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GUI Open Source Ubuntu Upgrades Linux

Speed-Ups, Small Fixes Earn Good Marks From Ars For Mint 17.2 69

Ars Technica reviews the newest release from Linux MInt -- version 17.2, offered with either the Cinnamon desktop, or the lighter-weight MATE, which feels like what Gnome 2 might feel in an alternate universe where Gnome 3 never happened. Reviewer Scott Gilbertson has mostly good things to say about either variety, and notes a few small drawbacks, too. The nits seem to be minor ones, though they might bite some people more than others: Mint, based on Ubuntu deep down, is almost perfectly compatible with Ubuntu packages, but not every one, and this newest version of Mint ships with the 3.16 kernel of Ubuntu 14.04, which means slightly less advanced hardware support. (Gilbertson notes, though, that going with 3.16 means Mint may be the ideal distro if you want to avoid systemd.) "This release sees the Cinnamon developers focusing on some of what are sometimes call "paper cut" fixes, which just means there's been a lot of attention to the details, particularly the small, but annoying problems. For example, this release adds a new panel applet called "inhibit" which temporarily bans all notifications. It also turns off screen locking and stops any auto dimming you have set up, making it a great tool for when you want to watch a video or play a game." More "paper cut" fixes include improved multi-panel options, graphics-refresh tweaks, a way to restart the Cinnamon desktop without killing the contents of a session, graphics-refresh tweaks, and other speed-ups that make this release "noticeably snappier than its predecessor on the same hardware."
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Speed-Ups, Small Fixes Earn Good Marks From Ars For Mint 17.2

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  • Bad design (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2015 @01:35PM (#50093633)

    For example, this release adds a new panel applet called "inhibit" which temporarily bans all notifications. It also turns off screen locking and stops any auto dimming you have set up, making it a great tool for when you want to watch a video or play a game.

    Facepalm. That should happen automatically without having the need for a panel applet. Let me guess that they actually added it because the normal lock/dim inhibition is too broken.

    • I was coming here to say the same thing. That's just weird.

    • Flash 11.2 doesn't prevent the screen saver from kicking in, so till now I either disable it or set the time ridiculously long.
      Applet is in Mate, I've added it and will try it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, Linus, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @01:52PM (#50093725)

    Great to have a distro (or any open source project for that matter) that values user feedback and tries to meet needs, rather than having "churn and feature churn for change and hype's sake", and also for taking conservative approach to radical new things that are yet immature or just badly engineered

  • > that going with 3.16 means Mint may be the ideal distro if you want to avoid systemd.

    What does that even mean? Does Linux 3.17 require systemd? You're better off with 3.16?
    That would be really strange.

    • Re:Linux and systemd (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 12, 2015 @02:23PM (#50093877)

      Aside from Linux Mint, pretty much every major Linux distro, from Fedora through to Debian, has switched to systemd recently, or will be switching soon.

      The other modern Linux distros that haven't switched yet are impractical for serious use because they're extremely primitive (Slackware), or impractical because they sometimes require extensive compilation of packages (Gentoo), or are otherwise unsuitable because they are niche distro projects that may not be around next month.

      Systemd is just not suitable for many Linux users. Maybe it's fine for somebody's workstation, where failing to boot or downtime are considered tolerable. But admins running production Linux servers cannot put up with bullshit like that. They need simple software that will work, and in the rare cases when it doesn't then it needs to be easy to debug. Practical experience with systemd has shown that it has some severe problems. A cursory reading of the Debian mailing lists and bug reports will highlight numerous examples of things going very wrong with it, and its poor architecture then making it difficult to diagnose and fix such problems.

      So serious Linux users are facing a small number of choices:
      1. To continue to use older, pre-systemd Linux distros for as long as is practically possible.
      2. To use Linux Mint, which for the time being is the only major and usable modern Linux distro that isn't forcing systemd on its users.
      3. Move to some other operating system, typically one of the BSDs, or even Windows.

      Collectively, modern Linux distros are quickly becoming a systemd monoculture, and experience has shown us that monocultures are dangerous, especially in the context of software.

      • It's very likely that Mint switches to systemd with Mint 18 and LMDE 3 (i.e. those on Ubuntu 16.04 and the debian after jessie)

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Very true! And that's exactly why every intelligent and responsible Linux admin is in the process of learning FreeBSD and OpenBSD, and planning to switch all of the Linux systems he or she manages over to one of those operating systems now or in the near future.

          Linux is becoming a dead zone. Those who still use it are "zombies", so encumbered by bad circumstances that they're essentially forced to continue using Linux. Meanwhile, everyone who can get away from it is doing so as quickly as possible.

          The most

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Very true! And that's exactly why every intelligent and responsible Linux admin is in the process of learning FreeBSD and OpenBSD, and planning to switch all of the Linux systems he or she manages over to one of those operating systems now or in the near future.

            Linux is becoming a dead zone. Those who still use it are "zombies", so encumbered by bad circumstances that they're essentially forced to continue using Linux. Meanwhile, everyone who can get away from it is doing so as quickly as possible.

