A couple of weeks ago I installed Linux Mint 12 (Lisa) on this laptop.
It wasn’t without problems as the ATI video card seemed to object. I tried the two drivers suggested by Mint and neither worked. It either reverted to a basic GNOME desktop or else presented me with a screen where have the text was randomly missing or pop up windows had their contents screwed up. In the end I removed all the drivers and for some reason it then worked perfectly.
Since then, I have installed it on two other machines. The first of those again gave some problems [using a Nvidia card] but once again adding and then removing the drivers seemed to cure the problem. The third machine [an ATI card] installed perfectly first time without touching the suggested drivers.
My original intention was to run Lisa using the MATE desktop which carries the old Mint Menu. However, to my surprise I like the new GNOME 3 interface. It took a couple of days to get used to but I am happy with it now, even though I still try to check the time at the bottom right corner of the screen.
There are a couple of very small niggles that annoy me. One is the lack of any apparent method to customise the top and bottom bars. For example, it would be nice to be able to increase their height to make the icons a little bigger and more visible. There seems to be a general lack of right-click options which is frustrating at times as it means a trip around the houses to find some functions.
One feature I missed straight away was the ability to edit the menus. In the end I installed Alacarte. Problem solved.
Generally speaking though, I am happy with 12. A tip of the cap to the crowd in Mint!
A while ago, I was using Skype (beta 18.104.22.168, 64 bit, running on Linux Mint) and tried to send a file to the other person. The act of clicking Send File however caused the entire Skype program to crash.
I did a bit of hunting but didn’t find any resolution to the problem. I did find rumours that the problem may lie in a bug in Ubuntu (upon which Mint is based). However I did find a way of preventing the crash. It is probably the simplest fix I have ever found.
One of the big problems with Linux is that it has to have its own hard disk, or a section of a hard disk that is dedicated.
The simple reason for this is that Windows runs on a file system called NTFS and Linux doesn’t!
So you want to install Linux onto a machine that already runs Windows, but you are not quite sure how to do it? It is really quite simple.
For the purpose of this demonstration, I am going to install Linux Mint onto a Windows machine, though this should apply equally well to any Ubuntu based Linux.
Before we go any further, BACKUP any essential files to a CD or to another external disk. We are going to be playing around with disk formatting, and in the eventuality of anything going wrong, everything will be lost off the disk. However, I have played around with disk formatting and a failure is rare. It’s best to be on the safe side though.
Insert your Linux DVD and boot up. Strange things seem to happen and in a short while you will see this appear on your screen –
This is a running version of the system, but at the moment it is running purely in memory. It has not been installed yet. Double click on the ‘Install Linux Mint’ icon. After a short while it will ask for your language of choice. Next it checks that there is sufficient space on the disk, whether the computer is plugged in and if it’s connected to the Internet. The first two are essential. If you haven’t enough space then forget it (unless you can archive a few Gigabytes of unused files off the computer). The power connection is very important as if the battery runs down during the installation process you could potentially lose everything.
Now we come to the interesting part. It asks where we want to install Linux. The option to select is the third one – ‘Something else’
A new screen pops up and shows the current state of your disk.
In my example, I have a 51.7 Gb disk, and Windows is installed in the main area – dev/sda2. It is flagged as NTFS and takes up 51.6 Gb but we are only using 6.4 Gb. There is nowhere to install Linux so we will have to make space. Select the large partition and click on the ‘Change’ button. A new window pops up –
Now I want to allocate about half my disk to Linux, so I want to create about 25Gb of free space. Where the box says 51640, I change it to 26640, thereby freeing up 25Gb of space. Do not change anything else on that screen. It will immediately warn you that it is about to do something drastic! It will do a bit of disk checking and then come back with a new screen –
Note how there is now 25Gb of free space, and the NTFS partition has shrunk to the 26640 that we specified. In actual fact, nothing has actually happened yet, so we are still free to abandon the whole process.
Next we want to create the area for Linux to reside.
Basically Linux requires two partitions – one for the actual installation and one called a ‘Swap area’. However we are going to install Linux in three partitions – the Swap area, and area for Linux itself, and an area for all our own files and settings. This makes life a LOT easier when reinstalling Linux at a later stage. It separates Linux from our own files and if Linux goes belly-up, our files are untouched.
Select the line marked ‘free space’ and then click ‘Add…’
The first partition we will create is the Swap area. Enter 2000 (2Gb) in the size box. Change ‘Ext4 journaling file system’ to ‘swap area’. Leave the other two options alone. Your screen should be showing as follows –
Click on OK.
Next we will create the area for Linux. Select the free space again. Select ‘Add…’ and then set the size to around 6000 (6Gb should be enough) . Leave ‘Ext4 journaling file system’ as it is. Change Mount point to ‘/’, and click OK.
Last but not least, we want to set up what is called the Home area for our own files and settings.
Select the free space again. Leave the size as it stands, which means we will grab all the available space. Leave ‘Ext4 journaling file system’ as it is. Change Mount point to ‘/home’, and click OK.
