So good news for all of you KDE fans out there! I still am not part of that group, but hey!, Pardus left quite a good impression on me, so why not try this one too? First of all, see if you have an empty DVD lying around, 'cause the KDE version of Mint 7 (about 1.1 GB) won't fit on a CD. There are plenty of mirrors available for direct download and a seedful torrent, so it shouldn't take too much time to have the image on your hard drive. Once you have it on the disc, it's pretty much a straight-forward job: boot from the DVD, wait for the desktop to load, double click the "Install" icon and go through the easy-as-pie installation steps, identical to those of Ubuntu.
Once I had it installed, I quickly rebooted the machine and admired the simple yet beautiful blue and white, icy kind of bootsplash, perfectly suited for a hot summer day. The first time your desktop loads, it will take a bit more time, so don't worry, it's normal. If you recall, Gloria's default green wallpaper was quite a star when revealed by Clem. If you liked that, you'll certainly like this one. It's basically the same, except it's blue. The same sky, the same water drops, but blue.
mintWelcome, which immediately popped out at startup, is an excellent tool for finding out about Gloria's exciting new features, read the user guide or seek support either on the forum or through the pre-configured Quassel IRC client.
The latest, 4.2.4 version of K Desktop Environment certainly feels more stable and less of a resource-hog than previous ones, so using it didn't make my good ol' single core Pentium 4 machine develop an inferiority complex.
What's the first thing you need to do after installing an Operating System? Make sure it's up to date! So that's what I did. The mintUpdate tool was already working in the background, retrieving all of the 76 updates that needed to be applied. About ten minutes and a rather harmless Plasma workspace crash later, Linux Mint 7 KDE was ready to be explored.
As I knew Canonical didn't bother to update their repositories with the latest version of Pidgin in order to be able to connect to Yahoo, I wanted to see if Mint did something about that. Nope, still at 2.5.5. Before adding the third party source, I downloaded and installed it, just for the heck of it and, surprise, surprise, I was online. Apparently, the Mint team couldn't include the latest version so instead they changed the server in the account preferences. Still, that isn't a permanent solution, as certain features (such as avatars and file transfer) don't work, but it's better than nothing. Oh, and yes, before all that, I've tried connecting with the included Kopete IM client, but had no luck.
If there is one thing that I find highly annoying about Kubuntu-based OSes, it has to be this: NVIDIA drivers installation. Though it quickly recognized my chipset and recommended the 173 series, when I clicked "Activate", the selection grayed out on me and nothing happened. NOTHING! Restart the application, try again, restart the system, try again. Nope. Still no response. Usually, depending on your luck and how the planets are aligned that day, the darn thing will work after a few tries. Luckily, the Minties (is it too wrong if I call the Linux Mint team that? :) ) are probably aware of that issue and included the awesome EnvyNG driver installation program that quickly and smoothly took care of the problem.
One of the applications I love using when running KDE systems is Amarok. Though the latest version is 2.1.1, Linux Mint gives you 2.1, which is just as good really, works like a charm.
When you open the most awesome software manager available for Linux, mintInstall, for the first time, you'll notice that it doesn't take as much time to load as it used to, as screenshots for the most popular applications are preloaded; for the rest, the pics are downloaded as you access them. If you want 'em all, click the "Refresh" button and they'll slowly but surely be loaded. That's a great improvement if you ask me, as waiting several minutes to access the repositories for the first time was a bit frustrating in the previous version. Another important change is the "Featured applications" button which will take you to a small software portal, comprising of applications that are known to be used by a lot of people. Some examples: aMule, Audacity, Skype, Opera, Google Earth of Picasa. This is a great way to put your "computing lifestyle" back together in no time.
Of course, Flash videos, MP3s and most video formats play out of the box in Linux Mint 7, so yay! The bundled Dragon Player, VLC, GNOME MPlayer and MPlayer will provide the means for that to happen. It was a bit sad to see no games available out of the box, considering the fact that the distro had already “spilled” over the 700 MB CD limit, so 1.5 GB instead of 1.1 wouldn't have been such a big difference.
On the office front, there's nothing out of the ordinary: the now old OpenOffice.org 3.0.1, a couple of smaller text editors and a few KOffice 2.0 (great product, by the way) components, such as Krita and Karbon.
If you have kids (I used that instead of children because it starts with a K! Get it? K! From KDE? How funny is that? - don't answer) and you feel that they may be surfing some inappropriate Internet waves, you can call mintNanny and do some good old fashioned domain blocking. But with today's highly computer-literate youth, they will probably blaze past your wall of protection. Nonetheless, a welcomed addition.
Another tool straight out of Mint's laboratories is mintUpload that unfortunately wasn't pre-configured to use the default Mint server. If you use any other upload services, you can add them to this nifty interface too. Beware though, you won't find mintUpload in the applications menu, as you can access it through the right click context menu on individual files.
But there are more hidden treasures in the context menu: image conversion, file encryption, open/edit as root, change permissions, etc. Some true time savers!
The glorious conclusion
Linux Mint 7 KDE is a worthy addition to the Linux Mint family and is much, much better than the previous KDE release. I still prefer the main GNOME version over it, but there's definitely an ascending path going on. Oh, and with the 4.3.0 version of KDE just released, I can't wait until Linux Mint 8!
Update: As Google kindly helped me translate the Russian comment below, I realized I actually did not post any download link for the distribution. Silly me! Oh well, here they are: Direct download and torrent. Enjoy!