2012-12-10

Review: Linux Mint 14.1 "Nadia" MATE + GNOME 3/Cinnamon

Wow. It's been a really long time since I've had the time to sit down and do a review like this. The reason for that is because this semester has been incredibly busy in pretty much every way, and today was finally the last day to turn in problem sets and other assignments. Now, I can finally do this review.

Main Screen + Linux Mint Menu
Linux Mint needs no introduction here. However, one thing to note is that this is the first release since version 4.X "Daryna" to have a version number with a digit after a decimal point. The reason for that was that some sneaky bugs got past final-release testing, so they needed to be fixed and the ISO file needed to be released as an updated image. Right now, the editions with MATE and GNOME 3/Cinnamon are out in final form, so those are the ones I am going to be reviewing today. For reference, the KDE and Xfce are coming soon, as those already have release candidates out now.

I tested this as usual on a live USB system made with MultiSystem. I did not test the installation. Follow the jump to see how this fares relative to my current preferred version 13 LTS "Maya".

GNOME 3/Cinnamon

After the boot menu, I was greeted by the usual boot splash. After that came the desktop, which is not much different from stock GNOME 3/Cinnamon, which is not too surprising considering that it was a byproduct of Linux Mint anyway. Unfortunately, this part of the review is cut short because when I wanted to play around with some settings, the whole desktop froze. I just don't have time to spend hours upon hours troubleshooting this problem and getting the rest of the desktop to work properly, so I moved on. It seems like while GNOME 3/Cinnamon gets more and more features with every release, it seems to either not get any stabler or it gets more stable in some areas and less in others. Either way, the effect is the same. And for a desktop shell for GNOME 3 that prides itself on a greater ability to be customized, so many of these crashes occur when I'm trying to modify the desktop setup, which isn't good.

MATE

Switching to the MATE edition now, after the boot menu, I was greeted by the standard Linux Mint boot splash. I see it often enough when I boot into my installed system that I thought something had gone wrong, until I reminded myself that I was testing a newer version of Linux Mint. After that came the desktop.

Mozilla Firefox + LibreOffice Writer
The desktop is unchanged from the previous versions (except for the version number in the desktop background), so I won't talk about that much, aside from one bit: for some reason, all the icon themes (at least within the live session) are missing unique icons for the mounted USB volumes, so those icons on the desktop look rather ugly. Apart from that, what I will say is that I'm starting to get tired of the reuse of this theme, and I feel that it is starting to look a little cheap in some senses. For instance, I really don't appreciate the white text with cheap half-hearted shadow effects on top of a gray background; on a related note, it's really difficult to distinguish between focused and unfocused windows solely based on the color and shading of the window titlebar text. What I'd really like to see is a return to the Shiki style used between versions 7 "Gloria" and 9 LTS "Isadora"; that was a really nice theme, and the wallpapers there were really great. Also, while I understand that the wallpaper is trivially changeable, it would be nice if one of the more artsy wallpapers could become the default; having the Linux Mint-branded wallpaper over and over again tells me that the developers don't care about that anymore at all. Anyway, the desktop as usual works pretty well.
That said, there was one very minor but persistent issue regarding the writing of this post. Whenever I took screenshots, I wanted to save them in a particular folder, yet none of the obvious ways to do that worked, as all of them got saved in the root of the home directory rather than in a subdirectory. That was a little annoying.

Mozilla Firefox is the default browser as usual. As is expected of Linux Mint, proprietary codecs are included, as YouTube and Hulu both worked well, along with my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts.
The other applications are mostly the same as before. I will note that LibreOffice now has a greener splash screen to match the theme of Linux Mint, but I feel like that shade of green is a little too garish for Linux Mint.
Caja is the default file manager, which is great for MATE purists, but while it certainly has seen a few improvements, I would be much happier with Nautilus/Nemo unless/until Caja basically turns into Nautilus Elementary. That said, Caja is firmly integrated into MATE for the same reason that Nautilus is likewise integrated into GNOME, so changing that would be more problematic. Also, I wasn't able to access any files on the Linux Mint partition on my laptop's hard drive. I think that's an issue with permissions in the live session, so I would like to see that changed, given that the live session is basically meant to be a good test drive of the system before committing to installation.

Caja + Eye Of MATE + Desktop Cube
The software and package managers, being the Linux Mint Software Manager and Synaptic Package Manager, respectively, are unchanged. I used the latter to install Compiz, as interestingly enough it is no longer included by default with MATE. This time, it included a proper window decorator, as I did not need to mess with anything else to get the default window decorations to work with Compiz. Better yet, the latest version of Compiz solves the issue with the desktop cube flicker! Yay! It's really a shame that Compiz seems to be falling by the wayside in terms of support, especially now that all of these problems are being solved.
I used the former to install Skype (and I used GDebi to install Google Talk). Both of those installed and ran well, which is better than last time when Skype had some issues.

Linux Mint with MATE used 480 MB of RAM at idle using Compiz. This is significantly better than before. Also, as was mentioned earlier, desktop effects worked well.
That's where my time with Linux Mint 14.1 "Nadia" MATE ended. Aside from the minor issue with the screenshot tool along with my personal quibbles with the artwork and graphics, this release seems to be much better than the last one. I can now heartily recommend the MATE edition for everyone from newbies to experts as before.
You can get it here.

