Prior to this I really hadn't paid that much attention to Mint as it appeared to be just another Ubuntu clone among many Ubuntu clones. Of course, it was getting some good press - especially the Cinnamon desktop - but that didn't faze me since just about every distro out there has its own legions of fan-boys.
However. . . . .
After Linux Format ran just about every major distribution through the mill, compared them feature-for-feature, and crowned Mint the winner, I started to think again about playing with Mint. So I downloaded Mint 13, (the latest at that point), with the Cinnamon desktop and gave it a spin. I ran the live CD, did a couple of test installations - both on real hardware and within VMware - and I was impressed out of my socks.
It wasn't full of Canonical's posturing, arm waving, and experimenting with bizarre new layouts and desktop paradigms every release. It wasn't trying to monetize the distribution with hard-coded advertisements or forced use of Canonical's newest features. It wasn't trying to out-Mac the Mac. It just worked, and it worked very well. The interface was familiar, uncluttered, and easy to work with, and it was filled with a lot of nice little touches here and there, which indicated to me that someone at Mint was actually trying to give the user what they needed.
Now I don't want to completely re-write what I wrote before, you can go read all about it here.
Just this last week I picked up another copy of Linux Format, (Issue 167, February 2013), and splashed all over the front cover was a HUGE copy of Mint's logo, and the headline said "All Hail the new number one distro. . . MIGHTY MINT"
My interest piqued, I read the article - and it really reminded me of my own review of Mint 13. They fell all over themselves marveling at its clean interface, stability, and how it was conducive to getting real work done.
Of course, what really piqued my interest was the article titled Mint - The new Ubuntu?
And then I thought about it. . . .
Why had I jumped on the Ubuntu bandwagon in the first place? Because I was getting tired of other distributions - Fedora among them - telling me what I could and could-not do with my own system.
Ubuntu's motto (was) being "all about choices" - and that's what I wanted. If I wanted to make a system install jump and wave it's arms like a maniac, I could do it. If I wanted an install that would sit and play quietly, I could do that too.
Then Canonical and Ubuntu started getting snotty. There was a lot of moaning and griping on Ubuntu's fora about not wanting to "Dumb Down Ubuntu" - as if that was, somehow, beneath their dignity. They started making unilateral decisions - absent user feedback - that did NOT give us the choice of using it or not. Grub2, the Unity desktop, the sudden shift to a very Macintosh-like layout with stuff organized in a very Mac-centric way, and the way the decision makers at Canonical and Ubuntu were turning a deaf ear to the user's requests. It was almost as if the folks at Ubuntu had developed a "F**k 'em all!" attitude - and if you don't like it, go somewhere else.
Apparently, Ubuntu got its wish. People have been abandoning Ubuntu in droves, wanting an Ubuntu-like distribution that was willing to listen and let them get work done.
Enter Mint, stage left.
Mint's philosophy, since day one, was to provide a simple, working, usable Linux distribution that avoided all the fancy eye-candy, the bells-and-whistles that eventually destabilize a system. Most of all, Linux Mint did not have any corporate identity pulling them this way and that. Mint's loyalty, and the primary focus of the Mint leadership and developers has been the user and the user experience.
Back when I first fired-up Mint 13, it was an Epiphany, almost bordering on a religious experience. Wow! A Linux distro that did everything I wanted a distribution to do, and none of the things I didn't want it to do. Ergo: My glowing article about Linux Mint 13.
Not long after that, Mint released version 14, based on Ubuntu 12.04 LTE and I decided to give it a spin. It didn't spin very fast though being a bit wonky and weird in ways that I wasn't sure I liked. So I tossed the Mint 14 disk in the trash and went back to 13.
Apparently I wasn't the only person who tossed that distribution. Though I was not on the Mint fora and didn't hear any of the discussions, it was remarkable how quickly Mint 14.1 came out.
With 14.1, they got it right. It's just like 13, only more so. Clean, uncluttered, and easy to work with. In fact, if it weren't for the changed desktop background saying "14" instead of "Maya", you'd be hard pressed to tell the distributions apart just by looking at them. And frankly, I like that. I don't want to re-learn a distribution's interface every time they cut a release. I want everything that worked in the one distribution to work in the next, and work the same way if not better.
Like I used to say about Ubuntu way, way back: This is a distribution that I would feel comfortable loading up on my wife's computer, or even my sainted mother's.
Mint is a distribution that "just works", and it has leadership and maintainers who actually want to listen to the users suggestions. With that kind of an attitude toward the distribution and their user-base, it's easy to see why people say:
All Hail the new number one distro. . . .