M.I.N.T. (Mint Is Not auTomatix)

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..



  1. Every since Bea, I turn blue with aggravation every time I read a so called review…and it’s so obvious that the reviewers total experience with Mint is that they loaded the LiveCD, or, at the most, installed to hard drive. Now they’re an expert. And like you, Clem, I find it exasperating when they refer to Mint as an Ubuntu remaster.

    I changed my own desktop computers and my customers, as the need arose, from Ubuntu to Mint Bea (back then) after exhaustive tests on application startup speeds and stability. Anyone who has run Mint for a day or more will know that the differences from Ubuntu run much much deeper than the superficial things that the reviewers write about, and I’ve often wondered why no reviewer has talked about this very real difference.

    I sincerely hope that some “professional” reviewer who actually uses an os or distro for a week before writing about it will pick up this thread and let the world know about the real advantages that this fantastic distribution offers.


  2. Right on, everything you said is true. There is a huge misconception regarding Mint, and it’s really a shame. Mint is a very unique operating system, and I can tell you all have gone the extra mile to help the users experience fewer problems. Every release gets better and better as well.

    Mint 4.0 is the first Linux OS that has been 100% completely problem free for me. Gutsy even gave me some problems, but Mint 4.0 has been problem free, even though it’s based off of Gutsy. That right there is proof that Linux Mint is more than just codecs and whatnot piled on top of Ubuntu.

    A lot of time and effort has been put into Mint, and it works for me when no other OS will. Thank you for making this awesome OS, and don’t let the naysayers and/or their ignorance bring you down. Take care.


  3. What made me stay with Mint and love it is the elegant desktop with a very useful menu (and just one panel – a bit like KDE but gnome)
    Then bit by bit I’ve found the rest, like mintInstall, like….
    Codecs, well I don’t watch much video or play games or…
    But Mint is still the best….

  4. Mint is consistantly reviewed as one of the best if not the best Linux distro, so while it might feel like all your hard work is not being appreciated I wouldn’t really worry, slowly but surely Mint is becoming recognised for its merits.

    You just gotta keep plugging away at making Mint better for the users because you are onto something very big here. Linux is undoubtedly the future of computing and Mint is on the forefront of that.

  5. I agree with John, don’t be frustrated Clem, your work is for us absolutely unique and a breakthrough for Linux in general. There are always people with a dilettantish view of things when comparing Mint with other distros. I see your work on Mint as an act of serious development in every case! To make the things comfortable and painless especially for beginners is not so easy.

    The idea to demonstrate with the Debian-ISO, that Mint can also exist without Ubuntu was a very good one. It seems some people misunderstood your intention behind that. All I can recommend for you is, make the community reading the release notes and all the necessary informations they would need. It’s only a question of time and they will see, Mint is not auTomatix, nor Ubuntu, and even not Suse. Smart people may recognise that earlier!

  6. I understand your frustration, but I can also understand the reviewers.

    At the moment, I’m a Kubuntu user, curiously waiting for the KDE edition of Daryna; so you might think “why is this guy complaining without knowing Mint?”. But the “problems” I had with getting to know more about Mint were the lack of something like a definition of Linux Mint.
    Your webpage is really great, but have a look at Ubuntu’s: At the very centre of it is the “About Ubuntu”-section, clearly saying what Ubuntu is and what it contains. Until today, I do not really have an idea, how many and which “mint-tools” there really are. And I still cannot clearly see all the differences to Ubuntu. The webpage says it’s “mintier”, but what does that mean? For me, these issues were not enogh to stop my plans to check out Linux Mint. But I don’t know how many users were repelled by that.
    I think from what I know about you guys by now, Linux Mint seems to be a really great distribution. But in my opinion it still misses some clear and detailed information why it is better than Ubuntu. Or, which are these differences, that make it worth installing a new Linux instead of tweaking my Ubuntu?

    Anyway I’m really looking forward to Daryna KDE Edition!


  7. Hi All,

    I’m not sure where this thread started, but Linux Mint rules!

    Hey, the good guys keep getting beat up!

