Linux Mint 17 (code named ‘Qiana’) Cinnamon which was released a couple of days ago is based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS core, and being as such, it will be supported until 2019. Linux Mint comes with four desktop editions: ‘Cinnamon’, ‘MATE’, ‘XFce’ & ‘KDE’, although currently, only ‘Cinnamon’ and ‘MATE’ editions are available, ‘XFce’ and ‘KDE’ should arrive shortly.
I was always more interested in ‘Cinnamon’ desktop as it is their primary desktop, so as usual, for this review I downloaded the 64-bit version of the ‘Cinnamon edition’ which includes the latest stable version of ‘Cinnamon’ (2.2), Kernel 3.13, X.Org 7.7 & MDM 1.6, mainly.
‘Cinnamon’ 2.2 includes lots of changes & new features, but I am not going to waste my time on that since you can read about them in the release notes page (screenshots included). I will however, as always, mention few new features that are of particular interest to most end-users.
Below is a brief information of 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.
As always, I measured few useful technical details of LM 17 Cinnamon such as the Boot-up Times, Memory Usage upon Desktop login, CPU & power usage at idle, Shutdown delay … and then compared them with the data that I have for Linux Mint Debain 2014.03 & Linux Mint 15 (I did not get a chance to test LM 16). Linux Mint Debian 2014.03 also features the previous stable version of Cinnamon (2.0), thus I have used it as a reference point, while comparing what is new with Cinnamon 2.2 in Linux Mint 17 as well.
I prepared a Live USB drive for the installation and as soon as it finished booting, I executed the installer. Linux Mint uses Ubuntu’s installer so I will not go into details. But, as far as my hardware was concerned, Mint was able to recognize all of my hardware (except the fingerprint reader which is not yet supported by Linux) and configure them correctly. all in all, the installation was carried out without any issues whatsoever.
First Boot-up & the Desktop …
Once I rebooted the PC, I was greeted by the usual & ugly looking GRUB theme that Linux Mint always comes with .
The boot-logo also looks pretty much the same.
The Desktop …
When compared with the Cinnamon 2.0 that came with LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition) 2014.03, except for few subtle changes in the Mint start-menu and taskbar, the desktop looks pretty much the same.
Other changes …
*. Users can now uninstall installed applications through the start-menu by selecting and right-clicking on an application icon.
*. It is said the startmenu has the ability to automatically highlight the newly installed applications, but it did not work while I tested it.
*. Although it has received additional menu-entry, the right-click menu of the taskbar looks more simple and clean because they have cleverly arranged the order of menus & have gotten rid of a sub-menu that gave access to ‘Themes’, ‘Applets’ & ‘Panel’.
*. Sound Applet now has the ability to display the name and display the album-art (as an icon) whenever an audio track is being played by VLC & Banshee. This is disabled by default, but it can be enabled easily by right clicking on the applet and then choosing ‘Configure…’.
Nemo (file manager)
*. On Nemo’s side bar there is a new menu entry called ‘Recent’ which once clicked displays the users recently opened files & folders.
*. On the main toolbar, there is a new shortcut for creating a new folder which can come quite handy.
*. The ‘Status-bar’ at the bottom has grown by a few pixels and as a result the icons (zoom level adjuster, ‘Show Places/Treeview, ‘Disable Sidebar’ …) look a bit bigger, which is also good!.
*. Now users can enable or disable the execution of a ‘Hot corner’ while hoovering. Another useful change.
Enhanced ‘Power Management’ Control Window
All the power management related settings are now listed under a single window, finally!.
Better looking Fonts and a Theme
*. I do not know if it is rendering related or not, but the fonts now look slightly big, sharp and clear also. I did check to see if the fonts settings are different, but they are not, so I do not know what is behind it (it is perhaps due to the added Retina display support).
*. The default Cinnamon theme is also subtly changed, and as mentioned above, everything now look bigger (Title-bars, scroll-bars and other application window related elements -- window controls, icons etc, as a result).
*. The context background color of application windows are changed from being pure white to slightly blueish, the color of selected items (folders/files, menus …) & the ‘tooltips’ in Nemo look slightly darker when compared to their predecessors (darker green & darker yellow, respectfully).
*. I have always loved the default collection of backgrounds that Linux Mint ships with. This time too I was not disappointed.
*. Upon clicking its icon, users no longer have to enter the administrator’s password for installing the updates. Although I did not test it, developers say that it is more faster and uses less memory when running as well. These are the ones that I found to be interesting, but you can get a complete list of changes from this page.
