Well, at the behest of a certain critic i decided to install Linux Mint on my aging, but still decent, desktop (2.2 ghz dual core AMD processor, 3 gigs of ram) which had had Ubuntu on it previously. So this thing (I won't call it a review, its more of a fist impressions thingy) will focus on comparing Mint to Ubuntu, which makes sense because it's derived from Ubuntu.
The very first impression I had was that Mint was remarkably minimalistic; it didn't even have a command line! but eventually I realized that it was my monitor flashing the "analog, digital, analog, digital" signals in the corner of my screen, and not the operating system. The video driver had malfunctioned somehow, and even now I have no idea what the problem was, other than my thrice-damned Nvidia chipset.
Now, dealing with a malfunctioning video driver is a much bigger problem than pretty much anything else, since, you know, you have no screen, but eventually I did find a fix which involved altering the startup-command-thingy when the livecd is inserted and then installing Mint, then altering the install so it would do the thing you told the livecd to do on boot. The fix I found was for an older version of Mint (I think) and had to be adopted somewhat to fit. It took me something like three hours, but i got it working and successfully installed the proprietary Nvidia drivers on my otherwise open-source machine
All right, that was something of an unfair criticism. The rest of mint makes up for it, I promise. Also, I blame Nvidia! anyways, my real first impression was that Mint (under GNOME at least) looked remarkably like Windows; even more than Ubuntu. The "menu" button was in the same place as the "start" button, the window buttons were on the right, as opposed to Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, where they're on the left by default, and overall the thing seemed very Windows-like, which is great because the Windows interface is pretty much the only thing, other than compatibility, that Windows has going for it these days.
In contrast, Ubuntu (I don't know about the newest one, I stuck with the LTS) decided to appeal to the Mac crowd and put the buttons on the left, and stuck a lot of primary operating system stuff in the upper-left hand corner, again, like a Mac. This doesn't seem like a great decision by Canonical. Mac users are generally satisfied with their computers and in any case are beholden to Apple. In contrast, Windows users are a very fearful bunch, and rightfully so; their OS is subject to pretty much every virus on the internet, both because of its gigantic market share and because of its flawed permission system (Microsoft tried to fix it with UAC; it didn't work).So, logically, you would want to imitate Windows because most of your converts would be from that, and you would like to ease their course through Linux, which at times can be a very scary place.
Anyways, back to Mint. one of the great thing about mint is that they managed to include a bunch of stuff everyone puts into an Ubuntu install that for legal reasons cannot be shipped with Ubuntu. Flash, Mp3 support, it's all there. How they did this without being sued, I have no idea.
So, that's my first impression on Mint 9, which hopefully i will be using for a long time to come (I am politely refusing to install mint 10 on my computer). its quite nice, and i would think even optimal for scared windows users who want sanctuary from all the scary things that go run DDOS attacks in the night.