A Beginner's Guide to OS Paradise

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A Beginner's Guide to OS Paradise

Postby Socman » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:08 am

A Beginner's Guide to OS Paradise...

This will be my story – a relative Linux newbie – wherein I'd like to share what brought me to Linux, what happened, all with an eye to helping you too make the transition to what I have come to see as a real, honest, open, unique and useful operating system. The best place to start will be, of course, the beginning...

The Beginning...

Like some of you I started computing way, way back in the beginning. Anybody remember the Commodore 64 or the Apple II? Or the first cute and boxy Mac? I owned the former. It was not long before I built an early Heathkit desktop computer that had the amazing capacity of – are you sitting down – two, yes two 360K floppy disk drives. Amazing! They were called floppy disk drives because the media was, in fact, a floppy, flexible disk. If you were hot you could fan yourself with one. Heathkit even had their own operating system, soon to be replaced by of course Bill Gate's then fledgling Microsoft. Unlike today, programmers really needed to be talented and creative in doing a lot with very little code that had to occupy what today would be called a very small file.

I still remember the astounding announcement of one of the first “hard” drives – not floppy – self-contained and holding a massive 10 megabytes of data. But I digress. Over those years and like most of you most of us adopted either the Microsoft or Apple/Mac operating systems. Since I entered the PC world I'll talk about Microsoft and Windows which I owned through all its various versions, right up to Windows 7. Next...

What I learned...

Windows seemed to never be quite developed and it soon became obvious that it seemed designed to be incomplete and perhaps intentionally buggy, requiring near constant updates and upgrades, and forcing you to buy the next version for not insignificant and hard-earned dollars. Viruses were a problem and the ever changing Windows gave the software designers fits and starts. As for us? Windows required constant attention with cleanup, defragging, upgrading, updating and regurgitating. Windows would freeze, downloaded software would be buggy and we all came to know the dreaded “blue screen”.

Intimately. Windows was not just an operating system, it was a marital commitment to a demanding partner suffering from borderline personality. It got to the point that when after several attempts and losses of data I finally got Windows 7 to work, had all the programs I wanted – all working – and vowed to not change another damn thing, to stick to the same safe websites and essentially putting myself in a frozen, closed loop that at least worked. Then two big, BIG I say, things happened to upset my carefully loaded apple cart.

The NSA and a Toshiba drive...

In that order. Thanks to a few brave whistleblowers we all learned what a runaway department of our government was actually doing. The NSA and its close affiliates were actually capturing, analyzing and rating not just the data of a few bad guys, but spying on all Americans in everyway possible. Cell phones, internet, traffic cams and much, much more. Worse yet they had requested and received or coerced some key large corporate players like AT&T, Google, Facebook and Microsoft to provide access, backdoors, sidedoors and trap doors into almost everything we said, did and bought, everywhere we went, day and night. Even our own homes and backyards – full of “smart” devices, including our own webcams - seemed not sacrosanct.

As for privacy and due process? Fugedaboudit.

It goes without saying that suddenly we were all shocked and uncomfortable with our already buggy world of Windows. Like many people things like Tor and Enigma, Comodo and Firefox, Duck Duck Go, et al, became very interesting. I was not alone in being forced to modify my once safe and frozen system to attempt to prevent such intrusion and illegality. At about the same time my year old Toshiba laptop and its “smart” software posted a chilling messege: “Your hard disk is about to fail, backup your data now”. The coincidence of these two led me to DDG to search for a solution...

I rediscover Linux...

Sure I'd heard of Linux, who hasn't? But like many if not most of us I had the impression of Linux as a hobby for command line commandos and one with a pretty steep learning curve. Perhaps I could make Windows work. Or perhaps not. Either way I proceeded to make a system image, and saved all my Windows data files from my about to fail internal drive (which had barely exceeded Toshiba's one year warranty) on a clunky old 160gb Iomega powered external. And ordered a new slim 1tb Seagate external.

I made sure to export my bookmarks, and email accounts, emails and addresses. It was fortunate that I'd already converted to T'bird mail and my Comodo Dragon. I went to my Program and Program86 folders and made note of all the programs I'd installed in case I had to rebuild Windows on a new drive.

Data safe I decided to at least research Linux using such searches as “best linux for beginners”. Inexorably I was led to Linux Mint Maya Mate (say that ten times fast), and to the stable Mint 13, guaranteed to be supported through 2017. I then managed to find some guides to installing it, and came to conclusion that I never again wanted to find myself dependent on a single drive or even a single operating system. I didn't trust my failing drive and I sure didn't want to install a dual boot on this undependable internal drive. So how did I proceed?

A “dual-boot” install...

My new 1 tb external arrived. I'd gone to Linux Mint and downloaded the 64 bit Maya Mate .iso and successfully made an image startup and installation disk. I F12'd to boot it up from my DVD drive, and following instructions created the necessary partitions for the Mint 13 using only about half the drive, with the intention of leaving the other half as an NTFS partition accessible by both my internal drive Windows or my new external drive Mint 13. I made sure the boot record was also installed on the external.

