Linux Mint 5 Review: TechieMoe

TechieMoe.com often appears on distrowatch in the review section. The great thing about it is that it actually reviews new releases very often and very quickly. The bad thing is that it doesn’t take the time to review them properly and often only gives an overview of the new features, misses improvements, ignores their philosophy and barely scratches the surface. So Elyssa was reviewed on TechieMoe.com a few days after its release and it got a score (3 penguins) but none of its new features (as in not even one) were discussed…

… although one might wonder why somebody would review a product he knows nothing about and give a score to something he didn’t read the release notes, Moe rises a few interesting points so I decided to comment on his review nonetheless. Warning though: Moe doesn’t know much about Mint, to him it’s more or less Ubuntu, and he doesn’t have a clue what has changed between Daryna and Elyssa. I’m not sure whether he knows about the Release Notes and the User Guide or whether the pace and purpose of techiemoe.com simply doesn’t allow him to take the necessary time to know about the different distribution he gives a brief overview of.

Don’t take me wrong, it’s nice to have an overview of something sometimes, but as a review of something we’ve worked on for the last 6 months, I found it quite disappointing.

Link to the review: http://www.techiemoe.com/tech/linuxmint5.htm

– Moe said: “It offers a stable base of Ubuntu along with several useful pieces that aren’t included for legal reasons

–> For “licensing” reasons, as the problem here isn’t to do with legislation but mostly with patents.

– Moe said: “I like being given the choice to enable root and turn off fortunes. I was less than impressed by the fact that my regular user was still given sudo privileges after I enabled the root account, though. The end result was the same as if I’d simply not enabled it, so the choice is pretty futile.”

–> Now, this is the main reason why I decided to comment on this review. I find that point particularly interesting. Moe definitely has a point here and whether we agree or disagree with him on that point, we should look into this and see at the very least if mintAssistant, in the way it phrases the question and allows that choice, should also give the possibility to remove sudo-powers to the main user. I will look in how to improve mintAssistant to allow that choice to be made. At the moment it’s a yes or no question and the user needs to choose between sudo and sudo + root password, this can be made better and we’ll improve it for Mint 6.

– Moe said: “I realize that Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, and Ubuntu does everything with sudo. However I’d like to be able to make Mint behave the same as other distributions if I choose to enable the root account.

–> Very valid point. I can see why a user would want to do that and I can’t see any reason why mintAssistant shouldn’t let him/her do it. We’ll fix that in Linux Mint 6.

– Moe said: “I make my user password hard to guess, and my root password close to impossible to guess, and in order to do anything terribly damaging an attacker would need at least root. Using the default Ubuntu and Mint setup, an attacker needs only to crack the user password (which is in theory easier to do) in order to make system-wide changes.

–> I disagree with that and I don’t see any reason why the your user password should be easier to guess, especially if the admin can use and remember a complex password for the root account. Exposing the user account is not a good idea in the first place, not to mention that on a single-user system the user account is as precious as root since the only real value is in the data and documents stored in the user’s home, in information which can’t be communicated or lost.

– Moe said: “The first thing I tried was wireless drivers. Although a graphical configuration screen was available for NDISWrapper, I was unable to get my Broadcom card to work. I attempted to install Nvidia 3D drivers as well, but the script failed when it couldn’t find GLIBC. Apparently Linux Mint does not include the “build-essential” packages by default. I attempted to add “build-essential” using the disc, but I couldn’t find a way to define the disc as a source. In regular Ubuntu this is done in “Software Sources.” I looked around on the CD itself and could find no packages, so manual installation was out of the question.

–> We placed broadcom drivers on the disc, there are mintWifi drivers in /usr/lib/linuxmint/mintWifi/drivers and we don’t include build-essential by default. The disc itself doesn’t act as a repository like the Ubuntu liveCD does. It’s a problem with the space available on the CD, because of our software selection we can’t add much on the CD itself.

– Moe said: “If found, it will take you to a website that lists the package, a description and gives an “Install Now” button. Clicking that downloads the appropriate files and you’re off. Although it’s an interesting feature, I don’t see any benefit to this over Synaptic.

–> Community reviews, screenshots, ranking, the ability to explain to someone how to install something by just sending him/her a link he/she can click on or by sending him/her a .mint file by email (a few KB), browsing of applications in a particular category and by popularity, ability to make installers for virtually anything (a .deb is a .deb, a .mint file can install many .debs from different repositories, with different keys, it can run any kind of code, launch operations, make modifications on the filesystem, send emails..etc.. basically a .mint file can do much more than installing a .deb), application-centric approach as opposed to package-centric approach in Synaptic (people like to think of applications by their name, not by the names of the package(s) that represent(s) them).

– Moe said: “However, even with the multimedia codecs it installs I can’t help but ask myself why I’d choose Mint over regular Ubuntu. Given the choice, I’d still go with the devil I know. I know its limitations, and I can work around them. There’s too much unfamiliar territory in Mint.

–> I completely agree. If you don’t see any difference between a derivative and its base distribution then you’ve got no reason to run the derivative, it’s pure common sense. Now having said that, we’ve been developing Linux Mint for nearly 2 years now, we’ve got really detailed Release Notes and a 100 pages User Guide going through each specificity of our distribution… I don’t think Mint is popular because people like black better than brown and although it’s fine for somebody not to show interest in new distributions, I though that was precisely the point in a review.

Conclusion:

I’d like to thank Moe for rising that point about mintAssistant and sudo. It definitely made me think further about it and I’m pretty sure it will allow us to improve this in the upcoming Mint 6. The review itself is disappointing and it summarizes how people see Mint when all they know is that it’s based off Ubuntu. If you run Mint in a VM for about 10 minutes and just poke it here and there… obviously it’s going to look like Ubuntu with codecs and a different theme. It reminds me of my niece (she’s been running Mint Main for a year now)… as I was testing KDE CE she kind of looked at it, saw that it had Firefox, OpenOffice and all that.. and she said “.. so it’s just blue then is it?”.

