The Linux Mint project team has released the latest version of its free to download Linux build which has been growing in popularity of late to rival the tech enthusiasts' old favourite Ubuntu.
Linux Mint 12, codenamed Lisa, sports a new desktop based on the Gnome 3 user interface, but with extensions that enable it to be operated in a traditional desktop fashion. It also ships with a fork of the older Gnome 2 shell, adapted to be compatible with Gnome 3.
Other improvements include an updated look and feel with two new themes and fresh artwork. The new version can be downloaded from the Linux Mint web site.
Linux Mint hit the headlines recently after reports that the number of users downloading the software had grown rapidly during the past year, according to figures released by Linux site DistroWatch.
Many industry watchers have attributed this to Ubuntu's recent introduction of a new user interface, Unity, which replaced the popular Gnome and KDE desktop options with more emphasis on new form factors such as tablets rather than a traditional PC desktop.
However, Gnome has followed a similar path with Gnome 3, leading the Linux Mint team to develop Mint Gnome Shell Extensions (MGSE) for Linux Mint 12, offering a more familiar desktop-like experience with an application menu, window list and a visible system tray of icons for applications in use.
"The Linux Mint 12 desktop is a mix of old and new. It's a brand new desktop but with traditional components. The new technology in Gnome 3 is exciting but the components contributed by MGSE make users feel at home," the team explained on its web site.
Linux Mint is actually partly based on Ubuntu, and lists Ubuntu 11.10, Linux 3.0 and Gnome 3.2 as included upstream code components.
Like Ubuntu, Linux Mint releases new updates at frequent intervals, but also makes available less frequent Long-Term Support releases, which are supported for three years.
Linux Mint is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions for x86 systems, and has relatively modest hardware requirements of 512MB memory (1GB recommended), 5GB of disk space and a graphics adapter capable of a minimum 800×600 resolution.
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