39 Tips and Tweaks for Linux Mint - PART TWO


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39 useful tips and tweaks for Linux Mint (PART 2).

Contents of this page:

This is part two of the Tips and Tweaks. You can find part one here.


How to install fonts that you've downloaded

1. You can install fonts that you've downloaded, in several ways:

Install fonts for one user account

1.1. In order to install fonts that you've downloaded for one user, you can proceed as follows.

a. First launch your file manager. In Mint Cinnamon that's the application "Files" (Nemo). For example by clicking its icon in the panel.

b. Use the key combination Ctrl h to make the hidden files visible, or do it like this:

Panel of Files: click View - Show Hidden Files

Now all hidden files and directories are being shown (those whose names begin with a dot).

c. Double-click the hidden folder .local and then double-click its subfolder share. Within that subfolder, create a new folder called fonts

For further clarification: the path should be as follows:
~/.local/share/fonts

d. Finally: copy your downloaded fonts (TTF files) into this new folder. You're done!

Tip: if you have a Windows partition as well, you can copy the Windows fonts, too. They are located in: C:\Windows\Fonts

Note: repeat this for each user account.

Install fonts for all users

1.2. Do you want to install fonts systemwide for all users? This is how you do that:

a. Ensure that the fonts that you want to install, are all in your Downloads folder. This is important for the terminal commands that you're going to execute.

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

c. Copy/paste the following line into the terminal window:

sudo mkdir -v /usr/share/fonts/truetype/myfonts

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.

With this command, you've created a new system folder.

d. Then (use copy/paste, this is one line):

sudo cp -v ~/Downloads/*.*tf /usr/share/fonts/truetype/myfonts

Press Enter.

With this command, you've copied the fonts from your Downloads folder to the new system folder.

e. Then (use copy/paste):

sudo fc-cache -fv

Press Enter.

With that final command, you've informed the system about the presence of the new fonts.

You're done! Now you can start using your new fonts, for example in Libre Office Writer.

Where are the installation packages of the Ubuntu and Mint repositories?

2. Only for advanced users:
http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/

and:
http://packages.linuxmint.com/

Small screen: dialog buttons are outside the screen view. What to do?

3. On a small screen, like that of a netbook, the dialog buttons are sometimes outside the screen view. Very annoying, when you want to click "OK" or "Continue", and you can't reach that button....

You can reach it after all, when you drag the upper side of the dialog window "ouside of the screen". You can do that as follows:

a. Place the mouse pointer on a neutral, non-active part of the dialog screen that you want to drag upwards. So not on a link or something.

b. Press the left Alt key and keep it pressed (with your left index finger, that's easiest).

c. Press the left touchpad button and keep that one pressed as well (with your left thumb, that's easiest). Or when you have a mouse, do this with the left mouse button.

d. Now you can drag the dialog window upwards "outside of the screen". Touchpad: wipe upwards with a finger of your right hand. Mouse: do this by simply moving the mouse pointer upwards. Finally the dialog buttons on the bottom of the dialog window become visible!

As so often, this is actually pretty simple, but you do have to know it first....

Enlarge the letters in the Grub menu

4. Usually, the Grub menu is already shown in the right resolution for your display. That produces the nicest letters, but sometimes they are far too small. Which may cause a problem for people with decreased eyesight, or might even be simply annoying for everybody.

You can enlarge the size of the letters in the Grub menu as follows.

a. In a cleanly installed Linux Mint 19.3 you can increase the text size in the menu of bootloader Grub, simply by installing a magnifying package for it. The mere installation itself is enough; no further action required. Proceed like this:

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


II. Copy/paste the following terminal command (this is one line):

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.

III. Reboot and admire.

b. In Ubuntu and in older versions of Linux Mint you can proceed like this:

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

II. Then copy/paste this command into the terminal:

xed admin:///etc/default/grub

Press Enter.

III. In the text file that has opened, find the following text:

# The resolution used on graphical terminal
# note that you can use only modes which your graphic card supports via VBE
# you can see them in real GRUB with the command `vbeinfo'
#GRUB_GFXMODE=640x480


Remove the hash # from the bottom line of that text, so that this bottom line becomes:
GRUB_GFXMODE=640x480

IV. Save the modified text file and close it.

V. Then copy/paste this command line into the terminal:

sudo update-grub

Press Enter.

VI. Reboot your computer. The letters in the Grub menu should be a lot bigger now.

Letters too big? Then set the resolution at 800x600 instead of 640x480.

