Linux Mint 15 Olivia KDE - The eyes smile doth not


Updated: August 14, 2013

Well, time to review Linux Mint 15 Olivia KDE. Normally, I do not review Mint releases adorned with the KDE desktop, not because there's something wrong with them, but simply because it has never been Mint's forte. The last time I tried this combo was with Lisa, and the experience was somewhat lukewarm.

On the other hand, Mint has always shown pretty good results with Cinnamon and MATE, and this is where most of the focus and love really are. Anyhow, let us commence. I will be testing the distro on my T61 machine, which comes with 2GB RAM, two SSD, and a cheap graphics card. And for those weird people who read my reviews and think I'm doing them in a virtual machine, no, I am not. Physical and all. Proceed, please.

Teaser

Live session - Consistency unto last detail

If you glimpse at Lisa and Olivia side by side, you will find it hard to tell the two apart, and this is because Mint 15 ships with the same elegant, robust, well-rounded KDE package like it did all those summers back, for good or worse. If you're looking for extra excitement, you will have to wait until after you install the system and customize it to your liking. If you prefer familiar looks and behavior, then this is thy turf.

Live desktop

Menu

Wireless, Samba sharing and such like

All of these did what they were supposed to. The Wireless connectivity was just fine. There were no ugly, annoying prompts from KDEWallet, and no bogus messages on failed connectivity. Good. Likewise, Samba sharing worked as expected.

Multimedia

Well, it's a given really. Mint is one of the few distros that offers a really fully complete multimedia experience, with everything in there, not just the most basic set of codecs, because Flash and MP3 will work in a lot of systems. So you're all set.

MP3 playback

Flash

Installation

All right. We will leave everything else for after the installation. As usual, I am going to install this distro into a quad-boot setup. The primary distro is Ubuntu Pangolin, and the other two resident systems are Kubuntu 12.04 and Maya, both LTS releases.

The new installer is less existing than it used to be. It does not run in full screen mode anymore, and it comes with small, condensed text, pushed mostly to the left and with too little spacing between different elements. Then, on the right, you have too much empty white space, which creates a jarring contrast. This is the exact same problem we have observed with Netrunner Enigma. Well, not a problem, but a stylistic conundrum.

Installer, like Netrunner

Finding your partitions is relatively easy. Next, you get a slightly boring slideshow that falls short of the proud and exciting presentation layer you get in the Cinnamon and MATE releases. It's as if someone had an afterthought, and called it slideshow. Too bad, because nothing kills enthusiasm better than mild enthusiasm.

Partition setup

Slideshow

One, two, three, action!

The installation completed very quickly and without any problems. After a quick setup of the GRUB2 bootloader in Ubuntu, I booted into Olivia KDE, to see what gives once the distro has been committed to disk. A real, PHYSICAL disk. Like always.

Installed desktop

Applications

Mint 15 KDE comes with a decent, robust arsenal of software. It's not dazzling, and it should not be. The glitter has been replaced with solid functionality. In every category, you get one or two useful programs, and that's about it. You have Firefox, KMail, KTorrent, LibreOffice, VLC, GIMP, GwenView, K3b, Okular, Amarok, and several more, plus a handful of system tools and utilities, some of which are cozily tucked away in the System Settings menu, including some of the unique Mint tools.

Applications

System settings

Package management

Worked well and true. The one complaint I have is that Mint defaults to Ubuntu archives and security servers, regardless of the regional settings, so you may end up with less than optimal bandwidth for your repo installations and updates unless you change the sources.

Updates

Desktop effects

Worked like a charm. Plus a stunning Alt-Tab effects, hot corners, everything. The experience was smooth and elegant, without any stutter or lag.

Alt-Tab effect

Desktop effects

Beauty - more of it

Olivia KDE is a shy, reserved girl, and it does not flaunt its attributes all about. However, you can very quickly enliven the distro with some extra color, wallpapers, additional effects, plus some nice windows decorations.

Cool things

Decorations

System stability & resource usage

Here's a couple of great things. First, Linux Mint 15 KDE was rock solid, without a single application or system crash. Most of the time, KDE is slightly hit or miss situation in this regard, but Olivia, or shall we say Kolivia, behaved like a vestal nun.

Then, the resource usage is fairly light. The memory not so, but the CPU was awfully quiet, which is good, and the responsiveness of the system accordingly sweet. I am not sure how much customization the Mint team has performed under the hood, so this could be just pure KDE or kernel goodness, or both, or chance, or something else entirely.

System usage

Woes

There were a few bad things, after all. One is Jovie, which is supposed to be a text to speech utility. I powered it, and then, what it did was stall the desktop and start chomping cycles, anywhere between 50-100%. Eventually, I had to kill the program to restore normal functionality.

The second big issue is the printing. For some reason, the printing utility would not let me browse Samba shares. This means that if you do not know the exact string for your printer, including the model, port and whatnot, you will not be able to connect to it. Pity.

Printing, no browse option

Conclusion

OK, so what we have here is a gently bipolar and a fairly mild, uncontroversial review without the usual foam and wrath and ultra-ranting. So let's notch it up a little. Anyhow, Linux Mint is a distro with a very good reputation and self-understanding. And it's mostly about what the team can do with Cinnamon, their darling.

With KDE, it feels more detached, more vanilla, less emotional. Either because the team lacks resources or maybe desire to fiddle with KDE, but it does show. You can see the big smile, but it does not touch the eyes, and there's no fooling anyone. On the plus side, most if not everything works quite well. Good looks, excellent programs, awesome stability, awesome system behavior and resource usage. But then, no soul. No fun. It's a given, because that's what's expected, but sort of like a contract that has to be fulfilled, and that was the only obligation.

Then, there were some small issues that would not happen in the Cinnamon and MATE editions, most of the time, so perhaps, Linux Mint Olivia KDE is mostly about offering a very good distro, but not the best, and it surely cannot up the main version. To wit, your slight disappointment. And mine. All in all, not bad, 8/10, but it can be better.

Cheers.

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