After being impressed by the Ubuntu based Cinnamon desktop editions (LM 14 & LM 15) previously, I always wanted to try the purely ‘Debian’ based Cinnamon edition because ‘Debian’ is considered to be something a bit difficult to manage (although a lot has changed since the last time I tried it), thus I wanted to see how well ‘Linux Mint’ would stand up to the challenge.
‘Cinnamon’ also became a full desktop environment (many other improvements included) with the current Ubuntu based release (‘Petra’) which I also missed, so I eagerly waited for the ‘Debian’ edition to arrive.
That said, before going to use the ‘Debian’ editions you should be aware that according to the Linux Mint developers: 1. It is not user friendly as the Ubuntu based releases thus you might require a reasonable level of experience to set it up and manage (for instance, if you installed the 32-bit version on a multi-core CPU, then you will have to install a Kernel patch using ‘apt-get’ for enabling all the available cores), 2. Currently it is not thoroughly maintained as the Ubuntu based editions, so you might come across more hardware & software bugs.
On the positive side, they say that it is faster than Ubuntu based editions. So in this review, I will try to focus on those more and so that at the end, you can get a sense of what you are getting yourself into 😉 . I downloaded the 64-bit Cinnamon edition (a separate ‘MATE’ edition is also available) which is about 1.26GiB & below is a brief introduction to my hardware:
Intel Core i3-2330M CPU, Intel HD 3000 GPU, 4GB RAM (DDR3), Toshiba 7200 RPM (320GB) SATA HDD, Intel N-1030 Wireless adapter, Realtek network adapter ('RTL8168'), LED display with 1366x768 resolution (60Hz/60FPS). It's a Dell Vostro V-131 notebook.
The Installer …
The installer is very intuitive & easy to use. However at the disk partition setup where other installers identify my Windows 8.1 partition and display it, ‘LMDE’ installer though, as you can see below, failed to do that. It recognized the existing Ubuntu 13.10 but I feared (although they are two different software utilities) whether if it was an indication that GRUB too is going to fail to recognize it.
But at the end, GRUB did recognize the Windows partition and added a boot entry. What a relief!. There is also no option to enable ‘auto login’ when creating the default user and I had to enable it manually later.
Other than those, the installer did what it was supposed to do & I was pretty happy with it. I do not know if the ‘Operating system’ recognition in disk partition setup was specific to my hardware, but it was the somewhat ‘scary’ issue that I came across while using the installer.
First Boot-up & the Desktop …
The GRUB theme of ‘LMDE 201403′ is definitely not going to win any popularity contests … sure most might consider it to be a bit ugly, but it is at least clear & simple (somewhat).
While booting, it displayed the standard ‘Linux Mint’ logo. And unlike in Ubuntu, I could see the logo even when shutting down too, but every now and then, it gave me a major trouble when rebooting (more later).
The Desktop …
Then I was greed with ‘MDM’ (Mint Display Manager) because as previously mentioned, there is no option to enable auto-login in the installer.
So after I entered the login details I was greeted by the new ‘Cinnamon 2.0′. Aside all the technical details, at first it looks pretty much the same when compared to ‘Linux Mint 15′. I will not go into all the details as you can read about them from here. But I will mention the ones that are not mentioned there and a few others that I liked.
The easily noticeable change is the new user management applet that sits in the system tray area. As you can see below, it lets you easily manage the current session by giving quick access to ‘Turn Off, User Switch, Screen Lock, System Settings, Account Details …’ which is pretty handy.
The other major change is related to file copy/move operations. When you close (not cancelling) a file operation, ‘Cinnamon’ displays it on system tray (a bit similar to what KDE Plasma does) & with ‘Cinnamon 2.0′, you can now restore the file copy/move operation window by clicking on its icon as well.
The desktop context menu is also slightly changed. Except for one, it is basically the same context menu but the menus are arranged differently & some are renamed. The added menu entry is called ‘Open as root’ which opens up ‘Nemo’ file manager with administrative privileges (another useful change!).
Subtle changes in ‘Nemo’ …
This is also available in the Nemo’s context menu (well, the desktop menu is also rendered by ‘Nemo’ so …) & it too has gone through a few subtle changes. The menu for selected files/folders now looks more simple due to the removal of ‘Open with Disk Usage Analyzer’ & ‘Open with Files’ entries.
