10 things to do first in Linux Mint 18.2 Xfce


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Congratulations, you've installed a brand new Linux Mint 18.2 (code name: Sonya), with the Xfce desktop environment! What's best for you to do, first of all?

I've made a list of the things to do, which I've divided into three categories:
- 10 absolutely essential ones (part 1);
- the recommended ones (not essential, part 2);
- the maybe useful (part 3).

It's quite a list, but it'll give you a polished, nearly maintenance-free operating system that you'll be able to enjoy for years to come! Plus it's also a crash course in the use of Linux Mint.

Note: you'll find only relatively safe tips and tweaks here, because I think that the stability and reliability of your operating system should never be endangered. This website is serious about Linux Mint, so my approach is conservative.

I try to mention it whenever some risk is unavoidable, so that you can always make a balanced decision.

Note: this web page is only meant for Linux Mint 18.2 with the Xfce desktop environment; the corresponding page for Linux Mint with the Cinnamon desktop is here and for the Mate desktop is here.

Furthermore, these tips are written for Linux Mint 18.2 Xfce Sonya. The tips for the older Linux Mint 17.1 Xfce Rebecca are here.

Contents

  1. 1 TEN ESSENTIAL ACTIONS:
    1. 1.1 Select an update policy and apply all available updates
    2. 1.2 Better settings for Power Manager, terminal, Update Manager and for installing software
      1. 1.2.1 Laptop: enable battery icon in system tray
      2. 1.2.2 Improve the settings for installing software
      3. 1.2.3 Improve a terminal setting
      4. 1.2.4 Consider changing the settings of Update Manager
    3. 1.3 Drivers and full multimedia support
      1. 1.3.1 Install missing drivers
      2. 1.3.2 Install full multimedia support
    4. 1.4 Optimize your Solid State Drive (SSD)
    5. 1.5 Install some useful tools for system management
    6. 1.6 Decrease the swap use (important)
    7. 1.7 Turn on the firewall and set a root password
      1. 1.7.1 Turn on the firewall
      2. 1.7.2 Set the root password
    8. 1.8 Font support and Java
    9. 1.9 Avoid 10 fatal mistakes!
    10. 1.10 Solve some known bugs
  2. 2 SIXTEEN RECOMMENDED ACTIONS (NOT ESSENTIAL):
    1. 2.1 Remove Mono, Orca and VirtualBox Guest software
    2. 2.2 Check whether the screen saver is configured correctly
    3. 2.3 Optimize Firefox
    4. 2.4 Tweak Libre Office
    5. 2.5 Install an extra web browser
    6. 2.6 Disable hibernation (suspend-to-disk)
      1. 2.6.1 How to undo
    7. 2.7 Disable the multiple workspaces
    8. 2.8 Disable the fast user switch
    9. 2.9 Tame your mouse and touchpad
    10. 2.10 Speed up your Linux Mint
    11. 2.11 Remove the option 'save session' from the logout window
    12. 2.12 Disable the mousewheel-rollup feature
    13. 2.13 Access your network disk (NAS) with Gigolo
    14. 2.14 Migrate your e-mail from Outlook (Express) in Windows, to Linux Mint
    15. 2.15 Multiple accounts: prevent other users from accessing the files in your account
    16. 2.16 Backup your panel
  3. 3 ELEVEN NEUTRAL TWEAKS (MAYBE USEFUL):
    1. 3.1 Repair a display error (window borders that disappear)
    2. 3.2 Use your own picture for wallpaper
    3. 3.3 Add a weather report to the panel
    4. 3.4 Improve the clock
    5. 3.5 Stop a window from maximizing when dragged to the top of the display
    6. 3.6 For little RAM: enable zRam
    7. 3.7 Install some simple games
    8. 3.8 Make the Grub boot menu pretty
    9. 3.9 Trick for shortcuts on the desktop
    10. 3.10 Turn Num Lock on automatically
    11. 3.11 Make available updates more prominent
  4. 4 Want more tips?
  5. 5 Get help


Tip: you can download a checklist here, which you can print on paper. Then you can strike the items that you've done.

Are you unsure what Linux Mint version you have? The version number on the default wallpaper should give you an indication, but you can also check that as follows:

Launch a terminal window:
Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal (Terminal Emulator)

Type (use copy/paste in order to avoid typing errors):
lsb_release -a

Press Enter.



