comparative reviews

Linux Mint 8 vs Ubuntu 9.10

UbuntuOn the surface, trying to write a comparative review of Linux Mint 8 (Helena) and Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic koala) would seem like a pointless exercise. After all, Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu. So what’s the point? Well, as in cases such as this, where one product is based on another, there begins to emerge – at some point – a product differentiation. In the case of Mint and Ubuntu, that differentiation has been apparent almost from the first year of Mint’s existence.

Even though it depends and it’s based on Ubuntu, the Mint team has been steadily and aggressively adding features and developing custom (graphical) administrative tools. Tools and features that you won’t find on any other distro derived from Ubuntu, and on Ubuntu itself.

The folks at the Mint lab claim that their distro is based on Debian and Ubuntu, but I disagree. Truth is, it is based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian. What I’m saying is that Mint is not derived directly from Debian, only by proxy.

Ok, let’s get down to business already, and lets begin by looking at what they have in common.

What do they have in common?

  1. Both distros come in Live CD iso images. A Live CD-ed distro offer users the opportunity to test the operating system without first installing it on their computer. This is a very common practice in the Linux community, a practice pioneered by Knoppix (?). In addition to providing an option to boot into the Live mode, Ubuntu also gives you the option to install directly to disk without first booting into the Live mode. With Mint, however, you must first boot into the Live mode, unless you are doing an OEM installation.
  2. Installer and installation process – Ubuntu’s installation process, and, therefore, Mint’s, follow the same simple six-step drill (seven, depending on the options you choose). As Linux installers go, it’s nothing to write home about, but it does its job. The installer has no support for setting up LVM, RAID and full disk encryption (it is only capable of encrypting the home directory).
    Ubuntu's installer
    The installer on Ubuntu and Mint are the same

    If you are trying to set up a dual-boot environment between Ubuntu and Mint, the installer will give you the option to import your documents and settings from the first operating system installed on the computer. It is not clear to me if this option is also available if you are trying to dual-boot between Ubuntu/Mint and any other operating system or if it is only available between Mint and Ubuntu.

    import settings
    The option to import user settings from an existing installation of Ubunut or Miint if you are trying to set up a dual-boot environment.
  3. Same package manager – Since Mint is based on Ubuntu, and Ubuntu is based on Debian, they both use the same package manager – Debian’s Advanced Packaging Tool (APT), with Synaptic as the graphical interface. Like other graphical package managers, Synaptic makes it easy for users of all skill levels to install/uninstall software on either operating system.
  4. Applications installed – The software packages installed by default are just about the same, and those in their package repositories are the same too.

Where Helena is better:

  1. Graphical firewall client – Like Ubuntu, Mint ships with ufw, Ubuntu’s uncomplicated firewall, running out of the box. To make it easier to configure ufw, Mint installs Gufw, the graphical interface to ufw, out of the box. While installing and configuring Gufw is a breeze, we give Mint some props for installing it by default.

    Gufw enabled
    Gufw in the enabled status
  2. Next generation menu – Whereas the Ubuntu desktop features the classic GNOME dropdown menu, Mint’s desktop has a variation of the kickoff-style menu – mintMenu. One really neat feature of mintMenu that makes it better than the Ubuntu menu, and, in fact, that of virtually other distros I’ve reviewed, is that it enables you to search for an application from the filter box, and if the application is not installed, offers you four options, one of which is to install the application (see all the options in the screenshot below).
    Mint's mintMenu allows you to search for and install an application right from the menu, that is, if the application is not already installed.

    Another neat feature of mintMenu is that by right-clicking on an application, it gives you the option to add it to the list of startup applications.

  3. Graphical administrative tools – Mint has more in-house-developed graphical administrative tools than Ubuntu. This list include mintInstall (the Software Manager), mintNanny, mintWelcome, and mintMenu. These are applications for which there are no equivalents on Ubuntu (ok, Ubuntu has Software Center, it’s own version of mintInstall, but …). I should point out that Mint’s graphical management tools are not as feature-rich as the ones you’ll find on Mandriva.
  4. Totem is the installed video player on both distros. On Ubuntu, Totem is not able to play encrypted video DVDs (most, if not all, commercial DVDs are encrypted). For that, you will need to install VLC media player. On Mint, Totem wil gladly play your commercial DVD videos.
  5. Software Manager – Aside from being able to install and manage applications by using Synaptic and the Linux command line, Ubuntu and Mint offer a third means of managing applications. On Mint, it is called Software Manager (mintInstall), and (Ubuntu) Software Center on Ubuntu. While they are identical, Ubuntu’s Software Center is a work in progress, lacking some of the features available on mintInstall (all software applications are works in progress, but mintInstall is further along the development path than Software Center).
    Helena's mintInstall or Software Manager

    Ubuntu's software center
    Front page of Ubuntu's Software Center.
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  1. hey dude.. mint 9 gonna have their own live usb creator software where you can install mint 9 to usb live and run your fave programs anywhere you go!!….

