This is my new desktop. I am confident of keeping it till the next the LTS two years away.
Long time GNOME users were a worried lot because of GNOME 3 with its GNOME Shell. Ubuntu was not helping matters with its Unity desktop either. Thankfully, Linux Mint, led by Clem, stepped up to the challenge. They provided not one, but two alternatives to those fleeing from GNOME Shell and Unity – MATE, for those wanting to stick with GNOME 2.3x and Cinnamon, for those wanting to try GNOME 3 with a classical desktop layout.
I was willing to move to GNOME 3, but abandoning existing desktop metaphors and work-flows sounded too much of a hassle. Sue me! I was also suspicious of my three-year old laptop’s ability to run these modern desktops.
I decided to use MATE at first. However I ran into a few issues.
- There was noticeable flickering in the installer slide-show. This did not inspire confidence in the compositor or whatever component it is that takes the output from all desktop windows and renders it on your desktop.
- The installer crashed once. It has been a long time since a Linux installer crashed on me!
- MATE developers renamed various apps to maintain compatibility with GNOME 3. I found my myself double-guessing and hunting for apps. Though I agree – this wouldn’t be an issue after a few days of usage.
- Some functionality was missing. Some applets and utilities were missing. Expected and forgiven, given that it is a new project with less developer resources than GNOME.
- I missed the Scale and Expo Compiz plug-ins. Don’t ask me which does what. One exposes all the windows on a particular workspace and the other exposes all the workspaces.
In general, the environment felt neither solid nor familiar. If I was going to poke around and keep crossing my fingers, I ‘d rather use Cinnamon! At least I would be happy using a new, shiny piece of software. And boy, did it work out! I am very happy with Cinnamon. None of the four issues I mentioned above appeared in Cinnamon.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns though. Cinnamon has some issues to clear out before it can dethrone GNOME 2.3x. Underneath Cinnamon is not GNOME 2.3x but GNOME 3.x. No matter how much Cinnamon is tuned and tweaked, it will never be GNOME 2.3x. Users will find that this is for the better.
Cinnamon is so good now, that after a week of usage, I actually have no complaints. All the issues I have are subjective.
- Cinnamon is not feature heavy. Its developers should resist the temptation and user pressure to create a resource hogging Compiz clone. We don’t need rotating cubes, wobbly windows or fire trails after the mouse pointer.
- Cinnamon’s implementation of Scale and Expo absolutely ROCK!
- I actually prefer the Cinnamon Menu to the earlier Mint Menu.
- I counted three tool-tip styles – Cinnamon, GNOME 3 and GTK+ theme. There are that many systems working together (whew!) to give you this awesome desktop. Come on guys, Linux Mint is now at the stage where you should have a OCD about such things. Get all of ’em styles linked and synced!
- Some notification area icons (e.g. for Transmission and GNote) take up almost double the usual space. This doesn’t happen with others like Pidgin or Firetray for Thunderbird. So, is there a problem here or not?
- The panels disappear when the
gksudo prompt appears. It is disconcerting – the first time it appeared, I though Cinnamon had crashed.
- I could not take screen-shots using the Print Screen button when a menu was in use in Pidgin. I don’t recollect this being a problem in GNOME 2.3x.
- The reason I wanted to take a screen-shot was because the menu was disappearing below the Cinnamon panels – rendering the top-most and lower-most items difficult to reach.
- It would be nice to have a placeholder applet on the panel to mark hot-spot corners, for users using the classic GNOME layout.
- Applets need a ‘gravity’ sensor. For instance, check the cinnamon settings applet in the screen-shot. The icon (^) is fine if placed on the lower panel. It should have rotated 180 degrees when placed on the upper panel.
- Cinnamon’s most exciting feature – applets and extensions – could be its breakout feature. It already has some sort of quality control and user feedback to up-vote good extensions and applets. There is also a PPA for Cinnamon extensions, applets and themes – users can easily and regularly upgrade Cinnamon components.
- I tried the Coverflow AltTab extension and a timer applet, but had to remove them when Cinnamon started crashing just as I was getting down to work for the first time on the new setup. There are no issues running Cinnamon as it came out of the box. May be these new applets and extensions need some more testing. May be Cinnamon needs better crash handling – something like Firefox’s Crash Reporter perhaps?
Despite these issues, Linux Mint with Cinnamon is a solid bet and I can’t wait to see how it matures in the future.
On the OS front, I have been more forgiving towards the default apps that come with the base install. About the only change I did was substituting Totem and GNOME MPlayer with SMPlayer. Everything else is as it came out of the box.