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Can anyone help me explain this?

Just installed a fresh copy of Linux Mint 12 downloaded from their website only a few days ago. They claim that it uses Gnome 3 but gnome-about says it is Gnome 2.

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It is Gnome 3, your above screenshot shows the version of the application explaining gnome not Gnome itself.

Try in terminal

gnome-shell --version

or open System Monitor and post what you see in system tab.

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