Linux Mint 16 RC

I noticed a couple of days ago that Linux Mint 16 (Petra) release candidate is available, so I downloaded the iso and burned it to a DVD.

I’ve been a fan of Mint for a few years, up until Linux Mint 10. With Mint 11 and 12 and the transition to Gnome 3, Mint got a bit fragmented and I strayed to other distros; but the past year or two I’ve been drawn back to Linux Mint, and especially the Cinnamon desktop. So even though I am very happy with Zorin OS 6 on our main machine, I had to try out the spanking new Mint 16 with the new version of it’s Cinnamon 2.0 desktop environment!

After booting from the DVD and playing around with Mint 16 ‘Petra’ for about half an hour today, here is what I found:

Mint 16 Screenshot01

The Good: 

Mint 16 had no trouble with my Nvidia graphics card, even only using the open source nouveau driver (unlike OpenSuse 13.1 RC that I tried a couple of weeks ago).

Mint 16 looks as lovely as ever. After changing the desktop picture from the default white one, I checked out the Cinnamon 2 System Settings. Under ‘Themes’ there are only three default themes installed. But when clicking the ‘get more themes online’ button, it refreshes and you have a choice of many dozens of new themes that you can install in seconds, which I did.

Under ‘Extensions’ you can also install a vast number of new extensions to increase the functionality of Mint 16. As shown below, there are a huge number of new and exotic-sounding applets (since I last checked out Cinnamon 1.6) that can also be added to the Cinnamon panel. The Cinnamon panel is extremely configurable compared to when it first came out! As well as adding applets, you can resize the panel, or move it to the top of your screen, or have two panels if you want. I even added the weather applet to the panel, and, unlike in the past, it worked with no mucking about!

Mint 16 Screenshot02

Mint 16 Screenshot03

Even when I had System Settings, System Monitor, several open File Manager windows and Firefox running a Youtube video, Mint only used a little over 500 Mbs. of RAM, with very low CPU usage. It definitely seems lighter and quicker than the previous Mint 15!

The Bad:

In my time playing with Mint 16, the only thing that didn’t work flawlessly was a sound effect for unmaximizing a window! In the Sound preferences for Cinnamon there is a new (at least I never noticed it before) section where you can configure groovy sound effects for different functions. And Mint 16 comes with Firefox 24 instead of version 25, which was updated in my Zorin OS a couple of weeks ago.

Among some other nice changes I discovered: Nemo (the Cinnamon File Manager) version 2.0.4, and the Software Sources application now has a built-in PPA Manager, which is very cool. For a comprehensive list of changes and improvements in Mint 16, look right HERE.

If you’re looking for a polished and easy-to-use Linux distro, the new Mint 16 Petra is just beautiful! Sleeker, faster, more features, and I am loving the Cinnamon desktop environment more than ever! And this is not the final release yet! It should be available very soon, though.

Keep watching Linuxmint.com for more news.

Customizing Your Desktop Linux Operating System

One of the many things I like about Linux-based operating systems is the ability to make them look and behave the way you want them to.

I’m a visually-oriented person, and I enjoy being able to change the way my computer’s graphical interface looks. When using Windows or the Mac OS there are some options or third-party tools to change the look of the OS, but they are still pretty limited compared to what’s possible with Linux.

Zorin_Desktop_9_29_13Zorin_stock

The first picture above is of my main computer using Zorin OS 6, which uses the Zorin desktop environment with conky manager, a weather screenlet and Rainlendar desktop calendar app that I’ve added. The bottom picture is of the default Zorin OS desktop without modifications.

First off, Linux operating systems can use numerous different Desktop Environments and Window Managers. Some of the most popular being: Gnome, KDE, Xfce, LXDE, UnityCinnamon, MATE, Enlightenment, Razor-qt, Openbox, and Fluxbox, among many others that are more geeky and obscure.  I’m still not sure what the difference is between ‘window manager‘ and ‘desktop environment‘, (for example: I thought Enlightenment, or E-17, was a desktop environment as well as libraries for creating applications; but on the website it’s called a window manager), but they can drastically change the look of the desktop GUI and the way the user interacts with the operating system. There are an increasing number of Linux distros that have forked off of a traditional DE (desktop environment) to add more features or improve performance, like Cinnamon or MATE, or created their own new DE.

