10 Things to Do First in the Legacy Linux Mint 19.2 Xfce


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Congratulations, you've installed a brand new Linux Mint 19.2 (code name: Tina), with the Xfce desktop environment! What's best for you to do, first of all?

I've made a list of the things to do, which I've divided into three categories:
- 10 absolutely essential ones (part 1);
- the recommended ones (not essential, part 2);
- the maybe useful (part 3).

It's quite a list, but it'll give you a polished, nearly maintenance-free operating system that you'll be able to enjoy for years to come! Plus it's also a crash course in the use of Linux Mint.

Note: you'll find only relatively safe tips and tweaks here, because I think that the stability and reliability of your operating system should never be endangered. This website is serious about Linux Mint, so my approach is conservative.

I try to mention it whenever some risk is unavoidable, so that you can always make a balanced decision.

Note: these tips are written for Linux Mint 19.2 Xfce Tina. The tips for the newer Linux Mint 20 Xfce Ulyana are here.

Note: in some cases you'll find references to other how-to's on this website. The other how-to's on this website are meant for Mint 20 and not for 19.2. So in a few cases they might not work in 19.2.

Contents of this page:

Tip: you can download a checklist here, which you can print on paper. Then you can strike the items that you've done, with an old-fashioned but effective pencil.

Are you unsure what Linux Mint version you have? You can check that as follows:

Launch a terminal window:
Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal (Terminal Emulator)

Type (use copy/paste in order to avoid typing errors):

inxi -S

(Note that the letter S is capitalized)

Press Enter.



Part 1

TEN ESSENTIAL ACTIONS


Always do these things:

Apply all available updates and set up Timeshift

1.1. a. First the updates, then the rest...

Click on the Menu button - System - Update Manager

Apply all updates.

Note: during the updates you might be asked whether you want to replace a configuration file. Don't replace it: although replacing is generally safe, it's usually unnecessary.

b. Then launch Timeshift, which is useful to get your system up and running again quickly in case of emergency:
Menu button - System - Timeshift

c. Click the button Settings - Schedule. Preferably configure Timeshift to put its snapshots on a separate dedicated hard disk partition (20 GB is a workable and reasonable minimum size for that partition), so it won't eat disk space needed by your system.

Set the schedule to monthly, with a retention of two snapshots. No more, because otherwise, under certain circumstances, Timeshift can start gobbling up disk space like crazy.

Barring the rare exception, nobody will ever need more than two snapshots.... Even if the snapshot you restore is quite old: simply run Update Manager after the restoration and your system will be fully up to date in almost no time at all.

Want to know more about dealing with Timeshift snapshots? Then read about it here (*click*).

d. Reboot your computer (usually not necessary after updating your system, but do it this time just to make sure).

Upgrade from 19.2 to 19.3 while preserving compatibility with older hardware

1.1.1. It's possible to upgrade to 19.3 Tricia, while preserving the better compatibility with old hardware that 19.2 has. Which is why I strongly recommend it, because it'll give you some nice innovations.

Such an in-place upgrade of 19.2 to 19.3 is easy and safe, because they have the same codebase: Ubuntu 18.04. The best and recommended upgrade method within the 19 series, is by means of Update Manager.

This is how it works:

a. First of all remove the meta package linux-kernel-generic, so that you won't get a newer kernel series during the update process. That's important in order to maintain the better compatibility with older hardware that your current 4.15.x kernel has. To do that, proceed like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation into the terminal (it's one line):

sudo apt-get remove linux-kernel-generic

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.

b. It's best to disable the screensaver, so that it won't make a nuisance of itself during the upgrade process. So make sure it's disabled.

c. In the panel of Update Manager you click Edit and then:
Upgrade to "Linux Mint 19.3 Tricia".

d. Then a wizard presents itself, that gives you some information.

After the last step, the installation begins. Wait patiently; sometimes it looks as if nothing happens, but that's just seemingly so. So just wait.

e. After completion of the upgrade you'll have to reboot your computer.

I repeat: during the upgrade you won't get a kernel upgrade to the default kernel for Linux Mint 19.3 (5.x), nor will you be offered an update to the 5.x kernel afterwards, because you've removed the meta package that would have pulled that in.

That's no problem: it's quite alright to continue to use your current older kernel series in 19.3. It's even an advantage: by keeping your current older kernel series (4.15.x), you'll preserve the better compatibility with old hardware that 19.2 has.

