📅 July 13, 2015
I recall the days when many Linux distributions had reached a seemingly level of perfection in the form of Ubuntu 10.10 and Linux Mint 10. They installed flawlessly, were incredibly easy to use, and new users understood them intuitively. That time was a Linux-user’s dream come true. Even Compiz was a simple on/off switch experience in Linux Mint 10. Talk about ease of use!
Then, Ubuntu 11.04 was released along with Unity, GNOME 3, and other significant changes that threw Linux back into the dark ages of difficulties, incompatibilities, and general annoyances.
This has improved over time, but one distribution that has maintained ease of use for new users was Linux Mint. However, being an Ubuntu-based distribution, it suffered identical setbacks, though not as many.
On the positive side, Linux Mint has always made ease-of-use a priority. Whether it be installation, hardware compatibility, or everyday usage, Linux Mint wins (even over Ubuntu), and I find it to be the best distribution currently available for both advanced and beginning Linux users.
When Linux Mint 17 was released, I thought, “At last! A Linux distribution that is close to the level of perfection I was accustomed to in Ubuntu 10.10 and Linux Mint 10 before Ubuntu 11.04 messed things up.” Mint 17 was close, but not quite there yet. Then, Linux Mint 17.1 was released with further improvements.
Linux Mint 17.2 was released a short time ago, and after using it extensively for my main system these past few weeks, I think 17.2 finally (almost) reaches the level of reliability and ease of use that the legendary 10 version provided. I say almost because Compiz can still be a chore to enable (In the MATE version. Cinnamon does not support Compiz effects.), but overall, Linux Mint excels in many other areas.
What’s New and What’s Good?
The Linux Mint web site provides the best source of updates, but here are a few thoughts about what I like based upon my personal use:
I am using the Cinnamon version because it has always provided smooth, snappy, reliable usage. A MATE version is also available for those who prefer the traditional GNOME 2 look and feel. Both are good, but if using Cinnamon, Linux Mint 17.2 Cinnamon installs the 2.6 version possessing better reliability and improvements, such as a plugin manager for Nemo.
Polished and Fixed
At first glance, Linux Mint 17.2 looks the same as the previous 17.1, but the subtle differences gradually become apparent. Bootup time and opening and closing programs feels slightly snappier, but if you already have a fast system, then this will make little difference. Many tweaks, refinements, and fixes become apparent after using the system for while, and the result lends a touch that says, “This is what happens when we have more time to fine-tune the operating system.” The improvements are good and provide added polish in dull areas.
Streamlined System Settings
Linux Mint’s System Settings interface has undergone a significant change. It is better organized and more logical than before. Some settings are changed and might be found in alternate locations, but with time, these changes make sense and improve its usefulness.
For example, the Themes dialog looks different from before, and it is easier to use than the previous configuration.
While on the system settings issue, 17.2 includes a variety of new wallpapers. I think Linux Mint’s default wallpapers are some of the prettiest to be shipped with any operating system, and 17.2 provides yet more eyecandy while including wallpapers from previous Mint releases. The cumulative wallpapers offer quite a selection!
Instead of a single dialog, the Backgrounds dialog is split into two parts for ease of use: Images and Settings. Images allows you to choose a background image, and Settings allows you to select a slideshow, gradients, and the aspect. Small, appreciated changes like this are sprinkled throughout Mint 17.2.
Based on LTS 14.04
Mint 17.2 uses the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS repository base for updates, not the new 15.04. I find this good news because 14.04 is a long-term release, and 14.04 works so well for me that I find little reason to upgrade to 15.04. Whatever repository and software you have now with 14.04 should continue to run with 17.2.
Login Shows User Icon
In Linux Mint 17 and 17.1, my avatar would never appear on the login screen. Only the generic icon. Try as I might, I could never resolve this issue. After researching the problem, it appears to have been a bug. After all, avatars appear fine in other distributions, such as Xubuntu 14.04.
Linux Mint 17.2 finally fixes the missing user icon issue. Whenever I change the user icon for a user, Linux Mint 17.2 will show it on the login screen. To me, this is a significant improvement.
Worth the Upgrade?
Yes, most certainly. The one-tenth increment from 17.1 to 17.2 might not sound like a huge improvement, but it is. The bug fixes, user interface polish, tweaks, and speed boosts make 17.2 a more significant upgrade than an upgrade from 17 to 17.1.
Without a doubt, this is an upgrade worth making, and I have been happy. I can actually tell a difference during everyday use. Nothing major, but the tweaks bring noticeable changes for the better.
For those who have never tried Linux or Linux Mint before, I would certainly recommend 17.2 Cinnamon since it feels the most modern. MATE is good too, so try both and keep the distribution you like best. For new Linux users, I recommend 17.2 over any other distribution since it is the easiest to get into and has the least hassle and best hardware compatibility.
Linux Mint 17.2 — definitely a worthy upgrade and (almost) the best yet.