Making the Switch: Linux Mint

December 24, 2009 at 6:13 pm (Making the Switch)

So I’ve played around with a few different Linux Distributions and found the one best suited for me. Ubuntu seems like the obvious choice but there were some complications right of the bat. It took me a good long while to get simple things like Flash player to work properly (which is kind of important I view a lot of tutorials on you tube). Ubuntu Studio seemed like a good choice as well, but it is mainly geared towards audio. I tried a version called Open Artist which stayed on my computer for about 10 minutes. There were way too many different software packages installed and it seemed seriously overwhelming.  Not to mention the fact that half of the programs crashed when I launched them and my video would occasionally go crazy.

So after looking around for I while I decided on Linux Mint. What appeals to me about this distro is the out of the box functionality. Running just from the live cd I was able to get on the Internet, view Flash movies, and even browse through my shared folders on an XP machine in the house (you can’t even do this from one XP machine to the other out of the box). Also Mint is based of Ubuntu and is meant to be completely compatible.

Installation was easy. There are a couple extra steps involved if you plan on doing a dual boot with Windows (which I did). Check out this article on the Ubuntu forums for a solid how to . If your a visual learner you can check out my picture heavy installation tutorial (should be up by 2/8/2010).   After the partitioning it takes about 15 min to complete the install.

I did mention in “The Open Source Argument” That I had some difficulty with my graphics card. It’s not that it didn’t work but that I couldn’t do all the really neat and shiny stuff that I should have been able to do. Mint has a program called Compiz already built into it that allows for some pretty slick desktop effect Like stacking /wobbly windows and the cube. You know all the things Vista promised and never delivered. Check out this video. Doesn’t that look  fun er I mean productive. Windows 7  has some of the same features, but I have them running on a 1.6ghz single core netbook with 1gig of ram. I’d Like to see Windows 7 do the 3d cube on that machine. So yeah, the only real problem is that I had not been able to make the fun toys work properly.  I also use dual monitors (for the extra work space) and this ads to the problem.There was an update recently with the ATI driver for my card and it works flawlessly now. My advice as far as video cards are concerned is be patient and if possible go with an Nvidia card.

Fire Fox, Open Office, RyhthmboxSo one small setback aside I am very pleased with the out of the box performance and software packages. Open Office, Gimp, Fire Fox, and Rhythm box come standard with Mint and are all very intuitive, with the exception of Gimp (the interface takes a bit of re-learning if you are used to PS). Brasero, the disc burning utility works flawlessly and has an easy to use “wizard” type interface. For torrents it comes with the Transmission  BitTorrent Client, which is also very intuitive, even if it may lack a few of the bells and whistles of other BitTorrent clients.

As far as the other software I need( Scribus, Inkscape,  Kompozer, etc.), it’s just a few clicks away with an Internet connection; either through the Software manger or the package manager(some are in one or the other; a few need to be downloaded; one or two need to be compiled). The best part about the package/software manage is that it not only downloads it but it also installs it for you automagically . After another 20 min of that I now have a complete-ish graphic design workstation.

XsaneSome minor headaches came when trying to use my scanner. I have an Epson CX7800 all-in-one. Now you can try and run Epson Scan under Wine but I didn’t have much luck with that. There is a really powerful scan utility called Xsane for Linux that has more features than I would ever have need , but it is also pretty user friendly once you close out some of the scarier looking windows(click window and uncheck everything except preview). I found a good tutorial for fixing the problem with my all-in-one here, but it requires some time in the terminal. Mostly you just follow the instructions and cut/paste the commands. Eventually I found a scan utility called (oddly enough) Image Scan which had a download for my specific All-in-one. Image Scan is also very easy to use and has a lot of professional options (albeit not as many as Xsane). Set up on this was a breeze and it works flawlessly.

For my net book (Asus eeepc 1005ha) I was planning on using the eeebuntu version of linux. However they have not as of yet included my particular model of eeepc as a standard and I had some issues with the wireless. So I went with Mint again and had no problems at all with installation. Docky occasionally fails on my netbook,My beautiful wife but its only a minor irritation and eeebuntu is supposed to be releasing a version 4 any time now. Gimp and Inkscape work really well on this machine especially given the size of the processor and amount of ram. I’m taking a digital painting class and thought I might give gimp a try on this machine. The picture on the left is my first attempt (and I would say not to shabby). I’ve also done a ridiculous amount of web-coding on this machine using Amaya which is a decent WYSIWYG editor, although I mainly do hand coding and just check my changes with the graphical window.

So far I have installed Linux Mint on 6 machines ranging from a heavily used and abused 8 year old IBM Think Pad, no compiz on this one :(, to a shiny Quad Core with 4 gigs of ram. I have also successfully converted my  6 year old daughter, 69 year old father, and my 33 year old friend and business partner to Linux Mint. As of yet none of them have had any real complaints beyond the initial learning curve (which lasts a few days of regular use with guidance) and they are very pleased with the speed and performance; especially on the older machines.

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