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Linux Mint Saves The Day

Linux Mint Saves The Day Posted on May 31, 201636 Comments
Joe Collins worked in radio and TV stations for over 20 years where he installed, maintained and programmed computer automation systems. Joe also worked for Gateway Computer for a short time as a Senior Technical Support Professional in the early 2000’s and has offered freelance home computer technical support and repair for over a decade. Joe is a fan of Ubuntu Linux and Open Source software and recently started offering Ubuntu installation and support for those just starting out with Linux through EzeeLinux.com. The goal of EzeeLinux is to make Linux easy and start them on the right foot so they can have the best experience possible. Joe lives in historic Portsmouth, VA in a hundred year old house with three cats, three kids and a network of computers built from scrounged parts, all happily running Linux.
(Last Updated On: June 2, 2016)

There are no two ways about it. Ubuntu blew it big time with their 16.04 release. All of the Ubuntu flavors I looked at in beta performed beautifully but the moment 16.04 became an official release something went terribly wrong. I started to hear rumblings from the community almost immediately and then I ran right into show-stopping problems myself when I bought a new computer a couple of weeks ago. This article will detail those problems and you’ll find out just why I have found a new respect for Linux Mint.

Those of you who’ve been reading my stuff and watching my videos will no doubt remember how I went gaga over Ubuntu MATE. I still think it’s one of the most innovative distros out there. As a matter of fact, the problems with Ubuntu 16.04 have very little to do with the desktop, so I don’t blame any of the independent communities like Ubuntu GNOME, Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu or Ubuntu MATE for the issues folks are dealing with. Information is still a bit sketchy as to what’s going on with the Network Manager problem and the display issues all go back to driver problems that third party companies have to deal with. Still, Canonical, the company that distributes Ubuntu, has their hands full. We’ll talk more about them later.

THE INSTALL FROM HELL!

My HP EliteBook came up with a broken hinge and so I decided it was time to find me a new laptop. I looked at the current crop of new machines and a whole bunch of used ones, too. I finally settled on a very nice refurbished Dell Studio 1750. It has all Intel inside, a big colorful 17-inch monitor and just enough Core Duo processing power to play the kids games and to do a fine job of playing YouTube videos. Awesome. I didn’t anticipate any problems getting Ubuntu MATE to run on this machine. It isn’t all that different from the HP EliteBook and the installation of Ubuntu MATE Beta was a breeze on the HP.

My first plan of attack was to simply take the hard drive from the HP and put it in the Dell. There’s no UEFI and I had no proprietary drivers installed, so this should have worked just fine. I swapped the drives and, lo and beheld, it booted with no apparent issues at all. “Cool,” I thought to myself, “This’ll be easy.” Wrong! Yeah, it booted just fine but I had no Internet access. Neither WiFi nor Ethernet worked at all. It was funny because the WiFi appeared to be working. It saw the networks but just would not connect. I went off to burn a fresh Ubuntu MATE 16.04 install DVD.

Booting the machine from the DVD gave me a slightly different result. The WiFi didn’t work at all but I could get access with an Ethernet cable. “OK,” I thought, “I’ll just reinstall and I can figure out what’s up with the WiFi.” Wrong again! I did and found that the WiFi built into the Dell was Broadcom and needed a driver. No problem. OS all installed, driver installed and the WiFi card was operational. The problems started again when I went to create the user accounts. There are five total on this machine. Each time I’d log into a new account, the WiFi would ask me to put in the passphrase for my network and each time it would take several tries to get it coroneted. I had configured only two of the accounts when it decided to stop working altogether. Clicking on the Network Manager icon would just make it disappear. It crashed every time. I’d restart it and it would happen again. Bummer.

Mint-superLINUX MINT TO THE RESCUE

I poked at this all damn day, folks. I tried Ubuntu with Unity, Ubuntu GNOME. Evey version of Ubuntu 16.04 simply wasn’t going to work with this laptop’s WiFi. I didn’t want to go back to Ubuntu 14.04 but Ubuntu 16.04 wasn’t going to get it for sure. I did install 14.04, only to find that the screen brightness settings were all jacked up. The machine booted with a very dim screen and you’d have to manually adjust it every time if you wanted to use it. That sucked. I was now at my wit’s end and I considered sticking the Windows 7 drive back in it and packing it up to send it back!