Better settings for the terminal, for Update Manager and for installing software

1.2. The terminal (terminal emulator), Update Manager and the mechanism for installing software are three very important tools. That's why it's important that their settings are optimal. You can achieve that as follows:

Improve the settings for installing software

1.2.1. Mint deviates from the Ubuntu way, where the so-called "recommended" packages are concerned. When you install software yourself, Ubuntu installs the recommended packages by default, but Mint does not.

This has two important disadvantages: in Mint, the features of the applications that you install yourself, can be needlessly crippled. And some how-to's for Ubuntu, don't work in Mint. All this for the sake of saving some disk space...

You can make things right like this:

Menu button - System - Synaptic Package Manager

Settings - Preferences - tab General
Section Marking Changes: tick: Consider recommended packages as dependencies

Click Apply

Click OK.

Furthermore, you need to change the setting "false" into "true", in the settings file /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/00recommends. That's easiest to do in the following way:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following command line into the terminal, for example by a right-click with your mouse (this is one line!):

sudo sed -i 's/false/true/g' /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/00recommends

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.

Note: this may have an unwanted rare side effect. When installing certain applications that have file manager Nautilus as "recommended" dependency, you get Nautilus into the bargain!

That's undesirable, because installing a second full-blown file manager like Nautilus alongside your default file manager, will lead to conflicts. When you suddenly find that you've got Nautilus in your menu, I advise to remove Nautilus immediately, like this:

sudo apt-get remove nautilus

This should leave all other installed applications intact, including the one whose installation pulled Nautilus. So it should always be safe to remove Nautilus.


Improve a terminal setting

1.2.2. You're probably going to use the terminal (Xfce Terminal) from time to time, because it's the mighty "Swiss Army knife" of Linux. But the default appearance of the terminal window can be made more practical. You can do that as follows.

The terminal window is semi-transparent. Beautiful, but impractical. Improve it like this:

Menu bar of the terminal: Edit - Preferences... (or: right-click with the mouse in the black space of the terminal - Preferences...).

Tab Appearance: change the Background to: None (use solid color).

Know your Update Manager

1.2.3. Update Manager is one of the most important tools you have. It's therefore also very important that you acquaint yourself with it. For that purpose, I've published a how-to for tweaking and optimizing Update Manager here (*Click*).

Drivers and full multimedia support

1.3. For installing missing drivers and full multimedia support, proceed as follows (you need internet connection for this!):

Install missing drivers

1.3.1. Installing drivers is usually not necessary, because they are already present in the Linux kernel. Exceptions are some printer drivers and proprietary restricted drivers for (among others) Nvidia graphics cards.

a. Install your printer and scanner in this way (*Click*).

b. For optimal performance of your Nvidia video card, or your Broadcom wireless chipset, you'll want to install the closed source restricted driver (the proprietary driver). Like this:

Menu - System - Driver Manager

When available for your system, this tool will present you with one or more installable non-free drivers. Select them all, but only after creating a snapshot with Timeshift first.

The required drivers are then automatically downloaded from the internet, from the software repositories of Mint, and (also automatically) installed. Afterwards you'll have to do a full reboot of your computer.

Note: sometimes you're being offered several versions of the restricted driver. The recommended one should work best for most hardware combinations.

Only choose from the versions that you're being offered, because only those support your device! Start with the recommended one, and only work your way down when it doesn't perform well.

Do you have a brand-new graphics card from Nvidia? Then it might be too new for the version of the proprietary restricted driver in the software repositories of Mint. In that case you won't be offered any proprietary driver at all by Driver Manager.

If this happens, then you can look for another solution for your Nvidia card on this page.


For an AMD/ATI video card you have to stick to the default open source driver. Because the closed AMD Catalyst (fglrx) drivers are not compatible with Linux Mint 19.x.

These closed fglrx drivers are proprietary and so their code is not available. AMD indicated they no longer wanted to support them and urged their customers to use open-source drivers instead.

If you're using an AMD or ATI GPU in Linux Mint 19.x, the operating system will automatically select either the radeon or the amdgpu driver for you, and both of these open-source drivers are installed by default.

For Realtek WiFi chipsets you might need to install the old obsoleted rtlwifi_new driver.

Install full multimedia support

1.3.2. You've probably installed full multimedia support during the installation of Linux Mint, by ticking the checkbox for Install third-party software for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware, Flash, MP3 and other media. But if you didn't, you can do it now:

Menu button - Multimedia - Install Multimedia Codecs

Note: this menu entry is only present when you haven't installed full multimedia support (mint-meta-codecs) yet. After installing it, this menu entry will disappear.

