Just as people were migrating to Linux Mint to AVOID GNOME 3, Linux Mint 12 switches everyone back over to the horrific GNOME 3 desktop to maintain current support, as the legacy GNOME 2 isn't developed anymore. Mint 12 bundles "MGSE" or Mint GNOME Shell Extensions to try and maintain that friendly desktop appearance, however it is now forced to fight the uphill battle against GNOME 3.
On first boot Mint 12 popped up with this desktop. Huh? This isn't what the screenshot on Linux Mint's website looked like!
For whatever reason, even with 3D acceleration turned on in Virtualbox it bops me into "Fallback mode". Even though it claims to support Virtualbox and that only 3D acceleration is required.
Nice. Looks like I'm going to be looking for my Mint 12 CD (or making a new one if I can't find it) and installing that onto my test machine. What fun this will be.
Despite what this looks like, this is not GNOME 2, instead this is just a component of GNOME 3 that it uses in the event that your hardware "isn't good enough" or a driver for your evil NVidia/AMD/ATI/whoever video card isn't installed and you can't use 3D rendering. I like it, but unfortunately this isn't what it's supposed to look like.
There we go. Looks like this is even the 64-bit version too! Since this is the CD version there are no add-on codecs installed, but whatever. At least it lets you add those if you bless it with an internet connection (which I won't be doing).
The desktop is almost identical to Linux Mint 11, except there is now a panel up at the top that wasn't there before. The bottom panel still has the traditional menu and workspace switcher, however the date and time and icon center have moved up. The top panel also has a user menu thing like Ubuntu does, along with an infinity icon that fails completely to portray it's purpose
Unlike in Mint 11 it also doesn't appear as though you can customize these two panels. Right clicking them does absolutely nothing.
I also couldn't help but notice the lack of any real keyboard accessibility on the desktop. Despite the fact that this is Linux and that for years the norm has been to have keyboard shortcuts and command line applications everywhere.
Speaking of failing to portray it's purpose...
Here we have the menu. There is now no more Favorites option, rather it just goes ahead and displays all the application categories. Places has been put under this as well to save space.
The area at the side is for placing your favorite applications.
I have a few problems with this. Number one, the choice of icons is fairly mediocre. The Firefox icon is not the standard one at all, and while the shell icon is the icon of Nautilus, it fails to convey it's purpose.
Another problem I have with this, is the "scroll bar" that appears on the longer program lists. It is, in fact, not a scroll bar at all, just an indication as to where you are on the list. You can't drag it, even though it looks like you can. WTF?
The file manager is still Nautilus, and it has still remained mostly unchanged.
One thing to note about the UI is that the dialog boxes now are mostly these things that don't have windowing controls. This is done probably to be more "Macintosh-like". The problem is that this is actually a Macintosh archaism from way back in the classic Mac OS days. Back then no one would give two cares that they couldn't see what was underneath the dialog, now they damn well would.