Part 1

TEN ESSENTIAL ACTIONS:


Select an update policy and apply all available updates

1.1. First the updates, then the rest...

Click on Menu - System - Update Manager

Select an update policy (for beginners I recommend the first one, named "Just keep my computer safe"; I'll explain more about that later), let Update Manager check for available updates and apply them all.

Note: during the updates you might be asked whether you want to replace a configuration file. Don't replace it: although replacing is generally safe, it's usually unnecessary.

Afterwards reboot your computer (not always necessary after updates, but in this case, do it just to make sure).

Better settings for Power Manager, terminal, Update Manager and for installing software

1.2. Power Manager, the terminal (terminal emulator), Update Manager and the mechanism for installing software are four very important tools. That's why it's important that their settings are optimal. You can achieve that as follows:

Laptop: enable battery icon in system tray

1.2.1. On a laptop, the battery icon should be visible in the system tray. So you can keep track of the remaining charge level. But by default it's absent.

This is how to enable it:
Menu – Settings – Power Manager: tick: Show system tray icon

Improve the settings for installing software

1.2.2. Mint deviates from the Ubuntu way, where the so-called "recommended" packages are concerned. When you install software yourself, Ubuntu installs the recommended packages by default, but Mint does not.

This has two important disadvantages: in Mint, the features of the applications that you install yourself, can be needlessly crippled. And some how-to's for Ubuntu, don't work in Mint. All this for the sake of saving some disk space...

You can make things right like this:

Menu button - System - Synaptic Package Manager

Settings - Preferences - tab General
Section Marking Changes: tick: Consider recommended packages as dependencies

Click Apply

Click OK.

Furthermore, you need to change the setting "false" into "true", in the settings file /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/00recommends. That's easiest to do in the following way:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following command line into the terminal, for example by a right-click with your mouse (this is one line!):

sudo sed -i 's/false/true/g' /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/00recommends

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

Improve a terminal setting

1.2.3. You're probably going to use the terminal (Xfce Terminal) from time to time, because it's the mighty "Swiss Army knife" of Linux. But the default appearance of the terminal window can be made more practical. You can do that as follows.

The terminal window is semi-transparent. Beautiful, but impractical. Improve it like this:

Menu bar of the terminal: Edit - Preferences (or: right-click with the mouse in the black space of the terminal - Preferences).

Tab Appearance: change the Background to: None (use solid color).

Consider changing the settings of Update Manager

1.2.4. The default settings of Update Manager are very cautious; that's a characteristic of Linux Mint. Stability first and foremost.

In itself that's good, although Ubuntu (on which Mint is built) is less cautious with updates. And Ubuntu is also stable and reliable.

It might be worthwhile to make Mints Update Manager a little less cautious: that gives you the advantage of extra bug fixes.

You can easily do that by switching your update policy. In the panel of Update Manager: Edit - Update policy. I definitely do not recommend the third option, called "Always update everything". But the second option called "Let me review sensitive updates" is a reasonable choice for people who already have some experience with Linux Mint.

Note: if you're an absolute beginner with Linux, then it's better to select the first option called "Just keep my computer safe". With that update policy you only miss some of the ordinary bug fixes, but you still get all of the security updates.

It's therefore not strictly necessary to change things. But it is important that you understand these aspects of Update Manager. That's why this is listed among the essential things to do.

If you don't want to change the settings of Update Manager (yet), you can simply skip this.


More about tweaking the settings of Update Manager here (*Click*).

Drivers and full multimedia support

1.3. For installing missing drivers and full multimedia support, proceed as follows (you need internet connection for this!):

Install missing drivers

1.3.1. Installing drivers is usually not necessary, because they are already present in the Linux kernel. Exceptions are some printer drivers and proprietary restricted drivers for (among others) Nvidia graphics cards.

a. Install your printer and scanner in this way (*Click*).

b. For optimal performance of your Nvidia video card, or your Broadcom wireless chipset, you'll want to install the closed source restricted driver (the proprietary driver). Like this:

Menu - System - Driver Manager

When available for your system, this tool will present you with one or more installable non-free drivers. Select them, with the exception of the package intel-microcode or amd64-microcode (if any of these microcode packages is being offered).

Reason: despite the "device not working" report, your device (CPU) is already working on the microcode contained in the BIOS / UEFI, which is usually just fine. Installing another microcode package has been known to cause severe boot problems on some hardware combinations!

The required drivers are then automatically downloaded from the internet, from the software repositories of Mint, and (also automatically) installed. Afterwards you'll have to do a full reboot of your computer.

