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.


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.