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The final version of Linux Mint 12 dubbed Lisa is released

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November 29, 2011

The final version of Linux Mint 12 dubbed Lisa has just been released, with MGSE extensions to GNOME 3.2 that let users create a more GNOME 2.3x-like environment. Based on Ubuntu 11.10 and Linux 3.0, Linux Mint 12 features upgrades to Firefox 7.0, LibreOffice 3.4.3 and Thunderbird 7.0.1.

The Mint project released the RC1 version of Linux Mint 12 just two weeks ago, so there are few new surprises in this final release.

Somewhat more surprising is the large increase in popularity in its Distrowatch rankings in recent weeks.

As noted previously, Linux Mint 12 is based on a foundation of the Linux 3.0 kernel and Ubuntu 11.10 distribution. The final release offers package updates including the Firefox 7.0 web browser and LibreOffice 3.4.3 productivity suite.

But the Upgrade Manager offers updates to LibreOffice 3.4.4 and Firefox 8.0 respectively, says the Mint project. Other updated packages include the Thunderbird 7.0.1 email client, the Totem 3.0.1 video player, as well as a rival to Totem in version 1.1.12 of the VLC media player.

The Moonlight Linux implementation of Microsoft's Silverlight browser plug-in has been excised on account of a bug, says the project. But a bug-fixed version is available for download now at the Mono project.

As we discovered with RC1, the biggest modifications in Mint include the ability to choose from several new alternative desktops. First, users can move up to GNOME 3.2, the version found in Fedora 16 and OpenSUSE 12.1, which fixes numerous bugs and modifies a few of the GNOME 3.0 environment's more controversial changes.

In addition, Linux Mint 12 offers "MGSE" (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions)-- a desktop layer sitting atop GNOME 3.2 that lets users disable various components within MGSE to get more of a GNOME 2.3 experience. Users can choose which customizations they want to be ported back.

Finally, the project has included an early version of the MATE project's MATE fork of GNOME 2, which is said to be compatible with GNOME 3.x. With MATE, Mint users can run both GNOME 3.2 and MATE on the same system, says the Mint project. Available on the DVD edition of Linux Mint 12, MATE is "not completely stable yet, and it's missing a few parts," stated the Mint project.

Other Mint 12 additions include a new theme called Mint-Z. This is said to feature new artwork and backgrounds. And Linux Mint 12 introduces a new default search engine called DuckGo, which is touted for not tracking or recording user information.

For those who prefer Google or another search engine, however, the Mint project says it now offers an easier way to install them.

In addition, the project has launched a new business model in which search engine companies share with Linux Mint the revenue generated for them by the distribution. In a Nov. 26 blog announcement, Linux Mint Founder Clement Lefebvre announced the first such partnership with DuckGo.

The Mint project says DuckGo is "built on and contributes to Open Source," although "much of the initiative is closed."

The search engine isn't open source at the core, and in fact relies on Microsoft Bing for its back end! DuckGo's search results regarding open source projects are typically Bing-like, writes reviewer Neil Richards. In other words they are tinged with Microsoft bias.

A search for "open source office suite," for example, buries the leading LibreOffice suite at the very bottom. Similarly a search for "open source web browser" shunts Mozilla and Chrome to the second page, reports Richards. Hilariously, neither Linux or GNU were found on the first page results for a search for "open source operating systems."

Beyond such Ballmer red flag terms, there are indeed some advantages to Bing's far less filtered searches. However, Richards also points out that many users prefer Google's personalized search results, and notes that one can always delete history and cookies to maintain privacy.

Linux Mint has gained considerable steam over the last year, and has surpassed Ubuntu on the DistroWatch page hit rankings. Since the Mint 12 RC1 release, Mint has soared far beyond its competition, while the once-leading Ubuntu-- ranked at number two for most of the year, has now fallen back to fourth place behind the now GNOME 3.2-ready Fedora and OpenSUSE.

DistroWatch is far from a scientific ranking, as it's based on the page hits of the site's readers. For example, Red Hat's widely deployed enterprise Linux desktop ranks a distant 31st, so results are very skewed and unreliable as they can be.

But the rankings do offer one of the windows we have on the relative popularity of Linux desktop distributions. Some have analyzed the rankings a bit further, and concluded that user dissatisfaction with Ubuntu's new Unity desktop environment may be a key factor in the two distros' reversal in fortunes.

The relatively high rankings of Fedora and OpenSUSE over the last month suggest that those distros' regular users have surrendered to the bug-fixed, but still often counter-intuitive GNOME 3.2. Linux Mint 12 is available for free download from various sources.

In other Linux news

The Fedora Project has confirmed this morning that it has released the first beta of its Linux Fedora 16 operating system.