Here’s a nice web page on Renewable PCs that provides an overview of many of the above-mentioned desktop environments.

Another customization tool you can try are Screenlets, which I mentioned above, for adding information about numerous things in graphical form to your desktop for Gnome/GTK-based operating systems. Also see Here and Here for additional info on screenlets. As I mentioned in a previous post, Conky Manager is also another way to add more information to your Linux desktop in different visual formats. Fun stuff!

Another great way to spice up the look of your computer is to add different Themes and Icons. If you use any Gnome/GTK-based DE, you can find community-designed icons and themes Here, or if you use KDE, try Here, or for the Enlightenment-based distros, have a look Here. Although Bodhi Linux has their own customization resources Here to make installing E-17 themes quite easy!

There are also numerous ways to search for and launch applications in Linux distros. Different DEs have different launcher menus from within their panel bars, and there are a few nice Dock-like applications you can use that have varying degrees of customization options. (The Zorin OS panel is a customized Avant Window Navigator in panel mode).  Check out Docky and Cairo-Dock too. They can be found in most Linux distro’s repositories through the App Center or Synaptic Package Manager.

But really the sky’s the limit for changing the look and feel of your computing experience in Linux. From the complex to the sublimely simple:

Desktops_complex_simpleA KDE desktop with plasma widgets or a default Crunchbang Linux desktop with Openbox.

Ubuntu_BodhiWhether you prefer Ubuntu’s Unity Desktop or Bodhi Linux with Enlightenment, there are many ways to change your Linux distro to accommodate your workflow and visual taste.

The possibilities can be a little overwhelming, but looking around the web and reading articles from Linux-related web sites can give you lots of ideas to spice up your stock vanilla operating system and even increase your productivity. Just finding some different desktop pictures/wallpapers can provide a refreshing visual change if you’ve been staring at the same old screen for a while!

So have some fun, and turn your Linux computer OS into your own personal work of art!

A little Linux Mint love

About a week ago Linux Mint 14, ‘Nadia’ was released. As much as I like Mint 13, this new release based on Ubuntu 12.10 looks very, very nice.

For a while I fell out of love with Linux Mint (11 and 12 versions, when many Linux distros were going through a desktop identity crisis when Ubuntu switched to Unity and Gnome 2 went to Gnome 3 Shell), but now that the Cinnamon Desktop, Mint’s Gnome Shell fork, is making great strides in development (see my earlier post), I would definitely recommend Linux Mint as one of the best distros for people new to Linux. Or if you prefer a familiar Linux desktop experience like Gnome 2 or Xfce, and are not a fan of Unity and the direction that Ubuntu is going, Linux Mint may also be your cup of tea. It’s modern, attractive and everything generally works great without much tweaking involved (though the first thing I do myself is change the desktop picture/wallpaper)!

The newest Cinnamon 1.6 comes with lots of pre-installed themes, applets and other goodies to configure your workspace. And Linux Mint has always come with a full but not overwhelming set of applications to handle most user’s needs. Plus you have the entire Ubuntu repositories and PPAs, as well as Mint’s repository, to install whatever software you desire.

But my main inspiration for writing this post is the Linux Action Show episode I just watched, which did a glowing and comprehensive review of Mint 14 and Cinnamon. They point out many of the strengths of Mint and the differences between Mint and Ubuntu. If you’re curious about Linux Mint, it’s well worth a look HERE. The Mint review begins at about 46 minutes into the show.

For Linux users who love Gnome 2 and Xfce, I think Cinnamon is a solid, rapidly-evolving and modern desktop alternative.

DeLorean Dark theme available for Linux Mint 14