Saturday, August 23, 2008

Linux is NOT Windows!

n the following article, I refer to the GNU/Linux OS and various Free & Open-Source Software (FOSS) projects under the catch-all name of "Linux". It scans better.

Linux != Windows
(Linux is Not Windows)

Derived works

If you've been pointed at this page, then the chances are you're a relatively new Linux user who's having some problems making the switch from Windows to Linux. This causes many problems for many people, hence this article was written. Many individual issues arise from this single problem, so the page is broken down into multiple problem areas.

Problem #1: Linux isn't exactly the same as Windows.

You'd be amazed how many people make this complaint. They come to Linux, expecting to find essentially a free, open-source version of Windows. Quite often, this is what they've been told to expect by over-zealous Linux users. However, it's a paradoxical hope.

The specific reasons why people try Linux vary wildly, but the overall reason boils down to one thing: They hope Linux will be better than Windows. Common yardsticks for measuring success are cost, choice, performance, and security. There are many others. But every Windows user who tries Linux, does so because they hope it will be better than what they've got.

Therein lies the problem.

It is logically impossible for any thing to be better than any other thing whilst remaining completely identical to it. A perfect copy may be equal, but it can never surpass. So when you gave Linux a try in hopes that it would be better, you were inescapably hoping that it would be different. Too many people ignore this fact, and hold up every difference between the two OSes as a Linux failure.

As a simple example, consider driver upgrades: one typically upgrades a hardware driver on Windows by going to the manufacturer's website and downloading the new driver; whereas in Linux you upgrade the kernel.

This means that a single Linux download & upgrade will give you the newest drivers available for your machine, whereas in Windows you would have to surf to multiple sites and download all the upgrades individually. It's a very different process, but it's certainly not a bad one. But many people complain because it's not what they're used to.

Or, as an example you're more likely to relate to, consider Firefox: One of the biggest open-source success stories. A web browser that took the world by storm. Did it achieve this success by being a perfect imitation of IE, the then-most-popular browser?

No. It was successful because it was better than IE, and it was better because it was different. It had tabbed browsing, live bookmarks, built-in searchbar, PNG support, adblock extensions, and other wonderful things. The "Find" functionality appeared in a toolbar at the bottom and looked for matches as you typed, turning red when you had no match. IE had no tabs, no RSS functionality, searchbars only via third-party extensions, and a find dialogue that required a click on "OK" to start looking and a click on "OK" to clear the "Not found" error message. A clear and inarguable demonstration of an open-source application achieving success by being better, and being better by being different. Had FF been an IE clone, it would have vanished into obscurity. And had Linux been a Windows clone, the same would have happened.

So the solution to problem #1: Remember that where Linux is familiar and the same as what you're used to, it isn't new & improved. Welcome the places where things are different, because only here does it have a chance to shine.

Problem #2: Linux is too different from Windows

The next issue arises when people do expect Linux to be different, but find that some differences are just too radical for their liking. Probably the biggest example of this is the sheer amount of choice available to Linux users. Whereas an out-of-the-box-Windows user has the Classic or XP desktop with Wordpad, Internet Explorer, and Outlook Express installed, an out-of-the-box-Linux user has hundreds of distros to choose from, then Gnome or KDE or Fluxbox or whatever, with vi or emacs or kate, Konqueror or Opera or Firefox or Mozilla, and so on and so forth.

A Windows user isn't used to making so many choices just to get up & running. Exasperated "Does there have to be so much choice?" posts are very common.

Does Linux really have to be so different from Windows? After all, they're both operating systems. They both do the same job: Power your computer & give you something to run applications on. Surely they should be more or less identical?

Look at it this way: Step outside and take a look at all the different vehicles driving along the road. These are all vehicles designed with more or less the same purpose: To get you from A to B via the roads. Note the variety in designs.

But, you may be thinking, car differences are really quite minor: they all have a steering wheel, foot-pedal controls, a gear stick, a handbrake, windows & doors, a petrol tank. . . If you can drive one car, you can drive any car!

Quite true. But did you not see that some people weren't driving cars, but were riding motorbikes instead. . ?

Switching from one version of Windows to another is like switching from one car to another. Win95 to Win98, I honestly couldn't tell the difference. Win98 to WinXP, it was a bigger change but really nothing major.

But switching from Windows to Linux is like switching from a car to a motorbike. They may both be OSes/road vehicles. They may both use the same hardware/roads. They may both provide an environment for you to run applications/transport you from A to B. But they use fundamentally different approaches to do so.

Windows/cars are not safe from viruses/theft unless you install an antivirus/lock the doors. Linux/motorbikes don't have viruses/doors, so are perfectly safe without you having to install an antivirus/lock any doors.

Or look at it the other way round:

Linux/cars were designed from the ground up for multiple users/passengers. Windows/motorbikes were designed for one user/passenger. Every Windows user/motorbike driver is used to being in full control of his computer/vehicle at all times. A Linux user/car passenger is used to only being in control of his computer/vehicle when logged in as root/sitting in the driver's seat.

Two different approaches to fulfilling the same goal. They differ in fundamental ways. They have different strengths and weaknesses: A car is the clear winner at transporting a family & a lot of cargo from A to B: More seats & more storage space. A motorbike is the clear winner at getting one person from A to B: Less affected by congestion and uses less fuel.

There are many things that don't change when you switch between cars and motorbikes: You still have to put petrol in the tank, you still have to drive on the same roads, you still have to obey the traffic lights and Stop signs, you still have to indicate before turning, you still have to obey the same speed limits.

But there are also many things that do change: Car drivers don't have to wear crash helmets, motorbike drivers don't have to put on a seatbelt. Car drivers have to turn the steering wheel to get around a corner, motorbike drivers have to lean over. Car drivers accelerate by pushing a foot-pedal, motorbike drivers accelerate by twisting a hand control.

A motorbike driver who tries to corner a car by leaning over is going to run into problems very quickly. And Windows users who try to use their existing skills and habits generally also find themselves having many issues. In fact, Windows "Power Users" frequently have more problems with Linux than people with little or no computer experience, for this very reason. Typically, the most vehement "Linux is not ready for the desktop yet" arguments come from ingrained Windows users who reason that if they couldn't make the switch, a less-experienced user has no chance. But this is the exact opposite of the truth.

So, to avoid problem #2: Don't assume that being a knowledgeable Windows user means you're a knowledgeable Linux user: When you first start with Linux, you are a novice.

Problem #3: Culture shock

Subproblem #3a: There is a culture

Windows users are more or less in a customer-supplier relationship: They pay for software, for warranties, for support, and so on. They expect software to have a certain level of usability. They are therefore used to having rights with their software: They have paid for technical support and have every right to demand that they receive it. They are also used to dealing with entities rather than people: Their contracts are with a company, not with a person.

Linux users are in more of a community. They don't have to buy the software, they don't have to pay for technical support. They download software for free & use Instant Messaging and web-based forums to get help. They deal with people, not corporations.

A Windows user will not endear himself by bringing his habitual attitudes over to Linux, to put it mildly.

The biggest cause of friction tends to be in the online interactions: A "3a" user new to Linux asks for help with a problem he's having. When he doesn't get that help at what he considers an acceptable rate, he starts complaining and demanding more help. Because that's what he's used to doing with paid-for tech support. The problem is that this isn't paid-for support. This is a bunch of volunteers who are willing to help people with problems out of the goodness of their hearts. The new user has no right to demand anything from them, any more than somebody collecting for charity can demand larger donations from contributors.

In much the same way, a Windows user is used to using commercial software. Companies don't release software until it's reliable, functional, and user-friendly enough. So this is what a Windows user tends to expect from software: It starts at version 1.0. Linux software, however, tends to get released almost as soon as it's written: It starts at version 0.1. This way, people who really need the functionality can get it ASAP; interested developers can get involved in helping improve the code; and the community as a whole stays aware of what's going on.

