Mint solves Ubuntu Unity challenge

Fans of Ubuntu Unity are few and far between. Linux Mint provides a simple alternative.

By - November 29, 2011
Linux Mint

Ubuntu always strives to make Linux easy. From its very first release in October 2004 Ubuntu was engineered to remove complexity while retaining the power of Linux.

I’ve been a fan since day one and, with very few exceptions, it has been a rewarding and painless experience. At least until now.

The problem now is Unity, Ubuntu’s new default desktop interfacet. Unity is ugly, clumsy and horrible to use. The alternative, Gnome3, is not that appealing either. Gnome3 is better looking than Unity but it is also a radical departure from Gnome2 which requires a lot of getting used to.

As a result, I’ve held off upgrading my current machine to the latest Ubuntu release because I don’t want to get forced into using Unity or having to choose between Gnome2 and Gnome3. Right now I’m happy to stick with my Gnome2 desktop on an older version of Ubuntu until something better comes along. But I have been looking around at alternatives to vanilla Ubuntu and there is one possibility that stands out: Linux Mint.

Linux Mint is an Ubuntu derivative which uses the Ubuntu base and adds a couple of custom tweaks and features to (hopefully) improve the user experience.

One of these changes in Linux Mint 12, which is close to release, is perfect for users that aren’t willing to use Unity but aren’t yet ready to make the full switch to Gnome3. Mint Gnome Shell Extensions mimic the behaviour of Gnome2 while using Gnome 3.

MGSE provides a set of “traditional” Gnome2 features such as the panel, application menu and a task-centric desktop. With the extension loaded Gnome3 users can switch on any or all of these features which essentially turns Gnome3 into Gnome2. Which sounds, and is, a little backwards but for the time being it’s a decent solution to an annoying problem.

Gnome3 is application centric, as opposed to task centric, which takes a fair bit of getting used to. It also lacks familiar helpers such as system tray icons. MGSE adds these features back into Gnome3.

MGSE also has the advantage of making it possible to move slowly into Gnome3. MGSE features can be disabled gradually so that the desktop begins to resemble Gnome3 and eventually users can enjoy a pure Gnome3 desktop.

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