Some thoughts about upgrading Linux Mint
Earlier this year, I bought myself a new laptop. And breaking with what’s become something of a tradition with me, I had Linux Mint installed on it instead of Ubuntu. Before you ask, there was no ideological or political motivation in that move. It’s just that I’d been hearing a lot of good things about Mint from people whose opinions I respect and decided to give it a go.
And I like Mint. The version that was installed on my laptop was 12, with the MATE desktop environment. Since then, two versions of Linux Mint have been released. Feeling a bit left behind, I recently decided to upgrade. It was an interesting experience. And when I say interesting I mean that in a good way. For the most part …
Getting ready to upgrade
As you may or may not know, Linux Mint doesn’t offer a direct upgrade path from one version to another. Well, you can do that but from what I’ve read doing a package upgrade a la Ubuntu is fraught with peril and pain. Instead, you need to reinstall the distro in its entirety. To do that, I downloaded an ISO image and created a bootable USB drive with UNetbootin.
Then, I ran the Mint Backup utility to back the contents of my /home directory up onto a USB drive and to create a list of software to reinstall once I’d set up the new version of Mint. Remember the latter bit. It becomes important in a moment.
Doing the deed
That was pretty simple. I just booted my laptop from the USB drive and chose to install Linux Mint. I answered a few questions that the installer threw at me and the whole process was over in under 15 minutes. After my laptop rebooted, several updates were installed. Again, that went pretty smoothly.
As did the restoration of the contents of my /home directory. That took a while – transferring about 8 GB of data usually does. Once that was out of the way, I ran the Mint Backup utility again, this time to install the software (or as much of it as I could) that I was running under the version I was using. That caused a few minor problems.
Always pay attention, kids
Earlier, I mentioned that I was using the MATE desktop environment with Linux Mint 12. There’s nothing wrong with MATE, but I’ve been reading about Cinnamon for a while and wanted to try that. Plus my wife is running Linux Mint 13 with Cinnamon on her laptop, and I like the look and feel of the desktop.
Remember that list of software that I generated before I upgraded? That list included a number of binaries and libraries for the MATE version of Linux Mint. Without thinking too much, I didn’t bother marking those as not to be installed by Mint Backup. Well, that was a bit of a mistake. It made my system a tad unstable, and it doubled up on quite a bit of software. My laptop was usable, but there were a few annoyances – like continually being prompted to configure a display manager called LightDM whenever I popped open a terminal.
Those annoyances got so annoying that I decided to reinstall Linux Mint 14. And when I reinstalled the software, I remembered to exclude the libraries and packages that I didn’t need or which were already installed.
The second time around, the upgrade went exactly as planned. And a bit faster, or so it seemed. While I was considering a move back to Ubuntu, I’m going to stick with Mint for a while yet. It’s grown on me, and works very smoothly. I definitely have no regrets moving to Mint.