Optimize your Solid State Drive (SSD)

1.4. Do you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of a conventional hard disk? Then optimize it for Linux Mint.

Install some useful tools and an extra media player

1.5. There's a bug in the default file manager Thunar, which (under certain circumstances) makes moving files difficult or even almost impossible. If you encounter that problem, it's best to use another, stand-alone simple file manager that's not embedded in your operating system. Such a simple stand-alone file manager is Double Commander. Extra advantage: it has two panes.

Also, for optimal control of the sound settings, there's a useful application called pavucontrol.

Furthermore, for dealing with certain archive types, you want to have p7zip-rar.

Finally, I advise to install the well-known VLC as extra mediaplayer.

Install them all in one stroke, like this:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation into the terminal (it's one line!):

sudo apt-get install doublecmd-gtk pavucontrol p7zip-rar vlc

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.

Decrease the swap use (important)

1.6. This is especially noticeable on computers with relatively low RAM memory: they tend to be far too slow in Linux Mint, and Linux Mint accesses the hard disk too much. Luckily, this can be helped.

Note: does your computer have 8 GB RAM or more? Then you can skip this item, because with so much RAM you probably won't notice any benefits from applying it.

On the hard disk there's a separate file or partition for virtual memory, called the swap. When Mint uses the swap too much, the computer slows down a lot.

Mint's inclination to use the swap, is determined by a setting called swappiness. The lower the setting number, the longer it takes before Mint starts using the swap. On a scale of 0-100, the default setting is 60. Which is much too high for normal desktop use; the optimal compromise is probably 20.

A detailed explanation can be found here (link dead? Then download this pdf file with the same content).

Now the how-to for setting it to 20:

a. First check your current swappiness setting:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste to avoid errors):

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Press Enter.

The result will probably be 60.

b. To change the swappiness into a more sensible setting, type in the terminal (use copy/paste):

xed admin:///etc/sysctl.conf

(The three consecutive slashes are no typo, but intentional)

Press Enter. You'll be asked to fill out your password twice, that's normal.

Scroll to the bottom of the text file and add your swappiness parameter to override the default. For that, copy/paste the following two blue lines:

# Decrease swap usage to a more reasonable level
vm.swappiness=20

c. Save and close the text file. Then reboot your computer.

d. After the reboot, check the new swappiness value:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Press Enter.

Now it should be 20.

Note: if your hard disk is an SSD, there's an extra reason to decrease swappiness. That's because too many write actions, like frequent swapping, reduce the lifespan of an SSD. Also check these tips for optimizing an SSD for your Linux.

Turn on the firewall

1.7. The default security of Linux Mint can and should be improved a bit. The firewall is namely disabled by default, but usually it's better to turn it on. Especially on mobile devices like laptops, which sometimes connect to other networks than your own.

The firewall is called Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw), and can be operated from the terminal. Like this:

a. Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

b. Copy/paste the following command line into the terminal:

sudo ufw enable

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.

Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw) has a sensible set of default settings (profile), which are fine for the vast majority of home users. So unless you have special wishes: you're done!

c. With this command line you can check the current status of the firewall:

sudo ufw status verbose

Press Enter.

When it's enabled, the output should resemble this:

pjotr@netbook:~$ sudo ufw status verbose
[sudo] password for pjotr:
Status: active
Logging: on (low)
Default: deny (incoming), allow (outgoing) disabled (routed)
New profiles: skip
pjotr@netbook:~$


I've printed the most important message in red: this output basically means that all incoming traffic is denied and all outgoing traffic allowed.

There are sensible exceptions in the default firewall settings (rules), which should ensure that the firewall is never in the way of normal average use. For example, with the default profile the use of Samba should be no problem. Also downloading torrents (fetch) should be possible; but seeding torrents (serve), might require a temporal disabling of ufw.

d. You'll probably never look at its logs, so it won't hurt to turn off all logging by the firewall. Especially because it can be rather spammy sometimes. Turning off its log can be done with this terminal command:

sudo ufw logging off

Regrets? Turning firewall logging on again with the default amount of activity (low), can be done with the following terminal command:

sudo ufw logging low

e. It's easy to disable the firewall (should you wish to do so) with this terminal command:

sudo ufw disable

Press Enter.

f. A further explanation about the firewall and security in general, can be found here.

