2017-07-24

Long-Term Review: Linux Mint 18.2 "Sonya" MATE

Installed System: Main Screen + Xed
A little over two weeks ago, I made the decision on what Linux distribution to install and use full-time on my personal laptop. I chose Linux Mint 18.2 "Sonya" MATE, because I felt that while it could do a bit better for total newbies in terms of usability (as some usability features have regressed since a couple of years ago), it has been a reliable and known quantity for me, and I figured that if I could generally use the live session without much hassle, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch (no pun intended) to imagine that the installed session would likely be workable. As I've covered most of the experiences of installing and using programs and getting around the desktop in my review of the live session, this post will be relatively short, covering only the salient points of the installation and some of the changes I made after the installation. Follow the jump to see more.

I used the same live USB made with the "dd" command to boot the live session, from which I started the installation process, after carefully backing up all of my files, configuration settings, et cetera from my previous installation of Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce. The installer has remained essentially the same for the last several years, gaining incremental improvements every so often; this includes the screens for selecting the language, locale, user details, and so on. The only part that required some mindfulness was selecting the right partition for installation and formatting it correctly, but as I had done this several times before, this was less of an issue for me. The whole installation process only took 15 minutes. After that finished and I rebooted into the installed system, it took about 2 hours to copy over all of my relevant user and program data back to my laptop, while I simultaneously installed extra programs that I use regularly that are not installed already (like Inkscape and Steam).

After those 2.5 hours, I was basically back to using my computer as normal, as if nothing else had really changed. All of the programs that I installed were working as desired. In particular, Mozilla Firefox had all of my bookmarks and other preferences, and I was able to verify (by making a call) that Skype could recognize my laptop's webcam and mic correctly. I turned off some other programs, like the Bluetooth daemon, that I didn't use but were unnecessarily consuming resources. I also installed the "Elementary" icon theme and "Numix" window border theme, which I have been using in conjunction with the "Mint-Y Darker" GTK+ theme to produce (in my view) a pleasing aesthetic that tastefully updates what I was using before.

The day that I installed it, I tried to change the desktop background twice; while the first attempt worked, the second attempt caused the whole system to freeze (and I couldn't use 'CTRL'+'ALT'+'BACKSPACE' or 'CTRL'+'ALT'+'F1' to get out of it), requiring me to forcibly restart my computer. Thankfully, that was the only time that happened. Also, it seems like some of the latency in the live session was actually my laptop having trouble with even basic compositing effects, so I've turned all of that off, to keep things quick, and because it's just a frivolous bit of subtle eye-candy. The only side effect is that some animations that require compositing to render smoothly produce small momentary artifacts. That aside, my laptop, which previously used to run hot from time to time (when I ran Compiz on Linux Mint 13 LTS "Maya" Xfce), with the fan running fast and emitting a high-pitched whine, seems to do so much less frequently now, and the system seems to boot and generally run faster too. Overall, this distribution has been running smoothly overall, and the fact that I've been able to get it to my liking so fast has meant that it has generally stayed out of my way, never substantively reminding me that I've been running a new distribution for just 2 weeks. Given that, my recommendation from the live review intensifies.

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