I'm not getting any work done because I like to blog and play with my computers. The latest thing is a tussle on a Linked-in Ubuntu discussion group. Just short of slinging colorful metaphors, we politely answer the question of hating the Unity and Gnome Shell desktops. There is then Mint Linux jumping to the lead on Distrowatch. Let me state for the record I tried and I'm tired.
I didn't like Unity, still you can like it if you want. Gnome Shell for me is much better but on my PC it only works off the Live-CD. Fedora ventured out first with a full Gnome Shell and it was cool on the Live-CD. I tried to install Gnome Shell on my Ubuntu 11.10 and it didn't work. I just don't have the Ram and Videocard for good clean usage. Enter Mint Linux. I didn't want to jump on the bandwagon, but having tried Mint before we go for it. The Mint Live-CD was the bomb as Gnome Shell worked flawlessly closer to what I am looking for in a desktop. Then I installed it and it didn't work. But never fear, Gnome Classic was there and also Gnome Classic without effects. Also Mate was there which is pretty cool as a menu system. So I got Mint but no Gnome Shell. If Gnome Classic goes away I got Mate which I like and can live with.
Funny thing with Linux distros, there are sticking points and standout points. Otherwise they are the same as the rest of their families. The Debian based distros are one way and the RPM based ones in their family and the family similar to Slackware. Now mind you, I don't promote distro-hopping as a sport, but if you don't fancy virtual machines or bootable USB drives or flash drives, then here is safe distro hopping. Divide your hard drive into several partitions, 20 gig is fine for each distro you install. Since I am not a nut, I did one 20 gig partition for my choice of distro. I do one partition to match the size of my system RAM memory as a swap partition. Then the rest of the drive as space for /Home directories. My /Home directory never changes, the same directory for what ever distro I install. I reformat only the distro partition and install a new distro without effecting my personal files in my /Home directory. The cool thing about this is the hidden files stored in the /Home directory are still there if you install the same applications, you don't lose settings or bookmarks or email or some configurations.
So what do I think of Ubuntu in second place to Mint? Distrowatch is about the number of search hits sort of like the Jason Bourne movie when the gov phishes for the word "Blackbriar" on international wire taps. It does not indicate installed systems. I heard about Mint, I had to investigate, I liked what I saw, told others, they did the same. Mint is being checked out in droves being made from Ubuntu stuff but lacking Unity desktop. It features Gnome Shell instead and it's own Gnome Shell extensions. I like it but I can't use it on my present system. Linux as far as popular use systems goes, is not focused on low end and older hardware as in the past. The standard has been raised. For me the comfort level is higher with Mint.
Don't forget both Ubuntu and Mint will improve because of all this attention and or the shift of conversation. Welcome to the world of Linux.