In case you hadn’t heard, Linux mint just got a big update. Somewhat controversially, Mint forked several Gnome,MATE and Xfce applications arguably contributing towards more fragmentation of the GNU/Linux system. This action has prompted several harsh responses across the internet, including from, Linux Unplugged. Is it really so bad?
I’ve used various editions of Linux Mint (16, 17, LMDE) over the years, but currently am a Debian Stretch user. One of my hobbies on the side is salvaging old computers, and turning them into usable systems for disadvantaged people in our community. Every single one of these machines I build runs Mint, and that is only reinforced by these recent updates. I choose Mint for three key reasons for new users: usability, stability and gloss.
Linux Mint is a very usable system, and the 18.X update further extends this. I’m not alone in this belief, Sébastien Wilmet from Gnome Blogs makes a similar case. Mint provides users with a coherent and straightforward system to users, right out of the box. It requires minimal “tinkering” to get it working, and by in large (I hate saying this), it just works.
So many of the current Gnome applications have major usability issues, and it’s not articles or my usability testing experience which confirms this to me – it’s the everyday experience of myself and my clients. Most calls I get about problems with their new machines is nothing to do with the OS, but with third-party applications embedded in the system.
The X-application suite will help rectify this issue by providing an intuitively named suite of applications which have been optimised for the Mint user base. Moreover, by taking full control over the development of these applications, the Mint developers can more reliably predict where issues might arise, and are able to fix these issues without depending on external developers to put it on their priority list.
This control will also help ensure that *arguably*non-critical bugs and potential software exploits do not require ongoing patching. This was one of the key reasons why I don’t opt for Ubuntu installations: I want my clients (and myself) to have minimal updating, and when they must update, have minimal problems doing so. Again, the more Mint develops these X-Applications, the more we can expect this stability to continue.
Finally, let’s get to the “Gloss Factor”. Mint looks great out of the box. I feel happy when I deliver a Windows level of visual appeal with my systems. It helps users better understand how to use the computer, and it makes them want to use their computer. In Mint, form meets function. A visually appealing Linux is what will help to retain users long into the future.
One of the biggest concerns with the use of X-Applications I am yet to touch on is Fragmentation. That is, the idea that more and more forks of applications will lead to many poor versions of software, rather than efforts placed into a centralized whole. Whilst I think by in large this is a problem for the GNU community, I don’t believe X-Applications to be an instance of this problem. The new file manager is absolutely gorgeous and matches the Mint theme well overall. The video below shows some of the new Mint features, and I think the improved X-Applications fit so nicely in with the overall Mint Philosophy of pragmatism.
One response on Reddit regarding this issue stood out to me. I couldn’t have worded it any better myself:
Redundant applications are the result of software freedom. Software freedom is the basis of our platform. You can’t tell people what to do with their time; that is their freedom to exercise. So if they want to half code the 5000th music player for the Linux desktop and abandon it two years later, go for it.
If you want to extend the logic of the argument laid out, we should all choose Gnome and everything else should be left to rot. That way we have one set of apps. To give up our 5000 music players is mostly giving up what we believe in. It’d be great if people could get along and all contribute to one amazing thing, but people just don’t seem to work that way.
Linux Mint is a novel, and full flavoured distribution which sits at the heart of the Linux Community. Regardless of whether you personally use it, or your opinions of the new X-Applications, mint is not going anywhere any time soon. I look forward to seeing more great developments by the Mint team in the future.