More as-they-come notes taken whilst performing assorted installations.
Linux Mint (Debian Edition, using MATE as the desktop environment)
- Choice: Debian Edition or Ubuntu-based? MATE? Cinnamon? LXDE?!
+ Good looking installer
- Disk partitioning not as easy as I expected it to be (had to create my own partitions and assign one to be “/” by hand).
+ No obvious dependencies on the Internet during installation
- “Start Menu” a la Windows, and it’s at the bottom of the screen. I might not like Gnome 3, but I like where Gnome 2 usually sticks stuff! Eye-height, please! (Easily fixable: right-click, properties, ‘top’… but still a black mark that I have to do it!)
+ Kernel is version 3.2
+ Installation complete in around 20 minutes (in a KVM Virtual Machine, mind)
- Cinnamon doesn’t work in a KVM environment. To be expected.
+ Software Manager -a nice, centralised repository of available packages (and there are 36,000+ to choose from)
+ Libre Office, not OpenOffice.
- LibreOffice is only version 3.4.5 by default… that’s quite old. Calc has 1 million rows, though
- Gimp 2.6 (not 2.8, which is current)
- Firefox (v. 11.0, which is old), no Chrome/Chromium already installed. However:
+ one apt-get install chromium and you get the relevant browser easily installed for a mere 30MB download
+ Opera is also installable (15MB download) with a simple command
- No apparent way to type in a Windows server URL (e.g., \newton) once you’ve opened up the Network places. Nautilus lacks an address bar. (Ctrl+L will get you one back, but how you’re supposed to know that if you don’t already, I have no idea)
- Samba browsing seems very slow
++ Movie player plays my MKVs without having to install anything first
++ Banshee plays FLACs first time of asking, no prior installations necessary
- Banshee is not the default option to play FLACs (Movie Player is, which is dumb)
- – In the MATE desktop, we’re no longer using real “Gnome”, so a number of utilities have been renamed. For example, gedit is now “pluma”. At the command line, if you type “gedit”, you get told it’s not installed. However, you are also told to get your system administrator to install gedit! Meanwhile, the command “pluma” works fine… It’s all just a tad confusing! For sure, muscle-memory is a drawback here.
+ Gparted is installed by default.
+ Guake is in the standard respositories
++ Dropbox is available from the standard repositories, so it KeepassX
+ Transmission (bittorrent manager) is installed by default
- There is no default CD extractor software installed, though rubyripper is in the standard repositories, so is easily installable
++ Somewhat gobsmackingly, Musescore is in the default repositories, so is very easily installed (for a 36MB download). Easytag (audio metadata editor) is also in the standard repositories
- Handbrake is not installed (asking a bit much, probably!).. but:
++ Handbrake is in the default repositories (under the name handbrake-gtk), so a simple apt-get install fixes the problem
+ Compiz desktop effects are available without having to install anything (they obviously only work with proper accelerated graphics hardware, and they certainly don’t work in a KVM virtual machine, but that’s not surprising)
- Very limited supply of default screensavers (that’s a Gnome problem going back a long way, though)
- A window’s control menu allows you to move the window to another virtual desktop… but there’s no virtual desktop switcher visible by default, so it’s possible to move a window to somewhere you can’t then actually get to!
- The Default theme has no distinction between the title bar and the File/Edit/View menu or toolbar, so it’s all one giant piece of grey. Looks odd.
Debian Wheezy (testing)
- The default domain name is “mshome.net”. Seriously??!
- Starts using the network straightaway (to set the time from a network time server), without asking if it’s OK to do so
- Slightly annoying installer: asks for fullname, username, password in three separate dialogs (Red Hat/Centos, for example, have three fields on the one screen for the same thing). You have to read carefully which is which (I supplied my username when I should have typed my full name, for example, before realising my mistake and going back a screen to correct)
- Very slow installer: seems to do a lot of retrieving and file copying *before* getting to the bit where it asks you what sort of system you want to install… and then it does a lot of file copying and retrieving all over again!
- Installer not a set-and-forget affair. My installation took over 9 hours to complete, simply because it asks interactive questions throughout the process, so if you’re not there, the thing stalls until you are. Front-load the questions, and you could retire after the 16th one and come back next morning to a nicely-finished O/S. But no, unfortunately
- – Gnome 3 (I thought I was installing the XFCE desktop, but they’ve only *just* taken the decision to make XFCE the desktop in Wheezy. My Wheezy beta came from before that decision. XFCE can always be retro-fitted, of course, but that’s a different issue)
+ Gimp 2.8 (the latest version)
- Iceweasel (i,.e., Firefox) 10.0.5 (I.E., out of date).
