Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

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mrx3750
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Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by mrx3750 » Fri May 20, 2016 6:57 pm

But it keeps giving me reasons not to.

Okay lets start at the beginning. I am a Windows user, and a PC tech in my own right. Give me a Windows machine and I can diagnose it and undo pretty much anything that somebody has done to it.

Now that said I distrust Windows, and Windows 10 is not helping matters. It started with Win 98 keeping a record of every website you visited in IE through hidden index.dat files. It got worse with XP's mandatory phoning home to Microsoft, and now that seems tame compared to Windows 10's telemetry.

So since ~2001 I have been looking for the Windows replacement. I don't like Microsoft's sinister "you don't have a choice" undertones. I now run Windows 7 and have gone out of my way to prevent all updates that have anything to do with Windows 10 from being installed on my system. My plan is to stick with Windows 7 until Microsoft ends all support for it, then I really want to jump ship to Linux.

But it keeps giving me reasons not to.

I've been experimenting with various Linux distros, dating back to Mandrake Linux circa 2001. A couple weeks ago I decided to try Linux Mint after playing around with Ubuntu and Kodibuntu and deciding that I didn't really care for them. I found Linux Mint, decided I liked its GUI better, and gave it a shot. Initial results were promising.

I will say that Linux distros have improved in so many ways since I first tried them. The addition of software centers that have programs ready to install with a few clicks is a big step in the right direction. Hardware support has always been great. In fact I have found a good niche for various flavors of Linux in the form of live CD's (really more like live USB thumb drives these days) Parted Magic comes to mind. Awesome software tailored for PC diagnostics.

For specific tasks, Linux is great. However the sandbox is still pretty small and pretty restrictive. Try to venture outside of it or have something doesn't work right out of the box, and you are in for a nightmare.

I chose Linux Mint for a media center PC that I built. The computer isn't super powerful... Socket FM1 motherboard with an AMD a3400 APU and 2 GB of RAM. It was built on a $50 budget, and its purpose is to watch YouTube, play videos, and run a few Old Skool console emulators. (Sega Genesis, N64, Playstation) All stuff the hardware is easily capable of.

So theoretically Linux Mint should handle this easily, what with its built in video player, and software packages like WINE which allows for Windows compatibility. Good for running Project 64 which far as I know was only written for Windows. Yet it has failed on its ass and I am debating just installing Windows 7 on it so it will do what I want it to do. It has been one issue after another, after another.

I built the machine to be small and portible which means hooking it to various displays. I have an old Sony Trinitron (Early HDTV with a DVI port), a projector that does SVGA, and various PC monitors.

The Trinitron picture is ridiculously overscanned with no easy way to fix it.

The projector works but videos and the Sega Genesis emulator have appalling framerates, while Project 64 inexplicably works fine.

Even more inexplicably, The PC monitor I used to initially set up the system works fine, no issues there.

Now I am sure there are ways to fix these issues, and not all these issues are the fault of Linux. I am also sure that fixing these issues involve typing in some stupidly long command or set of commands in the terminal, praying to God that you got the syntax right, and hoping it does what you want it to do with no sure way of knowing until you hit the ENTER key. Were this Windows, I could solve the issue with a few mouse clicks and maybe adjusting a slider to resize the desktop.

But this is Linux, and under the veneer of the desktop environment, Linux Mint is still very user unfriendly.

I just wanted a portable PC with a robust media player and a little bit of gaming capability. What I've gotten so far is hours of frustration, disappointment, and weird issues that don't make sense. I may try to sort these issues out with the help of this forum. I'm not sure yet.

Anyway, just my thoughts on a promising flavor of Linux that's not *quite* ready to kick Windows to the curb.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by richyrich » Fri May 20, 2016 7:47 pm

First thing you should want to do, is to email AMD/ATI and complain to them (rip them a new one) about their horrendous track record of providing properly functional drivers for their products in Linux.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by mrx3750 » Fri May 20, 2016 8:57 pm

Yep. Like I said the issues aren't all Linux's fault. That said I believe the default driver is open source, and while it can be forgiven for not having the performance of AMD's proprietary drivers, not having easy to access settings is just frustrating.

Also weirdly the default driver renders Cinnamon in software mode when on my projector, but hooked to an LCD monitor, it works perfectly fine. It shouldn't even be able to tell the difference much less behave in such a way.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by sphyrth » Fri May 20, 2016 9:36 pm

Linux's hardware support has always been one of it's main weaknesses when it comes to user experience... even if it's getting less true as time goes on.
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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by mrx3750 » Fri May 20, 2016 9:46 pm

Huh. That sounds a bit odd to me as I've run various flavors on all sorts of hardware and moved installations to different motherboards, and they just continued to hum along fine, unlike Windows which freaks out if you swap in a motherboard with a different chipset.

