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Linux Mint 13 Review – Ubuntu for Human Beings

by Rob Zwetsloot

The Worlds Favourite Distribution gets a new version based on all the good parts of the Ubuntu LTS, and bundled with two traditional desktop environments

We’ve already given you five reasons to get excited for Linux Mint 13, and now we’re taking a look on if it delivered on them…

While Linux Mint is on its thirteenth version, it only really got popular in the last couple of years. The distribution takes the latest version of Ubuntu, and strips out all the desktop environments and themes and branding, replacing it with its own. It’s because of this that it originally became popular – when Ubuntu made the switch to the controversial Unity, Mint stuck with GNOME 2, and then later created the Mint GNOME Shell Extensions when GNOME 3 was released.

For the first time ever, Mint is not shipping with the official GNOME branch. Instead, they’re distributing two main versions, one based on GNOME 2 fork MATE, and their own in-house Cinnamon environment. Both are great desktops that have their own strengths for different users.

Linux Mint MATE Cinnamon Ubuntu Maya
Welcome to the newest version of Linux Mint

MATE is the logical evolution of GNOME 2, bringing it with it the stability and usability that made GNOME originally so popular. It integrates seamlessly with Mint, with all the Mint Menu and Compiz style additions working flawlessly. It’s great for those who have not been able to get used to other Desktops Environments, with all the familiar menus and work flow.

Cinnamon is the real star of the show though. It’s built upon GNOME 3, but very little of the new GNOME shell is recognisable in Cinnamon. The main difference is the KDE or Windows style Start Menu, split up into the classic GNOME categories, and with application and shutdown shortcuts on the side. That’s far from all though, as the interface has been tweaked to make the work flow much more like classic GNOME, with an improved Alt-Tab function, and the ability to better manage virtual desktops. It has a nice layer of polish that makes it a joy to use, with a lot better support for mousing around the screen than the new GNOME.

Linux Mint Cinnamon Ubuntu Maya
MATE brings the original GNOME 2 back to your desktop

Along with this change up in desktop environments, Mint has received a new display manager, MDM. Built upon GDM, the Mint developers claim is that most features and customisation of any display manager. It definitely has a lot, with a great graphical tool that allows setting up event scripting, themes, welcome messages, and different behaviours for logging in. For some reason it forgoes the more modern method of having a list of user names to click on, instead requiring you to type in your username. Not a big deal for some people, and you can set timed auto log in, but otherwise there is really no reason to remove this.

Obviously it’s not just about the desktop environments and display managers though. Being built upon Ubuntu 12.04, it gets access to the entire suite of Precise Pangolin software, and more importantly the updates. As 12.04 was an LTS release this means that Mint 13 will get the same five year support as the main version. One of the things that the team at Canonical focused on during the development of 12.04 was stability of the system – this of course also transfers over to Mint as well.

Linux Mint Ubuntu Cinnamon MATE Maya
Mint is a great mixture of Ubuntu and Mint’s own desktops

It’s a case of the best of both worlds. Ubuntu is of course a well supported distribution, with a lot of readily available software that Mint has access to. With the far better usability of the Mint desktops environments, it’s never been easier to use all the tools given to the Ubuntu user base. Linux Mint has once again shown that listening to the community is far better than making compromises for vision.



Linux Mint has continued the tradition of taking all the good parts of Ubuntu, and replacing all the bad bits with fantastic, usable, alternatives. Cinnamon and MATE are both great desktops that offer plenty of choice for all users, and perfectly compliment the rest of Mints design aesthetic and philosophy

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    • istok

      EPIC headline. and a sad reminder of how far ubuntu has strayed.

      -and, while i see a lot of sense in cinnamon for people who need that type of UI and will also be getting gnome 3 underneath, and that’s lots of people, i don’t see as much sense in mate. it’s like reviving the dead.

    • moi

      Who crowned Linux Mint the “Worlds Favourite Distribution?”

      When and how did that happen?

    • Myles

      “Worlds Favourite Distribution”???
      So I guess what you’re saying is because of some bs stats from distro watch there are more people running Mint than Ubuntu? 5/5???? Not one problem?

    • Aleve Sicofante

      If you call this a “review”, I guess when you call it news you just use an SMS, right? And still have a few characters left…

    • Andreas Gustafsson

      Shortest review ever.. and “Worlds Favourite Distribution” WTF? 5/5?

    • jsp722

      Not a serious review, just a despicable piece of fanboy propaganda.

