Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Why I've got a Taste For Cinnamon

There comes a time when you just want stuff to work. Windows & Mac users have enjoyed this feature for years and, if Linux wants to be viewed as a viable alternative, it (at least, the stable versions) has to emulate its competitors.

The other issue facing Linux distros is that the release/support cycle must be longer if Windows users are to be persuaded to abandon their point & click systems. Ubuntu has led the way in this regard and it's nice to welcome the fabulous Mint distro to the long term support stable.

But, is Mint a viable system for new users? With the Petra release's forthcoming end-of-life, it was time to upgrade the various pc hanging around the apartment and an ideal opportunity to evaluate its potential as an out-of-the-box operating system.

As I'd been using (and thoroughly enjoying) the Mate desktop since migrating my systems from Ubuntu, I thought I'd simply upgrade to Qiana (17) using the GNOME 2 successor and maintain some continuity between releases. Installing Linux Mint's new LTS release on Inspiron 6400 was painless enough and the OS looked as great as ever but I had some niggles:

  • The wireless network applet left an on-screen artefact after displaying notification pop-ups.
  • Cairo Dock would flicker on mouse hover.
  • The main menu wouldn't always activate on demand.
  • Bluetooth wouldn't accept transfer requests even after installing Blueman.

To be sure, these are minor problems and I'm confident that, with a little effort, they could all be resolved. Nonetheless, whilst I've always been happy to tweak my Linux systems to get them working to my satisfaction (and I hope that this Blog bears testimony to that claim), for once it would be nice to have a system that worked out of the box. So, rather than spend hours resolving these problems, I thought I'd see if the Cinnamon desktop gave me any more joy.

Just like it's stable-mate, installing Qiana with the Cinnamon desktop is easy and it looks even more stunning than the Mate desktop. Even better, on the DELL Inspiron, the menu works as it should and there are no strange artefacts to worry about.

So far, so good. But, does Bluetooth work? Well, not out-of-the-box: but simply installing Blueman resolves the transfer problem and you can do that without even opening a terminal by installing from the Software Manager. Only Cairo-Dock to sort out and I'd already found the answer to that problem!

Ok, so not quite out-of-the-box: as always I had to install the b43 WiFi driver and setup Samba to get network shares but I'd have to do that with any Linux distro. This will always be a barrier to casual Windows users adopting Linux. Nonetheless, Mint is as close to the real deal as Ubuntu and, in my view, looks better. Moreover, Mint is more flexible and extensible: more in keeping with the tradition of Linux operating systems.

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