Archive for the ‘Linux Mint’ Category

Who is that masked man?

Probably you have either listened to me or read my thoughts or both for several years now, but it occurred to me today that someone out there might be interested in seeing what actually drives the LincGeek.

I currently live in Pennsylvania, but I was born and raised in Upstate NY, with a brief stint in Washington state. New Yorkers and hillbillies are my people and I understand them. Washington is some of the most beautiful country I ever spent time in and I hope to at least visit out there again someday.

Well, first and foremost, computers and Linux are my personal crack. I started on a life long obsession with computers back in 1983 with my first Vic=20 (Thank you William Shatner). I learned to program in BASIC and from there it was all over until I met Linux in the 90s, then that added into the mix.

I like the fastest computers I can get my hands on. I like Apple computers (more for their quality and aesthetics than OS – they do tend to run Linux very well). I love my Kindle, my Android phone and my Asus TF300T Linux Mint is probably the nicest version of Linux I have ever run and I use that almost exclusively as my desktop OS of choice. I am RedHat certified and use RHEL and CentOS for the vast majority of my enterprise and personal server needs, because, IMHO, it’s better than the rest.

I am a music lover. I dig 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, Big Band, Jazz, Funk, Disco, Bluegrass and Classical music. I was a hardcore low brass musician and vocalist in my school years, even making it into “Who’s Who In Music” in my senior year in high school, and those are some of my most cherished and fondest memories. Rap is *NOT* music, by the way.

I have been married once, to my college sweetheart, for almost 20 years now and have an adult (she thinks so at least) daughter, currently in college. I am a Conservative Libertarian, politically, and a proud Christian.

Although I am now diabetic and stick mostly to various forms of Chicken and veggies, I LOVE good food. my favorites are good Irish cooking like my Grandma used to make. Corned Beef and Cabbage. And she made a monster macaroni and cheese too. I would literally hurt someone for some of that again. I strongly believe that vegetables are what food eats.

I like my coffee with (nonfat) milk and sweet-n-low. Buy it from Wawa because Starbucks coffee is overpriced and bitter yuppie coffie IMHO. I like an occasional good cigar (Acid Blondie) and enjoy them most when I can smoke them and hang out with my friends. (Edit, I am a confirmed Vaper now – RY4 absolutely ROCKS!)

I am not a drinker. If and when I do imbibe, I do so with Scotch or Whiskey as I believe beer must be what urine tastes like.

As you can probably surmise, I am highly opinionated, and as I have a monster sized guilty conscience and I am not at all politically correct, so if you ask my opinion, you are liable to actually get it.

I still think the occasional fart joke is funny. I hate unproductive meetings and long phone conversations. I try very hard to be honest, forthright, fair and maintain integrity.

I am a pet guy and love small furry mammals of all kinds. I have and have had cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, rats, ferrets and even a smattering of budgies and small lizards.

And now you know all about me!

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Mint Fixer

I wrote a little script to help me quickly set up a new Mint 12 install the way I like it and to fix a couple random annoying issues. Enjoy:

Script name is



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

# Add packages you need
echo “install some good packages to have handy.”
apt-get -y install sshfs smbfs irssi vpnc screen vlc mencoder vim moc openssh-server subversion git twinkle curl php5-cli mutt clusterssh html2text autofs vncviewer &> /dev/null

# Turn off guest login
echo “Turning off guest login.”
grep -q “allow-guest=false” /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf || echo “allow-guest=false” >> /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf

# Fix dual monitors
echo “Fixing dual monitor mode so that both monitors reflect changing virtual desktops.”
gconftool-2 –set /desktop/gnome/shell/windows/workspaces_only_on_primary –type bool false

# Fix broken login chime
echo “Fixing broken login chime.”
for user in $(ls /home)
mv /home/$user/.config/autostart/libcanberra-login-sound.desktop /home/$user/.config/autostart/libcanberra-login-sound.desktop.orig
echo -e “[Desktop Entry]\nType=Application\nName=GNOME Login Sound\nComment=Plays a sound whenever you log in\nExec=/usr/bin/canberra-gtk-play -f /usr/share/sounds/linuxmint-login.wav\nOnlyShowIn=GNOME;Unity;\nAutostartCondition=GSettings org.gnome.desktop.sound event-sounds\nX-GNOME-Autostart-Phase=Application\nX-GNOME-Provides=login-sound” >> /home/$user/.config/autostart/libcanberra-login-sound.desktop