The result: dual booting from either the Windows internal, or from the external Linux, using F12 to make the choice. It worked perfectly. The advantages:

1. I got to keep Windows long enough to make sure this Linux thing was gonna work for me.
2. If I screwed up either system, or lost either drive I'd still be able to operate with the other.

So what happened then?

My failing internal finally failed. I checked the Toshiba warranty on hard drives and it was 3 years – relief! - but upon calling tech support learned that if the drive was purchased as part of a new laptop sale the warranty for all, including the damn drive, was only one year. Disbelief! The same drive, yet! Buy a drive from them, and its three years but buy it in a laptop and it's only one?! I plan to challenge this one, but again I digress. I found and bought a new WD Black large capacity internal guaranteed for FIVE years. No more surprises for this writer. I was left with a failed drive, and only my external Mint 13 (to which I'd already copied my Windows data files, bookmarks, etc. to the NTFS partition. Advantage #2 (above) came to pass rather quickly. I proceeded...

Getting Mint 13 to work...

Well, that's an understatement because unlike Windows, Mint 13 comes with a butt load – tons – of built in programs, all loaded, installed and ready to use. The basics were well covered by Fox to which I easily imported by bookmarks. Thunderbird? Also built in: fortunately I'd learned what files I needed from my Window's installed version and simply copied them into the proper folder of the Mint Thunderbird folder.

Hint: you can be no wiser than to transfer all your Window's Outlook data, emails, addresses etc. to the Window's version of T'bird: then you will have and can save the needed files from T'bird for easy transfer to your Linux T'bird. This will save you a bottle of Ibuprofen.

Wireless? Mint found mine, no problem at all. My HP printer required a little breath holding. Although I learned that the company of HP is one of the more supportive of Linux (other printers may not be), their many, many models have different capabilities depending on which Linux distribution (“distro”) and which printer.


I found that my wireless printer had “partial” capabilities. Another issue is the version HPLIP your Linux is delivered with. Turns out my printer required HPLIP 3.10.6 or later. Mint 13 comes with 3.12.2 and the latest version is 3.13.x. My theory:

Try Mint 13 and if it works, don't fack with it. I powered up the printer, plugged it into my USB four port extension ($10 at Tiger, and you will need one) and voila! Mint 13 found it for printing and faxing and its built in “Simple Scan” found it too. This is too easy! Next up:

Playing wth Mint 13...

If you are a reasonably experienced Window's user, ie just another well meaning advanced dummy like me, you will have NO problem getting going and making things work. The basics: browser, printer/faxer/scanner, email and office programs (Mint uses Libre Office) will cover all the usual and important stuff and are already there and can be made to work without much sweat.

Feeling comfortable I wanted to perk things up a bit. The Mint Maya supplied screen is green (mint, eh?) and clean, but let's be honest – not very exciting. Linux has a common cute character – the Penguin – that to me anyway is perfect. Fun, friendly and funny, cute and colorful and most importantly not at all businesslike and sterile. It makes you WANT to turn on your computer. So I found an appropriate image site (there's plenty of what's called Gnome Art and the like) and found my new screen friend for a colorful and welcoming background.

Next is what is called a dock. As you know Windows uses a thin strip or panel that runs across the bottom of your screen in all business, where's-my-report-chump fashion, with each open program occupying its own little rectangle, again in clonelike, businesslike Windows fashion. Although you can install a fewshortcut icons which tend to takeover your desktop -there's really not all that much room. To call the Windows desktop uninteresting would be an understatement.

A very highly rated Mint linked program (available via its “Software Manager”) is called Cairo-Dock (you will soon learn that Linux is all about fun and friendliness) and it is amazing. What they call a “dock” is a three dimensional animated series of funky icons that pop up (or out) from the bottom or even the sides of your screen. You can customize it with all your favorite programs, files, and procedures that you want. You can install subdocks which pop-up, but contain any number of other applications of your choice. There is even a setup category called “Fun” where you can further animate or enliven the dock(s), even add my favorite – a little Cairo-Penguin who jumps, flies, tumbles, sits, walks, slides, etc all around and over your dock.

The dock gives you quick access to you, your favorite things to do, organized the way you want and presented in a way to express how you work and – bear with me – feel! Yes, feel. Windows makes you feel like you're working stripping poultry, six chickens a minute, at an automated chicken factory farm. Not fun, not exciting, not personal and another chicken every ten seconds.

Not Linux, not Mint 13 and certainly not Cairo-Dock. I had no idea why anyone would want a dock – cute and fun, yes – but useful? You bet, and if you install this one you'll never go back.

A summary...

You've been very patient, and I'd be happy to share links and my experience with other dummies like me as to how moving to Linux and Mint Maya Mate went for me, and how easy it can be. If there is one thing I learned through what was honestly a pretty scary experience, it's this:

If I can do it so can you, believe me. Since the early days of computing, and especially with the whole buggy (and now NSA bugged) Windows environment I came to expect problems, and the problems were almost always Windows or its software, which led to unending problems, workarounds, and both minor and major disasters. Sure I made a few bonehead mistakes (like not backing up enough) or trying new software that screwed things up, but in general - if it didn't work it was Windows.