‘Nemo’ now shows tooltips when you select or move the mouse pointer over a file or a folder!. This is not enabled by default and it is available through the ‘Preferences’ window. It does not support displaying a whole lot of useful info such as displaying the bitrate or the resolution of an image or a video for instance, but I am sure they will land as time progresses.
The ‘Preference’ window has also undergone many changes but I will not discuss them here. But all in all, with each release, ‘Cinnamon’ is shaping up to be an end-user focused (unlike ‘Gnome3′) desktop environment.
Hardware Recognition & ACPI …
Except for the fingerprint reader (not yet supported by Linux), all the hardware were recognized (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Audio …) and configured by ‘LMDE 201403′. Features like ‘Suspend’ works without issues (takes about 2-3 seconds) as well. But as for issues:
1. Like in pretty much all the other distributions, the display brightness gets reset to maximum & Bluetooth also gets turned ON automatically upon each desktop session.
2. As I mentioned earlier, I came up with a major issue with ‘plymouth’ (that which displays a fancy logo while Booting and Shutting down/Rebooting). The issue is, every now and then, when rebooting, the computer restarts without properly resetting the display output and it keep displaying the below output!. I can ‘feel’ the computer restarting, BIOS running, and could even select Windows 8.1 from GRUB list (from memory) and could see from the HDD indicator that Windows is even loading, but the screen does not get updated. It was irritating!.
This was a major headache & I have never come across a similar issue in Ubuntu based ‘Cinnamon’ or any other distribution that I have used in the past 2/3 years (though I have seen similar issues in the distance past, on different hardware though).
In any case, the only fix was to forcefully turn OFF the laptop & then turn it ON again (yuk!).
So I searched for a solution and came across this ‘Debian’ Wiki for configuring ‘plymouth’. After reading it, I opened plymouth’s configuration file and found out that the recommended setting for my Intel HD3000 GPU was missing. So I removed the existing entry and added the one recommended by ‘Debian’, then updated the settings to the system and it worked! (I’ll come up with a separate article for that).
P.S (not related to the issue, but …): I do not own an ATI or a Nvidia card to test it out. But according to the Linux Mint developers, installation of proprietary GPU drivers in ‘LMDE’ is not as easy as under Ubuntu editions as it requires the user to switch between ‘run-levels’ & using the command-line a bit etc.
Included Software Applications …
‘LMDE 201403′, just like the Ubuntu based editions, supports playing all the proprietary multimedia codecs (Adobe Flash included) out of the box. For video playback you have ‘Video’ 3.8.2, ‘VLC’ 2.1.1 & ‘Banshee’ 2.6.1 music manager. The default web browser is Firefox 27.0 with default search engine set to Yahoo!.
It also comes with LibreOffice 184.108.40.206, Evince 3.8.2, Simple Scan 3.10.0, gThumb 3.0.1, GIMP 2.8, Tomboy 1.14.1, Pidgin 2.10.7, XChat 2.8.8, Transmission 2.81, Brasero 3.8.0, USB writer & formatter, mintBackup 2.1.3, Synaptic 0.80.4, Mint Update Manager 1.0.9, MDM 1.4.11, Xorg 1.7.7 & Kernel 3.11.2 are few to mention.
Performance Related Details …
After installing the OS, I logged into the desktop & let it idle for about 40-60 seconds & then I rebooted it (I did this 3 times). On 3 other separate instances, I also Shut it down. I did this for letting things to settle down. It was after that I started to measure these details, and for each test I took five samples for getting average values. As always, I measured these first before touching any software.
Boot-up Speed …
The developers say that the ‘Debian’ edition is more faster but as you can see below it was not. When compared to ‘Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon’ that is based on Ubuntu’s core, it was actually 42% slower to boot.
I cannot point out the exact reasons as to why ?, but the Ubuntu edition comes with a tool called ‘ureadahead‘ that shortens boot-up times (around 30-40% most of the time, if I remember correctly), and ‘LMDE 201403′ does not use it, or any other similar tools for that matter. So it could be one of the reasons.