# Set the login page wallpaper
echo “Setting the login background to /usr/share/backgrounds/mint.jpg. Copy any background you wish to be the login wallpaper to that file.”
sed -i -e ‘s/^background.*/background=\/usr\/share\/backgrounds\/mint.jpg/g’ /etc/lightdm/unity-greeter.conf

echo “All done. Enjoy!”

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Handbrake on Mint 12 / Ubuntu 11.10

Found out a couple days ago that there is a problem with the PPA for handbrake with MINT 12 and Ubuntu 11.10 (and probably others as well). There is an easy workaround for it though. That is to use the snapshots ppa instead:

apt-add-repository ppa:stebbins/handbrake-snapshots
apt-get update
apt-get install handbrake-gtk handbrake-cli

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Day to day with Linux Mint 12

Linux Mint

OK, so it’s no secret I am a Mint addict. I just *had* to install Mint 12 as soon as I could, so I grabbed and installed the RC as soon as I could. What I would like to review here are my impressions after using Mint 12 for a while.

First, let me say that I am using the default desktop, so to speak. By that I mean I am using the Gnome 3 desktop that comes along with Mint 12 as the default. It is quite nice. Nicer than my previous encounters with Gnome 3 on Fedora a couple months ago. Mint did some of their smart decision making and included sane things like the shutdown menu and icons on the desktop, etc. These are all extensions to the standard Gnome 3 desktop, but are included by default in Mint 12 to help improve the desktop UI experience and, I gotta say, they hit the nail on the head once again. These improvements definitely make the desktop more pleasant and “normal” to use.

There were a couple things I tweaked for my personal preferences, and good thing too, cause what would I write about if there weren’t?

I removed the bottom taskbar. While this may be there to help folks make the Gnome 3 adjustment, the fact is that these days everything has one of those annoying widescreen displays with limited virtical resolution. Having a second taskbar eat that precious screen realestate up just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, no matter how knoble the reasoning behind it. Removing this is pretty simple. Hit your windows (meta) key and select the “Advanced Settings” icon, go to “Shell Extensions” and disable the “Menu” extension and the “Bottom Panel” extension. I promise you won’t miss them, especially if you have a widescreen display.

I made xterm my terminal that launched with the ctrl-alt-t command. I am not entirely sure why gnome-terminal seems so prevalent everywhere, but I, personally, find it ugly, bulky and slow. I do a *LOT* of work at the command line and I get easily annoyed when I request a terminal and have to wait for it to pop up. You may not have this problem, but try xterm, you might just like it 🙂 To do this, click your name in the upper right hand corner and select “System Settings”, then “Keyboard”, then “Shortcuts”. Under “Launchers” you will see a “Launch Terminal” setting. Click on the “ctrl-alt-t” text at the right and hit the backspace key. It should now say “Disabled”. Now head to the “Custom Shortcuts” and hit the + to add a new one. Type xterm in both boxes then apply. Click the “Disabled” text and it should say “New Shortcut”. Hit ctrl-alt-t, which should show up where it said “New Shortcut” and from there on in, you should be able to use that key combo to get your xterm open (quickly I might add).

The other thing I really like to have handy quick is my file browser. For Gnome 3 this is nautilus. Using the same process as xterm I added nautilus as a custom shortcut and assigned it to ctrl-alt-f (for files). Obviously, you can use this method to add all manner of goodies as shortcuts.

That brings me to my “issues” with Mint 12. There are so few they are barely worth mentioning, but in the interest of giving a somewhat impartial review, here goes.

Up in the top task bar you will see your network connection icon. If I go there and disable my wired connection, it works as it should, shutting off that connection and marking it so in that menu. The problem is turning it back on. I can click all day and that little “off” indicator never changes back to on. My connection will come back on, but it doesn’t say so there.

