Debian Testing with Cinnamon

I’ve been running Debian Stable on my laptop for about 10 months for a number of reasons, but in particular as a way of staying away from GNOME 3 for a while longer.

GNOME 3 is one of those divisive topics in the Linux community, people tend to either love it or hate it – for me personally I find the changes it’s introduced impact my workflow negatively, however if I was less of a power user or running Linux on a tablet, I can see the appeal of the way GNOME 3 is designed.

Since GNOME 3 was released, there have been a few new options that have arisen for users craving the more traditional desktop environment offered – two of the popular options are Cinnamon and MATE.

MATE is a fork of GNOME 2, so duplicates all the old libraries and applications, where as Cinnamon is an alternative GNOME Shell, which means that it uses the GNOME 3 libraries and applications.

I’m actually a fan of a lot of the software made by the GNOME project, so I decided to go down the Cinnamon path as it would give me useful features from GNOME 3 such as the latest widgets for bluetooth, audio, power management and lock screens, whilst still providing the traditional window management and menus that I like.

As I was currently on Debian Stable, I upgraded to Debian Testing which provided the required GNOME 3 packages, and then installed Cinnamon from source – pretty easy since there’s only two packages and as they’ve already packaged for Debian, just a dpkg-buildpackage to get installable packages for my laptop.

So far I’m pretty happy with it, I’m able to retain my top & bottom menu bar setup and all my favorite GNOME applets and tray features, but also take advantages of a few nice UI enhancements that Cinnamon has added.

All the traditional features we know and love.

One of the most important features for me was a functional workspace system that allows me to setup my 8 different workspaces that I use for each task. Cinnamon *mostly* delivers on this – it correctly handles CTL+ALT+LEFT/RIGHT to switch between workspaces, it provides a taskbar workspace switcher applet and it lets me set whatever number of workspaces I want to have.

Unfortunately it does seem to have a bug/limitation where the workspace switcher doesn’t display mini icons showing what windows are open on which workspace, something I often use for going “which workspace did I open project blah on?”. I also found that I had to first add the 8 workspaces I wanted by using CTL+ALT+UP and clicking the + icon, otherwise it defaulted to the annoying dynamic “create more workspaces as you need them” behavior.

On the plus side, it does offer up a few shinier features such as the graphical workspace switcher that can be opened with CTL+ALT+UP and the window browser which can be opened with CTL+ATL+DOWN.

You can never have too many workspaces! If you’re similarly anal-retentive as me you can go and name each workspace as well.

There’s also a few handy new applets that may appeal to some, such as the multi-workspace window list, allowing you to select any open window across any workspace.

Window applet dropdown, with Nautilus file manager off to the left.

I use Rhythmbox for music playback – I’m not a huge fan of the application, mostly since it doesn’t cope well with playing content off network shares over WAN links, but it does have a nice simple UI and good integration into Cinnamon:

Break out the tweed jackets and moleskins, you can play your folk rock in glorious GTK-3 graphics.

The standard Cinnamon theme is pretty decent, but I do find it has an overabundance of gray, something that is quite noticeable when using a window heavy application such as Evolution.

Didn’t you get the memo? Gray is in this year!

Of course there are a lot of other themes available so if the grayness gets to you, there are other options. You also have the usual options to change the window border styles, it’s something I might do personally since I’m finding that the chunky window headings are wasting a bit of my laptop’s very limited screen real estate.

Overall I’m pretty happy with Cinnamon and plan to keep using it for the foreseeable future on this laptop – if you’re unhappy with GNOME 3 and preferred the older environment, I recommend taking a look at it.

I’ve been using it on a laptop with a pretty basic Intel GPU (using i810 driver) and had no issue with any of the accelerated graphics, everything feels pretty snappy –  there is also a 2D Cinnamon option at login if your system won’t do 3D under any circumstance.

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7 Responses to Debian Testing with Cinnamon

  1. Jethro Carr says:

    As a side note, I spent a bit of time of trying different tiling window managers such as Awesome and Xmonad.

    Unfortunatly I tend to find that whilst they should be better in theory, they also tended to make some things overly hard, so for me personally, the only attractive looking options are KDE, Xfce and Cinnamon.

    Or I may get sick of the traditional desktop entirely and look at moving more into web applications and shift from a traditional laptop to a tablet of some nature.

  2. Chris says:

    Disappointed that your captions missed the obvious ’50 Shades of Gray’ joke. Three stars ;)

    • Jethro Carr says:

      *sigh* How could I have missed that one? Clearly 24 hours of arguing with my laptop during the upgrade has broken my wit :'(

  3. Nicol says:

    Well, Debian wheezy
    build and install muffin & Cinnoman, lightdm start the session failed….

  4. Barnaby says:

    Hmm, the quit and logout buttons are dead, would you know in which file to configure the command so they do the job?
    Haven’t used Gnome Shell or Cinnamon so far beyond a quick test on Arch way back.

    • Jethro Carr says:

      I don’t sorry, are these the quit/logout buttons that appear in the dropdown menu, or do you mean some other buttons?

      I do see a quit/shutdown button in the menu dropdown when using the Adwaitia styling of menu/windows/etc.

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