Mike's Land of Linux

I'm still what you call a linux noobie but after three plus years of using Linux Mint (Cinnamon) I guess I'm not so noob. Currently I'm using Mint 20 Cinnamon on three desktops and one HP laptop. Two desktops are dual boot Win10/Mint.

I started out with Linux by accident. I had an old 2 core desktop that I advertised on FB but nobody wanted it and I was a day from bringing it to the local recycling station when I read a FB page done by a computer teckkie who wrote about giving your old computer a new lease on life by installing linux and Mint in particular. That caught my curiosity and I looked into Mint, downloaded the .iso file, burned that to a DVD and installed it. The rest is history.>As of January 2021 I have Mint 20.1 running on three Dell desktops: two i5s, one i7 and one HP Elitebook laptop. Two i5s are dual booted with Windows 10 and all Dells have 8gb ram. The laptop is an i5 with 4gb ram.

In the past i've tried Ubuntu 20, Manjaro XFCE, Linux Lite, Mint XFCE, Zorin XFCE, LMDE4, Ubuntu KDE Plasma, MX Linux and most recently, Ubuntu Budgie. My favorite still remains Linux Mint. My next favorite distro would have to be Ubuntu Budgie. And I did another go round with Linux Lite on a USB and I'll say that I enjoyed that one quite a bit. If I were moving from windows, I'd seriously consider that one also.


LINUX MINT 20.1 ULYSSA (Cinnamon)
January 2021. I upgraded all my computers to Linux Mint 20.1. These were done through the Update Manager. I made disc images for all computers before I did the upgrade but found that I didn't really need to. Each upgrade was 15 minutes or less and all went very smoothly.

LINUX MINT 20 ULYANA (Cinnamon)
Summer 2020. Linux Mint 20 is now out and rather than wait for the upgrade option, I decided to do clean installs. My first install was on a Dell dual core desktop. The install went flawlessly. So, after the good experience with that, I did a clean install on my HP Elitebook laptop. That one also went flawlessly. And so, to build on that, I did another clean install on our Dell i7 desktop. That also went perfectly. Finally, for my last install, I went back to the first Dell dual core desktop, wiped the disk, installed Windows 10 2004 and then installed Mint 20 Cinnamon and converted its 160GB drive to a dual booter. It was a quick and easy install which installed effortlessly. And I'm glad I took the time to do this instead of waiting for the official upgrade instructions because I'm reading that some users have had problems with it. It was tempting to just wait for the upgrade because upgrades generally go much faster than clean installs, but I learned a few things about MBR and GPT formats and just how easy dual booting can be, at least in a desktop and one laptop.

WHY MINT?
Why do I like Linux Mint? I like it because I want the look and feel of traditional windows and after all of the distros I've tried, nothing comes closer to that than does Mint. As soon as you install Mint you'll think: "Man, this looks like Windows". You'll find that it also acts like traditional Windows. You will have the traditional system tray and taskbar on your bottom left. You'll be able to put your computer, trash, shortcuts and program folders on your desktop whereever you want them. Right click on your desktop to configure everything. Right click on your system tray to customize it and to add the icons you need to the tray. You'll find that you can customize your desktop to look and do whatever you want.

Some people think that Ubuntu is the best OS for users coming over from Windows. I disagree. The annoying thing about Ubuntu concerns the desktop itself. We're all familiar with placing shortcuts on the desktop and we're all familiar with dragging files or folders to the desktop or from the desktop to trash. With the Ubuntu desktop, you can't do that. You can drag and drop files from window to window. You cannot drag a file from a folder to the desktop. It just won't work. What you have to do is copy or cut the file in your document window, for example, and past it to the desktop. Instead of programs to launch from the desktop, save them as favorites instead, which adds them to the stock Ubuntu panel where they launch with a single click. You can then set that panel either vertically or horizontally. This drag and drop thing is something you'll need to just get used to since I've read that this is just one of the things that makes Ubuntu unique. If you want to try a flavor of Ubuntu with a desktop that works fine with drag and drop, try Ubuntu Mate or Ubuntu Budgie, especially Budgie. See more about this below.

