Linux Mint 15 Olivia on Nvidia-ed laptop - Perfection?


Updated: June 15, 2013

We shall now commence the second review of Linux Mint 15 Olivia. In the first installment, we played with the distro on top of a T61 laptop, which comes with Intel graphics and two internal SSD. There were no cardinal issues, then again, neither there were any with Ubuntu, which later failed miserably when thrown against the HP machine and its Broadcom Wireless and Nvidia graphics.

All this makes today's effort all the more interesting. Especially since the behavior with other flavors of Ubuntu were not consistent. For example, I did not have any networking related problems with Kubuntu or Xubuntu. Likewise, the infamous kernel crashes only sporadically affected the latter. Nouveau was quiet on both, whereas it wrecked havoc on top of Unity. So with all these in mind, we begin the Cinnamon challenge [sic]. And remember, we will have a MATE review, all proper like, soon.

Teaser

Live session & install - We say goodbye to Lucid

Firstly, this time I did not botch the live session screenshots like the last time. Secondly, all the expected gadgets and peripherals worked fine, including Wireless and whatnot. Third, and more importantly, I finally decided to retire the Lucid instance installed on the HP laptop, after three stellar, fast, beautiful years of service. I must admit it really was awesome.

Live desktop

Therefore, instead of placing Olivia on the external disk with the whole bunch of its brethren, sistren and bastard cousins, I set it up on the internal disk, in a dual-boot configuration with Windows 7. Linux Mint smartly identified the older operating system image and suggested replacing it rather than its usual side-by-side logic.

Partitioning suggestion

Partition setup

Another interesting thing is the Driver Manager, which replaces Jockey, as well as gives a simpler, more intuitive way of managing content than a hidden tab under Software Source inside the Software Center. While in live session, the distro was using Nouveau and no Broadcom drivers, but we will see what happens after the first boot and such.

Driver manager

Olivia in action - Action!

More punny titles, oh hilarious. Anyhow, Linux Mint came up fine. It preserved all my settings from Lucid, without any conflicts whatsoever. This is really nice. Then, I set about configuring the distribution, which means some look & feel tweaks, getting the Nvidia and Broadcom drivers, Steam, extra software, and a few other little pimping details.

Nouveau was using a lot of CPU before the Nvidia driver was installed, but it was not a crippling experience like the Ringtail. Moreover, despite using the same crash-prone kernel like Ubuntu, I was lucky to escape the kernel panic, similar to Kubuntu. There were no issues with the Wireless performance and speed.

Once the Nvidia driver was configured, everything became smoother and faster still, on top of already impressive improvements in responsiveness, as well as the overall silky feel of the Cinnamon desktop environment.

Nvidia & Steam setup

I found Cinnamon to be delightful, especially after some minor visual changes. For example, the notification are really cool. And I retained the original icons and did not replace them with the Faenza set. As to Steam, I owe you an article, but this one will be available in a few weeks from now, so you will have to bear with me. All in all, it worked really great, and there's a very good icon integration in the system area.

Steam running

Notifications

Steam icon

Then, I also configured Skype and KVM, without any problems. System resource usage was fairly low overall, at only about 350 horse powers, which is great for a 64-bit box with Nvidia, and quite comparable to the results we achieved on Nadia. The CPU was damn quiet. Suspend & resume worked great. Boot up and shutdown figures also feel improved overall, although I've not clocked them yet, including a more seamless, polished splash screen, with no console text intrusions.

System usage

And here's the final desktop:

Final desktop

Conclusion

In my testing, I could not find anything wrong with Linux Mint Olivia. I really could not. However, giving it a perfect score might not be warranted, although it deserves it. The current build still ships with the bug that could crash your kernel. So you might read the review here, go back home happy, test and go away disappointed.

So we will compromise. The moment there's a kernel fix, and it ends up in the Mint repository, we will call it perfection, 10/10. At the moment, we will keep the grade at a humble asymptotic 9.99 and whatnot. In all seriousness, this is a splendid, most well rounded Linux distribution out there. It is not without faults, and could benefit from improvements, as I have laid out in my original review, they all could, but when you combine everything, including aesthetics, functionality, ease of use, friendliness, robustness, versatility, and overall appeal, then you can't go any better than this. Sure, Linux is still the underdog on the desktop, but what if you get all your apps in order. Then you surely want Linux Mint as your candidate. And that's all. Fabulous. Do test it.

Cheers.

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