    I did a sweet back up for my friend’s computer cuz she is getting tired of vista lol…. only took me 15 min… compare to do back up with vista for hours!

  2. The point is not about anything more than:

    Some programs written SPECIFICALLY for Ubuntu will not run on LinuxMint.

    It’s a simple concept. It’s a simple fact.

    • LinuxHistorian

      “The point is not about anything more than: Some programs written SPECIFICALLY for Ubuntu…”

      And that is the exact problem. Deb files should be compatible with all Debian based distros. One of the greatest strengths of Linux is the compatibility between common based distros base.

      Are you advocating that deb based distros splinter and recreate the wheel with every package just as rpm based distros have been doing for the last several years?

      The standard deb file definition is one of the key reasons why Debian and Debian based distros have succeeded in the Linux community because all packages are compatible with all deb based distros and now Ubuntu elitists are trying to tear that down by developing non-standard and incompatible deb files.

      You can keep your non-standard and incompatible deb files. I stick with the rest of the community and continue to develop compatible packages that can be used on any Debian based distro. Compatibility is the key to growth and development within the Linux community.

      Ubuntu’s time in the spotlight is limited. And the key reason Ubuntu will eventually fall is because of the lack of compatibility with other Debian based distros. Deb package developers create for compatibility. Ubuntu package developers develop for Ubuntu. Which means that Ubuntu package developers are recreating the wheel every time they break compatibility. Ubuntu is marginalizing itself and doesn’t even recognize it.

      Just remember this, it is the Debian community not the Ubuntu community that creates the stability and security your have on your system. Ubuntu needs Debian and standard deb files to succeed, Debian does not need Ubuntu.

    • I just tried ubuntu 10 LTS…. the installation was awful!!!… I had to lick back to mint 8 and awaits for full release of Mint 9…

      computing should come easy for everybody.. that why there is mint linux available as ubuntu were not easier than you think… ubuntu is more like fedora while mint is more elegance than you can see in ubuntu.. play along!

    • “The point is not about anything more than:

      Some programs written SPECIFICALLY for Ubuntu will not run on LinuxMint.

      It’s a simple concept. It’s a simple fact.”

      A simple concept that would work if we were talking about Windows/Mac, yes. Linux, though? What sense would it make for Linux-based operating systems to be so highly incompatible with each other? I can download and run any Linux program I want on Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, Arch, or OpenSUSE and it will work the same on EVERY OS as long as they follow upstream standards. Ubuntu is not so different from any other Linux OS to be completely incompatible with everything else and vice versa.

  3. LinuxHistorian

    What’s the crap about Mint not being 100% Ubuntu while Super OS is? First off, being 100% Ubuntu isn’t even possible since Ubuntu isn’t an independent distro. Ubuntu is based on Debian. Should we be complaining that since Ubuntu isn’t 100% Debian then is shouldn’t even be used.

    Get off your high horse. Linux is the end all, be all of Operating Systems. Linux is everything to everybody. But not in any one single distro. If you only want to use 100% Ubuntu distros then you’ve got a real problem because Ubuntu isn’t even 100% Ubuntu. It’s Debian with some changes.

  4. hey Bruce…. and by the way.. I am sorry I didn’t leave anything.. I was soooo busy with mint linux.. lol.. anyway let me point it out to you Bruce…

    long time ago 5 years ago I used fedora, then I moved to ubuntu.. then saw super OS.. from…. I used it.. cuz of codecs.. now now..theres Gosilia OS.. I freaked out and liked the dockbarx then I realized.. mint linux is what I need its right off the bat with codecs, add some restrictions add on like backup copies.. etc all that.. Mint Linux is wonderful for all newbies.. maybe ubuntu is for you Bruce go ahead lay a bricks of codes if youw want.. Mint linux is a wall of nice cutting edgy smoothie graphics right off after installation.. I feel like a home already lol..eveything here is right there where I want it to be… but with ubuntu.. I has to lay the bricks to put where I want it to be.. feel me? cheers to mint linux… I’m brace myself for a good ride of MInt linux 9 which is based on ubuntu 10 so no problem!! let me say it plain and simple.. if ubuntu has done what mint linux has done since…. then we would have uses ubuntu all the way.. agreed?

  5. The Grub that came with Linux Mint 7 Gloria worked well for me. That changed with Mint 8 Helena.

    Tried Ubuntu 9.10, but it uses the same bootloader which means it has the same problems dual-booting with Windows.

    1. Mint will transfer settings from anything that is on there, including windows.
    2. Mint DOES notify you of pending updates… out of the box. The author obviously overlooked the icon for that (the open or closed lock).

