Well, I just downloaded Linux Mint 17.2 x64 (LTS). My initial impressions are quite positive - I installed in vmware, and it just friggin worked (though I loaded vmware tools anyway). I did have to tell vmware and Chrome (when selecting downloads) it was Ubuntu - Mint isn't an option apparently.
Mint is basically an alternative desktop on top of Ubuntu; under the hood they are effectively identical. Mint even uses Ubuntu's repositories for all the stuff they didn't customize.
Search and settings are extremely logical - easy to figure out as a Mac and Windows user, and it's simple. Ex. Doesn't show up with a dozen things when I look for mouse settings, just shows one for that setting panel. Hit the start/super key and search, same muscle memory from Windows (and similar to OS X). The main panel feels like OS X, lots of labeled categories of settings just sitting there with search, all very, very well laid out. Exactly how I would do it if given the chance.
Yes, I really like the way Mint lays things out. I've hit some other issues with Mint (that I won't go into) which make it less suitable as a software development platform, but these probably won't affect casual users.
And unlike Ubuntu or Windows 10 (or OS X, for that matter), search results are local only by default, and unlike Ubuntu, the UI doesn't have huge, bloated-feeling text.
I gave Ubuntu's default Unity desktop a chance, and I've decided I hate it. My current distro of choice is still Ubuntu, but I use the KDE desktop instead of their home-grown Unity. KDE is somewhat less intuitive than Mint's Cinnamon desktop out-of-the-box, but is very configurable.
Feels nice and professional, if oyu ask me. Not the lightest linux distro I've seen in regards to RAM, though it's handling decently on 2GB. 550MB/2GB with nothing open, which is on par with Windows 32-bit these days. Though it just ballooned to 900MB and the CPU usage spiked when I closed everything - background maintenance that's not in the process list?
Unless you go with a very stripped-down environment like LXDE, desktop Linux can't really claim to be "resource light" any more. Run-time memory usage is roughly on par with Windows.
My one qualm is the login screen (in vmware) is 800x600 - seems like it does your native screen res, and vmware doesn't really have a native screen res that it shows. Not easy to change - vs Windows and OS X, where it's one setting system-wide. Though I've seen that same problem with quite a few other linux distros.
Pretty sure this is a weird interaction between VMware's resolution handling, and the practice of separating the login screen ("greeter") application from the main desktop environment in systems that use the X Windows system. I'm certain there's a poorly documented setting buried in a VMware and/or Linux config file somewhere that you can manually tweak if it really bugs you.
Some things are also a little trickier than Windows still - i.e. Spotify tells me to run a few commands to install their (not yet supported) beta. And, it's not clear how you remove these things from the package respiratory if you don't want them later. Though their linux UI is the older sensible one - not the new, as bloated as possible one.
Yeah, 3rd party applications may require some minor CLI-fu to get them installed. If they are installed via apt-get, then the command to remove them is:
apt-get remove <package-name>
If installed via dpkg, the equivalent command is:
dpkg --remove <package-name>
Replace "remove" with "purge" in either of the above to wipe the corresponding configuration files as well.
Also using ~8GB on a 20GB HDD, with Chrome and Spotify installed. Not bad.
Yes, even though run-time resource usage of Linux has increased a fair bit over the years, disk usage for a base install is still fairly moderate, at least compared to Windows.
All in all, it seems like Mint has come a long way in the last few years. I'm planning to set up a general use machine in my college house (since we meet there for the solar vehicle engineering club), and what the hell, I think it's time to throw linux mint on it (and probably dual-boot Win7 just in case).
Linux in general has come a long way, and Mint is probably the best distro out there today for people looking for a hassle-free "just works" install.
Edit: Also looks like it has built in support for a lot of older PCL5e/PCL6/PS Laserjets via PS or Gutenprint (Macs seem to be the same - no PCL5e/6 unless you use Gutenprint), but not for newer ones like the p1102w. And HP's site plays dumb and hides the driver option entirely from that machine, even though on my Windows machine, it lists a linux open-source driver option. What the hell?
Yes, support for HP printers in Linux is quite good. At my last job, we were even able to continue using a couple of older HPs with Linux after HP stopped updating the drivers to support later versions of Windows.