55 Frequently Asked Questions about Linux Mint: PART 3

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This is part three of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Part one is here and Part two is here.

Contents of this page:

How can I reverse the scrolling direction for mouse and touchpad in Cinnamon?

1. In Cinnamon, it's possible to reverse the scrolling direction for mouse and touchpad as follows (note: On a laptop, this requires two separate actions!):

Menu button - Preferences - Mouse and Touchpad

Tab Mouse: switch off Reverse scrolling direction

Then tab Touchpad: also switch off Reverse scrolling direction

So on a laptop that took two actions, not one!

How can I install a newer kernel without internet?

2. If you have installed Linux Mint or Ubuntu and you want to install a newer kernel without having internet, proceed as follows:

Download on another computer that does have internet connection, the three installer packages for the new kernel at Ubuntu. That might even be a Windows machine! Put those on a USB memory stick, connect the stick to your offline machine and install the three kernel installer packages in the right order. You can install them by simply double-clicking them.

The right order is: 1. linux-modules-xxx-generic, 2. linux-image-xxx-generic (signed version) and 3. linux-modules-extra-xxx-generic. Of course it needs to be a kernel that's supported in your version of Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

For example, in order to install kernel 5.8.0-32 in an offline Linux Mint 20 or Ubuntu 20.04, you download the following three packages (they're mentioned in the installation order):

http://nl.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/l/linux-hwe-5.8/linux-modules-5.8.0-32-generic_5.8.0-32.34~20.04.1_amd64.deb

http://nl.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/l/linux-signed-hwe-5.8/linux-image-5.8.0-32-generic_5.8.0-32.34~20.04.1_amd64.deb

http://nl.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/l/linux-hwe-5.8/linux-modules-extra-5.8.0-32-generic_5.8.0-32.34~20.04.1_amd64.deb

After installing them: reboot your computer. It should run on the new kernel then.

This might come in handy when you're stuck in a vicious circle: for example when you have no internet because the driver for your WiFi card is only present in a newer kernel.

Can I execute terminal commands that don't get stored in the memory of the terminal?

3. Yes, you can. Simply precede the command with a space. Then the terminal won't remember it.

How can I change the default document format in word processor AbiWord?

4. Lightweight word processor AbiWord has its own document format, called .abw. That's AbiWord's default.

However, it's easier to have .rtf, .odt or .doc as default format, because of compatibility with other word processors. For the simple AbiWord I recommend to set the uncomplicated document type .rtf as default.

You can only change AbiWord's default document format by means of a genuine hack, like this:

a. First you need to change something else in the preferences of AbiWord (you can revert that later on, if you want):

Launch AbiWord. AbiWord panel - Edit - Preferences... - tab Smart Quotes: remove the tick for: Enable smart (curly) quotes

With that action you've created a certain new section (custom scheme) in the AbiWord profile in your user folder, which is what you need for the actual hack.

b. Close AbiWord.

c. Launch your file manager and make the hidden folders and files visible in your home folder. For example by means of the key combination Ctrl h or (in file manager Thunar) panel - View: tick Show hidden files

Double-click the folder .config and then the folder abiword.

d. Right-click on the file called profile and open it with a simple text editor like Xed, Gedit or Mousepad (don't just double-click it in the normal way, because then it might open in your web browser!).

Find the scheme called "_custom_" (scroll about halfway down in the text file; clear indication: it should contain the line SmartQuotesEnable="0") and add the following line to that scheme:

DefaultSaveFormat=".rtf"

It should then look like this:

<Scheme
        name="_custom_"
        SmartQuotesEnable=0"
        ZoomPercentage=88"
        DefaultSaveFormat=".rtf"
        />

Tip: prevent typing errors and copy/paste the new line. In the example the new default is .rtf, but you can use .odt or .doc if you want to.

e. Save the changes and close the modified (hacked!) file.

f. Time for a test: launch AbiWord, type a few letters and save the document: it should now by default have the new format.

