Now I've built a new desktop and tossed Linux Mint 14 64bit Cinnamon edition alongside my Windows 7 64 bit. Something was screwed with the installation the first time, but I don't remember what. It went away the second time, so I didn't pay any mind. Well now that I have it installed successfully(ish), I boot into Linux Mint 14 from GRUB. Before hitting the log in screen, I see the linux mint logo but badly distorted with each subsequent horizontal scan line. The log in screen looks normal, so I don't question it too hard. Well whenever I try to boot into Cinnamon, it gives me a black screen with my computer name, the log in name, version number, etc. Then it briefly flashes to what looks like "Checking battery state..." or something, it moves too fast for me to see. Similarly on the prior screen. After flashing that quick "Checking ... state" message, it sends me back to the log in screen. Cinnamon 2D similarly does not work. Gnome, however, does. I went through and installed all of the pending updates, same problem persists.
I figured downloading drivers would help, maybe it was a display issue for Cinnamon. I went to the GeForce page and downloaded the driver for my card as Linux64. It gave me a .run file which gave me the message
Could not open the file /home/vivo/Downloads/NVI…A-Linux-x86_64-310.19.run using the Western (ISO-8859-15) character encoding.
So I have no clue what that is or even how to effectively search it. Taking bits in quotes didn't turn up any meaningful results for me, though not much is meaningful to me yet. So I look in the software sources -> additional drivers section like some other posts mentioned. Here's where my results start getting weird. "Using X.ORG X Server" is selected by default. If I select "Using NVIDIA binary Xorg driver, kernel module and VDPAU library..." it will pop back to X.Org after the progress bar quickly finishes. However, the Experimental NVIDIA binary Xorg driver actually progresses normal and installs. It sticks, I go to the log in screen, suddenly Cinnamon doesn't kick me out.
All well and good right? Wrong. It looks exactly like Gnome, I can't adjust themes in Cinnamon settings, I don't have the applets, etc. It's EXACTLY like what gnome was for me before. (I can post a screen shot if needed, but it's obviously not the default cinnamon). I have absolutely no idea where to go from here, because I don't even know what the problem is. I'm effectively drowning in a sea of "Nothing is working like it should".
Here's my potentially relevant specs. (roughly)
Intel® Core™ i3-3220 CPU @ 3.30GHz × 4
z77 MSI Military class motherboard
Geforce GTX 650 Ti
Connected directly from GPU to Monitor via DV-I (no idea why it would matter, but whatever)
Thank you for reading, all of your help/input is greatly appreciated.