KDE, Gnome, Unity and cinnamon – why should you care?

You shouldn’t.

It really doesn’t matter. But geeks and fanboys support their favorite desktop environments with religious fervor out there. If you’re ever in doubt, just pick one and go. The next n paragraphs are on how and why I switched from KDE to cinnamon.

(Desktop environments in linux are more less like themes in windows – and more. Get started with linux here)

I was running a linux mint 15 KDE on my computer till now. It was not a stable version (based on ubuntu 13.10) and had quite a few broken things in it. Worse – I couldn’t get the latest (and the greatest) version of firefox from the repositories – the newest version that was available was firefox 27. So I decided to upgrade my OS and since there was a general idea that KDE was heavy on resources, I thought I’d give cinnamon a try. But a quick glance at the forums made it clear that KDE is not as heavy as it used to be. It boots like a snail, true. But once you actually start doing something KDE seems to use less memory than ubuntu’s unity.

So, I installed linux mint 17 cinnamon without any problems. I was disappointed to see that it took as much time as KDE to log in, even though it was supposed to be lighter (I was wrong, cinnamon is faster, read on!). However, cinnamon was super snappy when I started clicking things, and to my surprise, had everything I wanted! It is true that you can’t tweak cinnamon to the extend you can tweak KDE. But cinnamon had just the right things for me. The default wallpapers are no good though, and I quickly went in search of wallpaper packs.

Desktop : You will have a harder time finding wallpapers that go with the default green icon set

Switching workspaces is sweet, and considerably faster than the 3D cube in KDE (you can turn this off, but I couldn’t resist it while I was using KDE). Pressing ctrl+alt+ quickly takes you between workspaces with a swish. Yes, an audible, annoying “swish”. Also, it displays “workspace 1” or “Workspace 2” when you switch into the corresponding workspace. I quickly changed the workspace labels to “Home” and “Development”. I haven’t decided what to do about the “swish” yet. To my disappointment, it is not possible to have different wallpapers for the different workspaces. This is a complete let down. But a quick search revealed that only KDE has implemented this feature so far. Moving on, I configured ‘hot corners’ – Move your mouse to the upper left corner and all the active windows are lined up in a nice grid. If unity had these (supported out of the box), maybe I would have never moved from stock ubuntu. Move mouse to the lower right and it shows the desktop. These are configurable, of course.

Meanwhile, the slow startup time was driving me mad. I did not wipe out my previous OS for this! I got so pissed I downloaded and installed the 64 bit version of Mint 17 cinnamon. What a relief! Faster and snappier and me happier! I now remember that my previous KDE was 64 bit. On comparison, cinnamon 64 bit is definitely faster.

Window switching
Window switching : When I go to the upper right corner

Oh, and now I have nvidia drivers by default now. Optimus do not work yet, but prior linux distros I tried didn’t even detect my card, and installing nvidia drivers almost always crashed my system. Nvidia nouveu was selected as default (no hardware acceleration) and proprietary drivers from Nvidia were listed as well. However, switching to proprietary drivers crashed cinnamon, and kept crashing until I switched back to Nouveu. This was expected since I have an optimus card. Might have worked if I was on a desktop.

Since I have the name sake Nvidia drivers now, decided to try steam on linux. Opened up software centre to install steam, and uh oh, its less bloated and more snappy than its ubuntu counterpart. For the first time in my life, I’m using software manager rather than the command line apt-get to install things I need. It gave me great app suggestions and I found myself installing minitube, a native youtube client for streaming content from youtube (which crashed cinnamon – reported by multiple users).

Mint 17 came with it usual share of bundled applications and proprietary codecs to get me started. Torrent client was working (though it took me somewhile to get it to capture magnet links) and steam is downloading monochroma demo.

Verdict? Comfortable, convenient, way thinner (on the memory) than KDE, and way better than everything except KDE (tied).