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    • syncdram

      Its sad when every person that commented here actually believe there right in there own minds. Its time to take off your blinders you Hypocrites!

    • s

      wtf is this review?

    • bob

      Much of what I’m about to write has already been mentioned by other commenters.

      1. The title to this article is unfortunate. The beginning of the title reads “Linux Mint 13 Review” when there is in fact no review written. One can’t tell from this article whether the reviewer installed the system or even tried it live. There’s no mention of how the installation went, stability or responsiveness of the system, what tweaks if any were required on the reviewer’s system (nor indeed what system the reviewer runs,) whether networking/Flash/multimedia worked, what programs are installed and whether they were responsive and stable, nor essentially anything that actually constitutes a review other than mentioning a bit about menus.

      Maybe the reviewer was pressed for space, but in my view this doesn’t have enough detail to warrant calling it a review.

      2. The use of the words “Worlds Favourite Distribution” is at best contraversial and at worst just plain silly. It would take some strange definition of “world’s favourite distribution” to make sense. I suppose at best one could say “distribution” is a term used for Linux distributions but not most other operating systems (i.e. Windows 7, Windows XP, Android and OSX) shouldn’t be included as they aren’t commonly called “distributions.”

      As for Linux distributions, well, by the estimates I’ve seen, Mint doesn’t have the most users (that falls to Ubuntu,) doesn’t bring in the most money (that would be Red Hat Enterprise, I expect,) isn’t the most written about in the press (that again would be Ubuntu-for example, do a search for Ubuntu and search for “Linux Mint” and see which gets more hits. I just tried it using ixquick as a search engine and the margin was 8,388,608 to 265,369. It would seem unlikely that one has to discount the hits on Ubuntu to take away those that have nothing to do with the Linux disto by 97% to get the number of hits down to the same as Linux Mint.) The only thing I know of that puts Mint at the top of Linux distros in any sort of popularity contest is the Distrowatch rankings, and while I tend to think those rankings have some limited meaning, it is hard to know just what it is-other than people frequenting one particular website which is mostly for enthusiastic Linux users have been clicking on Mint more than Ubuntu the last year or so.


    • foobear

      I agree with the 5/5 and agree that M13 is the best ubuntu based disto available at the moment. I really liked 11 but wasn’t thrilled with 12 so I stayed away for a while. The very first time I booted up the new MATE 13 64bit on my laptop I was hooked! It SLAPS all over ubuntu 12.04 and I haven’t found a single bug yet. I’m not saying they don’t exist, I’m just saying I haven’t found one. Actually i haven’t got a single complaint of any kind (with MATE that is, cinnamon wasn’t as impressive to me for some reason). Which, honestly really kinda blows me away but i’m not gonna argue. Mint 13 is now my main distro and it’s gonna take something pretty special to pull me away!

      My rating of Mint 13 = 5/5!

    • foobear

      And, to all of you commenters who are bitching and moaning about this less than info packed review, I suggest you go get yourself a livecd or install it on an old system and see for yourself. You may find Mint really does live up to the “hype”. That way, you can eliminate the reviewer as a source of misinformation and find out for yourselves! I have a feeling your tune will change.

      PS I’m not a mint fanboi.. Up until 10.10 I ran ubuntu solely and since then have burned through 5-6 distros looking for something like this OS (Fedora 16 with LXDE would be my second choice at the moment). Unity frustrates me and gnome 3 is a hot mess. Now I found something stable that works well and i’m happy again. The Unity and Gnome3 projects can rot in their developers saved folder for all I care now!

      thats my .02 cents!

    • Chris

      I run Mint an I don’t even like this so-called review. (I zoned out about halfway through) First of all, Mint did not start getting popular when Ubuntu switched to Unity. It already had a strong showing in the Linux community before that. So, that statement is in error.

      Secondly, you can’t base anything off of DistroWatch HPD rankings. I click on lots of distributions on there because I want to find out about them. When I do, they get a slight rise the HPD (hits per day.) Does that make them my favorite? No. Most of the time, I don’t even bother installing them. I run Mint, but I don’t go to their DistroWatch page, I have their homepage in my browser favorites. I just go there for my Mint news. There are lots of people who don’t like, don’t use or have never heard of DistroWatch, but they run Linux. So, would certain members of the Linux community stop putting so much stock in one website’s hit rankings?

