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!
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.
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.