    And my comments:
    Mint do waaaayyyy more stability testing than they do at ubuntu. I wish both teams were one, because Mint could simply help Ububtu be better. And I don’t see the point of all this elitism from people who use ubuntu and never even tried mint because they were convinced they were identical.
    When I started with Linux, I couldn’t believe that a Linux for the people isn’t people-friendly!
    As someone coming over from windows, I was made to feel that the Linux (ubuntu) community didn’t want 99% of computer users, and want to keep linux to themselves – a handful of computer experts – and send us back to where we came from: back into the arms of MS windows.
    So I turned to Mint for my wifi card to work out of the box, media to just play, etc.

  7. One example of programs developed for Ubunutu which do NOT work with Mint: Remastersys

  8. Since I like better KDE, I tried kubuntu 9.10, and I’m sorry to say that the plasma desktop crashed. Frequently. I’m using mint 8 KDE edition and I haven’t had any problem with it. It is superb, works like a charm.
    And btw, Bruce, please specify examples of ubuntu software that doesn’t work in mint.

  9. I would like to point out that since Linux Mint is almost exactly the same as Ubuntu, it has virtually perfect compatibility with Ubuntu applications (uses the same repositories, so why do you say it’s not fully compatible?)

    Another thing I found lacking: When I installed Mint 8 in a VM the other day, there was a lock icon in the corner telling me of my available updates. Maybe you should check for that on a fresh install? So you can remove it as a plus for Ubuntu since Mint has it (and better).

    Last comment: The USB Startup Disk Creator and Ubuntu One services can be installed with Synaptic (since this uses the Ubuntu repos), so if you want it, it isn’t hard at all to get. I still prefer Dropbox/Unetbootin, but hey the Ubuntu tools are useful as well (especially for persistent storage on the USB Startup Disk Creator application).

    Yes, some things like themes in Mint are do-it-yourself, but it has just the right balance of usability and familiarity that Ubuntu doesn’t have for me to recommend it.

  10. Sorry Bruce, but you are wrong. Linux Mint will run all programs that run on Ubuntu with no exceptions. The problem is that Ubuntu will not run all programs made for Mint. Stop trying to pimp an alternative such as Super OS. Besides, Super OS is nothing more than a rip off of Ultimate Edition.

  11. Yeah… But… Linux Mint is no longer Ubuntu.

    What I mean is… they have changed it so much, that some Ubuntu software will no longer work with Mint!

    That’s a very very bad thing.

    It needs to be 100% Ubuntu… and it’s NOT any more…

    Instead of Linux Mint, I am not loving more… and recommending often… “Super Ubuntu” aka “Super OS” (see )

    • Sorry, Bruce. If Super OS is 100% Ubuntu, why not just use Ubuntu? I’ll not recommend Super OS to anyone.

      • No…..

        Maybe I wasn’t clear.

        Super OS is 100% Ubuntu, plus all the media codecs you need.

        Mint is NOT 100% Ubuntu. It does not run ALL applications written for Ubuntu!

        Therefore, recommend Super OS (aka Super Ubuntu).

        Do NOT recommend Linux Mint. People will have more and more problems with Mint due to its incompatibility with real Ubuntu.

      • Bruce read anywhere, and aside from certain additions, Mint is built on Ubuntu. Anyone who says otherwise just isn’t in the know. The only way you can say Mint is NOT 100% ubuntu, is by saying it is 105% Ubuntu because it finishes the job that ubuntu did not: give us a true linux that’s people-friendly.

    • umm left ya a comment on the top.. u ll see where I left it off.. lol

    • First of all, “100% Ubuntu” is a BAD thing because they patch applications downstream. The more upstream-compatible a distribution is, the easier it is to run applications made to work with upstream. Second, Mint is 150% Ubuntu. Linux Mint and Super OS HAVE THE EXACT SAME GOALS! Super OS is no less Ubuntu than Mint is. Lets compare, shall we?

      1: Linux Mint and Super OS both use the official Ubuntu repositories.
      2: Linux Mint and Super OS both have different default software and configurations than Ubuntu.
      3: Any application made to run on “vanilla” Linux can run without much difficulty on Linux Mint and Super OS, as well as Ubuntu.
      4: Since Linux Mint and Super OS BOTH use the OFFICIAL UBUNTU PACKAGES than anything that is GUARANTEED to work on Ubuntu Linux WILL WORK on Linux Mint or Super OS since they are BASED ON IT.

      Ubuntu Tweak, Remastersys, PPAs, and several “Ubuntu-only” things work perfectly on BOTH OSs. Get your facts straight before you make claims like that.

      PS: Linus Mint 9 is out today. BASED ON UBUNTU 10.04.

  12. I’ve recommended Linux Mint 8 sooooooo many times now that I’m starting to sound like a friggin parrot. So here goes: Linux Mint 8 rocks!

