There is something fun about the smattering of new releases of Ubuntu and flavors every six months. I don’t try them all as I just don’t have the time. I do like to try the new ones, see what they’re all about. It’s one thing to try Kubuntu, where you already know what you are getting, it’s another thing to try a respin, especially one that is brand new to the scene.
As part of the BDLL community, we are encouraged to try out the new shiny and then talk about it. We had the conversation on the 27th of June, 2020. I didn’t have much to contribute as I was late to the party in testing it. We also had the privilege of having the distribution maintainer and creator, Josh, there as well too.
Button line up front: Ubuntu Cinnamon, as a new remix was a remarkably enjoyable experience, especially since this is the first release and Josh is, not exactly a seasoned distro maintainer. I am not particularly a fan of Cinnamon and I knew this going into it but was interested in seeing a version of Cinnamon as an alternative to Mint due to their rather poignant stance on the universal Linux package system, Snaps. This is the first release of Ubuntu Cinnamon and I think it is well done. I would not switch to it but I do think it is worth trying, if nothing else, to hedge your Cinnamon bets.
This is my brief experience as a biased openSUSE User from installation to desktop usage perceptions.
The place to begin on any installation is going to the website of the distribution, the face of it, the first presentation of the experience to come. The part of the experience that sets the bar for their experience.
I am not normally a fan of the light themes for anything, but this was splendidly clean and straight forward. There is no question as to where you should go to download the ISO. Simply beautiful and well done! Of course, feel free to click around before you download, take time to read the blog and so forth. There is not a bit of clutter to this site and it feels super well done.
Since my standard practice is to start with VM, this is what I did. I am already taking into account he VM penalties and therefore I will not make a fuss of any minor hiccups or glitching. This is an evaluation of how the overall system feels, the process to install and what goodies you get right out of the gate.
Upon initial boot of the ISO, I was greeted with something I am not all that familiar with seeing. Very admirably, the system does a self check. Perhaps other distros do this but I haven’t seen it, front and center.
Depending on your level of impatience, you may or may not appreciate this. You are able to skip past this by pressing Ctrl+C. I let it go, it didn’t take long.
The Live Desktop was very… cinnamon-y looking… I took out my container of cinnamon spice and found the color to be remarkably similar.
The orange theme was unabashedly orange and it reminded me of the days of Ubuntu old. This is certainly not my favorite color scheme but I am glad Ubuntu Cinnamon is setting itself apart from the other flavors with it’s own flash and flair.
Ubuntu Cinnamon uses the Calamares Installer so if you have used this before, you will be quite comfortable here. When opened, the installer “warms up” and you are presented with your language preference option in a drop down.
The next couple steps include setting your location and keyboard preference. Since I have lived in the same timezone basically my entire life, I have no idea if this is correctly detecting or if everyone is assumed to live in the same timezone as Detroit.
Your next task is to set up your disk partitioning. The distribution is supposed to work well alongside other operating systems. I did not test that, nor is that something I do and therefore would not test that normally. I selected to use the entire partition and let it do its thing. After that, I set my username and password. Note, I took the screenshot before I put in my password. This way you cheeky folks can’t try to guess my password.
I appreciate a nicely consolidated installation summary and final sanity check before committing to these changes. There are some installers that step you though and your point of no return is much sooner in the process. This one is right at the very end. Good bad or otherwise.
The installation process itself does take a bit longer than what I am more accustomed to experiencing on Ubuntu flavors. I am guessing it has to do with not using SquashFS but I am really not sure. I am not terribly concerned about installation time. It is not like this part is factored into my desktop Linux experience.
That is it. The installation is done. I left the Restart Now option checked when I selected done.
First Run and Impressions
Cinnamon seems to be a BDLL family favorite, or at the very least, very few are turned off by it. I can see why there is a significant fan base for this desktop environment. There is a simple elegance to the experience. For most people, it is likely everything they will ever need. You have icons appropriately and smartly placed at the bottom of the screen. The task manager is icon only, which is fine, that is what Windows is doing these days. If you are not happy about the panel. You are more than welcome to change some aspects of it.
For the most part, this is good enough, really. I would like a few other options and ability to add widgets but this is good enough. I’m sure there is an extension or something but I didn’t care to look. That is outside of the scope of this article.
The layout of the system settings is a nice familiar and clean layout. I appreciate this Plasma like layout. Very nice to navigate and smartly, if you start typing something in the search. It will filter out your options accordingly. It’s worth play with for a little while.
The default theme and color scheme is fine. Orange highlights is not bad on the dark theme that is default. As a note, the default Controls is “Kimmo-Dark” and the preview looks nothing like the actual theme. Just a note for those that switch around and can’t find their way back to how they started.
