Linux Mint has a very good reputation and we should be happy about this. Most reviews say it’s stable, easy to use and a very good desktop operating system. But when you ask somebody to summarize their opinion on Linux Mint they very often say it’s Ubuntu with all the handy proprietary stuff on top of it.
Unfortunately most reviews focus on how great our multimedia support is and how well Linux Mint can play DVDs and online content… something any Ubuntu, Fedora, SUSE or Linux user in general can add to his/her distro in more or less 5 minutes. This is not an achievement of course and if our only purpose was to be “Ubuntu + codecs” our latest release would have been Barbara.
Some people are even amazed that we release a Light Edition. Understandably, if to them our only achievement is to add codecs on top of Ubuntu, then what difference would there be between our Light edition and Ubuntu itself?
If you asked me what the added-value of Linux Mint was, I wouldn’t even mention codecs. I would tell you about how we changed the Gnome desktop and developed tools to make the user experience easier and more productive. I would tell you how we constantly think of how to improve the system from a user’s point of view and how we’ve done so release after release.
Of course you could run Daryna and use it the exact same way as if you were using Gutsy… tweaking sources.list and using APT, taking your updates from synaptic, sending large series of files through email..etc. We can’t expect everyone to read our release notes and to know about the particularities of our distribution.
What’s even more frustrating is to see Mint users use Linux Mint without making the most of it, and this is one of the reasons why a user guide is being written at the moment.
We’ve got the wrong image, one of a non-free distribution which added-value has to do with codecs and non-free software, when our real focus is on the desktop and on the user experience.
It will take time before people realize what we’re doing and what we’ve done, and it’s very frustrating at times to see our distribution so successful but not always for the right reasons.
To all reviewers: Mint doesn’t come with the so-called proprietary drivers, it barely contains a few non-free components (flash, unrar, w32codecs… hmm.. let me see, is that it?) and multimedia codecs definitely isn’t what we’re focusing on most of the time. It’s these little “open terminal” and “delete” options in the context menu you should focus on, the fact that we come with ndisgtk and have ipv6 disabled to make your ipv4 requests faster… these are the things we focus on. And even without looking at the details the added-value of Linux Mint is to produce tools and in a very general way to make typical user-scenarios as easy and comfortable as possible. We see something hard for the user, we simplify it.
It’s frustrating and I’m a little frustrated by this. The purpose of Linux Mint has never been to add codecs to Ubuntu (that’s what automatix and easyubuntu are for), it has always been to produce a great desktop operating system.
You can notice how the Light edition is using Ubuntu but not the codecs, and how the Debian ISO is using the codecs but not Ubuntu… the goal here is to produce an elegant desktop OS, it doesn’t matter whether it’s with codecs or with Ubuntu or with anything else, these are components in the equation and our focus here isn’t Ubuntu, or the codecs, or to argue between Free and Non-Free Software and whether we should boycott Flash and all… it’s quite simply to get closer and closer to our idea of an ideal desktop operating system.
I was very excited to release Bianca, Cassandra and Daryna because each time I thought our desktop just got way better. The codecs have been the same since we forked from Edgy.. nothing terribly exciting about that..