Linux Mint 16 Petra, hands-on: Installing the Cinnamon, MATE, KDE and Xfce versions

Linux Mint 16 Petra, hands-on: Installing the Cinnamon, MATE, KDE and Xfce versions

Summary: I have installed all four versions (Cinnamon, MATE, KDE and Xfce) of Linux Mint 16 on different hardware, here are a few notes and comments about it.


The final release of Linux Mint 16 (Petra) Cinnamon/MATE came a little over a week ago, and the KDE/Xfce Release Candidates arrived this week.  I decided to install all four of them, each on a different one of my commonly used notebook or netbook systems:

  • Cinnamon - Lenovo T400, Legacy Boot, MBR Partition Table, 14.1" 1280x800 display
  • MATE - HP Pavilion dm1-4310ez, UEFI, GPT Partition Table, 11.6" 1366x768 display
  • KDE - Acer Aspire One 725, UEFI, GPT Partition Table, 11.6" 1366x768 display
  • Xfce - Samsung N150 Plus, Legacy Boot, MBR Partition Table, 10" 1024x600 display

Btrfs hands on: My first experiments with a new Linux file system

Btrfs hands on: My first experiments with a new Linux file system

Btrfs hands on: My first experiments with a new Linux file system

You can get the ISO Live images from the Mint 16 Download page but please remember, at the time of this writing, the KDE and Xfce versions are still 'release candidates', the final versions will appear sometime in the next few days or weeks. 

The images are fairly large, ranging from just over 1.2GB to just under 1.5GB, so they will certainly not fit on a CD, they require either a DVD or a 2GB or larger USB stick. These are hybrid images, so if you already have a Linux system you can simply dd them to a USB stick; otherwise you can use the windows Image Writer to accomplish the same task. For details on this, Clem has written a very concise How to install Linux Mint via USB tutorial.

The USB or DVD installation media can be booted on Legacy Boot (what most users still consider "normal" boot) or UEFI Boot systems, and on UEFI they can even be booted with Secure Boot enabled (or Secure Boot disabled, or even with Legacy Boot enabled). 

Installation is easy, and is pretty much identical to previous Mint releases.

I will make note here of one potentially significant issue, but it is likely to affect only a very few people — those with UEFI boot systems who want to install both Linux Mint and Ubuntu on the same system. 

Unlike the previous release, Mint 16 installs its EFI boot files in a directory called ubuntu.  This makes it difficult to install both Mint 16 and Ubuntu on the same UEFI boot systems. It's not impossible, but if you aren't very familiar with UEFI boot installation and configuration, I would recommend that you simply avoid this problem, and install only one of these two.

Hint: I have a LOT of experience with multibooting UEFI systems, and trying to do it is enough trouble, and sufficiently error-prone, that I am not going to bother with it in this case.

The screen shot below shows the Mint 16 Cinnamon desktop. Perhaps the most important part of this version is the new Cinnamon 2.0, which Clem announced and gave an overview of some of the improvements and new features on Segfault — Cinnamon 2.0 Released! at the beginning of October.

The changes and improvements are really impressive, not only in Cinnamon itself but throughout this release — check out New Features in Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon for additional information.

Linux Mint 16 (Petra) Cinnamon

Next up is Mint 16 MATE, shown below, which was released at the same time as the Cinnamon version. This is the version for those who still prefer the Gnome 2 desktop — MATE reached a point some time ago where I can no longer distinguish it from the original Gnome 2. There is not one huge improvement here as with Cinnamon 2.0, but the list of changes and improvements is relatively long and impressive. Check the New Features in Linux Mint 16 MATE document for an overview.

Linux Mint 16 (Petra) MATE

The KDE version of Mint 16 reached release candidate status this week. That in itself is good news, because with the previous release there was a considerably longer delay between the Cinnamon/MATE release and the KDE release. This version is built with KDE 4.11, and includes the usual array of KDE utilities and applications rather than their Gnome counterparts which are in the Cinnamon and MATE versions. The New features in Linux Mint 16 KDE document gives more details and screen shots of some of the improvements.

Linux Mint 16 (Petra) KDE


Finally, the Xfce version was the last Release Candiate to be announced. This is built on Xfce 4.10, and includes a new release of the excellent Whisker Menu (1.2). This Mint version is a bit of an anomaly in the world of Xfce distributions, because many of them, perhaps even most of them, strive to be "lightweight", so they either replace a lot of the common packages with smaller/simpler versions (abiword/gnumeric instead of LibreOffice, for example), or they omit them completely (such as GIMP).

