The Cinnamon Desktop Environment

A few months ago I installed Linux Mint 13 (Maya), Cinnamon version on my HP Mini 1000 netbook. I was familiar with Cinnamon since it began last year as a fork of Gnome 3. It looked kind of interesting, and a more user-friendly version of Gnome 3; but it was in its infancy and lacked many features. But since then, Clement Lefebvre has done a lot of work on Cinnamon and it’s becoming a very nice alternate desktop environment.

I had tried out a few lightweight Linux distros on the HP Mini, but wasn’t totally happy with them, or had trouble installing the Broadcom wireless driver for it.  So I turned to Mint 13, even though I wasn’t sure if it would run that well on the netbook. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how great Mint 13 with Cinnamon looks and runs on this little machine! So I’ve been exploring how to configure Cinnamon and finding it to be a very easy to use, capable and elegant desktop manager. (But what else would you expect from Linux Mint? ;)). In fact, I enjoyed it so much I decided to install it last week on my older HP Pentium 4 desktop computer that the kids use. Here is the Mint 13 Cinnamon desktop on this desktop machine. ( I added Docky and moved the panel from the default bottom position to the top).

To elaborate a little – hopefully without boring you too much – I had installed Bodhi Linux 2.01 on this same computer a week earlier. In fact, I was originally going to talk about my impressions of Bodhi here. I really like Bodhi Linux and all the wonderful features the developers have added to this distro that uses the Enlightenment desktop. The new version is based on Ubuntu 12.04 and is very frugal, fast and beautiful. The only problem is, about one week after I started using it on the kid’s computer, E-17 flaked out on me after a restart. I got an ‘Enlightenment modules failed to load at startup’ or something like that, message. I reloaded most of the modules that I’d previously set up, but I still couldn’t get anything to load on my bottom shelf (panel). And after a restart, the modules still would not work. I know from past experience that by deleting the ‘.e’ configuration file I could probably fix the problem. But that would mean having to re-create all the set-up of the system from scratch. And since this has happened to me before using Bodhi, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Enlightenment is now being actively developed, but I’ve had this happen on two other occasions on different computers (which is not the fault of the Bodhi team) so it seems that for me, Enlightenment is still not stable enough for everyday use. This is what led me to install Linux Mint.

Moving along – I’m really enjoying Cinnamon on Mint 13. It’s been very stable, attractive and configurable enough for my tastes. (And of course you can always add Cinnamon as an alternate desktop manager in Ubuntu as well). In fact, I’m liking it almost as much as I enjoy Xfce! I’m intrigued to see how Cinnamon developes further in the coming year and on Linux Mint 14. This leads me to mention another distro that I just discovered, which also uses the Cinnamon desktop manager: Cinnarch Linux.

While Mint is based on Ubuntu, Cinnarch is based on the venerable Arch Linux, which is light, simple and much loved by experienced Linux users. I’ve shied away from Arch myself because it has a reputation for being a purer but geekier brand of Linux; more text-based configuration, command line use and kind of a pain-in-the-ass to install for the average GUI user like myself. But Cinnarch looks like a wonderful operating system that uses the Cinnamon desktop and is a lot more user-friendly. Another nice feature of using Arch Linux is that it, and Cinnarch, are rolling releases; so you install it once and upgrade for the newer versions instead of having to re-install every six months. As you will see from their website, Cinnarch is a beautiful fusion of form and function.

These two screenshots are from my Live CD session trying out Cinnarch. It comes with a nice selection of applications, like the newest version of Chromium web browser (22.0.1229.79); Pidgin; Transmission bittorrent app; Pantheon File browser (a fork of Nautilus); Brasero disk burner; Cheese webcam app; Movie Player; Image Viewer; Shotwell video editor, and most of the utilities you would expect on a Gnome-based system. I found Cinnarch as easy to use and functional as any Ubuntu/Debian based distro I’ve ever used. And the Cinnamon desktop and Cinnamon Settings worked beautifully.