The OS is called Verne, and it features desktop artwork that echoes Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Fedora 16 is shaping up to be a worthwhile alternative to Ubuntu 11.10, particularly for those that aren't happy with Canonical's home-brewed Unity shell.

Among the big changes in Fedora version 16 is GNOME 3.2, the latest version of the GNOME 3 shell Ubuntu ditched for Unity. Fedora has always been a reasonably popular Linux distribution, but now it is acting as a kind of flagship for the GNOME 3 desktop, since Ubuntu has gone its own way.

Fedora releases are likely undergoing much closer scrutiny from the Linux community. This first beta release is definitely a bit rough around the edges, but if you want to check out the new GNOME 3.2, Fedora 16 is one of the best ways to do it.

Indeed the main reason to install the new beta is to see how GNOME 3 is progressing. This marks the second incremental update for GNOME and it is clear that there will be no new major features coming for some time. Instead the GNOME team has been focusing on polishing and improving the foundations of GNOME 3.

Perhaps the most noticeable of the smaller new features in this version of GNOME is the new integrated chat and messaging system that is now built in to GNOME. The new features mean you'll be able to automatically log in to your chat and messaging accounts without needing to launch a separate application.

Thanks to a new set of notification options you'll be able to reply to messages, accept file transfers and even take calls, all from the GNOME shell.

The other fixes to GNOME 3's early pain points include a more permanent way to display the workspace switcher when you're in overview mode. In other words, you can now actually get to the workspace switcher on the correct side of the screen when you need it.

You also now get status bar notifications for external storage devices with options including mounting, browsing files or ejecting. Status bar messages can also now display a counter to show the number of unread emails or new chat messages.

Perhaps more useful for those who would like to get real work done in GNOME 3 is the new "do not disturb" toggle switch in the user menu. While all the functionality of the do not disturb mode is actually part of GNOME 3.0, there's no easy way to turn it on.

Version 3.2 adds a switch in the user menu and, when enabled, the do-not-disturb mode will set your messaging status to "busy" and stop the endless stream of notifications.

For those accustomed to GNOME 2.x, GNOME 3 is still a long way from comfortable. But, like the KDE struggling from 3 to 4 before it, the GNOME team is slowly putting the bugs to rest and adding in the missing features.

Overall, Fedora 16 will be more than just a showcase for GNOME. The distribution has quite a few new tools in its own right, including the Linux 3.0 kernel. There has also been some talk of moving to the BTRFS filesystem as the default for Fedora 16, but at least for now the beta and the alpha before it all use ext4.

Also new is support for the GRUB2 bootloader on x86 systems, which replaces the GRUB legacy. There are also some application updates in the Fedora 16, including the latest version of Blender, a 3D imaging tool, the latest Firefox beta and the usual updates for Perl and Python.

It's also worth noting that Fedora has not followed in Ubuntu's lead in moving to Mozilla's Thunderbird for email. Fedora 16 is sticking with the Evolution email client.

For a complete list of everything that's coming in Fedora 16, be sure to read the change list on the Fedora wiki.

Fedora 16 will be making the leap to GNOME 3 not just for the shell, but for all the underlying system tools as well. That means there will be no way to boot Fedora 16 into GNOME 2.x.

There is a simplified fallback mode for hardware that doesn't measure up to GNOME 3's requirements, but effectively, from here on out, GNOME 3 is GNOME.

For those who've already made peace with GNOME 3, Fedora 16 is looking like one of the best ways to run the new shell environment. Not only is the default theme nicely integrated, GNOME 3 feels extremely stable on Fedora 16, even as a beta build.

The Document Foundation, producers of the popular LibreOffice open source office software suite, is celebrating today the first birthday of the software’s release to users of the computing community.

Last year, LibreOffice started life out of sheer disgruntlement at the way Oracle handled the OpenOffice project after it took ownership of Sun Microsystems.

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At the time, key open source developers left the OpenOffice organization and set up their own software shop, run by a group of consensus decision makers and largely supported by many volunteers that were already working in the Linux and open source community.

Although the team asked Oracle if it wanted to take part in the new project, Larry Ellison’s people handled rejection badly and ended up donating the entire code base of OpenOffice to the Apache Software Foundation-- something that really irritated many.

IBM is still developing the OpenOffice code, but progress has been slow and there's been even more defections to The Document Foundation.

“The situation with Apache is progressing very slowly, and it's not really fair to compare the two products. But we hope it’s going to be sorted out very quickly,” said The Document Foundation spokesman Italo Vignoli. “If you look at the last couple of months, in terms of code generated and developers working, we’re had a lot more activity than OpenOffice.”

To date, LibreOffice has signed up over 250 new code developers-- something that's nothing to sneeze at he said, and organizations such as Canonical and others have appointed staff members whose job is solely to develop for the software suite.

Source: DistroWatch.

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