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Distribution: Debian, antiX, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and many others
Would you recommend the product? yes | Price you paid?: None indicated | Rating: 9
Easy to install, little to change, easy and pleasant to use
slow Mint update tools
The Mint series of products has to consistently be on the short list for anyone considering installing and using a Linux desktop system without much prior experience. While you might argue that a complete beginner is not even able to install any software at all, whoever is a first time Linux user who wants to try installing and using Linux, this is certainly one of the three or four top distributions that should be considered.
The officially released version of Mint includes both the free software that is found in virtually any Linux system - the Linux kernel itself, a wide variety of GNU utilities, and the most common free software applications, it also includes free binaries for which free source code may not be available - Debian and Free Software Foundation zealots call this "non-free" software because there is no source code to modify, should anyone want to change it for any reason.
What makes this useful for the beginner is that firmware for wireless devices often falls into this category, and multimedia extensions, such as Flash player browser add-ons, additional media codecs, and things of that sort are not always completely free in the "freely available source code" sense.
The beginner does not know how to cope with such nuances, and that is where Linux Mint fits in. Mint just takes care of those things for you, and it does so cleanly and effectively. There are few systems of any kind that are easier to install than Mint.
What are its drawbacks, if any? Well, compared to its competition, Mint is not the fastest running thing out there; SimplyMEPIS and PCLinuxOS, two other really easy to use distributions, typically feel lighter and faster. I found the Mint provided software update tools to take tremendously long to update themselves - in one case, it took over ten minutes just to get the Mint specific information updated - before I even installed any new updates. I used the classic Debian apt-get dist-upgrade from the command line, something a beginner would not do, and it ran much more quickly and got the job done.
Is that a big deal? Probably not, though for me as an experienced user it causes me to look at other alternatives. For a beginner, it makes an excellent starting place.
Worth seriously considering, along with SimplyMEPIS and PCLinuxOS (each of these is close to a new release as well, but Mint beat them to it).