Linux Mint: system hacks for advanced users


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Below you'll find some advanced hacks for Linux Mint, only meant for users with a lot of Linux experience. Not for beginners!


Customize the frozen Guest session (guest account) to your liking

1. Present by default in a cleanly installed Linux Mint 18.2/18.3 (not in an upgraded one): an idiot-proof guest account that automatically reverts to the default settings upon reboot (or upon logout).

This frozen guest account runs in kiosk mode, so all changes in the guest session are being deleted at reboot or logout. It's a nice and handy feature of display manager LightDM, but it has default settings which might not suit you.

This is how to change those defaults.

Note: such a guest account is only present in a clean installation of Linux Mint 18.2/18.3, not in an upgraded 18.2/18.3 nor in older versions of Linux Mint (18.1 and previous).

This is how to get a guest account in Mint 18 and 18.1 (and in an upgraded 18.2/18.3):

- Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

- Then in the terminal (use copy/paste to avoid typing errors):

sudo apt-get install slick-greeter lightdm lightdm-settings apparmor

Press Enter. Type your password; your password will remain entirely invisible, you won't even see dots, that's normal. Press Enter again.

- When prompted, select lightdm in the dialog window, by means of the arrow keys on your keyboard. Press Enter. (You might need to activate the OK button with the Tab key first)

- Then in the terminal (use copy/paste):

sudo apt-get remove mdm

Press Enter.

- Reboot your computer.


You can adapt the default settings of the guest account by means of a trick: you can create a "skeleton" account with the right settings, and then configure the Guest session to copy those settings from the "skeleton" account.

This is how you do that:

a. Create a new user account, called Hospitality. You can do that by launching "Users and Groups" from the menu. This new account should be a normal user account with no special priviliges.

Note: the "Full Name" of this new user should begin with a capital letter! Not the "Username", because user names have to be all lowercase. But in "Users and Groups" the new "Full Name" should begin with a capital letter, because otherwise a malfunction might occur.

Ensure that a password is required for logging into this new user account. It's best to set the same password as the one for the account of the system administrator (your personal account), because only the system administrator should be able to log into it.

b. Log out and then log into the new user account Hospitality, and configure it the way you want the Guest session to become. For example with a nicer wallpaper instead of Mint's default eternal night, and with different settings for Firefox and Libre Office.

In the next step you'll ensure that the Guest session will copy all of its settings from the new account Hospitality. You can change those settings later on as well: later changes will also land automatically in the Guest session.

c. Log out from the Hospitality account and log into the account of the system administrator (your personal account).

d. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

e. Then in the terminal (use copy/paste to avoid typing errors):

sudo mkdir /etc/guest-session

Press Enter. When prompted, type your password. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.
Press Enter again.

f. Then copy/paste this command line into the terminal:

sudo ln -s /home/hospitality /etc/guest-session/skel

Press Enter.

(note that hospitality doesn't begin with a capital letter in the command)

g. Log out from your account and log into the Guest session. Now it should have the same settings as the new user account Hospitality.

The only disadvantage is, that you now have an extra "useless" user account in the login window.

Do you want to make new changes later on? That's simple: later changes in the Hospitality account, will also land automatically in the Guest session.

Use Conky to monitor your system

2. Conky is a very useful and versatile tool for checking what's going on in your system. You can find a how-to with screenshots on this page.

Automatic shutdown when closing laptop lid (all desktops)

3. It's useful when closing the laptop lid invokes an automatic shutdown, even when Power Manager doesn't allow for that option in your desktop environment. In all desktops that can be achieved like this:

a. Copy/paste the following command line into the terminal:

gksudo xed /etc/systemd/logind.conf

Press Enter.

b. In that text configuration file, find the following line:

HandleLidSwitch=ignore

in some cases this line looks a bit different, namely: #HandleLidSwitch=suspend

Delete it and replace it by this line:

HandleLidSwitch=poweroff

Save the modified text file and close it.

c. Reboot your computer. Closing the laptop lid should now evoke an automatic shutdown of your computer.

Note: on some laptops an undesirable side effect might occur, namely a CPU that becomes very hot, causing its cooling fan to start blowing full speed all the time.

