Linux Mint 5 Review: The Gay Hacker

Linux Mint 5 Elyssa was released 4 days ago and a few reviews started to appear on the Internet. We like reviews of course because they make more people know about what we do but also because when a reviewer takes time to properly study one of our releases he/she sometimes highlights what could be done better and how the changes we make are perceived from a user point of view. Reviews are a fantastic source of feedback and as you known already, making Mint better over time is all about gathering good feedback.

Link to the review:

The “Gay Hacker” wrote a very interesting review and focused more on the tools and changes between Daryna and Elyssa than on specific hardware issues or the install process (as it’s usually the case in fast-written reviews). As a result the article is extremely informative and brings a lot of feedback and some very interesting points.

Answers to the points risen in the review:

1 – The Timezone selection in the installer: I agree, it’s really bad and I actually consider it a regression since this feature worked better in the past releases. The change was made upstream in Ubuntu and if we hadn’t been so busy with implementing other features and addressing other issues I would have definitely looked into changing that.

2 – MintAssistant and the fortune example: The font is not fixed and the animal appears to be “squished”. There’s also a resize problem after the example is shown. We’ll be addressing these issues in the future.

3 – The Gay Hacker said: “The default theme, which has stayed similar since version three, does its job as a default: it’s sterile and unobtrusive, yet it has an edge. However, it’s not quite snazzy enough for my tastes. Not shown in the screenshot are the default icons that come on the desktop, which include “Computer”, “Home”, and any mounted harddrives you have. They can be removed through a program called mintDesktop

This is a tough one… the current look and feel looks pro. Some people would like more bling and more colors. Also, we can see here how the reviewer hides “Computer” and “Home” on the desktop… should they appear by default (they’re also accessible through the menu). I’d like to know what people think about this so please answer these two polls:

Show "Computer" and "Home" on the desktop?

View Results

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Shall we make the default look & feel more colorful?

View Results

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4 – MintMenu: The Gay Hacker said: “One complaint I have with the menu is that it doesn’t automatically update when you install a new application. You have to right click the menu button and select “Reload Plugins”. In fact, if the menu gives you any problems, this is usually the solution. Another complaint: the Edit Menu option sends you to GNOME’s menu editor (alacarte), which thoroughly sucks. Moving an entry to another menu duplicates it, and then leaves the original still checked! On my wish list: the ability to drag a menu item to a different section, and to remove and add items to a section, from within mintMenu. Also on that list is the ability to change what hitting enter does after filtering the results; this is possible to change from gconf-editor but not from the preferences dialog. And my last compliant (sorry): If any of the “Computer”, “Home Folder”, or “Networks” buttons receive focus, I can’t start typing an application name without clicking on the “Filter” text box.”

The menu does update, it just takes time sometimes. But the reviewer is right.. you can always force the refresh with “Reload Plugins”.

Alacarte is quite a big piece of software and it would take a lot of effort to replace it with our own implementation. We could do that I suppose.. I’ll write it down as one of the possible improvements for Mint 6 and we’ll see later on if we go that way or not.

The ability to drag an item to another category or to remove/add items would turn mintMenu into a .desktop file editor.. or we could think of it as a presentation layer on top of these files. It would be very nice from a user point of view and I promise to look at it in the future.

The command launched when hitting enter in the menu can be modified in gconf and you’re 100% right.. it should be there in the preference dialogs. This will be addressed.

As for the focus problem I believe this is a bug so we’ll fix that as well.

5 – mintUpdate: The Gay Hacker said: “One thing that annoys me is the icon used for when Synaptic or apt is running: a broken lock. It worries me because I’d expect that icon if my dependencies were broken, something which has happened twice in my experience with Linux (both my fault). Maybe just an X over the lock would be better? Just a suggestion….”

This is a very good point. I’ll look into that.

