New features in Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon

Linux Mint 17.3 is a long term support release which will be supported until 2019. It comes with updated software and brings refinements and many new features to make your desktop experience more comfortable to use.

Linux Mint 17.3 "Rosa" Cinnamon Edition

Software Sources

Software repositories are very important. We use them all the time when installing new software or performing updates. They need to be fast and reliable. This was a major point of focus in the development of Linux Mint 17.3.

Software repositories are mirrored (i.e. duplicated on many servers) all over the world. The main goal of the Software Sources configuration tool is to make it easy to find the best available mirror for you; one that is:

  • Reliable and fully up to date
  • Fast and responsive

To find the fastest mirrors, the Software Sources tool now detects your location and starts its speed tests with mirrors near you.

The Software Sources tool tests mirrors near you, with better accuracy than before and can now detect mirrors which are not up to date.

Mirrors from your own country are tested first, then from neighbouring countries and finally from your sub-region and region of the world.

Say you live in the Netherlands, mirrors are tested in this order: Dutch mirrors first, then Belgian and German mirrors, Western European mirrors next, and then finally mirrors from all over Europe.

Speed tests are also much more accurate than before. They're performed one after another and on larger files (to get more precision while measuring speed).

Finally, the Software Sources tool is more reliable than before:

  • Even if a mirror is working correctly, the tool is now able to detect if its content is not up to date.
  • PPA (Personal Package Archives) are now tested for compatibility.

Update Manager

The Update Manager now also performs more checks than before.

It warns you if the mirror you're using is not up to date:

Obsolete mirrors are now detected.

It prevents you from damaging the system if that mirror (or your local cache) is corrupted:

The Update Manager protects against corrupted mirrors or cache.

And it shows a little hint even when everything is fine if faster mirrors are available:

The use of local mirrors is recommended.

The local cache used to be refreshed every 30 minutes. It is now refreshed 10 minutes after you log in, and every 2 hours then after. Both settings are configurable.

Driver Manager

The Driver Manager is more robust than before. It refreshes the cache before looking for drivers and reports update and installation errors if appropriate.

Drivers are now sorted by status and the Driver Manager now indicates if drivers are Open Source or not.

The Driver Manager features both UI and under-the-hood improvements.

The Driver Manager now also loads much faster and detects drivers in the background.

When a Broadcom chipset is detected, along with the recommended Broadcom STA drivers, the Driver Manager now also lists B43 installers (note that these options do require an Ethernet connection).

Cinnamon 2.8

Linux Mint 17.3 features Cinnamon 2.8. Here's a quick video showing some of its new features:

Thanks to Linux Scoop for making this video.

Better applets

Sound applet

The sound applet was given a fresh new layout. The track information and media controls are now part of a new overlay which sits on top of the cover art.

The sound applet and its fresh new look

For multimedia players which support seeking (Banshee for instance), a flat progress bar is also displayed underneath. This bar shows how far you are in the song, and you can of course interact with it to go to a different position.

Input controls, applications and output devices were moved to the right-click context menu.

The sound applet context menu

Output devices now show both their name and their origin, making it easier to distinguish between them when multiple audio devices are connected.

Power applet

The power applet received many bug fixes and the way it detects and handles multiple batteries was significantly improved.

The power applet now shows brands and model information

Connected devices and batteries are now displayed using the data provided by their manufacturer. In the screenshot above for instance, what was generically described as a “Wireless Mouse” in Cinnamon 2.6 is now described more accurately as a “Logitech M325”.

Workspace switcher

The workspace switcher showing a visual representation of the desktop

The workspace switcher applet is now able to show a visual representation of your workspaces, with little rectangles corresponding to each window inside of them.

System tray

In addition to traditional status icons, the Cinnamon system tray now also supports indicators.

If you don’t like indicators, you can turn this off in “System Settings” -> “General” -> “Enable support for indicators”. This results in forcing all applications which use indicators to fallback to using status icons.

Here are a few tips to recognize status icons and indicators:

  • Status icons are rendered by their application, often using GTK menus and widgets.
  • Indicators are rendered by Cinnamon, with a Clutter menu which looks similar to the panel itself.
  • Status icons can have tooltips and a context menu, indicators cannot.
  • In the Logs section of “Looking glass” (Alt+F2+lg), you can see what status icons (“systray”) and what indicators (“indicator”) are loaded by Cinnamon.

Indicator support in the system tray

The screenshot above shows the Steam indicator. Notice how its menu is using Clutter widgets and following the Cinnamon theme. If you disable the support for indicators, Steam will use a traditional status icon instead.

Support for status icons in the system tray also received a lot of bug fixes, in particular for applications such as Pidgin, Shutter, Filezilla and Thunderbird.

Window list

The window list is now able to show window thumbnails.

Thumbnails in the window list

This is configurable and it can be disabled in the applet preferences if you would rather just see tooltips.

Visual improvements

The traditional animation effect for minimizing windows was fixed and it is now working with multiple panels.

Some polish and slight visual improvements were applied to both the classic and preview Alt-Tab application switchers.

Box pointers (the little arrows joining applet menus to the panel) received some attention and now look much better than before when close to the edge of the screen.

The Alt-F2 run dialog received bug fixes and better auto-completion.

Better settings

Display settings

The display settings now show both the name of your monitors and the name of the output plug they’re connected to. These are known as “output names”.

More information in the display settings

In the screenshot above we see for instance two identical Dell monitors, one connected via the DP-1 Display Port, and one connected on HDMI-0, the first HDMI port.

These are the same output names you can see when using xrandr and in the “Login Window” preferences to tell MDM which monitor to use to show the login screen.

Other improvements

In “Account Details” and “Users and Groups”, a strength indicator was added to the dialog window which lets you change passwords.

