[ubuntu-za] Migrating to Linux

Adrianna Pińska adrianna.pinska at gmail.com
Sat May 2 14:08:15 UTC 2015

On 2 May 2015 at 14:57, Jan Greeff <jan at verslank.net> wrote:
> Leon, now I'm totally confused. I was under the impression that Mint comes in two environments: Mate and Cinnanon. Now you appear to indicate that Mate is Ubuntu. Also, in the Linux Mint release timeline on Wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linux_Mint) Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is listed as one of the Mint releases. ??

Hi, Jan

In general, I think it's useful to think of a Linux distro as being
broadly divided into four layers, from the outside in:

1. the top-level apps, like Firefox or LibreOffice -- these are
identical across all distros (unless they're GUI front-ends to
distro-specific utilities, like Synaptic)

2. the desktop environment, like GNOME or KDE, which is just a
specialised case of an app or suite of apps, and is also exactly the
same in all distros

3. the mid-level system components, which can be split between several
competing standards, like package managers -- this is where the really
important differences between distros come in. E.g. DEBs in
Debian/Ubuntu vs RPMs in Red Hat/Fedora

4. the core command-line utilities and the Linux kernel, which are
likely to be identical again (except for things that are interfaces to
distro-specific utilities)

So there is no one distro that the Mate environment "is". You can run
any window manager or desktop environment on any distribution with the
appropriate packages.

Distributions just come with a particular environment *by default*,
and that is why there are so many Ubuntu "flavours".  They all use the
exact same package repositories. Mint is similar, in that it is
*based* on Ubuntu (and also recently directly on Debian), but it also
has its own additional repositories.

So Mate is one of the environments offered by default in Mint, and I
believe that it was originally developed for Mint, but there is now
*also* a pure Ubuntu flavour which comes with Mate.

Picking the flavour to install is really a lot less important than a
lot of people make it out to be, because it's easy to change window
managers in an existing installed system just by installing some
additional packages.  You'll get a drop-down menu on your login
screen, and you'll be able to switch between the different installed
environments whenever you like.

Use the flavour that comes with a decent-looking light environment,
but don't agonize over the choice because it's easy to change.  Just
explain to your friend from the start that he's not stuck with the
environment if he doesn't like it, and maybe direct him to some online
resources that describe and compare different environments.

Mint is a perfectly good option, and it's likely to be extremely
similar to Ubuntu in every way.  To the best of my knowledge, releases
now follow Ubuntu and Debian quite closely, so it should have about
the same hardware support / compatibility under the hood.  All of the
stuff in the system component layer should be the same -- same package
manager, etc..  But I honestly see no compelling reason to pick it
over Ubuntu, especially if you already know Ubuntu and are going to be
helping this guy.

Pick something that you won't be completely lost in, so that you'll be
in a good position to help the guy.  What environment do you use?
Unity?  Have you ever used GNOME? If you have, you should be
reasonably at home in any one of the classic GNOME or GNOME fork
environments, or maybe XFCE or LXDE. They all follow a pretty similar
model without weird surprises. They all have their own special sauce
system settings GUIs, but they should all be pretty similar and easy
to figure out.

If the laptop is very very old and you want something super super
lightweight, I can recommend one of the *box clones -- the original
Blackbox, Openbox, or my personal favourite Fluxbox.  A word of
warning: these are *very* minimalist, and require a bit more setup out
of the box, and more familiarity with the command line to configure.

Some people also swear by tiling managers, but I wouldn't inflict one
of those on an unsuspecting beginner. ;)

You may also want to recommend Inkscape to your friend -- there's no
reason for him not to try it out even if he can run CorelDraw in a
virtual machine.

Adrianna Pińska

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