            The most negative impact that systemd has had on Linux has not been of a technical nature, but rather a social one. Systemd, and the poor handling of it by the Linux kernel leadership and Linux distro leadership, have destroyed the trust that so many Linux users and admins had in the Linux kernel and Linux distributions.

            In hindsight, it's now obvious that Linus should have used his position of leadership and influence to put an end to systemd earlier, for the sake of the Linux community. It's also obvious that a major distro like Debian should not have switched to systemd, as the process of doing this fractured its community beyond repair.

            It hurts me to admit this as a very long time (over 20 years!) Linux user and admin, but Linux is no longer a good choice for an operating system. FreeBSD and OpenBSD are much better now, in all respects. Their technology is better, their leadership is better, their governance is better, and their future are so much brighter.

            Linux is pedalling backward. FreeBSD and OpenBSD are continually getting even better than they already are.

            The only zombies I've seen are the ones running around with their heads on fire because they can't imagine themselves learning anything that they can't run step by step in a bash shell.

            Dude, almost everyone is on board on this. If systemd was so horrible as you say then the actual people making the distros would not use it. Sysadmins are great, I used to work as a sysadmin on a large HPC site until I got fed up with the stubbornness of people that just couldn't think of learning something new, but there a

          • by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @05:26PM (#50094657)

            In hindsight, it's now obvious that Linus should have used his position of leadership and influence to put an end to systemd earlier, for the sake of the Linux community. It's also obvious that a major distro like Debian should not have switched to systemd, as the process of doing this fractured its community beyond repair.

            Why would he have done that? He may have issues with the way the developers work and a few things that systemd has done, but is overall not against systemd. As he stated in the interview responses:

            Yeah, I've had some personality issues with some of the maintainers, but that's about how you handle bug reports and accept blame (or not) for when things go wrong. If people thought that meant that I dislike systemd, I will have to disappoint you guys.

            So it doesn't seem "obvious" at all that he should have done that based on his own statements.

      • If they ever get a completed distro.

        https://devuan.org/

      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        That's a bit odd to say as systemd was first proposed to solve a number of pressing server problems including issues with rapid spin up and spin down of virtualized containers, increasingly complex and dynamic storage subsystems such as fiber-channel fabrics and attached storage arrays, dynamic networking and routing configuration as is common in virtualization and containers, service supervision, and increased logging and auditing. The fact that it is also ideally suited to desktops and laptops is nice.

        If

      • So serious Linux users are facing a small number of choices:
        1. To continue to use older, pre-systemd Linux distros for as long as is practically possible.
        2. To use Linux Mint, which for the time being is the only major and usable modern Linux distro that isn't forcing systemd on its users.
        3. Move to some other operating system, typically one of the BSDs, or even Windows.

        Collectively, modern Linux distros are quickly becoming a systemd monoculture, and experience has shown us that monocultures are dangerous, especially in the context of software.

        In what way is Debian Jessie not a "major and usable modern Linux distro"?

        systemd is one of the init systems available for Jessie If you want to use sysvinit, uupstart or openrc feel free.

    • uname -a Linux localhost 4.1.2-pclos1 #1 SMP Sat Jul 11 03:35:45 CDT 2015 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux No systemd here :D
    • That is my understanding.

      You will be assimilated - just like with Microsoft.

  • by javajeff ( 73413 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @02:03PM (#50093795)

    No issues with Cinnamon or Mint 17.2. Everything works great, and I could not imagine using anything else right now. I have settled into Mint and Cinnamon since I like the interface and it is compatible with Ubuntu. Over the years, I have jumped around and tried different distros, but I have been with Mint now for years since they do everything right.

    • by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @04:37PM (#50094463)

      I've also enjoyed Mint, but it's had its issues. I had it on a laptop years ago and it would randomly freeze. I had Mint 17.1 for months, but had to update the kernel to support Zram for snappier response times and use other tweaks to update Mint to work properly.

      Cinnamon would often completely freeze after playing a video with VLC. SMplayer would play vids on top of the menus and other windows. All sorts of issues -- none of which happened under Ubuntu with Gnome or KDE on the same machine, though it did have newer versions of VLC and possibly drivers, codecs, etc.

      Last month, I switched to Cubuntu -- It's basically Ubuntu with Cinnamon, but much more polished than a straight install of Cinnamon over Ubuntu. It also disables some of Ubuntu's crapware and makes spyware like zeitgeist easy to remove without issues.

      (tried to uninstall zeitgeist from a fresh Gnome-Ubuntu install with Cinnamon installed and it wanted to uninstall Cinnamon with it!)

      Mint has awesome features beyond Cinnamon - like the ability to change the colors of individual folders... but, it's grounded in older software and repositories making it difficult to upgrade to the latest versions of VLC, etc. Cubuntu comes with the 3.9 Kernel and works with Ubuntu Vivid repositories, so it was the right choice for me.

      • Mint, Cubuntu, kubuntu...

        I'm glad that we've gotten past the "complexity of a billion distros" and settled down to.. uhmmm, a billion Ubuntu distros. And yes, I know they're all downstream of Debian...

        Not sure how we'd get normal people to choose.

  • Ubuntu 14.04's kernel is the 3.13 version, originally, and that is the version in Mint 17 and 17.1.