Not so with Mint 16 Xfce, it includes Firefox/Thunderbird, LibreOffice, GIMP, VLC, Banshee and a whole lot more. This distribution stands on equal terms with the others in the Mint family, the difference is just in the desktop. The updates and improvements in this release are similar to those in the other versions; check New features in Linux Mint 16 Xfce for details.

Linux Mint 16 (Petra) Xfce

 So, that's the whole family. What they all have in common is the Mint base, ranging from the Mint login screen and MDM to the Mint administration, software management and update utilities, and much more.

There's pretty much a desktop for every taste (well, unless you are one of the few who really like the Gnome 3 shell), so pick the one you like and give it a whirl.

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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  • awesome!

    I've been using Mint for a few years now & it keeps getting better, I installed the Cinnamon version & it has everything I need out of the box. Loving it.
  • Application Menu In XFCE

    It seems the application menu's shadow seems to be placed in front of the bottom panel instead of hidden from the back, which seems a little odd to me.
    Grayson Peddie
    • Correct - Good Eyes!

      Wow, dude, what an eye for detail you have! You are correct, I just rebooted that system and looked at it more closely, and the shadow is indeed over the panel. It doesn't actually obscure anything, but it is definitely there.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Linux Mint is my distro of choice

    for the past couple of years now. I'm especially fond of the Cinnamon desktop - combined with a good launcher (I use Synapse) it's the perfect solution for me, and Cinnamon just keeps getting better. Thanks for your Linux reviews and how-to articles; keep up the good work!
  • Waiting for a review of LM16 KDE

    I know it's in RC yet, but would like to see JAW gives us an in depth review. LM16 with Cinnamon is fast, but I missed some of the KDE features. Is it just as fast? If so, then I'll switch!
  • Typo in cinnamon link

    The link to what's new in cinnamon actually takes you to MATE.
  • Has Mint Left a lLot of People Behind?

    Some say that one can NOT use an OS designed for 32-bit PAE-extension hardware on older, non-PAE systems; others say that if one has an older 32-bit machine without PAE extension, it doesn’t matter; the new OS will install with no problems.
    What’s your take on this? Am I sitting here with five bricks, as regards keeping them up to date with 32-bit Mint?
    And please, all you artificial intelligentia: keep the “’s time to come into the 21st century...” comments to yourselves. My hardware works perfectly--probably at least as well as yours--and the promise of Linux was that it would work perfectly on older hardware. Which I expect it to do.
    If Linux distros have adopted the Microsoft & Partners Corp. business model of forcing people to buy new hardware to run new operating systems, we’ve come to a sad state of affairs.

    Warmest regards...
    • How old of a machine are you talking about?

      I put 64 bit versions of Bodhi on the old HP Mini 210 netbook I set up for the gf and have for some time now, was using 64 bit Pinguy and later Kubuntu on it myself before I got my own system built.
      • How Old? Probably not very.

        My guess would be he's talking about the bazeelions of netbooks, nettops, and notebooks made with the least expensive processors available: 32-bit, single-core, non-PAE devices.
        And since there ARE really bazillions of these devices probably still in service--not a bad question.
        Anyone want to give some serious technical advice?
        • Well...

          " Multi-core and multi-CPU support in 32-bit kernel

          To guarantee compatibility with non-PAE processors, the 32-bit versions of Linux Mint Debian come with a 486 kernel by default. This kernel does not support SMP, and as a consequence is only able to detect one core and one CPU. If your CPU has multiple cores, or if you have more than one CPU, simply install the 686-PAE kernel and reboot your computer.

          Type the following commands and reboot the computer:

          apt update

          apt install linux-headers-686-pae linux-image-686-pae"

          Though it isn't Mint, Bodhi is an Ubuntu based distro with a similar sort of "add lightness" philosophy, the gf has found it very easy to use and it works great on the abovementioned dinky hp mini 210 hardware:

          They have non-pae options there as well.
          • Mint 32 doesn't work for Thinkpad T42p with Pentium M cpu

            I had tried Zorin based on an earlier post on ZDnet to replace XP on this old laptop. Got the cpu doesn't support pae message. Saw the above regarding mint "guarantee compatibility with non-PAE processors, the 32-bit versions of Linux Mint Debian come with a 486 kernel by default" so tried Mint, got the same message with no install.

