Linux Mint 17.1 Rebecca KDE review


Updated: April 8, 2015

My first encounter with Rebecca wasn't that successful. I tried running it from an external USB device attached to my HP laptop, with its Nvidia graphics and Broadcom Wireless, and throughout the test, the network flaked, causing much grief and annoyance.

With Lenovo G50 in my hands as the brand new test machine, it's time to embark on a minty journey once more. 'Tis important, as the box comes with UEFI, Secure Boot, GPT, and some other fancy stuff, and we've already seen that Linux support for it isn't quite as you'd want or expect. So let's see what gives here.

Teaser

Will it boot?

Yo I don't know, turn off the lights and yes! It does. For Linux Mint, the slew of modern and restricting technologies isn't that restricting. Rebecca KDE handled the challenge well enough, and soon, I was logged into a clean, blue-tinged live session. So if we compare to say Netrunner, for instance, we can see that Mint has been tailored with more flexibility, much like its spiritual papa, Ubuntu.

Live session

Menu

Network connectivity, hardware support and such

While we know there's a problem with the Wireless on this box, as Trusty's 3.13 kernel, also used in Mint 17.1, isn't quite modern enough to handle the Realtek RTL8723BE card on this laptop, the problem luckily did not manifest during the live session, and Wireless worked just fine. Once again, a complete solution is coming your way soon. For now, bear with me. Bluetooth also worked fine. Samba, too.

One thing that did bother me was that there's no way to configure the touchpad device. It works, it scrolls, it clicks, but the system thinks it doesn't have the right drivers for it, so all options are grayed out, and that means that you get random tap clicks, which almost made me give up on this distro. It's the little things that can really spoil everything. We will see about this later on.

Touchpad probles

Multimedia support

True to its mission statement, Rebecca offers everything out of the box. Amarok played MP3 files, you get Flash and such, and there's even VLC if you're even in doubt regarding any one codec.

Flash

MP3 playback

Installation

The disk layout is pretty straightforward, if somewhat tricky, but it's an excellent lesson in dual and multi-booting and such. You have a GPT partition table, a bunch of Windows partitions, then Ubuntu and Netrunner, plus a spare one where Mint is gonna be.

Partitions setup

Installing

There were no problems, and Rebecca installed successfully. One thing to note is that after the first reboot, I had a Mint bootloader menu show up rather than Ubuntu, even though I pointed it to the root partition. So this might be a glitch somewhere. Not a biggie, but surely not something that we wanted to happen.

Now, the fun part

Linux Mint 17.1 KDE behaved well. It did not preserve the Wireless settings, but at least the KDEWallet pestering was minimal. Then, network problems did eventually crop up, just like in Ubuntu 14.04, and my little trick slash hack with the kernel module blacklisting options fixed it. I will share, I promise.

Desktop installed

Software management & updates

Things worked without any problems. Smoothly and elegantly, including safe and unsafe patches. Moreover, I was able to search for missing content with ease, and both the graphical and command line portions of the equation behaved as expected.

Updates

Unsafe updates

Applications

The default setup is decent enough, a mix of KDE and generic software, without any great loss of coherence or identity. Most of the stuff is practical and useful, including Firefox, LibreOffice, VLC, Amarok, a handful of Mint utilities and other goodies, and then some.

Apps

Some of the things can sometimes be a little confusing, like for instance, certificate management. What exactly is the common user supposed to do here? I know, I know, but still please.

Certificate management

Resources

Memory utilization is high, at about 900MB, but the CPU is quiet. Even though i3 isn't the fastest processor on the market, it's snappy enough for a pleasing experience. With an average usage of only about 1-2%, it's responsive, and the desktop feels slick and the underlying hardware more than adequate for the task.

Resource usage

Stability, suspend & resume

There were no crashes, no glitches. The laptop suspends & wakes beautifully, taking an exact second for both. This is quite nice. And we don't even have SSD, mind. You can only notice the lack of speed during boot times. But that's not important. I'm getting carried away. Right.

Touchpad nonsense

Even after a full system update, Mint 17.1 remained baffled about Touchpad and Synaptics, not letting me turn off taps and gestures, which were getting in my way while typing. This is really stupid, because Trusty does not have this problem. The solution is simple but not trivial, and we will discuss it in a separate rant. But in the end, with a new kernel in place, the issue went away.

No Synaptics driver

Additional hardware detection and compatibility

The rest of it worked fine. Thus, fighting for the dark side, Touchpad and Wireless, both solved with relative ease, and on the bright side, Webcam also behaved fine, as well as all the Fn buttons, high-capacity SD cards, and such. Not bad, all considered.

Webcam

Extra customization

While I have to admit that KDE4 looks a bit boring compared to Plasma 5, it's still fun to play with. I pulled some extra themes, icons, window decorations, and wallpapers, and soon enough, the desktop was starting to look presentable. Then, I also downloaded some extra programs, and I quickly forgot about my touchpad woes, even though I almost came to a breaking point. In the end, it was all right.

Final desktop

Final desktop, with apps

Alt-Tab effect

Desktop effects

Conclusion

If we ignore the touchpad fiasco, Linux Mint 17.1 KDE is a very robust, very elegant release. It comes with all the necessities for a happy, carefree desktop usage. Everything works out of the box, the system is fast and stable, and apart from some small niggles, hardware detection and compatibility is quite good.

Perhaps this isn't the most exciting KDE around, but most of them come with a fairly reserved and somewhat bland default presentation, and it takes time digging under the hood to bring all the excitement to the surface. Overall, if you like the Mint family, then this is a very decent offering, and it also works well on modern laptops plagued with evil concepts. So that's an added bonus, for sure. All in all, 8.81/10. Definitely worth a try. And I'm off to have my lunch. Bye.

Cheers.

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