I have been using Linux as my operating system for several years now. I started with Ubuntu way back when they called it Hoary Hedgehog. By the time it got to Intrepid Ibis I was getting frustrated with it. It was changing a lot and becoming less and less my kind of thing. I started using its cousin, Linux Mint. I started with version 9 and upgraded to version 10. I prefered Mint’s simpler interface over Ubuntu’s sluggish but pretty one. Mint also fit much better on my 10″ netbook screen, even in comparison to Ubuntu’s Netbook Remix edition.
Recently I have been slightly frustrated by some minor problems with Mint. Sound has always been not quite right for me. When more than one application tries to play sound at the same time, especially if one of those applications is flash player, the sound changes to a low pitched growl, similar to music that has been slowed down. Occasionally when this happens, all sounds end up being the same pitch, so everything sounds like it is being run through a robot. This is amusing for a while, but gets very annoying.
Another strange sound related issue that has been driving me crazy is specific to Skype. In order for other people to hear me, I have to set the sound to come out of the left speaker only. Otherwise the microphone just doesn’t work. It works normally in other applications, just not Skype.
I came across a video online that I couldn’t play and decided that it was time to try a different OS. I wanted to stay with Linux and Gnome but try something new that may not have the sound problems I had been experiencing with Mint. I hadn’t tried Ubuntu for a while and it had the new Unity interface so it would be a bit different. I knew I could install it and set it up easily and I didn’t fancy trying anything to unfamiliar (last time I did was a disaster, Gentoo and I do not get along) so Ubuntu seemed like a fair choice.
As Mint is based on Ubuntu, the startup disk creator understood the Ubuntu ISO and I was up and running on a live USB drive pretty quickly. Unity was very pretty and seemed to give me maximum screen space, which is always a bonus when you use a netbook as your main computer, so I decided to install. Unfortunately I still couldn’t play the video that had sent me on a search for a new OS in the first place, but I had set up Skype without having to set the sound to the left speaker only, so it seemed like a good move.
Less than 24 hours after installing Ubuntu with Unity I gave up. I didn’t like not being able to see what windows I had open. Mint shows the current windows in the bar at the bottom of the screen but Unity put them in a sidebar that slides off the screen unless you point your cursor at it. I didn’t like the Mac style file menus at the top of the screen instead of in the window. I kept trying to use the menu for a window that didn’t have focus and wondering why the options I wanted weren’t there. I didn’t like the messaging menu, even after managing to get it to use Pidgin and Gmail instead of Empathy and Thunderbird.
I thought perhaps if I just switched back to Gnome it would suit me better. I installed the package and logged in using Gnome instead of Unity. I had forgotten that Ubuntu had two bars for Gnome rather than the one I was used to in Mint. I lost a bit of screen space, not good. I tried to edit the bars, but that feature seemed to have disappeared. I tried to live with it, but it wasn’t what I wanted. I downloaded Mint 11 instead.
A few hours later and I’m back with Mint and Gnome and one bar at the bottom just how I like it. I can see what I need to see without it disappearing off the screen or taking up too much valuable space. I can edit the bar if it does anything I don’t like. I can use it the way I want to use it, which seems to me to be the whole point of using Linux in the first place. I haven’t yet tried Skype, but if I have to switch the speakers to left only in order to use it and occasionally have my sound distorted or robotificated, I will be in the same position I was in already, which is much preferable to putting up with an interface I dislike.
I will keep my eyes open for alternative systems to try out, but for now I’m relieved to be back with Mint. It suits the way I think and the way I want to work with my computer.