Whatever Tim Feels Like Posting

Tag: Linux

DISTRO FEVER! Why Did I Switch From Linux Mint Cinnamon To Kubuntu?

Tim Hilliard, 4/22/2022

Background: Using Mint Cinnamon:

I’ve been using Linux Mint Cinnamon as my day-to-day operating system on my most-used computer system for years now. I was settled on it for my Linux computing by about 2010, and when I stopped using any Windows about 2015 it was my choice for my “daily driver” as they say. I also use it on my Intel-based laptop, though I use the Arch-based Manjaro distro (with a KDE-Plasma desktop environment) for my ARM-based PineBook and my RaspberryPi. I had started to really like the KDE Plasma desktop (I’ll say KDE from now on).

Why was I using Mint? Well, it’s stable, it has good online support, and it’s attractive in a conservative, old-version-of-Windows way. Almost all my software and services worked well. Also, it has regular updates for security and bug-fixes yet rarely changes much in look, feel, and usability. No surprises.

On the other hand it doesn’t allow easy customization and is slow to adopt cutting-edge services and standards. Also it tends to lag with the Linux kernel adoption, staying with older ones. I also lost my ability to do screenshots without a third-party add-in, which was irritating. One more thing was that I was having problems with my printer connection – to use my wireless printer I had to turn it off and on to refresh it.

Considering KDE:

However, as I said, I was using KDE on my PineBook and RaspberryPi. I had come to like the almost endless configurability of KDE, and have come to be less conservative in my Linux preferences, and more appreciative of cutting-edge updates and more current kernels.

Looking at KDE I considered the Manjaro version I was using on the ARM machines, but decided not to use that. First, I am used to the whole “Aptitude” world for software package management and find it more instinctive to use. Manjaro uses the Arch-based PACMAN. Second, I could not get my VPN software to run on the Manjaro.

Kubuntu is a “flavor” of Ubuntu. If you count standard Ubuntu, its various flavors, and the Distros based on it (including Mint), a lot of the Linux world is using some sort of Ubuntu. That makes for a huge base of users and developers for support. It has a very reliable update system for security and bugs and a regularly scheduled system for feature updates.

The feature updates are every April and October, with long term support (LTS) every even-numbered year in April. The versioning uses the year and month hence 22.04 for the current version – yes, the month I am writing this.

Long story short, or at least shorter, I decided to try Kubuntu on my desktop computer. First I tried it on an older desktop computer I was working on (actually a Mac) and found that the printer problem was gone, and the VPN software loaded with no issue. So, I used a live-boot USB thumb drive to test it on my desktop, with very good results. Finally, I decided to do some backup and make the plunge to install.

Target Computer:

My desktop is an older but still powerful Dell Precision Xeon-based tower, with 36 GB RAM, a 120 GB SSD for /root, a 2 TB hard drive for /home, and a 4 TB hard drive for more storage. It has two 6-cored Xeon processors, NV50 nVidia graphics card, and is connected to two 27-inch 1080p monitors.


I have not previously used any Ubuntu except to load briefly and look at.

In the past, I have mostly used Mint with Cinnamon and Manjaro with KDE on various machines.


I chose the latest version, Kubuntu 22.04, released on the very day I installed it. I waited a few days when I realized the new version was about to be released. I selected support for proprietary drivers for NVIDIA and third-party graphics codecs. I downloaded it from Kubuntu’s site (3.4 GB). I used a USB thumb drive with Ventoy for installation (see https://www.ventoy.net for info on this great tool for “distro-hoppers”).

The installation was very smooth and went quickly. It first takes you to a live desktop and they you can run the install from there. As with most Linux distros you get a choice of installing full-disk or “other.” Even though I was “nuking” my old Mint install, I went with “other” so I could save the /home (all my data, settings, etc.) on the 2 TB hard drive.

I rebooted and did a bunch of coordinating my data and settings from the old user directory (from Mint) to my new Kubuntu user. I’d chosen a slightly different username so the old data wouldn’t be overwritten. Copying the setup from my browser (Firefox) and e-mail software (Thunderbird) to the new directory meant that both packages ran seamlessly. All my accounts, mail, addresses, add-ins, etc. in Thunderbird and all my bookmarks, add-ins, customization, etc. in Firefox worked the first time I ran them.

General Use:

So, now I am really “there” and first, let me say the default wallpaper is UGLY! It is a retro abstract graphic. Quickly I went to change it to some of my own photos (see screenshot below).

A few first impressions:

  • I was pleased that Kubuntu allowed different pictures on each monitor right out of the box. Mint needed a third-party add-in to allow that.
  • My printer was automatically installed and seems to work every time now.
  • My VPN software installed and ran with no problem.
  • Almost all my other software installed without a hitch.
  • Even some software that is native to non-KDE desktops, such as Gnome Boxes (virtual machine manager) worked.
  • Screenshots worked again.

A few things needed more effort.

  • My media server software ran fine but I had to jump through some hoops to get it to find my media directory which is too big to fit on the SSD I use for the /root drive which is where the software seems to like it. I eventually got it working.
  • Google Earth (I know! Not open-source) isn’t in the repository of software packages so I downloaded the package from Google and double clicked on it. It did not want to install at first, saying I was missing dependencies. So I tried opening the downloaded package with Ubuntu’s software store, Discover, and amazingly it installed and works fine.
  • While I am confessing to non-open-source software, I still can’t live without the Windows-only graphics utility IrfanView (https://www.irfanview.com/) Wine was not preloaded so I had to install it but it went easily and recognized IrfanView right away.
  • I’m still playing with the configuration – remember that KDE lets you play to no end with look and feel.