My main issue here, and this is a technical limitation (by design?) of Gnome but you can’t customize the colors easily. Maybe there is an extension for that too, I didn’t look. For most people this is probably okay too. It’s just what to expect from Cinnamon.
The file manager, Nemo, is basic and perfectly acceptable. It is not my favorite but it does the job that most will ever need from a file manager.
If you have used the update tools in other Ubuntu flavors, it’s the same thing, although, in my time running it, I didn’t actually see the notification for updates. Evidently, this release has been perfect and doesn’t require updates, hooray!
Or maybe it is another issue. I can’t say for sure nor did I investigate.
The default drive layout has a single partition. I am not sure if the automatic partitioning changes per the size of the drive or not, I didn’t allocate much towards this installation.
I tested out some other applications, they all work as expected. You get basics that allow you to be up and running in short order. I am glad Ubuntu Cinnamon is bundled with LibreOffice. If this is not your preference, there are many options in the Ubuntu ecosystem to utilize whatever you want.
The default menus is well done with its favorite application icons slightly larger and to the left side. It is easy to figure out how to reboot or shut the system down. The menu well laid out as you can go to see all the applications or look at it broken down by category. You can skip all of that, use the search and very quickly get to whatever application that is installed.
My only criticism for the menu is the lack of “recent applications” or “recent documents”. It is a feature I use rather often on Plasma and would miss having it if I were using Cinnamon.
The software center that is installed is an efficient and rapid way to get to applications. It also gives you some welcome suggestions. I know that some people don’t like such thigns but I am not one of those people.
I tested a few applications that I cared about, they seemed to work as I would have liked. So, overall, I am pleased with the software availability. The base applications are what I would expect with LibreOffice and Firefox ready to be used.
My over all impression of Ubuntu Cinnamon is very positive. I am impressed with all the effort they have put into it for their first release. It is a very usable system with no glaring issues.
What I Like
My number one appreciation of Ubuntu Cinnamon is the simplicity of the setup process. It doesn’t take long to just get going with getting Ubuntu set up with the Cinnamon desktop. There is no fussing around with the system at all. Just click through and you are off to the Cinnamon races!
Although not for me, I do appreciate the uniquely bold color scheme. It certainly sets itself apart from the other distributions that go with more calming blues or greens in the scheme. If I were to use this distribution, I would probably change it to a green scheme eventually, but that is purely for my visual preference.
I appreciate that this distribution makes no restriction on Snaps, Flatpak or AppImage. They will work. The only caveat is that you will have to install Flatpak but that is not a big deal a simple
sudo apt install flatpak
From there, use the Flatpak management tool of your choice, for me it’s the terminal because that is easily available on all distributions of Linux! In all seriousness, I am glad I have access to all the universal package types
What I Don’t Like
Cinnamon feels limiting. I was well aware of this going into the testing but I don’t spin this ISO thinking I was in it as an openSUSE Tumbleweed replacement. My interest was more so to find a Mint alternative due to the fact that Mint has a Snap phobia.
I did say I liked the bold color scheme choice, but only sort of. Since it’s not very calming for me. I feel slightly pensive using it. For someone that likes this, great, it’s just not my preferred flavor. I can’t say that they shouldn’t make this the default but what I would like are some dark and calm options.
There isn’t yet a welcome screen. This is something that Mint historically has done quite well. It’s also kind of standard fare on distributions these days. I know it is under construction but just in case Josh or any of his team helping happens to read this, I wanted to put my vote in on the welcome screen. Those feel like the final topping and being without it on a Linux distribution is a bit like having a banana split without cherries.
I am very glad to see a Cinnamon flavor of Ubuntu. Admittedly, t is at the starting level of “Remix” and this is the first release. I truly believe that they have done a fine job. I am glad they made it for the 20.04 release. I am hoping that this project continues and they are able to continue to do great with it.
I view Cinnamon to be a Gnome desktop environment with all the necessary basics added to make it feel more Windows familiar. There are some arguments that could be made that Cinnamon is a better version of Gnome, at least a more complete and usable version. There are plenty of good reasons that Cinnamon is as popular as it is with Desktop Linux users and a Cinnamon version of Ubuntu really is a welcome addition to the family.
Would I switch to Ubuntu Cinnamon from my beloved openSUSE Tumbleweed? No. Would I switch from Plasma to Cinnamon? Not a chance. I do, however, think that this is a good experience and if you like Cinnamon, you should give this a try. At the very least, this is a good fall back or refuge for those that do not like the direction Mint Linux is going with their Forbidding of Snaps.