Late last year, I did a couple of columns on the free Ubuntu Linux operating system.
I reported that I had installed it on my spare computer and that I had been extremely impressed with how well it worked. I was convinced that the average computer user would find Ubuntu more than adequate for all their computing needs.
One reservation I did have with the operating system was that the initial installation did not provide support for playing many media file formats. I discovered that you can get files, such as CDs, DVDs and various types of streaming media, to play on Ubuntu, but it does require some fiddling under the bonnet.
Another reservation I had was that, although there is a way to run some Windows programs under Ubuntu, the process can be far from simple. I concluded that it would be a viable choice for many computer users with the only real exceptions being people who need software which is either not available on Linux, or won’t run on it.
Since those columns were published, I have discovered a new version of Linux which is even easier to use than Ubuntu. It is called Linux Mint and is essentially a streamlined and simplified version of Ubuntu.
Linux Mint 8 (codenamed Helena) corresponds to the current version of Ubuntu, known as Karmic Koala, and can be downloaded for free from www.linuxmint.com.
It installs with a refreshing minty-green (what else?) colour scheme and is indeed very simple to use and navigate your way around. It comes with a wide selection of software, including OpenOffice and many other packages, and it is totally compatible with all the software that will run on Ubuntu.
One area where Mint has greatly improved over Ubuntu, is that it is able to play most media formats straight after installation. The desktop layout has also been simplified and there are fewer options and buttons to click on.
The installation file is rather large Nearly 700Mb), but I have discovered that it is possible to order it on CD from fosscds.co.za for about R30 a copy.
One good thing about Linux Mint, and many other versions of Linux, is that they can be used to boot up your Windows computer into Linux without making any changes to Windows. This makes it very easy to preview new operating systems without committing yourself to installing them.
Linux Mint is also able to install itself in such a way that, when you switch your computer on, you are given the choice whether you would like to boot into it or the operating system that you had previously installed.
This option seems fairly safe but as usual with these things, you’d be well advised to have a good backup of all your data, before starting the install process.
I have been incredibly impressed with the two versions of Linux that I’ve tried so far. To my mind, they are more than ready for prime time and are extremely viable competitors for Windows.
My feeling is that Windows could have a serious problem going forward, especially if the Linux developers start paying more attention to making a really bullet-proof means of running Windows programs on Linux.