Sunday, March 24, 2013

Linux Newbie Tips & Tricks Post 3

Okay.  So, you've done your test drive of Linux on a USB stick and now want to take that next step of dual booting your Linux OS with Windows.  Here are a couple areas you need to pay attention to when you are navigating your way in Linux Mint or Ubuntu:

1.  Change the Mirror - Find the best site for downloading your packages instead of the default site.  This should speed up the downloading of packages when it's time for your OS to be updated.
Changing Mirror in Linux Mint Tutorial

2.  Find the Task Manager - I learned this the hard way somewhat.  If you are in a dual boot situation, and you go crazy downloading a bunch of software and running the resource intensive ones simultaneously you could bring your system to a crawl.  In Windows, you have a Task Manager that allows you to monitor the CPU of processes that are running and enables you to stop the processes (programs) in the event they stop responding.  You can do the same thing in Ubuntu and Linux Mint.  You can hit <CTRL><ALT><DEL> to return the original login screen and shutdown from there OR navigate to Task Manager, select the process (application) with the high CPU% giving you problems and right click your mouse to Stop, Kill or Terminate the offending process.  Using the Kill option is like turning off your computer.  Whatever you were working on does not get saved.

3.  Get Familiar with Synaptic Package Manager - Even if you don't plan on touching this utility, you need to be familiar with it so that if you ever run into issues with programs that stop working properly, you can lead your techie to the root of your problem.  There is a Search field with a magnifying glass which allows you to enter the name of packages to either be installed or removed to your computer.

4.  Get Familiar with the Terminal (Shell) - For the same reasons as #3, you want to know what this utility does and where it is located so that you can get your techie to resolve your configuration and package issues.

5.  Backup regularly with APTonCD - Before you download any new software using the Ubuntu Software Center or the Linux Mint Software Manager, create an ISO backup file of the current state of your computer and store that ISO file either on a Cloud drive (i.e. Google Drive, UbuntuOne, DropBox, etc.), USB, DVD or CD.  That way, if something happens after you downloaded software or received package updates, you can always restore to your previous "working" state with the ISO file.    This guy does a good job explaining the Backup and Restore process in this tutorial:
Backup and Restore process using APTonCD in Ubuntu

6.  Backup your data files and internet browser bookmarks - You can easily backup your data files to a Cloud drive, USB, DVD or CD.  However, I have not found a quick way to do the same with internet browser bookmarks.  Just make sure you have the URLS for each bookmark stored in a text file that you can backup to any of the external drives I keep mentioning (i.e. Cloud, USB, etc.)

7.  For printer/scanner/faxing devices - Go to the manufacturer sites for instructions on your Linux Distro if Linux Mint or Ubuntu were unable to successfully recognize your device.  Chances are the device driver was not in the Linux Mint or Ubuntu supported device database and you need to add additional packages via Synaptic Package Manager and do additional configuration via Terminal commands.  You may also have to manually edit a text file that stores all the Vendor specific information for the device so that Linux Mint or Ubuntu can properly recognize it.

8.  Install VLC Media Player - If you want to be able to play Movie or Video DVD's, I recommend using this player.

9.  Set up shortcut icons - For your commonly used applications, set up shortcut icons. Set one up for LibreOffice applications, VLC Media Player, APTonCD, VLC Media Player, your Favorite Internet Browser and your Cloud Backup Drive.

10.  Get familiar with Screenshot - This program is good for capturing screenshots of any errors you get while in the middle of a program so that you can submit the screenshot of the error to your favorite support forum.  I also use this to capture the screen of Synaptic Package Manager before I add any package updates so I can keep track of my changes without breaking packages.  I can always revert back to the previous state by using the screen shot.

After you do all of the steps above, you should be all set to enjoy gaining the maximum benefits of being on Linux and minimizing any potential problems that could arise.  I will go over each step in more detail either in a future post or update this post.  So STAY TUNED!!!

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