I have only 8 months Linux experience under my belt, but I now run Mint 16 and Mint 17 as daily drivers on my desktop and laptop. Here are my first impressions of Mint 17 “Qiana” using my hardware.
After trying the Mint 17 RC installer a few weeks ago on my Asus Zenbook UX301, I ran into a big problem when installing it. Grub couldn’t read the partition map from /dev/sda and errored out of the installer. I gave up trying and installed Mint 16 again flawlessly. Seeing a post last night on /r/linux about the official release of Mint 17 prompted me to give the Mint 17 install another chance on my laptop. I opted for the Cinnamon version to test its new Retina/HiDPI support with my 13″ 2560×1440 screen. My Zenbook UX301 is my first recent laptop and I didn’t think I would have so many problems with the EFI BIOS. When I first got rid of Windows 8 and went to install Mint 16, I ran into problems with RAID0 (two 128GB SSD’s in RAID0), Secure boot, and Launch CSM. When I first installed Mint 16 I changed so many settings in the BIOS I didn’t even know where everything was when I was finished. Trying different combinations I would run into an error that just gave me 6 question marks (??? ???). I finally got Mint 16 installed after disabling secure boot and RAID. When I was finished installing Mint 16 it wouldn’t boot into grub. I tried reinstalling, enabling settings in BIOS that I had turned off. I had to re-enable RAID, and then Mint 16 successfully booted from grub.
I ran into somewhat of the same problem with Mint 17, except this time I had to install with RAID enabled. The problem I ran into with the Mint 17 release candidate was solved by simply formatting /dev/sda in gnome-disks.
I booted with no problems and immediately updated with the update manager. The entire computer froze up when trying to install updates and changing mouse settings, making me reboot. When I returned to Mint I went back into the update manager and saw that all updates had installed prior to the reboot except for the level 4 and 5 unstable packages. I tried refreshing the package list and dpkg failed saying I needed to reconfigure. After repconfiguring dpkg (sudo dpkg –configure -a) , APT and the package manager worked fine again. The update manager is now cleaner, shows more information, history of updates, and is much quicker doing seemingly everything than the update manger in Mint 16. I then had to leave the laptop and come back to it. I came back to a messy login screen with the buttons overlayed as seen below.
Coming from Mint 16 with a 2560×1440 13″ screen, the first thing that really came to my attention was Cinnamon 2.2’s new support for Retina/HiDPI displays. In Mint 16 I was using the bottom panel scaling to make it large enough to see without a magnifying glass, and a few other tricks to make other things a bit larger. When you first boot into Mint 17 live on a Retina/HiDPI screen, everything looks huge compared to the tricks I was using under Mint 16. Everything is gorgeous and sharp in the OS itself, though the window borders and headers seem exceedingly large. Only using Mint 17 for a few hours now, I have noticed that not a lot of 3rd party applications actually scale correctly which leaves me with small hard to read text, menus, and tiny icons. Mint 17 ships with Firefox installed, and even though the UI is properly scaled – the default text/zoom is not. Chrome does not support Retina/HiRES and the only fix I’ve found is to set the default zoom to 150% and then change the zoom with ctrl – on direct image links which seem to actually stick in chrome and not break the default zoom. Chromium has native scaling and browsing looks great right out of the box, but the menus are broken as shown in the picture below.
Running Mint 17, I don’t really notice many changes other than things UI wise. Using this Zenbook UX301 with Mint 17, bluetooth is broken, battery life is not so great even with power saving fixes and powertop, and the screen brightness hotkeys still don’t work out of the box making me need to add acpi_osi= to GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”” in /etc/default/grub – though I believe this is a deeper bug in the kernel itself. While taking screenshots for this post with the print screen key, the native screenshot application only saves files as 1280×720 resolution forcing me to use scrot. When changing settings or even searching in a window, the windows freeze briefly and sometimes become completely unresponsive requiring a force quit. Hot corners are finally disabled by default!
I am disappointed Mint 17 does not have better touchscreen support in an era where almost every new laptop coming onto the market has a touchscreen. While the touchscreen does work and you are able to draw and click by touching, there is no scrolling with the touch screen.
The whole OS seems somewhat buggy, and I keep finding bugs here and there. It is only roughly 24 hours since it’s official release, but Mint 17 currently seems more like an actual release candidate.