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Mint's Cinnamon: The Future of the Linux Desktop? (Review)

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Software

Over the last few years, we’ve seen radical changes to the Linux desktop. Some, despite initial opposition, such as the KDE 4.x re-start, took a while to gain favor, but eventually became popular. Others, such as GNOME 3.x have alienated many users and first Ubuntu’s Unity and now it’s Head-Up Display (HUD) have not been greeted with overwhelming approval even by hard-core Ubuntu Linux users. So, Linux Mint’s developers have decided to go back to the past with a GNOME 2.x style desktop: Cinnamon. So, how well have they done? I give them an “A” for effort, but only a “B” for execution.

To put Cinnamon to the test, I used my faithful old Lenovo ThinkPad R61. This 2008-vintage notebook is powered by a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor T7500 and has 2GBs of RAM. I also used it on my Dell Inspiron 530S powered by a 2.2-GHz Intel Pentium E2200 dual-core processor with an 800-MHz front-side bus. This PC has 4GBs of RAM, a 500GB SATA (Serial ATA) drive, and an Integrated Intel 3100 GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) chip set.

For the operating system, although Cinnamon will run on Ubuntu 11.10, Fedora 16, OpenSUSE 12.1, Arch Linux, and Gentoo, I elected to run it on its “native” Linux Mint 12. Cinnamon runs on top of GNOME 3.2, but its look and feel comes from GNOME 2.x.

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Linux on the desktop isn't dead

At LinuxCon this year, the creator of Linux, Linus Torvalds, was asked what he wanted for Linux. His response? "The desktop." For years, the call to Linux action was "World Domination." In certain markets, this has happened (think Linux helping to power Android and Chrome OS). On the desktop, however, Linux still has a long, long way to go. Wait... that came out wrong. I don't mean "Linux has a long, long way to go before it's ready for the desktop." What I meant to say is something more akin to "Linux is, in fact, desktop ready... it just hasn't found an inroad to the average consumer desktop." Read more