Linux Mint 21 Release Brings Reviewer Welcome Meeting
Is your favorite Linux desktop Cinnamon, MATE or Xfce? Or do you want to change for something different and potentially better?
Then one of your best options is to upgrade to Linux Mint 21 “Vanessa” released on July 30. It is available in a choice of flavors based on Ubuntu or Debian.
Making this recommendation is an important step for me. Once my daily Linux driver, I had a big falling out several years ago with this distro, when an upgrade caused persistent issues that led to nasty responses – and no solution – from the Linux community. Linux Mint technical support.
I then upgraded to a quasi-clone of Linux Mint, Feren OS, and was a happy user until the developers of that distro drastically changed the design and moved away from the traditional Cinnamon desktop.
So I skipped distributions again. I had reviewed a new Cinnamon remix distribution released by an independent Linux developer. My reference Linux distribution became Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, later renamed CinnaBuntu. Since then, I have been very satisfied with its performance and usability options.
The ability to choose operating systems and configuration options is one of the shiny pearls you can polish with Linux. It is not possible to quickly install replacement operating systems with a similar look and feel with Windows or macOS.
However, my Linux wanderlust took over with the release of Linux Mint 21. I was curious to know what I might be missing.
I discovered quite a few features that my current edition of Cinnamon doesn’t offer. These new features are also found in the MATE and Xfce editions. LM 21 editions include the most recent versions of the three supported desktop environments: Cinnamon 5.4, Xfce 4.16, and MATE 1.26.
Read on to see what brings me back to Linux Mint. Since Cinnamon is my favorite desktop, I focused on this edit for this review.
Hello, old friend
Vanessa’s release rekindled my appreciation of Linux Mint’s solidity as a computing platform. From initial loading of the live session DVD to flawless installation, I was up and running in less than 30 minutes.
Welcome screens are becoming a standard setup routine for Linux installations. They could all take a lesson on how to do it right using Linux Mint as an example. Even for seasoned Linux users, Linux Mint’s approach is quick and convenient to perform all first-run tasks.
The left column panel of the panel provides an excellent index to access general information, documentation, and getting the first steps done. This is especially useful for new users unfamiliar with Linux in general – and LM in particular.
The main window area guides you through each phase of updating system components and basic desktop configuration. Each segment briefly explains what is covered. A green-themed launch button puts every part of the process in motion.
Steps include selecting desktop colors, selecting traditional or modern panel layout, updating drivers and system components, configuring system settings, and software manager. The process even includes enabling the built-in firewall, which is something that many users overlook.
The Linux Mint 21 welcome screen walks you through all the setup steps after installation and is also a handy reminder of what needs to be updated periodically.
The design and usability features are one of the reasons I prefer the Cinnamon desktop. It has one of the most detailed and organized control panels of any Linux distribution.
The System Settings panel consolidates all configuration options in one place. But unlike other desktop setups with far fewer options, Linux Mint organizes all system controls into four general categories. A total of 40 icons hide related subcategories until you click on an icon to open it.
The only other desktop that has close to this number of configuration options is KDE Plasma. But this design is a series of separate settings panels that scatter user controls and options in too many menu places.
Although the configuration options available in the MATE and Xfce editions are less extensive, they still offer the flexibility to create the look and feel that suits your computing needs.
Linux Mint does a better job than other desktops with how it handles screen design and usability aspects. It has a wide range of quick access tools called desklets that live on the desktop screen. Its use of applets that reside on the bottom panel adds flexibility.
LM also offers a collection of extensions that provide even more usage options (similar to what’s available in the KDE Plasma desktop). This combination of features is a good reason to give this distro a try.
The desktop configuration options available in the MATE and Xfce editions are less extensive than those of Cinnamon. They always offer the flexibility to create the look and feel that suits your computing needs.
under the hood
Linux Mint 21 is based on Ubuntu 22.04 and provides full WIMP display like in windows, icons, menus, pointer. This is a Long Term Support (LTS) release supported until 2027.
Continuing LM’s whim of naming all versions with female names ending in the letter “a”, Vanessa is loaded with notable improvements in performance, compatibility, and stability. It comes with Linux kernel 5.15 LTS.
Other changes include a new NTFS file system driver that makes it easier to interact with Windows partitions, improvements to the default EXT4 file system, as well as better hardware support, security fixes, and bug fixes .
A key Bluetooth change to the LM Blueman circuitry replaces the Blueberry app, which depended on the GNOME desktop plumbing. Like Blueberry, Blueman is desktop independent and fits well into any environment. It builds on the standard BlueZ stack and works universally, including from the command line.
The Blueman manager and tray icon contain functionality that was not previously available in Blueberry. It manages more information to monitor connections or troubleshoot Bluetooth issues and brings better connectivity to headsets and audio profiles.
Linux Mint 21’s classic Cinnamon desktop design sports a favorites column, a list of application categories, and a changing sublist of installed titles.
Solutions to pain points
Welcome Vignettes to Vanessa. Its absence in previous versions was a usability issue. To address this, a new XApp (Linux Mint exclusive application) project called xapp-thumbnailers has been developed for Linux Mint 21.
Process Monitor is a pain point solution for me. It places a special icon in the system tray when automated tasks are running in the background. Such tasks can slow down system performance until they are completed. This new monitor is a silent alert that explains the slowdown of the computer.
Timeshift was an independent operating systems backup and recovery project. The creator has abandoned the application. LM took over the maintenance of Timeshift before the release of LM 21. Timeshift is now an XApp.
An immediate benefit is a change in how rsync mode works. It now calculates the space required for the next OS snapshot storage. It skips the procedure if running this snapshot results in less than 1 GB of free disk space.
Another remedy for the problems is the way LM 21 now manages the collection of parcels. It prevents the removal of the main menu (right click, uninstall) if an assessment detects that other programs would be impacted. This triggers an error message and stops the operation.
If no damage to key system components is detected, uninstalling an application from the main menu also removes dependencies for that application that were automatically installed and are no longer needed.
Scale and Expo viewport views are triggered in Cinnamon by hot corners and applets on the bottom panel.
Hardware requirements for Linux Mint 21 have not changed. You need a fairly modern computer because LM is not as light on system resources as it used to be. That means a box with a 64-bit processor, at least 2GB of RAM, and 15GB of free space.
The Linux Mint website has a full installation guide if you need help installing Linux Mint 21. But that should be unlikely. The install engine is well polished. Most of my computers run multiple partitions, which usually forces manual interventions.
The installer of the LM 21 did not stumble. He just asked where to put the OS. The installer handled all partitioning and adjustments in the background.
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