    Phoenix, Arizona

  8. Hi Mat,

    You’re right and the same way we can criticize a reviewer for not looking at some release notes we should acknowledge the fact that we didn’t put much efforts in defining ourselves and in communicating about our project. It won’t happen overnight and hopefully this will get solved as we work on it and with a little time as people get to know about Mint better. We’re still very new I suppose. I wanted to mention this problem as I find it frustrating and you’re absolutely right about that, the blame goes both ways.

  9. Hy

    I’m a newbie user and i want to replace Microsoft Windows because is a bad OS. My choice: Linux. I try 20 distros in 2-3 months and in that moment i think that Ubuntu was the best but far to be perfect. But after i try Daryna i see what wonderful is Mint. Is more stable, more bug free, more beautiful is a great distribution. In the same time i use hubuntu 7.10 because i like more Kde but the 7.10 is so buggy, ubuntu kde is bad in term os stability and always was this. Now i wait Mint kde com. edition to be my only OS because this guys make a great job. LINUX MINT is NOT Ubuntu. Clem make it for us!

    Sorry for my bad english.

  10. The thing that made me get interested in Mint was it’s tools (mint menu to be specific) when I tried Bianca, and since then I’ve seen improvements in the tools and I don’t understand why they don’t receive focus in the reviews since I think they are amazing and turn gnome into something easy and usable (I hate gnome’s menu!). The new backup tool is a great idea and I hope some other new tool makes it way into Mint 5.0
    keep the good work Clem!

  11. Hi All,

    I am a newcomer to Linux, having become a convert some 9 months ago. My knowledge of this OS is somewhat limited and to read comments from assorted critics would suggest being a “Newbie” is a hanging offense. It would appear that these critics are only happy when delving into the innards of the computer and have little time for those without this knowledge. Mint is my favourite OS as it is with my non technical wife.
    We have tried Ubuntu’s, several ‘flavours’ and while it was OK, there were several niggling things that drove us crazy. Then we found Mint which is for us, is intuitive and very user friendly, exactly what we ‘non technical’ people are looking for. We both are indebted to Clem and the ‘team’for their efforts in making Mint a bulletproof OS.



  12. While it’s true I do like the codecs already installed, Linux Mint has lots of small things that make my life so much easier. Ndiswrapper is already installed, fusesmb, a nice default theme, etc.

  13. I’m constantly amazed at all the little things I keep finding in Mint. Like network file sharing already configured. And being able to do useful things easily, like getting a file’s MD5 checksum, or uploading the file to somewhere by using the right-click menu.

    Keep up the great work!

  14. Why not have Diostrowatch description changed to better describe what Mint is? A great distro with a wonderfully simple, clean and beautiful userinterface, stable and flexible, adapted to users who wants to have media working whether local or streaming. On top Mint uses Ubuntu package manager for easy adaptation and addition of software packages.

    Thanks for a great operating system!

  15. What Clem has said needed to be said. Mint is certainly not Ubuntu with codecs added. Mint uses packages from Ubuntu much the same as Ubuntu uses packages from Debian.

    Mint achieves it’s goal in a completely different way from Ubuntu.Mint is very different “under the hood” than Ubuntu. These differences are not always obvious to the reviewer’s or user’s for that matter. Most notice differences when they install or set up their hardware, and when they perform common everyday tasks.

    Mint is designed and built, it is not Ubuntu with codecs. Is Ubuntu simply Debian with a codec buddy? All three of these distributions have their own identity. It simply needs to be understood that Mint is built and designed.

    More and more tools are being built for Mint and they factor into the equation as well. I have noticed two distributions that are using the Mint Menu, this not only is a tremendous compliment but it shows the high level of quality that Mint Development has put into this package!The Mint Assistant is a good example of how user needs are met. You have a CHOICE to enable the root account if you wish! No need to hack the system or be forced to stick with only sudo. Choice is important! Mint meets the needs of user’s in a ease of use manner and eliminates the big learning curve for new user’s. Mint is not Ubuntu anymore than Ubuntu is just Debian!