      Lastly, MATE is a poor excuse for Gnome 2. Anybody who has run it for more than a minute would know this. It’s not the same, even thought it tries very hard to be. Also, it does not blend seamlessly into Mint. Compiz has abysmal performance on there. And, no, it’s not just my computer. I have a modern system with a dual-core processor, 4GB RAM and a 1GB (independent memory) graphics card. It runs Compiz just fine on other systems. Cinnamon (which I’m running) is nice and gives the end user much more of a traditional Mint look, feel and performance, IMHO.

    • ned flanders

      > bundled with two traditional desktop environments

      Its Gnome…. the we know better than you what you want people.

      I remember showing people the vomit that was Ubuntu 8.04 and the cries of derision were loud and clear but to some, it was the bestest. Fine. But dont start selling GNOME 3.0 as a new different desktop. Its the same retards running it, limiting your ability to have a desktop like YOU want.

      Its just that they are pulled three ways now with their ex-lover Buntu’s Unity Fisher Price look, the who knows what the heck it wants to do GNOME 3 and the classic v.2: ugly POS.

      Do you want me to hit you in the face or in the balls seems to be the choices offered to them, so they go back to getting kicked in the ass. Sure, no one likes that but at least they figure its not getting hit in the balls,.

      And if GNome 3 is different, then it CAN NOT be ‘traditional.’

      make up your mind….

    • SudoDude

      I hate Unity, thank god there is an alternative distribution that works out of the box and still lets you tinker if you want. I don’t really care if it is the “worlds favorite”, its my favorite. If I’m a fanboy, well live long and prosper, the force is strong with this distro :)

    • Ed

      PAE. If your computer doesn’t support it you are stuck with Lubuntu 12.04 (not LTS) which wouldn’t work on my old Centrino 1.5 GHz computer. The 32 Bit Mint 13 Live CD worked on my computer. MInt 13 32 bit is designed by default to work without the PAE support, but the support can be added if desired. If the Lubuntu computer doesn’t die within 18 months then your computer won’t be supported by the updates or upgrades according to the Ubuntu policy statements. I haven’t tried to install Mint 13 yet but when the Live CD doesn’t work from my experience it is best to forget about playing around with the distribution.

      This review never even touched the PAE problem. Many descriptions of Linux Mint 13 don’t touch this problem. Why???? To someone with the non PAE computer it is a very important feature.

      Presently I am running Lubuntu 11.04

    • Vas Ple

      Why do we still bother with DEs from the past? Linux has evolved and so the DEs. I too was frustrated when the Gnome-Shell thing happened but after using it for a while in Fedora and went back to my Debian Squeeze … the later felt so much dated!

      Unity is much better than gnome-shell imho. It’s prettier (subjective opinion) , more easily tweakable through gui tools (myunity, ubuntu-tweak) , and it has a few killer features like Dash, and HUD ….both of them make work-flow (especially in a laptop with touchpad) so much easier and intuitive. You practically can do anything without your hands leaving the keyboard and without having to remember obscure keyboard combos to do stuff.

      Although KDE has won its place on my desktop and it isnt going anywhere soon… Unity is shinning bright on my laptop. I couldn’t have asked for better enviroments.

      So for the Mint team to present me with a desktop that resembles a shadow of the good old Gnome 2 (mate) , and another equally poor one from both aesthetic and functional views (cinnamon)…is the least to say….offensive! I Admired the good work they did with mint extensions in Mint 12 …the should have chosen the same road for Mint 13 also.

      Anyway, I’ll be waitng for the Mint 13 KDE version and hoping they won’t decide distributing it with a poorly made kde3 fork , because they simply think that old is better.

    • Orionds

      I tend to feel that sticking with the Gnome 2 desktop or a variant is not good for the long term.

      Most, if not all, the comments & blogs we read, as well as hits in Distrowatch, are from seasoned Linux desktop users. The newer and younger users likely do not take part, so to say. We tend to prefer and stick with what we are used to.

      Having tried Unity (though it still needs work and improvement), I feel that the future lies with Unity or, at least, with the concept. As a lot of users have found, Unity is getting better as time passes.

    • I run Ubuntu with dozens of computers at clients workstations and I have to tell a few things specially to the people that submit comments:

      1. Some of you have a complete lack of manners. Sorry but yes. Hit you on the face or in the balls? WTF? If you can’t put a few words with respect and good manners you better not post anything. That only speaks for you and not for the people who really works with Ubuntu (10.04 because the LTS on business) and don’t want to migrate to Unity.

