Hands On: Linux Mint 17 Release Candidate

Hands On: Linux Mint 17 Release Candidate

Summary: The next release of the very popular Linux Mint distribution will arrive soon. Here is a look at the Release Candidate, with Cinnamon and MATE desktops.

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The Release Candidate for Linux Mint 17 (Qiana) was released a few days ago. A lot of people have been looking forward to this release, and I am one of them. So I have downloaded both the Cinnamon and MATE versions, and installed them on several of my laptops and netbooks. As is pretty much always the case with Mint, everything went very smoothly, and it all appears to work very well.

There are separate release announcements for the Cinnamon and MATE desktops, and they are definitely worth reading through: lots of changes and improvements in this release, not only in the desktops themselves. If you are really interested in the Cinnamon desktop, it is probably also worthwhile to read the Cinnamon 2.2 announcement in clem's Segfault blog. A lot of the information is the same as in the Mint release announcement, but there is even more detail in segfault.

The ISO images weigh in at about 1.2GB, and they are hybrid images so they can be burned to a DVD or simply copied to a USB stick using dd. Good news: they support UEFI boot systems. Bad news: the UEFI boot directory is still called 'ubuntu', so don't try to install this distributions onto a UEFI system that already has Ubuntu installed (or vice-versa), unless you know how to avoid the conflict. No news: I doubt there are all that many people in the world who would actually want to do this, so I assume it is not a big problem.

The Installer is derived from the Ubuntu installer (ubiquity), which is adequate but is a long way from being my favourite. I wonder why they don't use the Mint Installer that is used for the Linux Mint Debian Edition distribution? In my opinion it is much nicer, more powerful and flexible. For example, it lets you see and change the EFI boot partition. I think it is graphically more appealing too. Perhaps there is some functional reason that they have to stay with the Ubuntu installer. Comments on this welcome...

I have one minor complaint about the installer. The time zone selection requires clicking on a world map to select your location. When you are working with a rather small map, and you are trying to select a rather small country (Switzerland) it can be tedious. You can type into the text bar at the bottom of the map window, and it will perform some kind of strange text matching - I say strange because when I typed 'Zurich' it showed all sorts of bizarre possibilities, but the correct one (Zurich, Switzerland) didn't come up at all until I had typed the entire name. Odd.

Once the installation has completed and you reboot the installed system, you will get a nice shiny new Cinnamon 2.2 desktop:

Mint Cinnamon
The Linux Mint Cinnamon Desktop

This is the very latest Cinnamon development; I included a link to the Release Announcement above.  I continue to be impressed by the amount of work that clem and his crew put into Cinnamon, and even more impressed by the results that are coming from all that work. It is becoming faster, more flexible and more reliable with every release. They have come a long way from the Mint Gnome Shell Extension (MGSE) that was their first reaction to the release of Gnome 3. Just to hit a few of the latest Cinnamon highlights:

  • Settings Screen has been dramatically improved. It is more consistent and better categorized.
  • Hot Corners and HUD. You will not hear me heaping praise on this particular set of features, because for the most part it is not my style. But it does seem to be the latest hot trend, and perhaps the wave of the future.
  • Screensaver Settings and Power Management have been cleaned up and rationalized. They needed it.
  • Date and Time Settings have been improved, made more sensible and consistently applied
  • Systray Icons in the Cinnamon Task Bar have been made more open and flexible
  • HiDPI (Retina) support has been added. I'd love to see what this looks like...

As I said, these are just what I consider the highlights based on my own use.

On the other hand, if you installed the MATE version, you will get a desktop that looks like this:

Mint MATE
The LInux Mint MATE Desktop

 

This is MATE 1.8, and while it is not as brand spanking new as Cinnamon 2.2, it was just released at the beginning of March. The release announcement gives a good overview of the changes and improvements. I have installed this version on my Samsung N150 Plus netbook, and the performance is very good. There are some situations where MATE could be a good choice for you - as in my case, on a netbook with limited CPU and graphic controller resources; if you still prefer the Gnome 2 style desktop and menus; or if you just don't care for the Cinnamon desktop.