If a "3a" user runs into trouble with Linux, he'll complain: The software hasn't met his standards, and he thinks he has a right to expect that standard. His mood won't be improved when he gets sarcastic replies like "I'd demand a refund if I were you"

So, to avoid problem #3a: Simply remember that you haven't paid the developer who wrote the software or the people online who provide the tech support. They don't owe you anything.

Subproblem #3b: New vs. Old

Linux pretty much started out life as a hacker's hobby. It grew as it attracted more hobbyist hackers. It was quite some time before anybody but a geek stood a chance of getting a useable Linux installation working easily. Linux started out "By geeks, for geeks." And even today, the majority of established Linux users are self-confessed geeks.

And that's a pretty good thing: If you've got a problem with hardware or software, having a large number of geeks available to work on the solution is a definite plus.

But Linux has grown up quite a bit since its early days. There are distros that almost anybody can install, even distros that live on CDs and detect all your hardware for you without any intervention. It's become attractive to non-hobbyist users who are just interested in it because it's virus-free and cheap to upgrade. It's not uncommon for there to be friction between the two camps. It's important to bear in mind, however, that there's no real malice on either side: It's lack of understanding that causes the problems.

Firstly, you get the hard-core geeks who still assume that everybody using Linux is a fellow geek. This means they expect a high level of knowledge, and often leads to accusations of arrogance, elitism, and rudeness. And in truth, sometimes that's what it is. But quite often, it's not: It's elitist to say "Everybody ought to know this". It's not elitist to say "Everybody knows this" - quite the opposite.

Secondly, you get the new users who're trying to make the switch after a lifetime of using commercial OSes. These users are used to software that anybody can sit down & use, out-of-the-box.

The issues arise because group 1 is made up of people who enjoy being able to tear their OS apart and rebuild it the way they like it, while group 2 tends to be indifferent to the way the OS works, so long as it does work.

A parallel situation that can emphasize the problems is Lego. Picture the following:

New: I wanted a new toy car, and everybody's raving about how great Lego cars can be. So I bought some Lego, but when I got home, I just had a load of bricks and cogs and stuff in the box. Where's my car??

Old: You have to build the car out of the bricks. That's the whole point of Lego.

New: What?? I don't know how to build a car. I'm not a mechanic. How am I supposed to know how to put it all together??

Old: There's a leaflet that came in the box. It tells you exactly how to put the bricks together to get a toy car. You don't need to know how, you just need to follow the instructions.

New: Okay, I found the instructions. It's going to take me hours! Why can't they just sell it as a toy car, instead of making you have to build it??

Old: Because not everybody wants to make a toy car with Lego. It can be made into anything we like. That's the whole point.

New: I still don't see why they can't supply it as a car so people who want a car have got one, and other people can take it apart if they want to. Anyway, I finally got it put together, but some bits come off occasionally. What do I do about this? Can I glue it?

Old: It's Lego. It's designed to come apart. That's the whole point.

New: But I don't want it to come apart. I just want a toy car!

Old: Then why on Earth did you buy a box of Lego??

It's clear to just about anybody that Lego is not really aimed at people who just want a toy car. You don't get conversations like the above in real life. The whole point of Lego is that you have fun building it and you can make anything you like with it. If you've no interest in building anything, Lego's not for you. This is quite obvious.

As far as the long-time Linux user is concerned, the same holds true for Linux: It's an open-source, fully-customizeable set of software. That's the whole point. If you don't want to hack the components a bit, why bother to use it?

But there's been a lot of effort lately to make Linux more suitable for the non-hackers, a situation that's not a million miles away from selling pre-assembled Lego kits, in order to make it appeal to a wider audience. Hence you get conversations that aren't far away from the ones above: Newcomers complain about the existence of what the established users consider to be fundamental features, and resent having the read a manual to get something working. But complaining that there are too many distros; or that software has too many configuration options; or that it doesn't work perfectly out-of-the-box; is like complaining that Lego can be made into too many models, and not liking the fact that it can be broken down into bricks and built into many other things.

So, to avoid problem #3b: Just remember that what Linux seems to be now is not what Linux was in the past. The largest and most necessary part of the Linux community, the hackers and the developers, like Linux because they can fit it together the way they like; they don't like it in spite of having to do all the assembly before they can use it.

Problem #4: Designed for the designer

In the car industry, you'll very rarely find that the person who designed the engine also designed the car interior: It calls for totally different skills. Nobody wants an engine that only looks like it can go fast, and nobody wants an interior that works superbly but is cramped and ugly. And in the same way, in the software industry, the user interface (UI) is not usually created by the people who wrote the software.

In the Linux world, however, this is not so much the case: Projects frequently start out as one man's toy. He does everything himself, and therefore the interface has no need of any kind of "user friendly" features: The user knows everything there is to know about the software, he doesn't need help. Vi is a good example of software deliberately created for a user who already knows how it works: It's not unheard of for new users to reboot their computers because they couldn't figure out how else to get out of vi.

However, there is an important difference between a FOSS programmer and most commercial software writers: The software a FOSS programmer creates is software that he intends to use. So whilst the end result might not be as 'comfortable' for the novice user, they can draw some comfort in knowing that the software is designed by somebody who knows what the end-users needs are: He too is an end-user. This is very different from commercial software writers, who are making software for other people to use: They are not knowledgeable end-users.

So whilst vi has an interface that is hideously unfriendly to new users, it is still in use today because it is such a superb interface once you know how it works. Firefox was created by people who regularly browse the Web. The Gimp was built by people who use it to manipulate graphics files. And so on.

So Linux interfaces are frequently a bit of a minefield for the novice: Despite its popularity, vi should never be considered by a new user who just wants to quickly make a few changes to a file. And if you're using software early in its lifecycle, a polished, user-friendly interface is something you're likely to find only in the "ToDo" list: Functionality comes first. Nobody designs a killer interface and then tries to add functionality bit by bit. They create functionality, and then improve the interface bit by bit.

So to avoid #4 issues: Look for software that's specifically aimed at being easy for new users to use, or accept that some software that has a steeper learning curve than you're used to. To complain that vi isn't friendly enough for new users is to be laughed at for missing the point.

Problem #5: The myth of "user-friendly"

This is a big one. It's a very big term in the computing world, "user-friendly". It's even the name of a particularly good webcomic. But it's a bad term.

The basic concept is good: That software be designed with the needs of the user in mind. But it's always addressed as a single concept, which it isn't.

If you spend your entire life processing text files, your ideal software will be fast and powerful, enabling you to do the maximum amount of work for the minimum amount of effort. Simple keyboard shortcuts and mouseless operation will be of vital importance.

But if you very rarely edit text files, and you just want to write an occasional letter, the last thing you want is to struggle with learning keyboard shortcuts. Well-organized menus and clear icons in toolbars will be your ideal.

Clearly, software designed around the needs of the first user will not be suitable for the second, and vice versa. So how can any software be called "user-friendly", if we all have different needs?

The simple answer: User-friendly is a misnomer, and one that makes a complex situation seem simple.

What does "user-friendly" really mean? Well, in the context in which it is used, "user friendly" software means "Software that can be used to a reasonable level of competence by a user with no previous experience of the software." This has the unfortunate effect of making lousy-but-familiar interfaces fall into the category of "user-friendly".

Subproblem #5a: Familiar is friendly

So it is that in most "user-friendly" text editors & word processors, you Cut and Paste by using Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V. Totally unintuitive, but everybody's used to these combinations, so they count as a "friendly" combination.

So when somebody comes to vi and finds that it's "d" to cut, and "p" to paste, it's not considered friendly: It's not what anybody is used to.

Is it superior? Well, actually, yes.

With the Ctrl-X approach, how do you cut a word from the document you're currently in? (No using the mouse!)

From the start of the word, Ctrl-Shift-Right to select the word.
Then Ctrl-X to cut it.

The vi approach? dw deletes the word.