How to turn down Windows help requests without offending people

5. Often a problem for Linux users: Windows users among your friends and family, keep asking you for Windows help. Something which we Linux users usually don't like doing anymore. Because we feel we can spend our spare time better, namely on assisting people with a far better alternative: Linux!

But how can you turn down a Windows help request without seeming unfriendly or even rude?

That can be done in many ways, but maybe you'd like to use my own "solution": when asked for Windows help, I give this answer:
"I'm sorry, but my knowledge of Windows has faded and become outdated, because I'm a Linux user. So you'd better ask someone else. However, if you're interested in switching to Linux, I'll be glad to help you with that!"

In my experience, this answer has two benefits: the Windows help seekers that want to stick to Windows don't feel offended and simply seek help elsewhere, and some of them (a minority, but still) want to give Linux a try....

Make the boot process reports visible

6. By default, the boot process reports of your operating system are hidden behind a nice boot splash. For troubleshooting purposes, it can be useful to make them visible.

You can do that as follows:

- In the Grub boot menu, select the boot line of Linux Mint;

- Press the E key and release it;

- Remove the words "quiet splash" from the boot line;

- Press the Ctrl key and keep it pressed; then press the X key and release both keys.

Now your Linux Mint will boot once with visible boot process reports.

Locking the kernel to its current version

7. Do you want to lock the current kernel version ("freeze" it), for example in order to avoid potential complications because of a future kernel update?

That may be useful, e.g. when you've manually installed a driver which would become unusable with a newer kernel.

The risk of such a locking of the kernel is limited, especially for desktop users (servers are another matter). Because although kernel updates generally contain security fixes, attackers usually focus on other system parts, like your web browsers.

In order to lock the kernel, you can lock the generic meta packages for the kernel, to their current versions. By that locking your system won't get kernel updates anymore, because those meta-packages ensure that the updates contain newer kernels whenever they become available.

Note: I recommend to treat this locking as a temporary measure, so you can postpone those kernel updates until a convenient time when you're in no hurry. So that you can re-install your manually installed driver(s) for the new kernel, at a time that suits you.

Locking of your kernel can be done like this:

a. Make sure that all applications that deal with package management are closed (Update Manager, Software Manager, Synaptic, etc.).

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

c. Now copy/paste the following command into the terminal (this is one line!):

sudo apt-mark hold "linux-generic*" "linux-headers-generic*" "linux-image-generic*" "linux-signed-generic*" "linux-signed-image-generic*" linux-libc-dev

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

d. You're done! If you wish to check what packages have been put on hold, you can use this terminal command, for which no root permission (sudo) is required:

apt-mark showhold

Press Enter.

e. Below, in item 7.1, I'll describe how to undo this.

How to undo kernel locking

7.1. Do you wish to undo the locking of a kernel version? This is how:

a. Make sure that all applications that deal with package management are closed (Update Manager, Software Manager, Synaptic, etc.).

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

c. Now copy/paste the following command into the terminal (this is one line!):

sudo apt-mark unhold "linux-generic*" "linux-headers-generic*" "linux-image-generic*" "linux-signed-generic*" "linux-signed-image-generic*" linux-libc-dev

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. Press Enter again.

d. Now check whether the unlocking has succeeded; you can use this terminal command, for which no root permission (sudo) is required:

apt-mark showhold

Press Enter.

If everything has been unlocked, this command should show no output. At least not for kernel packages.

Done! You should again get kernel updates now, whenever they become available.

Problem with a Microsoft Office Document? Use OneDrive

8. Does Libre Office have a problem with a complex Microsoft Office document? Then open that document in the free cloud service One Drive.

In the free edition of Microsoft OneDrive there are basic editions of Word, Excel and Powerpoint, called Office Online. With those you can open, edit and even create documents.

In my opinion Libre Office is a far superior tool, but in certain cases using Office Online can be a useful emergency measure.... But still only for use in emergencies, because you more or less "hand over your document" to Microsoft.

Need a password manager? Use KeePassX

9. If you need a password manager, you can use KeePassX. It's installable by means of Software Manager or by means of this terminal command:

sudo apt-get install keepassx

Note: don't install its "brother" KeePass! KeePass requires Mono, and a Linux system with Mono is partly vulnerable to Windows malware.

Older versions of KeePassX didn't support the KeePass 2.x (.kdbx) password database format. However, in KeePass 2.x you can create an export in KeePass 1.x database format (.kdb), which those older versions of KeePassX can read (and use as the native password database).

How to add extra DNS name servers to your system

10. It's sometimes useful to add some spare DNS name servers to your system. For example when the default name server of your internet service provider isn't too reliable.