Mint Update Manager
The Linux Mint Update Manager

The first thing you should do after installing is pick up the latest patches and updates. The MintUpdate icon on the task bar will remind you to do this, of course. Linux Mint has recently taken some criticism about not installing certain kinds of updates, most notably kernel updates. While this is totally unjustified in my opinion, and is only being spouted by people who don't understand the Mint update mechanism, the Mint developers have made a change in this release which might make this a bit more transparent. Automatic update selection is based on levels, where each change is assigned a level based on its importance and associated risk. Until now, Mint Update only showed updates which would be installed;  if they weren't selected as candidates for installation, you might not have known about them at all (unless you went looking, which wasn't that hard).  Now, Mint Update will show updates which haven't been automatically selected, so you will know they are there, and you can click to select them for installation if you want.

Mint Drivers
Linux Mint Driver Manager

This release of Linux Mint also brings a new Mint Driver Manager utility, replacing the Ubuntu Jockey utility. Jockey was a major step forward when it was introduced, and it has been a decent tool since then, but this new Mint Driver Manager looks better and at least in my initial tests it seems to work more reliably as well. I had previously run into trouble with jockey when installing the proprietary ATI/Radeon graphic driver on some of my netbooks and subnotebooks with AMD/ATI combined chipsets. I have tried those with the new Mint Driver Manager, and it seems to work just fine, they all installed properly and came up working normally.

I suppose that I also need to include the usual info on various versions, although any of these could change by the time the final release is made:

  • Linux kernel 3.13
  • X.org server 1.15.1
  • Cinnamon desktop 2.2.1
  • MATE desktop 1.8.0
  • LibreOffice 4.2.3.3
  • Firefox 29.0
  • Thunderbird 24.5.0
  • GIMP 2.8.10
  • Banshee 2.6.2
  • VLC Media Player 2.1.2

I have now installed this Release Candidate on pretty much every computer I have around here. That includes both UEFI and Legacy Boot systems, sizes ranging from netbook to full-size full-power laptops, CPUs from both Intel and AMD, graphics from Intel, ATI/Radeon and nVidia, wireless networking adapters from Intel, Broadcom, Atheros and Rallink, and lots of other miscellaneous hardware. I have not had a single problem, not one installation failure, no missing devices, no drivers that had to be found and manually installed after installation. Everything just works, as it should.

Past release cycles indicate that the final release will probably be made in another week or two. Good news!

One last thing: the release notes also make a brief mention of something that has gotten wide attention both specifically within the Mint community and across the wider Linux community in general. With this release, Linux Mint is changing to be based on the Ubuntu LTS distributions, which means that this release will get security updates for five years, until 2019, and will get major package updates and backports for two years, until 2016.

During this "Long Term Support" period, there are expected to be a number of "Point Releases" (Mint 17.x).  I have slightly mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, if this change really does free up more of the Mint developer's time to work on their own projects, rather than spending so much time preparing for a major release every six months, then it will definitely be a good thing. 

But I'm a bit concerned that the lag in getting new packages incorporated might turn out to be a problem, that sort of thing seems like it is always easier said than done. There could also be a problem as time goes by with installing new systems from scratch — the longer it has been since the last major release, the more updates you have to install after doing the base installation. But the "Point Releases" should reduce this problem, if they are done on time and are really complete roll-ups of all updates and additions since the last major release.

Only time will tell how all this works out. I hope it is positive, and I believe that it most likely will be so. But some of the things that we have been through over the past few years with Linux Mint Debian Edition have not been terribly encouraging with regard to these kinds of issues.

My personal opinion is that the best possible outcome of this change is that the Mint developers really do gain a lot of time from this, and they put that time into Mint Debian, and Mint Debian continues to develop and improve, to the point where it becomes the better and more important Mint distribution, rather than the Ubuntu derived version. This was what I was hoping for when LMDE was originally announced: it's still only a daydream, but it would be nice.

