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Linux Mint – What Mint does differently

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There are many distributions available, each vying for your attention. So, why use Linux Mint and not some other distro such as Ubuntu or Fedora? The user-friendly nature of Linux Mint is certainly a good reason to use it. However, there is more to its value than just that. As the famous saying goes:

 

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

 
  Sir Isaac Newton

Linux Mint, being based on Ubuntu, is certainly built on a giant. It takes the already solid foundation of Ubuntu, and improves on it by using a different user interface, adds custom tools, and includes various tweaks to make its media formats recognized right from the start.

A distribution being based on other distributions is a common occurrence in the Linux community, the reason being that it’s much easier to build a distribution on an already existing foundation, since building your own base is quite time consuming (and expensive). By utilizing the existing foundation of Ubuntu, Mint benefits from the massive software repository that Ubuntu has at its disposal, without having to reinvent the wheel and recreate everything from the ground up. The development time saved by doing this allows the Linux Mint developers to focus on adding exciting features and tweaks to improve its ease of use. Given the fact that Ubuntu is open source, it’s perfectly fine to use it as a base for a completely separate distribution. Unlike the proprietary software market, the developers of Mint aren’t at risk of being sued for recycling the package base of another distribution. In fact, Ubuntu itself is built on the foundation of another distribution (Debian), and Mint is not the only distribution to use Ubuntu as a base.

As mentioned before, Mint utilizes a different user interface than Ubuntu. Ubuntu ships with the Unity interface, which (so far) has not been highly regarded by the majority of the Linux community. Unity split Ubuntu’s user community in half as some people loved the new interface, though others were not so enthused and made their distaste well-known. Rather than adopt Unity during this transition, Mint opted for two primary environments instead, Cinnamon and MATE. Cinnamon is recommended for more modern computers, and MATE is useful for older computers that are lower in processing power and memory. MATE is also useful for those who prefer the older style of Linux environments, as it is a fork of GNOME 2.x.

Many people consider Cinnamon to be the default desktop environment in Linux Mint, but that is open to debate. The Mint developers have yet to declare either of them as the default. Mint actually ships five different versions (also known as spins) of its distribution. Four of them (Cinnamon, MATE, KDE, and Xfce) feature different user interfaces as the main difference, while the fifth is a completely different distribution that is based on Debian instead of Ubuntu, and is not covered in this tutorial. Due to its popularity, Cinnamon is the closest thing to a default in Mint and as such, it is the recommended version to download to be able to follow along with this tutorial. However, many of the topics and examples will work in the other spins as well. We will cover the Cinnamon desktop environment in Chapter 3, Getting Acquainted with Cinnamon.

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