I'd say it's not that the hardware support is bad, it's popping open the hood to change settings that's bad. Like in Windows you have the device manager, and various adjustments in the GUI, and if all that fails you have REGEDIT which is about as Linuxy as you typically get in Windows.

Now to Linux Mint's credit, having its version of the control panel accessible from the taskbar is very nice. Just wish there were more options in it for hardware configuration.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by pacho37 » Sat May 21, 2016 2:15 am

Problems with wine? This isn't a linux problem as such. Problems with inadequate driver support from AMD and poor performance? Ditto.
Installed some stuff and tried to run things on somewhat exotic hardware without testing in a live environment? Maybe not the best idea.
Expecting things to be sorted out over gui and not over command line? Why exactly?
And I hope this won't spiral into the billionth discussion about how ' Windows is better than linux' or 'linux is better than Windows' ;-)
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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by English Invader » Sat May 21, 2016 7:35 am

mrx3750 wrote:I just wanted a portable PC with a robust media player and a little bit of gaming capability. What I've gotten so far is hours of frustration, disappointment, and weird issues that don't make sense. I may try to sort these issues out with the help of this forum. I'm not sure yet..
I use Linux Mint for those things and more and it all worked out the box for me. My PC is an AMD dual core processor at 2.3Ghz, 4GB RAM (DDR2) and an HD5450 graphics card (open source driver). I use a regular LCD monitor with VGA output and don't use any fancy projectors or anything like that.

VLC isn't perfect but it has a ton of settings and also bypasses the region lock on your DVD drive so you can play DVDs from all regions. I play games from various sources:

Emulators - as good as XP now if not better thanks to Wine and the Software Centre. I highly recommend Kega Fusion (emulates Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System, Game Gear, SG-1000, Mega/Sega-CD and 32x). SNES9X also works straight out of the box on Linux which doesn't happen on Windows.

Steam - Linux client is good for indie and any mainstream titles that have been ported over. Windows client through Wine is ok as long as you're content with older titles. I highly recommend Ikaruga, Sonic CD and Jet Set Radio which all run flawlessly.

GOG - many of the games are just pre-configured DOSBox files and none of the Windows only games have posed any problems so far (and some real crackers like Sensible World of Soccer, Theme Hospital, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Screamer and Tyrian 2000). The pick of the bunch is POD Gold - not a DOS game put still runs perfectly.

Open Source - SuperTuxKart is the killer app here (insane amount of features for a FOSS game) and there are other games like Battle for Westnoth and Open TTD that I personally haven't gotten into but a lot of other people like.

Retail disc games - can be found in charity shops for as little as 50p and a good chunk of them will work through Wine. Play on Linux will greatly increase your library here but you'll still need bare bones Wine for a few games that don't like the POL installer. All the older GTA titles work fine from the original top down GTA to San Andreas.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by MintBean » Sat May 21, 2016 7:48 am

The overscan issue is probably down to the limitations of the TV. I've experienced this a bunch of times on Windows as well as Linux.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by mrx3750 » Sat May 21, 2016 9:56 am

English Invader wrote: Emulators - as good as XP now if not better thanks to Wine and the Software Centre. I highly recommend Kega Fusion (emulates Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System, Game Gear, SG-1000, Mega/Sega-CD and 32x).
Kega Fusion is what I use.

I tried the Linux version first, but it didn't work right (no full screen. Again could be drivers, could be Linux, I don't know)

So I installed the Windows version, and on an LCD monitor and the Trinitron it worked perfectly fine. On the projector the framerate slowed to less then one frame a second. Literally slideshow territory. Yet Project 64 worked fine (no full screen either but it was consistent across all three monitors).

MintBean wrote:The overscan issue is probably down to the limitations of the TV. I've experienced this a bunch of times on Windows as well as Linux.
Yes and no. Yes in that the TV is older so one can expect this sort of thing. No in that there is no easy way to compensate for the TV's limitations and the fact that it's seen as a projector with no easy way to say "This isn't a projector. Give me some overscan options!"

pacho37 wrote: Expecting things to be sorted out over gui and not over command line? Why exactly?
Yes. And why? Because adjusting a slider or clicking a button is faster and easier then typing in sudo drivername --/adjust-obscure-setting-#45271-90% followed by typing in your password, and watch it either not work, or make the wrong adjustment so you have to try and guess what you need to type in. Then you've wasted an hour for something that would have taken you 30 seconds at most if you could do it in the GUI.

