So I booted the Mint DVD.  Actually it’s a Live CD, so after a bit of disk-thrashing I got a working desktop with an Install icon on it.  Thought I’d go straight for broke and clicked to see what would happen.

Turned out that the best option was to stop almost immediately.  The Fedora Installation has an option to replace the existing Linus setup, which I usually choose, but although the options were many, varied and clear with Mint, a straight replacement wasn’t one of them.  So a quick trip via my standard rescue boot disk and its copy of qtparted later, I’d removed all the disk partitions except the Windows XP one (I dual boot day-to-day), and was back in the Mint installation process.  Mint found WinXP and I chose the dual boot option, and off we went.

First point to note is that Mint the installation doesn’t offer a huge range of pre-setup package options (like Fedora), it just does its thing. It’s quick, too.  It’s also the most like a Windows installation of all the Linux versions I’ve used, which is to my mind a good thing.  In no time at all I had a running version of Mint Linux.

It’s very good.  As seems typical of the distro, the first thing it did when I logged on was tell me that there were proprietary drivers available for my Nvidia video card, and would I like to install them?  I clicked yes and it all just happened, as if by magic.  I didn’t have to setup and repositories or anything else.  There was an option for non-free codecs in the menus as well.

There have been a few snags, of course – the Nvidia settings initially wouldn’t persist between boots, and when I installed Amarok the sound system died.  I fixed the video settings pretty quickly if inelegantly by forcing the changes into the xorg.conf file, while the sound issue with Ubuntu/Mint is known and I think I’ve fixed it (watch this space).

However the general Mint experience is very positive – much more user-friendly than Fedora, and definitely greener.  The package selection is very good, sharing as it does the Ubuntu repos, and everything installs easily.  Most applications I used under Fedora are available under Mint – the one exception is Grip, the CD ripper, which apparently is no longer under development and has thus been removed from the package lists.

This led to another very positive experience – I decided to try once more to get Exact Audio Copy to work with Wine (this CD ripper is the one thing I REALLY miss about Windows).  I know that Linux has CD rippers.  I’ve been using cdparanoia with Grip for a while now and it’s fine, but I have to admit to being a bit obsessive about my music – even if I can’t really hear any difference, knowing that the CD has been checked as thoroughly as possible makes me feel good.  I tried to get EAC working under Wine on Fedora, without much real success, but with Mint all I had to do was install Wine-doors, then download the EAC “.exe” file and double click it.  The installation worked seamlessly, including the drive test, and worked perfectly on the first CD I put into it.  Joy.

So now I’m running Mint Linux – watch this space for further comments.