Archive for the ‘Linux Mint’ Category

New Laptop! Dell Inspiron 7000 13-7378

Amazing. Amazing on two fronts. First that I have actually gotten off my bum and decided to make another post, and secondly that I have finally decided to pull the trigger on getting a new laptop.

I am one of those guys who likes to talk himself out of making a purchase, even though I need it. I have been working with some pretty old equipment for a long while. Using two old Dell laptops, one of which has a bad (dimming) screen, and the other whos dvd drive and sound card have blown out. Of course the parts are not interchangeable between the two. Well, at Christmas time I finally decided (my Mom talked me into it) that maybe since I spend most of my life banging on my computers that I ought to just go out and get a decent one to use.

I actually decided on a 13 inch Macbook Air, which is really a pleasure to use, runs linux just fine (of course I would run linux on it) and is aesthetically pleasing, light and durable. Well, it just so happens that I had my wife shopping with me and she started looking at the Dell laptops and saw one that was similar in look and specs to the Apple and a couple hundred dollars cheaper (bingo!).

This Dell is a 13 inch 2 in 1 i7 laptop encased in aluminum with 12Gb ram, 256Gb ssd, backlit keyboard and a *gorgeous* high def display. It has all the usual ports and, like you would expect, everything works right out of the box with linux. I am running Mint 18.1 on it at the moment and couldn’t be happier. Now not only can I see what I am doing, but I can hear sound on the laptop too! Having good battery life is another bonus with a new laptop 😉

If you are looking for a really sweet deal on a darn good new linux laptop, definitely go give this one a look. I found it for $700 at BestBuy and it was the last one they had in stock. Plenty of the i5s and i3s still there though, of course 😉

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Replace HD in Dell Inspiron N5110

I am no stranger to replacing bad equipment in servers, desktops and laptops, but some laptops don’t make it easy. This was one.

A couple years ago I swapped out an aging hdd in an older Dell Inspiron with a new ssd and, boy, the performance improved drastically. Lately, I have been using a new(er) Inspiron, an N5110 and have noticed that it sure took a while for things like bootup and Chrome to initially load. It was really starting to annoy me, so I looked up the specs on the original hdd and found that there was a squirrel in there pounding out the bits with a chisel, so I decided it was high time for a modern drive and splurged on a 240Gb ssd. I assumed that this was a simple pull the panel off the bottom and swap kind of procedure like the old Dell, so I pulled off the hdd sized panel and boom. The only thing under there was more plastic and a small memory slot???!!

Not to be outdone I turned to youtube, just like an self respecting techie would and was pleased to find some instruction there. You can find the video i used here if you are interested:

That is where is starts to get fun. Apparently you have to disassemble THE ENTIRE LAPTOP to get the hdd out. You have to pull out the battery, memory, all the screws on the bottom, the dvd drive, then flip the machine over and pull off the keyboard, unscrew and pull off the top plate and all the ribbon cables, then unscrew and remove the entire motherboard and one of the monitor mounts. The hdd is underneath the motherboard. Unreal.

Believe it or not, after all that I only had one extra screw(?) and the laptop booted up on the first try. Now came the good part. How to get my existing Linux Mint install onto the new ssd. Normally I would have just used a disk cloning program or dd to do it but the old hdd was 500Gb and this new ssd is only 240Gb. There are also some complicated tutorials on the web on how accomplish this task but let me share with you the easy way.

Do a clean install of your OS. Really. With Linux it takes 15 minutes tops. Don’t bother with any of your configs or personalization. It’s a dummy install to not only get the partitioning correct on your ssd but generate the correct /etc/fstab file (or get the new uuids and make the correct partitions bootable.

Once you are done, boot into your install media again (I used USB because it was faster) and mount your new installation AND your old hdd (I used an external usb drive case for this). I made the directories I needed by doing (as root) “mkdir -p /mnt/newdisk ; mkdir -p /mnt/olddisk” and then putting things in place with “mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/newdisk ; mount /dev/sdc1 /mnt/olddisk”. I should mention here that my partitions were the default Mint layout with a big Linux partition first, then an extended partition, then swap, on both drives.

Once mounted I made a backup copy of the /etc/fstab on my olddisk (the hdd) and then I copied the /etc/fstab from the newdisk to the /etc/fstab on the olddisk. Now the fun part. Go to (cd) the /mnt/newdisk directory. MAKE SURE IT’S THE NEWDISK DIRECTORY, and “rm -rf *”. That is going to delete all the files you just installed. It’ll only take a second.