Note: User preference, so repeat this in each user account.

Can I make shutdown go quicker?

5. Does shutting down your computer last too long for you? Then you can force your system to limit the shutdown process to a maximum of 5 seconds, instead of the usual maximum of 10 seconds. Note: This hack might be disruptive, so use it with care and don't reduce the shutdown maximum to less than 5 seconds!

Proceed like this:

a. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

b. Use copy/paste to transfer the following command line into the terminal (it's one huge line!):

sudo sed -i 's/DefaultTimeoutStopSec=10s/DefaultTimeoutStopSec=5s/g' /etc/systemd/system.conf.d/50_linuxmint.conf

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted. In Ubuntu this remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show when you type it, that's normal. In Mint this has changed: you'll see asterisks when you type. Press Enter again.

c. Reboot your computer.

d. Test a shutdown. If all is well, that should last no longer than 5 seconds now.

Should you ever wish to undo this, then this is the command that reverts systemd's shutdown to the default 10 seconds:
sudo sed -i 's/DefaultTimeoutStopSec=5s/DefaultTimeoutStopSec=10s/g' /etc/systemd/system.conf.d/50_linuxmint.conf


How can I automatically execute a root command on startup?

6. Unfortunately systemd has complicated this massively, but you can automatically execute a root command on startup like this (*click*).

How bad are boot error messages about TPM?

7. It's no problem when you get error messages during booting about TPM (Trusted Platform Module).

Its communication unavailability during Mint start-up is unimportant and can safely be ignored. It's just that LM 21.x (Ubuntu 22.04.x) does a lot of system "probing" and reporting (ACPI, etc.), much of which is inconsequential for the workings of your system.

It's really only of any importance if you must run secure boot or Windows disk encryption. It's not required otherwise. Its job is to to store trusted UEFI keys.

If it bothers you anyway, you might be able to get rid of the errors by enabling TPM in the BIOS settings (for which you might need to set an administrator password in the BIOS first).

How can I make the interface of photo editor GIMP 2.10 usable again?

8. The interface of GIMP 2.10 looks horribly grey and dark, and is almost impossible to use: the tool icons are nearly invisible. This is how to make GIMP 2.10 look and feel like its colourful predecessor:

Menu bar of GIMP: Edit - Preferences - section Interface:

a. Theme - set it to System

b. Icon theme: set it to Color

Click OK.

How can I type smart quotation marks (curly, single and double) on a US keyboard?

9. Often required for writing scientific publications, but it's not bloody obvious: typing smart curly quotes on a US keyboard.... Thankfully, it's rather easy once you know it. This is how you do it:

Note: This might only work on a US keyboard for which you've selected the following layout:
English (US, international, with dead keys)

Find the AltGr key on your keyboard (usually on the right of the space bar), which normally is the so-called "Compose key". If there is no key named AltGr, then there should be an Alt key on the right of the space bar which is actually the AltGr key in disguise. Note that the Alt key on the left of the space bar doesn't work for this!

Single left smart quotation mark:
This requires the simultaneous use of two keys. Press the AltGr key and keep it pressed. Then type 9 (not the 9 on the numeric keypad, if you have one, but the 9 on the second row of your keyboard). Lo and behold: ‘

Single right smart quotation mark:
This requires the simultaneous use of two keys. Press the AltGr key and keep it pressed. Then type 0 (not the 0 on the numeric keypad, if you have one, but the 0 on the second row of your keyboard). And there it is: ’

Double left smart quotation mark:
For this you need to use three keys. Press the AltGr key and keep it pressed. Then type { (which requires the use of the Shift key) and this should be the result: “

Double right smart quotation mark:
For this you need to use three keys. Press the AltGr key and keep it pressed. Then type } (which requires the use of the Shift key) and this should be the consequence: ”

What's the correct command format when using a wildcard for apt?

10. The character * is a wildcard, or more specifically a glob pattern. It's often used for commands with apt and apt-get, notably for removals.

