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Linux Mint 13 Maya vs Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

Linux Mint 13 "Maya" is out!  I'm running it under VMware Player and it appears to be rock solid.  Mint 13 is based on Ubuntu 12.04 "Precise Pangolin", which is the most recent release of the venerated Ubuntu OS.  Ubuntu 12.04 is itself rock solid, and by extension, so is Mint 13.

The major difference is in the interface.  Ubuntu developed it's own custom interface called Unity, which offers a strip of quick access icons on the left side of the desktop, and window menu items strangely detached from the window and placed up on the menu strip at the top of the desktop.  Mint offers two interfaces: MATE, based on Gnome 2.x which was probably the most popular interface of all time, and Cinnamon, which is based on Gnome 3.x.  Gnome 2 was slated for the dustbin, but MATE has brought it back to life, and Gnome 3, some say, lacked important features which Cinnamon has attempted to address.

Cinnamon, as is true of Gnome 3 in general, will not display correctly on video hardware that does not support 3D acceleration, and instead drops into a fallback mode that looks similar to Gnome 2.  The same is true when you try to run Gnome 3 under VMware Player.  If you do have the necessary video hardware, Cinnamon provides you with a traditional start menu interface, but with 3D enhancements like transparency. Cinnamon also uses the Gnome 3 hot corner (upper left), which it uses to display open windows and desktops.

The Mint 13 MATE interface is beautiful, and if you loved Gnome 2, you'll love MATE.  MATE comes with the appearance applet that allows you the full customization of the interface that we all loved in Gnome 2.  Cinnamon, like Gnome 3, is still lacking in tools to customize the interface, although it does a better job allowing theme changes than Gnome 3 does (unless you install some tweak tools).  Personally, although it took me a while, I've learned to love Gnome 3, Fedora 16 with Gnome 3 is my current favorite Linux distro.  Ubuntu's Unity?  Sorry I still hate it.

I can't bash Ubuntu too hard though, besides the Unity interface, it's certainly one of the best Linux distros out there, and you have to admit that Mint is riding on Ubuntu's coat tails, it uses Ubuntu's repositories.  It's just that Mint has taken that which people don't like about Ubuntu (Unity) and replaced it with something better (MATE and Cinnamon).

Functionally, Ubuntu and Mint are just about identical.  They are both based on much of the same high quality code base.  But given the choice of interfaces, I prefer Mint, and it seems that the majority of users agree. Mint has been at the top spot on distrowatch for a few versions now.

You can download Linux Mint 13, in 32 and 64 bit versions with MATE or Cinnamon at http://www.linuxmint.com/release.php?id=18

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