I’d try one more thing first, though. Let’s see what happens with Linux Mint.

It was evening when I went and dug out my Linux Mint 17.3 installer DVD and gave that a try. Bam! Everything worked perfectly! The WiFi driver installed without a hitch and I only had to connect it once. Each time I created a new account, the WiFi was already there and I have had zero networks related trouble with this machine since. Working with the Cinnamon Desktop was like going back home and I got everything installed and rocking in just an hour or so. Linux Mint still won’t suspend the machine when the lid is closed while sitting at the login screen, though. That’s actually OK with me because I figured a way to use it to my advantage. I’ll explain that in more detail later.

HERE WE GO AGAIN

The ten-year-old eMachine desktop I had been using for e-mail and such finally got to be more trouble than the ability to brag about getting useful work done on a dinosaur was worth. It was slow. There’s no getting around the fact that today’s software is built for multi-core processors and runs slower than molasses in January on an old single-core machine. This old machine also started to show its age by locking up at the most inopportune moments. Other than the broken hinge, the HP with its Intel i5 still worked just fine and so I hatched a plan to put it back in service. I would use it as a desktop by plugging in a keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer and speakers. My plan included running it with the lid closed so the faulty hinge wouldn’t be an issue at all.

Now, this machine had been running Ubuntu MATE 16.04 without a hitch, so my first thought was to slap a new drive in it, install Ubuntu MATE and everything would be unicorns and rainbows. Wrong! Not only did I run into the same WiFi-related problems but the displays were a mess. All I wanted the machine to do was use the Acer 19 inch display I had been using on the eMachine as the primary display. Ubuntu didn’t like that idea from the start. It came up with the login screen at some crazy resolution that made me only be able to see half of the login screen. I was able to open Displays and fix the problem but the settings wouldn’t stick. Every time I logged out it would go back to being all jacked up.

NOW I’M PISSED

For my British friends, I don’t mean that I had one too many beers while I was fooling around with the computer. No, I was pissed in the American sense, meaning I was mad as hell. Why was I so upset? Simply this: ALL of this had WORKED flawlessly when the machine was running Ubuntu MATE 16.04 Beta and now it didn’t work at all! I tested it weeks before I even thought of buying the Dell laptop to replace the HP. The idea of shifting the HP to desktop status had been knocking around in my head for a while.

“So, what am I gonna do now?” I thought to myself. Answer: “I’m gonna install Linux Mint 17.3!” Guess what, folks? It worked perfectly, yet again, and I’m writing this text on it right now.

The ‘no suspend at login’ thing I have complained about the Mint Display Manager in the past actually worked in my favor here. Linus Torvalds once said that if developers leave a bug in something long enough it becomes a feature. Well, here’s a case in point. I set the desktop to do nothing when the lid is closed and that way I can run the machine with it closed and locked so I don’t have to fool with the broken hinge. If it would suspend at the login screen then that would be a pain because it would just go to sleep right after booting up. So far, it works perfectly.

The Dell Studio acts the same way. I can have the kids log out but not shut down. They close the lid, the screen goes out but the machine is still very much on-line. I can work on it through SSH and send a power off command when I’m done. That’s nice.

I still have one machine running Ubuntu MATE 16.04 and I’ve had no issues with it so far. The only problem is that if I should want to reload that machine, I am willing to bet that it won’t work. Canonical screwed the pooch somewhere between beta and official release and took what promised to be a super stable Ubuntu distro and made it a big pain in the ass. This is particularly frustrating for those of us who talked it up so glowingly in the tech press prior to the release date. We now all look like a bunch of idiots. The Linux detractors out there are going to have a field day with this as well.

WHAT HAPPENED?

Ubuntu has a laundry list of problems to worry about with 16.04. No AMD proprietary drivers, display flickering issues on certain Intel graphics, the new Software app has had major problems and let’s not forget the show-stopping Network Manager bug.

There’s lots of complaining about what Canonical got wrong here and I don’t want to appear to be one who would kick them when they’re down but I would like to offer my opinion for what’s it’s worth. Here goes…

I talked this over with Jeremy O’Connell at Cyberweb in Atlanta a few days ago and he said something that really got me to thinking. He asked the question, “Why does Canonical lock themselves into such a rigid release cycle in the first place? Why not release numbered releases when they’re actually ready instead of pushing out what they’ve got just because the calendar says they need to?” I couldn’t give him a good answer.

