Adventures With Linux Mint 15, Kernel 3.10.16, and Cinnamon 2.0

Updates to Linux Mint 15 are usually pain-free, but this latest update turned out to be a hassle for my system. Cinnamon 2.0 was released a few days ago, and, like any fan of Linux Mint 15 running Cinnamon, it called out to me in a booming voice saying, “INSTALL ME NOW!”

I also installed kernel 3.10.16 from the Ubuntu mainline PPA to have the latest stable kernel. After all, why not? It has always worked in the past. So, all of these updates were performed together, and what follows is a joyous adventure into solving the great computing questions: “What went wrong and how do I fix it without reinstalling the entire operating system?”

The Solution

After hours of twiddling and tinkering, it boiled down to a simple solution that fixed (almost) everything: Open the Update Manager and install the updates by clicking the “Install Updates” button.

Yes, yes. So, simple. However, I had used the terminal to update the system with the new kernel and Cinnamon 2.0. Using sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get upgrade, many updates were installed, so naturally, I assumed that Cinnamon 2.0 had been installed when, in fact, only a partial update had been performed. This is what was causing the Cinnamon fallback errors.

The Update Manager should show all of the Cinnamon 2.0 files that are available for update. This includes all of the Cinnamon 2.0 files that I thought had been installed previously. Clicking “Install Updates” and then rebooting the system solved the problem, and the original Cinnamon desktop returned without crashing or reverting to fallback mode.

The Problem

What happened exactly? First, I installed kernel 3.10.16, and then promptly installed the Linux Mint 15 updates from a command line using sudo apt-get update and then sudo apt-get upgrade. This has always worked in the past, so it was only natural to assume that it would work this time too.

Upon rebooting, Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon always crashed, reverted to fallback mode, and a dialog appeared asking to restart Cinnamon. However, restarting Cinnamon had no effect. The same dialog reappeared repeatedly.

Changing the session to software rendering mode only produced a black screen with a mouse cursor, so I had to fix the system from within fallback mode, which is a completely different and limited desktop.

I installed the XFCE desktop environment, logged in using the XFCE session, and the system worked fine. It was definitely a Cinnamon issue.

This problem was consistent on every single Linux Mint 15 system that I performed the updates on. It could be that my package configuration settings were at fault, but for some reason, Cinnamon 2.0 never installed completely when I thought it had. Apparently, some Cinnamon files were missing when they should have been installed, and this was causing the problems.

Other quirks involved Cinnamon-specific issues. For example, the Cinnamon System Settings window never opened, so it was impossible to use the GUI to make system changes to areas such as drivers, themes, and power settings.

The Journey

Thinking that Cinnamon 2.0 had installed properly, I checked every other part of the system. Maybe the kernel was at fault? The systems were reverted to their previous kernels (going as far back as the original Linux Mint 15 installation kernel), but they had no effect. No matter what kernel was used, Cinnamon always crashed and reverted to fallback mode.

Maybe the video drivers were at fault? Cinnamon has crashed before due to incompatible video drivers, so this guess made sense. After all, installing a new kernel sometimes requires a video driver reinstallation. However, it had no effect either. Hours were spent uninstalling and reinstalling AMD Catalyst and NVIDIA drivers on various systems. Proprietary drivers, default video drivers, Nouveau disabling, CTRL+ALT+F1, terminal, GUI mode, multiple reboots, config file editing, xorg.conf tweaking — you name it. Every combination of video driver installation only made matters worse and had no effect.

After exhausting the trial and error brainstorming session, it was time to rethink the process. The most noticeable consistency besides fallback mode was that nothing Cinnamon-specific would open. System Settings refused to work. Could it be that there was something wrong with Cinnamon 2.0?

Upon opening Update Manager, there it was: A entire list of Cinnamon 2.0 files available for installation and waiting to be installed. Wait a minute? Had they not been installed in the first step? What happened? Why did they not install from the terminal? Again, it could be a misconfigured settings issue on my part, but I am not sure since the same update settings were used for all updates in the past without problems.

Apparently, the Cinnamon problems were happening because the terminal update removed some Cinnamon 1.8 files, but the newer Cinnamon 2.0 files never installed. Kind of like a hole that never gets filled up. Thus, the errors.

Installing all of the updates and rebooting fixed the problem, and Cinnamon has been working fine ever since.

Cinnamon 2.0 Surprises

Cinnamon 2.0 is not bad at all and I like to see improvements, but personally, I cannot see any real difference on the surface. It appears just like the previous Cinnamon with a few changes here and there. However, be prepared that installing Cinnamon 2.0 on Linux Mint 15 will reset all of the previous Cinnamon settings. At least it did for me.

In all systems, Cinnamon resets to its default settings. Power settings, fonts, themes, wallpaper — everything — was reset. I had to readjust all settings on all systems to return to my previous configurations, and this increased the update time.

Bug fixes and enhancements are always a good thing, so Cinnamon 2.0 looks like a good thing now that it is installed. It performs the same as before but with more fixes and less quirkiness in some areas (according to the Cinnamon 2.0 revisions).

What About the Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook?

The touchpad on the S3 Ultrabook no longer works as well as it did. Specifically, I can no longer tap on the touchpad to register mouse button clicks. To perform left and right clicks, I must physically press into the touchpad. This takes longer to do compared to lightly tapping on the surface, plus, it is noisier.

And this leads to another lesson reminder: If too many updates are installed at once, it becomes harder to isolate a problem.

It might not even be the fault of Cinnamon 2.0 at all. Maybe kernel 3.10.16 wrecked the touchpad by introducing an incompatibility of some sort. However, 3.10.16 might not be the culprit since it was purged from Synaptic, and the system was reverted to an earlier 3.10.13 kernel with Cinnamon 2.0. The touchpad was not fixed.

How about the video driver? The default video driver was restored, but the touchpad still refused to function as before. This is a puzzler, and it will require more investigation. However, just getting to this point was a success that took much time. Maybe extra touchpad software needs to be installed.

On the good side, all shortcuts involving xbindkeys still work as before, so the screen brightness can be adjusted.

Since the Cinnamon settings were reset, all of them had to be readjusted too. The default Cinnamon 2.0 settings are not terrible, but I prefer mine since they are custom-tailored.


And there it is. A working Cinnamon 2.0 system in Linux Mint 15 using kernel 3.10.16. Now that I am aware of these issues, further Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon 2.0 updates are performed easily.


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