  16. Well, it is sad that the only credits Mint is getting is for the codecs part, which I have hardly used. One of the most common features I use is the “Open Terminal here”, which is one of the most brilliant tools I have ever used. Another reason is that Mint seems more responsive and faster than Ubuntu (maybe with the exception of boot), the control panel gives you a quick overview of settings, that could be a bit better though, and mintMenu of course, which is a VAST improvement of OpenSuSE’s .
    But rest assure clem, reviewers may not note just how different it is from Ubuntu, but users recognize the brilliance of it! And this is coming from a guy who swore off Ubuntu and Debian based distros… 🙂

  17. Ok, I’ll say it one more time: Mint is the best distro I tried so far. No locks, works out-of-the-box… Just what a Linux beginner like me needs. Keep up the good work guys.

  18. As a complete newbie to anything Linux, I read several of the reviews and was about to download Ubuntu, but then Googled for other Linux and came across the details for Mint and decided that from the description, this OS sounded to be more user friendly just from the reviews. Ran the live CD for 60 minutes and took the plunge to install onto system. Still learning and finding things each time I switch on.
    Well done Clem, keep up the good work and thanks to the forum for the continuous helpful advice.

  19. I’ve got rid of my windows vex p because of the mint kde beta …. lots of the distro just works the way I want, straight away! I’ve tried lots of kde but this is the most stable release going …. i need that final iso … It looks great …. feels speedy … and it feels very individualy tailored to me.


  20. When I first heard about MS Vista and how much fun people were having with it :), driver issues, hardware hog, etc I knew I wanted to find an alternative OS where I could actually get some work done. I think I tried Barbara along with Ubuntu, SUSE, PCBSD, Solaris, and some others probably (sure seem to have a stack of CD’s with distros on them); anyway Mint stuck out and I kept coming back to it. Why? – because I could get my work done and the wireless worked on the IBM T43p and Acer 3100. I am also the administrator for small network at a K-8 school running (Windoz XP) on about 250 pc’s. I can VNC into all the machines, manage printers, see my NTFS files, runs web-based programs on our servers – bottom line it just works. The Mint (gnome) desktop is flexible, clean, simple-to the point, the tools are there and it is stable. I deal with XP daily and it is frustrating after using Mint; Vista at this point is uh, just more of not sure what – patience – need more of that! Sorry for the length I need to stop now…
    OK one more comment – 3D desktops – pretty, fun to play with, but the plain old “desktop switcher” does the trick for getting work done.

    Clem and team – THANK YOU very much – looking forward to LTS version.

  21. I came to linux a total beginner. Vista had almost destroyed my hard drive. Ubuntu was a steep learning curve. It was difficult to get things installed. I spent days googleing for answers. I got it working but wondered about having to reinstall and have to go through all that again. The ubuntu forums were helpful, but many people seemed cold and arrogant. I came across a post and a guy mentioned mint, and how every thing worked out of the box. This was 3.1 release. Daryna was still beta. I tried it and it worked! I have used mint ever since.

    I have learned alot about linux and ubuntu distro’s now. I can do a full install of nearly any linux distro in 1-2 hours. I have compared them all to mint 4.0. They are good but have some persistant issues such as web pages kicking out. This never happens in mint. I like opera browser. In some distros opera is very hard to install. Why? It works well in mint but has issues with linux in general. And there are others. The big test has been ubuntu ultimate vs. mint 4.0. Honestly, UU is very overloaded version of ubuntu. It works but has a rough feel to it. Too many apps for every day user. And it is slow. They have solved the problem with Miro app kicking out without changing from java6. Something mint should check out. Other than that I see no real advantage in this overstuffed ubuntu version.

    Lastly, mint people are the best. From Clem and the dev team, to old Husse, always there to help, to all the guys on the forum, this is the best group of people on any distro forum I have ever met. The creativity expressed in the mint art work demonstrates that point very well. You can feel the commitment and community here. You all are simply the best. Thanks for being here.

    It may take time, but I feel that mint will be the top linux distro in the future, putting pclinux to shame. Just my two cents worth.

  22. Exactly what I was thinking. Of course, you’re much better at explaining 🙂
    I use Debian now, but I used Linux Mint Light for a while, and Linux Mint is the distro I would recommend to new users, thanks to its great ease of use.

