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  • Rediscovering Mint after a while in KDE-land

    Posted on Ascaris Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody support Other platforms – for Windows wonks Linux for Windows wonks Rediscovering Mint after a while in KDE-land

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     Ascaris 1 week, 1 day ago.

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      Ascaris
      AskWoody_MVP

      I am rediscovering Mint on my Swift laptop.  I used Mint with Cinnamon on my Linux PCs (desktop, Asus F8Sn laptop) until I bought the Swift, which was when I discovered that Mint Cinnamon had a serious battery life problem compared to other desktop environments. That had not been an issue on my F8Sn laptop, as its battery life is so short (even with brand new batteries) that it is more of a portable desktop with a UPS than a true laptop, and my desktop is, of course, a desktop.  With the Swift, battery life was a key issue, and Mint Cinnamon 18.x, the newest at the time, fell short.

      Mint Xfce and Kubuntu did much better on battery life tests I did, and I ended up migrating to Kubuntu, then KDE Neon.  The Swift was the only one whose battery life was an issue for me, but KDE had so many positive attributes that I went to Neon on all of my Linux PCs (I prefer to keep them the same to the greatest degree possible).

      While a lot of people seem to regard Mint 19.x as problematic, it seems to be working well on the Swift.  The initial testing I have done has indicated that the battery life issue seems to be fixed, and that was the reason I moved away from Mint.  KDE was always my first choice desktop environment, but various bugs and rough edges kept pushing me away, and that’s why I ended up on Cinnamon.  By the time I got the Swift, KDE had gotten good enough to be a real option.

      KDE is powerful, but it’s definitely more buggy than Cinnamon, which is one reason I still recommend Mint Cinnamon as my go-to Linux distro for Windows users.  The KDE devs have been working on that, and it’s getting better and better, but lately, I’ve been annoyed by a few KDE bugs on the Swift.

      Ever since Plasma 5.15, the Intel i915 driver has not worked well with KDE, causing an annoying flashing as certain UI elements disappear and reappear when the mouse pointer hovers over various icons.  Ubuntu recommends using the modesetting driver anyway for Intel integrated graphics, but in KDE, the modesetting driver results in a noticeable (read “massive”) performance loss when I use my favored window decoration themes.  I’ve been using the Breeze theme to mitigate the performance loss, but its flatness and the smaller buttons without any skeuomorphic effects have gotten on my nerves, as it feels like I have to hit the tiny glyph instead of the much larger button area that would be the target with a skeuomorphic design.  The one I want to use, QTStep, is so much faster to use because of its excellent skeuomorphics, but it’s sloooow with modesetting.  It’s nice and fast with i915, but then the KDE blinking UI elements issue manifests.  I can only have any two of these: flicker free screen elements, reasonable performance, and my preferred window decoration theme.

      On top of that, I was out and about, playing a silly little Windows game in WINE while waiting for something or other, and as I usually do, I just close the laptop lid when I have to interact with someone, with the expectation that this will put the laptop into standby and lock the session, which is important on a laptop that could be lost or stolen.  When I opened the lid on the laptop once again, the laptop resumed from standby as it should, but it didn’t lock the session… it just picked right up where it left off.  Outside of that particular game in WINE, it behaves as I have it set: close lid, lock and sleep.  I tried all kinds of things to fix the issue, but nothing worked.

      Frustrated by KDE, I made sure my secondary Kubuntu boot on the laptop was backed up, then put Mint 19.1 in its place.  I proceeded to install everything I could remember from KDE into Mint as well (still forgot a bunch, I am sure), then tried closing the lid on the same game in WINE again (literally the same; I just reused my same /home from KDE).  Upon resume, it presented a lock screen, as it should have.  Aha!

      I noticed that Mint boots just as fast as Neon, which is to say it’s pretty much instant with my SSD.  I’d seen complaints that Mint 19.x boots slowly.  Not here!

      In Mint, the modesetting driver greatly outperforms the i915 one, on my setup at least.  The modesetting driver with my custom theme for Mint is as fast as the i915 one in KDE, but without the flicker. The theme in Cinnamon is my custom one, so it’s got the skeuomorphic effect I like. I get all three of the attributes I listed a few paragraphs above.

      I have heard that there were a lot of complaints about Mint 19.x, enough so that lead dev Clem posted a melancholy message about being weighed down by all the negativity, but on my Swift, it’s solid, and far less buggy than KDE Neon.  The biggest problem I still have with Mint (and all other desktop environments that use the GTK toolkit, which is nearly all of them) is that horrible file picker… especially for file loading.

      The GNOME devs, who share with Mozilla a lack of concern for user feedback and a fetish for amputating important features, “helpfully” got rid of the load file dialog’s text input field where one can type or paste in a file location, along with the button to toggle between breadcrumbs and text entry.  There’s a secret keystroke to do that, which I use all the time (CTRL-L)… but that’s so utterly stupid that I get angry every time I see the ridiculous dialog with no text field.  The GNOME devs said that the text entry field is not a main feature, but is more of an “Easter egg” kind of thing.  Can you believe that?  Something as basic and important as a text field in a file load dialog is an “Easter egg?” Is the steering wheel in my car an “Easter egg” too?  Is the running water in my house an “Easter egg?”

      Of course, I had to deal with that even in KDE, as many Linux programs use the GTK toolkit, and thus the GTK file picker.  In Cinnamon, Mate, and Xfce, the GTK file picker is the “official” one, so it appears more often.  Compared to the perfection that is the KDE file picker, the GTK one is just laughably bad.  Fortunately, in KDE, I was able to use a special KDE build of Waterfox to use the KDE file picker instead of the GTK one (Waterfox and Firefox use GTK on Linux), and recent builds of Firefox have the ability to use the “native” file picker by setting an environment variable.  But when I use Cinnamon, the GTK one is the “native” file picker.

      One of the really neat features of KDE is KDE connect, which I use to quickly blast files back and forth between PCs on my network, as well as copying and pasting things with the shared clipboard feature (all of this can be turned off if you don’t want it).  KDE connect is meant for KDE Plasma, but there is a system tray applet that lets it work with other desktop environments, and while installing that pulls in many megabytes of unnecessary dependencies (other distros pull in just a few), it works.

      Some people like to distro hop.  I’m not doing that… I am staying as close to the same distro as I can, but Mint no longer has a KDE edition, so I had to move to other members of the Ubuntu family to use KDE.  I’m mostly being knocked back and forth between desktops by bugs, and I prefer to use a Linux with the desktop in question rather than installing a new desktop into an existing Linux installation.

      At least in the Linux world I have the choice of moving to another desktop when the one I am using has bugs I don’t want to live with… in Windows, you’re just stuck until MS decides to fix it.

       

      Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.16.3 & Kubuntu 18.04).

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