Linux Mint 16 RC Review

Keeping the system up to date while not breaking stuff is an incredibly difficult task. It must be, right? Just look at Windows, Ubuntu, and many other operating systems out there. Stuff breaks all the time, and many users appear to be just fine with it, because they know damn well that it’s near impossible to have the advantage without the disadvantage. Or maybe not? The way Linux Mint does it is every update is awarded a level depending on how potentially dangerous the update is to the stability of the system. With level 1 being tested updates from the Linux Mint developers themselves, all the way to level 5 being packages known to affect the stability of the system. By default, only level 1, 2 and 3 packages are installed by the update manager, leaving level 4 and 5 packages hidden. I’ve only been using Linux Mint 16 for one day, and Linux Mint 15 for a few days, but unless a lot’s changed since my Linux Mint 8 days, I think it’s safe to say the update manager does its job reasonably well.

Bonus: Sick of Ubuntu’s update manager dialog appearing out of nowhere and interrupting your work? Linux Mint’s update manager knows its place. In the system tray. Literally. It will stay there and show an icon indicating there are updates waiting to be installed, waiting patiently until you have time to install them. No dialogs. No balloons. No forced reboots.


MDM Display Manager 1.4
You might remember the days of the old GDM. You might recall how you could apply different themes to it, and pray after every change you made that it wouldn’t break. MDM manages to give you the advantage without the disadvantage. With support for GDM and HTML themes, it allows you to customise your login experience, just like you could 5 years ago. With the release of Linux Mint 16, MDM 1.4 came along, bringing with it a lot of performance improvements. MDM, being based on the old GDM, inherited a lot of features that were generally not very useful for the average user. These features have now been removed, clearing up around 24500 lines of code, bringing with it some always-welcome performance improvements. One thing I was disappointed with, though, was the removal of Linux Mint 15’s nice collection of pre-installed HTML MDM themes, leaving only Mint-X and Clouds. And as far as I can tell, they’re nowhere to be found in the repositories. On the bright side, you can easily get most of the removes themes back from this page.

Just download the Debian package and install it as usual, and you should be good to go!


Software Manager
Linux Mint’s Software Manager has also received some performance and stability improvements, making it less of a memory hog. Its interface has also received some minor tweaks, allowing it to display multiple screenshots per application. My criticism of it remains the same as it always has been, though; It still shows the package name, rather than the actual name of the application, making it unnecessarily complex for users to find what they’re looking for. While for power users this might be the prefered way of doing things, I’m quite sure power users would much prefer apt-get or Synaptic (which is still included! Awesome!) over Software Manager, anyway.


And of course no new release is complete without some nice new artwork to go with it. The Mint-X theme has only received some minor tweaks, the most important one being better matching GTK2 and GTK3 themes (in fact, I don’t believe it’s changed much at all ever since it appeared in Linux Mint 10). But of course there are still the wallpapers. Because what’s a new release without some new wallpapers to make everything feel shiny and new.


The complaints
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the stability of this distribution. I did, however, experience some minor issues, which I hope will be fixed before the final release.

  • The System Settings window has two modes; Normal and Advanced mode. Normal mode is great for regular users, because it doesn’t show too many options that would allow them to wreck their system, while Advanced mode is reveals some other options which would be more useful for power users. By default, however, the window shows up in Advanced mode, which I doubt is intentional.
  • Gksudo is the application that dims your screen and asks you for your password when an application requires superuser privileges. In Ubuntu, PolicyKit (pkexec) is more commonly used, but Linux Mint apparently decided to stick with Gksudo, which I’m absolutely fine with. What I’m not fine with, though, is that it asks me for my password every time. The way it used to be was that once you provided Gksudo with your password, the authorisation would be remembered for 15 minutes before you would be asked for your password again. This, however, no longer seems to be the case. This can be quite annoying when you need to run a lot of graphical system administration applications.
  • Some extensions for Cinnamon either fail to install, or will continually keep crashing Cinnamon until you remove them. I think it would be a good idea to test the extensions (while it’s still feasible. There aren’t too many yet) and only show the ones which work for the version of Cinnamon the user is running.
  • Sometimes the “Install or update” button for Cinnamon extensions just doesn’t do anything.
  • The installation slideshow shows Picasa as a featured application. Picasa for Linux was, however, discontinued by Google a bit over a year ago. I think it would be better to either remove it, or replace it with something else users might be familiar with like GIMP or Dropbox.
  • I had one experience where the graphics started freaking out. Colours everywhere, and through the colours my workspace was only just visible. This might, however, also have to do with VirtualBox.
  • Other minor issues are mentioned in the rest of the article.

