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Innovation

Linux Mint (Debian) 201109 Gnome and Xfce Final Release

I jumped the gun a few weeks ago when I wrote about the release of Linux Mint Debian Edition 201108 in both Gnome and Xfce desktop versions. That was the Release Candidate, but I thought that the state of the distribution (and the difficulty of installation and updating) at that time were sufficient to justify jumping to a Release Candidate at that time.
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor on

I jumped the gun a few weeks ago when I wrote about the release of Linux Mint Debian Edition 201108 in both Gnome and Xfce desktop versions. That was the Release Candidate, but I thought that the state of the distribution (and the difficulty of installation and updating) at that time were sufficient to justify jumping to a Release Candidate at that time. The good news now is that the final release of Linux Mint 201109 Gnome and Xfce was made available over the weekend.

I have written about Linux Mint enough times, and recently enough, that I don't think it is necessary to re-hash all of the advantages again here. I will only say that Linux Mint is in my opinon one of the absolute top two or three Linux distributions in terms of quality, content, support and continued development.

I have installed the new release from scratch on pretty much everything that I own right now - including my trusted old friend the HP 2133 Mini-Note. The details of those installations might be of interest to others, so I will include them here. But before doing so, let me say very clearly one more time, so there can be no misunderstanding, the "problems" that I mention below are nothing more than a fly in the ointment. With the exception of the "ClickPad" on the HP Pavilion dm1, every one of them could be fixed in a minute or less, and I consider the ClickPad to be an HP (Synaptics) problem, not a Linux problem.

- Samsung NF310 (netbook): I believe that this installation is probably typical of many netbook systems today - Intel Atom CPU and graphics, Broadcom 4313 WiFi adapter and a typical touchpad with buttons. Installing both the Gnome and Xfce versions was reasonably fast and easy. The only "problem" is that the firmware for the Broadcom 4313 driver is not included in the base distribution. This means that you initially need some other kind of Internet connection (either wired or broadband), so that you can start the Package Manager and install the "firmware-brcm80211" package. Once that is done, reboot and WiFi will be working.

- Lenovo Ideapad S10-3s: This is similar to the Samsung, but with one significant additional problem. Not only does it require the "firmware-brcm80211" package for the Broadcom WiFi adapter, but there is also a problem with the "acer_wmi" driver somehow interfering with the operation of the Broadcom driver. This means that after installing the firmware package you also need to go to the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf and add a line that says "blacklist acer_wmi". Then reboot and WiFi will be working. The really good news with this system is that the Synaptics ClickPad works very well with this Linux Mint release. If only it were this way with other distributions, and/or with other versions of the ClickPad.

HP Pavilion dm1-3105ez: This system is very different from the previous two netbooks in a lot of ways. First, it is somewhere between a typical netbook and a small notebook. Second, it has an AMD cpu and ATI graphic adapter. Third, it has a Ralink Wifi adapter. Fourth, and worst, it has a newer Synaptics ClickPad. All of those things make installing Linux on it a challenge - but for the most part, the new Linux Mint distribution is up to the challenge. The CPU and graphic adapter are no problem at all. It uses the FOSS radeon driver by default, but you can opt to use the proprietary ATI driver if you need much better graphic performance. The Ralink WiFi adapter is a bit more of a problem, because the driver for that is not in the kernel that is used in the base release. This is where the excellent new system for update management in Linux Mint comes in handy; if you switch to the "incoming" repositories and then update, you will get the 3.0 kernel, which has the ralink adapter included, and this problem is solved. The final problem, however, has no solution yet. The blasted ClickPad is not recognized as such by the Linux Mint release, so the right button does not work, and ordinary things like click-and-drag range from maddeningly jumpy and unpredictable to outright impossible. This is extremely frustrating - the HP is my favorite system right now, and Linux Mint Debian is my favorite distribution right now, but in order to use the two of them together for anything serious, or for any amount of time, I simply have to use an external mouse. Grrr.

HP 2133 Mini-Note: I haven't updated this little gem in a while, because it has been running very well and has been in use by a variety of my friends and neighbors, so I didn't want to fool around with it. It can be particularly difficult because of the VIA C7-M cpu, Chrome9 graphics and Broadcom 4311 WiFi adapter, too. But it was home for the weekend, so I decided to go ahead and install this new release - and I'm glad that I did. The new Mint Installer had no trouble with it, whereas a lot of other distributions either don't have the correct driver for the VIA Chrome9 display adapter or they don't display properly at such a low resolution. Once again the firmware for the Broadcom WiFi adapter wasn't included in the base distribution, but this time it is a "b43" firmware package that is required. Install that and reboot, and all is well. The very good news is that as yet I have seen no hint of the previous problems with the b43 driver hanging the system, and the data throughput is very good. As a result of this I didn't even bother trying to install the STA/wl driver. As far as I am concerned this system is now loaded and stable again, and ready to continue with the Yeoman's duty it has been doing up until now.

Fujitsu Lifebook S6510: This is the most"standard" laptop/notebook system that I own, and as I expected it was the easiest to install. Nothing special to do, no additional packages to install, nothing to be adjusted after installation, it just installs (very quickly) and works (very well). I use this system on my desk with a docking station and dual displays (the laptop display at 1280x800 and an external display at 1280x1024), and it all works beautifully.

The bottom line: I have been recommending Linux Mint for quite some time now - I happen to have gotten back an ASUS netbook from a friend over the weekend which was loaded with Linux Mint 8, and had been in daily use without a hiccup for a couple of years. The only change now is that I will be recommending the Mint Debian editions first, rather then the Mint Ubuntu editions. If you haven't tried Linux Mint yet, this would be a very good time to do so.

jw

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