Archive for January 12th, 2011
Awhile ago I did a story about Mint running as a virtual, about 6 months ago I was looking for a Linux solution for my laptop and while I had experience with many different variations over the years I have had mixed results with trying to completely replace windows as the base operating system on my laptops due to all the challenges presented every time I had used any of the main distro’s in the past.
1) Hardware/Driver functionality.
This is an old story laptops on average use more custom drivers (or at least manufacturer developed drivers) than desktops and on average I have had to fight much more with them for things like sound/video card and wireless drivers for one reason or another over the years as well as supporting plug and play hardware (like cellphone tethering or cell usb adapters or external hard drives). Often you could get things working at least in a minimal fashion but it was always a challenge to get everything running smoothly. Some of that was hardware choice a more thorough evaluation of linux compatibility before purchase would help make it easier but not all the systems I had to use could be chosen by me before hand (things like handmedown hardware or work provided hardware)
2) Full functionality as a”Desktop”
Don’t get me wrong I am a huge Linux fan for MANY uses but I had alway struggled using it as my primary operating system, every-time I had to go on the road and use tethering or deal with an NTFS formatted hard drive or weird serial dongle I would get frustrated. I am a virtualization guy and plenty of solutions out there to make sure you can run a windows virtual so you have it available but in the end sometimes it just needs to be on the native hardware to interact with external hardware.
3) Software options
While not a major problem due to my history there always were the last few stragglers in windows replacement softwares that did not work quite as I liked it to usually revolving around media and productivity.
My Experiences with MINT
Like any more modern distro mint provides a slick and intuitive installer so this was of no consequence installing, I wanted to get the feel of its base configuration so I literally left EVERYTHING default I made no significant changes during installation like I normally do.
Installation time ran about as long as normal and away i went all the default stuff you need is in by default from your system tools to software (more on that later)
My first surprise is that EVERYTHING worked by default all needed drivers were installed all hardware detected all features worked OUT OF THE BOX! No problems with video or wireless or sound it just worked and was detected on this particular laptop (Dell E6500) My surprise grew when I realized that I had no problems with any of the plug and play hardware that I normally use.
I do mean ANY, want to tether your windows mobile phone? Yep no problem just plug in and tell the phone to share and it gets picked up as a new network card automatically this surprisingly is even easier than it works on a windows laptop even with a windows mobile phone! Want to use that cell USB card? Yep absolutely just plug the device in go to the wireless manager and tell it what carrier it is to be used for!
These experiences were leaps and bounds better on MINT then they were on my windows platform things just worked quietly and un-obtrousivly as they should no fuss at all.
Like any linux head I have been collecting a whole series of “favorite” softwares for years that I had been dragging around and installing on systems everything from my favorite system performance monitoring tools to my favorite text editors and what not. Now I am not going to say that I still did not install some of those but all in all I have been amazed at the software selection that mint installs.
Things just work, they pick great default apps that are easy to use, reasonably light and powerful without going crazy and installing everything in the world. All the major bases are covered from media players to browsers as well as all the plugins for the browsers which is a nice touch if you have ever had to install Java or flash back in the day you remember what it was like. Again nothing any moderate to advanced user could not have accomplished but thats the point YOU DONT HAVE TO. They make a great starting platform that has all the basics and allow you the freedom to expand above and beyond if you choose to.
Being debian based and with the power of the apt repositories any software you need is right on your fingertips, it is one of the reasons I like debian based distros so much.
In the end it comes down to does it do what you want in the way you want it, that is the power of Linux and having all the choices out there for you. For me the answer is MINT does this for me I am absolutely happy with the distro and could not ask for a single thing more out of it.