  23. Here is another thank-you note from a Linux amateur…

    ended up with/back with Mint. Been thru maybe ten different distros and Daryna is the one that stays on this older slower but reliable Gateway PIII dual-boot machine I rebuilt for my 6 year old grand-daughter (who is at home on XP, 2K or anything Linux). Other boot system is Ubuntu which just does not measure up to Mint. The reason why Mint is fairly simple. After a LOT of searching I find that this distro on wireless literally DOES work “out of the box”. I think two clicks or three and enter my wireless key and I was connected to my d-link system. Shazam! Period. No ndiswrapper no aptget no gyrations and ablutions or burnt offerings needed. Just plain damn-all works! Second plus: ISO download speed and accuracy. Did it on an earlier distro and again now. Burnt the ISO with cdburner XP at 1X and it ran both times. No re-burns or second and third downloads. Download speed on my system about 500K which beats the hell out of those horribly slow FTP University sites with checksums that never matched. Plus the updates and add-ons come in at the same speed. FAST.

    Only glitch so far is that I lose the network connect when the (random) screen saver comes on, and then I have to shut down and then reboot. (Not re-start) Then the double click and I am back in business. There is probably a setting somewhere to keep the network active but I haven’t found it yet.

    A single tiny complaint? Make the green a green that does not look like something at the bottom of a fish-tank or the back of a refrigerator!


  24. i use Mint. i have tried a lot of different distro’s (mainly just to check them out and see what’s different). i always come back to Mint.

    i am still a linux noob and don’t use everything linux has to offer, but what i do in Mint works and does it well. all the mint tools are great and i appreciate the hard work the Mint team has done.

    very good job, Clem.

  25. If I wanted to know more about how Mint was different than Ubuntu under the hood (ie if I wanted an even longer version of this post) where would I oook for than information?

  26. yeah clem, it’s all i have read about Mint in the reviews around the internet. honestly, the multimedia codecs is the main reason why i tried
    Mint and eventually hooked myself into it. “BUT”, as i continue to explore it, i found out it’s way way better than ubuntu. i don’t know but it feels “solid”;D i’m no OS literate, and i’m very new to linux so i can’t enumerate specifically all its advantages over ubuntu so maybe this is a lame attempt to keep your head up. but at least this ignorant guy in the world of linux is here to inspire you because i am really and always will be impressed with Mint. Good Luck Clem!


  27. Today is the 1st day for my Linux Mint experience 🙂 I’m a still a newbie where linux is concerned and I’ve been using Ubuntu on and off for a little while now. I applaud the Mint team on what they have produced. I can tell you from my own point of reference that I DID NOT come to Linux Mint just for the codecs. As Clem pointed out, that’s only a few minutes away on my Ubuntu install. I came because of the buzz surrounding Linux Mint. From user to user recommnedations to positive reviews of Mint, the buzz always seems to be positive. And even though I’m just barely warming up my drives yet, I can say so far my experience definately been a positive one. Keep up the good work.

  28. Clem;
    You could have eliminated all the comparisons to Ubuntu with just a bunch of MM plug-ins included by building Mint from a Debian base. One thing is for sure, everyone and there brother seems to be building a Linux desktop based on Ubuntu code, what very few do is to build one off of Debian code with the exception of Mepis and they tend to flip flop regularly as it suits them.
    I’ve tried the Debian Mint release and that truly doesn’t compare to anything already out there simply because of it’s Debian base. I think you could have avoided all the comparisons by simply *not* doing what everyone else is already trying to do.
    Either way, I really enjoy Mint Linux and hope you keep up the good word and don’t worry about what everyone says. I prefer Mint tenfold over Ubuntu.
    And, before everyone says this, Mint is based on Debian because it’s based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian…….Get Real…..you know what I’m saying and if you don’t know, you need to run a true Debian system and see for yourself.

    Thanks Clem

  29. Clem:
    I am not an experienced user, but have tried numerous distros over the years when not using my Mac. Mint has been by far my best experience. In fact, I am using it virtually full time.
    Congratulations – you have done a great job.

  30. the only thing holding me back from linuxmint (maybe same reason other people choose linuxmint) is that it’s based on ubuntu instead of debian.

    maybe linuxmint can setup a repo for debian uses so that any debian can be as good as linuxmint with simple apt-get install linuxmint??

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