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4 Set Up Linux Mint

Chapter 4 includes the following four sections.

4.1 First Steps After Installing Linux Mint
4.2Set Up the Linux Mint Mate Desktop
4.3Help Mint Run Faster and your SSD Last Longer
4.4 Add Free Programs to Linux Mint Mate
One of the biggest advantages of Linux over Windows is that there are tens of thousands of free open source programs which you can add to customize your computer. In this article, we explain how to use the Linux Mint Software Manager to add any of more than 70,000 programs to your computer.

Add Free Programs from the Software Manager
Go to the Start Menu and click on Administration, then Software Manager. Linux offers all kinds of free programs for students and schools. Click on Science and Education. There is a Ubuntu education primary package and an edu-secondary package.


Both take up nearly one gigabyte.


In order to create websites and books, the main tools we will need are more web browsers and free tools for editing images and videos. For web browsers, we will add Chromium. For image editors, we will add Pinta, Krita, and Gpick, For video creation and editing, we will install Open Shot and GUVC View.

While we are at the Software Manager, we will also add Open Clip Art and the Microsoft fonts (ttf ms core fonts). Each of these tools is added simply by entering the name in the search box, then click on the tool to select it, then click install. After all of these tools have been downloaded, close the Software Manager. Then go to the menu and right click on each tool to add it to the bottom panel. Then move it from the bottom panel to the side panel.

Add Free Programs Not in the Software Manager
We will also add a couple of programs that are not in the Software Manager. First, we will add the Google Chrome web browser. The reason we need a variety of web browsers is to see how our websites look in different browsers. Also some functions such as downloading and viewing videos is easier in some browsers than in others. Also when editing websites, we may want to copy sections of one website to another website. This requires having two web browsers open at the same time in a side by side configuration. Finally, if some web editing functions do not work in one browser, we can try it in another browser. To add the Google Chrome web browser, open up either the Firefox or Chromium Web Browser. Then type in the search box Google Chrome Download. Make sure you go to the Google.com website and not some other website. Or just copy and paste the following link:

Then scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Get Chrome for Linux:

In this section, we will review how to set up and use the Linux Mint Mate File Manager. The Mint Mate file manager, which is called Caja, is one of the most important reasons to choose Linux Mint Mate over Windows or Apple. The Caja File Manager is similar to the File Manager that comes with Windows but comes with several additional features. To open this file manager, click on your Home folder in the upper left corner of the Mint Mate desktop. Or alternately, open the Menu in the bottom left panel and click on HomeFolder. Below is what the Caja file manager looks like using the Winme theme we installed in the last article:

By default, this folder opens in the Icon View at 100%. A more efficient view is Compact View at 66%. Click on the Drop down arrow next to Icon View to select Compact View:

This will bring up the Compact View. This is similar to the “List” view in Windows. The Compact View is especially important if you have a lot of files and folders:


Also by default, the Mate Caja File Manager shows the Places View in the left column. Click on the Drop Down arrow to the right of Places to select the Tree View:

The Tree View will cause Caja to look and function like the Explorer File Manager in Windows XP and Windows 7. Changing to Tree View will cause some important arrows to appear to the left of any folders in the left panel which have sub-folders:

Linux Mint is already much faster than the Apple or Windows operating system. This is due to the fact that it is only 4 GB in file size compared to 8 GB in file size for Apple and nearly 30 GB in file size for Windows. Linux is also better suited for Solid State Drives than Windows because Linux aligns data “in order” in the drive better than Windows. Windows is notorious for putting data in random places on the drive requiring frequent “defragmentation” of the disc. Defragmentation is not a major issue with slow old fashion spinning disc drives. But it is a major problem with solid state drives as solid state drives wear out more quickly if they are run through a defragmentation process. Put in plain English, using the Windows operating system is a sure fire way to reduce the life of a Solid State Drive – both because Windows is too big and because Windows does not put documents in the best place on the disk.

Spinning disc drive laptops typically last less than 5 years. Even if the hard drive does not wear out, key boards and screens wear out. Solid State Drives should last much longer than spinning disc drives because solid state drives have no moving parts. It is expected that a solid state drive will last from 5 to 10 years. However, there are some things that can cause a solid state drive to wear out much sooner. One concern is that solid state drives, like disc drives, slow down as the hard drive gets full. This is a real problem for the Windows operating system as many solid state drives only have a capacity of 16 GB to 32 GB. This is obviously a problem for Windows as it cannot even be loaded on a 16 GB SSD and takes up all of the room on a 32 GB SSD.

Even Solid State Drives with higher capacities can have serious problems once they start to get full. To address this problem, SSD manufacturers now typically partition off about 10% of the SSD as an unused “reserve.” This is why a 256 GB SSD typically only has 240 GB of actual space. It is because 16 GB was set aside for the reserve area.

Linux Mint may set aside even more of the space as a reserve area. This area is called a Swap partition. A swap partition is used when the amount of physical active memory (RAM) is full. If the system needs more memory resources and the RAM is full, inactive pages in memory are moved to the swap space. Windows uses something similar to a Swap Partition called a “Page File.” While swap space can help computers with a small amount of RAM run faster, swap space should not be considered a replacement for more RAM.

The problem with using the Swap partition too much is that it causes wear on solid state drives. What determines when the Swap Partition is used is a factor called “Swappiness.” (I am not making this up.). Swappiness can be set for any value between 0 to 100. A low swappiness means that items and applications are rarely moved to the Swap partition. A high swappiness means that items and applications are moved to the swap partition all of the time. Since the swap partition is on the hard drive and we want to limit its use so the solid state drive lasts longer, we want a low swappiness value.

Unfortunately, Linux Mint still assumes we will be using a spinning hard drive and it therefore is set by default with a high swappiness value of 60. This means that it starts moving applications to the Swap partition even when only 40% of the 4 GB of RAM is being used. It only takes opening a couple of modern applications to cause 2 GB of RAM to be used. So a swappiness value of 60 is a pretty low trigger. A much better value would be 10 – meaning that applications would not be moved to the Swap partition until 90% of the 4 GB of RAM was being used.

The solution to this problem is to reduce the swappiness value from the default value of 60 to a lower value of 10. Not only will this help double the life of your solid state drive, but your computer will actually run faster because it will force applications to use your 4 GB of RAM rather than using space on your solid state drive – which is fast but not anywhere near as fast as your RAM. There is no downside of reducing swappiness. If you are running lots of applications or have 40 browser windows open at the same time, the swap partition will still be activated and used once the 4 GB of RAM has been used. All reducing the Swappiness does is reduce the use of the Swap partition when you are using less than 4 GB of RAM.