Applets now reload themselves automatically when updated.

Better window management

Support for multiple monitors was significantly improved. The mapping of new windows, dialogs, OSD info (such as the workspace names) was reviewed to make sure everything appeared in the right place and on the appropriate monitor.

Improvements related to frame synchronization which were implemented in Mutter (the GNOME Shell window manager) in cooperation with NVIDIA were ported to Muffin (the Cinnamon window manager). These changes should fix rendering issues with NVIDIA cards but could also have a positive impacts on ATI and Intel chipsets.

Dialog windows are now attached to their parent window by default. This setting was already present in Cinnamon (in “System Settings”->”Windows”->”Behavior”->”Attach dialog windows to the parent window”), but it was improved in version 2.8; Dialog windows are now attached to the center of their parent window rather than their titlebar, and the shading of the parent window was made a little more obvious than it was before.

Better backend

Settings daemon

Cinnamon now supports microphone mute buttons.

HiDPI detection was improved, in particular for TV screens over HDMI.

XRANDR support was significantly improved, many bug fixes were ported from Gnome Shell.

The Cinnamon Settings Daemon is more robust than before and shouldn’t crash anymore when one or some of its modules fail to load.

Session manager

The Cinnamon logout sequence was reviewed and some changes were introduced to make it faster and to make it look smoother. The timeout for the session “EXIT” phase was reduced to 1 second, and the settings daemon and the window manager, which are respectively responsible for painting applications with the right GTK theme and for rendering window titlebars are now the last programs to die.

Cinnamon 2.8 also features:

  • Better support for QT5 applications, which now look more native and use the GTK theme.
  • Better XSMP support.
  • Better logs (You can enable logs to ~/.xsession-errors via the “org.cinnamon.SessionManager debug” gsettings key. Logs now also include time delta information to help identify cases where an application makes the login or logout sequence lag).
  • A fully configurable auto-start blacklist (The key is in “org.cinnamon.SessionManager autostart-blacklist”. This was only partly configurable in previous versions.).

Performance improvements

The calendar applet used to wake up the CPU every second even if seconds weren’t shown. This was fixed and further reduces idle CPU usage.

The absence of disk cache was identified as the reason why the first Cinnamon session after a shutdown/reboot was significantly slower to load than any subsequent session. To tackle this issue, Cinnamon 2.6 introduced “preloading”, which goal was to initialize parts of Cinnamon in the background, while you were busy typing your password at the login screen. Thanks to your feedback and testing done on a wider variety of hardware, “preloading” was reviewed in Cinnamon 2.8. Although it helped in reducing the most costly steps involved in the initialization of a Cinnamon session, the gains were unfortunately marginal. Preloading also proved to slow down the startup sequence, and in particular the loading of the login screen. It was therefore removed from Cinnamon 2.8.

Nemo improvements

“Quick-Rename” landed in Nemo. This feature, which is probably most appreciated by Windows users, consists in renaming files and directories by clicking them, waiting a bit and clicking them again. Quick-Rename is disabled by default. To enable it in Nemo, click on “Edit”->”Preferences”->”Behavior”->”Click twice with a pause in between to rename items”.

Nemo now automatically detects issues related to thumbnails and allows you to quickly fix them (you’re prompted with a password dialog when this requires administration privileges).

Login Screen

HiDPI support was improved in the MDM display manager.

Many HiDPI related issues were fixed, in particular with HD TVs plugged over HDMI.

The way HiDPI support works in MDM was also redesigned. It used to double the pixel density on HiDPI displays and that sometimes resulted in a login screen that looked too big on some HiDPI monitors. It now works towards an ideal pixel density, so the scaling ratio isn't just 1x or 2x but an appropriate calculated value in between.

The login screen features an on-screen keyboard and improved HiDPI support

To improve the support for touchscreens and mobile devices, an on-screen keyboard was also added in the login screen. This keyboard is available for the default theme ("Mint-X") and it provides both common and special characters.

System improvements

Xorg, Mesa and the Linux kernel were upgraded.

In many cases, this improves hardware support. Imacs for instance no longer need to use nomodeset, scrolling is now functional on some Asus touchpads, suspending is much faster on macbooks...etc.

Kernel 4.2.0 is also available in the repositories. However please be cautious with it if you are using proprietary drivers. At the moment, the following drivers are known not to work with it:

  • fglrx (ATI/AMD drivers)
  • ndiswrapper (Windows wireless drivers)

Support for these drivers with kernel 4.2.0 should improve before February 2016.

Artwork improvements

Linux Mint 17.3 features a superb collection of backgrounds from Calexil, Falcon Photography, Jan Kaluza, Jen K, Konstantin Leonov, Sezgin Mendil and Vinod Chandar.

An overview of some of the new backgrounds

All the backgrounds from Linux Mint "Qiana", "Rebecca" and "Rafaela" are also present.

Other improvements

The welcome screen was redesigned slightly.

LibreOffice was upgraded to version 5.

The screen reader "Orca" is now installed by default.

Nemo-preview is now installed by default. To preview a file, simply select it and press the space bar.

Input Methods are now handled by mintlocale, which replaces im-config in the menu.

Inxi was upgraded and now supports multiple graphics cards.

When using an encrypted home directory, memory swap is no longer encrypted by default and hibernation works out of the box.

OpenVPN support is now installed by default.

Main components

Linux Mint 17.3 features Cinnamon 2.8, MDM 2.0, a Linux kernel 3.19 and an Ubuntu 14.04 package base.

LTS strategy

Linux Mint 17.3 will receive security updates until 2019.

Until 2016, future versions of Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 17.3, making it trivial for people to upgrade.

Until 2016, the development team won't start working on a new base and will be fully focused on this one.