May 17th, 2019 | Tips & Tricks | No Comments Yet
It is no secret that Linux Mint is my favorite Linux distribution. From the first time I saw it, I went from, ‘Yep, Linux will Work’ to ‘WOW! Linux may be perfect!’
What caused such a revelation? Why is this the perfect distro for me? Well, these are my reasons. You will have your own reasons, but hopefully a journey through my discovery of Linux Mint will help you on your discovery for your perfect Linux build. Also, it is worth mentioning, that once you find your perfect build, it is best to stay on that distro and keep learning about that one. Only switch again if you find a major need that bears addressing!
Lets start with a few basics. The first is, it really does not matter what distro you run, though it is probably best if you stick to a mainstream distribution like Debian, Mint, Ubuntu, Arch, Manjaro, OpenSUSE, or Fedora. Sorry if I have left out your favorite.
Next, pick a distribution that is matched to your level of skill with a computer. Some Linux distros will require more troubleshooting, but the reward is a perfectly tailored system that is exactly what you want. Others may need more hand holding and a few minor compromises might need to occur, but even that is rare in 2019 Linux.
Another basic is understand the parent of your distribution. This helps you if you are trying to troubleshoot any issues that arrive. Debian tricks and fixes should generally work on anything based on Debian like Ubuntu and Mint, but they may not work on Arch, Fedora, et al. This is another reason to stay closer to the parent if you can.
With these basics out of the way, I wanted to ask myself what is in my perfect Linux build.
Nearly all Linux distros will run nearly all the same applications. Versions, and how often those versions cycle is the consideration here. Arch and some branches of OpenSUSE are called ‘rolling’ which means they always get the most recent software VERSIONS. Any new features, user interface, and functionality will be rolled right along with the distro. Other distros are Long Term Stable (or LTS) and those will hold back the package versions, but still push security updates. The software basically stays the same, but is always safe. In the middle are a few distros like Fedora that have new versions about every year, but the new versions rolls all new versions of software with it…just not incrementally which is the difference between a Rolling distro and these.
In my personal case, I like to see applications stay the same. I want any changes to my software to be tested ahead of time, practiced on, and confirmed, so I do not like rolling distros on my production computers, so a distribution that does not change all my software versions automagically is my preference.
While Mint is sometimes criticized for having older packages, it is exactly that which is an attraction for me. Debian and Ubuntu are also good candidates in this department. They will get all the security updates as soon as they are released, so there is no security concern with the OS, but the features, UI, and workflow will not change with those updates.
In contrast to this, other mainstream distros I mention above are all great, though they update software too quickly and that sometimes changes the workflow, and we all know that murphy comes in any time we are under a deadline, so rolling packages are not my forte. All these together, Any Debian family of distros will be a best choice for me.
Systems tools are either very helpful or wasteful bloat. That depends on user preference which makes subjective feelings like ‘bloated’ or ‘streamlined’ difficult to manage. A missing tool can be problematic when you realize you need to format a drive but there no utility installed on the system to handle the task. Sure, installing software on Linux is very easy, but there is a ‘complete’ feel to the operating system when I look at accessories and see that my beloved (and odd) character map is installed! Most distros come with archive managers, document viewers, and simple text editors, but I found a surprising few so equipped with system tools than Linux Mint. Yes, they are tools I do not use every day, but they are tools that are installed when I do need them. Mint even has extra tools I find very useful including a USB writer and formatter, streamlined applications for photos and video, not to mention backup and system restore applications in the event those tools are needed in a pinch. In short, Mint is fully loaded which is what I personally want in an operating system.
I believe many Linux users, at least among the home users, had their first experience with Linux in one of the Ubuntu builds during the Unity rise! Yes, Unity was the desktop a lot of us first saw with the iconic look. I did not care for the layout much at first, though it did grow on me. I did try several real projects on the system and found the UI having some useful functions, but still not ideal. I loved Linux at that point in time, but really wanted a more traditional feel. I went hunting and when I first booted Linux Mint into a live environment, there was no turning back!
The User Interface is what sold me. Cinnamon is that perfect balance of Traditional windows interface with modern UI elements. If I am so inclined (and actually I am not), I could connect Linux Mint with a cloud account through NextCloud or those other guys… The menu is the same location and with the same function as I was used to in Windows. I had a full taskbar where I could easily see each application open, and quickly pull that application up as needed. I could minimize all windows easily to work efficiently off my desktop, my regular practice.
Am I stuck in my ways? Well, I must confess maybe I was at first! I liked the Windows layout and I was used to it. I have since forced myself to learn other desktops like Gnome, Deepin, and Budgie, but I keep coming back to the traditional workflow found in that older interface. What may have started as being stuck in my ways has given out to experimenting with a variety of setups and workflows to finally confirm the traditional layout in the Cinnamon desktop is my most ideal production working environment whether I am writing a book or building a website.
The Linux Mint team pioneered the Cinnamon desktop, and through trial and error, I keep landing on that desktop as my most optimal setup for real productivity. Sure, I could use a variety of different distros that all use the Cinnamon desktop, but the philosophy of application management, the robust list of system tools, and interface have combined to give me the perfect distribution in Linux Mint.
If you are a Windows user looking to experiment with Linux, I would suggest you start with Linux Mint Cinnamon.
What is your favorite distribution? Let me know what it is and why! As always, I hope that you enjoy Switching to Linux!