20 Jul 2011

Good Bye, Kubuntu!

Hello, Linux Mint XFCE!!!

Long-long time ago... about 8 months back... I created a system landscape on my laptop. It consists of 4 systems being installed at the same time. One of them is Windows XP, as it came with laptop and I still use it occasionally for specific tasks. Three of them are Linux systems. Which ones? I wrote about this when I described my quadro-boot.
Nothing is immortal. Time passed by and I got tired of both Ubuntu and Kubuntu. I got quite disappointed by changed introduced in version 11.04. That was a time to change.
First change took away Ubuntu and put Mageia 1 KDE instead. Yes, I changed Unity/GNOME system to KDE system. Some time I had two KDE systems working in parallel: Mageia 1 KDE and Kubuntu. But that was not the final destination.
Now it is time to change Kubuntu. What was a choice?
If you look at systems, you see that I have GNOME (Debian) and KDE (Mageia). Would it be nice to have something else installed? Yes, and this something else is XFCE.
To be precise, Linux Mint XFCE.
I wrote about this operating system earlier when I tried Linux Mint XFCE in Live mode. Then there was a roller coaster, because not all of the Mint XFCE features worked for me. But anyway, decision was made.


Like in previous case, I started Live version of Linux Mint XFCE from USB. It booted OK. Then I started installer right from Live run.
Installer asked me several quite usual questions.
First one was about system language. As you can imaging, list of languages is impressive. My selection was for English (UK). It made answering following questions easier because time zone and keyboard layout were default to London and English (UK) correspondingly.
Next was a question about partitions. I could easily assign all my existing partitions to mount points. Root was placed to partition were Kubuntu previously existed. Linux Mint XFCE uses Ext4 partitions by default, but I changed it to Ext3 to keep in line with other systems.
If you are not happy with current partitioning, then GParted can be used to change it at this stage.
Another step is about boot loader. Linux Mint XFCE uses GRUB2 by default, but I switched off that option. I have my GRUB2 working from Debian and planned to include Linux Mint XFCE into its list.
Final step was creation of user. I wondered that no root user configured at this stage. Actually, as I saw later, there is no root user configuration at all. Commands sudo and su start with usual user password.
I also noticed interesting thing here... Installer says "Linux Mint Debian Edition". Not XFCE, but just "Debian edition". I perfectly understand that both systems are based on Debian, but why not rename installer window and not confuse people?
Finally, all preparation steps were over, and installation commenced. Half way through the installation I got error messages about Squashfs. Installation halted and computer literally hanged. Only Power button helped to restart it. It probably happened because USB stick was unmounted in the middle of the process. Why? Don't know.
So, reboot... choose to boot from USB and start again.
Second attempt to install Linux Mint XFCE finished successfully.

Getting Linux Mint XFCE started

Of course, Linux Mint XFCE did not appear in my GRUB2 menu. I had to teach my Debian's GRUB2 to start Mint. That's why first boot was in Debian.
Command sudo update-grub did all the necessary magic, but... did not find Linux Mint XFCE on my laptop. After some digging I found the reason. Mint's partition was not mounted during the boot. As I found in Debian Disk Utility, Linux Mint XFCE formatted it into Ext4, even though I asked it to be Ext3.
To fix the issue, I had to change one symbol in fstab. Then sudo mount -a followed by new sudo upgrade-grub. Linux Mint was found and added into GRUB menu this time.
This is time for another reboot. This time into newly installed Mint!

Mint welcome

Mint's boot screen met me with my username on it. I only needed to enter my password. That's cute!
Few seconds later I saw window "Welcome to Linux Mint". It lists links to different sections of Mint world: documentation, support, project information and community.
Strangely, immediately after start I had 166 updates available for my system. Why? I was still offline! How could Mint understand that updates are available? Or they were available at the time of release but were not included into the iso image?
Of course, attempt to install these updates failed because system required connection to fetch packages. Any failure has it's upside points. At least, I had some time to look at update manager, and in particular at software sources. Linux Mint XFCE uses LinuxMint repositories. As addition (funny enough named "third-party") Debian repositories are activated: Debian testing, security and Debian-multimedia testing.

WiFi network connection

Of course, my WiFi connection was not activated out of the box in Linux Mint XFCE. Not surprise at all, because Debian does not include driver for my Broadcom 4311 card into the repositories. Of course, I had to install it. All my previous attempts to install driver were made with LAN cable connected to laptop. Firmware was downloaded from the Internet.
This time round I decided to use another tactic. As long as I have Debian already installed on that laptop, and Linux Mint XFCE is based on Debian, I decided to use firmware which I already had in Debian. Thus, I copied /lib/firmware/b43 from Debian partition to Mint partition.
As soon as I have done this (cp -r command in CLI was the way to do this), blue indicator fired up on laptop! Mint activated WiFi card itself. Click on the network indicator on taskbar - and I see my network available. Few more keystrokes, and I am connected! Magic?
I will not describe this time what is included in Linux Mint XFCE, because I have already done this in review of Live run. Obviously, freshly installed system has the same list of applications and packages.
First what I have done once connected - installed updates.
Linux Mint XFCE desktop
during first run
Now Update Manager gave me only one update. But rather serious one - mintupdate, i.e. update manager itself. It increased version from 4.2.6 to 4.3.2. Immediately after that update finished I saw other available updates. Their number was impressive: almost 800. After analysis of dependencies, their number grew to almost 1000. It seriously took me more than an hour to download and install all of them.
Before loading the updates, I checked few other things. What I have found as issues:

  • Volume cannot be changed by hardware buttons on laptop. That was fixed after update.
  • Clocks were incorrect - one hour ahead. It was fixed by "Date and time" configuration in Settings menu.

