Configuring a Basic Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon System

I had decided to install a dual-boot system, Windows 7 and Linux. It seemed that, among the various flavors of Linux Mint, Cinnamon was the most stable. As indicated in a previous post, I planned to use it for the basic system on which I would run a few virtual machines (VMs). This post describes the steps I took to configure that basic system. Note that, before settling on Mint Cinnamon for this purpose, I explored Mint Xfce and KDE as well as Xubuntu and Ubuntu.

Installation, Repositories, Programs, and Tweaks

The initial installation of Cinnamon proceeded substantially as described in the first sections of another post. In this case, I used a simpler partition arrangement: after choosing Something Else in the installer, I designated just one large (~70GB) partition to mount as root (“/”) and one as swap.

Next, repositories. I went to the “Menu” button at the bottom left corner of the Cinnamon desktop. (Since there are multiple menus in Linux, this post will refer to that Menu button at the Start button.) As detailed in another post, I went to Start > Administration > Software Sources > Official Repositories tab > click on each mirror > select one of the fastest ones > Update the Cache > close Software Sources.

Next, I installed gedit and gsmartcontrol by entering sudo apt-get update and then sudo apt-get install gedit gsmartcontrol; I installed VirtualBox using the procedure described elsewhere; and I installed Opera and VeraCrypt, using the steps detailed in another post. Then I configured them as follows:

  • Upon starting Opera, I clicked Continue twice, when confronted by the option to “Choose password for new keyring,” and that got rid of that option.
  • I used synchronization and took other steps, detailed elsewhere, to bring Opera and Firefox up to speed.
  • In Firefox, to prevent Google from continuing to ask if I wanted to make Google my homepage or my default search engine, I installed the Adblock Plus add-on.
  • I made VeraCrypt start up automatically when the system booted by going into Start > System Settings > Startup Applications > Add > Choose Application > VeraCrypt > Add Application.

Then, as detailed in another post, I made some minor system changes. The first was to configure nemo, the default file manager. That solved the following problems:

  • I wanted a way to turn off the question, “Are you sure you want to permanently delete [filename]?” I didn’t want to be asked that every time I designated a file for deletion. A search led to no solution. But then I found the solution in nemo > Edit > Preferences > Behavior tab > Trash section > uncheck “Ask before emptying the Trash or deleting files.”
  • I wanted the system to stop popping up a new nemo session every time I mounted a drive in VeraCrypt. The solution here was in almost the same place in nemo: Behavior tab > Media Handling section > uncheck “Automatically open a folder for automounted media.”

I made a few other minor changes. One was to pin the icons for certain oft-used programs to the bottom panel (referred to here as the “taskbar”). Another was to right-click on the clock in the area at the right end of the taskbar (the “system tray”) > Configure > enter my preferred custom code (%a %b %e, %I:%M:%S %p). I also saw that it was not keeping current time. To fix that, as advised, I ran sudo /etc/init.d/ntp start. Then I went to Start > System Settings (i.e., the gray and white icon containing gears, directly above the Start button). There, I made a few changes:

  • Desktop > turn off all, so that they would not display on the desktop.
  • Screensaver > turn off everything except locking the computer when inactive.
  • Windows > Behavior tab > turn on Prevent Focus Stealing. Location of newly opened windows: Automatic.

Not yet working properly; causing system not to boot, requiring fstab re-edit via live CD: I wanted one partition to be mounted automatically. To make that happen, I ran sudo gedit /etc/fstab. In the fstab file, I added a line containing a comment, preceded by a hash mark (e.g., “#DATA Partition”). Then, on the next line, I imitated what the fstab file contained for other partitions I saw there. That line started with “UUID=” but what was actually presented there appeared to be the partition UUID, at least where I was automounting a partition rather than an entire drive. To get the PARTUUID for the partition, I ran blkid. After entering that, in fstab, I left a space and then (as indicated on an earlier line in fstab) I entered the location that I would choose as “<mount point>.” The partition was mounted at this moment, so I was able to find it in a folder at /media/ray (my username). I used its existing location (e.g., /media/ray/DATA) as the mount point value. Now, after another space, I had to enter a value for “<type>.” This partition was formatted as NTFS, so I entered ntfs. For the remaining values, I just used “defaults 0 0,” as advised. So the whole line in fstab looked like this:

UUID=55ab2570-af80-cfad-86a0-d101e05fa2af /media/ray/BACKROOM ntfs defaults    0    0

Another tweak: I had learned that using a command (sudo apt-get install) to install packages would often produce lists of Suggested and Recommended package. The difference was that Suggested packages might be merely interesting or relevant, but Recommended packages were “needed or recommended for normal use of the program.” Linux Mint had apparently been changed to not install Recommended packages by default. This was controversial. I wanted Recommended packages to install automatically. I was advised to make that happen by going into Synaptic > Settings > Preferences > General tab > check “Consider recommended packages as dependencies.”

