As the LinuxMint blog puts it, "The live installer is developed from scratch with Debian in mind. It's configurable and it can be re-used by other Debian-based distributions. We noticed a lack in live technologies and in live Debian installers, so we're happy to take the lead on this." To these ends, developers and Debian fans will enjoy the changes.
We also acknowledge that this might allow LinuxMint to hedge its bet against the rapidly evolving changes that Canonical has made in Ubuntu's flavoring.
The mainstream Olivia version worked well, and allowed us to choose from optional drivers in a pick list that was easier than before, although none of the optional drivers (mostly poised towards graphic chipsets) were germane to our Lenovo notebooks and VM instances.
While installation was faster, we also had the benefit of easier GUI customization, as most components are now pre-loaded, such as themes, etc. Applets are available that can also be manifested as desktop "desklets", the equivalent of widgets and the active squares found in the Windows 8 GUI.
Desktop backgrounds can now be active and display things like moving clouds, or the view from an airplane as desired, but for some, this amounts to CPU-chewing eye candy. Those with low eye candy sugar levels will enjoy the variety, however, and many of the themes arrive pre-packaged. Overall window management control has increased in small ways, as well.
Our HP printers worked the first time and without the need for further drama or configuration. The packaged drivers didn't give us an indication of the semi-permanent ink-low state of our printers, and did not out/bother us for using "counterfeit" cartridges, which pleased us. The Windows 7 drivers will complain about both.
This edition marks more polish for LinuxMint, as well as the edition of a likely developer favorite, LMDE. We found it more complete, and ready to do work than ever before, if with a few apps that we seem to habitually replace. The updates are smoothed, and it keeps up with competitive features like active desktop GUI elements.
It's Ubuntu underneath, but the resemblance on the surface is all but gone. The nice part: most of the apps that don't depend specifically on Ubuntu Unity will work, and the list of these apps seems to grow almost exponentially.
This is the Linux version we can hand to civilian friends/family with the fewest potential phone calls — subject to the mysteries of UEFI boots and the lunacy of diffuse BIOS variations that make installation of non-Windows operating systems on modern notebooks a travesty.
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