One day I was bored and wondered to myself what Ubuntu Mate would look like so I downloaded the ISO, put it on a USB drive and installed it on a spare HP dual core I had laying around. Sure enough, it looked like Ubuntu with the panel on top and the power button on the top right, the panel on the left side and a bottom panel with a couple of applets on it. Could I make it look like Mint Cinnamon/Windows? Had I not done this with Mint I might not have attempted it, but I gave it a try. It took maybe three hours on two different evenings to play with it and I had it looking pretty similar with Mint, to the point where a Windows user could feel comfortable using it, just like with Mint Cinnamon. Here is a screengrab of Mint 20's desktop. And here is a screengrab of Ubuntu 20 Mate's desktop. Mint is just a tad darker because of the Plata-Noir theme, which I love. If you are a Windows user, would you have any problem using either one of these operating systems? I doubt it. And dragging and dropping files from folder to desktop or trash works as it should. But the problem is this. Would a Windows user really want to go through all of this work when he's never used Linux before? Why should he have to "try" to make something look like Windows when there already is a really great, stable distro that already does act like Windows???

DUAL BOOTING

October 2020.
I have two Dell desktops that I use with both Mint and Windows. Both have one drive for Mint and another drive for Windows. Now why would I want to do that if I like Linux Mint so much, you might ask. The reason is simple. Linux does not have a decent substitution for Adobe Acrobat and I need to use it monthly to publish a newsletter. Another reason for dual-booting is because I have two SDRs (software defined radios) which have no linux drivers. I need Windows for those. If the SDR designers would write software for linux, linux users would be eternally grateful. GQRX is okay but no match for the SDR Windows software.

Dual booting is really easy with Mint. First make sure that you have a drive with Windows 10 installed and running. Next, install Linux Mint, either to another drive if you have the space, or to the same drive that has Windows already there. The Mint installation instructions will clearly ask you if you want to erase the entire drive and install Mint, or install Mint alongside of Windows 10. Click to tell it you want it alongside of Windows and them proceed with your installation. I have done this to Ubuntu and Budgie and a few other OS and can tell you that Mint has the clearest, unambiguous instructions of any of them. Don't be afraid.

If you have a desktop computer, pick up another HDD and use two for dual booting, instead of just one. This keeps Windows on its own drive so that if a Windows update ever messes up your computer, it will only be the Windows drive that gets messed up. I've heard of Windows Updates messing up Linux when they're both on the same drive although I never had a problem and most folks haven't either.

BOOT REPAIR

If you are playing around with different Linux distros and dual booting or whatever, the chances are good that you're going to mess up your bootloader at some point and the OS won't load. I've done it at least ten times so far. Do yourself a huge favor before you begin playing and download Linux Boot Repair and put it on a bootable USB drive. Then when you mess up and your computer won't boot, turn on your computer with the boot repair USB installed, keep pressing F12 (if you have a Dell or ESC with an HP) and boot up from the USB drive. Then run boot repair, just sit there and let it fix everything. You will save youself hours of grief. Linux Boot Repair has saved me many times already.

One of my other hobbies is DXing, or tracking down TV, FM and AM stations from far away. Because of that hobby I have a real interest in software devined radios, or SDRs. If I can find anything that will help me or others to track down these stations using linux Mint, I will post the information here. GQRX how runs on Mint 20.1 and I assume Ubuntu 20.1 also. I've taken it from Mint's Software Manager and installed it on one desktop and one laptop and it works fine. I don't have the RSP1 anymore so I don't know if it works with CubicSDR. It didn't with the RSP2.

USING CUBICSDR WITH YOUR RSP2 SDR

USING GQRX WITH YOUR AIRSPY MINI OR DISCOVERY

USING SKYWAVE LINUX TO ACCESS KIWI AND WEB SDRS

Skylinux I've become a fan of DXing remotely using Kiwi SDRs. Skywave Linux has dozens of Kiwi SDRs and WebSDRs for you to listen to plus tons of other stuff using their version of Firefox. My favorite is in Iceland. If you are interested in this, download Skywave Linux (an Ubuntu dirivative) and use USB Image Writer in your Mint Menu to burn it to a bootable USB stick. I have had no problem using it with an HP laptop but get no audio with my Dells. This seems to be a known problem, so keep this in mind. Also know that you will need to enter your network password every time you start Skywave Linux. If doing this every time becomes annoying, consider creating a "persistent" bootable USB using a program called mkusb. This method saves your network setting to the USB so you don't need to do it yourself every time. To install mkusb just click on the link above and enter the three commands into your terminal, then find mkusb in your Mint Menu under Accessories and click on it. Follow the prompts in the article and create a persistent USB. It's easy to do; it just takes a while. (Notes on Skywave Linux: Win+R shows and hides the menu. Use ENTER to select Firefox or whatever. CTRL+ALT+DEL exits Skywaves Linux. Click extreme upper right side of the window to enter your network data. CTRL+ALT+T shows terminal if you should need it for anything.)


