Linux – Part 26
Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx), a long term support
(LTS) version, reached end-of-life status on May 9, 2013 which
essentially meant that there would be no further security updates for
this version of the operating system. However, the good news was that
Version 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) was to have support through April,
My plan, therefore, was to switch my production machine to the new
Precise release. In preparation, I had been running this version of
Ubuntu on my development machine for the previous year, ever since its
initial release on April 12, 2012. While the new OS had run in this
manner without incident, installing Precise on my production machine
resulted in a litany of problems, all seemingly related to
incompatibilities with the AMD/ATI HD 6450 video card installed in the
The really interesting feature was that booting the desktop from a
live-CD (actually a live-USB) produced a stable system that performed
perfectly normally. The troubles only began once I installed the new
operating system to the machine's hard drive.
The first odd behaviour was after rebooting immediately following the
installation procedure. The machine booted into a blank, light-purple
screen – not a good sign! Using a combination of reboot and recovery
options, I was eventually able to bring the screen into a “split”
condition – with the left third being displayed on the right of the
screen, and the right two-thirds showing on the left. Not only was the
effect disconcerting, the entire display was constantly flickering, so
that reading and responding to prompts in this mode was somewhat
To cut a long story short, the main fix for the non-booting/odd-display
problem proved to be to install the proprietary AMD Catalyst Driver for
Radeon. However, one further issue was that subsequent updates to the
xserver files broke the Catalyst driver which then had to be
reinstalled, but this process did produce a more-or-less stable system.
The final straw came when, following a cold boot, a series of short
black lines was left dancing across the top portion of the screen.
Another user had noted this problem and his workaround was to log off
the system and then immediately log back on again! Amazingly, this
worked for me also; however, I didn't consider this to be a viable
solution. Furthermore, the dashed lines were occasionally displayed on
login – but only occasionally. So much for computers being consistent,
The bottom line turned out to be that no solution to this specific
issue was forthcoming from Google searches; error reporting to both AMD
and Ubuntu was both frustrating and fruitless; and dancing lines before
my eyes, even only on occasion, were completely unacceptable. So, the
ultimate solution was – move to a new distro!
Enter Linux Mint 13 (Maya) with the Mate user interface. Mint 13 is a
derivative of Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) and hence is an LTS
version with support through 2017. Furthermore, because it is based on
Precise, it is a reasonably familiar operating system to both use and
troubleshoot. In addition, Mate is interesting because it can be
configured to look very much like Gnome. This is perhaps not surprising
since Mate is a fork of Gnome2.
Despite nominally being based on Precise, Mint 13 installed and ran
flawlessly on my desktop machine. Ah! – hints of the good old days –
when successful use of a live-CD preceded an uncomplicated installation
to the hard drive.
The as-installed display is somewhat different than the Gnome Classic
under Ubuntu. In particular, the control panel runs along the bottom of
the screen rather than across the top. The wallpaper is clearly
different and, by default, on-screen icons indicate any disks that are
automatically mounted at boot-up.
The good news is that the layout of the panel is
customizable. It can easily be moved (Right-click – Properties –
General – Orientation) to the top of the screen, or a new top panel
added if so desired. In addition, a “custom menu bar” can be added to
the panel that restores the familiar Applications – Places - System
The icons for the mounted disks can be eliminated by changing the
desktop settings (Main Menu – System – Control Center – Desktop
Settings – Mounted Volumes), Even Mint's main menu can be removed from
the panel to really give the screen a truly Gnome-like appearance.
All of my favourite Linux applications, including inosync, Back In
Time, BleachBit, DOSbox, Kalarm, and KeePassX work flawlessly under
Mint. The default file manager, Caja, looks and feels very much like
Nautilus; however, I did replace Pluma, the default text editor, with
the more familiar gedit. This wasn't because Pluma functioned in any
significantly different manner, it was purely that I couldn't get used
to typing “pluma” instead of “gedit” in Terminal commands!
Ubuntu, with its insistence on the Unity interface, and I have been
moving apart in recent years. Mint, with its Mate interface, currently
seems to offer me the best of all worlds. So, for now at least, I have
a new favourite Linux distro.
published: January, 2014
expressed in these reviews
do not necessarily represent the views of the
Ottawa PC Users' Group or its members.