It uses the Pacman package manager (unlike Synaptic in Debian/Ubuntu-based distros) which I don’t have much experience using. But the version of Pacman that Cinnarch uses is extremely functional, besides just installing or uninstalling software, and seems like it’s not much more difficult to use than Synaptic. At least I found it fairly intuitive after poking around a bit. If you want to try out an Arch Linux system without being an advanced Linux guru, I think Cinnarch might be a good alternative.

But whatever distibution you use it with, I’ve found Cinnamon to be a capable and lovely desktop environment that I believe will only get better with age.

Tips and Tricks for Linux Mint 13 Maya Cinnamon Edition after Installation

Update: I just found another nice post about Cinnarch at Unixmen.com

Xfce is Becoming my Favorite Linux Desktop Environment!

I’m such a fickle Linux user! A few weeks ago Kubuntu was my Linux distro of choice and I was loving the K Desktop Environment. I also had Xubuntu (actually the modified version of Xubuntu called Voyager) installed on my kids desktop computer and my old Dell laptop, and I was becoming very fond of using Xfce.

Then about two weeks ago, just as I was preparing to install the new Kubuntu 12.04 on our main computer, Kubuntu started behaving very strangely. When I’d reboot, it would start in  my wife’s secondary user account instead of mine. It happened every time, and I’ve never known any Linux distro to do this. There have been other odd little irregularities while using KDE/Kubuntu, but nothing this strange. Although back in late February, after I’d been using Kubuntu 11.10 for about two months, the system started freaking out with some weird visual anomalies; items in the control panel disappearing and huge RAM usage, and I had decided to re-install it. Everything was good for a while, but now it was acting weird to the point where the system was becoming unusable again! Having to reinstall a distro twice in four months was just too much for me. So I thought about the one distro I’ve been using on the other computers for months and finding nothing I didn’t like about it; and I decided to install Voyager, which just came out with the new version based on Xubuntu 12.04.

I loved the beautiful look of the KDE Plasma Desktop very much, and it’s configurability and many of the native KDE applications. But after using Voyager/Xubuntu for a while now I totally love this operating system and Xfce! The operating system is very quick! I’m only using the native Xfce compositing instead of installing Compiz, Metacity or Emerald; and I must say; even though I’ve always enjoyed fancy desktop effects and fading, wobbly windows and all the other eye candy, I’ve found I really don’t miss it all that much. In Xubuntu windows snap open and close and applications launch quick as a wink. RAM and CPU usage is much lower with Voyager. And the basic compositing lets you adjust window transparency and shadows. The Xfce panel also supports transparency and can be configured with a right-click, very much like Gnome 2. In fact I find that I prefer Xfce to Gnome 2 or Gnome 3. It’s simple yet gives you many options. It has a nice Settings Manager, themes, icons, and is very responsive. The Voyager remix of Xubuntu also comes with a great set of pre-installed apps and a wonderful Conky Control app with numerous pre-made setups that makes using Conky a snap! See the screenshot. (I switched AWN (Avant Window Navigator) bottom dock for Docky, though Voyager’s default AWN looks cooler). And I just upgraded from Xfce 4.8 that comes in Xubuntu 12.04 to the new version, 4.10. It went without a hitch and works great!

I have to admit: I feel a little odd about running the same distro on three different machines! I love the choices with using Linux-based operating systems, and there are several distros that I really like and are quite different from each other (Bodhi Linux, Mint, SolusOS, Kubuntu, Pinguy OS, Linux Deepin, to name a few). But since running Xubuntu for many months now on different machines I’ve come to enjoy Xfce immensely, and Voyager is the best Xfce distro I’ve used. It’s fast, stable, attractive and easy to use. It just feels comfortable!

For those of you who like Gnome 3, or have been trying to like it; The new version of PinguyOS will be released shortly. I’ve been checking out Pinguy’s refinements to Gnome Shell, which will be their default Desktop Environment, and it looks promising. More to come…

Xubuntu 12.04 Review

Voyager 12.04: The Beautiful Xfce Distro from France

Voyager 12.04 LTS – Xfce/Xubuntu