    Ubuntu 14.04.2 has 3.16, while 14.04.0 and 14.04.1 have 3.13 (If you originally installed a version earlier than 14.04.2 and applied the default updates, it's still the same Ubuntu, but the kernel upgrade is an optional update/upgrade. Also there's a different version of Xorg/Mesa in there - which Mint doesn't follow exactly)
    The point versions of Ubuntu are addressed there :
    https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Kernel... [ubuntu.com]

    Tha

    • Actually, both Linux 3.13 and 3.16 are supported on Ubuntu 14.04 (14.04.2). Linux 3.13 will be supported for the full support lifetime while 3.16 will only be supported for a limited time, eventually wit will be replaced by the kernel from 16.04 which will be supported until the end of the support cycle.
  • Desktop Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nowsharing ( 2732637 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @02:40PM (#50093991)
    After testing out a dozen or so current releases, I have been really impressed with the current state of the Linux desktop/laptop experience.

    My Brazilian grandma-in-law's laptop just bit the dust, and I wanted to set her up with something from my aging arsenal of dust collectors. I pulled out an Asus 900A (2009 Intel Atom based netbook with 4GB 1st-generation SSD) which ran terribly with any OS back when I last used it in 2011. So I installed Porteus Linux on it, a distro that allows you to generate your own installation using their simple generator at build.porteus.org, and now it freaking flies. It's snappy, has 3.5GB of free space, and to my amazement the sound and video hardware was set up automatically. She can Skype, FB, and browse with it right out of the box.

    I also recently found what looked to be a nice laptop left in my building's recycling area, so I took it home and fired it up. It was a HP Pavillion DV2-1019AX with Windows 7 installed, and it ran horribly. 240p streaming video brought it to a stuttering standstill. I loaded Mint 17.1 XFCE and all of the sudden it feels like a powerhouse. It does 1080p video without flinching and everything else you'd want a laptop to do without blinking. In short, I'm very impressed with the current state of Linux for desktop environments. It's only been a few years since I last tried one out, but those old distros now seem like ancient history. These are modern, efficient, luxurious looking operating systems.
    • I also recently found what looked to be a nice laptop left in my building's recycling area

      Unless you left the Windows partition, I guess there _might_ be a chance you wiped out the honey pot...

  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Sunday July 12, 2015 @03:16PM (#50094161)

    Just updated to Mint 17.2 and use MATE. Nice - it is a bit snappier. The only aggravation is the start menu still lags on first opening (a "paper cut" issue, but it's been around for a while).

    I am a Windows XP EOL refugee that transitioned to Linux Mint last year (but I have used UNIX and Fedora at work for some time). At the time I had no idea what would be the best home desktop distro for me out of all the Linux distros available. Mint with MATE behaves a lot like XP; UI is similar enough that the transition from XP was very painless. I put a lot of different distros on a stick and checked them all out, and Mint/MATE worked for me.

    This is one of the bigger problems preventing Linux desktop adoption IMO; there is an overwhelming number of Linux flavors, and very little guidance available as to what are the pros and cons of each, so casual users just suffer on with Windows because it is a simpler decision. Few really want to put in the effort to explore that whole ecosystem to find one that they like (and fewer know that they can even test the variants without installing), so Windows is the default experience.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's rather unfair. There's a large number of reviews of different Linux distros, chiefly focusing on the major ones (typically the likes of Debian, Ubuntu, Mint; Fedora; OpenSuSE; Mandrake/driva back in the day; Arch; Gentoo). These also tend to boil down to saying that if you're migrating from Windows and want a familiar experience, then Linux Mint is probably the way to go.

      Yes, the ecosystem is big (some might argue too big, but that depends on one's criteria) but if you look at the major ones, you're

    • The only aggravation is the start menu still lags on first opening (a "paper cut" issue, but it's been around for a while).

      Thanks for mentioning this. I've put Mint on a few old laptops since XP's EOL, and that start menu lag was a dealbreaker for me with Cinnamon. It really leaves a bad first impression, and frankly I hoped it would have been fixed by now.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        So you're willing to disregard an entire system because there's a couple second delay that happens once after a system is booted?

        Whew, Windows users are a tough crowd to please.

        • Notice that the OP said that he experienced the lag under MATE, but the GP says he experienced it under Cinnamon! So there certainly are problems. I personally find the Cinnamon Start Menu lag to be extremely annoying and it gives an unprofessional impression. Surely a simple menu could be made work smoothly? Under Windows there is even live tiles in the Start Menu and it's still super responsive.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    KDEnlive package (installing via apt-get post install) should be installing additional KDE libraries but aren't. So if you run the application, you can't open any files (or use any functionality that does file management/navigation, or it will crash). The tool bars miss icons and some would say "No Text".

    The firefox version that gets installed has a bunch of nasty stuff that calls home to mozilla and google, than what previous versions did. Just do a about:config and search for "goog", "yahoo", "social", "f

  • .. and it works, the upgrade path was so much easier than before; so far, it seems to be snappy, I haven't found anything (yet) that doesn't work - except the discovery above that the install doesn't by itself update GRUB, so it booted into a lovely command line first go.

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