2014-01-27

Revisited: Linux Mint 16 "Petra" KDE + Xfce

KDE: Main Screen + KDE Kickoff Menu
Aaaaaand...we're back! This blog had been taken down for about 2.5 weeks and didn't come back up until late last week. Because of that, I couldn't make use of the extra time I have during IAP to post any of the reviews or other stuff that I wanted to do. Now I have to sort of make up for lost time and do & post those things. That starts with a review of the latest KDE and Xfce editions of Linux Mint. I tested both as live USB systems each made with UnetBootin. Follow the jump to see what each is like.

KDE

After getting past the boot menu, I was greeted by the Linux Mint KDE (blue rather than green, and featuring the KDE gear under the Linux Mint leaf) logo fading in from black. The boot process was quite quick in leading to the desktop. The desktop doesn't have too many notable changes, so I won't dwell on those too much. What I will say is that the "Air" Plasma theme is flatter and whiter, perhaps in response to Microsoft Windows 8, but this doesn't go too well with the practically white desktop background. The other change is just that instead of having a separate folder view widget taking up part of the desktop, it has now been expanded to take up the entire desktop, making it look a little more traditional and less like stock KDE.

KDE: Mozilla Firefox + KDE Lancelot Menu
Mozilla Firefox is of course the default browser, and it of course comes with proprietary codecs included; YouTube and Hulu worked just fine, as did my laptop's volume keyboard shortcuts. LibreOffice is the default productivity suite as always, and the other applications are pretty standard for Linux Mint with KDE.
Dolphin is of course the default file browser. As with every review, I try to see if I could see myself using the distribution on a daily basis. One of the issues I have with Dolphin is that it doesn't handle external media as easily as Nautilus/GNOME Files or Nemo. Another is that it takes marginally more effort to connect to a remote filesystem, which is important to me now thanks to my UROP. A third is that it doesn't have a nice file preview software. I know that KDE is pretty amenable to picking a different default file manager, so I tried installing Nemo. The issue was that Cinnamon is a required dependency for Nemo, yet it could never install properly, so if I wanted to log out and log back in, I couldn't, because Cinnamon became listed as the default in MDM, yet its installation was botched. Before logging out, I could start Nemo within KDE just fine, and it worked well; that said, Nemo-Preview did not work at all, so one of the reasons for using Nemo rather than Dolphin kind of got thrown away. Anyway, I figured it wasn't tenable to use Nemo outside of Cinnamon, so I gave up that effort.

KDE: Dolphin + Gwenview + Desktop Cube
I was able to install Skype, Redshift, and Mupen64Plus from the repositories. Skype was workable, though sounds buzzed and crackled a bit, and there were other oddities like the connection sound being sped up (along with crackling). (UPDATE: apparently the Skype issues are known and have likely been fixed with the most recent update today.) Redshift worked fine in itself. I tried installing a Plasma widget for Redshift (and F.lux), but it didn't work, so I opted for the GTK Redshift panel applet instead. As for Mupen64Plus, there is a new third-party GUI available called M64Py (downloadable as a DEB file), and it allows for a whole lot of GUI configuration as well, which is quite nice; plus, its a lot lighter than wxMupen64Plus. That said, its configuration of input controls is broken because the changes to the default controller settings are never saved; apparently this is a known issue caused by not recognizing the custom configuration file that the application itself saves, but there is a workaround, so I figure that workaround should work if I were to install this distribution and use it regularly.
I was able to install Google Talk as a DEB from its website. Surprisingly, it worked a lot better than Skype, as there was no crackling in the sound at all.

Desktop effects worked great, and in some regards the system felt even a little smoother after enabling desktop effects (which is interesting). I'd like to take this moment to remind readers that the reason why I care about how KWin manages the desktop is that KWin allows for tabbed windows and for elaborate window rules on which applications can start on which workspaces; I figure once those are in place, it would be nice to have a little spice too like the desktop cube effect. Even after all of that, Linux Mint with KDE used 470 MB of RAM at idle, which is pretty decent for KDE.

That's where my time with Linux Mint 16 "Petra" KDE ended. I can live with Dolphin, and the issues with Nemo are of my own doing. Also, the issues with M64Py are solvable and don't have anything to do with the distribution. Thus, I feel like I can give this my highest recommendation; I think newbies and experts alike would feel at home.

Xfce

There were a few specific things that I wanted to try with the Xfce edition. For the rest, suffice it to say that it's essentially the same as the previous version, though for some reason the toolbar icons in Thunar are too big. Also, for the record, the Xfce edition used 170 MB of RAM at idle according to the terminal command "free -m"; this makes sense as Xfce is generally lightweight, and I wasn't running Compiz when checking this. Finally, the Whisker Menu has been updated so that switching categories is possible through hovering; this brings it closer to the Linux Mint Menu that I know and love. The only remaining slightly annoying differences are that there is no way to access folders/other places from the Whisker Menu as there is in the Linux Mint Menu, and the Whisker Menu defaults to showing favorite applications (as opposed to allowing display of the last-used category) when opening the menu the next time.

Xfce: Main Screen + Whisker Menu
The first thing I wanted to try was installing Nemo, to see if it would work better on Xfce compared to KDE. Indeed, there seemed to be fewer conflicts, though Cinnamon is still a dependency. For a short while, Nemo worked OK, though its toolbar icons were too big as well. After that, though, it started freezing, crashing, and bringing the rest of the system to a halt with it. I couldn't even use 'CTR
L'+'ALT'+'F1' to get out of the GUI, so I had to do a cold reboot. I gave up on Nemo after that. Anyway, although Thunar is less feature-filled, it handles remote connections much better, and is generally a lot more stable and lightweight.

The second thing I wanted to try, as always, was Compiz. I had basically the same problems with Compiz that I had in the MATE edition, and this time DConf-Editor didn't show any of the options that may have been of use had I followed the advice of a commenter on the review of the MATE (and Cinnamon) edition. I was stuck with an improperly-functional Compiz, so I gave up on that and rebooted again.

The third thing that I tried was Devilspie2. A few weeks ago, it took me a while to remember what the name of this program was, but I remembered it as the really cool lightweight program to extend the window management capabilities of GNOME 2. I figured out the name and found out there is a second version as well (so Devilspie2 is now a separate program from Devilspie, the latter of which is no longer actively maintained). It is in fact quite cool, because all configuration is done through simple Lua scripts which are well-documented, and the program itself is extremely lightweight and barely makes a dent in resource usage. Sure, I don't get the nice eye candy of the desktop cube, but I'm glad to have the functionality of assigning applications to workspaces, and I'm fine with having a lighter system instead of eye candy at that point. (Yes, I guess I have to start coming to terms with the present as opposed to being stuck in the past.)

Overall, I am happy with what Linux Mint 16 "Petra" Xfce can do, both generally and in terms of fulfilling my specific needs (as application-wise, it can do everything I need compared to what I saw in the KDE edition as well). I can definitely recommend this to newbies as well as experts, though newbies may be a little alarmed at the lack of pizzazz in the desktop.
You can get both editions here.

4 comments:

  1. welcome back prashanth ji..............

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    1. @Anonymous: Thank you, and it's great to have you and all of the other commenters back too!

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  2. I really like the way you review distros and compare their RAM usage. It's extremely helpful for people who have computers with RAM of 1 GB or less. Keep up the good work.

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    1. @Mohammed: Thanks for the support!

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