Posted by: John Erickson | January 22, 2013

I Heart Linux Mint

UPDATED 08 Dec 2021: Since late May 2009 I have been a Linux fanboy. My initial motivation for taking the plunge was learning that I would soon be euphemized from the research arm of a major computer corporation and would be on my own later that year. I was also interested in migrating toward a more researcher-friendly environment; many of the reference implementations for radical new directions in Web technology, including and especially Linked Data, were easier to get working on either a Linux derivative or MacOS, and I was increasingly frustrated by Windoze, the official corporate platform.

I first dipped my toe in the Linux pond ten years earlier, having set up Red Hat Linux on a test machine as a platform for breaking (mostly) server-side code, but was not comfortable with it for “primetime” use. All that changed with my first evaluation of Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope (ca. April 2009). I found the shell to be more than usable; the selection of open source code was amazing, literally every application I needed; the performance on my tired machine was a radical improvement over Windoze; and certain essential tasks that had been extremely difficult under Red Hat (esp. VPN) were now clean and easy. I “sandblasted” my main work machine and haven’t gone back. For my remaining months with Giganticorp, if I needed to execute some stodgy Windoze-only crapware I fired up Windoze on VirtualBox, ever-amazed that it actually worked.

I’ve become an Ubuntu and esp. Linux Mint evangelist among my friends. Since the Linux kernel is so much more efficient than Windoze, I show anyone who will listen how they can prolong the life, and generally decrapulate their computing experience, by sandblasting their machine and installing the most recent release of Ubuntu. I continually win converts, to my utter amazement! My ultimate “feat-of-strength” is probably sandblasting a ca. 1991 iMac G3 “Blueberry” and successfully installing Ubuntu, thus (in theory) prolonging its life.

Sadly, good things can be negatively effected by entropy. With Natty Narwhal the geniuses in charge started messing around with the shell (previously Gnome), introducing an abomination called Unity with 11.04, ultimately committing to it with Oneiric Ocelot. This is when Linux Mint sauntered by my office window; I was soon out of my chair and chasing it down the street!

I think of Mint as “a more careful release of Ubuntu, without the crap and knee-jerk changes.” For a recent feature comparison see Linux Mint vs. Ubuntu. Mint is self-described as being “conservative” with updates and being sensitive to its users, especially from the developer community. The key is that Mint uses Ubuntu’s code repositories seamlessly, so the user does not sacrifice anything by choosing Mint over Ubuntu. Currently most of my machines are running Linux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” (MATE) or later.

John’s Linux Mint customizations: Immediately after installing a new distribution of Mint I install the following “essential” applications, using either the command line or Synaptic Package Manager:

NOTE: I always disconnect external monitors before installing Linux Mint on laptops. If you don’t, the installer may get confused and mess up the hardware configuration. Linux Mint handles external monitors nicely after installation.

Docky A cool MacOS-like application dock
Docky ‘compositing’ reminder
Adding Chrome icon
HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
Google Chrome My preferred web browser
May require separate installation of libcurl3
HOWTO
Skype Skype needs no introduction  
vpnc Command line VPN client sudo apt-get install vpnc
curl Command line HTTP client sudo apt-get install curl
svn (subversion) Version control client sudo apt-get install subversion
Audacity Insanely great audio editor HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
Gedit: My preferred text editor HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
texlive: LaTeX for Ubuntu et.al. HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
Dropbox Store and share your
stuff in the cloud!
HOWTO
Filezilla GUI-oriented ftp client
(for maintaining ancient web sites)
HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
Tor Browser Bundle Protect your privacy. Defend yourself against network surveillance and traffic analysis. HOWTO
MuseScore Open source music composition and notation software HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
Kismet 802.11 layer2 wireless network detector HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…

Edit /etc/kismet/kismet.conf after installation.
The R Language R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics HOWTO (R Lang)
HOWTO (RStudio)
Updating R
Cisco AnyConnect VPN Client My institution’s VPN choice I follow my institution’s instructions.

Notes:

  • Current work machine: Lenovo ThinkPad P51
  • Latest Linux Mint version installed: Linux Mint 19.3 “Tricia” (MATE) (64 bit)
  • Since Linux Mint 15 I’ve installed using full disk encryption with no apparent loss of performance. For further information, see esp. “The Performace Impact Of Linux Disk Encryption On Ubuntu 14.04 LTS” (Michael Larabel, March 2014)
  • This list used to be longer, but many applications are now installed by default and I only need to go looking.
  • I’ll usually “pin” applications like Chrome, Skype, Gedit, GIMP, Terminal, Synaptic Package Manager, etc. to Docky after verifying they are installed.
  • Happily, it is no longer necessary to wave the “chicken feet” to get multimedia features to work, a common ritual for Linux users!


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