How about cutting five words with a Ctrl-X application?

From the start of the words, Ctrl-Shift-Right

And with vi?


The vi approach is far more versatile and actually more intuitive: "X" and "V" are not obvious or memorable "Cut" and "Paste" commands, whereas "dw" to delete a word, and "p" to put it back is perfectly straightforward. But "X" and "V" are what we all know, so whilst vi is clearly superior, it's unfamiliar. Ergo, it is considered unfriendly. On no other basis, pure familiarity makes a Windows-like interface seem friendly. And as we learned in problem #1, Linux is necessarily different to Windows. Inescapably, Linux always appears less "user-friendly" than Windows.

To avoid #5a problems, all you can really do is try and remember that "user-friendly" doesn't mean "What I'm used to": Try doing things your usual way, and if it doesn't work, try and work out what a total novice would do.

Subproblem #5b: Inefficient is friendly

This is a sad but inescapable fact. Paradoxically, the harder you make it to access an application's functionality, the friendlier it can seem to be.

This is because friendliness is added to an interface by using simple, visible 'clues' - the more, the better. After all, if a complete novice to computers is put in front of a WYSIWYG word processor and asked to make a bit of text bold, which is more likely:

  • He'll guess that "Ctrl-B" is the usual standard
  • He'll look for clues, and try clicking on the "Edit" menu. Unsuccessful, he'll try the next likely one along the row of menus: "Format". The new menu has a "Font" option, which seems promising. And Hey! There's our "Bold" option. Success!

Next time you do any processing, try doing every job via the menus: No shortcut keys, and no toolbar icons. Menus all the way. You'll find you slow to a crawl, as every task suddenly demands a multitude of keystrokes/mouseclicks.

Making software "user-friendly" in this fashion is like putting training wheels on a bicycle: It lets you get up & running immediately, without any skill or experience needed. It's perfect for a beginner. But nobody out there thinks that all bicycles should be sold with training wheels: If you were given such a bicycle today, I'll wager the first thing you'd do is remove them for being unnecessary encumbrances: Once you know how to ride a bike, training wheels are unnecessary.

And in the same way, a great deal of Linux software is designed without "training wheels" - it's designed for users who already have some basic skills in place. After all, nobody's a permanent novice: Ignorance is short-lived, and knowledge is forever. So the software is designed with the majority in mind.

This might seem an excuse: After all, MS Word has all the friendly menus, and it has toolbar buttons, and it has shortcut keys. . . Best of all worlds, surely? Friendly and efficient.

However, this has to be put into perspective: Firstly, the practicalities: having menus and toolbars and shortcuts and all would mean a lot of coding, and it's not like Linux developers all get paid for their time. Secondly, it still doesn't really take into account serious power-users: Very few professional wordsmiths use MS Word. Ever meet a coder who used MS Word? Compare that to how many use emacs & vi.

Why is this? Firstly, because some "friendly" behaviour rules out efficient behaviour: See the "Cut&Copy" example above. And secondly, because most of Word's functionality is buried in menus that you have to use: Only the most common functionality has those handy little buttons in toolbars at the top. The less-used functions that are still vital for serious users just take too long to access.

Something to bear in mind, however, is that "training wheels" are often available as "optional extras" for Linux software: They might not be obvious, but frequently they're available.

Take mplayer. You use it to play a video file by typing mplayer filename in a terminal. You fastforward & rewind using the arrow keys and the PageUp & PageDown keys. This is not overly "user-friendly". However, if you instead type gmplayer filename, you'll get the graphical frontend, with all its nice, friendly , familiar buttons.

Take ripping a CD to MP3 (or Ogg): Using the command-line, you need to use cdparanoia to rip the files to disc. Then you need an encoder. . . It's a hassle, even if you know exactly how to use the packages (imho). So download & install something like Grip. This is an easy-to-use graphical frontend that uses cdparanoia and encoders behind-the-scenes to make it really easy to rip CDs, and even has CDDB support to name the files automatically for you.

The same goes for ripping DVDs: The number of options to pass to transcode is a bit of a nightmare. But using dvd::rip to talk to transcode for you makes the whole thing a simple, GUI-based process which anybody can do.

So to avoid #5b issues: Remember that "training wheels" tend to be bolt-on extras in Linux, rather than being automatically supplied with the main product. And sometimes, "training wheels" just can't be part of the design.

Problem #6: Imitation vs. Convergence

An argument people often make when they find that Linux isn't the Windows clone they wanted is to insist that this is what Linux has been (or should have been) attempting to be since it was created, and that people who don't recognise this and help to make Linux more Windows-like are in the wrong. They draw on many arguments for this:

Linux has gone from Command-Line- to Graphics-based interfaces, a clear attempt to copy Windows

Nice theory, but false: The original X windowing system was released in 1984, as the successor to the W windowing system ported to Unix in 1983. Windows 1.0 was released in 1985. Windows didn't really make it big until version 3, released in 1990 - by which time, X windows had for years been at the X11 stage we use today. Linux itself was only started in 1991. So Linux didn't create a GUI to copy Windows: It simply made use of a GUI that existed long before Windows.

Windows 3 gave way to Windows 95 - making a huge level of changes to the UI that Microsoft has never equalled since. It had many new & innovative features: Drag & drop functionality; taskbars, and so on. All of which have since been copied by Linux, of course.

Actually. . . no. All the above existed prior to Microsoft making use of them. NeXTSTeP in particular was a hugely advanced (for the time) GUI, and it predated Win95 significantly - version 1 released in 1989, and the final version in 1995.

Okay, okay, so Microsoft didn't think up the individual features that we think of as the Windows Look-and-Feel. But it still created a Look-and-Feel, and Linux has been trying to imitate that ever since.

To debunk this, one must discuss the concept of convergent evolution. This is where two completely different and independent systems evolve over time to become very similar. It happens all the time in biology. For example, sharks and dolphins. Both are (typically) fish-eating marine organisms of about the same size. Both have dorsal fins, pectoral fins, tail fins, and similar, streamlined shapes.

However, sharks evolved from fish, while dolphins evolved from a land-based quadrupedal mammal of some sort. The reason they have very similar overall appearances is that they both evolved to be as efficient as possible at living within a marine environment. At no stage did pre-dolphins (the relative newcomers) look at sharks and think "Wow, look at those fins. They work really well. I'll try and evolve some myself!"

Similarly, it's perfectly true to look at early Linux desktops and see FVWM and TWM and a lot of other simplistic GUIs. And then look at modern Linux desktops, and see Gnome & KDE with their taskbars and menus and eye-candy. And yes, it's true to say that they're a lot more like Windows than they used to be.

But then, so is Windows: Windows 3.0 had no taskbar that I remember. And the Start menu? What Start menu?

Linux didn't have a desktop anything like modern Windows. Microsoft didn't either. Now they both do. What does this tell us?

It tells us that developers in both camps looked for ways of improving the GUI, and because there are only a limited number of solutions to a problem, they often used very similar methods. Similarity does not in any way prove or imply imitation. Remembering that will help you avoid straying into problem #6 territory.

Problem #7: That FOSS thing.

Oh, this causes problems. Not intrinsically: The software being free and open-source is a wonderful and immensely important part of the whole thing. But understanding just how different FOSS is from proprietary software can be too big an adjustment for some people to make.

I've already mentioned some instances of this: People thinking they can demand technical support and the like. But it goes far beyond that.

Microsoft's Mission Statement is "A computer on every desktop" - with the unspoken rider that each computer should be running Windows. Microsoft and Apple both sell operating systems, and both do their utmost to make sure their products get used by the largest number of people: They're businesses, out to make money.

And then there is FOSS. Which, even today, is almost entirely non-commercial.