7-ZIP
7-Zip for linux is called p7-Zip. Get it from Software Manager, just look for p7zip-full. Or go HERE to download it.


Android phones.
When you connect an Android phone to a computer running Linux Mint and go into DCIM and then camera, you normally see icons instead of thumbnails, even though you'll see thumbnails in your picture folder. To see thumbnails when you connect your phone, go to MENU-->ACCESORIES-->FILES->EDIT-->PREFERENCES-->PREVIEW and change show thumbnails to YES instead of Local Files Only. Why Mint doesn't make thumbnails the default with an android phone, who knows. Also make sure that your phone is set for media, not photos, or you won't see thumbnails.

MS Paint!!
You can have an app that's pretty darn close and just as easy. You can now uninstall GIMP or any of the other way-to-complex programs. What you need to download is Kolourpaint. You can find it in the software Manager. You'll like it! As a matter of fact, the graphic at the top of the page was made with Kolourpaint. Not too shabby, either.

Neofetch
This is a neat little utility I think everyone should have on their computer. Download it from the Software Manager. You can launch neofetch it by typing "neofetch" (without the brackets) in your terminal. What you find listed is your Operating System, Kernal and shell type, graphics and amount of RAM in your computer and more. Neofetch tells you quite a bit about your system.


Snipping Tool for Linux!
The screengrab program I like the most is called Shutter. It's simple and easy but you no longer find it in the Mint 20 repositories. I almost gave up on ever finding this program again, but it seems that the program has been recently resurrected. Download it from the shutter site or enter the three lines below to install it.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linuxuprising/shutter
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt install shutter
There you have it. Once you install it you will find it in the Mint main menu.

Change Your I-Beam! One thing that has always annoyed me about linux, is that thing called the cursor I-beam. The I-beam is that thing you get when you place your cursor over text, or in the address bar of your browser, or in some field where you need to enter data and click. In windows, it's very narrow. In linux it's too wide I-beam and looks like a fat dog bone. If you need to enter data or edit/insert letters or text, that fat I makes the process harder than it should be. But there's a fix for this. What you need to do is put another cursor package in your home directory at home/username/.icons. You should find the .icons directory there but you may not. Remember that the .icons folder is a hidden folder because it begins with a dot. Make sure your home folder shows hidden folders and files by pressing CTRL-H first. If you don't find the .icons folder,then make one. An excellent cursor package can be found here. Another cursor set that will work just great is here in the gnome look site. The two right folders in the graphic below are the folders you need. Normally in the .icons folder you'd just see a default folder. Choose the one you like best.

Cursor Set Your next step is to download the file into your download folder, right click and extract it. Then take the resulting folder and move it into home/username/.icons. Once that is done, go back to Mint and your main Mint menu. Go to themes. Then go to cursors, click and select the set you want. At this point, you are done. Enjoy your new I beam!

RESCUEZILLA! When something screws up (or when you totally screw up your system so it no longer works) you need it fixed fast! I really believe in disk imaging to get you back up and running quickly. Clonezilla does disk imaging, but Clonezilla is a pain to use and I've been scared silly at times trying to either create a disk image or trying to restore one. Clonezille is one of the most complicated imaging programs I've ever seen. Rescuezilla changes all of that and makes it simple. Just download it and put it on a USB drive. Boot your computer from the USB drive. Once Rescuezilla loads, select your source drive and target drive and create your disc image. No sweat. To restore your image, again select your source and target drives and click on restore. Unless you have some unusual need, you can forget Clonezilla. Rescuezilla makes disc imaging easy!

The Plank Dock
plank dock You either like docks or you don't. Install one and see what you think. I installed plank dock on vanilla Ubuntu and later on Linux Mint but didn't keep it. What a dock does, more or less, is replace the ribbon (taskbar) with an area in the center of the screen where you can keep your trash, lauch your programs and utilities or whatever you want. When you hover over an icon in the dock it will enlarge (how much depends on you). Many users like docks for some reason. Maybe they just look cool. I thought so at first but then, after using one, found them to be annoying. I just don't see a valid purpose for it. Maybe you will. Try one; you can always uninstall it later. I'm back to using the bottom ribbon which is more like Windows taskbar, is easier to use and I just think looks nicer.

Thanks for reading!
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Last updated 2/16/21