Bluetooth. This is not really a Mint issue – I see it everywhere, but I want a way to start my computer with Bluetooth *OFF*. If you have a laptop and don’t use your bluetooth, it eats the battery and it annoys me to have to turn it off after each startup. It would be great if I could somehow default it the other way around and start with it off and turn it on when I want it.

I really love Google Chrome. It’s a fantastic and fast web browser and I have become attached and accustomed to it. Getting it on Mint 12 is slightly problematic though. If you go to google’s website and download the package, you cannot use the gui package management tool to install it. You get permission errors. To install, open up your trusty xterm and run “sudo dpkg -i packagename.deb” on it. Then immediately afterward, “apt-get update && apt-get upgrade” which will install a couple dependencies you need.

Where the heck are the virtual desktops? I am SOOO used to pressing ctrl-alt left/right and getting to a new one I was monstrously frustrated to find they didn’t work the same way any longer. Even more so when I looked at the keyboard shortcuts which *PLAINLY* say they should. Sure, you can get a new desktop by hitting the windows (meta) key and selecting it at the right side, but that is inefficient. After bumbling around for a while I discovered that they are keyboard accessible by hitting ctrl-alt up/down now. Who knew?

Last thing is the screensaver. Now don’t get me wrong, I like the plain black screensaver just fine, I just want it to shut down the backlight too. It simply makes no sense to backlight a black screen. Without attacking this problem programmatically, it seems you must set your backlight to turn off after a period of time under the “Screen” setting and just leave your screen blank until that happens. Programmatically, however, I found a bit of a workaround, although I am still not completely happy with it. I created a script called “lockit” and in that script is this:

sleep 1 ; xset dpms force off ; gnome-screensaver-command -l

Put that somewhere you can run it, go to the keyboard shortcuts again and disable the “System”, “Lock Screen” shortcut. Add a new one to run your lockit program with the ctrl-alt-l keyboard shortcut and violla! When you hit the key combo, after 1 second your screen shuts off and your computer is locked. If you combine this with having your backlight turn off after a half hour or so (just in case you bump your mouse) it seems to work pretty well. What I really wanted to do, however, was run a background program (or daemon) that detected if the screensaver was active and just shut off the backlight, but, alas, there is no reliable way to do so that I have found.

That’s really it, folks, snigglets and all. I still love Mint and v12 is no exception. Great work once again Clem and team and if you all haven’t tried Mint yet, you sure are missing out!

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Mint 12 RC – Dig it!

Mint 12

Mint 12

I just couldn’t wait any longer so I grabbed a copy of the gnome 64 bit cd iso image from Well, I also grabbed the DVD image as well, but I actually used the cd image to install. It’s a live cd/dvd so I set about checking out the live version first, of course, just to make sure things looked ok.
I figured I would just go for it and started installing to disk on my new laptop. I should mention here that while I like Mint 11, there are certain things on my new laptop that just do not work well with it. It has a new i5 sandybridge processor and the associated graphics which didn’t do well with acceleration and suspend and my trackpad only registered as a mouse, which was usable but a pain in my behind. Needless to say I have been chomping at the bit for a try at the next release to see which, if any, of these issues might have been addressed.
The installer was quick and efficient and I don’t recall anything in particular standing out from what has come to be a normal mint install. That being said, everything after that was fascinating and exciting.
On your first login you are greeted by the new desktop environment, a sort-of Gnome 3 mashup. It’s Gnome 3 but has some of the niceties that *I* believe are needed to make Gnome 3 usable and all the UI goodness that I have come to expect from Linux Mint (and why I keep returning to them). You have 2 taskbars (one would probably be enough though), icons on the desktop and a pretty looking new menu system, not to mention the interesting Gnome 3 new UI things. Previously I tried Gnome 3 on Fedora and absolutely hated it, but in this configuration, it is quite pleasant and completely comfortable and usable.
After the install you will see that Mint welcome screen, which, at the bottom, gives you the opportunity to ad all the multimedia codecs and also to upgrade to the DVD version. Nop matter what I did, those links did bupkis. Undaunted, I looked at the code behind this to see that the packages that should be installing are meta packages, so I popped open synaptic and after a quick search I found and installed mint-meta-codecs, mint-meta-gnome-dvd and mint-meta-mate, which, after installation seemed to get the welcome screen not to display those links anymore, so I am assuming that’s what was needed. I am sure this is something that’ll be fixed as days go along. After all, this isn’t even really an official RC at this point yet, really.
After doing all my software updates and installing the few packages I just have to have in order to function (sshfs smbfs irssi vpnc screen vlc mencoder vim moc openssh-server subversion git twinkle curl php5-cli mutt clusterssh) I set about checking things out thoroughly.
To my surprise, ALL MY LAPTOP ISSUES have been fixed, or at least seemingly. I now have nice screen acceleration, my laptop suspend works flawlessly, my trackpad has actually been detected as a trackpad and I even have 2 finger scrolling working now. WOOT!!! Of course the rest works too. I have sound, wireless internet, usb support, etc., etc..
This is very exciting for me and I, for one, cannot wait to see the full release coming in the future, but if you think I am uninstalling this in favor of something else while I wait, boy are you wrong. I am hooked! Go Mint!