In that case I advise to undo this hack.

Disable IPv6 (when you can't establish internet connection)

4. Some old modems and routers can't deal properly with modern IPv6. This might cause a bad unstable connection or even a complete failure to establish any connection at all. In that case, disable IPv6 like this:

Menu - Preferences - Network Connections

Click on the name of your current connection - click the button Edit...
Tab IPv6 Settings - Method: change it into Ignore

Click the button Save... and then click the button Close

Disconnect and reconnect, or simply reboot your computer.

Problems with Libre Office? Install a newer Libre Office

5. If you experience problems with your current version of Libre Office, you can install a later version of Libre Office with a PPA.

This is how to do it (item 8, right column).

How to manually install a non-free driver for your Nvidia video card

6. Do you have a graphics card from Nvidia, which is so new that the proprietary restricted driver version in the software repositories of Mint is too old? Then you can proceed like this.

(continued in the column on the right)
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Install the latest iwlwifi driver for your new Intel wireless card

7. In certain circumstances you may need a newer iwlwifi driver for your Intel wireless card, than the one that's available by default. For that, you can proceed as follows:

a. Download the zipped driver file for your kernel version:
https://wireless.wiki.kernel.org/en/users/drivers/iwlwifi

Don't do anything with it. Only download it and don't even click on it.


b. Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)


c. Now move the old driver to the root folder, in order to disable it. For that, use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation to the terminal:

sudo mv -v /lib/firmware/iwlwifi-* /

Press Enter. When prompted, type your password. Your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.
Press Enter again.


d. Then unpack the downloaded file like this:

cd Downloads && tar -xvzf ~/Downloads/iwlwifi*.tgz


e. Now go to the folder with the unpacked driver, like this:

cd iwlwifi*


f. Then move the new driver to the right location:

sudo mv -v iwlwifi-*.ucode /lib/firmware


g. Reboot your computer, in order to load the new driver. Your wireless Intel card should now run on the new driver.


h. Finally, pin the package linux-firmware to its current version, in order to prevent potential future problems by updates:

sudo apt-mark hold linux-firmware

Install a brand-new unsupported kernel

8. Sometimes, when you have a very new computer, you have a problem: the drivers in the Linux kernel of Linux Mint, aren't recent enough. In that case, you can do the following:

a. First of all, you can try whether a newer officially supported kernel suffices:
From the menu, launch Update Manager. In the toolbar of Update Manager: View - Linux kernels
Install the very latest kernel in the list.

Then reboot your computer.

b. If that kernel still isn't new enough, you can install an even newer and wholly unsupported kernel by means of a non-official (and therefore less safe) software source: the canonical-kernel-team PPA.

Note that the newer kernel you're about to install is unsupported in your version of Linux Mint, so there's an increased risk of malfunctions and errors. This should therefore only be done as emergency measure.

The method is as follows:

Launch a terminal window.
(You can launch a terminal window like this: *Click*)

Then in the terminal (use copy/paste to avoid typing errors):

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:canonical-kernel-team

Press Enter. Type your password; your password will remain entirely invisible, you won't even see dots, that's normal. Press Enter again.

With this, you add the software source to your sources list.

c. Then in the terminal (use copy/paste):

sudo apt-get update

Press Enter. With this, you inform your system about the contents of the newly added software source.

d. From the menu, launch Update Manager. In the toolbar of Update Manager: View - Linux kernels
Install the very latest kernel in the list.

Then reboot your computer.

e. After this reboot your computer should run on the latest kernel. Check it by means of the following terminal command:

uname -r

Press Enter.

Even more risky: a bleeding edge kernel from the cowboys

8.1. Do you want to try an even newer unsupported kernel than the already risky "ordinary" unsupported kernel from Canonical Kernel Team? Then you can get a bleeding edge high-risk kernel from the cowboys, or the unstable branch of Canonical Kernel Team. In this way:

First:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:canonical-kernel-team/unstable

Secondly:
sudo apt-get update

Thirdly:
Launch Update Manager and use its kernel tool.

Finally:
Reboot and pray for the best. Yeehaw!

Want more tips?

Do you want more tips and tweaks for Linux Mint? There's a lot more of them on this website!


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