Before you reach for your email client to tell me about Red Hat, Suse, Linspire and all: Yes, I know they "sell" Linux. I know they'd all love Linux to be adopted universally, especially their own flavour of it. But don't confuse the suppliers with the manufacturers. The Linux kernel was not created by a company, and is not maintained by people out to make a profit with it. The GNU tools were not created by a company, and are not maintained by people out to make a profit with them. The X11 windowing system. . . well, the most popular implementation is xorg right now, and the ".org" part should tell you all you need to know. Desktop software: Well, you might be able to make a case for KDE being commercial, since it's Qt-based. But Gnome, Fluxbox, Enlightenment, etc. are all non-profit. There are people out to sell Linux, but they are very much the minority.

Increasing the number of end-users of proprietary software leads to a direct financial benefit to the company that makes it. This is simply not the case for FOSS: There is no direct benefit to any FOSS developer in increasing the userbase. Indirect benefits, yes: Personal pride; an increased potential for finding bugs; more likelihood of attracting new developers; possibly a chance of a good job offer; and so on.

But Linus Torvalds doesn't make money from increased Linux usage. Richard Stallman doesn't get money from increased GNU usage. All those servers running OpenBSD and OpenSSH don't put a penny into the OpenBSD project's pockets. And so we come to the biggest problem of all when it comes to new users and Linux:

They find out they're not wanted.

New users come to Linux after spending their lives using an OS where the end-user's needs are paramount, and "user friendly" and "customer focus" are considered veritable Holy Grails. And they suddenly find themselves using an OS that still relies on 'man' files, the command-line, hand-edited configuration files, and Google. And when they complain, they don't get coddled or promised better things: They get bluntly shown the door.

That's an exaggeration, of course. But it is how a lot of potential Linux converts perceived things when they tried and failed to make the switch.

In an odd way, FOSS is actually a very selfish development method: People only work on what they want to work on, when they want to work on it. Most people don't see any need to make Linux more attractive to inexperienced end-users: It already does what they want it to do, why should they care if it doesn't work for other people?

FOSS has many parallels with the Internet itself: You don't pay the writer of a webpage/the software to download and read/install it. Ubiquitous broadband/User-friendly interfaces are of no great interest to somebody who already has broadband/knows how to use the software. Bloggers/developers don't need to have lots of readers/users to justify blogging/coding. There are lots of people making lots of money off it, but it's not by the old-fashioned "I own this and you have to pay me if you want some of it" method that most businesses are so enamoured of; it's by providing services like tech-support/e-commerce.

Linux is not interested in market share. Linux does not have customers. Linux does not have shareholders, or a responsibility to the bottom line. Linux was not created to make money. Linux does not have the goal of being the most popular and widespread OS on the planet.

All the Linux community wants is to create a really good, fully-featured, free operating system. If that results in Linux becoming a hugely popular OS, then that's great. If that results in Linux having the most intuitive, user-friendly interface ever created, then that's great. If that results in Linux becoming the basis of a multi-billion dollar industry, then that's great.

It's great, but it's not the point. The point is to make Linux the best OS that the community is capable of making. Not for other people: For itself. The oh-so-common threats of "Linux will never take over the desktop unless it does such-and-such" are simply irrelevant: The Linux community isn't trying to take over the desktop. They really don't care if it gets good enough to make it onto your desktop, so long as it stays good enough to remain on theirs. The highly-vocal MS-haters, pro-Linux zealots, and money-making FOSS purveyors might be loud, but they're still minorities.

That's what the Linux community wants: an OS that can be installed by whoever really wants it. So if you're considering switching to Linux, first ask yourself what you really want.

If you want an OS that doesn't chauffeur you around, but hands you the keys, puts you in the driver's seat, and expects you to know what to do: Get Linux. You'll have to devote some time to learning how to use it, but once you've done so, you'll have an OS that you can make sit up and dance.

If you really just want Windows without the malware and security issues: Read up on good security practices; install a good firewall, malware-detector, and anti-virus; replace IE with a more secure browser; and keep yourself up-to-date with security updates. There are people out there (myself included) who've used Windows since 3.1 days right through to XP without ever being infected with a virus or malware: you can do it too. Don't get Linux: It will fail miserably at being what you want it to be.

If you really want the security and performance of a Unix-based OS but with a customer-focussed attitude and an world-renowned interface: Buy an Apple Mac. OS X is great. But don't get Linux: It will not do what you want it to do.

It's not just about "Why should I want Linux?". It's also about "Why should Linux want me?"

If you want to leave any feedback about this article, comment on my blog.

Beginers Guide to Installing and Using Mint

If you are new to Mint or Linux in general and want a simple user guide on how to use and install Mint without all the confusing jargon then please consult our User Guide: ... /EN-v1.pdf

If you ask a question which is already covered in the guide you will simply be recommended to download the guide, so you are speeding up the process if you just read it in the first place. Although if something in the guide fails to make sense to you or you want more explanation then don't hesitate to ask it here on the forums, we will do our best to help you.

Welcome to the Linux Mint Community. 8)

Considerations before you install

I think many of us could truthfully say that if we had known a bit more about the basics of Linux installs, we would have installed a little more wisely than we did initially. My intention here is call attention to some of these basics and make a few helpful suggestions that may aid new users in their first journey into Linux.

Things that could/should influence your partitioning layout:

1) Partitions closer to the outside of the hard drive disk, ie. at the top of your partition table and to the left in the Gparted graphic, are faster than partitions on the inside of the hard drive disk, or closer to the bottom of the partition table.

2) Smaller partitions are faster than larger partitions.

3) Swap partitions don't need to be any larger than 2X your system ram. And, the sum of system ram and swap shouldn't exceed 4 Gig. If it does, reduce the swap partition size to get back to 4 Gig. or less. If you have 4 Gig. of ram on a 32 bit system like Mint, make a very small swap partition anyway, as the kernel expects to have a swap partition available. Not having a swap partition slows the kernel down in certain situations. For this purpose, there is no need for the swap partition to be over 256 KB at most.

4) If you have more than one hard drive, split your swap partition up between all your drives, creating a small swap partition on each drive. Linux will recognize and combine them all and your swap will be much much faster when you need it. It is almost like a raid 0 set-up. Swap will strip across drives.

5) Journaled file systems like ext3 are much better at maintaining read/write data integrity in case of power failure or some other unexpected crash or failure.

6) Journaled files systems also represent more overhead to the kernel and take more space on the hard drive for the file system structure itself. There is no advantage to using a journaled file system on a partition that will rarely be written to. /boot is a good example of this. It is almost never written to, so if you use a separate /boot partition, it should be ext2 and not ext3.

7) If you use a separate /boot partition, it doesn't need to be more than about 256 MB. This still leaves plenty of space for extra kernels and boot notes.

8) Your data should be isolated from your main install to protect it and easily enable upgrades and reinstalls.

The truth of the matter is that all the installer routines that I am familiar with do a pretty poor job of doing a default install. They just aren't very smart. They work, and serve the purpose of enabling a successful install in most cases. But they don't install very smart. They usually put everything in one partition and spread it out across all the available space. Looking at the above list you can see this is a bad idea for a variety of reasons.

I guess due to natural curiosity and the understandable lack of familiarity with Linux, most new users will break their installs at least once in the first six months and need to reinstall. As most are aware, this leaves you in a position to loose your data or jump through lots of hoops trying to save it, if you have done a default install.

I am going to suggest two very basic partitioning schemes for general purpose desktops that will give you good speed, conserve hard drive space, and provide reasonable data integrity and isolation, and a safe upgrade path.

The first is the well know method of using a separate /home partition. All the user's data is in /home so putting /home on a separate partition effectively isolates it from the rest of the install, the part that most often breaks. This eases upgrades too, although it isn't a perfect solution.

swap -----Formatted as swap ----per above rules
/ -----------Formatted as ext3 -----10 – 12 Gig.
/home ---Formatted as ext3 ------Whatever you need

The other method uses dedicated data partitions that aren't part of the Linux install at all. This is the safest, fastest and most flexible method, and makes for almost painless reinstalls and upgrades, but is a little more difficult to set up initially.

swap ----Formatted as swap -----per above rules
/ ----------Formatted as ext3 ------10 – 12 Gig.