Font support

1.8. Install some useful fonts, in order to improve the compatibility with documents from Microsoft Office. Namely a package containing some old Microsoft fonts and two modern Google-made free replacement fonts.

I. First the package with old Microsoft fonts:

a. Launch a terminal window (this is how to launch a terminal window).

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

wget http://ftp.us.debian.org/debian/pool/contrib/m/msttcorefonts/ttf-mscorefonts-installer_3.7_all.deb -P ~/Downloads

Press Enter. With this command, you download the installer package from Debian, because the version in the Ubuntu/Mint repositories is broken. Furthermore, the Debian package is cleaner because it doesn't pull some software that's useless in Linux Mint.

c. For the actual installation, use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's again one single line!):

sudo apt install ~/Downloads/ttf-mscorefonts-installer_3.7_all.deb

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 Linux Mint this has changed: you do get to see asterisks when you type your password. Press Enter again.

d. Now you might be confronted by a license agreement from Microsoft (sigh). See the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it):

Hit the Tab key to activate <Ok> (which then turns red), and press Enter.

e. In the next window you'll be given the chance to say Yes to the agreement: hit the Tab key to activate <Yes> (which then turns red) and press Enter.

f. Finally, copy/paste this command into the terminal:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig

Press Enter.


II. Now install the Google-made free fonts Carlito (replacement for Microsoft's modern proprietary Calibri) and Caladea (replacement for Microsoft's modern proprietary Cambria). Like this:

a. Launch a terminal window (this is how to launch a terminal window).

Use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's one line!):

sudo apt-get install fonts-crosextra-carlito fonts-crosextra-caladea

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 Linux Mint this has changed: you do get to see asterisks when you type your password. Press Enter again.

b. Now you're going to configure Libre Office to use them as replacement for the Calibri en Cambria fonts from Microsoft:

Launch LibreOffice Writer.

In the panel of LibreOffice Writer: Tools - Options... - section LibreOffice: Fonts

Tick: Apply replacement table

c. Type in for Font (it's not in the dropdown list, you have to type it): Calibri
Replace by: Carlito (it's in the dropdown list)

Press the button with the green tick.

Tick: Always and Screen only

d. Now type in for Font (it's not in the dropdown list, you have to type it): Cambria
Replace by: Caladea (it's in the dropdown list)

Press the button with the green tick.

Tick: Always and Screen only

Click the OK button.

Avoid 10 fatal mistakes!

1.9. There are 10 mistakes that you'll definitely want to avoid, for the sake of the health of your system.

Solve some known bugs

1.10. If you have a problem: have a look at the solutions for several bugs. Don't skip this, when you have some problem! There's a big chance that you'll benefit from at least one of the workarounds presented at that page..... Written for Ubuntu, but applicable in Linux Mint as well.

Also relevant: the release notes of Linux Mint 19.3 Xfce.


Part 2

SEVENTEEN RECOMMENDED ACTIONS (NOT ESSENTIAL)


Do these things if and when you have the time:

Increase font scaling and pointer size

2.1. If you have a display with a big resolution, sometimes the font scaling and the cursor (mouse pointer) size are annoyingly small. This is how to increase their sizes:

a. For a Hi-DPI display:

Menu - Settings - Appearance

Tab Settings:
Window Scaling: change that into 2x

b. For a non-Hi-DPI display:

Menu - Settings - Appearance

Tab Fonts: DPI: set Custom DPI setting to (for example) 140

Click on an empty part of your desktop and press F5, in order to refresh the desktop shortcuts (if that doesn't work, you might need to log out and in again). Then close Appearance.

Then do this for the cursor size: Menu - Settings - Mouse and Touchpad

Tab Theme: Cursor size: increase it to (for example) 32.

c. You can also increase the text size in the menu of bootloader Grub, simply by installing a dedicated magnifying package for it. The mere installation itself is enough; no further action required. Proceed like this:

Menu - Settings - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following command line into the terminal:

sudo apt-get install grub2-theme-mint-2k

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.

That's it!

Disable the multiple workspaces

2.2. By default you've got multiple workspaces, to which you can switch whenever you want. Some people like it. But for others, it's a bloody annoyance to see their open application windows disappear "all of a sudden".

Because it can happen quite unexpectedly: a workspace switch may happen by an accidentally pressed key combination (shortcut).