Mark Shuttleworth has made a big deal out of the “orderly release candidates” that Ubuntu uses in speeches for years. Well, maybe it worked ten years ago but now it’s out of step with the FOSS world and it doesn’t do anybody in the Ubuntu ecosystem any favors. The idea of an LTS is a good one, though. Rolling releases are a big gamble for anyone who needs their machines to work day in and day out without having to troubleshoot something that gets broken with updates. I would have happily waited a few more months for the next Ubuntu LTS as long as it worked right when it came along and I think a lot of users would agree with me on that.

Linux Mint takes a lot of heat for the way they wait for things to be ready before putting out the next version and they’ve had also taken heat for basing their entire distro on Ubuntu LTS releases starting with 14.04. Mint now releases interim “dot” releases that users can easily upgrade to without having to do a complete reload. I think I may have added my voice to those who complained about Mint’s “stagnation” at times but I take it all back now, folks.

Whether or not we will be able to move to Linux Mint 18 when it finally comes along with an in-place upgrade remains to be seen but they can take their sweet time on that, as far as I’m concerned. I want to know that whenever they come up with is going to work when I upgrade or install it. I’m tired of dealing with what amounts to a bait and switch from other distros. Ubuntu 16.04 looked wonderful in beta but now I can’t use it nor can I recommend it to my clients.

Linux Mint is NOT perfect but it meets the criteria I set forth when I set up a machine for someone other than myself, which is that it has to be stable and it has to be easy to work with. I don’t want to worry about an update breaking a whole bunch of machines and then I have to deal with it for weeks to come as clients call me or e-mail me for support. Yes, Linux Mint holds back sensitive packages but maybe they’re right to do so after all. Security is damn important but so is stability and there has to be a balance of risk to reward that should be considered every time something is updated. Is it more of a security risk to keep the stable version or is there more of a risk of trashing the system when you upgrade for the sake of security?

I respect the fact that the thick-glasses wearing, neck-bearded Linux nerds out there want to be on the cutting edge of technology but there’s another group of us who just want the stuff to work. The glasses and neckbeard crowd have had the loudest voices up to now but I think it’s high time some reality got injected into the discussion and hopefully, this article will serve to do just that and get folks talking more about reality and less about ideas and theory. Linux is out of the lab for good now. It’s no longer a toy for the technically gifted. It’s time to treat it as such and stop beta testing long after the official release date has come and gone.

Are you hearing me, Canonical?

One more thing: There’s too much hype out there. I include myself when I say that those of us who write about technology need to stop echoing the press releases and quoting the speeches from release day events and start being a lot more critical of what actually comes to us when we click on that download button. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement but when the dust settles and we gotta use the stuff for real that’s what really matters.


 Affiliate links for products mentioned above

HP EliteBook – http://amzn.to/1X1tqwB
Dell notebooks – http://amzn.to/1Zhlfuj

More great Linux goodness!

Joe Collins
Joe Collins worked in radio and TV stations for over 20 years where he installed, maintained and programmed computer automation systems. Joe also worked for Gateway Computer for a short time as a Senior Technical Support Professional in the early 2000’s and has offered freelance home computer technical support and repair for over a decade.

Joe is a fan of Ubuntu Linux and Open Source software and recently started offering Ubuntu installation and support for those just starting out with Linux through EzeeLinux.com. The goal of EzeeLinux is to make Linux easy and start them on the right foot so they can have the best experience possible.

Joe lives in historic Portsmouth, VA in a hundred year old house with three cats, three kids and a network of computers built from scrounged parts, all happily running Linux.

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Jorge Castro
Guest

Delaying an Ubuntu release won’t fix Broadcom drivers being problematic and AMD sunsetting fglrx.

Michael Huff
Guest
Michael Huff

Guys, this is right.