Having now being rather quickly being forced into Linux and specifically Mint Maya Mate, when something goes wrong it is now mostly me and my learning process but it is generally NOT the operating system. That is surely the primary difference, but there is more.

Linux “feels”, and it feels different. It does not look, feel or perform in Window's corporate, Tyson Chicken factory fashion. It is tremendously fun and the users' community over at the Linux Mint website and forum are incredibly helpful and understanding. I won't kid you, even a “distro” like 13 is not completely a slam-dunk, and will entail a little more attention and (simple) education, but you are more than capable of this and it will make you a better and more effective person. Linux – like its penguin – will become your valued and reliable friend.

I believe this is due to its open source community - who are in it for love, not money, and who aren't afraid to try new things and continually improve them. Although it's my experience that Mint Maya Mate is a great choice for a tentative newbie, it is clear that this stable version is one that you can grow with and customize to your heart's content.

So far I believe all my goals have been met. A fun, stable, competent and corporate/intelligence proof environment populated by real and mostly good people. My final advice: find and buy only free-range, non-processed, ATB free chicken...

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Re: A Beginner's Guide to OS Paradise

Postby ongdenny » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:11 am

Nice story.. ^_^

I myself just installed Linux Mint 15 Cinnamon, like it and love it.. It works out of the box, don't really need to install anything. Linux Mint Olivia detects my graphic card, I can even use dual monitor without any trouble at all. It just works. It's pretty user friendly and I can even configure my Mint with 2 users, using two different language interface!! My username is using the default english, and my wife's username is using Bahasa Indonesia. And surprisingly, everything in my wife's username is in Bahasa Indonesia!! Even the terminal is in Bahasa Indonesia. Nice, isn't it? ^_^

Considering I'm a newbie, and definitely not a computer expert, Linux Mint Olivia is definitely easy and user friendly. Sure we need to go to terminal sometimes, but with the help and support from this forum (and many other Linux forums), all we need to do is copy-paste the command (from other member's post answering our problems) to the terminal.

I remember once someone said to me "The terminal scare needs to go away man, that's just a tool. And if you go with highly supported distros, even barely needed nowadays."

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Re: A Beginner's Guide to OS Paradise

Postby Socman » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:49 am

Tips and links that helped...


Most of us will need java if only to run programs (for privacy, Java is not recommended for T'bird or Firefox). In my case I long used Arachnophilia html editor in Windows, and now in Mint, written in Java. Activating the Icetea-7 plug in (which also installs the Openjdk jre runtime needed) did NOT work with Arachnophilia. I learned that Oracle's Sun Java really is the best as it works for 99% of all needs.

The main reason many try Icedtea is not because it's better (it's actually worse), but because it's easy to add from the Software Manager. The good news: a website called Webupd8 which (a) allows a quick and easy install AND (b) the same kind of easy and automatic updating ala the Software Manager. It's here...

http://www.webupd8.org/2012/01/install- ... u-via.html
Also check this video to see how simple it is:

A simple install that will put the latest stable Oracle Java (version 7.x) on your computer.

Cairo Dock:

Since Mint Maya already works in Windowslike fashion, you may be wondering what all the fuss about docks (alternative program starters) is about. Many of old Window's users ended up with a desktop nearly covered with icons; further, the lower taskbar can really hold only so many programs before it too gets crowded. And last the old Window's environment is stodgy, dull and offputting. Enter docks, of which Cairo is much beloved and for good reason.

Cairo's 3D launchpad can be placed on any border of the desktop, although the bottom is logical. It allows a tremendous amount of easy customization that allows you to bring an amazing number of needed and frequent programs and tasks that you can place directly on the dock, or even subdocks that only appear when you need them. In my case I have complete access to my favorite programs, two drives, two partitions, Linux and with a subdock that pops open to find all my installed programs. All in fun fashion. You can even set up multiple desktops so that you can switch from one to another with a click. You can even detach a program from the dock and place it anywhere on the desktop (in my case a clock/calendar).

If you aren't getting this, try it and you'll see and probably be hooked. The point: you can now customize your desktop in a fun and extremely effective fashion - and still leave it uncluttered. Things only appear when you need them. Big improvement.

Tip: don't eliminate the Mate taskbar - simply move it to the top of your screen, and set it to retract (disappear) when not being used. You will still find use of it to access Mint features, or occasionally for quick changes between active programs.

Big tip: For my Mint Maya it is important to load it using their easy "one copy-paste" method, here:
http://www.glx-dock.org/ww_page.php?p=F ... ry&lang=en

Do NOT load it from the PPA as I did, as this will inhibit updating (don't ask). Trust me (and the writer of Cairo) on this. We had a nice interchange on his site over this issue. Use the "one copy-paste" method - it will work and Cairo will then update nicely along with the rest of Mate via the Update Manager. Trust me.

More tips later...

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