10 things you need to know about Linux Mint 17

There's something here to please everyone: Civilians won't hurt themselves deploying Cinnamon over Linux Mint 17, developers will enjoy any of the versions, and the hard core will find lots to love with the LMDE versions.

Linux Mint 17

Linux Mint 17 continues in a line of Linux desktop-focused releases, and in testing we found it’s become more mature than prior versions. There’s something here to please everyone. Civilians won’t hurt themselves deploying Cinnamon over Linux Mint 17. Developers will enjoy any of the versions, and the hard core will find lots to love with the LMDE versions. There’s more compatibility with weird, obscure, or just plain interesting hardware platforms than ever before. Indeed, Linux Mint 17 probably plays in more places than anything Apple produces, and fills a vacuum left in the wake of the demise of support for Windows XP. (Read the story version.)

Linux Mint 17
5-year support

Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu and follows Canonical’s schedule of two releases a year. Ubuntu just came out with a release offering five-year support and Linux Mint followed suit.  

Linux Mint 17
Choice of user interfaces

Linux Mint gives you a choice of user interfaces, including Gnome-branch Cinnamon, its half-brother Mate, or the lightweight Xfce version. Mint is based on Ubuntu, but there’s also a version of Linux Mint 17 that’s based on Debian Linux (LMDE). This version uses rolling updates, which, while being a secure way to keep an OS protected, might be disconcerting for some. Because we found that the LMDE versions don’t have civilian-friendly default installation settings, we recommend the Linux Mint17 Cinnamon version as the pick mostly likely to be successfully deployed and used.

Linux Mint 17
Why Cinnamon

Cinnamon has become our favorite because of its support for multimedia, its mostly logical user interface interactions, and lots of compatibility. All of the default choices, including installation, are safe and fine. It’s not an objective determination to label a desktop operating system “warm and fuzzy” but it competes well with Canonical’s Unity UI, and with its snappiness and easy connectivity to Windows or all-things-Apple. Installation over our base of Lenovo notebooks was flawless and even boring.

Linux Mint 17
32-bit or 64-bit versions

These UIs can be downloaded in either 32- or 64-bit versions. What this means is that you can run Mint on an old, 32-bit computer. Neither Windows 8 nor Apple Maverick OS support 32-bit. We were able to get the 32-bit version to work with a twin-core 32-bit CPU on an ancient Fujitsu notebook. It wasn’t much fun. But it worked.

Linux Mint 17
Wont run on ARM-based tablets

Mint runs on Intel CPUs only, so no playing around on ARM-based tablets for now.

Linux Mint 17
Wont run Ubuntus Unity user interface

Ubuntu’s Unity interface has been controversial. Many longtime Ubuntu fans rebelled against the new interface when it first came out. Mint users have lots of choices when it comes to UIs, but Unity is not one of them.

Linux Mint 17
EFI booting and GUID disk partition tables

New in either Cinammon (2.0) or Mate (1.8) versions is support for EFI booting and GUID disk partition tables —which worked well on all of the desktop hardware and VMs we tested. However, using EFI boot is a one-direction move and as with other operating systems, can’t be reversed without a firmware re-flash.

Linux Mint 17
Cloud synch lacking

Please step back about three years with Linux Mint, as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use much cloud synch. Mint needs a vendor like Box or Dropbox to save their day as added value in the media/synch-your-stuff race, because this version will frustrate consumers in this regard.

Linux Mint 17
Open ecosystem

While Microsoft can’t read Apple’s HPFS+ files, and Apple still refuses to natively write NTFS, Linux Mint can read either, write either, and does so without blushing or hemming and hawing. It reads most media formats, comes with an Office app built-in that reads and writes Microsoft Office files fairly well, and generally isn’t bothersome nor does it have walls designed to noose the necks of their competition.

Linux Mint 17
Updates

Mint 17 has updated versions of Firefox browser and Thunderbird mail—which both allow synchronization across desktops.