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The good news about changing our operating system in our Acer C910 from Chrome to Linux Mint is that the amount of free space on our SSD rose from 202 GB to 220 GB. The bad news is that some of the function keys on our keyboard might not work. There also might be a problem with the cursor jumping around making it difficult to type. In this article, we will explain how to fix these problems. In Section 2.2, we detailed the first two important steps to take after installing Linux Mint. These were to first change the screen saver and power settings so that the computer does not turn itself off on its own. The second step was to install the Mint Updates. We also showed how to add a Desktop Slideshow to Cinnamon. All of these changes were made in a virtual machine. The install process and set up process on a real machine are about the same as they were for a virtual machine. In this chapter, we will review the Screensaver and Power Settings and how to add Updates. We will also review a few other important steps you should take after installing Linux Mint. Here is a list of improvements we will cover in this chapter:

Mint Customization Checklist

#1 Add and Use Shutter
#2 Reset Screen Saver in System Settings
#3 Reset Power Management in System Settings
#4 Install Updates with Mint Update Manager
#5 Turn Off Sound Effects in System Settings
#6 Turn Off Cinnamon Visual Effects
#7 Improve Mint Touch Pad Setting
#8 Set up your printer
#9 Improve Mint Swapiness

#1 Add and Use Shutter

To take a screen shot of your entire screen with a Chromebook, press the Ctrl key and the Box key at the same time. There is a better alternative to this key that only take a few minutes to set up. Since we want to take screen shots of how to set up Linux Mint, we will begin by adding a free screen capture tool called Shutter. Here is the initial desktop for Linux Mint:

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Click on the Mint Menu in the lower left corner of the Mint desktop.

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Mint Cinnamon Menu Icons

There are 8 icons in the left column of the Mint Menu. Hover over any of them and their name will appear in the lower right corner of the Mint Menu. Here are their names and functions.

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Mint Cinnamon Applications Categories

You can also reach the Mint Software Manager by clicking on the Administration Category. Then clicking on Software Manager.

 

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Either way, you will reach the following Software Manager screen. Linux Mint comes with a screen capture tool called Screen shot. This is not a very versatile screen capture tool. We will add a much better screen capture tool called Shutter. To add this free tool, click on the Software Manager which is the third icon from the top in the first column of the Mint Menu. Enter your password. Assuming you have Internet access, the following screen will come up:

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There are more than 10,000 free programs in the Mint Software Manager. Type the word shutter into the search box. Then press Enter on your keyboard.

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Click on Shutter to reach the Shutter installation screen. It will say that Shutter is not installed. Click install to install it. Then close the Software Manager and open the Mint Menu. Right click on Shutter. Then click Add to Panel. This will add the blue Shutter icon to the bottom panel. Click on Shutter to open it.
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You can use Selection to capture a portion of your desktop, Desktop to capture the whole screen, Window to capture a window or the Menu icon to capture a menu. Click on Edit Preferences to bring up the Shutter Preferences screen:

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Change the Image format to Jpeg. You can also define the folder you want to send the image to and the delay before the screen shot is taken. To capture an area of your desktop, click on the word Preferences.

Then drag the cursor from the upper left corner of the area you want to capture to the lower right corner. The image will then be captured after the delay and placed in the clipboard. To put a Shutter Quick Launch Icon in the Apps Panel, click on the Behavior Tab. Check Start at Login and Hide on First Launch.

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To capture a complex drop down menu, click on the Menu Item. Below is an example of shutter capturing a complex menu.

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You can also edit captured images by clicking on Edit. This is what the image looks like after adding some arrows and text to clarify where a person should click to open the Template Manager.

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The one problem of images captured by Shutter is that the image will have a very large file size. After pasting the image in a Libre Writer document, right click on the image and click on Compress, then click OK to reduce the file size.

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#2 Reset Screen Saver in System Settings

The reason we need to change the screen saver settings right after setting up shutter and before we install our updates is to keep our screen from falling asleep and locking up our computer when we install our first set of updates and to prevent our computer from going into a hibernation state during these updates.

Why You Should Avoid Hibernation with a Solid State Drive

If you put your computer into hibernation, all the programs and data are placed in the Swap partition. This will greatly reduce the life of your solid state drive. The solution to this problem is to simply turn off hibernation and never put your computer into hibernation. For your solid state drive to last as long as possible, your computer should either be on or off - not some state in between.

Turn off Hibernation in Linux Mint Cinnamon

From the Menu, click System Settings which is the third button from the top left.

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Click on the Screensaver. Chose a screen saver. Then click Settings. Delay before saver change to Never. Lock when put to sleep change from On to Off.

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#3 Reset Power Management in System Settings

To turn off Suspend Session in Power Management, go to System Settings, Power Management and change the settings to Never.