Next is the long part. I used rsync to copy all my old files over. If you aren’t a hoarder like me with six linux dvd isos in your download directory and 50Gb of music files, it’ll go a lot faster, but all the same, it’s pretty cool to watch. I did a “rsync -rvlpogdstHEAX /mnt/olddisk/ /mnt/newdisk”. Make note of those /’ in there or you’ll end up having to move stuff around afterwards. In retrospect, I think you could use just rsync -av, but ymmv. What you will see is every file on your old drive being copied to the new one. Like I mentioned, this takes a few minutes, just sit back or grab a coffee. Once it’s done you are *almost* ready.

The very last thing you’ll need to fix is your grub.cfg file. These days everyone wants to use uuid to assign devices and your boot file is still looking for your old hdd. Open up a couple terminals. In one, vi /mnt/newdisk/boot/grub/grub.cfg and in the other vi /mnt/newdisk/etc/fstab. In the fstab file you will see the uuid for your new ssd drive. It’s the first uuid mentioned and mounted at /. Io You need to replace the old one in there with the new one from your fstab. It’s easier than you think in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your goodies.

One last note. You may want to increase the life of your ssd ehink in vi. Just do a “:g/olduuidstring/s//newuuidstring/g” and hit enter where olduuidstring is your old uuid and newuuidstring is your new uuid from the fstab file. Once it is finished replacing you probably need to save it with a “:wq!” because your system will undoubtedly say it’s a read only file. The reboot! You should be greeted shortly with a much faster but very familiar linux install, complete with all your by adding a couple options to your /etc/fstab file. Those options are discard and noatime. These options deal with extra disk writes that you really don’t need on ssd. Your / line options in the fstab should look something like “ext4 discard,noatime,errors=remount-ro 0 1”.


Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

“Fixing” an old laptop

Dell Inspiron 1545

Dell Inspiron 1545

A few years ago when I was in the market for a new laptop I picked up one of the then wildly popular and cheap Dell Inspiron 1545. There are gobs of these running around now and you can find them cheap if you look (click the pic for links to Amazon). I used this for for, it seems, forever. I only ever had one problem with it – a small plastic chip in one of the corners that I repaired with superglue (you would never notice). Lately, though, it has been running noticeably slow. I don’t know if it’s because it’s actually getting slower, the software is just getting fatter, my work computer is blazing fast in comparison, or a combination of any/all of those. Either way, it’s really been bugging me so much lately that I had considered just getting a new lappy. Before I did, I decided to look over the specs to see what I actually had here. Mine is a core duo 2.2Ghz with 4Gb ram and a 320gb HDD. Running Linux this thing *should* run like it was on fire. So why so freaking slow? A quick look at “top” revealed what had to be the problem. I was at almost 0% CPU and only 1.5Gb ram. It HAD to be the slow as pencil and paper hard drive writes and reads. A quick search says that somewhere in between now and the last time I came up from air at work SSD drive prices dramatically reduced, so I stopped by a bigbox store and picked up a 240Gb SSD for <$100 and screwed it in and WHAMO! It's like I have a brand new laptop! Seriously! Not only is the difference noticeable, it's amazing, so much so that I needed to break my blogging silence to tell you about it. If any of you have an aging laptop like me that runs but is "meh", it's totally worth it to spend the 15 minutes it takes to do this upgrade. It certainly just saved me $500 and I am now, once again, perfectly happy with my trusty old (but well kept) Dell Inspiron 1545.

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

Hey! Wait a Mint-it…

Broken Cinnamon

Broken Cinnamon

I spent an entire night in frustration with this so if anyone has any ideas, I am all ears.

I upgraded my Linux install from Mint 13 (yes I know – old) to a fresh v15. After a couple hours the lappy locks up hard, and I mean hard. Video still running but nothing else working at all. No kb/mouse/ssh/nothing. I jumped to a VT and let it go until it hung again and see this (pictured). DAMN, I thought. I have a bad CPU – just my friggin luck. I decided to do a bit of googling around and I saw a post somewhere that someone had some hard lockups running Cinnamon on v13 (I think it was), so I figured I would install XFCE and let it run under that just for a test. Guess what? It ran all night under XFCE with no issues. Although I am relieved that I probably don’t need to buy another new laptop (I am so damn poor), I am somewhat frustrated by the effect of Cinnamon on my machine. Anyone, anyone?


