11 Feb 2014

To upgrade or not to upgrade?

You may know that my current laptop Sony VAIO VGN-NR21Z has 4 operating systems installed. Three of them are Linux: Debian, Linux Mint and Mageia.

Debian WheezyXfce sits there as a guarantor of boot stability. It controls the GRUB records. As usual, it is a rock solid distribution without much fun in it, although I have an issue with a mounted network drive: like some other distributions before, Debian switches off the wireless network interface before unmounting the shared drive. Thus, the unmounting process hangs for about 10 minutes before the computer can finally shut down.

However, that is not the point of today's article.

Until recently, my laptop had Mageia 3 KDE and Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon installed.

Mageia 4 KDE

Mageia 4 was released recently, and you've probably seen my quick screenshot tour of the GNOME edition of it. At the same time, I made a fresh reinstall of my own KDE 64-bit system. Am I satisfied with the results? I'd say yes.

Mageia still performs well. Some issues I had with Mageia 3 are no longer here, for example shadows in Firefox menus. Of course, some other issues have now appeared. You can't live without it. I discussed some of these issues on Mageia's forum, but I think you may wish to know about them and their solution.
  • Mageia Control Centre requests a root password when it is started.
The password window has a checkbox "Remember authorisation", which is misleading. It may seem like a security breach: you do not want your root password remembered forever, and unticking the checkbox every time is not an ideal solution. However, it is a KDE bug, as Debian KDE has the same bug reported. It actually remembers authorisation for a limited time only, which is probably OK from a security point of view. Standard command sudo does the same.

  • Mageia's standard battery indicator no longer has percentage on it. You can install Enhanced Battery Monitor and activate it instead of the standard battery indicator, if you need battery percentage shown on top of the battery icon
  • The default Pidgin version 2.10.8 has issues with Facebook chat. It is not a Mageia-specific bug, as Pidgin developers acknowledge that on their site too. As a workaround, Kopete messenger is available in Mageia 4 by default. It is slightly different in the interface, plus performs slightly worse. Slight learning curve is also required. Alternatively, Pidgin 2.10.9 is already available in Mageia repositories.
  • Opposite to my choice on Mageia 3, I decided to keep the default icon-only taskbar. The main reason for me to use the "classic" taskbar was to see separate elements there for Chrome(-ium) and Chrome(-ium)'s "application shortcut" for Gmail. Since I switched from Chrome to Firefox some time ago, I see no reason to use the classic taskbar.


Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon

Will I upgrade my Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon soon? The answer is "no". There are 2 reasons for that.
  • First, "don’t touch what is working". Mint 15 Cinnamon works well for me. It has more applications that I would need to backup before re-installing compared to Mageia, thus making the upgrade process more difficult.
  • Second, the next version, Mint 17, will be based on Ubuntu 14.04, which in its turn will be an LTS (long-term support) version. Mint 15's end of life is after the Mint 17 release date. It makes sense to wait for few more months before upgrading, and move directly into the LTS version.

These are my takes from the new Mageia 4 and the old Linux Mint 15. I am happy with what I have now. What are your views on that?


  1. If it is your main machine I agree that upgrading Mint isn't a priority. I get by on the basis that I only use a few applications and they are nearly always universal to all distros. I need a browser, music app, screenshot tool and terminal. It is handy if there is a graphical disk utility as well. I really am a prime candidate for getting a chromebook.

    1. Haha Gary!
      Why would you need a disk utility for Chromebook? :)

  2. Thought I'd share a couple of other issues in Mageia 4.

    Apps like Kwrite and Kate might fail to start when accessed via the UI in KDE. If initiated via CLI, they start fine. The proprietary nVidia driver is the problem. The work-around is to use the nouveau driver instead. This worked in my case.

    I've also begun to see a problem with Bluefish quitting unexpectedly when a saving a file and the dropdown menus in Kompozer do not display correctly (ie, mangled graphics). I haven't tried to diagnose those problems. I suspect they might be related to the nVidia thing but, in this case, the nouveau driver has no effect.

    1. You're right. :-( Neither Kate nor KWrite launch from the menu. Moreover, Kate does not even start from Konsole. When doing sudo kate, it says kate: cannot connect to X server :0. KWrite starts normally from Konsole.