2012-07-25

Review: Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE


Main Screen + Kickoff
About a week ago, I reviewed the Xfce edition of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya". While I was quite pleased with how that turned out, I held off on going ahead and installing it because I wanted to try the KDE edition as well. Now that is here, so I'm reviewing it.

I tried the 64-bit edition as a live USB system made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see if it could be worthy of installation on the hard drive of my laptop.

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by a blank screen for the boot splash, as has become normal for Linux Mint. After that came the desktop, which has outwardly changed so little since Linux Mint 12 "Lisa" KDE that I won't go over that again; the only change is that the icon theme is the old Oxygen icon set rather than the current one, which makes for an interesting study in contrasts, but now I actually prefer the current Oxygen icon theme more.

Mozilla Firefox is again the default browser. As is the case for almost every Linux Mint release, it comes with proprietary codecs; YouTube and Hulu worked, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts.

LibreOffice is the default productivity suite, and it worked well too. The other applications are fairly typical of the KDE edition of Linux Mint.

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
That said, this KDE edition also suffers from some questionable application choices like the Xfce edition. For instance, who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to make all image files (PNG, JPG, SVG) open in Okular by default rather than Gwenview? Additionally, while most distributions with KDE that ship a native KDE video player ship Dragon Player, Linux Mint ships Kaffeine; Dragon Player didn't exist before KDE 4.0, so it looks a lot slimmer, whereas Kaffeine definitely has the design of a KDE 3 application (i.e. it has almost too many tabs and visible options, though it doesn't look particularly out of place).
Speaking of video players, none of them worked completely. Kaffeine would crash in the middle of each video I tried, and I tried a couple different formats, including OGV that I made, AVI that I made, MP4 that I made, and MP4 that I downloaded. Dragon Player would not play nicely with OGV files, and it would make some MP4 files' video look blue. For each file I tried, VLC would not play audio until I went into the menu and clicked on the default audio setting, and after that it still wouldn't play until 10 seconds into the video. Maybe this is an issue with the live session, so I'll have to revisit this later.

Dolphin is also configured a bit more like it was in older minor releases of KDE 4 with a menubar, text labels next to icons on buttons, and a full directory path in the breadcrumbs. I was able to configure all of this easily to look more like it does in the more current versions of KDE and Dolphin, except for the directory path: right-clicking the breadcrumbs and unchecking the box to show the full path didn't work, so I had to go into the Dolphin settings to change that preference.
Dolphin + Okular + Desktop Cube
In addition, there is a repository that offers KLook and a patched version of Dolphin for Kubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" and its relatives and derivatives. Installing and running KLook technically worked, but an error message would appear every time I closed KLook; furthermore, running KLook would slow the system down slightly but noticeably. I decided to abandon KLook after that; anyway, KDE utilities don't take that long to load, so the loss isn't huge.

Skype and Redshift were available in the repositories. I was able to install and use those fine.
I was able to download Google Talk from its website. It installed and worked fine.
I installed the requisite dependencies for Mupen64Plus 1.5. After that, extracting and installing the TAR package worked, as did running it afterwards.
I was able to use SSH to log into the computing cluster that I use for my UROP. Hence, Linux Mint with KDE is suitable for use in a long-term review.

After that, I was able to customize the desktop to fit my needs by changing the "Folder View" Plasmoid to show the home folder (instead of the desktop folder), adding a list of attached drives from the KDE Lancelot menu to the desktop, replacing the Kickoff menu with the KDE Lancelot menu (which I needed to install using the Synaptic Package Manager, which is one of the GUI software managers alongside the Linux Mint Software Manager), replacing the Dolphin shortcut with a workspace switcher, changing the Plasma theme to "Ronak", changing the wallpaper, enabling the desired desktop effects, and setting rules for window management. That was pretty easy to do, actually.

Customizations
That's where my time with Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" KDE ended. As I said earlier, I will definitely make this the subject of the next long-term review. If indeed video playback turns out to be an issue even on an installed system, then I'm going with the Xfce edition for my personal laptop. If not, then I'll go with the KDE edition for its power and features. Either way, I recommend this as much as I recommended the Xfce edition, and that is saying a lot.
You can get it here.

