Tech thoughts: Giving Linux Mint XFCE a brief try

MacBook, coffee mug, and cactus

This week, I’ve given Linux Mint XFCE a more full-fledged go, via an actual installation to my laptop. While I’ve tried the live CD a few times (see my previous remarks on Mint XFCE), this time I thought I’d actually see if it could replace my current Xubuntu 11.04 system. After trying it, however, I’ve decided to go back to Xubuntu. All of the positives and negatives I outlined in the previous Mint post still apply, but I have a few others to add:

  • My volume touch controls on my laptop were recognized after installation (but not from the live CD), a plus.
  • The installer compared to Xubuntu is lackluster and (in parts) unintuitive. While some of the installation questions are similar to Xubuntu’s, other questions asked are quite confusing, even for an experienced user. I shouldn’t be asked during installation of a distro that’s supposed to be somewhat user-friendly about whether or not I want to keep or upgrade some arcane system file without some type of explanation of what it’s for. The installer, unlike Xubuntu’s, also asked if I wanted to install GRUB. While it was listed under an “advanced” heading, the installer didn’t explain what a “bootloader” is (or why I would/wouldn’t want to install it). By default, GRUB was set to install. Partitioning my drive, however, went along well enough (Mint makes use of GParted). After all settings were chosen, Mint installed, though with only a plain progress bar displaying. By contrast, Xubuntu (as of late) offers nicely done slide-show screens demonstrating the features of the distro.
  • After installation was finished, a few startup errors occurred (related to me putting GRUB under the wrong partition instead of leaving it as the default, oops), but I fixed that.
  • Usage-wise, Mint XFCE was a familiar experience, though a bit less polished feeling than Xubuntu. I also got a few system errors, possibly related to installing it over Xubuntu. I didn’t recall running into Xubuntu’s shutdown bug, however.

Overall, while the actual Mint XFCE desktop is OK (as noted in the last review), the installation procedure and a few of the system errors made me decide to just stick with Xubuntu for now. Given Linux Mint XFCE only recently switched to a Debian-based rolling distribution, however, perhaps some of the bugs will be fixed over time. Otherwise, I hope the installer sees a major overhaul by the time the next ISO is released.

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