Further reading

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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Talkback

36 comments
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  • Wifi issue with this Release Candidate

    I installed Linux Mint 17 RC Cinnamon and encountered only one problem. My wifi would randomly disconnect and then reconnect. I had been experienceing the same problem with LM 16. It seems to be a Cinnamon issue with my adapter/driver. When I installed LM 16 XFCE the problem vanished. Has anyone else had this experience?
    mnealcpa
    • wifi issue

      mnealcpa - Do you happen to use a Realtek wireless card? I have a 8188E, and after installing both Ubuntu and Kubuntu 14.04, my wireless kept completely disconnecting after 10 minutes or so, necessitating me to logout then back in. Mint 17 uses the same (apparently unstable) drivers I believe.
      I think this has been an issue in the past as well. I'm waiting for the final release in 2 weeks, just in case something gets fixed upstream for this.
      Thomas Gellhaus
      • missed one point

        Oh, I didn't realize you say you had the same problem with 16 Cinnamon. Have you tried the 17 MATE edition? I ended up using 16 KDE so that I'd have wireless, but I admit I am slightly worried about how 17 will work.
        Thomas Gellhaus
      • Wifi issue with this Release Candidate

        My wireless card is Intel Wireless 7260.
        mnealcpa
        • Wifi issue with this Release Candidate

          There is a post on the Linux Mint Forum from a user with a Broadcom card having a similar issue with LM 16.
          mnealcpa
      • RTL8188EE

        copy/paste this into a terminal one-by-one, this will fix your wifi:

        sudo apt-get install --reinstall linux-headers-generic linux-headers-$(uname -r) build-essential dkms git

        git clone https://github.com/FreedomBen/rtl8188ce-linux-driver

        cd rtl8188ce-linux-driver

        make

        sudo make install

        sudo cp -r firmware/* /lib/firmware

        echo "options rtl8188ee ips=0 fwlps=0" | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/rtl8188ee.conf
        don zorro
        • post above meant for: Thomas Gellhaus

          Thomas Gellhaus: After upgrading to 14.04 my wifi also started giving me drops and speed issues. The code I posted above fixed it up like brand new. When you're done you will find a "rtl8188ce-linux-driver" folder in your "home" folder/location, leave it, don't delete.
          don zorro
        • forgot to add to above: reboot when done

          forgot to add to above: reboot when done
          don zorro
          • WiFi fix worked for Ubuntu 14.04, not sure it will for Linux Mint 17

            WiFi fix worked for Ubuntu 14.04, not sure it will for Linux Mint 17? proceed with caution!
            don zorro
    • Wifi issue

      I had a very similar situation, realtek just doesn't support linux very well, and unfortunately, their cards are featured in a lot of big-box laptops. I just got a card with a known working chipset from thinkpenguin and replaced the card in my laptop, works like a charm now.
      Sidneyaks
  • Once again looking forward to a new Mint release

    Jamie -
    Now that I'm using Linux full time on the main laptop, I am really looking forward to the new Mint, especially with this LTS release and the announcement about their future releases.

    I have not yet decided whether I want to dual-boot with other Linux distributions. Although it would be nice to review them on new hardware, having a machine that is stable on one OS for several years allows me to plan for things like working on programming, maybe try LFS again, reviewing various KDE applications, and other projects. (And playing lots and lots of games!)
    My one concern is noted above: wireless. I know the Mint devs have no control over driver software and when they get fixed, but my experience with the latest Ubuntu and Kubuntu releases has me rather worried. I will be certain to look for any solutions BEFORE installing 17 onto my computer.
    Thomas Gellhaus
  • Point releases

    As I've understood, the Mint point releases will simply be based on the Ubuntu 14.04 point releases. So there's no need to worry about their stability and reliability.... Plus starting with 14.04.2, the point releases of Ubuntu (and therefore of Mint as well), will make a "kernel jump". Which is good for new hardware support.

