December 26th, 2016

A Nonreview of Linux Mint Xfce 18 ‘Sarah’

With Linux Mint Xfce 18.1 “Serena” due to be released any day now, we decided it was too late for a full review of Mint Xfce 18.0 “Sarah,” and opted instead for this down-and-dirty “nonreview.”

screenshot Linux Mint Xfce 18 "Sarah"

A peek at Linux Mint Xfce 18 “Sarah” as we see it daily at FOSS Force.

The FOSS Force Review Nonreview

Oh, drat. I’ve done gone and procrastinated too much again.

Shortly after Clem Lefebvre and his buddies released the Xfce edition of Mint 18 — that’s “Sarah” for those who prefer names to numbers — I installed it on one of the laptops I keep at the office so I could write a review. I even took the laptop with me to All Things Open in late October to give it a good workout — which I did writing my coverage of the conference for “another website.”

I never did get around to writing the review, but it’s always been on the back burner. I’d get it written before the next version of Mint is released, I figured.

I never planned to use Mint 18 on a daily basis. That hasn’t worked out either. It was originally just going to go on a laptop for a review and that would be it. The office desktop where I do the majority of my work was running Mint 17.0, which would be supported until long after the lifetime the old 32 bit desktop which was already obsolete when it came into our possession.

It turned out that was more correct than I’d realized. After a 15-second power failure crippled the machine this summer — it still worked but only kinda sorta — about a month back I finally bit-the-bullet and ordered a new-to-us refurbished Optiplex 780 from Amazon, which was delivered almost as soon as I clicked the “buy now” button. When Amazon gets the drone-delivery thing down, I figure they’ll have your order at the door before you’re finished entering your payment info.

Anyway, I popped Sarah onto the “new” machine, retired the old HP that had been limping along since the power failure, and have been using Sarah for all my daily work since.

Still no review got written, however. No need to rush.

Until the week before last, when going through the FOSS Force News Wire I saw that Mint 18.1 “Serena” had been released. Still no cause for concern. It was certain to be one of those supported-for-a-year short-term release things, meaning Sarah would still be the latest and greatest LTS for a while. Well, as you know, it turns out that Serena is a gal that Clem wants to keep around for a while. It’s an LTS that’ll be supported until 2021, or so say the *buntu fanboyz and grrlz over at OMG! Ubuntu!

That’s okay, I’m still not late. Not quite yet. What Clem & Company have released is Cinnamon and MATE versions of 18.1, meaning the KDE and Xfce versions won’t be released until the end of the year, which means I still have up to five days left.

Wait a minute. Five days? That’s like tomorrow.

Here’s my review. Or nonreview — it’s a little late for an official review of a distro scheduled to be replaced by week’s end: It’s great.

So great, in fact, that I no longer get to feel superior to Windows and Mac users because I know how to use Linux and they don’t. I can no longer feel smug because I can get the sound running, and knowing how to get a Winmodem to work…well, that’s a little bit of useless knowledge these day, isn’t it.

That’s the problem with modern all-purpose self-rising flavors of Linux, and has been since about the middle of last decade. They work as advertised out-of-the-box. No special skills required.

So far, Mint 18 Xfce has carried on that tradition. In fact, I haven’t found a single noteworthy bug since I’ve been using it. Nothing crashes or freezes whenever I forget and do this or that. There’s been no running to the forums, except to remember how to get rid of the Keyring nag screen. As expected, both on the laptop and on the desktop, Mint found all the hardware just fine, without me having to so much as touch a configuration file — which is great, because I’m not sure I even remember what a configuration file is anymore.

Some Linux users turn up their noses at Mint, either due to its derivation from Ubuntu or because of its status as an easy-to-use distro — which some seem to think makes it only suitable for newbs. While the former may have some merit, given some of Canonical’s questionable business practices, I think the later is unfounded. Easy to use it is. Although I tend to spend some time in a terminal each day, I can’t think of a single instance with Mint 18 when I was forced to use the command line because it was the only option.