If you don't plan to use them, the best approach is therefore this one:

Menu -  Settings - Workspaces
Number of workspaces: set it to 1
Click Close.

Disable the fast user switch

2.3. It's possible to switch from one user account to another, by means of the blue button called "Switch Users" in the menu. It's best to avoid that button, because this might lead to unexpected malfunctions. Besides, switching users like that eats system power: the first user session remains namely in the system memory...

Furthermore, it's technically much better to simply log off from user account A before logging into user account B. For the simple reason that only then you have full system power available, for the user account that you're using.

You can remove the switch button in the menu (and the switch button in the logout dialog) like this:

a. In your desktop panel, right-click on the Menu button - Properties
Tab Commands: remove the tick for: Switch Users

b. Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following blue line into the terminal (it's one long line):

xfconf-query -c xfce4-session -np '/shutdown/ShowSwitchUser' -t 'bool' -s 'false'

Press Enter.

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

Tame your mouse and touchpad

2.4. Your mouse and touchpad can perform better. Like this:

Menu button - Settings - Mouse and Touchpad
Pointer speed: set the acceleration higher, to 4 (or thereabouts).

Click the Close button.

Furthermore, it's convenient to disable the touchpad (trackpad) of your laptop during typing, and tweak the delay. Especially on small laptops.

That's easy to configure:

a. First install a supporting package:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following line into the terminal:
sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-input-synaptics

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.

b. Now create a new directory:

Copy/paste the following line into the terminal:

sudo mkdir -v /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d

Press Enter.

c. Then copy a file into that new directory:

Copy/paste the following line into the terminal (this is one line!):

sudo cp -v /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/70-synaptics.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/70-synaptics.conf

Press Enter.

d. Now create a modified startup application:

Menu button - Settings - Session and Startup

Click the tab Application Autostart

click Add

e. Fill out the fields as follows (use copy/paste, that's easiest):

Name:
Syndaemon

Description:
Disable touchpad while typing, with a reasonable delay and only for tapping and scrolling

Command:
syndaemon -i 1.0 -K -R -t

Click OK.

f. Reboot your computer (or log out and log in again).

g. Finally, check whether it's working, with the help of the following terminal command (copy/paste the blue line below in a terminal and press Enter):
ps aux|grep syndaemon

Note: this is a user preference, so repeat this in every user account.

Remove the option 'save session' from the logout window

2.5. In the logout dialog, you can enable saving the session ("Save session for future logins"). But that's generally a nuisance, especially for beginners with Linux Mint Xfce. Because all open application windows will be restarted automatically, upon each login.... So it's best not to enable this.

You can remove old sessions like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
rm -r -v ~/.cache/sessions/*

Press Enter.

Note: user setting, so repeat this in each user account.

In order to prevent mistakes, you can remove this option from the logout window for all users like this:

a. Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

b. Create a directory with a command: type in the terminal (use copy/paste to avoid errors):
sudo mkdir -v /etc/xdg/xfce4/kiosk

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. Now create a file with a command: type in the terminal (use copy/paste to avoid errors):
sudo touch /etc/xdg/xfce4/kiosk/kioskrc

Press Enter.

d. Then copy/paste this command into the terminal, in order to edit that new file:
xed admin:///etc/xdg/xfce4/kiosk/kioskrc

In that empty text document, copy/paste the following text:

[xfce4-session]
SaveSession=NONE

e. Save the modified file.

f. Reboot your computer. The option for saving the session should have disappeared from the logout screen.

Fix a potential permissions bug in your home folder

2.6. In certain cases a file or folder permissions problem may exist in your personal folder(s), even without you being aware of it. The ownership of certain (hidden) files or folders might namely have been changed to root. This could create unexpected malfunctions.

You can make sure that all files in your personal folder belong to you, like they should. Proceed like this:

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

b. Copy/paste this line into the terminal:

sudo chown -Rc $USER:$USER $HOME

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. When it's finished, reboot or log off and on again.

This appears to be an effective workaround which you probably only have to apply once. As such, it can serve as a practical "emergency" measure.

Optimize Firefox

2.7. With a couple of changes in the settings, you can improve the performance of Firefox in Linux Mint Xfce. These tweaks will make this fine web browser leaner and cleaner.

Tweak Libre Office

2.8. The default office suite is the fine Libre Office. In order to improve it, you can tweak the settings of Libre Office.