6 – mintInstall: The Gay Hacker said: “no error was produced when attempting to install “somerandomapp” in the APT tab, and clicking “Search” gave me a window with an empty text box” and “when installing an application, it will ask if you want to install using the Default or Local repositories. In my mind, Default == Local. Not so, however; “default” means the repository defined in the .mint file, and “local” means your own sources.list file. Maybe the label “mintInstall’s Repositories” or “’s Repositories” instead of “Default Repositories” would suit better?

The mintInstall search issues will be fixed.

About “local” and “default” I agree with the problem (it’s confusing) but not with the solution. The main reason why it was made that way was because this feature came after the GUI was frozen and we consequently didn’t have any localization on these two words … hence the need to make them as small and common as possible. This will be adressed.

7 – mintBackup: The Gay Hacker said “There isn’t a progress bar for backup or recovery.”

Although I don’t really know how I’m going to fix that.. it definitely would be nice to have some kind of progress reported to the user. I’ll look into it.

8 – Software selection: The Gay Hacker said “Linux Mint 5 uses Firefox RC1 with Flash 10. I really like bleeding edge software, but for goodness sake, it’s supposed to be an LTS release! Yeah, I understand version 2 of Firefox probably isn’t going to be supported up to three years from now, but it would have shown seriousness by the distributions to be stable.”

–> It’s arguable although I completely understand your point of view. Having said that.. once FF3 and Flash 10 go stable we’ll be happy to have our user base use them rather than the older versions, especially with a 3 years lifespan planned for this release. To be completely honest I was also annoyed by Ubuntu’s decision at first and I contemplated the idea to make FF2 default. In the end I decided against it. Flash 10 is almost as stable as Flash 9, the problem actually comes from how both versions handle PulseAudio through libflashsupport.. and this problem is more likely to be fixed in Flash 10 than it is in Flash 9. We’ve also included nspluginwrapper so Flash can’t make Firefox crash anymore. This was our way of compromising between cutting-edge and stability.

The Gay Hacker also said “Another disappointing decision made in this release was the replacement of Amarok with Rhythmbox. Rhytmbox pales in comparison to Amarok’s abilities. Changing the ID3 tags is a hassle in Rhtymbox (you have to do it through a dialog box), there are no Global Shortcuts (sorry, you have to stop what you’re doing if you want to change the song), there aren’t nearly the amount of features present in Rhythmbox as there are in Amarok, and being able to see only fifteen songs at a time in my 5000+ song collection is annoying (I saw no option to change the font size). I suppose I’m ranting because I’ve used Amarok for so long. All is well though; removing Rhythmbox with mintMenu and installing Amarok with mintInstall is fairly simple 😉

–> The first problem with Amarok was its size. A lot of new applications came in Elyssa and this wouldn’t have been possible if we had kept Amarok. Rhythmbox is much smaller in size and this is quite important when fitting every component on a single liveCD. The second problem was the way Amarok was packaged… the upstream maintainers assumed that Amarok users necessarily used KDE, and so Amarok came with some KDE dependencies which resulted in showing KDE-specific elements in the menu. Of course we could hide these menu items but the point here is that the development/packaging of Amarok wasn’t done in a desktop-agnostic way.. it was closely tied to KDE. Finally, Rhythmbox was significantly easier to use for first-time users and its interface was much less impressive than the one in Amarok. There are less features in Rhythmbox than there are in Rhythmbox.. but if we look at somebody who never used Linux before and wants to plug-in his/her iPod and start doing simple things.. the use case apppears to be significantly easier with Rhythmbox.

9 – In the comments section, people discussed the fact that Linux Mint can’t “dist-upgrade”.

It can. In fact it can dist-upgrade in the exact same way than in Debian or Ubuntu. Having said that, some changes in Mint are made to files in your filesystem and are not necessarily patched into packages. This is because we rely on Ubuntu’s package base and we don’t want to maintain everything ourselves. So for instance.. when you upgrade OpenOffice.. you loose the Mint splash screen. When you upgrade bash you loose the bash.bashrc… there are ways to upgrade and it’s fine if you know your way around APT and how to restore things to the way they were… but it’s just simpler to perform a fresh install.