            I wound up finding an un-offical iso of Zorin with a non-pae kernel, which installed nicely. Not the latest version but seems OK for now.
      • That old = Original Pentium or earlier!

        Intel & AMD both had PAE as a standard processor feature since the Pentium Pro (Pentium II) & Athlon in 1995. I have one machine with a PPro processor, a 433 MHz Mendocino core in a 1997 Toshiba laptop. That's old. Yet it runs Linux... in its 48MB of RAM from its 1.3GB hard drive.

        I also have four Pentium III-based machines, one of which has a dual-CPU mobo, 4GB of DDR RAM, and AGP 4x video. (Very unusual!) With two 1.4GHz P3/Tualatin-S CPUs, it's fast enough to run a Windows virtual machine in Mint, with the VM streaming videos off the net!

        Two of the other mobos can run with 1 CPU & 1GB of RAM; the norm back then was 512MB max RAM...

        So 'badins' has a point and probably has hardware that does fine with Mint for most day-to-day tasks.

        Technical advice: To use PAE, you must have a kernel with PAE support. Ubuntu had a separate PAE kernel prior to 12.10. Before 10.04, the 32-bit desktop installed the non-PAE kernel, while the 32-bit server installed the PAE kernel; you could load the desktop version, then install the PAE kernel if you wanted it. From 10.04 to 12.04, it would automatically install the PAE kernel (from DVD) if your system had > 3GB. From 12.10 onwards, all 32-bit installs use the PAE kernel.

        Alas for those of us with really, really old CPUs, you will no be able to load these latest Mint systems, as PAE kernels require PAE support in the CPU. (One could try to build the system on a more modern 32-bit system, then change the kernel to a non-PAE kernel --which might even require you to compile it yourself-- then transfer the built image/disk to the non-PAE system to run. Lot of work, though...)
  • Ready to switch to LMDE or SolydK

    Tired of losing stuff every time I upgrade Mint. Linux Backup tool is good but does not account for WINE and gdebi installations. If I run the Backup Software Selection of the LB tool on my current LM13 install and install SolydK or LMDE as my base Linux install will all of my current apps be included when I run the Restore Software Selection? As for my /home I can save that remotely and copy it back into the new installation whether LMDE or SolydK.
    Last time I looked at switching to LMDE I hadn't heard of SolydXK so I thank you for your clear explanations of the pros and cons of BOTH.
    • ...bunkport

      I tried LMDE on my new laptop, and it was sadly a complete disaster. SolydK however, everything (minus my scanner) worked perfectly after getting the updates.
      No matter what I did, I couldn't get SolydK to crash or freeze.
  • Mint - Ubuntu done better

    Thank you for the brief comparison of the Petra distros. I will be directing a few folks to your column. Personally, I like the Petra Cinnamon release best, although I am using older versions of the xfce and Mate versions of Mint 13 on two ancient T42 Thinkpads. I wouldn't mind upgrading these to something more recent, so I too am interested in distros for non-PAE machines. Apparently there is a way to upgrade the T42 without going to a 486-kernel, but I don't have a clue as to how to do that. Being an old fart on limited income, I can't see myself buying a new Thinkpad anytime soon to replace these antiques, although I do love the ThinkPad keyboard and can't type nearly so well on my newer, cheaper machines.

    Regardless of the flavour, Mint continues to be terrific. Clem is the best!
  • Installation difficulties...

    First let me say that I LOVE Linux Mint! It's has the best of Ubuntu, like easily available driver updates and patches, but in a much more friendly and user-ready interface.

    That said, trying to install Linux Mint 16 on my new Toshiba Satellite C55t-A laptop has proven impossible so far. Changed the BIOS settings to boot from DVD first and even changed to legacy boot... which got the installation further, but still it would not install the X-desktop, KDE in my case. I will keep plugging along... but just know that if you have this laptop you're probably going to lose some hair before you get Mint installed.
  • Installation problem

    My desktop is running XP, AMD Sempron (tm) Processor 3100+ 1.8 GHZ, Radeon 7200 display adapter, 1.00 GB RAM.

    I'm an XP user trying to move to Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon using an USB flash drive. Linux boots fine from the USB drive. However, on the Linux desktop, when I double click the icon to install Linux on my computer (or click any of the applications on the menu), a black window opens up with absolutely nothing in it.

    Any suggestions on how to solve this would be appreciated. Thanks.