In other words, wet behind the ears and fresh from Windows or Mac users will do just fine and will never have to face the dreaded command line until they’re ready, but for the rest of us, it’s still Linux under the hood. Ease of use doesn’t diminish the power and capabilities of any all-purpose self-rising Linux distro. The only thing I can’t do that I’d like to do is go to a real runlevel 3, but nothing related to Debian does that.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about some things to do after installing Mint Xfce — just in case there are any newbs out there ready to take the plunge.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

8 comments to A Nonreview of Linux Mint Xfce 18 ‘Sarah’

  • Revdjenk

    I began with Mint after installing v. 3, just a week before 4 rolled out; and still using it. Wow, two clicks and 18.1 installed over 18! (Of course, I backed up!)

  • UncleEd

    “That’s the problem with modern all-purpose self-rising flavors of Linux…”

    Yep. I’ve been telling people it’s on the way to be boring. The last time I remember I HAD to go to the command line was to install a Brother printer a year or two back. The installation involved adding a 32-bit driver to a 64-bit installation and some other gyrations. It was a pain.

    Now they’ve ruined it. A couple weeks ago, I pulled a laptop off the shelf for a trip and installed 17.3 KDE on it, so it was bare bones. On a whim, I just had it go looking for printers. It found the wireless Brother on the network and it installed just like all the other printers of the last few years.

    It’s nice these things are happening as my brain power is diminishing. Almost fifteen years ago, I had to compile MYSQL into Red Hat or something. I’m sure glad I don’t have to go back and learn how to do that again.

  • Nonya

    There was a recent article (not on this site) chastising the Linux Mint team for recommending that users only upgrade for a reason (in other words, if it works don’t upgrade just to upgrade). Unfortunately, the person that wrote that article seemed to confuse upgrades with updates. Updates, especially security updates are important, and should be applied as they become available. Upgrading to a new version of the OS as soon as it is available is not necessary.

    I am still using Linux Mint 17.3 (KDE) without problems on my desktop machine and two laptops. I may upgrade to 18.1 (KDE) when its available or not. I will certainly download the image and burn a DVD when its available, just to look it over. I did this with Linux Mint 18 (KDE). A friend upgraded to 18 as soon as it was available, and found a few minor but annoying bugs. He re-installed 17.3.

    BTW, any OS SHOULD be boring, if by boring you mean everything just works without having to fix anything!

  • UncleEd

    I never thought XP was boring. And it was colorful–that pretty blue screen. The fun you had when you lost the installation CD to anything. My students used to bring their computers to me when their friends and/or the Geek Squad didn’t get them running again. I could be a hero for ten or fifteen minutes. Shame the university wouldn’t let me charge money.

    After I retired, an oak tree fell in my back yard. A neighbor came over with his chainsaw, his wood splitter, and his non-booting computer. Have to admit his computer was a mess, but he worked a lot harder and two hours longer getting my fallen tree dealt with than I did on his computer. And then he wanted to pay me something to boot.

    Now that’s exciting.

  • Jim

    The fact that Linux is now easy to use just adds another great feather in its’ cap. After all, Linux powers the NY Stock Exchange, the nationwide ATM machines, nuclear submarines, the Space Shuttle, 747 jumbo jets, microwave ovens, clock radios, elevators, remote controls, new car dashboards, fancy refrigerators- really just EVERYTHING with a built in computer of almost any sort- even dishwashers and washing machines….

  • tracyanne

    Nice non review. My partner is still using LM 17.3 XFCE – she doesn’t like upgrades in general, and only let me upgrade her to LM 17+ because it was a new computer – I’ve tried to get her onto MATE, or even Cinnamon, but she won’t have a bar of it. Says XFCE is a “simple desktop for a simple person”

  • tracyanne

    PS we buy our computers with Ubuntu pre installed

  • @tracyanne I frequently work with MATE and Cinnamon when reviewing. I totally agree with your partner. I wouldn’t trade XFCE for anything. My next favorite desktop is KDE, and after that Enlightenment. Anything GNOME is way down at the bottom of my list. Simply isn’t my cup of tea.

    That’s why choice is such a good thing, eh?

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