Which one is better, Linux Mint or Ubuntu? This question has been there ever since Linux Mint came in picture. And this article does not answer to this question, well, not entirely. So, what is this about then?
I have been an Ubuntu user for a long time. I stray to other Linux distributions but I keep coming back to Ubuntu, sooner or later. I tried my hands on Linux Mint 16 recently and I must say it is quite pleasant experience. As an old Ubuntu user, it was natural for me to compare my experience with Linux Mint with Ubuntu.
Top seats for beginner friendly Linux desktop are acquired by Ubuntu and Linux Mint, there is no doubt about it. While Ubuntu is based on Debian, Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu. Question is why use an Ubuntu derivative or a Debian derivative instead of using the source itself. The answer to the question is derivative is better.
The comparison which I am doing here is from the point of view of a beginner Linux desktop user who has just switched from Windows. The comparison is between Linux Mint 16 Petra with Cinnamon and Ubuntu 13.10 Saucy Salamander with Unity. The comparison may or may not be applicable to other versions.
Things that make Mint a better Linux desktop for beginners than Ubuntu:
There are few features which one expects in a desktop but unfortunately, Ubuntu has not been serious about them. I have earlier wrote about things I hate in Ubuntu 13.04, and its pretty much the same story in Ubuntu 13.10.
Format a USB disk:
When was the last time you did a right click on a mounted USB disk and was actually able to do a format? Until Ubuntu 13.04 there was not even an option of USB format in right click menu context. You had to put a lot of extra effort to format a USB disk in Ubuntu. It exists in Ubuntu 13.10 but does not work as Files (default file manager) requires to be run as root to do such operation. Oh, but it won’t ask you for that. You click on format and nothing happens.
In Linux Mint, Nemo does a fine job on USB formatting. It is surprising that such a basic feature does not work in Ubuntu 13.10.
Start up disk creator:
When I downloaded the image of Linux Mint to try it via live USB, I tried to create a live USB using Start up disk creator program in Ubuntu. It was all well till the end when it gave error and live USB could not be created. A bug has been reported but it has not been resolved in past two months.
On the other hand Linux Mint 16 has introduced its own USB Image Writer that works like a charm. I created a live USB of Fedora and it did not raise any issue.
Themes, Applets and Desklets:
I am not saying its a rocket science to install themes in Ubuntu 13.10. But Linux Mint does it better than Ubuntu. One can have several themes from the community at its disposal in Themes System Settings under ‘Get more online’ tab, a feature similar to Windows 7. Ubuntu, on the other hand, does not have this ease in installing the themes. You’ll have to look at places to download the zipped themes file and then install it.
Similarly, Linux Mint has quick access to online collection of indicator applets and desklets (Windows like desktop widgets in Linux).
Codecs, Flash and plenty of applications by default:
You may have to struggle a bit to install Flash in Ubuntu but Linux Mint got it smoothly. And so is several other media codecs. Not that you cannot install it in Ubuntu. Ubuntu too gives the option to install codecs while installing OS itself. Its just that you don’t have to do this extra thing in Linux Mint. Mint also comes with plenty of applications such as GIMP, VLC etc that you need to install separately in Ubuntu.
The argument behind dropping several big programs like GIMP from Ubuntu disk image was to keep the size of ISO under 700 MB (standard CD size). But later on, they could not put all of it under 700 MB and increased the size of the ISO image. Which means Ubuntu cannot be installed in one CD any more. Ubuntu 13.10 image size is roughly 925 MB while Linux Mint 16 is 1.3 GB. In my opinion, since the main purpose of removing the default applications is no longer valid, Ubuntu should put it back in the bundle.
Software Manager: faster, sleeker, lighter:
Ubuntu Software Center takes ages to load, eats up resources heavily and it slow while interacting with it. This is why I was ecstatic when App Grid, a lighter alternative of Ubuntu Software Center was launched. Comparing to that, Linux Mint’s Software Manager is lighter and quicker. Applications are broken down in to categories and thus easier to navigate.
In the last, again, it is not a hate post against Ubuntu. I am still a great fan of Ubuntu. Its just that Linux Mint seems to be a better option than Ubuntu for an absolute beginner to Linux. For users who have even little experience with Linux desktop, its more of a personal liking between Ubuntu and Linux Mint. But if you ever wonder why Linux Mint over Ubuntu, these reasons may help you to decide.