In Mint 6 the most important development we’re planning is a tool which will perform this upgrade for you. We’ll also make sure to package all the artwork and as many of our changes as possible into packages so a dist-upgrade will get you one step closer to a fresh-installed system than it currently does.

To conclude:

I would like to adress my thanks to the “Gay Hacker” (what a nickname though :)) for a wonderful review. This review showed what we were doing to a lot of people, it explained the specificities of Mint to Linux users and the specificities of Elyssa to Daryna users.. and last but not least.. it showed the dev team, and me in particular, how things were perceived and how they could be perfected. I now have a long list of things I want to improve and this is thanks to the great feedback I got from that review.

What is especially striking here is that the Gay Hacker doesn’t appear to be used to writing reviews. I would like to encourage anyone with a blog to do the same. Spread the word about Linux Mint, give our features a close look and tell us how to improve them. This is one of the best way you can contribute to make Linux Mint better. Your voice, your ideas, your feedback.


  1. i leave you an idea, please consider it:

    in mintmenu: when you right click an entry , the contextual menu should include a “add keyboard shortcut” … so we can easily add shortcuts to applications and don’t have to go to “keyboard shortcuts” application

    thanks !

  2. Excellent review, and an excellent reply. Many thanks to the Gay Hacker. Keep up the excellent work, clem.

    In response to #3, couldn’t there be a first run wizard, per user, so they could select a theme? Then going with “Professional” or “Extra Spiffy” or “OMG!WTF!BBQ!CrazyBlingBlingTastic!” could all be options. Just a thought.

  3. Since I said everything I wanted to on the Gay Hack blog I’ll only comment on the theme choice.

    Many people seem to favor the Carbon theme. Well, I have one problem with it: black might be stylish and all and it’s far easier to read white letters on black background than the other way round (white/blue being the optimum but not for everybody’s taste =) but the greyish-black window borders don’t contrast enough with the background hence the windows blend into the background and are hard to see. I don’t mean “hard to see” as in “I have trouble seeing them” but “hard to see” as in “this theme may strain your eyes with time”. =)

    I’d prefer some higher contrast combo for the window borders while retaining some features and color schemes of Carbon.

    Of course you can customize the theme to your liking but we’re talking about the default theme, which is an important choice, here…

  4. Clem,
    Thank you very much for the response!
    I completely agree that the default looks professional, and again is good for the default — it was just too desaturated for my personal taste.
    I wish I could offer a better solution for the default/local problem, but my brain is completely fried right now.
    Thank you for your answers about Firefox and Amarok. I definitely understand better why Rhythmbox was included instead.
    As for the nickname, I’m sorry if it makes anyone uncomfortable, but being gay and being a geek are things that I pride myself on 🙂 … plus I thought it was catchy 😉
    Again, thank you so much for this response! I’m glad it was helpful to you!

  5. Hexadecimal: No problem with the name, it is catchy and I find it quite funny actually. Thanks again for the review. I’ll start implementing some of the improvements we discussed as soon as possible.

  6. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. This right here is the defining reason why you should use Mint over any other distro out there. The developers go out of their way to ask for feedback and then actually reply to it!

    Great post Clem.

  7. “The developers go out of their way to ask for feedback and then actually reply to it!”

    Instead of making themselves quite inaccessible on space-flights for $20 million. 😉
    Ehm – OK, there would be no Mint without Ubuntu and I deeply respect Mark Shuttleworth – I just had to get this out of the way. 😉

  8. With regards to the audio player, I see banshee as a step between the two. Could that work?

    I shall see about cooking something up on my brand spanking new today blog in due course 🙂 ( )

  9. Feedback is the first step towards innovation. We just released a new version of Mint so now is the time to gather as much feedback as possible and to discuss things with the community. I will be actively tracking reviews and I’ll post more responses like this one. I also keep track of what consequently comes up as what I feel are valuable ideas in here:

    You can see how some of the Gay Hacker ideas made their way into that list.