Well, it finally happened again. It appears that it is actually the CPU. Dang.

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

WOOT! Linux Mint 15 “Olivia” RC candidate released.

Linux Mint

Linux Mint

Yes, you heard it right! Get your backups up to date and your gear ready for the next release of the best Linux distribution available. Grab it here:

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Linux Mint 14: Keyboard Shortcut Fix

Linux Mint

Linux Mint

Just a quickie update post before I forget. I mentioned one of the things I was still waiting for before I would start using Linux Mint 14 Cinnamon Edition in earnest was the keyboard shortcuts needed to be fixed. Well, apparently that is not a priority because they are still broken. A quick search in the Mint forums, however, reveals a stellar work around that can be easily applied. Read more here.

Special thanks go out to ElectricKite for this one!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Linux Mint 14 XFCE Edition

Linux Mint 14 xfce

Linux Mint 14 xfce

Woo! It has been a while since I posted about any linuxy things here and I was just going to veg today, but I promised 🙂

It’s no secret that I have had a thing for Linux Mint for quite a while. It is a solid reliable distribution that “just works” and, personally, it’s the one I have to piss with the least in order to get it working the way I like. That being said, as I posted about earlier, I noticed a few things on Mint 14 (Cinnamon) that contributed to keeping me off of it for a while. Most have been fixed, like the processor pegging, but the nagging issue with not being able to set custom keyboard shortcuts was a stinker. Honestly, at this point I have been so busy the last fre weeks I haven’t had a chance to see if that has been resolved yet. All that being said, I have this old laptop that I have traditionally run the XFCE edition on because it haqs lower resources. The XFCE edition has always worked a treat on this thing and I finally had the opportunity to upgrade from Mint 13 to 14 and really beat on it a little bit. In fact, that is what I am typing on now.

So just to be clear, I followed the recommended upgrade path, which is to say, clean reinstall. This seems to bother a lot of people but in Mint’s defense, I believe this is the best way to go from distribution to distribution. When you do an in place upgrade (which is possible) it takes tremendously longer imho, and then you are left sometimes with little residual bits and bobs issues to deal with that may or may not spring up on you at an inopportune time. Conversely, the clean install method of backing up your important bits, clean reinstall, and restoring the bits again is really relatively quick and painless. It does count on you having good backups, but, for sure, if you are doing an in place upgrade without good backups, you are lighting the disaster fuse 🙂

So, what is new on xfce edition? It doesn’t seem like there are any earth shattering changes here, mostly userland and kernel updates. Everything works really well and very quick, just as it did under 13. I would like to say I am surprised, but I am not. I have come to expect a certain level of quality from the Mint folks and they hardly ever disappoint. That’s why I always recommend their distribution, especially to newbies. People need to have a go-to distro that just works.

If you haven’t tried XFCE before and are contrasting it with Cinnamon or gnome (standard) you would certainly feel right at home and comfortable. While being a good bit lighter than the other DE’s xfce does well with providing you a similar set of programs, look and feel. Instead of a nautilus file manager, you generally have thunar, which works very well and much the same. Other differences are xfterm instead of gnome-terminal – still carries much of the same feel and functionality, etc.. You also have many of the same setup options, such as some ability for composting, screensavers, desktop backgrounds, virtual desktops and the rest of the things you are used to having control over. The menuing system has a bit of a different feel, but it is easily navigable.

As a lighter desktop option, there are still some things, some tweaks that you might need to take care of manually though. I will give you one example. For one reason or another xfce’s default icon text color was black. Well, as you can see from my screenshot, that doesn’t really work well for people like myself who like darker backgrounds (the default bg for Mint is a very light grey). I wanted to change that text color to white so I could, you know, read it 🙂 While not very hard, it involves editing the .gtk-xfce file in your home directory and changing all the color codes (3 there) from #000000 to #FFFFFF. The resulting file looks like so:

style “xfdesktop-icon-view” {
XfdesktopIconView::label-alpha = 0

widget_class “*XfdesktopIconView*” style “xfdesktop-icon-view”

The rest of the customization, outside of fixing network manager’s dns control, which I think is a horrible idea, is pure userland. There are a bunch of programs that I personally use that make me able to do what I do and I naturally put all my customization into a script to be able to share it. You’ll need to run this as root and not just sudo it to get it to work correctly. To oget to a root account simply open a term and do a “sudo su -” and you’ll br prompted for your password. Once you give it, you are root. Just run this program for all the goodies. One other oddity I found was that after the initial reboot, when you are logging in, you *must* choose xfce as your session type. If you do not, you won’t get a desktop environment 🙂 Once you choose it once, though, it’ll ask you if you want to make it your default. Yes is a good answer here 🙂 Then you’ll be a rockin’!

