RT Cunningham


Switch from Windows to Linux Mint and Enjoy Stability for a Change

Windows to LinuxLet’s face it, you’re comfortable with Windows. It came with your computer and it became a familiar companion. I understand how you feel because that’s exactly what it was like for me before I embarked on my Windows to Linux journey.

The fact that you’re reading this now means you may be ready to embark on the same journey or you are at least thinking about it. Perhaps you’ve already switched and are just seeing how someone else did it. Regardless, I’m here to tell you how I would do things today if I had to start all over and how I do things now.

Why Linux Mint?

There is only one Linux and it’s the kernel. Everything else is a distribution built on top of the kernel and there are dozens of them. Linux Mint is one such Linux distribution. Debian (or Debian Linux) is the base, the first layer. Ubuntu (or Ubuntu Linux) is the next layer, built upon Debian. Three out of four Linux Mint editions are built upon Ubuntu, with the fourth being built only upon Debian.

Each Linux Mint edition uses a specific desktop environment. The main desktop environment is Cinnamon. The other desktop environments are MATE and Xfce. Older versions included the KDE desktop environment. I’ve experimented with every edition at one time or another and I prefer Cinnamon.

There are multiple package management systems. The oldest Linux distributions used “.rpm” and “.deb” filename extensions, among a few others. Many of the newer distributions will likely use one or the other, even if they’re not using the base distributions that started with them (like Debian and Red Hat). I’m relying on memory but you can see much of this for yourself in a list of Linux distributions.

I find distributions based on Debian the easiest to work with, with Linux Mint being the easiest of all. When googling for information on specific software packages, the Ubuntu forums are usually just as relevant as the Linux Mint forums.

Windows to Linux Mint - A Partial Switch or a Complete One?

If you’re tied to specific Windows applications, for any reason, a partial switch is the best way to go. I’m talking about dual booting Windows and Linux Mint on the same computer. I’ve written about dual booting twice, one of them being what I consider the right way. A complete switch is the easiest way, leaving all remnants of Windows behind.

Get a USB flash drive if you don’t already have one. It needs to be eight or more gigabytes in size. I don’t think you can buy a single drive under 16 gigabytes anymore. You can get a 16-gigabyte drive for under $10.00 almost anywhere they’re sold (or a batch of 8-gigabyte drives for under $30.00).

Download Rufus and install it if you’re not familiar with portable apps. Download the ISO for you’re preferred Linux Mint edition (choose the 64-bit version) and use Rufus to create a bootable flash drive.

If you want to dual boot Windows and Linux and you want to start over, you’ll need a second USB flash drive and use Rufus to install the Windows 10 ISO on it. If Microsoft doesn’t show you the download page from within Windows, use Firefox from the Linux Mint USB flash drive. The best way to set things up is to install Windows first, wiping out any existing partitions, then shrink it by a hundred or more gigabytes before installing Linux.

If you want Linux only, just install it and wipe out Windows completely. If asked, wipe out any existing partitions.

Make Linux Mint Your Own

Do all the things the “First Steps” Linux Mint welcome screen suggests. You can find the same items in the “start menu”, with some of the sub-items listed separately. After you’re finished installing everything and you’re finished setting up what you need to set up, you can go back and tweak things to your satisfaction.

You can change the overall theme by visiting the themes settings. It’s on the system settings page as well as a menu item under preferences. My theme settings are:

You can change the menu itself by visiting the applets settings. It’s on the system settings page, a menu item under preferences and a menu item when you right click in the middle of the bottom panel. Right now, only the CinnVIIStarkMenu is available and it’s what I’m using instead of the default menu.

I use an applet called “Mint Unsplash Background” to change the main desktop background when I get weary of seeing the same thing all the time. My other applets include the Num Lock/Caps Lock indicator with notifications (because I don’t have a number lock light on the keyboard), Simple Memory Monitor, SSH Launcher, Weather and World Clock Calendar (replacing the default clock and calendar applet). All the other defaults are in place.

I removed the Panel launchers applet from the panel. The items I use all the time are in my menu favorites. My desktop doesn’t have any icons on it either and I only see the desktop when I finish booting up. The right side of my panel has the applets and the left side only displays the menu icon and the icons for open applications. I like minimalism.

Linux Versions of Windows Applications

Microsoft holds hands with Windows users more than any other operating system. That’s why it can take three menus to get to a single setting you need to change. Linux doesn’t hold your hand at all. It’s the distribution desktop environments that make things easier. Without them, you’d be stuck memorizing hundreds of command line functions.

There are Linux versions of a lot of Windows applications, but not all of them obviously. There are some applications that work way better in one or the other. Here are some of the applications I use with Linux Mint:

There are dozens of applications installed that I rarely use. Just like when I used Windows all the time. Windows excels at PC games but Linux is slowly catching up. I think that’s the last threshold PC gamers are waiting to cross.

Keeping Windows Updated

Since I have a dual-booting system, I keep Windows as up-to-date as I keep Linux. Actually, Linux Mint is almost always more up-to-date because the package maintainers aren’t waiting for some arbitrary day of the month to push the updates out.

I haven’t used Windows for anything in more than six months. If I wasn’t as lazy as I am, I would already be using Linux Mint exclusively. Perhaps, in the back of my mind, I’m waiting for the next major version of Linux Mint before axing Windows for good.

Image Attribution: merlwiz79 [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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By RT Cunningham
February 10, 2020