Other included applications …
Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon ships with Firefox 28.0, Thunderbird 24.4, Pidgin 2.10.9, LibreOffice 126.96.36.199, GIMP 2.8.10, Banshee 2.6.2, VLC 2.1.2, gThumb 3.2.7, Synaptic 0.81.2, Evince document viewer 3.10.3. These are of course only a few to mention.
Performance Related Details …
I took 5 samples of each of these tests (except while measuring power usage as the tool that does it takes lots of samples spanned over a couple of minutes -- it is highly accurate) for obtaining accurate readings & I measured these details as soon as the installation finished & before touching anything to keep the readings as accurate as possible. Before I started to measure those, I booted the OS 6-7 times for letting things to settle down as well.
Boot-up Speed …
As you can see, Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon was 28.5% times faster to boot than the current Debian based edition, but 1.9% slower than Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon (being 1.9% slower is not something one should be worried about).
Memory Usage …
Please remember that I took notes of the memory usage before the ‘Update Manger’ was being loaded (it gets executed with a slightly delay after the desktop gets fully loaded) into RAM. This is how I had measured the memory usage of other two as well. But in case someone is interested in, after the update manager gets loaded, the memory usage goes up and down for a few seconds (while it is checking for updates) and then settles down around 311-312 MiB range.
LM 17 Cinnamon scored the highest memory usage of the three (20.7% more than LMDE 2014.03 & 3.6% more compared to LM 15 Cinnamon). Other than the LMDE edition which is known to be memory efficient than the Ubuntu based releases, 3.6% compared to LM 15 is totally forgivable.
CPU Usage at Idle …
Except for the system monitor process itself that kept eating the CPU (2-4%), the rest of the processes did not interact with it for long periods which was pretty good.
Power Usage at Idle …
LM 17 consumed 0.4 Watts more than LMDE 2014.03 and 0.9 Watts more compared to LM 15, which is a bit too high as far as power usage of a notebook PC is concerned. But I was able to quickly resolve it (just like under Ubuntu 14.04 LTS) after installing ‘TLP’ -- a utility that automatically optimizes the power usage, and with it enabled, LM 17 scored the lowest power usage readings of the three.
OS Responsiveness …
A good OS should be responsive (the ability react well to user’s requests), to an acceptable degree (which depends of various factors), under a reasonable amount of stress. So I did what I always do which consists of copying a somewhat large file within the ‘Home’ folder & then trying to open multiple programs and observing how fast they are being opened and the how much sensitivity of the mouse pointer gets lost in the process.
While the file was being copied, I tried playing a video file and then tried to open 3-4 somewhat memory hungry programs, & while all that was happening from the background, this time (wanted to try something new) I tried opening the file manager and tried to navigate into folders that contained somewhat large amount of files.
So did it all go?
It went good!. The multimedia playback was two times and the mouse pointer slightly less responsive here & there, but the file manager responded well. It was not exceptional but I was happy with the level of responsiveness that I received.
ACPI & Other Hardware Related Issues …
As mentioned in the beginning, other than the fingerprint reader, the rest of the hardware was recognized and configured by LM 17 & ‘Suspend’ works without issues too. The screen brightness gets reset to maximum at each login, but this is also how it is under Ubuntu and many other distributions.
However, if I tried to suspend the OS as soon as the desktop gets loaded (& before the update manager is executed), then the suspension only occurs after the update manager finishes its execution. Although the OS does not get stuck, the shutdown message box does and a warning arrives giving the ability to ‘kill’ the ‘not-responding’ application window. If you wait, then all goes well and OS gets suspended, if you kill the ‘not-responding’ message box then suspend does not occur and you will be taken into the login window. Now I know that most would not try to suspend their OS as soon as the desktop gets loaded, but if you were to do that, say in Windows, then the OS handles it without any issue. Other than that, all was good.
Please be aware that there are few hardware related issues that might give you a hard time while trying to boot into the Live desktop (let alone installing it). There are a few workarounds … so make sure to read the release notes & the ‘known issues’ section (I will put a link at the end).
Shutdown Delay …
As you can see, LM 17 was the second fastest while shutting down. It was quite fast when compared to LMDE 2014.03 but slightly slower when compared to LM 15 (not anywhere near to a degree that one should be concerned).
Final Words …
Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon edition comes with quite a few new features and has enhanced some of existing ones. It boots & shuts down fast, memory efficient, performs well under stress, officially supported until 2019, consumes a bit more power at idle but that can be fixed, I cannot see why I should not recommend it!.