Note: sometimes you're being offered several versions of the restricted driver for your Nvidia video card. The order of preference is as follows:

1. nvidia-(from highest number to lowest number)
2. nvidia-(from highest number to lowest number)-updates
3. nvidia-experimental

Only choose from the versions that you're being offered, because only those support your video card! Start with the preferred number one, and only work your way down when it doesn't perform well.

Do you have a brand-new graphics card from Nvidia? Then it might be too new for the version of the proprietary restricted driver in the software repositories of Mint. In that case you won't be offered any proprietary driver by Driver Manager.

If this happens, then you can look for another solution for your Nvidia card on this page.


For an AMD/ATI video card you have to stick to the default open source driver. Because the closed AMD Catalyst (fglrx) drivers are not compatible with Linux Mint 18.

These closed fglrx drivers are proprietary and so their code is not available. AMD indicated they no longer wanted to support them and urged their customers to use open-source drivers instead.

If you're using an AMD or ATI GPU in Linux Mint 18, the operating system will automatically select either the radeon or the amdgpu driver for you, and both of these open-source drivers are installed by default.

Install full multimedia support

1.3.2. You've probably installed full multimedia support during the installation of Linux Mint, by ticking the checkbox for Install third-party software for graphics and Wi-Fi hardware, Flash, MP3 and other media. But if you didn't, you can do it now:

Menu button - Multimedia - Install Multimedia Codecs

Note: this menu entry is only present when you haven't installed full multimedia support (mint-meta-codecs) yet. After installing it, this menu entry will disappear.

You can play encrypted video DVD's with VLC Media Player, but you can also enable other media players in your system to play such DVD's. In the following way:

a. Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

b. Use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation to the terminal):

sudo apt-get install libdvd-pkg

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

Whenever the terminal asks you to confirm the installation procedure with a preselected "OK", press Enter to give that "OK".

c. When it's finished, copy/paste this line into the terminal:

sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg

Press Enter and let it do its job, which might take some time, especially on old hardware. Just wait patiently for it to finish.

Optimize your Solid State Drive (SSD)

1.4. Do you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of a conventional hard disk? Then optimize it for Linux Mint.

Install some useful tools for system management

1.5. There's a bug in the default file manager Thunar, which (under certain circumstances) makes moving files difficult or even almost impossible. If you encounter that problem, it's best to use another, stand-alone simple file manager that's not embedded in your operating system. Such a simple stand-alone file manager is Double Commander. Extra advantage: it has two panes.

Furthermore, some of my how-to's contain the use of the simple stand-alone text editor Leafpad, for editing system-wide configuration files with root authority. So it's handy to install that as well.

Also, for optimal control of the sound settings, there's a useful application called pavucontrol.

And finally, for finding files, the simple, user-friendly application Catfish is a superb tool.

Install them all like this:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation into the terminal (it's one line!):

sudo apt-get install doublecmd-gtk leafpad pavucontrol p7zip-rar catfish

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

Decrease the swap use (important)

1.6. This is especially noticeable on computers with relatively low RAM memory (2 GB or less): they tend to be far too slow in Linux Mint, and Linux Mint accesses the hard disk too much. Luckily, this can be helped.

Note: does your computer have 4 GB RAM or more? Then you can skip this item, because with so much RAM you probably won't notice any benefits from applying it.

On the hard disk there's a separate partition for virtual memory, called the swap. When Mint uses the swap too much, the computer slows down a lot.

Mint's inclination to use the swap, is determined by a setting. The lower the setting number, the longer it takes before Mint starts using the swap. On a scale of 0-100, the default setting is 60. Which is much too high for normal desktop use, and only fit for servers.

A detailed explanation can be found here (link dead? Then download this pdf file with the same content).

Now the how-to:

a. Check your current swappiness setting:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste to avoid errors):

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Press Enter.

The result will probably be 60.

b. To change the swappiness into a more sensible setting, type in the terminal (use copy/paste):

gksudo xed /etc/sysctl.conf

Press Enter.

Scroll to the bottom of the text file and add your swappiness parameter to override the default. For that, copy/paste the following two green lines:

# Decrease swap usage to a more reasonable level
vm.swappiness=10

c. Save and close the text file. Then reboot your computer.

d. After the reboot, check the new swappiness value:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Press Enter.

Now it should be 10.