Memory Usage Upon Desktop loading …
I usually disable the update managers before start measuring any of these details because they fluctuate the memory usage thus it becomes difficult get an average reading. But with this release (& in LM 16, ‘Petra’) Linux Mint developers have decided to delay the update manager (approximately by 18 seconds, yes I measured it) to improve the boot-up times. This is something I also suggested a few months back so this is a welcomed change.
Anyway, after the desktop gets fully loaded, now I have another 18 seconds to get a memory usage reading, so I decided to not to disable it & thus, the memory usage readings are without the update manager running.
As you can see ‘LMDE 201403′ Cinnamon actually consumes even less memory! (14% less). I also measured the initial memory usage of few major applications, ‘Cinnamon’ (this process manages the desktop shell), ‘Xorg’ & ‘Nemo’. Both ‘Xorg’ & ‘Nemo’ used significantly less memory while the memory consumption of ‘Cinnamon’ has been slightly increased, in ‘LMDE’.
Altogether it is a 22.3MiB reduction which should be accounted for a large portion of the overall memory reduction.
CPU Usage at idle …
Except for the system monitor processes itself, the rest of the processes leave the CPU alone for very very long periods. Excellent.
Power Usage at idle …
‘LMDE’ was actually a bit power hungry. I does not seem to include a power usage optimizer such as ‘Laptop Mode Tools‘ & the hard disk drive was always kept running ((although ‘hdparm’ -- a tool for various HDD performance related (power saving included) tweaks, is included by default, its tweaks are disabled and has to be enabled manually)) and that should ‘contribute’ about 0.5Watts (for my 7200 RPM SATA disk) more. It all adds up at the end.
System Responsiveness …
While a 1.5GB file was copying within the ‘Home’ folder, I opened a video file in VLC. Then I searched in the Start-menu and tried to launch LibreOffice Writer, Calc, Terminal emulator, GIMP & ‘System Settings’. While all that was happening, I navigated through the menus and tried to open the document viewer, GThumb, Firefox, System Monitor, File Roller & tried to open the desktop background changer. So how did all that go ?
It went really well. The video playback was a bit laggy, but other than that, I was able to open all those programs and the mouse pointer sensitivity was excellent!. Unlike most KDE desktop versions, ‘Cinnamon’ has never disappointed me.
Shutdown Delay …
‘LMDE 201403′ was a lot slow while shutting down when compared to LM 15 (about 127% slower).
Final Words …
I came across a ‘plymouth’ related major issue when using ‘LMDE’, & because I was already familiar with GNU/Linux, I was able to fix it without going through a whole lot of trouble. I was also lucky to own a laptop that contains a GPU from a manufacture (Intel) who releases open-source drivers, thus it is fully supported by the Kernel officially, because as mentioned before, if you own ATI/AMD or Nvidia GPU, then you will have to go through a not so user-friendly setup process for installing the drivers (well, that was how it was used to be in the past anyway).
Some of these experiences in ‘LMDE’ actually made me remember the hardship that I went through when using RedHat & the early versions of ‘Fedora’ as someone who did not know the first thing about ‘Linux’. Sure even back then ‘SUSE Linux’ or ‘Mandriva’ eased your ‘pain’ by giving user friendly GUI tools, but the great thing about a ‘stubborn’ OS is that you learn a lot and at the end, it shapes you up in a positive manner.
Sure ‘LMDE 201403′ is slow to boot & shutdown and has some issues. But it is very lightweight & the initial setup process is simple & easy. So if you want to learn GNU/Linux but do not want to start off with a scary monster like ‘Debian’ ( 😛 ) then ‘LMDE 201403′ is a great distribution for you.
The developers claim that they plan to migrate to ‘Debian core’ eventually, but since their Ubuntu based editions are the favorite choice among users, they cannot yet put a lot of efforts into the ‘LMDE’. So, if you are an end-user who primarily deal with application software (software that run top of the OS) & looking for a beautiful, lightweight, easy to maintain, and a responsive OS that boots & shuts down fast, then I think the Ubuntu based edition is the best choice for you (again, I am only talking from the Linux Mint 15 ‘Olivia’ experience, not LM 16).
If interested, please get it from here, and you can read the release announcement from here. If you have a different opinion, please, do use the comments. I hope you enjoyed this. Thank you for reading.