The Linux Mint team has announced the release of the Plasma Desktop edition of the popular GNU/Linux based operating system – Linux Mint KDE 17. Being a Plasma user myself, and since I keep a close eye on what this team is doing, I was obviously interested in testing it out.
I downloaded the iso and created a live USB using the dd command and installed it on my test machine (I dislike virtual machines as much as Linus does). The installation was pretty easy (far less intimidating and confusing than that of Fedora).
As expected, it was a very polished Linux Mint + Plasma experience. I use openSUSE, Arch Linux and have recently installed Kubuntu on the main system so I do have some experience of what other Plasma desktops look, feel and work like.
Linux Mint, like openSUSE, always impresses with its polish and tidiness. Everything looks and works great – out of the box; no tweaking needed.
The Linux Mint team has done a great job at offering the ‘as closest as possible’ ‘Plasma experience’, it’s not a heavily modified version of Plasma. But one may argue that it is not ‘pure’ Plasma as they are not using some core KDE components such as kdm and instead use Linux Mint’s own MDM. But these are minor issues and don’t really dilute the Plasma experience.
While I love openSUSE’s YaST, one thing I complain about Plasma-based systems is the lack of a common software manager across KDE software based systems. Each OS uses its own software manager – Kubuntu uses Muon, Linux Mint uses their own Software Manager, Fedora uses Yumex and Mandriva/Mageia use their own heavily customized manager.
It creates a very inconsistent Plasma experience across different operating systems. I wish there was one ‘Software Manager’, which reflected the vision of KDE software – elegant yet, extremely customizable.
That said the Linux Mint team has done a great job with Software Manager. Its fast (much faster that Ubuntu’s Software Center) and a bit more polished than Muon Software Center (though Muon is really coming out well). Linux Mint seems to be using AppStream data so you get a very comprehensive description of applications, in addition to screen-shots and user-ratings.
Now there is a bit of separation from the rest of the GNU/Linux world here as I assume there is no central database to keep a track of ratings and installed applications. So in case of Linux Mint, you need to have an account with Linux Mint in order to rate or review any app. If it was centralized then irrespective of the distro one was using the reviews and ratings would be coming from the entire Linuxphere. That’s not a deal, just that I wish there was more ‘collaboration’ between GNU/Linux based distros, especially when they are using community driven DE (desktop environments) like KDE’s Plasma.
Still, it’s a very good job
Linux Mint team has done some great job with software management. The Linux Mint developers say, “It [software manager] shows more information, it looks better, it feels faster, and it gets less in your way. It no longer needs to reload itself in root mode when you click on it. It no longer checks for an Internet connection or waits for the network manager and it no longer locks the APT cache at session startup.”
All of it is good for an end user as small things can ruin user experience. I was using Y-PPA Manager in Kubuntu the other day and it was extremely frustrating to enter password every time you click on any button – ended up uninstalling it.
openSUSE’s YaST also has a tendency of closing the software manager once you perform an action – I would prefer not to enter password too many times once I have opened the app and I would really not want an app to close unless I close it myself. So, Linux Mint as usual is doing what average users actually need.
While we are at software manager, let me also tell you that the Linux Mint teams have added a new column to the manager which helps users in differentiating between traditional updates, security updates, backports and romeo updates.
According to developers, “Security updates can now bypass safety levels and two new options were added for you to decide if they should always be visible and if they should be selected. By default these options are respectively set to True and to False.”