Note: before you proceed, you should realize that the owner of the DNS server has the ability to see, log and profile all of your internet traffic! So be careful when you select another DNS server.

You can add another DNS server as follows:

Click on the icon of Network Manager in the system tray of your desktop panel - Network Connections

Click on the active connection, called for example "Automatic ethernet".

Click on the gear wheel (bottom left) - tab IPv4 Settings, section Additional DNS servers: add the servers of your choosing. For example those of Google: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4.

Repeat this for the tab IPv6 Settings. Don't forget this! Both IPv4 and IPv6 should be modified.

Click the Save button.

Below you can see a screenshot of what this might look like:

How to access the UEFI or BIOS configuration from within Windows 8.x or 10

11. Usually, you need to change some settings in the UEFI or BIOS before you can install Linux Mint or Ubuntu on your computer.

Can't you succeed in accessing the UEFI configuration? Then you can also evoke it from within Windows 10, in an annoyingly cumbersome way (the procedure in Windows 8.x is almost identical):

Click on the magnifier icon in the panel of Windows 10 - let it search your system ("Search Windows") with the term settings
Click on the first (preselected) result, namely the app Settings

Then:
Update & security - Recovery - Advanced startup - Restart now

Then:
Troubleshoot - Advanced options - UEFI Firmware Settings - Restart

Finally, at very long last (sigh....) you should now be able to access the UEFI configuration.

How to check the integrity of an ISO file with SHA256sum

12. A method that's often used to verify the integrity of an iso file that you've downloaded, is the SHA256sum method. On a website where you can download an iso file from, for example an iso of Linux Mint, there's often also a text file which contains the correct SHA256sum of that iso. You can compare this with a digital fingerprint of the iso.

When you calculate the SHA256sum from the iso file after you've downloaded it, you can compare the outcome with what it should be. The file is only then intact, when both "fingerprints" are exactly the same.

Note that the method I describe below, only provides a corruption check. Not an authenticity check. So it only protects you against an iso that has accidentally been corrupted during the download process, not against a deliberate falsification. Therefore: make sure you download your iso from a reliable mirror!

Such a calculation can be done as follows. An example is easiest.

Suppose you've downloaded the iso of Linux Mint 19.3 Cinnamon, 64-bit. This file is called linuxmint-19.3-cinnamon-64bit.iso. Simple leave the iso file in the folder Downloads.

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

Copy/paste this line into the terminal:

cd Downloads

Press Enter.

Then copy/paste this command line:

sha256sum linuxmint-19.3-cinnamon-64bit.iso

Press Enter.

Finally, compare the outcome with what it should be. Tip: launch a simple text editor like Xed. Then copy/paste both lines of gibberish into a text document, one below the other. That makes comparing them a lot easier.

Stick to your kernel series

13. Preferably, only install kernels from the same series as the one that's default for your version of Linux Mint! An explanation can be found here (item 8.1).

Privacy enhancement: make many applications forget all recently opened files

14. For the sake of your privacy, it may be advisable to make many applications forget all the files that you've opened recently in them. This is how:

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

Copy/paste this blue line into the terminal:

cat /dev/null > .local/share/recently-used.xbel

Press Enter.

In Linux Mint Xfce you can automate that like this:

Menu button - Settings - Session and Startup

Click Add

Name:
Delete file history

Command: (use copy/paste to transfer it)
sh -c "sleep 120 && cat /dev/null > .local/share/recently-used.xbel"

Click OK.

This will make many (not all!) applications forget the files that you've opened previously, two minutes after login. The two minutes delay should be enough for you to use their file history before it's being deleted.

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

How to reset the terminal to its default settings

15. The terminal window is a mighty instrument. So it's of course annoying when its settings aren't quite right anymore.

Naturally, you can reset most of its settings in the preferences of your terminal window. But some settings are contained in a hidden file called .bashrc. Among other things this contains the default colours of the terminal text: green before the prompt, white after.

You can restore the original .bashrc by executing this terminal command:

cp -v /etc/skel/.bashrc ~/

Close the terminal and relaunch it. All should be well now.

Normalize the sound volume of mp3 files with mp3gain

16. You can use a terminal application called mp3gain, for normalizing the sound volume of your mp3 files.

Get it here, from the (most likely) reliable flexiondotorg PPA:

64-bit

32-bit

 Just double-click the .deb file it to install it, like a .exe installer for Windows.

Package gone from that PPA? Then get it from my Google Drive:
64-bit   32-bit

Usage:

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

Go with the terminal to your music folder. For example, if your mp3's are in a folder called Songs:

cd Songs

Press Enter.