I saw that there was a little shield icon in the system tray. When I moused over it, the tooltip said something like, “Choose an update policy.” I did that. It was still there. I moused over it again. This time, the tooltip said, “76 recommended updates available (336MB).” I clicked. That opened Update Manager, also available via Start > Administration. There was a blue banner asking if I wanted to switch to a local mirror. I said OK. It opened Software Sources. I thought I had already done this, choosing the fastest available mirrors. But maybe, on this installation, I hadn’t. Anyway, I did it now, and then clicked the Update the Cache button. Then I bailed out of that, went back to Update Manager, and clicked Install Updates. It installed most of the updates, but there were two marked with red squares indicating they were Level 5. Someone explained that these levels, 1 through 5, indicated increasing levels of instability, and that levels 4 and 5 were deselected by default, due to their potential for making a system unstable; but they also said, “Levels 4 and 5 updates aren’t as risky as some might pretend. For regular desktop users the security risks . . . are very slim and negligible.” I didn’t know enough about this to overrule the default setting, so I left those two Level 5 packages uninstalled.

NVIDIA Driver Installation

At some point, after many system crashes and other problems, it belatedly occurred to me that I had not actually installed the driver needed for my NVIDIA video graphics card.

I started with a recommended command: cat /proc/driver/nvidia/version. The result from that: “No such file or directory.” I browsed around in the file manager and verified this was so. Apparently this meant I had no installed NVIDIA drivers. I downloaded the driver for my NVIDIA video graphics card. NVIDIA offered “short-lived” and “long-lived” branches of drivers, and explained that the long-lived branches were “intended for users of non-legacy GPUs who don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest features.” The one I chose was NVIDIA offered detailed and intimidating installation instructions. I found a simplified version at YourOwnLinux. That version had me run these commands:

sudo apt-get purge nvidia*
sudo service mdm stop
chmod +x ~/Downloads/NVIDIA-Linux-*
sudo sh ~/Downloads/NVIDIA-Linux-*

I got as far as the second line: the sudo service mdm stop command gave me a completely black screen and Emergency Mode (which I did not know how to use) when I rebooted; to recover from that, I had to restore Mint from a backup. A targeted search produced no reliable guidance. A looser search led to a recent NoobsLab page recommending these commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:graphics-drivers/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install nvidia-367 nvidia-settings

The first of those three commands seemed to give me the text from the Graphics Drivers Team webpage at Launchpad. I pressed Enter to continue, as instructed. The command seemed to complete successfully. The third command indicated that it was going to use 332MB of additional disk space. That, too, seemed to complete successfully. But the results from a rerun of cat /proc/driver/nvidia/version were the same as before. Another source recommended nvidia-smi. The results there indicated that no NVIDIA driver was installed. It took a reboot to get both of those commands to admit that the driver actually had been installed. So it appeared I didn’t need that downloaded file after all.

Other Hardware

I needed this basic system to interact well with a few key pieces of hardware. This section discusses what I experienced in that area.

Motherboard Issue: System Fan Control. As soon as I shut down my Windows 7 system and dual-booted into Linux Mint, the fans would speed up. The sensors command indicated that my system was running plenty cool. I responded to that situation as follows:

  • A search led, first, to the question of whether Asus, my motherboard manufacturer, offered Linux-specific fan control utilities. It did not. (I had already installed the latest BIOS update.)
  • An AskUbuntu discussion suggested installing lm-sensors (already installed in my Linux) and fancontrol, and then typing (in Terminal — on the underlying Linux system, not in a VM) sudo sensors-detect. That took me through a series of tests, most of which I said Yes to; then it gave me a summary. I said Yes when it offered to add a few lines to /etc/modules. Next, I typed sudo service kmod start. That gave me a cryptic “kmod stop/waiting” which was not clarified in a search. Next, I typed sudo pwmconfig. That gave me an explanation that the program was about to stop each fan temporarily, followed by this statement: “There are no fan-capable sensor modules installed.”
  • A search led to a page that prompted me to make sure which fan was running loudest. My ears confirmed it was primarily the power supply, secondarily the CPU fan — not the fan on the EVGA video card, which would have called for a search for Linux drivers for that hardware.
  • I did find i8kutils and dellfand for Dell computer fan control, but this wasn’t a Dell. I also found something on an Asus motherboard, but not exactly mine, and anyway I couldn’t really understand it.
  • An extensive discussion raised the question of whether there were alternate profiles in the BIOS. A reboot with a look into the BIOS revealed nothing helpful.
  • Eventually, I examined every English-language page that came up in the foregoing search. The conclusion seemed to be that my motherboard was not Linux-friendly, and I should consider replacing it.

Printing and ScanningAnother post details the steps I took to enable printing and scanning on my Brother DCP-7065DN multifunction machine. As noted there, those steps worked with only one of the several Linux Mint Cinnamon installations I tried it on. Every other time, it gave me printing, but not scanning — but in the process, it wrecked my ability to go online, as I discovered after rebooting: the dual-boot Windows 7 system could go online with no problem, but Mint’s Preferences > Network > Networking window said, “Wi-Fi Unavailable.” I posted a question on it, but that produced no solution. I hoped to resolve that problem by doing my printing and scanning in VMs [see pass-through post]. Later, I noticed that Cinnamon recognized the printer and installed at least its printer driver on its own, without any effort on my part.

That completed the steps needed to set up the basic system. I rebooted with my YUMI drive and used Clonezilla to make a backup, using the options described in another post. Then, as detailed in a different post, it was time to configure my VMs.

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One Response to Configuring a Basic Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon System

  1. Amiel says:

    maybe you can try this for configuring i8kutils might help even if your laptop is a non Dell

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