What’s holding the Linux desktop back?
Linus Torvalds looks to Chromebooks and Android for the future of the Linux desktop, while Linux Mint developers aren’t happy with each other.
With more work than ever going into making the Linux desktop great for all users and gaming, it only seems appropriate that Mint is releasing its latest long-term support of its flagship operating system: Linux Mint 19.2, Lisa.
This is important because, as I’ve said before after looking at many Linux desktops year in and out, Linux Mint is the best of the breed. It’s easy to learn (even if you’ve never used Linux before), powerful, and with its traditional windows, icons, menus, and pointers (WIMP) interface, it’s simple to use.
As before, Linux Mint will run on pretty much any PC in your home, office, or junk closet. It only needs 2GB of RAM, but it can run with as little as 1GB. Sorry, Bill, 640K is not enough. You’ll also need at least 15GB of disk space, but 20GB recommended. Finally, you’ll need a graphics card and monitor that supports a 1024×768 resolution. I can find that kind of hardware at my local second-hand store.
As for 19.2 itself, the default Cinnamon 4.2 interface has been improved. With the latest release, Cinnamon uses significantly less RAM. Mint developers report on a test Virtualbox virtual machine, Cinnamon 4.2 uses approximately 67MB RAM (compared to 95MB RAM for Cinnamon 4.0_.
Cinnamon’s Muffin window manager has also been tuned up. Under the hood, other desktop components have been made lighter and more efficient. I’ve just started using this version, but I can already say that the desktop feels more spritely than before.
If you don’t care for Cinnamon, Mint 19.2 is also available with the MATE and Xfce desktops.
With more applications available both in their DEB package versions and in ready-to-run sandboxed Flatpak editions, Mint now lets you see both versions. Also, if you have two specific programs hiding under a generic name, Mint now enables you to see what’s what. For example, in your application menu, Xed is the default “Text Editor.” But, if you installed Gedit, you see two indistinguishable “Text Editor” entries. Now, you’ll see “Text Editor (Xed)” and “Text Editor (Gedit).”
The Backup Tool and the Software Manager now share the same cache. This cache also now tracks manually installed programs. This lets you see not only the applications, which were installed via the Software Manager, but those installed via other means.
If you, like me, use a lot of Windows or Samba-based network drives with Common Internet File System (CIFS)/Server Message Block (SMB), you’ll be glad to know Samba now automatically sets up the appropriate firewall rules. File permissions are also now automatically checked for a directory’s entire path, to make sure other users can access it. The result is it is much easier to set up network file directories for your Linux desktop.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that Samba in Mint has some connectivity problems with Windows file shares. To work around this issue, you must manually edit /etc/samba/smb.conf as the root user and add the following lines under “workgroup = WORKGROUP” in the “[global]” section:
- name resolve order = bcast host lmhosts wins
- client max protocol = NT1
If you get deep into Linux, the revised Update Manager gives you much more information on Linux kernels. It also makes it much easier to install and remove Linux kernels. If you use non-generic kernel, the Update Manager will let you switch between flavors. The Update Manager itself has been given a thorough clean-up and should work more smoothly even if you never touch a kernel.
Under the hood, the new Mint runs with Linux-firmware 1.173.8 and the Linux kernel 4.15.0-54. Mint 19.2 is based on Ubuntu 18.04.
For applications, Mint uses LibreOffice 6.0.7 for the office suite; Firefox 68.0.1 for its web browser, and Thunderbird 60.7.2 for email. If you want other applications, Mint makes it as easy as picking and clicking on alternative programs in the Mint Software Manager.
If you’re already using Mint, you’ll want to upgrade to this version — it’s easy. If you’ve been thinking about giving Linux a try, as the countdown to the end of Windows 7 remorselessly continues, this is the one to try. I’ll be writing more about that soon.