Linux Mint 14 Review: Mint with a Touch of Cinnamon Part 4

Category: Linux

Looking Glass
One of the more unique features of Linux Mint is Looking Glass, a troubleshooting tool that can be opened using the system tray. Looking Glass is designed for debugging and monitoring log files and events that occur in Mint. I had problems exiting Looking Glass while running Linux Mint on LiveCD, but that's not to say there's anything wrong with it. I have yet to explore Looking Glass' capabilities, though I'm not quite sure if my meager skills can make good use of the tool.

Looking Glass is an interesting addition to the popular Linux distribution and definitely more proactive than KDE's bug error message or Unity's system burps that warn the user of crashes in Launcher or Unity 3D. Much more useful is the "Restart Cinnamon" option which is also found in the Troubleshoot list of options on the notification tray. I actually never had to reset Cinnamon during the whole time I was using it but considering that even Xfce crashes once in awhile, the option may prove useful in the long-term. I must admit, however, that new users would probably be alarmed at the thought of a desktop offering a "Restart Cinnamon" option. The knee-jerk response is to log off or reboot after all. I haven't had a Linux distribution completely crash on me in a long, long time (though KDE and Unity gets their fair share of warnings and messages) but having the reset option in Linux Mint Cinnamon shows foresight and innovation in the part of the developers.  

Packaging Goodies
Linux Mint thankfully retains dependable Synaptic Package Manager, a classic utility that Ubuntu recently dispensed with. I'm more of an apt-get kind of guy but I like having Synaptic around. Searching for useful applications and discovering interesting packages is easier in Synaptic though I'd recommend the command line if you already know what you want to install. 
Linux Mint also comes with its own native software manager. Although I've been using Ubuntu for some time now, I prefer Mint's software manager over Ubuntu Software Center. USC clearly has more active user comments and reviews for applications, but it's also more commercialized.  The trend to have a boutique interface for installing packages in Linux is probably partly caused by the popularity of iTunes and Google Play. I have mixed feelings about the flashy approach. On the one hand, I understand the effort to make Linux more palatable to new users, but on the other I can't seem to move away from using the command line or dependable but boring Synaptic. Mint Install, to its credit, is certainly competent and much better than the buggy and slow Apper over at openSUSE

Finally, Gdebi Package installer is a safe addition to Mint, but I doubt if many users still install .deb files. I've had poor success with Gdebi in general but I understand why it needs to be there nonetheless.
Mageia 2 and Conclusions
Mageia 2 and Linux Mint are the two rising upstarts in desktop Linux distributions. Both distros are for casual users with Mageia working to improve (and move away from) its Mandriva roots. Mint, on the other hand, has went off on a tangent, steadfastly going a different direction from Debian and Ubuntu. This is evidenced clearly by refinements and continuing developments to Mint Install and Cinnamon 1.6, well-crafted responses to Ubuntu's Software Center and Unity.
After having tried Linux Mint's earliest releases (and seeing small missteps and experiencing incredible successes), I'm impressed that Linux Mint has stayed true to its core usability principles and design sense. Frankly, I'm more surprised with Mageia's popularity than I am with Linux Mint. 

Will Linux Mint 14 Nadia woo users from Fedora and openSUSE? Probably not, but I would certainly consider switching to Linux Mint 14 on my entertainment laptop and encourage Windows users to dual-boot to Mint. Mint's primary advantages are access to Ubuntu's strong repository and a desktop environment that caters to an audience numbed by Windows 8, MacOSX, Ubuntu Unity, and Gnome 3 distributions. There are dozens of friendly and excellent Linux distributions out there, but only Linux Mint has this winning formula.
As a platform agnostic user, I find Linux the most dynamic of the three most popular desktop/laptop operating systems. Linux Mint 14 and a slick Cinnamon implementation is just another example of why veterans and noobs alike venture out to Linux - and love every moment of it.  


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