    I’ll be away until next Saturday so I won’t be posting until then. There’s also an anti-spam filter so it’s possible some of the comments on this blog might be held in moderation for a few days. Don’t assume you’re being censured 🙂

    See you all in a few days and don’t hesitate to take the time to review Mint 5. I see Pariah for instance, wrote an interesting piece here and rose a few points:

    PS: I’m bringing QT designer, pyQT and the latest beta of KDE CE with me.. so I might have some QT frontends when I come back 🙂

  10. The only problem I have with Mint’s theme (and its actually a problem with GNOME in general) is that the color of the bottom panel looks way too much like Win95/98. What you have to done to it does improve the look but the color still feels outdated and I believe some spiffying up with possibly an XP or Vista (or really anything other than that disgusting gray) color would be a real improvement. But other than my bitching about GNOME’s ugly panels Mint 5 is awesome.

  11. My opinions about the poll subjects:

    1. Computer and Home icons. They should stay there… simply because it’s a visual and very easy way to access some important directories and information on the computer. Newbies and people coming from Windows will probably find life easier with them there. Anyway, they’re easy to remove for those who don’t like.

    2. Themes. The theme is a matter of tastes and habits. Many people like to customize the look of their operating system… No matter what it will look like when you first install it, most of them will keep modifying it anyway to fit their interests and personality. You also have to keep in mind that your operating system is not only intended for a certain class of people, but for everyone. If a company choose to give your OS a try and finds it looks more like a game than an OS because there are flashy colors everywhere and sounds and animations, etc., they’ll probably forget about it. Or simply give choices of themes (among other things (like the icons on the desktop)) on the first boot? Choose between “default” and “colorful”… with an example of both (or more if there are more choices).

  12. Max Says:
    June 14th, 2008 at 7:07 am

    My opinions about the poll subjects:

    1. Computer and Home icons. They should stay there… simply because it’s a visual and very easy way to access some important directories and information on the computer. Newbies and people coming from Windows will probably find life easier with them there. Anyway, they’re easy to remove for those who don’t like.



    I do not like black themes. After the installation, the first thing
    i do is to change my desktop wallpaper into Green or Blue.
    There is a variety of them supplied by Linux Mint. I can choose
    my favorite (s) or go to the Mint’s Art Gallery an pick up another
    of my own taste. Sometimes i use green, sometimes i use blue themes.
    I do not set no wallpaper without the Linux Mint’s Logo. It’s
    mandatory for me.

  13. Ok,
    I’m taking a look at the poll (the lookin’ more professional
    black theme) is an advantage.
    I can reconsider my opinion posted above and may say that
    pro lookin’ carbon theme also fits good to me.

  14. On the themes front, I reckon the folks at fedora have nailed it, the last few releases look very pro.

  15. Hi All,

    I’ve run into some strange problem myself either trying to install the latest Mint or Ubuntu.

    After the install of either system the system hangs after up-dating. Then I need to do a re-install.

    Mint looks great as is with the option of editing the Themes via


    Phoenix, Arizona

  16. Pingback: Linux Mint 5 Review « The Gay Hacker
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  18. I really like the way Mint 5 was looked at in the review. The review took a serious look at what Mint is made of. I can appreciate comments from a reviewer that actually took the time to look closely at the Mint tools! This kind of review gives us things to consider and ways to improve.

    I personally like the current default theme. The theme has a clean, polished look to it without being overdone. My example of overdone would be Windows Vista with it’s rather plastic sort of look.

    The first thing I do after I install Mint is remove the icons from the desktop. I do not think the icons look bad and it’s not like the desktop is plastered with them.Desktop icons remind me of Windows For Workgroups. The mintmenu eliminates the need for desktop icons for me.

    Our branding of Mint 5 looks so much more professional! The logo’s are not, in your face huge.We have product recognition with good taste.The artwork is more flowing from the time the power button is pressed to the loading of the desktop. I honestly believe we have the very best default look of any distribution out there.

    It will be interesting to see what improvements are in store for Mint. Usually, when I think that things could not possibly be any better a new feature or improvement comes along and makes Mint even better!

