[sf-lug] (forw) [kwlug-disc] Why I switched to Mint

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Sun Jun 12 10:41:52 PDT 2022

No relation.  ;->

----- Forwarded message from Doug Moen <doug at moens.org> -----

Date: Sun, 12 Jun 2022 07:31:26 -0400
From: Doug Moen <doug at moens.org>
To: KWLUG Discuss <kwlug-disc at kwlug.org>
Subject: [kwlug-disc] Why I switched to Mint
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The problems with OpenSUSE/Plasma mounted until I gave up and installed Mint/Cinnamon. Much better.

As an "automatic transmission" distro, oriented to ordinary desktop users, where everything just works, Mint/Cinnamon is way better than Fedora/Gnome and OpenSUSE/Tumbleweed/Plasma, for the things I've tried to do.

In Mint, and only in Mint, all of the features/setup/customization I wanted were either built in or trivial to configure, without the need to search google and follow recipes from documentation or blog posts. "Trivial" also means I didn't get bogged down diagnosing errors and figuring out why the recipes didn't work. Related to this, on your first boot, the Mint Welcome app runs, and it's a wizard that guides you through all of the most common customization requirements. Brilliant. The level of polish and reliability is just higher in Mint. (OpenSUSE was the worst overall, with Fedora in between.)

This comes at the price of up-to-date software. Mint is based on Ubuntu LTS. The default Mint kernel is currently 5.04 (2019), and the "Edge" version (Cinnamon only) has 5.13 (June 2021), 5.15 after installing updates. By contrast, my OpenSUSE Tumbleweed install had kernel 5.18. This could be an issue if you are installing on new hardware that needs the latest kernel.

Although one of my goals in distro hopping was to have up-to-date software, it turns out that I strongly dislike fixing my system when things break after an update. I spent too much time doing that in Fedora, and OpenSUSE/Tumbleweed was going to be worse (I abandoned SUSE as unusable before experiencing these problems though). So Mint it is.

One thing I realized: all distros suck, none of them meet my standards for an ethical, user-centred, modern, full featured, and reliable desktop. So I started thinking: if I want to contribute to the distro and help make it better, which organization do I want to support? Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE have desktop distros, but it's a hobby for them, since they don't make their money from the desktop. If I just consider distros where quality of life for desktop users is the primary focus of the organization, then Mint has the biggest user base and their distro so far comes closest in meeting my specific requirements. So I'll contribute to Mint.

--- Detailed Requirements ---

Traditional Desktop: I switch between Linux and MacOS systems, and sometimes use Windows. So I want a "traditional" desktop with a strip along the bottom of the screen for starting programs, managing windows, etc. Cinnamon is fine. Plasma is fine. Gnome 3 is not acceptable. I tried installing a "Dock" plugin on Fedora, it was hell to install, worked sort of okay, but stopped working the next Fedora release.

Screen magnifier: I want a MacOS style full screen magnifier. Hold down a modifier key and vertical scroll on the mouse or trackpad to zoom in and out. It's a feature of the window manager. Cinnamon has this, you just have to enable it. Gnome doesn't have this, and the keyboard based magnifier is barely usable. I made posted two Fedora bug reports about the magnifier, it got incrementally better over 2 Fedora releases. Plasma didn't have this in OpenSUSE. Plasma did have a keyboard based magnifier that is more usable than Gnome's.

Proprietary codecs, so that web sites render and I can play music/video. In Mint, the installer asks if you want this stuff. It's trivial. In Fedora, it's 2 recipes from the docs, about 5 CLI commands. Not too bad. The OpenSUSE procedure (from a blog post) was considerably more complex, and I never tried it.

Ungoogled Chromium. None of the distros had Chrome or Chromium preinstalled (I consider these malware), so I didn't have to uninstall them. On Mint, I installed Ungoogled Chromium from flathub using the Software Manager, and it works. Trivial. In Fedora, I did this (install from flathub), but it never worked correctly. Each time I ran it, it popped up 3 dialog boxes that I had to dismiss. In OpenSUSE, the recipe for installing a flathub GUI looked pretty complicated, and I never got around to it.

Zoom conferencing app: On Mint, I just installed it from the Zoom website (they explicitly support Mint). Download the deb, click "open" in the browser, a window pops up, click Install. Trivial. In Fedora, I had no trouble installing it, but it didn't work correctly until I switched from Wayland to X11, which was a pain. Then the next time I upgraded Fedora, Zoom stopped working. I was able to fix the problem after googling. But I really don't need this level of aggravation. With OpenSUSE, I started installing Zoom 1/2 hour before a Zoom call. Big mistake. I downloaded the RPM, clicked on in the browser, a window appears, I click Install. A tooltip temporarily appears saying "Installation failed", then the window updates its status to "Installed". No way to find out what the error was. (In Mint, you click "Details" to see the error message.) SUSEs software installation GUI is just lazy bullshit. After googling and running some CLI commands, I was able to diagnose the problem, but ran out of time to fix it be
fore the Zoom call started. (This is when I rage installed Mint, BTW.)

Fearless upgrades with system snapshots and rollback. OpenSUSE does this best, with snapper, which is preinstalled and preconfigured. Mint has timeshift preinstalled (Mint is now the maintainer of timeshift). It's not preconfigured, but the Welcome app guides you through the configuration, post installation. Timeshift is not as elegant as snapper, but it's probably good enough. Fedora has timeshift and snapper in their repos, but they are complex to install and configure. Timeshift broke in Fedora 35 so you have to install from the github repo for now. The procedure for installing snapper has also changed significantly across recent Fedora releases. If your snapshot and rollback software breaks when you upgrade Fedora, then you do not have "fearless upgrades". This feature needs to be built in and supported by the distro. Yes, you can use BTRFS commands to take snapshots before upgrades, but you still need to ensure that your filesystem is partitioned correctly, so that /home and /var are not included in sys
tem snapshots (for example). So this is an expert level approach, and I just want a simple "undo" command.

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