TechieMoe reviews a lot of distributions and he’s consistently reviewed Mint since the release of version 3.1, Celena. He was the first to review Linux Mint 6 Felicia. Although he usually only scratches the surface (which I understand considering the number of reviews he publishes) he knows how to be harsh in his criticism and when he doesn’t like something he usually lets everyone know within his review. So I wasn’t expecting an in-depth analysis but I was ready nonetheless to get some honest negative feedback on which to improve…
Link to the review: http://www.techiemoe.com/tech/linuxmint6.htm
… in the end he actually brought up very interesting points and he wasn’t harsh at all 🙂
Happy reading everyone.
Moe writes: “The origin of the code name for this one is obvious. I mean, who *wouldn’t* want to name a Linux distribution after a busty, anatomically disproportionate cat woman who moonlights as a street fighter/pop star? Or maybe I’m just too much of a child of the 90s.”
–> I thought I was a child of the 90s… I never heard of that one now 🙂 Anyway, the inspiration usually comes from Ancient parts of our history (Greece, Rome, Carthage…). But in this case Felicia simply is the “happy” one.
Moe writes: “The programs menu is reminiscent of the openSuSE and SuSE Linux Enterprise implementations, which is not a good thing. I didn’t like when those distros used it and my opinion hasn’t recently changed.”
–> The implementations of Slab and mintMenu have absolutely nothing in common. The design has (mintMenu being an early fork of USP which initial purpose was to give Ubuntu a Slab-like menu). From a user point of view the two menus, although they could probably fit under the same category (because of the way they look and the way they integrate advanced features), are also extremely different. If I was to rank mintMenu, Gnome Menu and Slab on a preference scale, I would actually have Slab completely at the bottom… so what I like in mintMenu isn’t there in Slab and I guess Slab users probably dislike mintMenu for similar reasons. Nowadays Gnome Menu, mintMenu, USP and even Slab itself work fine under Linux Mint so the user can choose whichever menu he/she prefers, but one menu shouldn’t be ruled out just because it “looks” like another one… (tell me if I’m wrong but doesn’t the Gnome menu look a bit like the Windows 2000 start menu? … ok ok, let’s not go down that road :)).
Moe writes: “Mint also has a customized version of the Wubi installer for Windows called “mint4win.” This is the first time I’ve encountered an offshoot distro that took the time to tweak that part of the OS.”
–> Credits go to Merlwiz for this (who’s famous for maintaining our XFCE Community Edition). He’s done everything to make this work, from the custom grub scripts to the exe itself. Actually, he even came with the idea. If it wasn’t for him there wouldn’t be a way to install Mint from Microsoft Windows right now 🙂
Moe writes: “Adding and removing software can be handled by the Ubuntu-default Synaptic or by “mintInstall.” I couldn’t tell if the packages I found in mintInstall were from a DEB repository or their own “.mint” installer files. I assume with the inclusion of both programs, minInstall is strictly for the Mint repositories.”
–> Well, you don’t really need to know 🙂 That’s what mintInstall is for, it lets you interact at the application level so you don’t need to worry about packages, repositories, keys and all. Now, in 99% of the cases the .mint files you’re browsing in mintInstall actually contain a single instruction: “INSTALL PACKAGE X FROM USER’S REPOSITORIES”. But the .mint protocol also allows for more complex instructions and so a particular application can be installed differently (a .mint file could describe the installation of VMWare for instance) and put in the portal and in mintInstall the same way as any other application. We could also store tasks as .mint files and have them reside in mintInstall within a separate category. We haven’t used that at all yet and I’m sure the difference between .mint and .deb will become much clearer when/if we do in the future.
Moe writes: “When I first ran mintInstall and hit update I wondered why it was taking so long to read (what I assume to be) just a list of software off a repository. When it finished, I realized I was wrong. In previous versions of Mint you could browse their software repository from a website and look at screenshots of the program or visit the developer’s website before installing. Apparently the idea for this release was to bring that functionality down to the distro itself by way of an application. This is not a new idea (I’ve mentioned Linspire’s Click and Run Warehouse before), but the way Mint presents it is much cleaner, in my opinion. That’s not to say it’s perfect, by any means. The initial load of some 500 screenshots took the better part of an hour on a reasonably fast connection. I think the loading should be threaded so that you can at least browse through the programs that are already downloaded rather than having to wait for the whole repository to load.”
