First Look: Linux Mint 6 KDE

Linux Mint in KDE clothes

Linux Mint is one of those distributions that have always been dear to me. With truly dedicated developers and a strong, faithful community, Mint reached, in only a few years, a very high level of popularity. Being based on Ubuntu, Linux Mint complements it by providing an elegant look as well as a full, out-of-the-box, multimedia experience. That said, seeing the Linux Mint 6 KDE Edition announcement, I thought it would be a great opportunity to check on Mint's progress and, for once, try the KDE version. But first, it's best to let you know about our test machine hardware configuration:

· AMD K8 nForce 250Gb Motherboard

· AMD Sempron 2800+ Processor

· Nvdia GeForce FX5500 Video Card

· 512 MB RAM


· 17" BENQ T720 Monitor

Linux Mint 6 KDE comes in a 1.1 GB ISO image that was quickly burnt to a DVD and was ready to be taken for a spin. Before I begin, you should also know that Linux Mint 6 KDE is based on the stable Kubuntu 8.10, uses the 2.6.27 version of the Linux kernel and runs Xorg 7.4. After inserting the DVD in the drive, it booted the live environment in a reasonable amount of time. You'll get your regular KDE login screen & desktop and the only Mint "trademark" you'll recognize will be the rather nice Application Launcher button. If you want to give your system a more "minty" look, there are several elegant customized wallpapers to choose from. As for the rest of the interface, you are all familiar with the style and eye-candy KDE 4 can provide. While still testing the Live CD, I entered the mintUpdate 3 update manager and I immediately noticed that the latest KDE 4.2.2 packages were already available. Awesome! With that in mind, I quickly reached for the Install button and, after the usual steps, Linux Mint 6 KDE was ready to run on our trusty computer. After removing the DVD and booting the HDD installation, there was no KDE 4.2.2 in mintUpdate 3. Puzzled, I opened Synaptic Package Manager and looked at the installed repositories. I've found out that the Kubuntu experimental repository was inactive! Therefore, once enabled I had access to the latest KDE 4.2.2 packages.

The next obvious move was to install the video drivers, because you really need them if you are to fully enjoy a KDE 4 desktop. Knowing the procedure from Ubuntu, I fired up "Hardware Drivers" tool, which already appeared on the tray area, and the Nvidia driver for our graphics card was correctly shown as the recommended option. Unfortunately, and I experienced this with other KDE 4 distros too, clicking the "Activate" button didn't initiate the installation procedure. The Linux Mint team is probably aware of this issue and included the great EnvyNG tool, so I could easily install the video driver from there.

With KDE 4.2.2 and the Nvidia drivers, I was ready to explore deeper into the operating system. Being based on the already old Kubuntu 8.10, Linux Mint 6 KDE has the OpenOffice 2.4 suite. And not that I'm a big fan of the 3.0 version, but 2.4 proved to be a pain to use. There seemed to be an incompatibility issue between OpenOffice 2.4 and KDE 4.2.2 (with some KWin effects enabled), as whenever I closed an office application, the whole desktop would start flickering. The only way out of that was to open some other application. I wasn't really sure what caused the problem, so I thought it would be a great idea to upgrade to version 3.0. Therefore, I've used our How to Install 3.0 on Ubuntu 8.10 tutorial, and after the upgrade, all the problems magically disappeared!

Knowing Mint's habit of providing all the popular codecs for a complete multimedia experience, I fired up the Mozilla Firefox 3.0.8 web browser to see what was already installed. As expected, DivX, QuickTime, RealPlayer 9 and Windows Media player mplayer plugins were all there. Of course, Java and Flash couldn't miss out on the action, so don't worry... they are available too!

What I like about Linux Mint is that it comes with its own tools like mintInstall, mintNanny, mintUpdate, mintAssistant or mintBackup. Sadly, I couldn't find the useful mintUpload, present in the other Mint 6 editions and advertised on the KDE Edition page.

When first firing up mintInstall you'll be quite surprised at how long it takes to refresh the package list. Well, it's for good reason, believe me, as this is, in my opinion, one of the best software managers I got my hands on. Providing screenshots, average scores and user reviews for the most popular applications, you will no longer have to open a browser and look for information in various places.

Speaking of software, Linux Mint 6 KDE comes with a lot of it: GIMP 2.6.1, KTorrent, Amarok 2.0, the Sweeper system cleaner, Emerald Theme Manager, KNode news reader and many more. Though not a mind-blowing number of applications, you'll have most of your computing needs covered. Moreover, the included Samba will provide great connectivity with Windows machines on your network. Unfortunately, the KDE 4.2.2 desktop environment is still quite sluggish overall, especially when running on top of a "vintage" graphics card and 512 MB of system RAM. But it was my choice to upgrade to the latest version of the K Desktop Environment!

Though Linux Mint 6 KDE is a nice addition to the collection, I'd rather stick with the main, GNOME edition. Still, I know there are a lot of you KDE fans out there, so, if you wish to give Linux Mint a try but can't live without your favorite desktop environment, go right ahead, you have nothing to lose.

Download Linux Mint 6 KDE Edition right now from Softpedia.


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