Data Partition1 ----Formatted as ext3 -----sized for data
Data Partition2 ----Formatted as ext3 -----sized for data
Data Partition3 ----Formatted as ext3 -----sized for data

You can have as many or as few data partitions as you see fit. You would mount them in your /home directory, let's say as Multimedia, Pictures, and Documents, as an example. They would be easily available in your /home folder but the data itself would be safely on its' own partition or partitions. If you had a Windows XP install, one of your data partitions could be formatted NTFS so that it could be easily shared.

You could of course combine the two methods I showed above, but I see no advantage in doing so. You could also have a separate /boot partition, which would make either install slightly faster, but with modern equipment you probably wouldn't notice the difference.

This was not written to give you step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish these set-ups but to give you something to think about before you jump into your first install, or perhaps your first reinstall. :-)


What mint is based on

Ubuntu :)
The main Gnome edition forked off Ubuntu with Barbara which was based on Edgy.
All the versions of the main edition is based on the previous version. Clem uses programming tools and "handicraft" to tweak Mint after the new Ubuntu and of course adds a taste of Mint - the Mint tools and the art work.
This means that it is not exactly the same as the equivalent Ubuntu version, Mint tends to be less buggy and mostly wifi works better. There may also be deliberate differences like in printing where Daryna kept it as in Celena while Gutsy is different from Feisty.
The other important edition is the KDE edition. It is based on Gutsy Kubuntu with the Mint tools (that are gnome) ported to KDE. To make the Mint tools work in KDE was a major undertaking.
The KDE edition will continue to be based on the previous version like the main edition, but here it is Boo that is "tweaking"

Release Notes for Linux Mint 5 Elyssa

Release Notes for Linux Mint 5 Elyssa


This is Linux Mint 5, codename Elyssa, based on Daryna and compatible with Ubuntu Hardy and its repositories.

List of new features

1. mintMenu improvements

In Daryna, mintInstall and the Software Portal made it easy to install applications. In Elyssa mintMenu is making it easy to remove them. You don't need to open synaptic or to launch a terminal anymore, if you want to uninstall an application, simply right-click on it in the menu and select “Uninstall”.

A dialog box will appear listing the related packages and dependencies.

Within the same context menu you can also choose whether you want that particular application to be automatically launched when you log in. It was already possible to do this with the "Session" tool from the Control Center, it's now possible directly from within mintMenu.

MintMenu now comes with a brand new configuration screen which lets you configure the following options:

  • Whether to show the sidepane (where parts of the menu end up after you hide them)
  • Whether to show recent documents
  • Whether to show comments for applications
  • Whether to swap names and generic names in the list of favorites
  • Whether to show icons for categories
  • Whether filtering should be done by clicking on categories or by hovering (mouse over)
  • The hover delay
  • Icon sizes for the main button, the applications and the favorites
  • Main button text and whether to show an icon
  • Custom colors for headings, borders and backgrounds
  • The number of columns in the favorites
  • The borders width

From the configuration screen you can activate a new plugin which displays your 10 most recently opened documents.

The "system tools" and "others" categories were merged in with "administration" to make the menu smaller and to bring less confusion as to where to find configuration tools.

The speed of the menu was also improved and its memory usage reduced.

Favorites now support drag and drop and can be moved around and arranged with the mouse.

2. mintUpdate improvements

MintUpdate was introduced in Daryna and quickly became one of the most popular tools on the Linux Mint desktop. It came to our attention that a lot of people weren't aware of how it worked internally (for instance, the difference between its user and admin runtime modes). For this reason we developed an information screen from which the active logs can be read, and the runtime mode and process id can be seen.

The auto-refresh feature is now more flexible. You can configure it to the minute but now also all the way up to a year.

When you log in and mintUpdate starts in user mode it now checks for an Internet connection. If none is found it waits for 30 seconds before retrying to connect and eventually reporting the lack of connection. This new feature is particularly interesting for people whose connection to the Internet is activated at log in and sometimes after mintUpdate is started.

You can now manually refresh mintUpdate, and directly access its preferences and information screens by right clicking on the icon in the system tray.

A mintUpdate instance running in admin mode kills all other instances of mintUpdate. One running in user mode is only allowed to start if no admin-mode mintUpdate is already running. In a multi-user environment this created problems. MintUpdate now fails quietly in user mode and running it from the menu (admin mode) takes priority over all other instances.

3. mintInstall improvements

.mint files can be quite complex as there's almost nothing you can do in a terminal that a .mint file can't do. In practice though, 99% of the .mint files present in the Software Portal consist in describing the installation of an application using APT. Most of these files describe the installation of only one package, and in most cases this package is present in the default repositories. In Daryna mintInstall used to backup the local sources.list, define its own, and then restore things as they were. This resulted in APT being told to update twice. In Elyssa, the mintInstall client checks if the packages are present within the repositories defined on your system, if they are the client gives you the choice of whether you want to use your sources.list ("local repositories") or the one coming with the file ("default repositories"). The default selection is "local" and as it basically saves 2 APT updates the installation of the application via mintInstall is consequently much faster.

The search dialog now supports the software portal. GetDeb uses raw DEB packages and no meta-information so downloads can be slow and dependencies (if any) won't be solved automatically, but it features packages that aren't available anywhere else on the Internet. The portal can be searched directly from mintInstall and the installation of the .DEB packages is handled by GDebi.

The search dialog now also supports APT itself. This is a convenient shortcut as mintInstall is much lighter than synaptic and more user friendly than the APT command line utilities. From mintInstall you can now search for a particular package, show its description (which also lists the files it contains) or even install it.

Improvements were made to the layout and the navigation within the Linux Mint Software Portal. A batch .mint maker was developed and the portal should feature about 10 times more applications than it did for Daryna. Applications are also organized in sub-categories and almost all of them now come with a screenshot.

Release-specific information was moved to a new package called mintsystem, so mintInstall is now release agnostic. This should make it easier for future versions of mintInstall to be backported on older releases or even used on compatible distributions (all distributions directly or indirectly based on Debian Testing or Debian Unstable).

4. Improvements in other tools

The network autobrowsing feature was removed from mintDesktop as it wasn't mature enough to be part of this LTS release.

Gnome 2.22 introduced its own compositing manager which can now be activated/deactivated from mintDesktop.

Mintupload's email feature was removed and replaced with a "Copy" button, which simply copies the shared URL to the buffer.

5. Desktop improvements

Gnome-Do doesn't just come installed by default in Elyssa, it's configured to run in the background. Press SUPER+SPACE and it should appear. From there you can quickly launch an application or use any of the advanced features provided by this tool. For more information about Gnome-Do visit this link


You can now change your wallpaper by right-clicking on an image and by selecting "Set as Wallpaper".

You can now check the MD5 signature of an ISO file by right-clicking on the file and by selecting "MD5 Sum".

You can now open a folder as root by right-clicking on that folder and by selecting "Open as root". This is a powerful but also a dangerous feature. A warning message will remind you that you're in root mode, a file browser called XFE will appear (the reason for it not being Nautilus is precisely because it looks different. This way you can associate the different look and feel with the fact that this application is run as root). From there on you've got unlimited powers so be careful because everything you launch from XFE, you launch as root.

The Gedit text editor was configured not to create "~" files anymore. This feature although sometimes useful was often annoying. It is still available from within Gedit but not activated by default.

MP3 could be decoded out of the box in Daryna. In Elyssa you can now also encode in this format without having to install any extra codecs.

Making things easier on the desktop means you don't need to rely on the terminal that often. But don't get us wrong, we do like our terminal! It's faster, more to the point, and the commands (not like the buttons and menus in graphical interfaces) are the same no matter what language you use. With each release of Linux Mint we improve the user experience with the terminal and this time we've added two things...