–> I’m delighted with what mintInstall has become but Moe’s spot on on this: its refresh speed is simply not acceptable. The threading is a good idea. We could also use compression… at the moment we simply download every screenshot, one at a time, so the reviewer is right. We need to improve on this.
Moe writes: “I was happy that at least the screenshots stayed resident once they were loaded, so if I closed mintInstall and reopened it I wasn’t looking at an hour each time.”
–> The requirement for the new mintInstall frontend was that you could browse the content of the portal directly from the desktop, but also while being offline. You only need to be connected to refresh the frontend or to actually install an application.
Moe writes: “Just out of curiosity I hit “Refresh” again after the initial load and although the process was longer than I would have liked, it didn’t take another hour.”
–> That is a reviewer doing his job, ready to go through pain just to make sure about something 🙂 Well, I’m glad it was faster, but unfortunately it shouldn’t have been. Maybe it was thanks to a network proxy. Upon refresh, mintInstall cleans its cache and restart loading everything from scratch. This is definitely something we’re going to address and I guess we’ll use deltas (either client or server side) to ensure data isn’t downloaded again when it doesn’t need to be. Ideally, the data being the same, your second refresh shouldn’t have been faster, it should have been immediate! We’ll definitely work on that.
Moe writes: “While browsing the repository I was a little annoyed at the lack of a package for Nvidia drivers. With all due respect to Envy NG (which was in the repo) I just don’t trust it. The *only* way I install Nvidia drivers is manually using Nvidia’s official script or through an official repository DEB like in Ubuntu.”
–> That’s a good point. Maybe we should add a Drivers category and add drivers there (whether they’re .debs isn’t relevant).
Moe writes: “Some of the organizational choices in the MintInstall repo were questionable as well. For instance, does the PearPC emulator really belong in the Games section?”
–> I can justify that, but it will still be arguable 🙂 Most emulators relate to gaming consoles and retro gaming so the Emulators sub-category was placed within the Games category. The mintInstall frontend uses categories as filters so when you’re looking at Games you’re not only looking at all the applications which are under “Games”, you’re looking at all the applications which are in any sub-category under there as well…
Moe writes: “The number of Mint-specific additions in this release is impressive. It’s good to see that the team isn’t just focused on slapping on a different coat of paint and calling it a day.”
–> Python’s much easier than Gimp… we’re just being lazy 🙂 Our ambition is to make a great desktop so if something is missing or if something isn’t as nice as it should be we’re not afraid to code it ourselves. I think some people are getting bored with the look though. I like it a lot personally, but it’s been the same in the last three releases and some people are asking us to change it. Until I find something better I won’t change any of it though 😉
Moe writes: “In the past I’ve been both impressed and disappointed by Mint because although it added several useful out-of-the-box features to a solid Ubuntu base, it just wasn’t different enough for me to justify using it over its parent. This release has a number of substantive differences that if further developed will address that issue quite nicely.”
–> I understand that we need to be different and that we need to bring something unique for people to use Mint rather than Ubuntu. Our project’s purpose has never been about Ubuntu though. It has never been about improving Ubuntu, enhancing Ubuntu or differentiating ourselves from Ubuntu. Ubuntu is one of our upstream components, which we use, configure, and alter the same way Canonical does with Gnome for instance. We’re different enough, I guess, in the way we think, in the way we work and in our priorities to come with desktops which feel, look and behave differently but our purpose is to improve, not to differentiate. When Ubuntu comes with a good idea, we include it in Mint. It they knew better they would do the same. The technical level of difference doesn’t actually matter that much. Being “different” isn’t such an issue. We’re managing to achieve our goals, with every release we get closer to a perfect desktop and we do things the way we think is best. Are we a separate distribution? How different are we technically? As long as we make people happy and excited about what we do, it doesn’t really matter that much. Linux Mint 6 Felicia is the first Gnome version of Mint to be forked directly off Ubuntu since Linux Mint 2.0 Barbara… so it’s as close to Ubuntu as it can be! 🙂 At the same time it’s the most matured Linux Mint desktop we’ve ever released, mintier than ever. So is it closer to Mint 5 or to Ubuntu 8.10? It probably depends on what you’re looking at, and in the end it doesn’t really matter, as long as you enjoy it more than the other two 🙂