Install an extra web browser

2.9. It's useful to have an extra web browser available. Firefox is a fine application, but now and then (especially when you've installed too many extensions or add-ons in Firefox), it doesn't function entirely well.

An excellent alternative to Firefox, is web browser Google Chrome. Unfortunately it's not in the software sources of Linux Mint, but you can download its 64-bit installer from the download page of Chrome.

That web page should automatically recognize that you're running Linux Mint: it should offer you a preselected installer for Debian/Ubuntu, because that's what you need in Mint.

Double-click the installer, which has the extension .deb, as if it were a .exe installer in Windows. Then it'll install itself automatically.

Furthermore, it'll add the software source for Chrome to your software sources list, so that Update Manager will automatically offer you updates for Google Chrome as soon as they become available.

Note: do you have a 32-bit operating system? Then you can't install Google Chrome. In that case select Chromium, which can be installed by means of Software Manager.

You can find tips and tweaks for Chrome and Chromium here.

Speed up your Linux Mint

2.10. You can probably speed up your Linux Mint noticeably, by applying these safe speed tweaks.

I advise to pay special attention to turning off the visual effects, as described in item 5 on the speed tweaks page. Visual effects are nice, but they can slow down your system and can occasionally even cause stability problems.

That's why there are only a few visual effects enabled by default. You can gain some speed and stability when you turn off those as well.

Disable the mousewheel-rollup feature

2.11. Mint Xfce has a mousewheel-rollup feature, which is enabled by default.

This mousewheel-rollup feature causes many complaints from people who inadvertently perform a rollup of the active window, and then think that their application window has suddenly closed. Or they see the rolled-up window bar, but don't know how to restore it...

So it's better to disable this "feature from hell". Like this:

Menu button - Settings - Settings Editor (not Settings Manager!) - xfwm4
Double-click on mousewheel-rollup and set the value to FALSE (by clicking on TRUE).

Click on the "Save" button.

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

Migrate your e-mail from Outlook (Express) in Windows, to Linux Mint

2.12. It's easy to migrate your e-mails and e-mail settings from Outlook (Express) in Windows, to Thunderbird in Linux Mint Xfce. Simply apply this how-to.

Multiple accounts: prevent other users from accessing the files in your account

2.13. Does your computer have multiple user accounts? Then you can easily prevent other users from accessing and seeing the files in your account, without taking radical measures like encryption. In the following way:

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

Type (copy/paste):

chmod -v 700 $HOME

Press Enter.

Repeat this in each user account that needs the same protection.

Note (1): don't apply this recursively, on all files and folders within your home folder. That's quite unnecessary, and might even have negative side effects.

Note (2): this doesn't protect you from someone with root permissions! It won't stop a determined and experienced snooper, but it's an effective measure to "keep the honest people out". If that's not enough for you: encryption of files or even of your entire home folder, is much more secure....

Should you ever wish to undo this (but why?), that's easy as well. For undoing you can use this command:
chmod -v 755 $HOME

Backup your panel

2.14. The panel of Xfce can be modified in many ways; sometimes a bit too easily. Therefore it's wise to backup its settings, so you can always quickly restore its previous state. Like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install xfpanel-switch

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.

This has installed a fine backup tool for the panel. Then start using it:

Menu button - Settings - Xfce Panel Switch

Below in the application window, backup your current panel settings by clicking on the second button on the left ("Save Configuration").

Note: now you've only made a backup of the settings of the panel in your own user account, so repeat this in all other user accounts (if there are any).

Think about removing Java (openJDK) and Adobe Flash Player

2.15. Linux Mint contains Java (openJDK) by default. And you've probably installed Adobe Flash Player. Both have some negative security implications. So I advise to consider to remove them (items 8 and 9).

Improve Power Manager for a laptop

2.16. Sometimes (not always) Xfce's Power Manager needs to be configured to allow the Fn keys of your laptop to control the display brightness.

That can be achieved like this:

a. Menu button - Settings - Settings Editor. Make it full-screen, so you can operate it easily.

b. In its left panel, click on xfce4-power-manager.

In its right panel, tick (enable) the value for:
handle-brightness-keys

c. Close Settings Editor.

d. Reboot (or log out and in again).

Remove Orca

2.17. By default, Linux Mint contains screen reader Orca (gnome-orca). Nifty, when you're visually handicapped. But useless when you're not. And it's rather disconcerting when, after pressing the wrong key combination, your computer suddenly starts addressing you with a heavy bass voice....