As I already stated, I am pleasantly surprised with the stability of this release candidate. With the release of Linux Mint 11, and then again with Linux Mint 12, I got completely fed up with Linux Mint because it was, at that point, frankly, an unstable mess. I have also had some serious doubts with Linux Mint forking so many projects. In the end, though, it appears all those decisions have paid off for them. After some rough releases, I’m very glad to see Linux Mint return.
Linux Mint for me is what Ubuntu used to be. A ready-to-use distribution with loads of customisability options and good defaults. Linux Mint 16 is both newbie- and power user friendly, and if you, like me, ran away from it it a few years ago, then I think this would be a good time to give it another shot.

Linux Mint developers, keep up the good work.

59 thoughts on “Linux Mint 16 RC Review

      1. Or page 1? Seriously, 10 A4 pages with screenshots that take up 2/3 of the overall space of the article? Robin, Look, I am glad you like the new versions of Mint, I am about to go running back to openSuSE, but a review that is little more content than a bunch of pictures is no review. I do thank you for not doing a installation review. I won’t even read reviews that run through the installer anymore.

    1. Design is a matter of taste. I think the Mint-X theme, being obviously either based on or inspired by the elementary theme, looks quite good. Luckily, Linux Mint is quite customisable, and easily allows you to change the look of your desktop :)

      1. design is not a matter of taste.. and it is not (only) about how things look..
        the undereducated “review” and the “score” should better avoid the topics that the author has no knowledge and/ or understanding for in order to keep the whole thing credible.. evaluating and criticizing something one does not have the capacity to comprehend is not the way to go..

        1. So you’re the only one who does have an understanding of design? No. If 5 people say something looks pretty, and 5 say it doesn’t, does that mean one or the other is right? Of course not! All I can do in a review is give you my opinion. I’m not forcing my opinion on you. By all means feel free to have a different opinion.

          1. and you’re only confirming my previous statements.. lemme try to clarify..
            your opinion can be anything.. anything at all.. check.. but..
            you are however writing and publishing a review here, and it is almost journalism, which comes or should come with some responsibility to both the readers who might form their opinion and/ or decisions based on it and the product that you are reviewing and the people that are making it..
            ok.. first of all, back to the “core of the wrongs”.. you clearly have some trouble understanding what the word design actually means, generally, and how it can be applied to a review of a distribution.. it is, again, not about something looking pretty or not, to five or five million people.. wrong track, sorry.. in the time of free and accessible knowledge there is very little excuse for anyone who aspires to let the public know of their opinion for not doing their homework.. if you had named the category “my superficial subjective impressions as an end user only” it would have been fine..
            as an individual of course you have every “right” to your opinion, regardless of it’s relevance, and further, all the “rights” to share it with the world through any channels that you manage, as vocally as you can.. to be perfectly blunt, it’s not your fault, it is your editorial’s..
            i am not writing this as an individual criticizing a piece that i have ran into on the internet that i happen not agree with, i am simply pointing out to a giant flaw, that might not be too obvious, in an article that is a part of a rather scarce subject of reporting on a wider topic that i care about (floss) regarding a field that i do believe that i know a thing or two about.. so.. although it might not seem like it on the firs glance, i think that i’m doing you and the wider community “a favor” here..
            on a more personal note.. i have no great emotional attachment to mint in particular.. i simply do recognize what they are doing right.. 90% of their work IS design, and that is what makes it arguably the number one distro of choice for the general desktop users for years.. i am not talking about the icon themes, wallpapers and other “artwork” nor cinnamon necessarily, but the whole package, it’s identity and experience.. if someone as an end user finds it pretty or not is a completely other topic.. i am most certainly not the only one that has understanding of design but being inside the industry for about a decade does help.. i am aware that i have little to no understanding of quantum mechanics, kernel development or sheep herding and i keep whatever opinion i might happen to have on them to myself with a firm belief that the world is just fine and better off without them..

  1. Much of the difficulties with Mint 11 & 12 was actually created by Ubuntu’s gear-up for the horrid (for many, many people) Unity desktop. Remember that Mint (except for LMDE) offshoots from Ubuntu. That created a developers nightmare for the Mint team that they obviously successfully overcame. They took a radical departure from Ubuntu’s path that has benefited myriads of disappointed and disillusioned ex-Ubuntu users. A very smart move.

  2. Security/privacy 8? How did you come to that figure? The only explanation I can think of is that you’re reviewing a release candidate and not the actual stable release. Otherwise, you’d have to give it 10.

  3. Okay – so you have used Mint 16 for the entire day…You used Mint 15 a bit longer and the last time you (hated) Mint was version 8… You are really writing a review of Linux Mint 16 and on top of it all – you are really giving the breakdown points on usability, design etc? You are funny!

  4. Thank you for taking the time to do this review. It helped me, with other reviews, make up my mind. I am backing up all my data and getting ready to migrate from Windows 7.

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