Copy/paste this line into the terminal:

find . -name *mp3 -exec mp3gain -a -k {} \;

Press Enter.

Undo:

find . -name *mp3 -exec mp3gain -u {} \;

It works much better in the terminal, than when handled by the graphical layer Easymp3gain (which often malfunctions).

How to roll back updates

17. Some updates can be rolled back like this:

a. From the menu, launch Synaptic Package Manager.

b. In the panel of Synaptic, use its Search button to find the package you wish to roll back.

c. Click on the package. Then in the panel of Synaptic: Package - Force version...

d. When available, select an older version in the drop-down box.

How to fix the file permissions in your home folder

18. Sometimes a beginner with Linux encounters a file permission problem in his home folder, usually because of previous misuse of sudo. You can repair that by making sure that all files in your personal folder belong to you as user, as they should. 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.

How to lock the most vital system parts

19. Are you a system administrator for a computer illiterate? Then it can be useful to lock ("freeze") the most vital system parts on his computer, so that their current versions will never be changed.

In other words: you can ensure that they won't ever be updated. You can put them "on hold", until you visit that computer illiterate and can apply those updates for him yourself.

Those system parts are bootloader Grub, systemd, login manager LightDM, linux-firmware, the microcode packages and the Linux kernel. That way, they can't be damaged by a faulty update ("bad apple"). Those bad apples are thankfully rare, but they do happen occasionally. Locking the system's vitals might diminish the number of support calls you get....

Note that this does have some negative impact on system security, but usually not much. The critical packages which should always be updated right away, are things like your web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Chromium) and such. Not your boot loader or kernel.

This is how to lock Grub, systemd, LightDM, linux-firmware, the microcode packages and the kernel:

a. Make sure that Update Manager, Software Manager, Synaptic Package Manager and Software Sources are closed.

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

c. Now copy/paste the following command into the terminal (this is one huge line!):

sudo apt-mark hold "grub-*" "grub2*" systemd systemd-sysv lightdm slick-greeter "linux-generic*" "linux-headers-generic*" "linux-image-generic*" "linux-signed-generic*" "linux-signed-image-generic*" linux-libc-dev linux-firmware intel-microcode amd64-microcode

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. Press Enter again.

d. You're done! If you wish to check what packages have been put on hold, you can use this terminal command, for which no root permission (sudo) is required:

apt-mark showhold

Press Enter.

e. Below, in item 19.1, I'll describe how to undo it (whenever you wish to apply updates for those vital system parts).

Undoing the locking of vital system parts

19.1. At any time you can unfreeze the vital system parts that you've locked as described above in item 19. That can be handy, for example when you visit a computer illiterate whose computer you maintain, and you wish to apply the updates for those locked packages on his computer yourself.

For unfreezing do this:

a. Make sure that Update Manager, Software Manager, Synaptic Package Manager and Software Sources are closed.

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

c. Now copy/paste the following command into the terminal (this is one huge line!):

sudo apt-mark unhold "grub-*" "grub2*" systemd systemd-sysv lightdm slick-greeter "linux-generic*" "linux-headers-generic*" "linux-image-generic*" "linux-signed-generic*" "linux-signed-image-generic*" linux-libc-dev linux-firmware intel-microcode amd64-microcode

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. Press Enter again.

d. Now check whether the unlocking has succeeded; you can use this terminal command, for which no root permission (sudo) is required:

apt-mark showhold

Press Enter.

If everything has been unlocked, this command should show no output. At least not for Grub, systemd, LightDM or the Linux kernel.

e. Launch Update Manager, refresh it and install any new updates it offers you.

Protect your privacy by disabling webcam support

20. If you rarely use your webcam, you can increase your privacy by disabling the webcam driver (instead of simply disabling the webcam feature). It's also a more elegant solution than pasting a sticker on your built-in laptop webcam....

Proceed like this:

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

b. Copy/paste this blue line into the terminal (it's one line!):

echo "blacklist uvcvideo" | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-webcam.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.

How to undo (re-enabling webcam support)

20.1. Do you want to enable your webcam again? Then proceed as follows:

a. Temporary re-enabling your webcam can be done with this terminal command:

sudo modprobe -v uvcvideo

This will instantly re-enable your webcam, but it won't survive a reboot.

b. Permanent re-enabling of your webcam can be achieved by the following terminal command, which removes the uvcvideo module from the blacklist:

sudo rm -v /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-webcam.conf

Then reboot your computer. Your webcam should be available again permanently.


Want more tips? This is part two of the Tips and Tweaks. You can find part one here.


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