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Lost your Mint password?

First time this happened! A coworker asked me today how to get into his Linux Mint box after he forgot his password. Of course I rattled off the old GRUB way to get things done, but, what?? This is GRUB 2! No so fast there! Turns out it’s quite different.

You hold down the shift key while booting to get to the grub menu.
You hit ‘e’ to edit your boot options.
You change the kernel line options on the very end of the kernel line to read “rw init=/bin/bash”.
You press F10 to boot.

Once booted you are dropped immediately into a shell prompt where you can change your password with the “passwd username” command. Reboot and you’re home free!

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

Make it pretty!

   I have had to spend a lot of time this week on my netbook. Normally I really dig the Linux Mint background, but the light background of Mint 11 on my little netbook was just too bright and annoying to me for some reason. So, I set out to find something a little darker.
   Where do you go for a really great wallpaper? Well, my friend Bill just happened to post a link to probably the greatest wallpaper site I have ever seen at Warning! You can easily lose several hours looking through wallpapers there.
   Changing your background in Mint or any other Gnome 2 using distribution is pretty straight forward. You right click on your desktop, select “Change Desktop Background” and then pick the one you want. You also have the ability to add other wallpapers not already in your background collection with the “add” button.
   Changing the login screen to match is a different matter altogether. I have found that the easiest way to accomplish this is to install This is a great little package that will let you change all kinds of hard to find settings not the least of which is the login screen background. On ubuntu-tweak, youy simply select login settings, then unlock, click on the old wallpaper, surf to and choose the new one you want, then quit.
   Lastly, there is changing the “lock screen” wallpaper. This is the screen you are presented with when you unlock your computer after locking your session with a -l (that’s an L by the way). I thought it was really odd that that wallpaper isn’t controlled by the login wallpaper, but a little digging revealed a way to change this as well. There is a cute little command line trick to it:

sudo gconftool-2 –direct –config-source xml:readwrite:/etc/gconf/gconf.xml.defaults –set /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename –type string `gconftool-2 –get /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename`

(note that the above command is all 1 line)
and then:

killall gconfd-2
killall gnome-screensaver

And that’s it folks! Again, this should all work on any Gnome 2 desktop.

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Mint 11 Boot Splash

I have seen a lot of commenting on the decision to use a black screen as the boot splash on Linux Mint 11. One person summed it up well when they said that that black screen is indicative in many other operating systems as something going wrong and it tends to scare people. Well, that being the case, if you are scared or if you just like to see what’s going on behind the scenes like I do sometimes this is how you can fix that fairly easily.

Open up a terminal and do a:
vi /etc/defaults/grub

scroll down to the line that says:
and change it to:
and save the file.

