) don’t have Linux versions. The default players are decent enough and I’m definitely familiar with VLC, but my videos seem to run slowly when they’re in windowed mode. It’s not choppy by any means, but there’s a noticeable difference between full-screen and windowed mode. Switching between full-screen and windowed mode did have an odd issue – when going between them, my machine would briefly flash the desktop at me. Seeing as this is Linux, though, I think the most important thing to mention is that my videos worked, and they worked on the first try.
In my opinion, RhythmBox is about as easy to use as iTunes, with the added feature that when I add songs, the program actually adds their names properly.
My external hard drive worked perfectly – the OS instantly recognized it and I could use it to my heart’s content. Similarly, when I popped in my SD card, it appeared on my desktop and I could view everything. The webcam works as desired, and the effects available are far more impressive than the crap Dell offers. Linux Mint lets you throw in “filters”, if you will, and you can combine them. For example, you can blur motion and have the room move (as if you were dizzy), creating an excellent inebriation simulator. Dell’s default (and Vista’s too I guess) simply superimposes a cheesey image reminiscent of clipart so you look like you’re in a spaceship or some dumb shit like that. Overall, I’m very impressed with what I can do, especially after hearing Jake and Jon curse for several days about trivial issues like getting the mouse to work.
On a negative note, the OS seems to have trouble finding my monitor. Whenever I try to detect it, the system slows down significantly and never seems to get anywhere. I’m not sure if this is because it needs an updated driver and it’s not working correctly, or if this is standard for a first-time installation.
Linux seems to be fond of flashing me. When I switch between full-screen and windowed mode in any of my media players, it briefly flashes the desktop at me and then works as desired. Occasionally the bottom part of my browser goes black for a short period of time. And the jelly windows, while fantastic in their novelty, have a minor issue where the borders look grainy while I’m jiggling them. Yes, I’m a superficial consumer whore.
I’ve also had to endure a few slowdowns at seemingly random intervals. I’m not sure what causes them, but it’s probably one of my useless Firefox widgets.
All in all my experience with Linux Mint has been positive. I don’t think I’ll stick with Linux for too long (meaning I’ll end up with Vista soon), but so far Mint has impressed me. At the very least, I’ll almost certainly have Linux Mint on my computer for a VM. I’m impressed with how easy and intuitive the system has been for me – while I’ve had experience with computers and different operating systems, I’m still a newbie at most computer-related tasks, so being able to survive the installation and configuration of Mint and coming out relatively unscathed has been a major boon.