    I wrote about my move from Ubuntu 9.10 here:

    • blegs38552

      Maxwell – I would like to see how you made you move from Ubuntu to Linux Mint. However, you do not appear to have a live link on your posting. I am currently running Ubuntu 10.4 on a dual boot Win 7 laptop and would be interested in knowing how you went from one distro to another.

      Also, for those who say that some Ubuntu apps to not run on Mint, could you please be specific and give some examples? I am considering going from Ubuntu 10.4 to Mint 9 when it is released, but would like to have this information before I commit.

  13. @Fimby
    “That being said, Linuxmint is Ubuntu with all the bugs fixed.”
    I agree that 9.10 is not as stable. The shipped version is full of small problems. But that can be explained. They wanted major changes on 9.10 so that they could make it more stable and better in 10.04. Its just six months and you have Ubuntuforums and Google (or now Yahoo :)) anyways. But I agree it could have been done better.

    And about Linuxmint being the bug fixed version of Ubuntu, let me tell you it is not. It uses the same repos for all of its software. It has made different choices in some cases and added a very few packages. It does not fix Ubuntu bugs, however it can choose stable software over buggy ones that Ubuntu includes for innovation.

    • With all the bugs ‘fixed’…?

      In 2008, PCLinuxOS was able to configure this PCs Broadcom based wifi card 2 ways – on the live CD and after I installed the OS to my hard disk. In 2010, not a single version of Ubuntu 9.04 (as in UNR 9.04, Kubuntu 9.04, Ubuntu 9.04 64 bit), not one Ubuntu 9.10 (UNR 9.10, Kubuntu 9.10, Ubuntu 9.10 64 bit) was able to do the same. A bug, to me, is when 2 years pass by and still the successful solutions of one more obscure distribution (and I’m not saying PCLinuxOS was original here) are not implemented in the more popular distros. After all, PCLinuxOS is as GPL as Ubuntu, developers can just get the PCLinuxOS solution and legally reverse engineer (or copy) it.

      OTOH, Mint… when I tried version 3.0, it ran doggedly slow. I have a Celeron D 64 bit, 3.33 GHz, I know how fast this box can be and Mint was far from that milestone. Mint acted as if I had installed every possible option on the planet; Mint 3.0 compares to SuSe 9.2 Professional installed, with about every package installed, on the hard disk.

      Ability to play every type of media? I’ve only used 9.04 and 9.10 of Ubuntu, I found it rather easy to install the missing codecs: simply play an unsupported media, and Ubuntu asks you if you want to search for the codecs. Assuming you have a live internet access, after the search completes, Ubuntu offers you a list, just select everything that is offered and click submit… That is actually 2 clicks, but a simple yes/no selection is the first click.

  14. No one has even mentioned the MOST IMPORTANT features of Mint (in our opinion)… and that is: The ability to play every type of media — streaming or on disk — be it video, audio, CD, DVD,… all of it… right “out of the box”.

    No more re-booting because PulseAudio is f-ed up again!

    This is CRITICAL!

    All those tools, apps, etc are nice too…

    But being able to install, and media WORKS…. is absolutely ESSENTIAL for Ubuntu to even be VIABLE…!!!

    That is what we need: ONE BUTTON… within Ubuntu… which would turn Ubuntu into the MEDIA PLAYING POWERHOUSE that Mint is.

    ( If it is a button, with an “OK, I Agree, this proprietary junk is legal in my jurisdiction…blah blah blah…” bs attached, there can be no legal consequences for Canonical.. Right? )

    • Bruce, the codecs that are pre-installed on linux mint have been mentioned over and over again, that is the reason it’s said to be a novice distro, saves that work. However, with gecko media player install, the novice will have to jump through hoops to install and play real player 11, there is not this problem when totem is used with the plugins. Just thought I’d add my two cents.

      • Rather than use “novice” to describe Mint or any other distro, why not use user-friendly. Even seasoned users do not want to spend time doing what the distro’s dev should have taken care of. But that’s an aside.

  15. MintMenu looks like a “plagiarized” version of Gimmie (, as Mint is “plagiarized Ubuntu” with green paint and multimedia codecs. Of course in the FOSS world I suppose there’s really no such thing as plagiarism, but it seems unethical to take Canonical’s name off the number one Linux distro, put some green paint on it and call it a whole ‘nother “distro.” Especially if you rig it up to be an automated fund raiser with at Google default thing Mint uses.

    That said though, Mint is super-easy for newbies, and the Xfce community edition is superb on older hardware.

    But for ETHICAL reasons I won’t use nor recommend Linux Mint, ever. Especially now after the great Linux Mint political train wreck (,2845,2346637,00.asp). And the bothersome fact that merely USING Linux Mint brings money to it (because of that built-in Google thing).

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