answer to 2:
1) first use xfce task manager to check that Zeitgeist services are running (these are what log system activities and they should be running by default)
2) to view/search the activities Zeitgeist logs you can install the Synapse app via software or package manager
3) start synapse via menu > accessories > synapse
4) right click the synapse icon in notiication area in your xfce panel and select preferences and 'launch on startup'
5) open/close Synapse via ctrl-space. Click the down arrow to see the activity log.Click the left and right arrows to filter the log to specific things e.g. images, docs, audio, apps etc ...
answer to 1:
install and setup compiz this will give you scale, expo and hundreds of other effects with much better performance than gnome or cinnamon.
This can be a little complex the first time you try it but it is worth the effort.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvkINtC-XzIhttp://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?f=110&t=138673#p751644
the packages you need are:
fusion-icon (might not work but is optional)
gnome-tweak-tool (set the window theme)
dconf-editor (set the layout of window buttons)
docky ( optional - use if want an OSX like dock)
use menu > settings > compizconfig settings manager to set compiz up
then add 'compiz --replace' to your startup apps (menu > settings > sessions and startup > application autostart)