With some unanticipated free time around the new year, I finally updated the operating system on my computer. I’ve run Linux Mint since I built the desktop (about six years ago, now), and really like it–it isn’t too far away from Windows (sorry, no experience wiht the current Apple system, so I can’t compare), and doesn’t require use of Terminal, but you can certainly do things the quick way with text commands if you like. I started out with Mint 14, and updated to 17 after that came out. I finally got around to updating to 19.1, which is a definite improvement.
Probably the most notable update (at least for me) is with the repository (that is, the programs that are easily installable from within the system itself). Lots and lots of new stuff is in there (and I’m still stumbling across more). One notable inclusion is Skype. Previously, you had to download the tarball and install it that way, then Microsoft dropped support for earlier versions of Mint (or something happened–I couldn’t get it to work, but since it isn’t entirely essential, I didn’t bother with tracing the problem). Now, with it in the repository, it’s just a click to install. There are also more social media applications, if that’s your way of interacting with the world.
Additionally, someone reverse engineered the software needed to make my Canon printer/scanner work in Mint. Last time, I had to hunt for the drivers in a form Linux could use (from Canon’s Asian site) and do some work in Terminal to try and get it to work. Now, a developer put together the back end to allow the printer to work in Linux without needing to do a lot of manual work. I just installed that program, and the computer found it, both for printing and scanning. A definite win.
In addition to updating the system, I went from the Cinnamon edition to MATE. The main difference, as far as I can tell, is that Cinnamon has a slightly more polished graphics feel to it, while MATE is a bit more familar to long-time Linux users. On the upside, since it has less going on graphics wise, it appears to be slightly more stable. MATE is certainly appears more bare-bones, but that’s not necessarily a problem. Sorry, not being a deep Linux geek, I can’t give much more than those impressions–I do understand that the file manager and menu programs are different, but functionality seems to be identical.
Finally, I made the leap and put in a home partition, which should make future upgrades (or switching back to Cinnamon) easier. In essence, what this does is puts my home folder (where all your personal and working files go) in a parition on the hard drive, rather than as a folder within the OS. When I go to update the system again (or install a different edition of Mint, or a different flavor of Linux), I should be able to keep the home partion and tell the system to use that as the home folder, rather than creating a new, empty one. The mistake I made this time around was I tried to create the home partition before updating the system, and seem to have misnamed it (or named it properly, when the system wanted to create a folder of that same name). When I installed the new system, it wouldn’t launch because it was confused by the existence of possibly two home folders on the parition. After all, what would a system update be without a little drama and at least one re-install. After re-installing, allowing the system to create the folder on the partion, and copying all my files into it, things ran (and continue to run) smoothly.
I’m still playing around with it, and making minor tweaks, but overall, I like the update, and am pleased with how easy it was (slight misstep with the home folder aside). Really, it only took a couple of hours, and most of that was hands-off while files were being copied. Well worth the investment.