Memory Use:

With nothing explicitly running except the System Monitor, the machine was using 2.2 GB of RAM. Seems like a lot, but with this machine’s 36 GB RAM it’s not much of an issue.


  • Easy to install.
  • Runs well.
  • Fairly snappy despite not being a lightweight operating system.
  • Stability seems very good.
  • Good-looking interface.


  • Memory use may be a bit high.


I am happy with the switch (after just one day) but will update this blog after I have been living in this environment for a while.


The PinePhone: a smartphone aimed at computer enthusiasts


I have been playing with a PinePhone, specifically the “PinePhone Beta Edition with Convergence Package Linux Smart Phone” according to their website.

PinePhone – Yes, I have already managed to crack the screen, through no fault except my own! Operating system shown in all pictures: Mobian.

The company, known as Pine64, describes itself as “a community-driven company focused on creating high-quality, low-cost ARM devices and, more recently, RISC-V devices for individuals and businesses around the globe.” They make a wide variety of devices, including computer components and accessories, single-board computers, ARM-based laptops, tablets, a smartwatch, a soldering iron…

One focus of Pine64 has been developing an open-hardware smart-phone that will run Linux and other operating systems that are not necessarily developed by Google, Apple, or Microsoft. As a long-term Linux user, I was interested in Linux on a phone but put off by the difficulties of putting Linux on a commercial phone, including finding a compatible device, “rooting” the hardware to allow me to put the software on it, finding the software version that would work, and so on.

See https://www.pine64.org/ for more information about the company and https://wiki.pine64.org/wiki/PinePhone for more about the PinePhone.

Obtaining the PinePhone:

You order a PinePhone from Pine64’s web page. They do business a little bit differently than other companies. When you make an order, it goes into a queue and when they have enough orders based on some number they have in mind they ship a bulk order to a major destination and then ship the individuals from there. So the shipping time can vary quite a bit – my phone took about 4 weeks.

Visit the PineStore at https://pine64.com/ for details.


As much of the hardware as possible is open source. This means the designs are available and nothing legally stops another party from building it. It comes with six physical privacy switches that allow you to actually turn off various parts of the hardware (as compared to just telling the software to turn it off, and trusting the software to do so). These switches are for the cellular modem, WiFi and Bluetooth, microphone, rear camera, front camera, and headphone. This allows a privacy level unheard of in major commercial phones.

The PinePhone is “rooted” from the factory. In other words, the user can put operating systems on it without hacking. In general, it has fairly low hardware specs compared to modern “flagship” phones like the iPhone 11 or Samsung Galaxy S21. The PinePhone is clearly for a different market than those phones. If you want flashy hardware and the latest features, stay away from the PinePhone. However, it’s the phone for you if you want to be able to run an independent operating system, control the hardware, hack and experiment, and have full control over privacy.

PinePhone connected to the USB-C docking station included with the Convergence Edition PinePhone.

Operating Systems:

The PinePhone comes with internal memory which can be used for the operating system. There is also MicroSD slot that also can be used to boot the operating system, like some computers but unlike any other phone I can think of. This makes it very easy to try different operating systems.

There are already around 20 available operating systems, most being derivations of Linux or Android. Users may find that some operating systems fit their needs better than others.

On the graphical desktop many Linux programs will work, especially if they have a somewhat low demand for resources. I even got LibreOffice to run – though not well! Using Linux-based systems also means that PinePhone users can open a terminal window and work from the command line.


Briefly, the edition I have is about the size and weight of an iPhone 11, has a 6-inch 1440×720 display, 3Gb of RAM, and a 2800 mWa battery. This model comes with a version of Manjaro Linux installed, with a desktop based on KDE. It also includes a nifty little USB-C docking station that can connect to an external monitor, wired Ethernet, power, USB3, and other things. Using the docking station, the phone can drive an external display up to Ultra-HD (3840×2160 display).

You can also get a less expensive edition that has only 2GB of RAM and does not include the USB-C docking station.

Full specifications at: https://wiki.pine64.org/wiki/PinePhone#Specifications.

First Impressions:

When I am ready, I will be posting another entry on detailed use of the PinePhone, so I’ll be brief here.

  • Software availability is still somewhat limited. For example, you won’t find an app for your bank or coffee shop!
  • Each of the available operating systems is unique and has a different level of development, so you should try several.
  • Software capabilities are also somewhat limited. The chat app can’t accept images, and the camera app takes mediocre pictures at present.
  • Cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity work as expected.
  • The USB-C Docking Station works great, even on my laptop.
  • Driving an external monitor works well from a hardware standpoint, but integration of the screen on the phone with the external one takes some fiddling.
  • External keyboard and mouse work fine.

Bottom line? This device is a lot of fun, but it’s not ready for being your daily-use cellphone unless simple calls and basic pure-text messages are all you require, and you are ready for some hacking.

PinePhone (little thing in middle) with dock, keyboard, mouse, and external monitor and a few things running.