Thursday, September 22, 2016

From Linux Mint 17.3 to 18

Linux Mint 18 has been out for the last few months, and I finally found the time to upgrade my computer.

The upgrade



As suggested, I started by using the Mint 18 ISO as a live USB, simply to make sure that every piece of equipment was supported. My biggest concern was my video card (NVIDIA GeForce 9600 GT, purchased eight years ago). The Live USB went without a hitch and the nouveau driver perfectly managed the card. However, I did not plan to use it: I had too much issues under Fedora and Linux Mint 17.2. Though it was good to know that, if need be, I could use that driver while shopping for a new video card.
The test with the Live USB being okay, I proceeded with the instructions provided by the Linux Mint team. Starting with the "take a backup." That step is often overlooked, but I really recommend it, especially that a TB external hard drive costs less than 100€. As a matter of fact, I have the habit of taking a weekly backup - usually on Friday evening, and whenever I import pictures from my camera. 

The check phase went fine, then the download - which I let run overnight. In the morning, I only had to go for the mintupgrade upgrade command, which performs the actual upgrade.

There, things were a bit less clear cut: several errors and tracebacks appeared related to mono, but it seems okay and can be ignored. However, when the process finished, several packages were reported has not being upgraded due to errors. I reran the upgrade process and the same result appeared. Here are the packages that were not updated:
  • cron
  • cups-browsed
  • cups-daemon
  • samba
  • rsyslog
  • ubuntu-minimal
  • irqbalance
  • acpid
  • avahi-daemon
  • avahi-utils
  • bluez
  • bluetooth
  • cups-core-drivers
  • cups
  • printer-driver-hpcups
  • hplip
  • printer-driver-postscript-hp
  • bluez-cups
  • gnome-bluetooth
  • gnome-user-share
  • libnss-mdns:amd64
  • nvidia-340
  • nvidia-340-uvm
  • printer-driver-gutenprint
  • printer-driver-splix
  • pulseaudio-module-bluetooth
Looking at the messages, it was pretty much the same for each: either the service could not be/was not restarted and the dpkg --configure failed (for example bluez), or the package depended on such a package (for example bluetooth). I manually ran the corresponding service xx stop / dpkg --configure and everything went fine.
Lastly, when I restarted, I had an issue when I logged in, with the following error message, before disconnecting me.
GLib-CRITICAL: g_key_file_free: assertion 'key_file != NULL' failed
After a few searches, it seems this is a known issue, and a "sudo apt-get purge cinnamon nemo && sudo apt-get install cinnamon" at the console later, I was back in business.

The first half-day

So far, so good. After the first restart, I reapplied the intel-microcode proprietary driver, and I re-added all my repositories and PPA (Google Chrome, Julia, Sagemath and Darktable), which were lost during the upgrade. This is not a major issue, and this was quickly corrected, but a minor annoyance, especially if you have a lot of PPAs and repositories. There is also a pro in not porting over the PPAs: some of the applications may be linked against the older versions of the libraries and might not work anymore after the upgrade, possibly resulting in broken dependencies and other errors.

I had to reboot once, to apply both the microcode driver, but also a kernel update that popped up and was not taken during the upgrade process. Not too bad.

Visually, this version is very clear, and the Mint-X theme is very readable. It is pleasant and easy on the eyes, and while this is something that never struck me as an issue with the 17.3, going to 18 makes a ton of difference.

During my first use, I was surprised: the active application appears highlighted in green in the task bar, which I thought was to request the user's attention. After a minute or so, I got used to it.

From a performance standpoint, I feel it is about the same as my previous Linux Mint 17.3 install. However, my machine is about eight years old and probably not the snappiest thing on earth. 

The aim of my upgrading was to be able to install some more recent applications, especially Julia and Jupyter. For the former, I opted to re-install the PPA instead. For Jupyter, unfortunately, still nothing in the official package. PIP install it is then.

Overall

Everything considered, I am very pleased: while there were a few hiccups, the upgrade went without any major issues and the few kinks I had after reboot were easily fixed. This new version is way clearer and visually easier on the eyes.

The upgrade process is still a bit too chaotic, and the hiccups along the way can be issues for people new to Linux. It is to be noted that upgrading a live system is not the way recommended by the Mint team, which favors using a fresh install.