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Linux Mint shows third GNOME way

Don't like Unity? Hate GNOME 3? Linux Mint shows that there is another way.

Linux Mint will be moving to GNOME 3, but the Linux distribution will be adding its own extensions to the new desktop shell to make it more like the traditional GNOME desktop. And if that's not enough, Mint will also come packing the new GNOME 2.0 fork, MATE.

Mint acknowledged the perceived shortcomings of the GNOME 3 desktop in a blog post over the weekend, and said that they have developed the Mint Gnome Shell Extensions (MGSE) to combat them and provide users with a bottom panel, application menu, window list, task-centric desktop, and visible tray icons.

(Credit: Linux Mint)

Users will be able to take the extensions wholesale or enable only the ones they want.

Due to Fallback mode in GNOME 3 looking like GNOME 2.0 but not being able to run GNOME 2.0 panel applets, Mint has made the decision to move to MATE, a fork of GNOME 2.32.

In order to have GNOME 3 and MATE installed side by side, MATE needs to rename all of its libraries, and thus also port the themes and applications from GNOME 2 to MATE. If MATE makes it to Mint's liveDVD, it is likely to have "rough edges", and may not be ready in time for the distribution's release candidate.

The next Mint release is due on 20 November, but the development team has decided to release it "when [it is] ready".

GNOME 3 is reported to be already fully functional, and a MATE installation has been made to run alongside GNOME 3 on Ubuntu 11.10 (Mint bases itself on Ubuntu).

My take

The news from Mint is welcome; there are a great many people to whom Ubuntu's Unity and GNOME's 3 desktop are not reasonable choices. The ability to add some familiar desktop concepts via GNOME 3's extension infrastructure is the right way to go about this -- as is the ability to pick and choose which extensions to install.

Personally, I'm one of those strange people who have broken through the GNOME 3 barrier to come out the other side and love it. But it was a process I went through because I was running Ubuntu pre-releases, and Unity was less than welcome on my desktop; I had no other choice than to get to know GNOME 3 or jettison over to XFCE or another desktop/window manager.

One of the first things I did was try to find a taskbar or dock-like extension that worked well in GNOME 3, but to no avail. Being able to have one would have lowered the disruption and frustration that initially accompanied the move to GNOME 3.

The fact that the developers of Mint are taking a "release when it is ready" approach it very welcome indeed.

Too often, distributions and projects release to a schedule and damn any major update or fix to functionality that may have missed the cut-off date. Conversely, some releases make you wonder why the team bothered doing a six-monthly release at all -- those releases have nothing in them that couldn't be updated by the distro's updating mechanism.

Because I've made it through the other side with GNOME 3, I'll be sticking to it. But were I to make a new machine, or want to move desktops in the coming weeks, I'd be on the Mint train for sure.

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12 comments
jkameleon
jkameleon

Looks interesting. Is it worth a try?

garyfizer
garyfizer

I tried Mint about two years ago as my first Linux experience and was pleased but went on to try others. Last week I installed Mint again. Except for some hassles with hooking up to my wifi that I'm still working on, I am happy with it. My fall-back is still Puppy, but Mint is sweet. A help page would be of more use than the limited FAQ page and forum to newbies.

Luke G.
Luke G.

I usually fall back to the very extensive help forums for Ubuntu. They're close enough that most of the things I've read were helpful in Mint as well.

jason
jason

I have been using Mint on both my desktop and my main server for about a year now and I must say it has performed FLAWLESSLY! The Mint team has really produced a nice product. I am not sure if I will upgrade right away as it will take a-lot in preparations before I do but I highly recommend Mint as a great Ubuntu alternative. I moved away from Ubuntu after Unity wouldn't run on my desktop and really made no sense on my server.

yaseennoorani
yaseennoorani

Although I have never used Mint (due to various reasons that are not Mint's fault) I like the approach they are taking. It is now at the top on distrowatch (doesn't mean it has most users, it gives you an idea) and that must be because they are doing something right. I just love their approach

pgit
pgit like.author.displayName 1 Like

This Mint looks a lot like what Mandriva is doing to KDE4 with it's "Rosa" project, a similar overlay to ostensibly make the typical end user more comfortable with the environment. For my take that means "dumbing down." I love gnome 3, it took hold of me the first time I logged into an alpha, hacked together and packaged by Mandriva a year or so before there was any set release on the calendar. It was rough and lacking, but I could see the principle behind it. I consider it one of the rare "revolutionary" steps in desktop development as opposed to "evolutionary," small changes around the edges we typically see. That said I use straight upstream KDE 4 for the most part. But if I ever get a touch device, I'll do what it takes to get gnome 3 on there. I believe gnome 3 would take the touch market by storm if someone put it on their device. The flow of using it is a natural for touch, in remarkably intricate ways. In fact, if I ever do get a touch based device like a tablet, it will be precisely so I can put gnome 3 on it, I wouldn't get one otherwise. Unless I had a full blown, open source Linux OS on the thing I wouldn't have much use for a tab. And I couldn't imagine myself using touch without the smooth flow gnome 3 would provide.

phil
phil

I've built some boxes with the new Ubuntu, then converted over to Gnome Shell, then added the extensions manually: all quite satisfying but time consuming. Its great that there is a distro out there that does the work for you.

Luke G.
Luke G.

I've been running Mint on my main laptop for a year or so now and have been loving it. I have had a few issues here and there, but with good backups, a separate home partition, and my important tools running in a vm, I don't mind reinstalling if I have to. I'm a special case, perhaps. :) So, I'll be giving 12 a shot when it's fully baked and ready to go!

jkameleon
jkameleon

I switched from Windows about 6 montsh ago for this reason. I could use WAMP, but things generally work better in their home environment, besides, there are far better development tools available on Linux. OK, I can back the home directory up, put it in separate partition, whatever, no problem. The main annoyance in my case is to set my development environment all over again- php.ini, apache, virtual hosts, xdebug, that kind of stuff. To run the applications I need on regular basis in VM... I don't know... somehow it doesn't make sense. If I'd run them in VM, why would I need to bother about the distro at all?

Luke G.
Luke G.

Running my dev environment in a VM is not convenient, in some ways. But, my decision was based on 1) losing my system due to rogue updates, and 2) changing distros twice before I came to Mint. Since I can take a snapshot of the VM regularly, it's essentially 'future proof' since I can easily roll back any updates or changes. And, I can migrate to any current operating system I choose--Windows, Mac, other Linux distro--with no changes at all, as it is totally insulated from the host in this respect. That's my reasoning on it. I know you can do other things to preserve your config without running a VM (use svn/hg/git to backup your config files, etc). Maybe that is a viable option as well, but I have not tried it.

jkameleon
jkameleon

I've already reconciled myself with the fact that I'll probably lose my environment again, when OpenSUSE 12.1 comes out in a couple of days. I'll try git, and let you know how it went if you want. BTW, I was forced to switch to OpenSUSE because MySql workbench doesn't work on new Ubuntu/Kubuntu (which means it won't work on the next version of Mint either). The second reason I did that is that the latest and greatest version of Mono is available as RPG only. Since I'm coming from Windows, Mono is an obvious choice for me.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... the Mint upgrades are just too painful. So... I'll just stick with ol' KDE, I guess.