  19. Ever considered Banshee, or even the new Songbird 0.6 as the music players to include? I have to agree with the gay hacker, rhythm box is just unacceptable. However I Agree with the fact that you want to fit it on a live CD which is totally acceptable. Maybe Banshee/Songbird are light weight enough to replace rhythm box.

  20. I’ve always been a little indifferent to the default theme of any distro (my homepage is gnome-look :P), but Mint’s default has been a cut above the rest for as long as I’ve been using it (since Cassandra). One thing about the dark themes though, PepperMint and WildMint, I can’t stand dark text input boxes. I like dark themes, but all text input boxes have to be white for me, or just a little bit grey to take the edge off the brightness. Mostly, they have to be white for IM clients. Often colours that show up well on a dark background are almost invisible on a light one (the default for practically every IM client on Windows), and anything that looks normal on a light background can be hard to see on a dark one; with a few exceptions.

  21. Would it be possible to include an “edit menu item” selection when right clicking on a menu item in mintmenu?

  22. The Icon for Mintupdate always disturb me too. What a decision.
    We should make a contest for it. I’m shure there are many people that can make nicer and memnonic icons

  23. Quote “Linux Mint’s purpose is to produce an Elegant, Up to Date and Comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution.”

    Well, Mint is certainly up to date. It’s elegant in both user friendliness as in the way it looks. The current default theme indeed looks and feels pro. I like it, it’s sleek and stylish. BUT: I don’t use it! Cause it isn’t Comfortable. It tires my eyes (and therefore my brain as well) very quick. And not only my eyes, but everyone’s eyes. It’s well known and scientifically proven that dark-on-light is way better on the eyes than the other way round.

    So Clem, please also provide us with a sleek, stylish, professional and Comfortable Mint-theme. Blackish is just one of those hypes, it will fade in some time…

    Apart from that: Mint is great. Thumbs up for all you guys behind the scenes. Thanks a million!

  24. This post encouraged me to try to make a list of 20 things that could be improved, I only made it to 19 though 🙂 And most of them were weak-sauce.

    This is the first piece of software that I have just donated to, its that good. It might be free, but its so good I feel as though I’ve stolen something. Yesssss my precious….One distro to control them all…

  25. As a relative newcomer to Linux I arrived at Mint via Ubuntu. I like it and would gladly make it my main OS but for one thing. I cannot open more than one user account! I need at least two users and Mint will not accept my attempts to install any more. As soon as I close “users and groups” the account is lost. Tried getting help through the forum but no luck. Can this be addressed? I’m very happy with everything else. Thanks for all your hard work.

  26. I don’t have too much to say that hasn’t been said already–BUT,please try to consider that some of us that have relatively been new to Linux are old farts. I’m 63 yrs. old and have migrated to Linux about two yrs. ago. Just plain got tired of Windows screwing up and having to make reinstalls. Now,there are enough distros out there to please almost all all of the time. those that like Windows will use it and more power to them. the biggest issue i have with Mint5 is contrast–and that was easily enough fixed by downloading a new desktop picture that was easy on the eyes. My eyes are very glare sensitive. ‘Nuff said on that subject— I have found that Mint5 is one of the easiest distro’s to use (with maybe the exception of Kubunto). the funny thing is that when all or any of the other distro’s go bloowwy, I can always depend on Mint5. I dual boot about 5 distro’s. I really like the way clem responds to the suggestions–NOW THAT’S PRO!!! Thank You Clem for a wonderful distro!!

  27. Don’t know about that time stamp–the reply was sent at 7:59 pm. Oh well–whatever!!

  28. Clem,
    What a classy reply. If only others in the Linux development community would do the same!! Gay Hacker nice review I did not perceive an agenda with the review and its nice to see a truely in depth study of a distro.

  29. hi,

    20 years with windows
    1 year with ubuntu
    2 days with mint5 … and i am very happy with this distro
    thank you for the work done

  30. in fact one problem remains :
    my problem is : to make my printer canon lbp1120 work
    i will check ubuntu 8.04 forums
    then, if i succeed, i will have a complete computer solution to my needs, a complete and nicer alternative to winxp

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