Yes this can be partly blamed on ATI/AMD but it goes back to what I said earlier about when something doesn't work out of the box, your only hope is typing in some long command or set of long commands.


Simply put, most people who use computers hate command lines and that's what cripples Linux. Solve this like Mint seems to have partly done, and I can see adoption soaring.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by Moem » Sat May 21, 2016 10:42 am

mrx3750 wrote: Simply put, most people who use computers hate command lines and that's what cripples Linux. Solve this like Mint seems to have partly done, and I can see adoption soaring.
This is true, and simple; what it isn't, is easy. The command line offers so many commands, many of which can be used with specific arguments (not sure if that's the correct terminology, but it's probably clear enough) that it's very hard and a lot of work to make GUI controls for all of these commands and combinations thereof.
Plus, most of this work is necessarily done by volunteers. The problem isn't that the people behind the different distros and applications do not realise that many users don't love the CLI; believe me, they are aware. It's mostly, as far as I can see, a matter of resources.

The CLI (command line interface) is by its very nature a really powerful tool. It can do things for which there is not, and will never be, a button. Once you are familiar with it (which I am not) it can also be both faster and easier than doing things through the GUI. You don't need to love it, but it would be smart to realise that sometimes, it's the best tool for the job at hand.
And in such cases, when you have a problem, it's way easier for someone else to help you out by giving you a line of code that you can copy and paste into a terminal, than to painstakingly type out all the steps to guide you through an interface that may or may not be consistent with her/his own version.

But the good news is that many users here will in such cases be happy to give you that line of code to copy and paste, out of sheer friendliness and helpfulness. :D

Here's another thought: if Linux adoption would soar, who would benefit from that? In whose interest would that be? It's not like the folks behind Mint are selling it. It's not really a product; it's certainly not a commercial one in the traditional sense.
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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by Moem » Sat May 21, 2016 10:44 am

PS: to spare yourself from those hours of frustration, ask your questions sooner. People will do their best to help, I promise. And it's way easier to help someone before they're all hot under the collar.
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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by English Invader » Sat May 21, 2016 11:47 am

mrx3750 wrote:
English Invader wrote: Emulators - as good as XP now if not better thanks to Wine and the Software Centre. I highly recommend Kega Fusion (emulates Mega Drive/Genesis, Master System, Game Gear, SG-1000, Mega/Sega-CD and 32x).
Kega Fusion is what I use.

I tried the Linux version first, but it didn't work right (no full screen. Again could be drivers, could be Linux, I don't know)
You could try changing the resolution in the KF video settings. Most of the XP-based emulators are geared for a 4:3 aspect ratio and some of the more contemporary monitors don't like it. I had a similar problem with a Windows 7 laptop last year - W7 wouldn't give me full screen with 4:3 but when I wiped it for Mint it gave me 4:3 full screen with black borders on the left and right hand sides. Windows 7 only gave me full screen with 16:10.

Also, full screen is Alt+Enter on the Linux version of KF instead of Esc.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by mrx3750 » Sat May 21, 2016 12:09 pm

Moem wrote:
Here's another thought: if Linux adoption would soar, who would benefit from that? In whose interest would that be?
Believe it or not, Linux users.

The issues with drivers, the issues I had with Steam, which I didn't even touch on here, and various other headaches and annoyances are because support for Linux is lukewarm at best. It's lukewarm because it doesn't matter how powerful the command line is, most people are too lazy to be bothered with it. This sometimes includes me. This means a still relatively small userbase and it means most companies can ignore it or give it low priority support. This hurts everybody who uses Linux.

Now support is there and indeed it's growing because Linux is slowly... reluctantly moving into the mainstream. This means getting away from the command line because for most users, it's simply easier. They were raised on Windows, it's what they know, and to a degree, Linux Mint knows this. That's why I even bring it up. Just look at its Cinnamon GUI. It's clearly designed with Windows users in mind.

I'm just saying it needs to go farther.