    This development decision of Mint marks, in my opinion, a whole new elevated level of quality. No more developers' time wasted on short-lived intermediate Ubuntu versions, with their extremely short lifespan of 9 months. A lot depends on how many new applications versions they're going to backport, though.

    Note that this will (finally) make upgrading Mint a lot easier: simply installing the kernel stack of the new point release will do the job, without the need for a clean reinstallation.

    All in all: it's the best decision they could make, I think. Linux Mint has just become the new standard for quality! Ubuntu will have an increasingly hard time "selling" its intermediate versions to the public, I expect.... Which is maybe the only disadvantage of this new Mint policy: as a side effect, the amount of testing of Ubuntu innovations will probably drop.

    Regards, Pjotr.
    pjotr123
    • mostly agree

      Pjotr -
      I totally agree with everything you said...up to the final sentence :) I've used Mint since Mint 9 and I have always preferred it to Ubuntu. I have to ask, which "innovations" do you think will suffer for less testing? Mir? Unity? something else?
      There are plenty of Ubuntu users who actually enjoy it, so I doubt the testing will suffer TOO much. And both Mir and Unity are still pretty much Ubuntu-only at this point. I mean, Cinnamon has been adopted and available as a desktop option in a dozen other distros besides Mint (not obscure ones either), but I challenge you to name a non-Ubuntu derivative which offers the Unity/Dash combination as an option. And no one is expecting to use Mir outside Ubuntu unless it REALLY works as well as Wayland.
      Thomas Gellhaus
      • RE: I challenge you to name a non-Ubuntu derivative which offers the Unity

        Arch Linux.

        Now what do what I win? :D
        Version Dependency
  • Article: Linux Mint is changing to be based on the Ubuntu LTS distributions

    I'll stick with Ubuntu LTS releases as my preferred desktop environment is Xfce.

    Interestingly, with Debian Squeeze, the Debian Project is going to experiment with a 5-year support duration (for i386 and amd64 architectures):

    "Long term support for Debian 6.0 Announced
    http://www.debian.org/News/2014/20140424
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • About installing updates

    You gladly do this on Linux but on Windows to you its a problem, why?

    The first thing you should do after installing is pick up the latest patches and updates.
    adacosta38
    • Wrong

      The first thing one should do after installing an OS is to backup one's system. The next thing one should do is to configure settings and harden one's system. The order of these two actions can be interchanged if one likes.

      Updating one's system is the 3rd thing that one should do. And backing up one's system after installing the initial updates is also a good idea. Then, if necessary, a user can go back to either square one or two. See?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Wrong-wrong

        There is no reason to back up your initial installation until the system is updated and configured the way you want. To do that is simply a waste of time, which you apparently know a lot about.
        vermonter
        • Nobody has ever had a serious PC problem after a large update

          Right? ;)

          And, in addition, one loses their configuration settings. :/
          Rabid Howler Monkey
        • No, vermonter, Monkey is right

          Install, configure, backup (clone, really) -- THEN update. Because, you don't know if the updates will break something in your configuration. Monkey is right. Same advice applies to Windows. ALWAYS CLONE before Windows updates. This is especially true if you use MS Word in perpetual license, and Adobe Acrobat. I lost SIX MONTHS trying to figure out their crashes, and at the end of it I learned it was due to the Windows updates, and the fact that when you first install MS Office, you must be hooked up to a physical printer which is in some common type, like HP. Else, Acrobat will bomb. Depends on each one's version, WHEN the bomb occurs, but it's a bomb in MS Word not recognizing the printer. Lots of complaints about this on the internet, the error messages varying. In each case, it turned out that the printer must be physically ON and hooked up at MS Office initial installation.

          So if that's true of Windows, more true of Linux, especially with a new release. You never know what an update will break, they can't proof everything.
          brainout