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Power Management, Power Tab, Add Shutdown Option when closing the lid
To protect our SSD, we want to shut the computer down completely whenever we close the lid. Unfortunately, the “shutdown immediately” option is missing in Mint Cinnamon. The best we can do is the “Do Nothing” option. You can add the option to Shut Down Immediately by opening your terminal. Then copy and paste this entire command in one line as one step:

sudo sed -i '/lid_options =/,+1 {s/(“suspend”, _("Suspend")),/&\n ("shutdown", _("Shutdown immediately")),/}' /usr/share/cinnamon/cinnamon-settings/modules/cs_power.py

Press Enter. When prompted, type your password. Your password will remain invisible, this is normal. Press Enter again. Then close the terminal and click on the Power Manager icon in Settings. Then click on Power settings and change “When the lid is closed from Suspend to Shutdown Immediately:

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Dim screen to save power

Next, click on the Brightness tab. Reduce the screen brightness to 80% and change Dim Screen to 10 minutes.

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#4 Install Updates with Mint Update Manager

Next we need to install updates. There is a small blue shield icon in the right side of the lower panel. Click on it.

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Use the default middle settings. Leave the setting at Let Me Review. Then click OK. . Then update the Mint Updater. Click Install Updates.

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Warning: Do Not Install All Mint Updates!

Caution

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After installing the special Mint Update, a long list of updates will appear. Read this entire list and do not install an update to the Linux kernel if it is offered. Linux may want you to update to a 4.13 or 4.14 kernel. Linux does not know we are using a Chromebook – which currently only supports Kernels in the 4.4 family. Uncheck the Linux kernel 4.13 update box if it is offered. Instead, use a tool called UKUU to install the 4.4.109 Kernel which has the latest Kaiser patch for the Meltdown problem. To install UKUU, open a terminal and copy paste the following two commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:teejee2008/ppa

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install ukuu

After installing the 4.4.109 kernel, uninstall UKUU by finding it in the Mint Menu applications list and clicking Uninistall.

Note: It is likely that there will be a new version of 4.4 in the coming months using Repoline to close the Spectre hole. Thus, install the latest version of the 4.4 Kernel with UKUU.

Hide the Switch to Local Mirrors Question

To hide the Switch to Local Mirror question, go to Edit Preferences. Click Don't suggest Local Mirror. Click Apply. You can also change the refresh list rate to once every day instead of once every couple of hours.

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#5 Turn off Sound Effects in System Settings

Each time when you log in to Linux Mint, it may play a login sound. To disable the login sound, go to Menu, System Settings, Sound. Under the “Sound Effects” tab, turn off the sound effects for "Starting Cinnamon" Then turn off all sound effects. Log out and log back in to check the new setting for login sound.

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#6 Turn off Cinnamon Visual Effects

Cinnamon comes with lots of special effects. But all of these are not really needed. To turn them off, open System Settings. Then click on Effects. Change all the settings to Off.

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Then click the back arrow. Then click on the General icon. For Disable composting, change the setting from Off to On.

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Then click on the back arrow again. Then click on Window Tiling and change Tiling and Snapping from On to Off.

#7 Improve Mint Touch Pad Settings

Turning on the touch pad can cause the mouse to jump unexpectedly while typing. A nagging problem in writing articles with Libre Writer is that the pointer and screen and scroll bar all tend to jump around if you have a sensitive touch pad. This is not the fault of Libre Writer. Instead, it is an issue with how Linux Mint handles the touch pad. If you use a mouse, you have two options.

The easiest way to stabilize your pointer is to open the Settings in your Mint Menu and click on the Mouses Icon which is in the Hardware section. This brings up the Mouse Preferences window. Click on the Touch pad tab. If you use the touch pad occasionally, then check “Disable touch pad while typing.” This will keep the touch pad off while you are typing and about two seconds after you stop typing. On the other hand, if you want to turn the touch pad off completely, then change Enable Touch pad to Off:

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# 8 Set up your Printer

To install your printer on Linux Mint is usually a pretty simple matter. First connect your printer to the USB port on your Chromebook. Then go to Settings, Printers.

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Then click ADD. Select the printer you want to use. Click Forward. Linux Mint will search for a driver for this printer Click Forward again. Then click Apply. Then print a test page. Then click OK. You can also set up a wireless printer connection. First, connect the printer to your wireless network. Then in Mint Settings, Printers, click Server, New, Printer.

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Assuming your computer is logged into the same network, Mint will find the Printer. Click Forward, then Apply. Then print a test page. Then click OK.

#9 Improve Mint Swappiness to make Linux Mint Run Faster and your SSD Last Longer

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 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 word 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 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.

How to Reduce Swappiness in Linux Mint

First, we will install two applications called gkus and leafpad. Click on Menu, Terminal to open a terminal window. Then copy/paste:

sudo apt-get install gksu leafpad

Press Enter and submit your password. Note that the password will remain invisible. Don't worry. This is normal. Then check your current swappiness setting by copying and pasting the following command into the terminal:

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness


Press Enter. The result will probably be 60.To change this value, copy and paste the following command into the terminal window:

gksudo leafpad /etc/sysctl.conf

Press Enter. You will see a page open ending with the following text:

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Copy and paste the following lines at the end of the text:

# Sharply reduce swap inclination
vm.swappiness=10

Click on the menu at the top of this file and click Save and then quit. Then reboot your computer.

What’s Next?

Now that we have improved Mint’s basic settings, in the next section, we will review several steps for improving the appearance of our desktop.  

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