... more colors (see how the results of the grep are highlighted and how user and root modes use green and red so you know exactly in which mode you are?) ...

... and as it wasn't enough for the terminal to show light-hearted fortunes, we now have them said by a koala, a moose, or even Tux himself! (Don't worry, if you don't like this you can turn it off in mintAssistant, in fact it's one of the first thing you'll be asked by Linux Mint once it's on your hard drive.).

6. Performance improvements

MintUpdate was refactored and its memory usage was drastically reduced. On some systems the amount of RAM used by mintUpdate after a few days went from 100MB to 6MB.

Mozilla also greatly improved the memory usage in Firefox between version 2 and 3 (Read more).

Elyssa comes with kernel version 2.6.24 which features a brand new scheduler called CFS (Completely Fair Scheduler, Read more). The kernel scheduler is responsible for the CPU time allocated to each process. With CFS the rules have changed. Without proper benchmarks it's hard to actually tell the consequences of this change but the difference in behavior is quite noticeable from a user's point of view. Some tasks seem slower, but overall the system feels much snappier.

Elyssa comes with Gnome version 2.22 which features a new virtual filesystem layer called GVFS. Although the improvements over the old GNOME-VFS system are geared towards robustness and additional capabilities more than performance the Nautilus file browser seems more responsive and the progress feedback given while moving sets of files actually gives the impression of smoother, almost faster, operations.

Linux Mint is growing and acquired a second dedicated server. The Linux Mint repositories (starting from Elyssa) are now hosted on a distinct server so updating and installing mint packages is now much faster.

7. Better Look and feel

All Mint tools were reviewed and changes were made for their graphical interface to be more compliant with the Gnome Human Interface Guidelines.

The default set of GTK widgets used in Daryna was called MurrinaIndustrialSM. Subtle changes and refinements were made to it. Sliders now use the Clearlooks engine, scrollbars are now white and come with handles, columns headers were made glossy, dotted lines were added in tables and the roundness level was decreased slightly. Overall it looks pretty similar to Daryna and you might not notice the difference until you actually look into it. It's all about attention to details though and we're quite happy with the improvements we made on this. The colors are also configurable now so that's probably great news for people looking for an easy way to make Linux Mint a little greener.

The default theme also looks similar to the one used in Daryna but with a more professional look. Grub, usplash, gdm, and the default wallpaper look consistent and all use artwork based on "Carbon v5", a look and feel inspired by Daryna and designed by a new and great artist called Jernau. Isolinux uses "Global Domination", also from Jernau.

With Elyssa also come 5 new themes: Peppermint, Wildmint, Aurora, Carbon and Lightning. These themes take advantage of the new Aurora and Candido GTK engines. 2 of them are dark (make sure to disable "Custom Colors" in the preferences of mintMenu and to click on "Reload Plugins"). 1 of them, called Carbon features very small widgets and is particularly adapted to low resolution screens (the eeePC for instance). Carbon will also be the default theme, using Red Hat's Liberations Fonts as default, in the upcoming Enterprise Edition of Linux Mint.

8. Better Localization and documentation

All Mint tools were internationalized and are being actively translated by the community. 11 languages are already fully supported. The most important tools (mintInstall, mintUpdate, mintMenu) already support 21 languages. Members of the community also translate the User Guide, which is already available in 4 languages.

The User Guide is a PDF eBook of about 100 pages which guides you through the installation and the specificities of Linux Mint. Starting from Elyssa, the User Guide is becoming an integral part of the release cycle and is being made available on the mirrors and from within the installed system (on the start page).

The Firefox start page now brings news directly from the development team, links to the release notes and to the User Guide. Security warnings and major announcements will also take place on the start page which acts as an information gateway between the development team and the Linux Mint community of users.

9. More software available

Linux Mint 5 Elyssa is supported by which features commercial services and applications which are not available via the traditional channels.

The Software Portal introduced in Linux Mint 4.0 Daryna is receiving more focus as it represents the easiest way to install applications. About 10 times more applications will be made available for Linux Mint 5 Elyssa.

The way we handle repositories has changed and we're now in a position to take advantage of the sections introduced in Linux Mint 4.0 Daryna. For instance, we will actively import packages within the "import" section. The community is also allowed to provide packages for the distribution which are added to the "community" section (Note: The community section is commented out by default in /etc/apt/sources.list).

10. Changes in the default software selection

A new Mint tool called mintBackup was developed and added to Elyssa. This tool provides an easy way to save the content of your home folder into a single .backup file. You can then restore this content later on or somewhere else by double clicking on it (provided mintBackup is installed on the target system).

The default music management application is now Rhythmbox. It supports Magnatune, Jamendo,, online radios, iPod connectivity, podcasts, library monitoring, CD ripping, lyrics and album artwork. Rhythmbox replaces both Amarok and SoundJuicer.

Transmission was added to the default software selection and replaces the Gnome Torrent client.

Brasero was also added and serpentine was removed.

CCSM and Simple CCSM were added to ease the configuration of Compiz Fusion.

EnvyNG replaces Envy Legacy (which was simply called "Envy").

PPPOE was added.

11. Upstream improvements

A new sound server called PulseAudio was introduced along with Flash support, and a set of configuration tools (Pulse Audio Device Chooser, Pulse Audio Volume Control and Multimedia System Selector). PulseAudio makes it easy to move the sound output/input of a particular application from one device to another (for instance from your speakers to your USB headset, without having to restart the application or change its configuration). It also makes it easy to change the sound level for each application independently, or even to transfer the audio across the network (so you can play your music on another computer for instance...).

If you're behind a proxy you'll be happy to know that Ubuntu improved the Ubiquity installer. You can now define your proxy settings in the advanced section. Also, Mozilla Firefox 3 now supports Gnome proxy settings by default.

Upstream improvements from Ubuntu include the addition of an easy-to-use command line firewall called "ufw" and the policykit framework which makes it easy for applications to restrict some of their features depending on the permissions assigned to users.

Printing was improved in Ubuntu Gutsy and these improvements are coming into Linux Mint 5 Elyssa, with the exception of the Print-to-PDF feature which is kept as it was in Daryna.

Other important upstream improvements come from Gnome 2.22, OpenOffice 2.4, Firefox 3, Linux 2.6.24 and Xorg 7.3.

12. LTS aspects

Linux Mint 5 Elyssa is built on top of the Ubuntu Hardy Heron package base. Hardy is a Long Term Support (LTS) release, meaning that it will be supported and it will receive security and package updates for the next 3 years.

Starting with Elyssa, Linux Mint will consider two of its releases "current": The latest release, and the latest LTS release. Basically, this means that innovations put into Linux Mint 6, Linux Mint 7 and Linux Mint 8 will be backported into Linux Mint 5 until the next LTS release comes out. Users will have a choice to stay current over the next 2 years by keeping Linux Mint 5 Elyssa, or by following the latest releases every 6 months.

Although Linux Mint isn't a rolling distribution an LTS strategy will be put in place to ensure that Linux Mint 5 Elyssa will stay up to date over the next 2 years. Users will have the choice to enable the backport repository for Elyssa in which upgrades for important desktop applications (Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice..) will be made available.