Here is



# Test for UID=0
if [ “$(echo $UID)” != “0” ]
echo “You must be superuser to run this program. Try ‘sudo su -‘ then ‘./’”

sed -i -e ‘s/dns=dnsmasq/#dns=dnsmasq/g’ /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf

apt-get update
apt-get -y install xterm
apt-get -y install openssh-server ssh
apt-get -y install sshfs
apt-get -y install smbfs
apt-get -y install irssi
apt-get -y install vpnc
apt-get -y install screen
apt-get -y install vlc
apt-get -y install mencoder
apt-get -y install vim
apt-get -y install moc
apt-get -y install subversion
apt-get -y install git
apt-get -y install curl
apt-get -y install php5-cli
apt-get -y install mutt
apt-get -y install clusterssh
apt-get -y install html2text
apt-get -y install autofs
apt-get -y install vncviewer
apt-get -y install dropbox
apt-get -y install sqlite
apt-get -y install links
apt-get -y install rdesktop
apt-get -y install expect
apt-get -y install mysql-client
apt-get upgrade

for service in rsync virtualbox-guest-utils dns-clean pppd-dns saned speech-dispatcher ; do update-rc.d $service disable; done


Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Linux Mint 14

Linux Mint

Tonight on the TechShow I will reveal some **super secret** information from Clem regarding Linux Mint 14! Tune in tonight, Wednesday November 28th at 8:30pm EDT! Get directions at

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012


WTH Mint-14!? Cinnamon runs at 17% cpu (doing NOTHING), Gnome3 at 7.x%, xfce at 2.x% and Fluxbox at 0.x%… GAHHH! FIX ME PLEASE!!!

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Mint 13 Fix for Broken DNS.

I really love Mint, just let me get that out of that way first. That being said, there are usually a couple things I catch, per release, that filter down from Ubuntu, that I wish were taken care of before Mint hits my desktop.

This time it is DNS.

I installed Mint 13 and was cruising around my home network and noticed that my dns searches weren’t appending my local domain. I had to use the FQDN to get to *anything* on my home network. Well, this frustrated me a bit because I worked hard to set up my own home network, I have resources on it including DNS, and I would like to actually use it. So, I went on the hunt for WHY I had to use a fully qualified domain name on my network…

For some strange reason, someone, somewhere thought it would be a great idea to mess with the way we handle DNS. In fact, the way Linux/Unix/unix has traditionally handled DNS for ever. That being if you put stuff ™ in the friggin /etc/resolv.conf file, your DNS just magically works. Well, not any more.

I have done 3 Mint 13 / Cinnamon installs now (assuming that Mate is the same here) and, in fact, THERE IS NO RESOLV.CONF file! What has happened is this, as far as I can tell. Someone in the Ubuntu camp (I assume) decided that it would be a great idea to start using dnsmasq through the NetworkManager to take care of DNS because they wanted to skirt some VPN issues with single homing. In layman’s terms, when you use a VPN, you are *ONLY* supposed to be able to connect to that network to be secure. Using dnsmasq, you could conceivably be on your VPN and route local traffic around too (multi homing). IPSEC guys frost themselves over stuff like this, BTW.

So, I set about to correct this injustice. Here is a simple script you can run which will turn off the dnsmasq garbage, put your resolv.conf files back in place where they belong and start those services back up so stuff works like we have been doing it for 20+ years.



# Test for UID=0
if [ "$(echo $UID)" != "0" ]
echo “You must be superuser to run this program. Try ‘sudo ./’”

sed -i -e 's/dns=dnsmasq/#dns=dnsmasq/g' /etc/NetworkManager/NetworkManager.conf

ln -s /run/resolvconf/resolv.conf /etc/resolv.conf
resolvconf --create-runtime-directories
resolvconf --enable-updates


Tuesday, May 29th, 2012