Linux Mint KDE 17 review; is this the Plasma you were looking for?

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.

First impression

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.

Software management

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.”

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  • Marios

    I have never tried it myself but I believe there is the mintupdate tool for the upgrade. I have read that it doesn’t always work perfectly and if that’s the case then definitely that is a disadvantage to this marvellous OS.

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  • tinhed

    I am a huge fan of KDE and been running it on OpenSUSE 13.1, ever since it came out. Is there any reason to try mint out? Is there anything mint can offer that SUSE doesnt?

    • arnieswap

      I am also an openSUSE users and also run Arch and Kubuntu on other systems. Only reason to use Linux Mint over openSUSE ‘could’ be for new ‘converts’ as there are certain things which are tricky under openSUSE – such as setting up a printer is not as easy as it is under Linux Mint/Kubuntu. Then if one wants media server then since some ports are blocked in Firewall settings they will have to know about that as well. But for an advanced user there is really not much :-)

      • tinhed

        Thanks Mate. I have YAST setup pretty much for everything, so dont think mint will offer anything new.

      • GiSWiG

        Even the most advanced users demand simplicity and that’s what I get with Linux Mint. I’ve been away from Linux for a while and have recently been testing the waters. I’ve been out of Linux since before Ubuntu came out with Unity. Tried it in 14.04…It’s not bad but it’s terrible at the same time. I can’t get over with having the min, max and close buttons on the left! Plus, you can’t change that. And finding programs is awful. There is no classic menu option or applet anywhere that I can find. You can’t explore through the applications installed, you pretty much need to know that they are there and type to search their name. Even Windows 8 is not that bad. Enough Unity bashing, but it is bad…

        I’ve always loved KDE and it is still great so its a matter of which distro gave me the best experience. Well, Arch is cool but really it’s a pain and I’ve done Gentoo and even the Rockhopper spin (a while ago). Next in complexity, less actually, is openSUSE. I love openSUSE and I LOVE the installer. So many options. Why, you can setup a RAID setup right there. Almost any other distro, I would need to boot a live cd and through fdisk and mdadm to setup raid. You can also set different mount options right there. With the *ubuntus, including Mint, you would need to setup ext4 journal=writeback afterward. Where openSUSE falls short is package management. To add all the extras, you’ll need to add several repositories, all of which take a while to refresh. Getting all the codecs in takes some time and even VLC requires a separate VLC codecs pack…why?… Then there is Java. Now I know ppl say just stick with OpenJRE but there are instances where Java is needed or recommended like Minecraft. It’s a process to get Java in openSUSE…*ubuntus/Mint takes three commands from the webupd8team ppa. That is one example of how somethings are just easier to install and maintain in *ubuntus/Mint. Steam will more than likely work better in *ubuntus/Mint but it does work good in openSUSE.

        And if you know Arch but use openSUSE, you know Yast is slow. In terms of functionality, Yast can’t be beat, however, KDE has some great tools in it. And for package management, install Synaptic in any distro you choose. I do think it works best in Mint though.

        So, my suggestion for ‘newbies’ who want an easy to use system but want to get into and learn Linux hardcore, use Linux Mint and install and use VirtualBox to learn how to use Arch or openSUSE or even Gentoo.

        And for the experienced…use Linux Mint! You know how to fix problems, should they arise, why make it more difficult for you? Check this out, look in any Linux magazine and look at all the screenshots of developers and admins stuff. Except for a few Fedoras, most are either an *ubuntu or Mint and usually Cinnamon, MATE and LXDE.

  • Hans HB Thøgersen

    I have loved Kubuntu since the first days I installed it and use it both at home and work. I used to be a Windows user and found KDE the best transition where I still could be productive.
    KDE is even so good that I will never return to Windows.
    At work we use Windows but I have found using Kubuntu I get even more productive and can solve problems that was not used to.
    Of cause the tools to make me more productive is available on any Linux/GNU distribution like grep, sort, mount etc.
    I started out with Mint at work but found there was something wrong. I can’ say exactly what it was but I felt I was in a box with very small openings to the outside and I have never understood why this distro is for new users.
    So if I have to come with a recommendation it would be Kubuntu. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
    P.S. I have been a Kubuntu user for little over a year now.

  • Eric Hoberg

    Isn’t apper a KDE software manager. If you dont want software manager in yast to close go to etc/sysconfig Editor-system-yast2-gui-PCKMGR_ACTION_AT_EXIT and change to summary.

  • Anand Radhakrishnan

    Well-balanced review. I started out Linux with KDE now been using Cinnamon for a while. still follow KDE developments and will try out when Plasma next is out. In fact, i screwed up my KDE installation while upgrading using to Kubuntu backports.

    Agree on PPA search, a while ago I suggested the same idea in Mint Community site though there are not many takers to it. :-(

  • hakan

    i didnt even fucking read your review.
    why the fucking hell is smooth scrolling is opened default in your terrible website you fucking faggot lame.

  • Marz Nova

    I think Linux mint is a nightmare. There is no easy way to install software without using cryptic unix code in the terminal. There is a software installer for DEB files but most of the software is pack with multiple directories and would take ages to sort out. Install Open Office, nope. You need Java. Try to install Java. Nope, just a mess of files and directories. I rate Mint -2 Stars out of 5

    • billview

      What on earth are you talking about? You install software from the package manager if you don’t want to use the terminal, it’s point and click install, just enter your password. DEB files, most are in the repository so they aren’t needed for much, but if you do it sounds like you are extracting them (aka doing it wrong), why don’t you just install them instead, why are you looking through their directories when they just install? Openoffice? Libreoffice is installed by default, so why? But easy install, no doubt online guides besides. Java, it’s in the repositories.