My brother and I were praising the virtues of Linux yesterday and discussing why Microsoft remains so popular. My non-techie friends will go out of their way and pay a bundle of money just to get the latest version of Windows on their computer, which invariably they dislike. When I mention Linux, they just associate it with geeks and with technical difficulties and lack of software. I mention that one can run Firefox or Chrome on Linux, but they worry about the absence of Internet Explorer. I mention LibreOffice, and they worry over the absence of Microsoft Office. Microsoft has done a number on the general public.
I told my brother that I would feel 100% comfortable installing Linux Mint for my mother. That says a lot. My mother is the opposite of me where computers are concerned. If I feel comfortable having her run Linux Mint, it means I am satisfied Linux Mint is safe, secure and very, very easy to use. Actually I find Linux Mint easier than Windows, and why? Because Linux Mint sets all the drivers up, sets up Firefox with Flash, and does not require any anti-virus. Most of the software comes pre-installed. New software, instead of having to be downloaded and installed from, perhaps, dubious sources, is pulled in from trusted, verified, tested, scrutinized repositories, thus minimizing any chance of malware, the bane of Windows systems. I do not believe Windows is safe for use by the general public, which is using something that will, in the end, cause them heartache and misery, as their systems become compromised, hacked, slowed down, and outright broken. I see this time and time again.
For my brother, the stepping stone into the wonderful world of Linux was Clonezilla, a Live CD that is extremely useful for Windows and Linux users alike. With it, one can create a perfect clone of an operating system. Once he discovered how nice Clonezilla was and how powerful, Microsoft's spell was broken. I seized my opportunity and mailed him a DVD with Linux Mint Xfce. I know Xfce will run fast on any old system he has lying around, and Xfce is perhaps the most problem-free and problem-resistant desktop available for Linux Mint. I love Xfce because it is a wonderful compromise between barebones efficiency and user-friendliness. I also love how fast Xfce boots. When he compares Linux Mint Xfce's boot-time with Windows, I think every Linux user knows which horse wins that race.
I do not grasp the utility of the newer desktops, Mate and Cinnamon. These are defaults with Linux Mint. I believe a lot of time has been invested in developing these desktops and ironing out all of the bugs. They work all right for most purposes, but I fail to appreciate where Mate is in any way superior to Xfce. Where Cinnamon is concerned, I do not see a compelling reason to prefer it over KDE. Xfce and KDE have been around forever, and I don't see any good reason to abandon them now for a new desktop. One of the problems in Linux is that so much effort seems to be scattered shotgun-style, when it might be better to focus the energies of developers on perhaps one or at the most two desktops and a smaller number of apps. I think the central problem revolves around the human ego and the difficulty developers have in working together, sharing the credit, and sharing the decision-making, and arriving with wise and fair decisions that can be accepted by everyone in the group. Diversity of opinion causes developers to break off from a project and form their own project rather than subordinating their preferences to the team. Of course, the personality of a technical person is likely to be divergent and independent to start with, because who but a pioneer would open up his box to find out how it works and how to make it better?
I mentioned that I use PCLinuxOS for one of my desktops, but that is not a distro I would recommend to a beginner. The update process is not as smooth as Linux Mint, and I view the "MiniMe" edition as a potential pitfall for the unwary. If I were to recommend PCLinuxOS to anyone, in the same breath, I would have to warn them not to use the MiniMe version. I would also have to explain the update procedure in some detail. Linux Mint is pretty good about eliminating potential "gotchas" that can cause problems for beginners. In fact, I think that the developers invest a lot of time thinking about how they can make Linux Mint easier to use. However, what I like about PCLinuxOS is that I can compile from source in order to access new versions of software that Linux Mint doesn't have ready yet. I also like that PCLinuxOS apparently runs forever without requiring reinstallation. We will have to see about that over the long term. I also feel better about PCLinuxOS for not following Canonical's descent into Mir.