You should now see this –
Note how we now have a swap area and two ext4 areas, and the larger one (marked ‘/home’) is 17Gb. That should be plenty!
Now we reach the stage where we have to commit ourselves. There is no going back once you hit the ‘Install Now’ button, but don’t worry unduly!
Click ‘Install Now’.
That’s it. Linux will resize the old partition and create the new ones. It will ask all the usual questions about Timezones, Usernames, Passwords and the like, but the hard bit is complete.
SOME ADDITIONAL NOTES.
The sizes I have used above are not hard and fast. Some recommend that the Swap size should be around the same as the memory size, while others will say that you need twice that. This machine runs very happily on a 3Gb Swap, while the memory is 4Gb! The root ‘/’ partition can be as low as 3Gb, but some programmes do install in there so it needs a bit of breathing space. Also, some programmes require a lot of temporary files, and they will be written in there, so I tend to give it at least 10Gb to play with. The home ‘/home’ partition can be as big as you like. Mine is currently around 150Gb, but then I use programmes like VirtualBox which can take up a LOT of space.
If you are reinstalling Linux then the above procedures are the same. However there is one vital thing to note –
When you are allocating the partitions, select the root ‘/’ partition and leave it as Ext4, but mark it for formatting. However when it comes to the Home ‘/home’ partition, allocate it as Ext4, using ‘/home’ but DO NOT FORMAT IT. If you format it, it will wipe your files irretrievably. On the other hand if you don’t format it, all your settings and files will remain for future use.
One of the many things I like about Linux is the ability to create partitions for various areas of the OS. The lesson I learned in the past year is that one essential trick is to give /home its own partition. The rest can fend for themselves.
My current setup is an extended partition beside my Windows one. The extended is divided into the Root partition (around 12Gb) and the Home partition (around 90Gb). Some may say that allocating 12Gb to Root is a lot (it will work on a quarter that) but some applications require a lot of temporary space, and the /tmp folder is included in that partition.
As a result of this partitioning, all my personal stuff, from documents and downloads through to program settings and mail accounts are all stuck in the Home partition. The trick then is that when installing (or reinstalling) a new version of the OS, you set the small Root partition to be formatted and set the large Home partition to ‘/home’ but do not set this partition for formatting.
The end result is that the OS is installed in a nice clean partition, but all your files and settings remain intact. Fire up Firefox? There are all your bookmarks, and even the tabs that were open before the installation. Open up Thunderbird? There are all your accounts and mails.
A lovely example of the convenience of this method is that I have VirtualBox installed. I have several virtual machines set up, including one for Windows 7. After the upgrade to the OS, it is a simple matter of reinstalling VirtualBox and voila – there are all my virtual machines just as I left them. I have saved myself the bother of having to restore tens of gigabytes of data.
All in all, from burning the DVD through to having all programmes up and running took less than an hour, and I use quite a few programmes that aren’t on the release DVD. Not bad?
Now I have to play with my new version to see what’s what!
Recently I started messing around with screen captures.
There was no reason for this other than straightforward curiosity, and the belief the the best way to learn anything is through trial and error.
Obtaining a static snapshot of any part of the screen is pure simplicity in Linux. I use Shutter and it does everything I could possibly ask.
Dynamic recording of a desktop (or part thereof) is a little more complex, as I discovered.
I searched around and discovered recordMyDesktop, which on the face of it does precisely what I wanted. I went into my Software Manager and downloaded it along with gtk-recordmydesktop, which is its front end. Both were downloaded form the Linux Mint repository so I didn’t expect any problems. I fired up the programme, selected a portion of the screen and clicked on ‘record’. That was the start of my problems.
Having let the programme record for about fifteen seconds, I told it to stop. Immediately the recordMyDesktop-encoder appeared on my screen with its progress bar and a dire warning that doing anything to it would lose my recording. Two things worried me straight away. The first was a ghost outline of the area I had recorded, which refused to go away, and the second was that the progress bar did absolutely nothing. It steadfastly remained stuck on 0% and that was it. In the end, the only way I could shut the whole lot down was to kill the process using System Monitor.
I searched the Internet, but could find no resolution. After a lot of false trails I decided that recordMyDesktop was just not going to work so I decided to try alternative methods. During my research, I came across one tutorial that talked about command line capture using ‘ffmpeg’. I decided to try that, even though I am not a particular fan of command lines. However, I discovered that ffmpeg is not part of the base install of Linux Mint. No problem – I installed it.
It was at that point I had a thought that maybe that was why recordMyDesktop wasn’t working. I tried it again, and it worked perfectly!
As a test, I recorded a Movie Player visualisation. As I wanted good sound quality, I decided to record just video, and to dub on sound afterwards. Capturing the video went without a hitch, but I ended up with an ‘OGV’ file which could be played in Media Player but that’s all. I wanted to dub the sound on, and had chosen Avidemux as my chosen application, but that didn’t recognise OGV files.
I resorted to the Internet again and found the solution –