Posted by: John Erickson | January 22, 2013

I Heart Linux Mint

UPDATED 07 Jan 2016: 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 all my machines are running Linux Mint 17.3 “Rosa” (MATE) using the MATE shell.

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: Be sure to 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
libfile-mimeinfo-perl Perl module to determine file types. Required starting
with Linux Mint 16 for “Show in folder”
in Chrome to work properly
HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
Skype Skype needs no introduction HOWTO (revised)

How to force Skype to use Chrome

Shutter A great screen shot manager HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
VirtualBox Virtual machine host HOWTO Command line recommended…
Installing Windoze remember to enable passthrough
HPLIB HP Linux Imaging and Printing (essential!!) HOWTO
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…
Emacs: A workhorse text editor HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
texlive: LaTeX for Ubuntu et.al. HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
IHMC CmapTools The concept mapping tool HOWTO
Protege (desktop version) The ontology editor HOWTO
Dropbox Store and share your
stuff in the cloud!
HOWTO
Filezilla GUI-oriented ftp client
(for maintaining ancient web sites)
HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
csv2rdf4lod automation Tim Lebo’s awesome RDF conversion power tool
csv2rdf4lod is now a component of PRIZMS
HOWTO
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…
icedtea Browser plugin to run Java applets in esp. Chrome HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
Kismet 802.11 layer2 wireless network detector HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…

Edit /etc/kismet/kismet.conf after installation.
Youtube Audio Ripping youtube-dl, FFmpeg and lame work together to enable ripping of audio tracks from YouTube videos! HOWTO
Other guides also available…
vmware-view VMware Horizon client for running some virtual desktop interfaces HOWTO:
Use Synaptic…
The R Language R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics HOWTO (R Lang)
HOWTO (RStudio)
Updating R
Processing “Processing is an amazingly simple open source programming language (and basic IDE) that makes it possible to easily prototype graphics-heavy and Arduino projects…” HOWTO
Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) Enables Mint to deal with Hulu and Amazon’s DRM on streaming content HOWTO
Java JDK “Java Development Kit includes various development tools like the Java source compilers, bundling and deployment tools, debuggers, development libraries, etc…” HOWTO

Notes:

  • Latest Linux Mint version installed: Linux Mint 17.3 “Rosa” (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 applications like Pidgin 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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