Finally, a desktop Linux that just works

I’ve been a user of Linux on the desktop, as my primary desktop, for the last 16 years. In that time, I’ve had laptops with Windows flavors (95, XP, 2000, 7), a MacOSX desktop. Before that, my first laptop I had bought (while working on my thesis) was a triple boot job, with DOS, Windows 9x, and OS2. I used the latter for when I was traveling and needed to write; the thesis was written in LaTeX and I could easily move everything back and forth between that and my Indy at home, and my office Indigo.

During the SGI years, I used Irix mostly for desktop stuff, and it was very nice. It was IMO the best user interface I’d seen to date inclusive of Windows. Far better than Mac of that era (really … no comparison). The text editors mostly sucked though … I wound up using nedit for almost everything.

After leaving SGI, I resolved that I would use desktop Linux in some form or the other. I started out on a Dell laptop with Mandrake (the flavor of the day then). Moved on to SuSE (driven in part by a customer whom used it). SuSE wasn’t actively unfriendly, its just its UX was … well … not for the faint of heart.

None of these would be reasonable to give to my wife and daughter to use on their machines.

I moved from SuSE everywhere to CentOS on the servers and Ubuntu on the desktop and laptop around 2007 or so. CentOS seemed to make sense to me then for server bits. Ubuntu around 8.04 was really quite good.

But it started going downhill around 10.x. UX sucked in the 11.x and 12.x with the conversion to Unity.

I left the servers on CentOS, and moved the laptop and desktop to LinuxMint. This is a Ubuntu rebuild (which is itself a Debian rebuild). Mint was focused on very easy UX. You shouldn’t have to worry about stuff, it should all just work. Previously had not had that experience with Linux. Nor windows for that matter.

Started out around Mint 12 with Cinnamon. That is a reworking of the Gnome desktop into a paradigm I find comfortable. They also have a Mate version of it which is reminiscent of the SuSE interface, but I really didn’t like that.

Mint was much better than Ubuntu, but sometimes I had interesting and astounding failures. Mint doesn’t believe in upgrades for one. Either you are on the long term support (LTS) release, or you are on the 6 month cycle. The latter is more “bleeding edge”, though you get support for up to 18 months. The former is “more stable” and you get longer support.

Some of the spectactular failures were around the NVidia graphics side. Nouveau, the open source NVidia driver was not terribly good, and would as often as not, hard lock my machines. I had a devil of a time ripping it out of a few machines to replace it with the closed source but mostly working version.

I replaced the NVidia card in the office with an AMD card for a while, but AMDs drivers were just terrible and quite unstable if used in accelerated mode. This appeared to not be Linux specific, but more related to driver quality.

I moved the desktop in the office over to LMDE, which is the Linux Mint based upon the Debian base rather than the Ubuntu base. Slightly different basis, same experience. Generally very stable. Swapped in a newer NVidia card and drivers. Now it is rock solid.

Moved the home machine to Linux Mint 16 and still had some weird problems. It was annoying enough that it hit my productivity. 17 and then 17.1 came out to rave reviews. I decided to update one of my machines.

2 weeks later, after very heavy use, I can say a number of things:

  1. Installation was a breeze. This is the first time I didn’t have to fiddle with boot line parameters to disable nouveau, it simply behaved correctly
  2. It worked with everything, with no fuss, out of the box, with the bare minimum of configuration on my part.
  3. Stability. Oh … my … best … Linux … desktop … experience … ever

I cant say enough good things about Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon edition. It really is the best desktop/laptop experience I’ve had to date, inclusive of the MacOSX machines.

I’ve got one outstanding annoyance on one machine, but its minor enough for me not to care so much.

Server side, we are rolling everything over to Debian. Or possibly the Devuan rebuild if I can’t get systemd to behave … though Mint 17.1 uses systemd and it doesn’t seem to suck.

This is definitely one that would work well for my family to use.

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