Is your favorite Linux desktop Cinnamon, MATE or Xfce? Or are you longing for something different and potentially better?
Then one of your best options is the upgrade to Linux Mint 21 “Vanessa” released on July 30th. It comes in a choice of Ubuntu- or Debian-base flavors.
It is an important step for me to make this recommendation. Once my daily Linux driver, I had a major fallout with this distribution several years ago, when an upgrade caused some troubling issues, leading to unpleasant reactions to — and no solution at all — Linux Mint tech support. from the community.
I then jumped into Linux Mint, a near-clone of Phaeron OS, and was a happy user until the distro’s developers made a radical design change and moved away from the traditional Cinnamon desktop.
So I jumped to distros again. I had reviewed the then new Cinnamon Remix distro released by an independent Linux developer. My go-to Linux distro became Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, later renamed Cinabuntu. I’ve been very happy with its performance and usability options since then.
The ability to pick and choose operating system and configuration options is one of the shining beads you can polish your way to with Linux. It is not possible with Windows or macOS to be able to quickly install a replacement OS with the same look and feel.
However, with the release of Linux Mint 21 my Linux reviewer got the best of me. I was curious what I was missing.
I have detected some features that are not available in my current Cinnamon version. Those new features are in the MATE and Xfce versions as well. LM 21 versions include the latest versions of the three supported desktop environments: Cinnamon 5.4, Xfce 4.16, and MATE 1.26.
Read on to see what’s pulling me back to Linux Mint. Since Cinnamon is my favorite desktop, I focused on that version for this review.
hello old friend
The Vanessa release rekindled my appreciation for how tightly knit Linux Mint is as a computing platform. From the initial loading of the live session DVD to the impeccable installation, I was up and running in less than 30 minutes.
The welcome screen is becoming a standard setup routine for Linux installations. They can all take lessons on how to do this correctly using Linux Mint as an example. Even for experienced Linux users, Linux Mint’s approach is fast and convenient to perform all first-run tasks.
The left column panel of the panel provides general information, documentation, and a great index for completing the first steps. This is especially useful for new users who are unfamiliar with Linux in general – and LM in particular.
The main window area walks you through each step of updating system components and basic desktop configuration. Each section briefly describes what is included. The green themed launch button sets each part of the process in motion.
Steps include desktop color selection, choosing a traditional or modern panel layout, updating drivers and system components, setting up system settings, and software manager. The process also includes activating the built-in firewall, which is an item that many users overlook.
The Linux Mint 21 welcome screen guides you through all the setup steps after installation, and it’s also a handy reminder that updates need to be made from time to time.
Design and usability features are one of the reasons I favor the Cinnamon desktop. It has one of the most detailed and organized configuration panels of any Linux distribution.
The System Settings panel keeps all the configuration options in one place. But unlike other desktop layouts with very few options, Linux Mint organizes all system controls into four general categories. In total, 40 icons hide related subcategories until you click an icon to open it.
KDE Plasma is the only other desktop with such an amount of configuration options. But that design is a series of separate settings panels that scatter controls and user options across a lot of menu locations.
While the configuration options available in the MATE and Xfce versions are less extensive, they still offer the ability to customize the look and feel to suit your computing needs.
Linux Mint does a better job than other desktops in how it handles the screen design and usability aspects. It has a wide range of quick access tools called desktops that reside on the desktop screen. Its use of applets that reside on the lower panel adds flexibility.
lm also provides a collection of extensions that provide even more usability options (similar to those available in the KDE Plasma desktop). This combination of features is a solid reason to try this distro.
The desktop configuration options available in the MATE and Xfce versions are less extensive than in Cinnamon. They still offer the ability to have the same look and feel as your computing needs.
under the hood
Linux Mint 21 is based on Ubuntu 22.04 and provides a full WIMP display like Windows, Icon, Menu, Pointer. This is a Long Term Support (LTS) release supported until 2027.
Vanessa, which continues the LM’s imagination for naming all releases with female names ending in the letter “A”, is packed with notable improvements in performance, compatibility, and stability. It ships with the Linux kernel 5.15 LTS.
Other changes include a new NTFS file system driver that simplifies interaction with Windows partitions, improvements to the default EXT4 file system, as well as improved hardware support, security patches and bug fixes.
A major Bluetooth change to the LM Blueman circuitry replaces the Blueberry app, which relies on GNOME-desktop plumbing. Like Blueberry, Blueman is desktop-agnostic and integrates well across all environments. It depends on the standard bluez stack and works universally, including from the command line.
Blueman Manager and Tray Icons have features that were not previously available in Blueberry. It handles more information for connection monitoring or troubleshooting Bluetooth issues and brings better connectivity to the headset and audio profiles.
Linux Mint 21 classic Cinnamon desktop design sports a favorites column, application category list, and a changing sublist of installed titles.
pain point solution
Welcome to Vanessa. Its lack in earlier releases was a usability issue. To address this, a new XApp (Linux Mint Exclusive Application) project called xapp-thumbnailers was developed for Linux Mint 21.
Process Monitor is a pain point solution for me. It places a special icon in the system tray when automated tasks are running in the background. Such tasks can slow down the performance of the system until it is completed. This new monitor is a silent alert that explains computer slowdowns.
Timeshift was an independent project for backing up and restoring OSes. The producer abandoned the application. LM took over the maintenance of Timeshift prior to the release of the LM 21. Timeshift is now an XApp.
One immediate benefit is the change in the way rsync mode works. It now calculates the space required for the next OS snapshot storage. If there is less than 1 GB of free space on the disk when the snapshot is executed, it quits proceeding.
Another pain point remedy is how LM21 now handles package removal. This prevents removal from the main menu (right-click, Uninstall) if the evaluation shows that other programs will be affected. This triggers an error message and stops the operation.
If no damage is found to major system components, uninstalling an application from the main menu also removes dependencies for applications that were installed automatically and are no longer needed.
Scale and Expo window views in Cinnamon are triggered by heated corners and applets on the lower panel.
The computer hardware requirements for Linux Mint 21 have not changed. You need a modern computer because LM is not as light on system resources as it used to be. That means a box with a 64-bit processor, at least 2GB of RAM, and 15GB of free space.
If you need help installing Linux Mint 21, the Linux Mint website has a comprehensive installation guide. But that shouldn’t be a possibility. Installation Engine is well polished. Most of my computers run multiple partitions, which usually forces manual intervention.
The LM 21 installer does not stumble. It simply asked where to put the OS. The installer handled all the splitting and adjustments in the background.
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