18 comments

  1. …I can’t help but ask myself why I’d choose Mint over regular Ubuntu… There’s too much unfamiliar territory in Mint.
    ___________
    And stupid me was asking just the opposite question! Ubuntu’s very fine. I just like Mint better in almost every way. Ah, choice.

  2. About the Software Sources, a friend of mine had a similar “problem” (isn’t a big one). After search the new AMule on Synaptic (because there isn’t the Add/Remove GUI), i saw that it wasn’t updated on the ubuntu’s repo. So i told him that go to the Amule’s site and see for the instructions to add the amule’s repos. After do that, he couldn’t find the Software Sources (before he had ubuntu and added some sources with that GUI). So, he went to mintInstall and search it though the Mint Portal, he found a newer mule than the one in the repos, but happens that the version in the portal is outdated too (it’s an svn release in Jan). He got frustrated. After some minutes, i told him that go to synaptic and add the AMule repos there. But, the dialog for add the repos in synaptic confused him a bit. After think that to add the repos he has to put manually the “hardy” and “main” sufixes in the textboxes and remove the “deb” prefix, finally he added the damn repo. After that, he uninstalled the SVN version of AMule and installed the last version.

    So, what i want to point is that, maybe could be a good idea add that Software Sources thing and put back the Add/Remove front-end.

    Sometimes a newcomer can be confused by the many options to install something. Because they have 3 options in mintInstall, plus Synaptic, the option to install by Add/Remove, and above all that the terminal (with apt-get or aptitude). Some of us we can make a “guide” explaining what’s the difference between installing an app by the Soft. Portal (having the .mint files updated), by searching in the APT seccion, and additionally the GetDeb one.
    After that, installing and uninstalling with Synaptic, and do some “combo”, like install an app with the .mint and uninstalling it with synaptic or right-clicking in the mintMenu.

    Oh, and the permissions issues with chmod (i’ve posted in the other revision comments, some links about how to add that in nautilus with Eiciel).

    I hope that my english can be understandeable. Cheers from Argentina 🙂

  3. I found it funny because I read this review a while ago and everything clem disagreed with were things that I disagreed with too.

  4. Tate brings up an interesting point that i have sorta experienced myself,

    back in my ubuntu days i tried converting my dad to use ubuntu, i and taught him how to install programs using add/remove and also synaptic but now converting him over to mint he is lost with choice quite frankly he’s scared of the terminal and he finds mint install’s software repository often doesn’t have the program i suggest which puts him off that 2 but synaptic always has it and its familiar so its all he uses now.. (p.s i made recommendations to add the programs missing in the forums)

    I on the other hand tend to get all my programs direct from the web because the repositories are often quite behind in version numbers.

  5. Well, to add the Add/Remove front end do a sudo aptitude install gnome-app-install, and you’re done.

  6. I wouldnt really call the first one there a review, but i thought the second one was pretty fair in what he said i didnt think it was that negative but instead a rather helpful point of view. I don’t agree with the trash can icon being in any other place though i’ve gotten so used to it in he menu and besides if the user wants to he can place it anywhere he/she wants. I also dont agree with him saying that the gtk theme “purple” (i think he means blue) doesnt match with the green everywhere else, well i like it 2 tone color schemes are more interesting. Those are my thoughts anyhow.

  7. I used a lot of Linux distributions and I must say that Mint is the best for me.The nice thing about Mint is that I don;t have to configure a lot. The only thing I’m disappointed about is that Mint 5 hasn’t a lot of new things to offer. But still it’s my favourit distribution.

  8. Clem, As to the issue with Mint Assist giving root privileges to users,..would it not be better to have the option for root privilege for the first user account, assuming that the first account will be for the main user, meaning the person who sets up the machine, and then by default, deny root privilege for every subsequent user. Maybe have the root account or main user account the power to grant root access to other users if necessary?

  9. I love ubuntu, I love Mint even more. I have never had any problems with anything! My girlfriend was so impressed with the eye candy she now loves it. And now her dad. Yes I spread mint like a virus. Extremely stable. And windows runs nicely in a box when needed. I have it running on a Sony Vaio vgn-nr120e laptop. My Girlfriend is running it on a dell laptop and her dad on a thinkpad. We are all very happy and can not stress enough… No Problems. Oh and hehehe no cash. I do feel guilty not paying for such hard work. Thank You Clem and all who contributed!

    Jay and Britt

  10. Hmm… I’ve never had any problems with my wireless drivers or 3D drivers using mint, which is why i switched over in the first place.

    Additionally, I keep a small archive of my .Mint applications on my USB drive, so if I ever want to share with friends or family whom I have convinced to try out Mint, I can just run the .Mint files and it will take care of all the installations.

    I understand moe’s concern, but the philosophy of Mint is greater than the sum of it’s parts.

  11. Brown, blue, green, to be honest does not matter to me as the default theme for me usually lasts less than a few hours past install anyway 8)

    I liked Mint over Ubuntu as when I picked up Daryna, all of the problems I had with ubuntu were just solved. Propriety wifi card worked, nvidia dirvers installed and compiz just worked.

    I’m a little disappointed with the default package choices in Elyssa as they were completely different from previous versions for all of the media playback etc. No problem though, as amarok is only an apt-get away 8)
    Still up and running much faster with less fussing around than many other distros I’ve tried.

  12. “…I can’t help but ask myself why I’d choose Mint over regular Ubuntu… There’s too much unfamiliar territory in Mint.”

    That’s because you didn’t bother to invest any quality time with Mint, before you felt you were qualified enough to rate it…

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