Figure 1 Linux Mint desktop
Debian > Ubuntu > Linux Mint
Official Purpose of Distro
Linux Mint's purpose is to produce an elegant, up to date, and comfortable GNU/Linux desktop distribution.
Get a downloadable copy here. Make sure that your real or virtual BIOS is set to boot from the .iso and boot.
The following is verification for the Gnome standard version:
$ md5sum LinuxM* b19dd5164828c9725b30fb6394ce29f2 LinuxMint-5-r1.iso (matching posted md5sum)
Goes to a live CD. Clicking Install takes you to a wizard. No surprises for anyone who's ever installed a Linux distro. One odd thing for an Ubuntu-based distro—one is presented with the option of creating a root password. I didn't bother with it; it isn't the Ubuntu way of doing things.
The kernel is 2.6-24. Not leading edge, but pretty recent. Looking at applications: "Inkscape 0.46, built Apr 7 2008" looks pretty recent. If this is typical, this distro looks to be leading edge, but not bleeding edge.
The Gnome version has my favorite KDE4 feature: menu panels with search.
One nice touch is that when I opened Firefox for the first time, it went to a Linux Mint page with the user documentation link in the middle of the screen right where I was looking.
Figure 2 Software Portal
This has both the standard Start > Package Manager synaptic installation GUI and Start > Software Portal that can take you to a Mint installation website via browser.
The Mint software portal is very much like the Linspire CNR setup. It opens a browser window pointed at its software installation site. After one clicks "Install Now" it downloads a small stub to the installer, followed by automated download and installation. The other options are getdeb, and apt, which are two other ways to access/download/install Mint and Ubuntu repositories in this context.
The defaults work well enough for sound.
Firefox came up with Flash installed, instant YouTube. Saved .flv files played back in Totem. The mplayer plugin was installed, meaning instant mp3. When I tried playing an .avi video, I got sound and no video.
The fix is to right-click on the mplayer plugin screen to configure and pull down a video output from the menu. The x11 choice worked for me. After fixing configure, avi , mov, wmv, and mp4 played correctly.
This picks up the printer during installation, just as the parent Ubuntu distro does.
After I installed Guest Additions and made the change to /etc/rc.local described in the linked article, my main personal workstation filesystem came right up, and the clipboard worked.
They have the same (perhaps expanded) collection of wonderful screensavers that Ubuntu-Hardy/Gnome has. That's also the bad news. The screensavers are massive CPU/resource hogs. Use the "blank screen" mode unless you are viewing the screensavers on purpose.
The Bottom Line
This may be the most newbie-friendly Linux distro I've ever seen. I'm considering putting it on machines I expect to be rebuilding for my roommates soon.