Day to day with Linux Mint 12

Linux Mint

OK, so it’s no secret I am a Mint addict. I just *had* to install Mint 12 as soon as I could, so I grabbed and installed the RC as soon as I could. What I would like to review here are my impressions after using Mint 12 for a while.

First, let me say that I am using the default desktop, so to speak. By that I mean I am using the Gnome 3 desktop that comes along with Mint 12 as the default. It is quite nice. Nicer than my previous encounters with Gnome 3 on Fedora a couple months ago. Mint did some of their smart decision making and included sane things like the shutdown menu and icons on the desktop, etc. These are all extensions to the standard Gnome 3 desktop, but are included by default in Mint 12 to help improve the desktop UI experience and, I gotta say, they hit the nail on the head once again. These improvements definitely make the desktop more pleasant and “normal” to use.

There were a couple things I tweaked for my personal preferences, and good thing too, cause what would I write about if there weren’t?

I removed the bottom taskbar. While this may be there to help folks make the Gnome 3 adjustment, the fact is that these days everything has one of those annoying widescreen displays with limited virtical resolution. Having a second taskbar eat that precious screen realestate up just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, no matter how knoble the reasoning behind it. Removing this is pretty simple. Hit your windows (meta) key and select the “Advanced Settings” icon, go to “Shell Extensions” and disable the “Menu” extension and the “Bottom Panel” extension. I promise you won’t miss them, especially if you have a widescreen display.

I made xterm my terminal that launched with the ctrl-alt-t command. I am not entirely sure why gnome-terminal seems so prevalent everywhere, but I, personally, find it ugly, bulky and slow. I do a *LOT* of work at the command line and I get easily annoyed when I request a terminal and have to wait for it to pop up. You may not have this problem, but try xterm, you might just like it 🙂 To do this, click your name in the upper right hand corner and select “System Settings”, then “Keyboard”, then “Shortcuts”. Under “Launchers” you will see a “Launch Terminal” setting. Click on the “ctrl-alt-t” text at the right and hit the backspace key. It should now say “Disabled”. Now head to the “Custom Shortcuts” and hit the + to add a new one. Type xterm in both boxes then apply. Click the “Disabled” text and it should say “New Shortcut”. Hit ctrl-alt-t, which should show up where it said “New Shortcut” and from there on in, you should be able to use that key combo to get your xterm open (quickly I might add).

The other thing I really like to have handy quick is my file browser. For Gnome 3 this is nautilus. Using the same process as xterm I added nautilus as a custom shortcut and assigned it to ctrl-alt-f (for files). Obviously, you can use this method to add all manner of goodies as shortcuts.

That brings me to my “issues” with Mint 12. There are so few they are barely worth mentioning, but in the interest of giving a somewhat impartial review, here goes.

Up in the top task bar you will see your network connection icon. If I go there and disable my wired connection, it works as it should, shutting off that connection and marking it so in that menu. The problem is turning it back on. I can click all day and that little “off” indicator never changes back to on. My connection will come back on, but it doesn’t say so there.

Bluetooth. This is not really a Mint issue – I see it everywhere, but I want a way to start my computer with Bluetooth *OFF*. If you have a laptop and don’t use your bluetooth, it eats the battery and it annoys me to have to turn it off after each startup. It would be great if I could somehow default it the other way around and start with it off and turn it on when I want it.

I really love Google Chrome. It’s a fantastic and fast web browser and I have become attached and accustomed to it. Getting it on Mint 12 is slightly problematic though. If you go to google’s website and download the package, you cannot use the gui package management tool to install it. You get permission errors. To install, open up your trusty xterm and run “sudo dpkg -i packagename.deb” on it. Then immediately afterward, “apt-get update && apt-get upgrade” which will install a couple dependencies you need.

Where the heck are the virtual desktops? I am SOOO used to pressing ctrl-alt left/right and getting to a new one I was monstrously frustrated to find they didn’t work the same way any longer. Even more so when I looked at the keyboard shortcuts which *PLAINLY* say they should. Sure, you can get a new desktop by hitting the windows (meta) key and selecting it at the right side, but that is inefficient. After bumbling around for a while I discovered that they are keyboard accessible by hitting ctrl-alt up/down now. Who knew?

Last thing is the screensaver. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the plain black screensaver just fine, I just want it to shut down the backlight too. It simply makes no sense to backlight a black screen. Without attacking this problem programmatically, it seems you must set your backlight to turn off after a period of time under the “Screen” setting and just leave your screen blank until that happens. Programmatically, however, I found a bit of a workaround, although I am still not completely happy with it. I created a script called “lockit” and in that script is this:

sleep 1 ; xset dpms force off ; gnome-screensaver-command -l

Put that somewhere you can run it, go to the keyboard shortcuts again and disable the “System”, “Lock Screen” shortcut. Add a new one to run your lockit program with the ctrl-alt-l keyboard shortcut and violla! When you hit the key combo, after 1 second your screen shuts off and your computer is locked. If you combine this with having your backlight turn off after a half hour or so (just in case you bump your mouse) it seems to work pretty well. What I really wanted to do, however, was run a background program (or daemon) that detected if the screensaver was active and just shut off the backlight, but, alas, there is no reliable way to do so that I have found.

That’s really it, folks, snigglets and all. I still love Mint and v12 is no exception. Great work once again Clem and team and if you all haven’t tried Mint yet, you sure are missing out!

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One Response to “Day to day with Linux Mint 12”

  1. linuxcanuck Says:

    I think the the place for Mint now is not as a GNOME 2.x wannabe, but as the only mainstream GNOME 3 distro in the Debian family. Debian is two years behind the curve. Ubuntu has Unity. There is a place for Mint to stake out.

    They should drop their efforts on Mate. People who want a GNOME 2.x experience would be smarter to migrate to XFCE anyway. They should keep MGSE and build on GNOME 3.

    I am not a Mint fan, but quite like GNOME Shell and the Ubuntu implementation does not cut it for me when it sits alongside Unity. I much preferred GS on F16. Having a good Debian based GS distro would be something that I would like to see. I can use F16, but am set in my Kubuntu ways after five years of sudo and one password.

    I will not be giving up KDE for GS as it is, even with Mint’s help, but it is nice to have choice!

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