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February 17, 2015

Quick Look: Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Edition

Screenshot of my desktop
I've been quite an avid follower of the Linux operating system world ever since '07 when I discovered a Ubuntu 7.04 CD at a friend's house. I can safely say, Linux has definitely improved over the years in regards to functionality and stability. I made the switch to Linux Mint only just a few years ago when Linux Mint 12 came out. I remember the days when Cinnamon first appeared after MGSE (Mint GNOME Shell Extensions) project didn't live up to expectations.

Well enough talk about the past, this is the present- with Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Edition (based on the Ubuntu 14.04 codebase). Linux Mint 17.1 brings in the best of 17 with some more improvements! The installation went pretty smoothly but I encountered some minor issues after getting the system set up.

HiDPI Support
One of the main concerns was Linux's way of displaying on high resolution devices. My problem was that had had a small 13.3" laptop with a large resolution of 1980x1080px. The resolution isn't large enough to be properly called "HiDPI" but using Linux with default settings makes all the icons and text too small to be read. Thus, I had this dilemma of either having too small text or extremely large scaling (with HiDPI turned on). I tried various Linux distributions with their desktop environments (Unity, KDE, GNOME). But in the end, I still stuck with Cinnamon. The only temporary solution for me was to change my screen's resolution to 1360x768. This made everything slightly blurry (because of the upscaling), but it makes everything so much easier to read.

Keyboard Backlight (ACPI)
First thing that I noticed was that my keyboard's backlight and brightness keys didn't work. Of course this happened to my previous laptops in the past and it was only a matter of Googling the solution. Turns out I only simply had to add command to a line of code in the Grub bootloader for it to activate everything.

Wireless Dropouts
My laptop uses the Intel Wireless-AC 7260 chip and many people have had problems with it (Windows and Linux users alike). In my case, the connection was detected but the internet speed was extremely slow. A Google search brought up a solution to try and update to the latest drivers from the Intel website. After following a guide online (which requires you to make and compile the source files), it ha not given me any problems since then.

Touchpad
My Asus Zenbook uses a touchpad that is manufactured by Focaltech (and not Synaptics). The kernal that shipped with Linux Mint 17.1 didn't have proper support for the touchpad and so it detected it as a PS/2 Logitech Mouse. This required updating to a custom built kernal based on the latest version. The touchpad worked properly as it should after the update but some minor problems (such as can't disable touchpad whilst typing and random cursor jumps when typing) persist. Most people should be fine though.

So there you have it! My experiences with Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon Edition. It's my favourite so far (I keep saying that with each new version) and definitely upgrades itself from previous versions (unlike Microsoft eh?). If you are a Linux fan or just feel like giving Linux a go, definitely try Linux Mint. You might be surprised at how easy to customise it is.