Known issues

Upstream issues:

  • GDM: It takes a while to open the "Login Window" configuration tool. Just be patient, it will come up eventually.
  • GDM: In "Login Window", if you select another theme.. even though it will tell you everything is fine, it will actually select to show other themes randomly. Open "Login Window" again and set the theme again.
  • GDM: On shutdown, usplash doesn't show properly and is interrupted by network manager error messages. This is a known bug in GDM. You might be able to fix it by changing the GDM theme "twice" (in "Login Window").
  • GDM/Gnome: The shutdown/logout sound isn't played. This happens because Pulse Audio is shut down by Gnome before it gets the chance to play it. You could install "esound" to fix that problem but then that would break PulseAudio altogether. Another workaround would be to use aplay to play the sound before the event, as described here.
  • Gnome: Turning on/off the Gnome Compositing Effects (in gconf or in mintDesktop) can freeze your computer. Make sure to save all your data before activating/deactivating this feature.
  • Gnome: The first time you launch the "Users and Groups" configuration tool, it might not find any users and consequently it won't work properly. Close it and launch it again.
  • Gnome: The color of the window borders doesn't always refresh when you select or customize a Gnome theme. This is because some GTK themes refer to the same metacity theme but with different colors, and unless the metacity theme itself is changed Gnome doesn't refresh it.
  • Gnome: You might see an error message saying the "Gnome Settings Daemon" could not start. It usually only happens once and either doesn't affect anything or affects the look and feel (the default Gnome theme is applied instead of the Mint one).

Mint specific issues:

  • Widescreen support: If usplash doesn't fill your screen an alternative is to install usplash-theme-mint-black (which comes with a black background). All wallpapers come in widescreen format and GDM also has a widescreen version of the Elyssa theme.
  • Localization: Not all translations (for the Mint tools) were included in the release. We had to code-freeze at some stage. The missing and future translations will come in as level 1 updates.
  • MintMenu: mintMenu doesn't always refresh (or doesn't always refresh fast enough). To force it in doing so, right click on the "Elyssa" button and select "Reload Plugins".

Warning about upgrades:

  • Be cautious with level 3 upgrades. As these notes are written, applying the Gnome related upgrades break the ability to change your wallpaper!
  • Prefer level 1 and 2 upgrades to be safe and only apply level 3, 4 and 5 upgrades selectively and after you made sure they fixed a bug you needed fixed.
  • Always use mintUpdate to perform package upgrades, avoid to do so with APT or Synaptic; these tools are not aware of the stability level related to package upgrades.

Upgrade Instructions


We strongly recommend fresh installs (downloading the CD and installing from it), for the following reasons:

  • Upgrading your system to Elyssa won't make your system the same as Elyssa. Your system is your system. Artwork, configuration changes and a lot of other things will not be changed on your system.
  • Upgrading your system will trigger conflicts on files maintained by both Mint and Ubuntu. You will be asked questions on whether to overwrite these files. Also, some settings will be reverted to their Ubuntu default (so you might see some orange here and there :)). It takes time to reapply these settings and it isn't the scope of these notes.
  • Downloading the CD is faster than upgrading the entire system. The reason for this is that the bare system (not including all the packages you might have installed) is 2.5GB. On the CD it's compressed to a size of 700MB.
  • Releases are well tested. Upgrade paths aren't. By upgrading and reporting errors you will act as the Guinea pig. By installing from the CD you will benefit from the hard work of all the community members who helped us test and debug prior to the final release.
  • You might just break something you're not able to fix. Unless you're experienced with APT and until an upgrade tool is developed (planned for Mint 6), you should perform only fresh installs.

You can install mintBackup from and use it to make a backup of your data.

Note: If you're using a proprietary nVidia or ATI driver you may experience problems while upgrading xorg and the linux kernel. Unless you know what you're doing we strongly recommend you do a fresh install.

Upgrade path

Change your APT sources

Edit the sources.list as root (sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list) to make it look like this:

## -----------------------
## -----------------------

## +++ Linux Mint 5 Elyssa (stable) +++
deb elyssa main upstream import

## +++ Backports (not as stable) +++
## deb elyssa backport

## +++ Community (not as stable) +++
## deb elyssa community

## +++ Romeo (unstable) +++
## deb elyssa romeo

## +++ Source Repositories +++
## deb-src elyssa main upstream import
## deb-src elyssa community
## deb-src elyssa backport
## deb-src elyssa romeo

## -------------------
## -------------------

## +++ Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy (stable) +++
deb hardy main restricted universe multiverse
deb hardy-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb hardy-security main restricted universe multiverse

## +++ Backports & Proposed (not as stable) +++
## deb hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse
## deb hardy-proposed main restricted universe multiverse

## +++ Source Repositories +++
## deb-src hardy main restricted universe multiverse
## deb-src hardy-updates main restricted universe multiverse
## deb-src hardy-security main restricted universe multiverse
## deb-src hardy-backports main restricted universe multiverse
## deb-src hardy-proposed main restricted universe multiverse

## ------------------
## ------------------

## +++ Canonical (stable) +++
deb hardy partner

## +++ Medibuntu (stable) +++
deb hardy free non-free

Upgrade your packages

Open a terminal and type the following commands:

  • apt update
  • apt upgrade
  • apt dist-upgrade

Repeat the three commands above until the output says for both upgrade and dist-upgrade that there is nothing to upgrade to.

Install additional software

Open a terminal and type the following command:

  • apt install nautilus-wallpaper gstreamer0.10-plugins-ugly-multiverse gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad-multiverse gnome-do nspluginwrapper gtk2-engines-aurora gtk2-engines-pixbuf gtk2-engines-candido mintbackup gnome-do-plugin-rhythmbox gnome-do-plugins padevchooser gtkhtml3.14 libgtkhtml3.14-19 libgtkhtml3.16-cil libgtk-vnc-1.0-0 transmission-common transmission-gtk gstreamer0.10-pitfdll jockey-gtk jockey-common libwpg-0.1-1 libwps-0.1-1 python-uno nautilus-share nautilus-sendto pidgin-otr obex-data-server bluez-gnome gimp-gnomevfs gvfs-fuse hal-cups-utils ghostscript-x dcraw libnss-mdns samba libpam-smbpass seahorse language-support-en gnome-spell bogofilter evolution-data-server openprinting-ppds pxljr splix mousetweaks libpt-1.10.10 libpt-1.10.10-plugins-alsa libpt-1.10.10-plugins-v4l libpt-1.10.10-plugins-v4l2

Run the following commands:

  • apt-get remove --purge flashplugin-nonfree libflashsupport
  • apt-get install nspluginwrapper
  • apt-get install libflashsupport
  • apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree

Friday, August 22, 2008

How To: Enable Your Toshiba's Bluetooth & Brightness Control

Thanks to Tim Anderson's blog I was able to get my Bluetooth and brightness controls working:

You see, the driver that enables your Bluetooth also enables your brightness control. This is done by creating a script file that turns it on at start-up.

Step 1: Change to the directory where we are going to have the script file.

cd /etc/init.d

Step 2: Creat the script file.

sudo nano tosh-bluetooth

Step 3: Paste this script.

#! /bin/bash

# script to start/stop Toshiba Bluetooth adapter
# requires toshset

case "$1" in
/usr/bin/toshset -bluetooth on
/usr/bin/toshset -bluetooth off
echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/tosh-bluetooth {start|stop}" >&2
exit 1


exit 0

Step 4: Save and exit Nano.

Type Ctrl-O to exit and Ctrl-X to exit.

Step 5: Make the script executable.

sudo chmod 755 tosh-bluetooth

Step 6: Add it to the startup scripts.

sudo update-rc.d tosh-bluetooth defaults

Step 7: Reboot.

Your Bluetooth should now be working as expected.

HowTo: Fix ugly blurry nautilus thumbnails

Image Image

You might have noticed with Hardy and hence with Elyssa came these ugly blurry thumbnail previews when previewing small images and also the addition of ugly black borders around each thumbnail. I found a topic on the Ubuntu forums for a way to restore it to how it was previously in the older versions of Ubuntu and Mint.

Follow the instructions on the 3rd post of this topic if you are interested and remember to refresh the nautilus window and desktop (f5) once completed in order to see the changes! ... ost5290068

How to make a Mint-Myth

Mint makes a GREAT Myth base as the codecs and drivers are all preinstalled.