Note: if your hard disk is an SSD, your machine will benefit from an even bigger decrease in swappiness. That's because too many write actions, like frequent swapping, reduce the lifespan of an SSD. For an SSD I advise a swappiness of 1. Also check these tips for optimizing an SSD for your Linux.

Turn on the firewall and set a root password

1.7. The default security of Linux Mint can and should be improved a bit. This concerns the firewall and the root password. Below you can find how to do that.

Turn on the firewall

1.7.1. The firewall is disabled by default, but usually it's better to turn it on. Especially on mobile devices like laptops, which sometimes connect to other networks than your own. Furthermore

The firewall is called Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw), and can be operated from the terminal.

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following line into the terminal:

sudo ufw enable

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; this will remain entirely invisible, not even asterisks will show when you type it, which is normal.

Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw) has a sensible set of default settings (profile), which are fine for the vast majority of home users. So unless you have special wishes: you're done!

You can check the status of the firewall with this command:
sudo ufw status verbose

Press Enter.

When enabled, the output should be like this:

pjotr@netbook:~$ sudo ufw status verbose
[sudo] password for pjotr:
Status: active
Logging: on (low)
Default: deny (incoming), allow (outgoing), disabled (routed)
New profiles: skip
pjotr@netbook:~$


I've printed the most important message in red: this output basically means that all incoming is denied and all outgoing is allowed.

There are sensible exceptions in the default settings: for example, with the default profile the use of Samba should be no problem. Also downloading torrents (fetch) should be possible; but seeding torrents (serve), might require a temporal disabling of ufw.

It's easy to disable the firewall (should you wish to do so) with this command:
sudo ufw disable

Press Enter.

If you're interested in the full set of rules, see the output of:
sudo ufw show raw

You can also read the rules files in /etc/ufw (the files whose names end with .rules).

A further explanation about the firewall and security in general, can be found here.

Set the root password

1.7.2. Starting with Linux Mint 18.2, the root password is unfortunately no longer set by default (if you've upgraded from 18.1 to 18.2, you're not affected).

This means that a malicious person with physical access to your computer, can simply boot it into Recovery mode. In the recovery menu he can then select to launch a root shell, without having to enter any password. After which your system is fully his.

He can then do all kinds of nasty things. Like changing your own password....

This is how to fix it, by setting a password for root (preferably identical to your own password):

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following line into the terminal:

sudo passwd

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; this will remain entirely invisible, not even asterisks will show when you type it, which is normal.

Note: I advise to make the root password ("UNIX password") identical to your own, in order to prevent problems later on.

That's it! Problem solved.

For good measure: a bad guy with physical access to your computer, also has other means to acquire root authority on your computer. So this fix certainly doesn't make your computer completely safe: physical access always remains a risk.

What this fix does, is blocking one much too easy way to get such unauthorized root access. Which increases security somewhat.

Font support and Java

1.8. a. Now install some useful fonts:

Menu - System - Xfce Terminal

Use copy/paste to transfer this line into the terminal (it's one line!):

sudo apt-get install fonts-crosextra-carlito fonts-crosextra-caladea

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; this will remain entirely invisible, not even asterisks will show, which is normal.

b. Use Software Manager or Synaptic Package Manager for installing some extra Microsoft fonts:

Menu - System - Software Manager

- Query: microsoft

- Double-click Ttf-mscorefonts-installer for installation and press the Install button.

Funny detail: during the installation of the Microsoft fonts, which you definitely want to have, you might be asked to check a box stating that you accept a license agreement of.... Microsoft.

Note: it may look like the installation has stalled. This is only seemingly so: simply wait. After a while (this might last several minutes!) the installation should finish neatly.

c. You might want to install Oracle (Sun) Java (if you need it, which is rare nowadays).

Avoid 10 fatal mistakes!

1.9. There are 10 mistakes that you definitely want to avoid, for the sake of the health of your system. Written for both Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

Solve some known bugs

1.10. If you have a problem: have a look at the solutions for 19 bugs. Don't skip this, when you have some problem! There's a big chance that you'll benefit from at least one of the workarounds presented at that page..... Written for Ubuntu, but applicable in Linux Mint as well.

Also relevant: the release notes of Linux Mint 18.2 Xfce.


Part 2

SIXTEEN RECOMMENDED ACTIONS (NOT ESSENTIAL):


Remove Mono, Orca and VirtualBox Guest software

2.1.a. By default, Mono is installed. This package is a security risk, because it's an implementation of Microsoft's .NET. That's cross-platform, which means that it works in many operating systems (including Windows). That Mono infrastructure could potentially be abused by specially crafted cross-platform malware and viruses.