By the way: you can find out more about the role of glob like this. But let's dive deeper into the issue of removals with a wildcard....

Now, expansion of a glob pattern is a thing your shell does first of all. So if you execute the command:
apt remove example-package*
....then what actually happens, is that your shell will first try to expand that command before passing it on to the package management system.

So, let's say you have the files example-package1, example-package2 and example-package3 in your working directory. In that case the command you will actually be running by using the wildcard in the aforementioned command, will be:
apt remove example-package1 example-package2 example-package3

If you run a test with this example setup, you'll notice that although apt won't be able to handle the example packages, your system does touch them, as it mentions them. Which it clearly shouldn't be doing at all.

This is very important to understand, as it explains why executing such an apt command without double quotation marks is plainly wrong. Because it will only work correctly accidentally, depending on the contents of your working directory.

In most cases you do not want your shell to perform unlimited pattern expansion when using apt. Except when you actually want to pass file names to the command, as with apt deb to install .deb files. Instead, when you want apt to perform a pattern expansion on package names exclusively within the package management system, you need to use double quotes for the wildcard parameter in order to prevent the shell from performing pattern expansion elsewhere.

So the correct format for that wildcard command, and how you should always be using it, is like this:

apt remove "example-package*"

Note: What I've said above about apt, is also applicable to apt-get. As a sidenote: When you use a script of your own for package removals, you should use apt-get and not apt in it. Because apt, which is itself actually a script, introduces an unnecessary level of complication to your script.

(based on the fine explanation given by gm10 on the Linux Mint forum)

How can I download the installer package for an application by means of the terminal?

11. There's a simple terminal command with which you can download the installer package for an application, namely apt download. For example, if you want to download the installer package for Mousepad:

apt download mousepad

You'll find the installer package (a .deb file or a .tar.gz file containing multiple .deb files) in your home folder then.

Why are some updates being kept back?

12. The update mechanism has a system of so-called phased updates. Not all updates are rolled out at once to all users. Thus, Update Manager may report that nothing needs to be updated (for now), even if some updates are ready to be rolled out.

The reason is simple. There is always a chance that an error creeps through with an update, which is called a regression.

Phasing updates decreases the chance that a severe issue rolled out with an update, would affect all users at once. With phased updates, the issue may be discovered and corrected before all users have it installed.

The phasing happens upstream, i.e. at Ubuntu. It's a second line of defense against regressions, the first line of course being the -proposed repo.

Since Ubuntu 21.04 phasing has been plumbed into APT, so Mint users only start noticing it in Mint 21 (which is based on Ubuntu 22.04) and not in previous Mint versions.

I don't know whether Mint applies phasing to its own repo as well; probably not.

In any case: don't bypass the phasing, because it's for your own good. Just wait until the updates are cleared to reach you.

This is the command with which to check whether there any kept-back updates:

apt update && apt list --upgradable

If you want to see the progress of a kept back phased update, this is how to check for that:

apt-cache policy name-of-kept-back-package

The relevant piece of information in the output is under the header Version table, namely (phased x %). Which means that at this moment, x % of all users already have it.

(partially based on the excellent explanation given by vanadium on the Linux Mint forum)

How should I partition a hard disk on a modern computer with EFI (UEFI)?

13. You might like to partition your hard disk manually, instead of leaving it all to the installer of Mint or Ubuntu. Besides the partition for root, which is the only partition Linux needs, you also need to create a system partition for EFI at the beginning of the disk. This EFI partition needs to be at least 600 MB. And should be no larger than 1 GB, because larger than that, would be a useless waste of disk space. That's it!

How can I launch an application in another language than the default language?

14. It's easy to launch an application in another language than the default language of your desktop environment. Of course that other language has to be installed as well, but then it's a cinch.