Alexandru Polihron (APoliTech)
Guest

I will wanna see in the feature a mini iso from linux mint team and in the feature to see linux mint base destros. I realy love ubuntu mate but the idea to have a old lts in 2 years ( out of date) is killing me and i dont realy whant to install the non lts. And in my opinion linux mint needs to have one iso that in the installation process allows you to pick your DE ( Cinnamon, Mate etc)

ImperfectLink
Guest
ImperfectLink

“Why does Canonical lock themselves into such a rigid release cycle in the first place? Why not release numbered releases when they’re actually ready instead of pushing out what they’ve got just because the calendar says they need to?” Same reason Microsoft does. Beta testing has become an expensive part of the development cycle. Mint worked well out of the box? So perhaps Ubuntu 14.04 would too since it’s based on the two year old LTS. Fedora and openSUSE release “when they are ready” but still arrive with bugs. It’s a part of the process. The old adage “Tried &… Read more »

ibenzawla
Guest
ibenzawla

Funny but I ran into very similar issues as the writer encountered but with different PCs. My main desktop setup is an Asus K53E with Intel i5. I also happen to break one of the hinges and so I decided to convert it into a desktop connected to my widescreen monitor. I set it up so that it wont turn off when the lid is closed. This is a very versatile machine that works well with many different distros. Ubuntu 16.04 is a different story. Its either network issues as is experienced by the author or other minor issues that… Read more »

Michael Huff
Guest
Michael Huff

I’m risking getting pelted here but I had absolutely no issues whatsoever with my installation of Ubuntu MATE 16.04. Granted I installed it on my System 76 Gazelle Pro.

PendragonUK
Guest
PendragonUK

I agree, zero issues. well no show stoppers. Steam puts up a warning each time I start it. And a couple of times a week when I wake my PC in the morning there is no way to type in my password. The blinking cursor is missing and there is no way to tempt it back. VLC doesn’t like the nVidia drivers for hardware acceleration. I think that’s it, everything it working just fine.

Alexandru Polihron (APoliTech)
Guest

I did make a bug report about the problem with the imput. I need to w8 20 sec until i can put my password when opening the laptop and using a usb mouce and keyboard. Its a kernel bug

Derek Broughton
Guest

Oh, pooh. And I’m not sure whether I mean that in the English or North American sense. Yeah, I have my own issues with various Linux distros. Most recently, why can I not get most of my videos to play in much more than a quarter screen with ANY distro, ANY player, when Windows – in a VM! – handles the same files perfectly? But I installed Kubuntu 16.04 on release day, and except for the fact that I usually have to reenable the wifi every time I wake the laptop, it’s flawless. This isn’t a Canonical/Ubuntu issue. It’s a… Read more »

Linux PC Installs
Guest
Linux PC Installs

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. I said the exact same thing on your Youtube video: that stability is better than having the latest non-functioning/buggy updates …security or otherwise. What’s the point of a “secure” system that DOESN’T work? I suppose you can’t get much more secure than “not working at all,” but is that what people really want? A system that doesn’t work? If so, why even have a computer then? For those of you that love the Mate desktop, remember that Linux Mint also has the Mate desktop, and Mate most… Read more »

RevSixEight
Guest
RevSixEight

Yeah, I’m done with beta testing. I have a job and too much to do already without beta testing distros.

James Van Damme
Guest
James Van Damme

With 2 or 300 distros, why don’t they just state what their objectives are vis-a-vis stability, update cycle, desktop, “newness” and a few other things? Some do, some just say “oh, we’re lightweight and easy to use”.

I got bit by Ubuntu MATE, and it was “Mint to the rescue” for a few weeks but then it seems like Ubuntu got straightened out … never did figure it out, just wanted to get back to work.

Jeremiah Payne
Guest
Jeremiah Payne

Linux distros have a great core, that is the command prompt. Everything on top of it isn’t as great as people claim.

CharlesKGim
Guest
CharlesKGim

Who wants to use the command prompt in 2016 lol?

Prattle On, Boyo
Guest

@CharlesKGim:disqus Oh, I dunno…just off the top of my head here…developers? Anyone who codes for a living? Just, you know, the core group of users whose feedback the rest of the non-dev n00bs rely on.

jawnhenry
Guest
jawnhenry

I immediately stopped being an Ubuntu tester with version 9.10, (one didn’t HAVE to be a guinea pig with 9.04) and switched completely to Mint. No problems ever; no re-installs ever; with Mint 13, 17.1, or Ubuntu 9.04 (yep, still running absolutely the LAST of the good ‘buntus).

