Linux Mint – More reflections after a month of use

Some more pleasant surprises from the Linux Mint distribution (and probably applicable to all distros):

  1. NO MEMORY LEAKS/CONSISTENT UPTIME EXPERIENCE: I use lots of programs. So far, none of them have posed significant problems in slowing down the system after repeatedly opening them, using them, and closing them within a single, 24hr+ session of leaving the computer on. This is somewhat unprecedented. On my old Windows XP SP2 system, the computer would become sluggish after about 12 hrs of use. I can leave my Linux box on all night (and several nights in a row), and clicking on the Start button feels the same as ever, without any slowdowns.
  2. LESS RAM USE: I’m using 35% of 2 gigabytes of RAM right now, which is pretty nice. Compare this to the 50-60% of use in my old Windows environment (again, probably due to antivirus software and the like).
  3. SYMBOLIC LINKS: I first learned of these from my recent Ruby-learning days, when someone talked about using them in Linux environments to do some tricks on directory paths/structures. But basically, Linux uses symbolic links, or symlinks, instead of the standard shortcuts used by Windows. The way a Windows shortcut works in Windows Explorer is that, after you double-click it, you are transported to that target’s destination (which is likely a completely different path than the one you were in before you double-clicked it). A symbolic link is the same, except that, while the contents of the target folder show up after you double-click on the symbolic link, your directory path does NOT change. At first, this feels a bit weird, but, it all makes sense. You don’t have to hop over between 2 different directory structures to move files around. So, if your symlink is located on the Desktop, and it points to a folder called “Documents” under your username, what you’ll see in nautilus after you double-click it is something like /username/Desktop/name-of-symlink (instead of /username/Documents). If you have the target folder opened up with the symlink folder opened up next to it, and edit the contents of either window, you’ll see that the other window gets updated automatically. It’s one more piece of flexibility for the user. Of course, this means that, if you forget the actual directory path of your target folder, you’ll have to right-click on the symlink and open up its Properties dialog box. But this is a trivial issue that has not come up for me in actual practice.

UPDATE May 10, 2008: See my post “Linux Mint Tips” about a memory leak on mintMenu, and a way to get rid of it. (By the way, although this memory leak revelation sounds bad, my system now uses more like 20% of my 2 GB of RAM because of the memory leak fix mentioned in that post.)

Linux Mint (4.0, “Daryna”) + Compiz Fusion Screenshots

I just can’t resist — here’s a screenshot of my desktop in action. It’s using the Desktop Cube and Rotate Cube plugins for Compiz Fusion (adjustable in ccsm, as described in the last post), with a dual monitor, 3360 x 1050 resolution, with a 6-sided hexagon as my “cube” (the number is arbitrary — you can have up to 16; the number of sides the cube has is determined by how many “workspaces” you have, which can be set up separately from the preferences menu of the Workspace switcher icon, which is part of the Panel (Linux Mint lingo for the Windows XP Taskbar)).

You don’t have to worry about the minimized window buttons on the Panel adding up in an unsightly way on your Panel, because all windows/programs indicate their presence in the Window List area on the Panels that are in the same Workspace as the window (e.g., if you have 10 windows opened up on Workspace 1, those windows will NOT show up on the Panel area in Workspace 2). The idea is to have maybe 5 or 6 windows open at a time per Workspace, and then to use the other spaces as necessary.

And below is a shot of my workspace.

The gadgets on the right are those nifty Screenlets that I talked about in the last post (CircleClock, ClearCalendar, ClearWeather, RingSensors, and AllCoreCPUUsage). In case you’re curious, the wallpapers are from here. I just slapped two of the wallpapers together to achieve a separate look for the left and right monitors.

One of the coolest parts about the Desktop Cube/Rotate Cube combination is that, even when you’re rotating the cube around, all the screens are LIVE — yup, the clock digits will keep counting, the movies will keep playing, and you’ll be able to see them all change (even system dialog boxes that have progress bars on them will update live). This is how much the Compiz Fusion developers care about the user experience; kudos to them.