Just go to Synaptic and install Mythbuntu-desktop. Wait for a while and all the dependencies will install. If you're using a remote control, the lirc GUI will pop up during configuration and ask you for details. Most likely, the restart of the lirc daemon will fail. You can manually restart it with "/etc/init.d/lirc restart". Now, you should run the Myth Config utility, now available through MintMenu. Assign the proper backend server (the computer you're using or another if you're a hardcore geek like myself), add whatever plugins you want, and then run the frontend. You should now be golden.

You can login to the normal Mint Gnome desktop or the XFCE Myth desktop. I don't use XFCE, but Myth runs just fine...

--Akshun J

Install Wacom Bamboo Tablet (Streamlined Tutorial)

1. Plug in the Bamboo tablet to your p.c.

2. Download this file to your Desktop: ... -3.tar.bz2

3. Go to the Package Manager. Install these two packages: build-essentials and xorg-dev.

4. Open up Terminal. Change your directory to the Desktop. When you are there, type in these commands:

Code: Select all
bunzip2 linuxwacom-0.8.0-3.tar.bz2
tar xvf linuxwacom-0.8.0-3.tar
cd linuxwacom-0.8.0-3
./configure --enable-wacom
gksudo make install
gksudo cp src/2.6.22/wacom.ko /lib/modules/2.6.22-14-generic/kernel/drivers/input/tablet/wacom.ko

5. Write this path down! /etc/X11/xorg.conf *See comment below.

6. Type these commands in Terminal:
Code: Select all
gksudo cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf-mybackup
gksudo gedit /etc/X11/xorg.conf

7. The three sections that follow must replace their corresponding sections in the xorg.conf file. You can identify how the below sections correspond with the section in the xorg.conf file by matching the terms I have placed in bold:

Section "InputDevice"
Driver "wacom"
Identifier "stylus"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom"
Option "Type" "stylus"

Section "InputDevice"
Driver "wacom"
Identifier "eraser"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom"
Option "Type" "eraser"

Section "InputDevice"
Driver "wacom"
Identifier "cursor"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/wacom"
Option "Type" "cursor"

8. The very last section xorg.conf file is the Server Layout Section. Uncomment the three lines of code that are commented by removing the # symbol from the front of that line.

9. Type these commands in Terminal:

Code: Select all
gksudo rmmod wacom
gksudo modprobe wacom
grep -i wacom /var/log/messages | tail
gksudo gedit /etc/modules

10. gedit should have opened the modules file. On a new line in the modules file, add this word: wacom. Save the file.

11. Check to see if your wacom stylus moves the mouse. Mine couldn't tell the sytlus was near the tablet without touching it until restart. Also, Touchpad settings didn't appear under Daryna->Preferences->Mouse until I rebooted.

* If on restart you freeze up you may have made a mistake in the xorg.conf file. Follow these steps to recover that file. Write them down to save yourself a possible headache.
1. Boot the computer in safe mode. (Choose safe graphics mode at boot menu instead of generic.)
2. You will be provided a command prompt. Type in this command:
Code: Select all
cp /etc/X11/xorg.conf-mybackup /etc/X11/xorg.conf

3. Restart computer, (not in safe mode).
4. Repeat the installation procedure.

If there is something I have missed, need to point out, or need to correct, let me know so I can make changes.

Howto: Use OS-X-fonts in Mint

I find the fonts in Os-X to be very pretty. =) And all props to Apple, since they give out their fonts for free!!

Step 1: Get the fonts.

Apple is so nice when it comes to fonts.

Freeware Mac-fonts!

Step 2: Extract and add to /fonts/.

Extract the file onto your desktop or some other place.
Navigate into the fonts-folder you extracted with terminal.
Code: Select all
cd Desktop/Fonts

Make 2 dir's in the /usr/share/fonts-folders
Code: Select all
sudo mkdir /usr/share/fonts/truetype/ttf-os-x
sudo mkdir /usr/share/fonts/type1/os-x

I make 2 dir's, because the fonts comes in two filetypes. .ttf and .pfb. I just like to sort them, I don't think it really matters. :3

Code: Select all
sudo cp *.ttf /usr/share/fonts/truetype/ttf-os-x
sudo cp *.TTF /usr/share/fonts/truetype/ttf-os-x
sudo cp *.PFB /usr/share/fonts/type1/os-x

Now, log out and log inn or restart X for the changes to take effect.

Find the font-configuration-menu. You can use terminal;
Code: Select all

If you use terminal, do not use sudo.

Os-x uses Lucida MAC size 9/10 by default. Set this onto Application font, Document font, Desktop font, Window title font, but not Fixed width font, unless you want your terminal to look messed up.

Press the 'Details'-button in the lower right corner.
Choose Grayscale-smoothing, and for hinting, I use none. You could probably find something that suits you.

Screenshot of my mint-desktop with mac-fonts:

Ah, seems like I'm getting married this year! :D

How to Get Miro running in LinuxMint KDE (and others?)

Hello everyone.
First off, let me say that I searched to see if this particular 'tip' had been posted before to avoid redundancy and I couldn't find it. If I missed it and it HAS already been submitted, please remove this. Miro has been such a problem for me that I figured the solution that worked for me might save someone else days of research and headaches in trying to get it to work correctly.

In the other distros I've used, Miro worked right out of the gate. However, with LinuxMint Daryna KDE beta 011, Miro would open, begin to load the Miro Guide and then suddenly disappear. I uninstalled, made sure I had satisfied all its dependencies, reinstalled, downloaded source and compiled myself, blah, blah, blah. Still....same problem. The Miro Guide would start to load and the program would disappear.

The fix that worked perfectly for me was found buried deep in the Ubuntu forums and I wish I had the links to provide for you but I don't. To paraphrase, sun-java6 seems to be causing some kind of conflict. Simply try uninstalling sun-java6 and its related components and installing the icedtea-java7 packages. The ones that I installed are:


I am by no means a guru, in fact only have come back to Linux within the last three months (and have only used LinuxMint for the last three weeks) so if this does not work for you, I don't have the knowledge to answer any questions at all or suggest other possible solutions. Also, I don't know if these new java packages will break something else in your environment. I have found no issues at all with my own box so please take the risk of wreaking some unknown havoc on your machine into account. I don't even know WHY this works...but it did for me and hopefully it'll help someone else get Miro up and running.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone who has helped develop LinuxMint. Within the last 3 months, I've tried every distro out there that I could get my hands on and as soon as I booted into Daryna, I knew I'd found my Linux 'home'. Actually, my fate was sealed when I saw that it was only 19 seconds from Grub to desktop to load. Holy cow. :-)


Yet Another HowTo: Install OpenOffice (any version)

I had some annoying issues with OpenOffice and after a lot of Googling and forum-trawling I did the following.

1. Select and download OpenOffice version 2.1 or version 2.2RC1 and save on your Desktop.

2. Make sure you have alien installed (it should be, but just make sure)
Code: Select all
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install alien

3. Completely remove the current version of OpenOffice from your machine by using Synaptic Package Manager, or as like this:
Code: Select all
dpkg -l | grep -i openoffice | cut -d " " -f 3 | sudo xargs apt-get -y --purge remove
sudo apt-get autoremove

4. Right-click on the downloaded tar.gz file and select to Extract Here

5. On your desktop, double-click the newly extracted folder to open it. There should be 3 files - licences, readmes and RPMS. Right-click on RPMS and select Open In Terminal

6. Now you need alien to convert the RPM files to DEB. this will take some time so when it starts go and have a beer, coffee or whatever.
Code: Select all
sudo alien --scripts --keep-version *.rpm

7. Once the conversion has completed you can start the install of OpenOffice using that same Terminal.
Code: Select all
sudo dpkg -i *.deb
cd desktop-integration/
sudo dpkg -i *.deb

That's it, you should now be done. All that remains is to go to Mint Control Centre - Desktop - Menu Layout and do the tick/untick/tick thing in the Office menu. And just to play it safe; reload the Mint Menu Plugins

Hope this helps someone... ;)

derived from original source