Perhaps it’s time for Mint and Clement Lefebvre to get the recognition which they well deserve.

Gnu
Guest
Gnu

I’ve moved to Cinnamon on Devuan. Devuan because System-D hates me, almost as much as I hate it. And Cinnamon because I want the interface I want, not what some Groan developer wants to play with (Mate is also good). So far everything just works.

twodogsdave
Guest
twodogsdave

Nice read. Ubuntu is nice, but Mint is the best! I don’t know what it is, but Mint works great and I’m always happy. Hat’s off to Clem and his team!

Albin
Guest
Albin

I started with Ubuntu 10.04 but switched to Mint when the execrable ubuntu 11.x came out as a buggy, slow “beta” for a Unity interface I don’t like anyway. With its 17.x I think Mint OS finally optimized use of the Ubuntu LTS platform on 14.04 through point releases, that have installed over top without a hitch. I’ll check out Mint 18 on persistent live USB for weeks before overwriting 17.x and modestly suggest the writer could have saved himself a lot of apparent grief by doing the same with his hardware and OS choices. I agree with the writer… Read more »

YY
Guest
YY

Anyone knows that for stability and reliability, one should NEVER install a distro immediately when it is available. Instead, one should read and enjoy the complains of people like, well, YOU 😛
Wait for the point release, or better, upgrade to the N-1 distro.
Ubuntu is build on Debian unstable, so guess what?
Anyway, for top of the notch stability and reliability, go for openSUSE Leap, Debian Stable, or Fedora (N-1).
And yes, I have made the same mistakes and have suffered an almost similar story, cause I’m even dumber by knowing but not acting on this knowledge 😉

Arup R. Chowdhury
Guest
Arup R. Chowdhury

Deployed Ubuntu all over the uiniv where I head IT, also on myriads of personal machines and friends. Not a single issue with 16.04. Condemning a distro just because due to driver issue that didn’t work for you is just plain immature. I also use Arch and from time to time cutting edge stuff stops functioning so I should condemn Arch and all rolling release I guess. Are you aware that Canonical has no control over Broadcom? Also lets not forget that security nightmare Linux mint that had a server hacked recently and uses unpatched Ubuntu packages at considerable security… Read more »

Neticis
Guest
Neticis

I installed Lubuntu 16.04 on two Dell laptops with Intel graphical cards (both with original Ubuntu stickers on them).
Display drivers and power management was absolutely unreliable and buggy. I tried different tweaks, newer kernels (4.4.8 instead of 4.4.0 from Canonical), tweaked install of Intel closed source drivers, but finally settled to custom kernel (4.2) with all issues solved.

john
Guest
john

Thats a good article Joe. I think I have had enough of my trials, terrors and errors as well. That is why I kinda stick with mint and also Linux lite. They are both not the fanciest but they just work for me and my family. I will upgrade them but I will wait a couple of months to do so.

Rob Centros
Guest
Rob Centros

If it’s just the Broadcom WiFi card that is causing the problems with the Dell Studio 1750 and Ubuntu 16.04, I would just buy an Intel card for about $6 shipped and install that. That’s what I always do with laptops that I install Linux Mint on. Even when I get Broadcom WiFi cards working, they’re not as solid as the Intel cards on Linux (for me). I’ve never had a single issue using an Intel WiFi card with Linux. As far as Linux Mint vs Ubuntu goes — that was settled for me a long time ago. I always… Read more »

Prattle On, Boyo
Guest

Using a new Intel brand wifi card is not as easy as you make it out to be particularly if you are using it on a dual-boot system. If it’s just an Ubuntu box that you want to install v.16.04 on and it has a Broadcom wifi card then you’re golden. Not so much when that OS is sharing the same HDD with Win7 because then you run into the ever popular Windows unsigned driver problem that MS so thoughtfully implemented after Vista. In this case, if the Intel wifi card you bought specifically to work in the Ubuntu 16.04… Read more »

Dave
Guest
Dave

I purchased used in many t500 with the plan to use a version of linux. I have tested many on the box. Ubuntu 14:04 I did not like the gnome 3 static interface. Than I tried kubuntu 14:04 kde nope brightness on a laptop screen seems to always be untamed on Linux. I now use pclinuxos mate 2016. I like this distro mainly for not putting users through hoops to install proprietary software. By which i mean no ppa needed or adding a repository to install what I need, it is all on synaptic a click away. I use the… Read more »

Christensen143
Guest
Christensen143

You were going to run into issues with networking just swapping the HDs because of the uDev settings. Not plug and play.