It's only a limited risk, but a risk nevertheless: with Mono, you're partly in the contaminated and infected Windows ecosystem. Whereas the benefit of Mono is only small, because there are usually excellent alternatives for the Mono based applications.

Furthermore, Linux Mint contains screen reader Orca (gnome-orca) by default. Nifty, when you're visually handicapped. But useless when you're not. And it's rather disconcerting when, after pressing the wrong key combination, your computer suddenly starts addressing you with a heavy bass voice....

Finally, Mint contains by default some virtualbox-guest packages. These are useless when you're not a VirtualBox user, and may cause problems when you do use VirtualBox. So in both cases it's best to remove them.

You can remove all these software items like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation into the terminal (it's one line):

sudo apt-get remove mono-runtime-common gnome-orca virtualbox-guest*

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

This removal will also delete a Mono based application, namely notepad Tomboy. You can install a fine alternative for that, that doesn't depend on Mono. Like this:

Copy and paste the following command line into the terminal:

sudo apt-get install xpad

Press Enter.

Note: if in the future you install an application that needs Mono, you'll also be reinstalling Mono.... So always read what will be installed along with whatever application you plan to install.

Check whether the screen saver is configured correctly

2.2. The screen saver is enabled by default. But there's some resource hogging stuff among the screensavers, that may freeze your computer.

Set the screensaver therefore at "blank screen":

Menu - Settings - Screensaver: choose Blank Screen Only.

Optimize Firefox

2.3. With a couple of changes in the settings, you can improve the performance of Firefox in Linux Mint Xfce. These tweaks will make this fine web browser leaner and cleaner.

Tweak Libre Office

2.4. The default office suite is the fine Libre Office. In order to improve it, you can tweak the settings of Libre Office.

Install an extra web browser

2.5. It's useful to have an extra web browser available. Firefox is a fine application, but now and then (especially when you've installed too many extensions or add-ons in Firefox), it doesn't function entirely well.

An excellent alternative to Firefox, is web browser Google Chrome. Unfortunately it's not in the software sources of Linux Mint, but you can download its 64-bit installer from the download page of Chrome.

That web page should automatically recognize that you're running Linux Mint: it should offer you a preselected installer for Debian/Ubuntu, because that's what you need in Mint.

Double-click the installer, which has the extension .deb, as if it were a .exe installer in Windows. Then it'll install itself automatically.

Furthermore, it'll add the software source for Chrome to your software sources list, so that Update Manager will automatically offer you updates for Google Chrome as soon as they become available.

Note: do you have a 32-bit operating system? Then you can't install Google Chrome. In that case select Chromium, which can be installed by means of Software Manager.

Most plug-ins that you've installed for Firefox (not the add-ons and extensions, but things like Java) work automatically in Chrome as well. No need for further action for that. Not even for Adobe Flash Player, because Chrome already contains it by default.

You can find tips and tweaks for Chrome and Chromium here.

(continued in the column on the right)


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Disable hibernation (suspend-to-disk)

2.6. Unfortunately, "hibernate" (suspend-to-disk) is enabled by default in Linux Mint. Which is rather surprising, because in Ubuntu it's disabled by default...

This aggressive sleep mode often leads to problems, because most manufacturers of BIOS and UEFI don't stick to the standards for implementing power saving. So your computer may experience malfunctions after waking up, or even enter a coma from which it can't awake at all.

It's therefore best to disable hibernation.

Note: the sleep mode "suspend" (suspend-to-ram) is much less aggressive and therefore far less likely to cause problems.

You can disable hibernation (suspend-to-disk) like this:

a. Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

b. Copy the following command line and paste it into the terminal, in order to avoid typing errors (this is one line):

sudo mv -v /etc/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/com.ubuntu.enable-hibernate.pkla /

Press Enter and submit your password. Please note that the password will remain invisible, not even asterisks will show, which is normal.

With that, you've moved the settings file that enables hibernation, to the main directory / (root). Thus rendering it ineffective. The new location is a safe storage, from which you can retrieve it again, should you ever wish to restore hibernation.

c. Reboot your computer. Hibernation should now no longer be one of the options in the shutdown menu.