I think I've said all I need to say. I'm going to keep playing with Linux Mint. I might try it on some more hardware, I might try to resolve the issues I'm having with the help of this forum. I'll give it a chance.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by pacho37 » Sat May 21, 2016 12:27 pm

Regarding command line solutions over GUI ones: it might be easier for you to click a button or adjust a slider but for someone who is trying to help you it's the other way round: what distro are you using? what desktop environment? which particular version? do I have to research DE unknown to me to see if you have to change settings in ' System settings' or maybe 'Control Center' or even 'Control Panel'? or maybe I could just say 'open the console and type 'x' in? what is exactly easier?
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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by Moem » Sat May 21, 2016 12:55 pm

mrx3750 wrote:
Moem wrote:Here's another thought: if Linux adoption would soar, who would benefit from that? In whose interest would that be?
Believe it or not, Linux users.
A fair point. Not sure why I'd find that hard to believe. But most users are not the people who can help make distros and applications rely less on the CLI.
mrx3750 wrote:I'm just saying it needs to go farther.
You're in luck: that is exactly what's been going on over the last 10 years. :D
Seriously: it sounds like time is on your side here, and you are preaching to the choir. The command line will always be a potent tool, but everyday users who do everyday things will see it less and less. Personally, I see very little of it; my mother, who is another happy Mint user, never sees it at all. It all depends on what you want to use your computer for.
Apparently you like to experiment, or you wouldn't use Wine to run Irfanview; you'd just use a native image viewer for that. That is not a bad thing, just keep in mind that Wine comes with a certain level of risk, as I'm sure you realise.
(Edit: I thought you mentioned Irfan. Maybe I got that wrong. Not sure why that happened.)

I'm glad that you're going to keep playing with Mint. You'll learn a lot, and you may have fun doing it, too. Don't hesitate to ask questions, and good luck!
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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by mrx3750 » Sat May 21, 2016 2:18 pm

Thanks. I'm encouraged. It's nice when we can see where each other is coming from.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by Portreve » Sat May 21, 2016 4:18 pm

@OP: So much high school drama. Wow.
Everything is in hand. With this tapestry... and with patience, there is nothing one cannot achieve.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by amethyst_igor » Sun May 22, 2016 10:08 am

mrx3750 wrote:I chose Linux Mint for a media center PC that I built. The computer isn't super powerful... Socket FM1 motherboard with an AMD a3400 APU and 2 GB of RAM. It was built on a $50 budget, and its purpose is to watch YouTube, play videos, and run a few Old Skool console emulators. (Sega Genesis, N64, Playstation) All stuff the hardware is easily capable of.
A common denominator among people discussing problems on this forum is they run an AMD cpu. That's fine for Windows. But I learned over time that Intel is the way for Linux. Intel makes better chips anyhow for both operating systems. That said, some people have gotten their AMD to work okay. You can read all about Catalyst on the archlinux wiki. Always go there for your in-depth information.

But rather than read all day, I advise taking a short cut. So, sell your AMD cpu on E-bay, and use part of the money you get to buy a used cpu, motherboard or even complete desktop with an Intel cpu. Research beforehand to make sure it loves Linux. That's what I did. I'm all Intel. I have a Brother printer, various Acer monitors, a large Sharp HDTV connected via HDMI, speakers and so on, and everything works fine, no problems and no need for me to use the command line for anything.

The thing with Linux is, some hardware manufacturers do not provide good support. So, you have to research before you buy. There is not anything Linux Mint can do about that, and not anything Linus Torvalds can do about that. The kernel devs try to do open source stuff for undocumented hardware but it is reverse engineering. So, file your complaints in the right dept., the hardware dept., namely AMD. Some other hardware such as printers and scanners and some laptops also will give problems, again research before you buy.

Once you have things working, you will be dazzled how nice it is to reinstall anytime you feel like it on multiple computers, tweak your system any which way you like, and how easy it is to do various tasks that Windows turns into a money-making service for Microsoft. Over time, the savings are substantial both in time and money and that is why people use Linux on the desktop. I have six computers, all with Linux. If they were on Windows 10, that would be hundreds just for the licenses, but then on top of that, I'd have to double down on the hardware to bring it up to spec for Windows, which would be another couple hundred bucks. And Microsoft would be slurping information about me all the time, using my bandwidth to do so.
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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by Condorman » Sun May 22, 2016 10:51 am

Haven't used Kega Fusion for ages. Retroarch all the way now, although I will add that I have struggled to get PSX working on any Linux install with any program. Luckily, I bought an Android box for that (MOJO), and it is a way better option imho.

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Re: Linux Mint. I want to like it, I really do... (general impressions)

Post by majpooper » Sun May 22, 2016 12:50 pm

A common denominator among people discussing problems on this forum is they run an AMD cpu.
Is this really an accurate statement? I know AMD graphics cards are not as well supported on Linux but CPU issues ????????
That said, some people have gotten their AMD to work okay.
I guess that's me - except I didn't have to do anything to my AMD rig to work OK. Just installed LM and it worked out of the box. RAID was a bit tricky but that hardly had anything to with having an AMD CPU.

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