Last week, I reviewed ChromeOS from a desktop environment perspective as part of my “Linux Desktop-a-Week” series (which, really, has become less of a weekly thing and more of a “Desktop-Every-Few-Weeks-Or-So” thing. But I’m sticking to my original title. Because I’m stubborn).
This “week,” I am spending time with another Linux desktop environment that isn’t exactly traditional. This week, I’m using Android.
Trisquel's system installer is essentially the same installer Ubuntu uses, but with a few minor changes to the appearance and some of the options. The installer asks us to select our preferred language and provides us with a link to view the distribution's release notes. Next we are given the chance to download software updates while the installer is running. The following screen asks if we would like Trisquel to automatically divide up our hard disk for us or if we would like to manually partition our hard drive. Manual partitioning is quite straight forward and I found it easy to navigate the disk partitioning screen. Trisquel gives us the option of working with Btrfs, ext2/3/4, JFS and XFS file systems. I opted to install Trisquel on a Btrfs partition. While partitioning the disk we can also choose where to install the distribution's boot loader. The following screen gets us to select our time zone from a map of the world. Then we confirm our keyboard's layout and create a user account for ourselves. We can decide to encrypt the contents of our home directory. The installer copies its files to our hard drive and then asks us to reboot the computer.
Google has been very busy with their expansion of Android as a platform this year. At Google IO we saw the announcement of endeavors like Android TV and Android Auto. But the stars of the show were a preview of the next version of Android, code named Android L, and Google's new Material Design principles for interface design across all of their products. In the years since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich released, we've seen the launch of Jellybean and KitKat, but both of these versions were very iterative improvements upon 4.0 and had equally iterative version numbers with Jellybean being major versions 4.1 through 4.3 and KitKat being 4.4. Lollipop is given the major version number of 5.0, and it's quite fitting as it's arguably the biggest advancement to Android in a long time. It comes with an entirely new interface based on Material Design, a new application runtime, and many new features that I could not hope to summarize in this paragraph.
The Nexus 6 is the best Nexus ever and for once a Nexus device is not lacking in any specification. The price reflects the high-end nature of the Nexus 6, but the competition in the Android marketplace is also much stiffer than it was in the past. I still need to use the Nexus 6 a bit more with my T-Mobile SIM to convince myself it isn't the device for me. I enjoy large screen smartphones, but find other offerings to be more compelling.
The final rease of Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon and MATE was announced this weekend. I have picked up both versions, and I have installed them on a number of computers around here, with both legacy (MBR) and UEFI boot. The results have been very good, as expected.
As anyone who has been around Linux much probably knows, Linux Mint (numbered) is derived from Ubuntu. However, starting with Mint 17 the releases no longer track the latest Ubuntu releases. Mint is now based on the Ubuntu Long Term Support (LTS) releases and will update their own distribution as they see fit.
That means that although Ubuntu recently released 14.10, this Mint release is still based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, and the new Mint numbering system indicates that (this is 17.1, not 18), although the name change is a bit contrary to that (17.1 is called Rebecca rather than Q..., but I guess Q-names are not easy to come up with.
I was very impressed with Linux Mint 17.1. The common feature upgrades and bug fixes add real value to this distribution. The changes in Update Manager, the Login Screen, Language Settings, Kernel Menu, and artwork should please almost all Linux Mint users. And the huge range of background wallpapers, along with the slideshow feature make it a great choice for those who want frequent changes to the look of their Linux Mint systems.
Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn with the MATE desktop environment is a very cool distro. It suffers from two big problems, one of which has been inherited from its Unity parent, and that would be the inability to format old partitions, created by previous versions of Ubuntu. This is somewhat worrying. Samba printing is another disappointment. There was no screenshot problem like with some other distros, though.
Besides these issues, everything else was perfect. Familiar, friendly, extremely productive. Super fast and super stable, too. There was nothing out of ordinary, no problems. Suspend and resume worked without any issues, the system blazed at the speed of light, and with maybe ten minutes of work, you can transform it into anything you want. Docks, menus, new fonts, new themes, all there, just waiting for you. Total freedom and fun.
There can't be a perfect score, because the associated problems do not allow it. But assuming you had this distro given to you, and someone bothered to install the needed Samba package that normal people require, it would be an excellent alternative to many other mainstream releases. Highly polished, slick, and almost overwhelmingly simple and easy to use. The grade is something like 9.0/10, but it can do better. I demand it. For you, this is an excellent test bed. Go for it.