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The Perfect Desktop – Linux Mint 11 (Katya)


This tutorial shows how you can set up a Linux Mint 11 (Katya) desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge. Linux Mint 11 is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 11.04 that has lots of packages in its repositories (like multimedia codecs, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Skype, Google Earth, etc.) that are relatively hard to install on other distributions; it therefore provides a user-friendly desktop experience even for Linux newbies.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!

 

1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Linux Mint 11 desktop to have the following software installed:

Graphics:

  • The GIMP – free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • Shotwell Photo Manager – full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa – application for organizing and editing digital photos

Internet:

  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Chromium – Google’s open-source browser
  • Flash Player 10
  • FileZilla – multithreaded FTP client
  • Thunderbird – email and news client
  • Evolution – combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule – P2P file sharing application
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client – Bittorrent client
  • Vuze – Java Bittorrent client
  • Pidgin – multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC – IRC client
  • Gwibber Social Client – open-source microblogging client (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

Office:

  • LibreOffice Writer – replacement for Microsoft Word
  • LibreOffice Calc – replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash – double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus – open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Amarok – audio player
  • Audacity – free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee – audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer – media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player – audio player, similar to Apple’s iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod – software similar to Apple’s iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS – audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip – full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino – free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor – CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player – media player (video/audio)
  • Totem – media player (video/audio)
  • Xine – media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • Brasero – CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B – CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia Codecs

Programming:

  • KompoZer – WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish – text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Quanta Plus – web development environment, including a WYSIWYG editor

Other:

  • VirtualBox – lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don’t have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read-/Write support for NTFS partitions

All desired applications are available in the Linux Mint repositories.

As you might have noticed, a few applications are redundant, for example there are two CD/DVD burning applications in my list (Brasero, K3B). If you know which one you like best, you obviously don’t need to install the other applications, however if you like choice, then of course you can install both. The same goes for music players like Amarok, Banshee, Rhythmbox, XMMS or browsers (Firefox, Opera, Chromium).

I will use the username falko in this tutorial. Please replace it with your own username.

 

2 Installing The Base System

The installation of the base system is easy as 1-2-3 because the Linux Mint installer doesn’t offer a lot of options to choose from, so you cannot go wrong.

Download the Linux Mint 11 DVD iso image from http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php, burn it onto a DVD, and boot your computer from it (please note that I used the DVD iso image instead of the CD iso image; the DVD comes with some additional software such as Java or VLC that get installed by default, whereas they are missing if you install from the CD; if you use the CD, you must install these applications from the Synaptic Package Manager):

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The system boots and starts a desktop that is run entirely in the RAM of your system (the Linux Mint installation DVD is also a Live-DVD) without changing anything on your hard disk. This has the advantage that you can test how Linux Mint works on your hardware before you finally install it.

This is how the Linux Mint desktop looks. Double-click the Install Linux Mint icon on the desktop to start the installation to the hard drive:

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The installer starts. First, select your language:

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On the next screen you see a few requirements for the Linux Mint 11 installation (the system should have at least 4.8GB available drive space, should be plugged into a power source (to make sure that the system doesn’t shut down during installation because of an empty battery), and should be connected to the Internet). Click on Forward:

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Now we come to the partitioning of our hard disk. Usually Erase disk and install Linux Mint is a good choice, unless you need custom partitions and know what you’re doing. Erase disk and install Linux Mint will create one big / partition for us:

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Select the hard drive that you want to use for the Linux Mint installation:

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Then choose your time zone:

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Change the keyboard layout, if necessary:

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Type in your real name, your desired username along with a password, and click on Forward:

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Afterwards, Linux Mint is being installed. This can take a few minutes, so be patient:

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After the installation, you will be asked to reboot the system. Click on Restart Now:

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At the end of the shutdown process, you are asked to remove the Linux Mint installation DVD from the DVD drive. Please do this now and press ENTER:

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Your new Linux Mint system starts. Log in to the desktop with the username and password you provided during installation:

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When you log in for the first time, you will see the following help window. Click on Close:

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This is how your new desktop looks:

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Now the base system is ready to be used.

3 Update The System

When you log in for the first time, you will most likely see a notification icon in the lower right corner which means that updates for the installed software are available:

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Open the main menu and click on the All applications button:

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To install the updates, go to Applications > Administration > Update Manager:

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Type in your password:

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The Update Manager tells you which updates are available. If you update the system for the first time, there probably is only one package, mintupdate. Click on Install Updates to install it:

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mintupdate is now being downloaded and installed:

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After mintupdate has been installed, the list of available updates will be reloaded. You will probably see a few more updates. Click on Install Updates to install them:

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The updates are being downloaded and installed (this can take a few minutes):

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When the update is complete, the Update Manager window will close. The icon in the lower right corner should now look like this which indicates that the system is up-to-date:

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4 Flash Player And Java

Linux Mint 11 installs the Macromedia Flash Player by default. To see if the Flash plugin is working, start Firefox (Applications > Internet > Firefox Web Browser). Then type about:plugins in the address bar. Firefox will then list all installed plugins, and it should list the Flash Player (version 10.3 d162) among them:

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You should also find the Java plugin in the list which means Java is installed as well:

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5 NVIDIA/ATI Drivers

If you have an NVIDIA or ATI graphics card and want to use 3D acceleration (e.g. for Compiz-Fusion), you must install the proprietary NVIDIA or ATI driver. To do this, use the Additional Drivers Manager (Applications > Administration > Additional Drivers):

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6 Inventory Of What We Have So Far

Now let’s browse all menus under Applications to see which of our needed applications are already installed:

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You should find the following situation ([x] marks an application that is already installed, where [ ] is an application that is missing):

Graphics:
[x] The GIMP
[ ] Shotwell Photo Manager
[ ] Picasa

Internet:
[x] Firefox
[ ] Opera
[ ] Chromium
[x] Flash Player
[ ] FileZilla
[x] Thunderbird
[ ] Evolution
[ ] aMule
[x] Transmission BitTorrent Client
[ ] Vuze
[x] Pidgin
[ ] Skype
[ ] Google Earth
[x] Xchat IRC
[ ] Gwibber Social Client

Office:
[x] LibreOffice Writer
[x] LibreOffice Calc
[ ] Adobe Reader
[ ] GnuCash
[ ] Scribus

Sound & Video:
[ ] Amarok
[ ] Audacity
[x] Banshee
[x] MPlayer
[ ] Rhythmbox Music Player
[ ] gtkPod
[ ] XMMS
[ ] dvd::rip
[ ] Kino
[ ] Sound Juicer CD Extractor
[x] VLC Media Player
[x] Totem
[ ] Xine
[x] Brasero
[ ] K3B
[ ] Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:
[ ] KompoZer
[ ] Bluefish
[ ] Quanta Plus

Other:
[ ] VirtualBox
[ ] TrueType fonts
[x] Java
[x] Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

So some applications are already on the system. NTFS read-/write support is enabled by default on Linux Mint 11.

7 Install Additional Software

To install additional applications, open the Synaptic Package Manager (Applications > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager):

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Type in your password:

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In the Synaptic Package Manager, we can install additional software. You can use the Quick filter field to find packages:

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Select the following packages for installation (* is a wildcard; e.g. gstreamer0.10* means all packages that start with gstreamer0.10):

  • filezilla
  • shotwell
  • chromium-browser
  • picasa
  • opera
  • evolution
  • amule
  • vuze
  • skype
  • googleearth
  • acroread
  • gnucash
  • scribus
  • amarok
  • audacity
  • rhythmbox
  • sound-juicer
  • gtkpod
  • xmms2*
  • dvdrip
  • kino
  • vlc*
  • mozilla-plugin-vlc
  • xine-ui
  • xine-plugin
  • k3b
  • normalize-audio
  • sox
  • vcdimager
  • non-free-codecs
  • gstreamer0.10*
  • kompozer
  • bluefish
  • quanta
  • ttf-mscorefonts-installer
  • gwibber
  • virtualbox-ose

There are also lots of other applications available that you can install as well if you like.

To select a package for installation, click on the checkbox in front of it and select Mark for Installation from the menu that comes up:

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If a package has a dependency that needs to be satisfied, a window will pop up. Accept the dependencies by clicking on Mark:

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After you’ve selected the desired packages, click on the Apply button:

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Confirm your selection by clicking on Apply:

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The packages are now being downloaded from the repositories and installed. This can take a few minutes, so please be patient:

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You might see some messages. Click on Forward to continue the installation:

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After all packages have been installed, click on Close:

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You can leave the Synaptic Package Manager afterwards.

 

8 Inventory (II)

Now let’s check again what we have so far by browsing the menus again:

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We have now all wanted applications installed:

Graphics:
[x] The GIMP
[x] Shotwell Photo Manager
[x] Picasa

Internet:
[x] Firefox
[x] Opera
[x] Chromium
[x] Flash Player
[x] FileZilla
[x] Thunderbird
[x] Evolution
[x] aMule
[x] Transmission BitTorrent Client
[x] Vuze
[x] Pidgin
[x] Skype
[x] Google Earth
[x] Xchat IRC
[x] Gwibber Social Client

Office:
[x] LibreOffice Writer
[x] LibreOffice Calc
[x] Adobe Reader
[x] GnuCash
[x] Scribus

Sound & Video:
[x] Amarok
[x] Audacity
[x] Banshee
[x] MPlayer
[x] Rhythmbox Music Player
[x] gtkPod
[x] XMMS
[x] dvd::rip
[x] Kino
[x] Sound Juicer CD Extractor
[x] VLC Media Player
[x] Totem
[x] Xine
[x] Brasero
[x] K3B
[x] Multimedia-Codecs

Programming:
[x] KompoZer
[x] Bluefish
[x] Quanta Plus

Other:
[x] VirtualBox
[x] TrueType fonts
[x] Java
[x] Read/Write support for NTFS partitions

Microsoft’s TrueType fonts are now installed, you can check that for example by opening LibreOffice Writer. Take a look at the available fonts, and you should find fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Verdana, etc.:

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  • Linux Mint: http://www.linuxmint.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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