After that do a:

When that is finished, reboot your machine and enjoy watching the text based boot process as it occurs. Pay close attention, though, ’cause it sure doesn’t last long! 😉

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Mint 11 / Ubuntu 11.04 – vpnc+ssh issue

Linux Mint

Yes, I know.. Long time since a post, but I have been waiting ’till I had something interesting to comment on 🙂

You should all know by now that Ubuntu 11.04 and Mint 11 are now out in the wild, and both are very nice IMHO. I have been a “Minty” guy now for quite sometime but I thought it would behoove me to at least try the new Ubuntu 11.04 and it’s Unity interface, so I stuck it on a netbook to test it out and I can say this: It doesn’t suck at all! In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. Compared to Gnome 3 (more on that later), Unity is quite usable.

That brings me to Mint 11. A beautiful distribution as I have come to expect. Not too much to say about it for those familiar with Mint except it’s a worthy successor in a long line of great releases. If you haven’t yet tried Mint, you are really doing yourself a disservice.

There are of course problems with everything. Mine was with my vpn connection. I use vpnc to connect to my works’ cisco vpn, and I have been doing so successfully now for many years. In fact, vpnc is my preferred method of connecting over any other client including the cisco client itself. It just works. It’s very easy to configure and use and it stays out of my way. That is until recently.

After I installed Mint 11 on my daily carry, I eventually needed to vpn into work and fix something. Well, I immediately noticed that ssh through vpnc would not connect. I could ping, http, rdesktop, whathaveyou, but no ssh. I looked at the routes, I looked at the tunnel, I looked at the verbose messages from vpnc. Nothing worked. If, however, I walked over to my other laptop that is running Mint 10 with the very same vpnc config, I got right through. This was quite perplexing. I eventually tried connecting with the Ubuntu 11.04 install, and I got the exact same results. I was grasping at straws. Maybe all new distributions were broken in this manner? The horror actually forced me to install Fedora 15 (sorry Fedora folks) and test that. To my surprise, F15’s vpnc+ssh worked just fine. This also gave me an opportunity to find out how dysfunctional and horrible an interface Gnome 3 is (KDE and Unity are gonna become big real soon I guarantee it).

As a last ditch effort to narrow things down, I decided to try a different ssh client. I tried both putty and dropbear. THEY WORKED! YAY! This meant I could go back to running the new Mint on my netbook. I fully intend to just try my own compile of ssh sometime in the future, or perhaps the package maintainers will catch wind of this and fix it (I did send some emails to Clem). Until then, I am happy that I can still use my beloved Mint and I can live temporarily with dropbear and / or putty for ssh through my vpn when I need it. I just hope this post gets around a bit so the other guy that uses vpnc+ssh to connect to his cisco vpn doesn’t think he’s going crazy like I did 🙂

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Epson Workforce 520

Epson Workforce 520

Epson Workforce 520

Some days things just go right. It’s been a while since that happened to me, hence the lack of posts lately. Well, that changed tonight…

I decided it was high time to get a new printer. I have been using used HP LaserJets for years and my last, a LaserJet 5 was finally starting to show some wear, not to mention hogging enough electricity to power a small city. I have also endured about 4 years of complaints that we didn’t have a color printer.

I checked out the stock of some local electronic stores online and spent an hour or two googling whether this or that model printer wold work under Linux. I actually wanted to grab the same printer Dann bought, just because I knew that one would work, however, I couldn’t find a local source. I settled on buying an Epson Workforce 520 from the local BesyBuy.

Setup was an absolute breeze. I unpacked it, followed the setup instructions to add it to my local wireless connection via the printer’s control panel. Then I headed to to grab the driver and installed it. It’s just a deb (or rpm) package so it was a click or two to install. After that I headed to Linux Mint’s printer config utility, told it to search for network printers and it was found and installed automatically with no fuss, no muss whatsoever.

Everything works, and I mean everything. This is one of those multifunction printers that not only prints, but faxes (actually I haven’t tried that and probably won’t), copies AND SCANS! After my initial test print, I fired up Mint’s “Simple Scan” which scanned a document I had on the printer easily and perfectly. I was amazed!

I believe I may have found the perfect wireless printer/copier/scanner to run under Linux Mint (yes, it’s wireless too, did I mention that). I know Linux printing has come a long long way, but this was trivially easy. If you are looking for a great new printer addition to your Linux setup, this is it!

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011