- No chrome/chromium installed by default
- Transmission (bittorrent) not installed by default
+ LibreOffice 184.108.40.206 (that’s pretty up-to-date)
+ Calc has a million rows
- – Can’t type in an address in Nautilus that isn’t clickable (i.e., browsing the network, 4 servers are visible, and I could point and click on any of them, but there’s no way to type in address like smb://192.168.0.x). (Ctrl+L lets you do that, but if you don’t know it already, you’re just kinda stuck!)
- – Out of the box, there are no audio players, rippers or such like. Just Movie Player. Which *does* play FLACs first time of asking, though. It doesn’t, however, play movies… at least, it plays the *soundtrack* of my many MKV movies, but the screen remain resolutely black or blank throughout.
- First message you get when running your Internet browser, which is called and labelled Iceweasel, is a message box that says “There are thousands of addins with which to customise your Firefox install”. Now *I* know that Firefox==Iceweasel, but it’s not obvious to everyone and how hard can it be to alter messages to repeat back your actual browser name?
- Can’t play Flash media by default
- – Stellarium doesn’t appear as an option in the Add/Remove Software application
++ Vinaigre Remote Desktop Viewer is installed by default: you can RDP to remote Windows desktop straight off the bat
- Mostly underwhelming. Might be worth another look when they lose the Gnome 3 desktop
- Some more default software installations might help. I did choose the (default) ‘desktop’ and ‘standard utilities’ installation options, but it seems as if software is being rationed this year.
Debian 6.0.5 (Stable)
- The very first screen looks like a kid with a crayon went beserk. The cheesy ‘space, stars and rockets’ theme pervades the entire installer. It’s amateur-hour. And, worse, it’s *bad* amateur hour!
+ OMG! It’s Gnome 2!! (With a cheesy space theme, but still!)
+ Lots of software pre-installed (Brasero, Rhythmbox, Movie Player, Inkscape, Shotwell, GIMP etc)
+ Clean look (fonts etc)
- FLACs opened with Movie Player by default (the option to use Rhythmbox is there in the context menu, but isn’t default)
+ FLACS play first time of asking
+ Movie player plays my MKVs first time of asking, with sound and video just fine
- – OpenOffice, not LibreOffice. ‘Nuff said. I’m sure LibreOffice is only a download away, but it will be a big download! Meanwhile, OpenOffice is stuck at 3.2.1 and has been more-or-less deserted by its developers.
+ You do still get a million rows in Calc, though
- Bad Nautilus defaults: although the ‘open every folder in its own window’ option is, mercifully, off, there is no ‘Delete bypassing the Trash’ option on by default.
++ Separate applications available for non-root and root terminal sessions
- It feels about as old, staid and reliable as Centos 6.3, but there is no ‘wow’ factor. I guess I am wanting Gnome 2 and my cake, but this just doesn’t scream out “install me on your physical PC”.
These three are really all variations on Debian, I guess: real Debian, but stable; real Debian beta and cutting-edge; and Linux Mint’s re-spin of Debian. All three seemed “crisp”, reasonably attractive and snappy. None seem to demand an Internet connection quite the way Ubuntu does, which is a definite plus. Debian Stable is, however, really getting a bit long-in-the-tooth (which is what you get in return for stability, I guess) and I simply can’t see much point in swapping Centos long-in-the-tooth-ed-ness for Debian’s flavour of the same thing.
Debian Wheezy seems to have more appeal and has very up-to-date third party applications (like LibreOffice and Gimp, for example). Again, this is to be expected from beta software, but it’s nice to see anyway. The only really big downer for me with Wheezy was the lack of multimedia software out of the box. A lot’s there in the repositories, of course, but not much gets installed without effort.
Linux Mint’s big drawback (for me) is simply the bewildering variety of flavours that are available these days: Ubuntu-based, Debian-based; Gnome 3, XFCE, Cinnamon, Mate … making sure you install what you’re hoping to install is half the battle! The good news is that the Debian-based Mate desktop comes with a lot of excellent software pre-installed and a lot of sensible defaults and configuration options. I personally don’t like Banshee (it’s based on Mono and doesn’t seem to me to be 100% stable), but Rhythmbox and Exaile are easily-installed alternatives. Movies and audio both play out-of-the-box without drama -though why every distro’s default audio player seems to be “movie player”, I continue to find mystifying!
I was frankly amazed at the ease with which things like Handbrake, MuseScore, Guake and Stellarium install: they’re all in the standard repositories, so it’s just a one-line command to get the lot of them (or a point-and-click affair in the Software Manager, of course).
That said, I find Mint’s default themes a bit ugly and/or lacking in character and it’s choice of one ‘panel’ in the wrong place (i.e., at the bottom of the screen) is annoying, though readily fixable. To be fair, though: cosmetics are never going to be something every distro does ‘right’, because everyone’s tastes are different, so these are minor niggles in the scheme of things.