You can get rid of these two annoyances as follows:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation into the terminal (it's one line):

sudo apt-get remove gnome-orca

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.


Part 3

TWELVE NEUTRAL TWEAKS (MAYBE USEFUL)


Only do these things when you like them:

Repair a display error (window borders that disappear)

3.1. On some hardware, you might encounter an annoying bug from time to time: the window borders disappear, leaving you with application windows without window buttons.

Whenever this happens, you can restore normality as follows:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
xfwm4 --replace

Press Enter.

With that, you restart the window manager, and then everything is normal again (for the time being).

Note: do NOT use sudo in this particular command line! Because in this case you mess up the permissions when you use sudo, which causes all kinds of mysterious malfunctions.

Use your own picture for wallpaper

3.2. Mint Xfce looks nice out of the box, but maybe you want to change your wallpaper anyway....

You can change your wallpaper in almost the same way as in Windows, but there's one important difference.

So: select a picture that you want for wallpaper. In file manager Thunar (among other ways, you can launch Thunar by means of the panel button Places), right-click the .jpg file - Set as wallpaper. You're done.

However, the important difference with Windows is this: Mint only creates a link to the picture that you've set as wallpaper. When you move or delete the picture afterwards, then your wallpaper disappears also, because the link is dead!

So don't throw away the picture, but put it permanently in your home folder. For example in the folder Images. And only then set it as wallpaper.

Add a weather report to the panel

3.3. Always handy: a nice weather report in the panel of your desktop.

For installing and configuring it, see this how-to (item 3).

Improve the clock

3.4. You can add the name of the weekday and the date to the digital clock on the right on the panel:

Right-click on the clock - Properties

Section Clock Options: Format:

Replace the existing code by the following code (use copy/paste in order to avoid errors):
%a %B %e %G %k:%M

Close the Properties window. Now the change should be activated.

Stop a window from maximizing when dragged to the top of the display

3.5. A nasty feature in my view: when you drag an application window to the top of your screen, it suddenly maximizes. Rather annoying....

This is how to disable that irritating behaviour:

Menu button - Settings - Settings Manager - Window Manager Tweaks - tab Accessibility: remove the tick for:
Automatically tile windows when moving toward the screen edge

For relatively little RAM: consider increasing zswap

3.6. When your computer doesn't have much RAM (4 GB or less), then the lack of memory will remain a problem, which will cause your system to slow down from time to time. Even when the swappiness has been decreased to 20.

In that case, you'll often achieve better results by increasing the maximum for zswap. By default, zswap uses up to 20 percent of the RAM memory. It's a kernel feature that provides a compressed RAM cache for swap pages.

Pages which would otherwise be swapped out to disk are instead compressed and stored into a memory pool in RAM. Once the pool is full or the RAM is exhausted, the least recently used page is decompressed and written to disk, as if it had not been intercepted. After the page has been decompressed into the swap cache, the compressed version in the pool will be freed.

With "only" 4 GB RAM or less, I recommend to double the maximum for zswap to 40 percent (not more!).

The price you pay for this, is twofold:

- Your processor (CPU) is being taxed more heavily, because it'll have to compress and decompress more;

- When the system has filled the RAM swap, it'll start swapping on the hard drive as well. With a heavy burden on the available RAM: the chunk of memory that has been sacrificed for the RAM swap.

That's why I advise to increase zswap only for computers with not so much RAM, and even then only in combination with a swappiness that has been set to 20.

You can increase it as follows:

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

b. Copy/paste the following command line into the terminal:

xed admin:///etc/default/grub

Press Enter.

(the three consecutive slashes are intended and no typo!)

c. Find the following line:

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX=""

Add zswap.max_pool_percent=40 between the quotation marks, or simply replace the entire line by the following line (use copy/paste):

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="zswap.max_pool_percent=40"

Save the modified file and close it.

d. Copy/paste the following command line into the terminal, in order to execute the modification:

sudo update-grub

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.

(if you type the command: note the dash between update and grub)

e. Reboot your computer.

You can check whether the change has been implemented with this command:

cat /sys/module/zswap/parameters/max_pool_percent

It should report 40 now.

Install some simple games

3.7. Always fun: install some simple games.

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command (it's one line!):

sudo apt-get install aisleriot gnome-cards-data gnome-mines quadrapassel gnome-sudoku

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.

After the installation you can find them like this: Menu - Games.