Network drive

I tried to mount my external network drive by adding it into fstab and manually by mount command. Unfortunately, it did not mount from first attempt out of the box. Like in Live run, I got error message in response to mount command.
CIFS VFS: cifs_mount failed w/return code = -22
To cure this, I had to install smbfs package. Mounting went fine after that.

Keyboard layout and touchpad

Keyboard layouts were added easily, because I have already practiced in it during my Live review.
Scrolling at the edges of touchpad did not work. Neither before updates nor after. That is quite annoying, because I like this feature.
Menu got
messed up

First steps

As I wrote before, it took me more that hour to install updates in Linux Mint XFCE. What happened afterwards?
First of all, I got new version of many packages. Including Firefox 5, LibreOffice etc.
From negative side, I got menu messed up. And I did not find a way to fix this, other than manually edit the file in /etc/xdg/menus.
Linux Minx XFCE has Software Manager for visual package management. It is listed right in the menu, and also in Settings section. I tried to run it to see what this program allows me to do, but all the attempts were unsuccessful. It just hanged on splash screen.
Of course, Synaptic and apt-get are still in place in Linux Mint XFCE. They are "old good friends".
Using Synaptic, I checked existence of some of my favourite applications. Qutim (instant messenger) is not in repositories. But Skype is. Hence, it was installed from repository.
Chrome and Qutim  were installed from corresponding sites.
Finally, I tried to change some configuration using Linux Mint XFCE utilities. Most of them worked fine. Except for Login screen configuration. It did not work. It required authorisation, but did not request it when lock icon is clicked.


Do I still like Linux Mint XFCE? Am I disappointed?
Yes and no.
I like responsiveness of this system. I like speed. I like that it is based on Debian (although, testing branch).
From another side, I already found few annoying problems which potentially can make my life difficult.
I'll keep Mint XFCE on my laptop for some time. But this will not be my main or default system. Let me and Linux Mint XFCE to live together for some time. Maybe we'll get used to each other?


  1. So, did you find out where the 166 updates that showed in the beginning came from?

  2. @Barnaby:
    No, I did not bother...

  3. Fair enough. Try Archbang for a while. I just had a for me massive update of 116 packages after several months that were held back because I had exempted the kernel staying at 2.6.37 for a while. That held back glibc from updating and a whole lot of other packages. Finally updated to 2.6.39 yesterday, it pulled in over 200MB taking 1GB on the hard drive. All went well, as always, been rolling for 10 months now, no breakage yet.
    You might like it too.

  4. I have been using Kubuntu for years and had much to complain about. I tried Chakra yesterday and I was amazed how fast it is. After more testing, I might switch to it.

  5. @Barnaby:
    I think Archbang requires more Linux proficiency than I have. Little bit scared of it. As well as Slackware...

  6. DistroWatch website has nice table of popular distros - check it out for something to replace Kubuntu and if you knew it sorry. In that case keep this so other people know about that website.

  7. @Anonymous:
    Thanks for comment. DistroWatch is really nice site for everyone who wants to be informed of Linux news. Couple of my reviews are linked from there! ;)

  8. For a nice and stable XFCE desktop I'd sugest xubuntu 10.04 LTS. Tell us your opinion. Thanks for this review.

  9. To be precise, you've never left Ubuntu ; )


  10. @Anonymous:
    >For a nice and stable XFCE desktop I'd sugest xubuntu 10.04 LTS. Tell us your opinion. Thanks for this review.
    Coming back to Ubuntu? Maybe, but not soon.

  11. @Anonymous:
    >To be precise, you've never left Ubuntu ; )
    Sorry, I don't understand. I don't have Ubuntu any more. Neither Kubuntu.
    Linux Mint XFCE is based on Debian, not on Ubuntu.

  12. I have been running Fedora XFCE on my samsung netbook for a while now. I'm still having trouble with enabling touchpad on it. But the speed of linux over a bloated xp is impressive indeed.

    is mint xfce/ubuntu xfce/fedora xfce all the same vis-a-vis the user interface?


  13. @VJ Chandra:
    I have not tried Xubuntu or Fedora XFCE. But I have tried different XFCE systems: Dynebolic, Sabayon, Saline OS.
    They look slightly different. Especially because XFCE is being developed quite quickly.

  14. What about Salix OS? It's not RPM-, nor DEB-based. It is based on the oldest distribution, Slackware. And it's default DE is XFCE.

  15. @Laci:
    I heard about Salix, but for whatever reason failed to add it to my "to-do list" all the time.
    It is there now, so probably I'll make a review.
    Thanks for reminding me!