(with thanks to riffbiker from the Linux Mint forum)

d. On a laptop, it's advisable to check the power manager settings: you'll have to select alternatives for hibernation now, for actions like closing the lid...

e. The troublesome hibernation shouldn't be enabled by default at all... So please help to improve Linux Mint, by supporting this idea of mine:
http://community.linuxmint.com/idea/view/5482

How to undo

2.6.1. Do you want hibernation back? The above hack is easily reversible. Undoing it is very simple:

a. Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

b. Copy/paste the following line into the terminal (it's one line):

sudo mv -v /com.ubuntu.enable-hibernate.pkla /etc/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d

Press Enter and submit your password. Please note that the password will remain invisible, not even asterisks will show, which is normal.

Reboot your computer. The hibernate option should be back now.

Disable the multiple workspaces

2.7. By default you've got multiple workspaces, to which you can switch whenever you want. Some people like it. But for others, it's a bloody annoyance to see their open application windows disappear "all of a sudden".

Because it can happen quite unexpectedly: a workspace switch may happen by an accidentally pressed key combination (shortcut).

If you don't plan to use them, the best approach is therefore this one:

Menu -  Settings - Workspaces
Number of workspaces: set it to 1
Click Close.

Disable the fast user switch

2.8. It's possible to switch from one user account to another, by means of the yellow button called "Switch Users" in the menu. It's best to avoid that button, because this might lead to unexpected malfunctions.

Furthermore, it's technically much better to simply log off from user account A before logging into user account B. For the simple reason that only then you have full system power available, for the user account that you're using.

You can remove the yellow switch button like this:

In your desktop panel, right-click on the Menu button - Properties
Tab Commands: remove the tick for: Switch Users

Note: user preference, so repeat this in each user account.

Tame your mouse and touchpad

2.9. Your mouse and touchpad can perform better. Like this:

Menu button - Settings - Mouse and Touchpad
Pointer speed: set the acceleration higher, to 4 (or thereabouts).

Click the Close button.

Furthermore, it's convenient to disable the touchpad (trackpad) of your laptop during typing, and tweak the delay. Especially on small laptops.

That's easy to configure:

a. First entirely undo any current disabling, because Xfce's ordinary tool disables mouse pointer movements as well, which is unnecessary and cumbersome:

Menu button - Settings - Mouse and Touchpad

Click on the tab Touchpad

General: make sure the following option is not ticked:
Disable touchpad while typing

Close the mouse and touchpad settings window.

b. Now create a modified startup application:

Menu button - Settings - Session and Startup

Click the tab Application Autostart

click Add

c. Fill out the fields as follows (use copy/paste, that's easiest):

Name:
Syndaemon

Description:
Disable touchpad while typing, with a reasonable delay and only for tapping and scrolling

Command:
syndaemon -i 1.0 -K -R -t

Click OK.

d. Reboot your computer (or log out and log in again).

e. Finally, check whether it's working, with the help of the following terminal command (copy/paste the green line below in a terminal and press Enter):
ps aux|grep syndaemon

Note: this is a user preference, so repeat this in every user account.

Speed up your Linux Mint

2.10. You can probably speed up your Linux Mint noticeably, by applying these safe speed tweaks.

Remove the option 'save session' from the logout window

2.11. In the logout dialog, you can enable saving the session. But that's generally a nuisance, especially for beginners with Linux Mint Xfce. Because all open application windows will be restarted automatically, upon each login.... So it's best not to enable this.

You can remove old sessions like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
rm -r -v ~/.cache/sessions/*

Press Enter.

Note: user setting, so repeat this in each user account.

In order to prevent mistakes, you can remove this option from the logout window for all users like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo mkdir -v /etc/xdg/xfce4/kiosk

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; this remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal. Press Enter again.

Then copy/paste this command into the terminal:
gksudo xed /etc/xdg/xfce4/kiosk/kioskrc

In that empty text document, copy/paste the following text:
[xfce4-session]
SaveSession=NONE
Save the modified file.

Reboot your computer. The option for saving the session should have disappeared from the logout screen.

Disable the mousewheel-rollup feature

2.12. Mint Xfce has a mousewheel-rollup feature, which is enabled by default.

This mousewheel-rollup feature causes many complaints from people who inadvertently perform a rollup of the active window, and then think that their application window has suddenly closed. Or they see the rolled-up window bar, but don't know how to restore it...

So it's better to disable this "feature from hell". Like this:

Menu button - Settings - Settings Editor (not Settings Manager!) - xfwm4
Double-click on mousewheel-rollup and set the value to FALSE (by clicking on TRUE).