      2. The Worlds Favorite Distribution expression has in fact several basis, even if it is not true (for some of you):
      * Ubuntu has been the Worlds Favorite Distribution maybe even with the Unity forced GUI.
      * Gnome 3 and the later 3.4 has been more forced that even Linux Torvalds don’t like the unholy mess that is.
      * Linux Mint that I am not using at the moment but I had for lab purposes evaluating which will be the next Linux for all my users, but for some of you that are in fact not developers and think that Cinnamon and Mate are the same thing that Gnome 2, let me tell you something, you are completely wrong. Mate may look similar, and that is exactly the goal for their team of developers and it is not an easy job. For the Cinnamon side, I am using it and I love it. That brings the following point.
      * The change for the change is not good. If you are going to change you will have to do it to something better, otherwise stay where you are and wait until something better appears or, take the keyboard and do what they do: develop something better and expect some rude people to say to you WTF? and hit you in the balls.
      * Several people are in fact angry with Unity and Gnome 3. Both projects had showed a wide and unbelievable and undeniable deft to the community. Maybe Linux Mint it is not the Worlds Favorite Distribution yet, but listening to the people they will become the one as the author said (and that’s again, undeniable): Linux Mint has continued the tradition of taking all the good parts of Ubuntu, and replacing all the bad bits with fantastic, usable, alternatives..

    • While the classic gnome desktop (essentially clones of the windows 95 desktop) is not broken on our laptops and desktops, it is broken on tablets and other touch screen devices. Unity, Gnome 3, and Windows 8 are all interfaces heavily influenced by the shift towards mobile / tablet computing. As a “Power User” (full time computer programmer), I was initially put off by Unity, tried Gnome 3, KDE, LXDE, but now am back to the latest Unity and am fairly happy. Things have stabilized fairly well. One thing that I think is not well recognized is that Unity is extremely keyboard friendly, which in my mind = power user friendly. I can launch any program, install programs, play an album, find files, etc… in a search interface with real-time feedback. It even has a key (the windows key) that shows all the keyboard shortcuts. If you haven’t tried unity since the original 11.04, give it a spin and learn the keyboard shortcuts.

    • PhillE

      I also had a problem with Gnome 3 and Unity and it took me a while to get used to it. However the biggest item I missed was Compiz. I like my bling on the desktop and it was very unreliable on Ubuntu 11.04/11.10. I therefore went back to 10.10 on most of my PCs/laptop. However, and I am pleased to say, with 12.04 LTS I have the bling back and I am happy! Spinning cube, with transparency and gears, wobbly windows, transparent windows while dragging, closing windows flying away with aeroplane animation, etc. The only thing not working is Dodging Windows as that would crash occasionally – but I can wait, I know it would be fixed…. :-)

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    • jscottu

      I no longer buy new computers so all of my computers are single core. MATE is perfect for my needs Cinnamon would be nice, I suppose, but I don’t need it and it would be slow for me.

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    • Steve

      Sadly i’ve problems using Mint 13, due the knowing bug related with the Bcm43xx wireless cards. So Jumped to other Linux distro. This article didn’t mention this issue with Bcm43xx…

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    • Sunny

      Linux Mint is a good Linux OS but it has crossed it limits by showing off and bluffing too much. It has learned from Ubuntu and is now trying to making fun of it by developing its own shit of interface Cinnamon. I prefer Unity and Gnome 3 to Cinnamon.

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    • MWB

      Having a slightly older HP Desktop the Unity on Ubuntu didn’t work right and was unappealing to me, Linux Mint 12 had issues, I have been trying many distros over the past few years to get me off Windows and finally Linux Mint 13 works great, I chose MATE and now run it on my HP DC5000sff & Dell Inspiron mini 1010. My favorite portable FD distro is Macpup based off Puppy Linux based off Ubuntu and so on….

    • John

      I would agree that using the expression “Worlds Favourite Distribution” to describe the Mint distribution is indeed a claim which needs to be substantiated. Similarly, a review should be a critical article or report, a critique or evaluation. That said, I have tried various different distributions and keep coming back to Mint.The installation process and default user interface is logical and simple.The operating system is stable and reliable.


      Whoo ever thought Linux users had to have PAE. So freeking Limiting. I like improvement – but GNOME 2 or KDE 3 weren’t all that bad. I wish MINT would give us a MINT that does NOT require PAE. Cinnamon is nice – but it requires a better video card than my cheepo IBM T42 has. I”ve learned my lesson of wasting time. I’m sticking with the main Linux Distribution ISO’s. All of the “community distro’s” are so unpolished. Playing with betas are for people who have time top burn.

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