Pronounce
Guest
Pronounce

I love Mint, and typically use Cinnamon, but a while back I was sad to see it crash rockhard on Flash Web apps. I had set up a Mint machine for a class with a critical training application that required Flash. No updates for Flash from the Mint folks meant that for over three months the OS could not be used. It was quite depressing. I still love Mint, but the class instructor, not so much. I’ll have a hard time selling them on Mint, because of this incident. The Mint’s team’s decision to go with Ubuntu LTS is a… Read more »

Somewhat Reticent
Guest
Somewhat Reticent

First, figure out what you need to do, and what you’d like to do
Second, find out what software will allow you to do those tasks
Third, find compatible hardware
Tasks sell software; software sells hardware – never the other way ’round
That said, …
Initial ‘bu’ releases (in my experience) have a tradition of repeating certain bugs
… (thus always wait for the first “point” release)
And always thoroughly test Live first!

Amar Singh
Guest
Amar Singh

That’s what point releases are for.

Caiden Alexandria
Guest
Caiden Alexandria

Thanks for this article. I’m an Ubuntu MATE user myself and I’ve been fortunate to not have issues with Ubuntu MATE 16.04. However, Ubuntu UNITY 16.04 (I say it that way to make destinction) gave me HELL on my Late 2009 iMac. Yes it’s an iMac but when the internal HDD died and Apple refused to service a “vintage” product, I had no choice but to install Linux on an external HD. So my main issues that I had with Ubuntu UNITY 16.04 were that when saving LibreOffice documents (a personal story that’s over 60MiB in size) the screen would… Read more »

Prattle On, Boyo
Guest

Concur 100% esp. with regard to calling out crappy versions such as Ubu 16.04 because users won’t read those critical comments anywhere else. Case in point: The askubuntu forums have teams of thought police who immediately remove any comments/questions/observations that echo Joe’s sentiments he details in the above referenced piece. I can guarantee you that if he were to go out to an ubuntu forum and dare to express anything but blind adoration for Ubuntu that he would most likely be banned from the forum. Personally, I’m happy that I found this page else I would have installed 16.04 without… Read more »

Paul Fox
Guest
Paul Fox

Alas, Mint 18 may disappoint in this regard. I tried an install with Mint 18 Mate beta, but though the live disc could detect my wifi, it simply ignored the password, and wouldn’t connect. Being too impatient to fiddle with settings, drivers, and the like, I did not install the distro. Instead I simply tried Mint Cinnamon 17.1, which connected to the wifi without a hiccup.
I’m a little hesitant to upgrade to 18 when the final is released, for fear that it will break my wifi.

Thomas Miller
Member

My 23 year old son is a computer guy, how many comps reside in his room is unknown. Years ago he was an avid Linux supporter but he also reached the point where he just wanted the stuff to work. He is now somewhat committed to MS but still plays with Linux. As he says, Linux will never be prime time until it gets the driver issues under control. The computer world of beck beards and thick glasses is a lot smaller than the world of people who want to use computers for work or play. I have 16.04 right… Read more »

Matt Hartley
Member

So let me start off by saying if MS is doing the job for him, that’s great. But the “Windows just works” myth is dated nonsense based on releases from another time. Many Windows Vista and 7 era PCs have next to ZERO driver support under Windows 10. That’s a fact. See, the hidden secret is that I (I’m an ex-Windows repair guy) know for a fact that hardware vendors rarely provide driver support on new OS’ for older hardware. It’s simply not in their interest…understandable. Sure, if I can forgo the benefits of working wifi chips or any support… Read more »

Tony Simms
Member

Started using Knoppix in 1998, and tried out many different distros for a few years, then settled on Mint. Been using Mint-MATE for many years now, but still d/l new distro Live CD’s just to “keep up”. I have talked many of my clients(in my computer repair business), into using Mint in lieu of Windows, and they ALL really like it.