Install a good DVD burning application

3.8. The best DVD burning application is currently Xfburn, because the other commonly used burning app Brasero, is rather unreliable and regularly spoils your DVD's. Xfburn on the other hand, is reliable, simple and easy.

It has just one disadvantage: Xfburn can't burn multisession DVD's. So it can't add to a DVD that already has some content.

Install Xfburn like this:

Menu - Administration - Terminal

Type (use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation into the terminal):
sudo apt-get install xfburn

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.

Now you can launch Xfburn like this:

Menu button - Sound & Video - Xfburn

Trick for shortcuts on the desktop

3.9. In Xfce there's an annoying and useless "protection of the user against himself": whenever you want to launch a newly-made application shortcut on the desktop, Xfce sometimes issues a warning for that, because.... the file is supposedly in an insecure location!

That's nonsense, of course. So you can simply click "Mark Executable".

Turn Num Lock on automatically

3.10. Does your keyboard (laptop?) have a separate numeric keypad on the right? Then it's useful for Num Lock to be switched on automatically, when you start Linux Mint.

Note: this instruction is only meant for desktops and laptops that have a separate numeric keypad! It's definitely not desirable to have the Num Lock on by default on a laptop that has no such separate keypad.

You can achieve that as follows:

a. Menu - System - Xfce Terminal
Copy/paste the following command into the terminal:

sudo apt-get install numlockx

b. Now do this: Menu - System - Login Window.
Tab Settings: enable Activate numlock.

c. Reboot your computer. The numeric keypad should turn on automatically after you log into your user account. If not, read on below.

d. It's possible that during login, Mint will turn Num Lock off again (sigh). If that happens, you can counteract that irritating behaviour as follows:

Menu button - Settings - Session and Startup

Click Add

Name:
Numlock on

Command:
sh -c "sleep 20 && numlockx on"

Click OK.

This will turn Num Lock on, 20 seconds after login. This delay is necessary, because you have to make sure it happens after Mint has turned Num Lock off.

Note: user preference: repeat this in each user account.

Make available updates more prominent

3.11. Some people have difficulty noticing the blue icon in the system tray, that signifies that new updates are available.... In that case you can make available updates more prominent like this:

First download this shell script. Note: you'll probably get to see a warning before downloading it, that's normal for shell scripts. The contents of the script are just a few lines; you can see for yourself that they are safe.

Then move it from the folder Downloads to the folder Documents, for example like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:

mv -v ~/Downloads/check_for_updates-2.sh ~/Documents

Press Enter.

Then make it executable with this terminal command:

chmod 755 ~/Documents/check_for_updates-2.sh

Press Enter.

Then: Menu button - Settings - Session and Startup

Click Add

Name: Update check

Command: press the Browse button near that entry field and click your way through to check_for_updates-2.sh in your Documents folder.

Click OK

From now on you should be presented with a reminder to update, 99 seconds after you log in. Clicking the reminder launches Update Manager. You can't overlook it: it's "in your face".

The disadvantage is, that you also get to see it when there are no updates at all. But that's better than overlooking updates that need to be installed....

Create a manual snapshot with Timeshift to backup your modifications and tweaks

3.12. You've modified and tweaked your system quite a lot, by applying this list. That has cost you a lot of time, so it's useful to create a manual snapshot of your neatly tuned system. Including all of the settings changes which reside in your personal folder only (more about that later).

You can do that as follows:

a. Launch Timeshift:
Menu button - System - Timeshift

b. Click the button Settings - Users

By default all user folders, including the hidden settings files they contain, aren't part of the snapshot. For a good reason, because you don't want that recently modified important document of yours, to be reverted to its version of three weeks ago.... Or that your Thunderbird email boxes suddenly are being reverted to their past content.

But you're still at the beginning now, and there are no documents or e-mails in your personal folder yet. So temporarily include the hidden items (settings files) of each user account (with the exception of the root user account), for this snapshot only.

c. Create the one-time snapshot.

d. Click the button Settings - Users again, and fully exclude all user accounts again for future snapshots. This is very important!

Want more tips?

4. Do you want more tips and tweaks for Linux Mint? There's a lot more of them on this website! Like these:

Security in Linux Mint

Four popular myths and 11 tips about wireless security (for wifi)

How to clean Linux Mint

How to create a strong password that's easy to remember (the answer might surprise you!)

Get help

5. You can get quick and friendly help on the official Linux Mint forum.


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