14 comments:

  1. It's too bad you didn't get to experience Mint 14 with Cinnamon. I have it running on both a Pentium E5300 desktop with Nvidia 440 GT, and on a 6-year-old laptop with Intel C2D T7200 with Intel 945GM integrated video, and it runs great on both.

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  2. Cinnamon now comes with Nemo instead of Nautilus. I like it, but I am o so missing the ability to have scripts and actions from within Nemo. In my opinion it was made default file browser too early.

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  3. @Anonymous 1: I was hoping for that to be the case. Unfortunately, this along with recent experiences on other distributions have solidified for me the idea that GNOME 3/Cinnamon simply isn't stable enough for daily use unless, contrary to its mission, it is meant to be used without any modifications whatsoever.

    @Anonymous 2: I think that if the demand for custom actions and scripts is high in the Linux Mint community, then Nemo will get such functionality. It was probably necessary to minimize upstream incompatibilities to change the default file browser from Nautilus to Nemo. Then again, I'm not sure exactly how the replacement procedure was carried out. It may have been the case that Nemo was simply a wholesale renaming and rewriting of Nautilus code, in which case its tight integration with GNOME 3 is unchanged. On the other hand, if that tight integration was ripped out and Nemo was simply built as a possibly standalone file manager that happened to be bundled with GNOME 3/Cinnamon as well, it may be possible for you to replace Nemo with Thunar, as that has all the amazing extensibility that you might be missing from Nautilus as it was in GNOME 2.

    Thanks for the comments!

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  4. I just installed MATE on top of my standard Ubuntu installation. Works great without the stability issues of Mint. Tried Cinnamon, but, like the author ran across, it was simply not stable enough for me. It would launch and run for a while, but then weirdness would crop up. It would either lock up, "tear", or certain aspects of it would fail. MATE works fine for me, so I'll stick with that and KDE.

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    1. @ArcherB: It's interesting that you report MATE issues with Linux Mint. Were these from your own experience? I ask that because in some ways it looks like you're implying that I had issues with MATE on Linux Mint, which is not the case. Anyway, thanks for the comment!

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  5. I've run into no stability problems with Mint 14.4 Cinnamon. Or any other problems. One of the pleasures of Cinnamon is that it requires little customization, unlike many other distributions that tout their configurability but release products that are ugly and disfunctional in their default state.

    I've found MATE to be slow after using it on Mint, Fedora and OpenSuse. The transitition from Gnome is incomplete (Check the Startup Apps: several instances of MATE processes running in parallel with their Gnome equivalents). I also wonder if the resources behind MATE are enough to sustain it and if it can make a successful transition to GTK3.

    If I wanted to run a Gnome 2 desktop, I'd go with CentOS. Now, that does require a good bit of tweaking to get a good looking usable desktop, but it is fast and very reliable.

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  6. I run Linux mate 13 and i love it, it is fast smooth and i have not found any bugs. On the other hand i have also tried Cinnamon 14 and it was just to buggy for me, I would called up software manager and it would appear for a few seconds then disappear.But the worst problem for me and the final straw was that it was devoid of drivers needed to connect to wirelessly to the Internet.

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    1. I also use Mint 13. I could not find myself using the 14 even if it was tempting. I kept 13 because I was suspecting bugs on the 14. I see now why,after reading your comments about mint 14. Its not a LTS either so its kind of annoying when they release new versions but they are not LTS.

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    2. @Anonymous: I disagree that Linux Mint 14 "Nadia" is less stable only because it is not an LTS. I do agree that the Cinnamon edition is not too stable, but instead, you should try out the editions with MATE or Xfce; I may be doing a review of the Xfce edition soon, but in any case, it is probably the best implementation of Xfce and the best currently-working replacement for GNOME 2 I have seen thus far. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. @Jonc: It's great that you've had success with GNOME 3/Cinnamon. I do agree that something feels very slightly off between MATE and GNOME 2, but it doesn't bother me that much.

    @Ezz69: It's great that MATE has worked for you on Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya". Have you tried it on this latest version of Linux Mint by any chance?

    Thanks for the comments!

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  8. Just want to point out that latest Mint 14.1 Mate 32bit now by default lets you use more than 4GB ram, no need to mess with kernels and work arounds. I am running it on a Laptop with 6GB ram and it shows the correct ram values, this is a nice improvement over past editions as being forced to use 64bit version because of ram limitations really annoyed me simply because of compatibility issues ive had with 64bit wine.

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    1. I am referring above to the 4GB ram limitation of 32bit operating systems. the new kernel that mint uses think its called (PEA) or something bypasses this limitation and allows 32bit users to add more than 4GB ram without having to move to 64bit.

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    2. @Jacque Raymer: Personally, I prefer using the 64-bit edition optimized for 64-bit processors, and I haven't run into major issues with that. Anyway, thanks for the tip!

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    3. its not the OS itself i had issues with, its Wine 64bit. almost half of windows games and apps require .netframework to run, so installing framework in wine is a must, framework in 64bit wine is headache after headache .... in 32bit wine it just works out the box. So wine is the only real reason i prefer to use 32bit linux. Linuxmint both 32bit and 64bit runs really well.

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