Monday, April 22, 2013

Linux Mint Debian

I came across a review of Linux Mint Debian Edition recently and decided to try it out. The review is quite comprehensive as to how Mint installs, what it looks like, and the software it comes with, so I'm just going to add a few points of my own.

Linux Mint Debian Edition is based on "tested snapshots of Debian Testing", so you get more recent software than Debian Stable, but with a more stable system than Testing. Debian Testing has been frozen for months as the bugs are knocked outgoing towards the new stable version, and even before that it had been pretty stable for many months. No surprise that Debian Mint is also very stable. I don't know what it will be like when Testing is unfrozen and a cascade of new updates arrives. It would have been more interesting to test it then. Maybe I'll try it again in a couple of months when Testing really is ahead of Stable.

The Desktop I tried was Cinnamon, which is Gnome 3 molded into the shape of Gnome 2, or a classic Windows desktop paradigm. Debian Testing may be going to become Stable in a few days, but Cinnamon still inherits a bug I've seen for a year or so using Gnome 3 in Debian Testing. A blue artifact appears in the top left corner of windows, probably a bug in my graphics card with whatever Gnome 3 and Cinnamon use for compositing.

Cinnamon is going to be perfect for anybody coming from Windows XP, or Gnome 2, and who wants to stick with the same desktop paradigm. It looks good and works smoothly as installed.

However, it does adopt the drawbacks of the old desktop paradigm: redundant icons with duplicated functionality and inefficiency in a cluttered window switching mechanism.

The panel has a launcher for Firefox. OK, convenient, but when you launch Firefox, you see the same Firefox icon in the window button next to it. Clicking the launcher button again launches a new Firefox Window.

Windows 7 has shown that there's a much more efficient way to use program icons in the panel: as a launcher and window button.

Open a lot of applications and the window buttons in the panel soon become small and unreadable- just like in Windows XP or Gnome 2. There doesn't even seem to be a way to group windows.

Gnome 3 came about to take advantage of modern graphics cards, whereas the old Windows XP paradigm, which actually dates back to Windows 95, dates from a time when computers didn't have this graphics performance. Windows 95 couldn't show you thumbnail images of open windows when you hovered over an application icon, but Windows 7 can. Gnome 3 can do it with a hot corner or Alt Tab, so why can't Cinnamon do it? Cinnamon enforces the non-use of functionality that is available in Gnome 3, retaining a drawback that dates from seventeen years ago and a time of very limited computer hardware capability.

C'mon Cinnamon, get with the 21st century! Let's have a modern window switching mechanism.

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