(UPDATE: Trying this again with the same set of videos (homemade MP4, homemade AVI, homemade OGV, downloaded MP4) yielded the same generally negative results. Trying this set with Xfce yielded success using VLC and GNOME MPlayer, but not with the default GNOME media player Totem. This isn't altogether surprising because in my experience, Totem is very hit-or-miss when it comes to playing media files, whereas VLC and GNOME MPlayer have otherwise been flawless. Plus, I'm not too surprised that it would work better in Xfce, because that uses the same sound libraries as in GNOME and those have worked well with my personal computer, but the ones in KDE have been hit-or-miss. At the end of the day, this means that I'm going to have to go with the Xfce edition, and I'm OK with that; sure, I'm giving up native effects and more powerful window management with KWin along with more power in Dolphin, but in return I'm getting Compiz, the (real) Linux Mint Menu, a more-familiar environment, and an OS that actually works with my data 100%.)

8 comments:

  1. Thank you, your review is much appreciated.

    Today I installed Mint 13 KDE as well in as virtualbox-guest system. I did experience same issues with multimedia playback. The kaffeine player doesn't play well out of the box. Most of the video formats are displayed as black screen with sound only. Switching to Dragonplayer the WMV files are played well with video and audio, but MP4 files are play with video but no sound. Using VLC will show video and sound joins after 10-15 seconds. Changing the backend to VLC doesn't improve the situation very much

    I searched the forums but nowhere seems to be a solution available. I have latest updates installed. I wonder why this wasn't identified and solved during testing or beta phase.

    Rest of KDE 13 Mint looks and feels great! Speed is fine and looks more polished than former versions.

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    1. @Anonymous: It looks like you and I have had the exact same issues with sound in video files. I'm also a little disappointed with the lack of quality control in that particular area. Thanks for the comment!

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    2. I have this VLC sound issue as well. Every couple of months or so I try out a KDE distro and I always find some annoying bugs like this and then go back to Gnome or XFCE or my current favourite Cinnamon. Anyway I just thought I would moan a little about KDE before I offered a fix.

      Search for and install vlc-plugin-pulse in Synaptic, this has worked for me.

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    3. @setcho: I found that fix as well, and it works for me. I won't update this particular post, but I am writing a long-term review of this, and I have this information there. Thanks for the tip!

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    4. Cant you just replace Kaffeine or Dragon with Totem/VLC/other Gnome/Ubuntu apps..Is it KDE that makes these apps unstable ????

      REal Doubt and I am considering to install Linux Mint Maya KDE !!!



      THanx...!!!

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    5. @GKR: Using other applications does remove the instability issue, but only some like VLC and MPlayer actually play the video files completely fine. Thanks for the comment!

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  2. I've tried Mint in the past, but I can't stay with it now the new desktop environments are too unstable for much of the multimedia content, and a lot of hardware issues. Recently I made Ubuntu 12.04 my main system, and while it takes a bit of getting used to "Unity desktop". Once customised is very hassle free and works well but I stress it takes getting used to but once you do get used to it there is no going back no other distro is offering the same level of functionality and compatibility. The speed of fixes for bugs is astonishing, something I have noticed was lacking in Mint I really don't have the time for Mate or Cinnamon to play catchup, while I would use it again on a test set-up I wouldn't use it as a main OS
    The new but familiar desktop environments should not have been part of a major release and could do with a lot more work. Being familiar isn't always best especially if you suddenly notice familiar not working.

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    1. @Anonymous: It's good that Ubuntu and the Unity environment work for you. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for myself, as our college campus uses Ubuntu 12.04 LTS "Precise Pangolin" with Unity as the default environment; Unity 3D doesn't work very well on those machines, while Unity 2D works better but the Dash does not work and the window management from the panel is pretty horrific. Also, while I agree that MATE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon have been a bit disappointing, I would recommend checking out Xfce as that is a lot more stable and well-developed, and it is very easy to make it behave like GNOME 2. Thanks for the comment!

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