For example, when I want to launch an application in US English in my Dutch localized system, I use the following terminal command (example involving text editor Xed):

env LANGUAGE=en_US xed

If that doesn't work: another option is this command (example involving text editor Xed):

LC_MESSAGES=C xed

You can also make a dedicated launcher containing this command, in order to make it even easier for the future.

Note: While this should work for all applications, there's at least one notable exception, namely the terminal (gnome-terminal). Furthermore, I haven't tested this for containerized applications that are installed as snaps, Flatpaks or appimages.

In Mint Cinnamon and Mint Mate, you can install and use the terminal from Xfce for English:

sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends xfce4-terminal

Running it in English:

LC_MESSAGES=C xfce4-terminal

How can I make the asterisks go away that appear when I type my password in the terminal?

15. I find the asterisks when I type my password in the terminal, a useful feature. But you might dislike them, even though the same sort of thing happens when you have to type your password for a graphical application.

You can proceed like this, in order to get rid of the asterisks in the terminal:

a. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

b. Use copy/paste to transfer the following command line into the terminal (it's one line!):

echo 'Defaults !pwfeedback'|sudo tee /etc/sudoers.d/9_no_pwfeedback

Press Enter.

Done! You've created an override file, which is better than simply deleting /etc/sudoers.d/0pwfeedback, as that would reappear after the next update for mintsystem.

c. Regrets? You can make the asterisks reappear, by deleting the override file with this terminal command:

sudo rm -v /etc/sudoers.d/9_no_pwfeedback

Press Enter.

How can I keep my Linux Mint version secure after it has officially reached end of life?

16. There is a way, but it doesn't cover your Mint for 100 %. You can't keep the Mint-only packages secure after their official demise, but you can extend security updates support for the Ubuntu code base of your Mint with another five years.

The Ubuntu code base is more than 90 % of your Mint, and it forms the most important part of your system. Courtesy of Canonical, the company that gives us Ubuntu, you can get a free subscription to Ubuntu Pro, which will extend security updates support to a whopping 10 years. For a maximum of five machines.

Securitywise it's far from ideal for Linux Mint users, but it's not downright crazy either. And it can be a lifesaver for 32-bit machines.

It's an option for Linux Mint 19 and newer. If you wish to make use of it, cut down the Mint-only packages to a minimum, in order to reduce the security risk to the max.

How can I prevent the terminal from remembering the commands that I enter?

17. The terminal remembers the commands that you type in it. And sometimes that's very useful. But not always, and not for everybody.

If you don't want the terminal to remember one specific command that you enter in it, you can simply precede it with a space. If you want to make this forgetfulness permanent for all commands, you can proceed like this:

a. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

b. Use copy/paste to transfer the following command line into the terminal:

ln -sf /dev/null ~/.bash_history

Press Enter. Then close the terminal and re-launch it. Now it should have no memory anymore in your user account.

c. Regrets? This is how to undo the permanent disabling of the terminal history:

unlink ~/.bash_history

Press Enter.

How can I add a memory test option to the Grub bootloader menu?

18. Do you have a modern system with a motherboard that's running on UEFI in full UEFI mode (i.e. not on old-fashioned BIOS)? Then you still can have a memory test (RAM test) option in the Grub bootloader menu. Which is useful when you've added new RAM strips or when you suspect that part of your RAM is defective.

For this, you need to download the latest memtest86+ from the official Ubuntu repos (not the older version of memtest86+ in the Ubuntu repo for your Linux Mint 21.x or Ubuntu 22.04.x, because that version is too old for this purpose):

a. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

b. Use copy/paste to transfer the following command line into the terminal (this is one long line):

wget http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/main/m/memtest86+/memtest86+_6.01-1_amd64.deb -P ~/Downloads

Press Enter.

c. Then launch your file manager and find the installer package in your Downloads folder. Just double-click it in order to install it.

d. Reboot your computer: the Grub bootloader menu should contain two items for memtest86+ now.


Want to read more FAQ? This is part three of the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Part one is here and Part two is here.


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