Click on the "Save" button.

Note: user preference, so repeat this in each user account.

Access your network disk (NAS) with Gigolo

2.13. You can use Gigolo to access your network disk (NAS).

Migrate your e-mail from Outlook (Express) in Windows, to Linux Mint

2.14. It's easy to migrate your e-mails and e-mail settings from Outlook (Express) in Windows, to Thunderbird in Linux Mint Xfce. Simply apply this how-to.

Multiple accounts: prevent other users from accessing the files in your account

2.15. Does your computer have multiple user accounts? Then you can easily prevent other users from accessing and seeing the files in your account, without taking radical measures like encryption. In the following way:

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

Type (copy/paste):

chmod -v 700 $HOME

Press Enter.

Repeat this in each user account that needs the same protection.

Note: this doesn't protect you from someone with root permissions! It won't stop a determined and experienced snooper, but it's an effective measure to "keep the honest people out". If that's not enough for you: encryption of files or even of your entire home folder, is much more secure....

Should you ever wish to undo this (but why?), that's easy as well. For undoing you can use this command:
chmod -v 755 $HOME

Backup your panel

2.16. The panel of Xfce can be modified in many ways; sometimes a bit too easily. Therefore it's wise to backup its settings, so you can always quickly restore its previous state. Like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install xfpanel-switch

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; this remains entirely invisible, not even dots will show when you type it, this is normal. Press Enter again.

This has installed a fine backup tool for the panel. Then start using it:

Menu button - Settings - Xfce Panel Switch

Below in the application window, backup your current panel settings by clicking on the second button on the left ("Save Configuration").

Note: now you've only made a backup of the settings of the panel in your own user account, so repeat this in all other user accounts (if there are any).


Part 3

ELEVEN NEUTRAL TWEAKS (MAYBE USEFUL):


Repair a display error (window borders that disappear)

3.1. On some hardware, you might encounter an annoying bug from time to time: the window borders disappear, leaving you with application windows without window buttons.

Whenever this happens, you can restore normality as follows:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
xfwm4 --replace

Press Enter.

With that, you restart the window manager, and then everything is normal again (for the time being).

Note: do NOT use sudo in this particular command line! Because in this case you mess up the permissions when you use sudo, which causes all kinds of mysterious malfunctions.

Use your own picture for wallpaper

3.2. Mint Xfce looks nice out of the box, but maybe you want to change your wallpaper anyway....

You can change your wallpaper in almost the same way as in Windows, but there's one important difference.

So: select a picture that you want for wallpaper. In file manager Thunar (among other ways, you can launch Thunar by means of the panel button Places), right-click the .jpg file - Set as wallpaper. You're done.

However, the important difference with Windows is this: Mint only creates a link to the picture that you've set as wallpaper. When you move or delete the picture afterwards, then your wallpaper disappears also, because the link is dead!

So don't throw away the picture, but put it permanently in your home folder. For example in the folder Images. And only then set it as wallpaper.

Add a weather report to the panel

3.3. Always handy: a nice weather report in the panel of your desktop. See this instruction (item 3.4, right column). Written for Xubuntu, but applicable in Mint Xfce as well.

Improve the clock

3.4. You can add the name of the weekday and the date to the digital clock on the right on the panel:

Right-click on the clock - Properties

Section Time: Format: change it to Custom...

Replace the existing code by the following code (use copy/paste in order to avoid errors):
%a %B %e %G %k:%M

Close the Properties window. Now the change should be activated (see the image below):

Stop a window from maximizing when dragged to the top of the display

3.5. A nasty feature in my view: when you drag an application window to the top of your screen, it suddenly maximizes. Rather annoying....

This is how to disable that irritating behaviour:

Menu button - Settings - Settings Manager - Window Manager Tweaks - tab Accessibility: remove the tick for:
Automatically tile windows when moving towards the screen edge

For little RAM: enable zRam

3.6. When your computer has very little RAM (768 MB or less), then the lack of memory will remain a problem, which will cause your system to slow down from time to time. Even when the swappiness has been decreased to 5 (see item 1.5 on this page).

In that case, you might achieve better results by enabling the experimental kernel module zRam. zRam creates a compressed swap file in your RAM. The compression factor is the gain: with that, you "increase" your RAM.

Note: this hack might make your system unstable! So do not apply it on important computers.

The price you pay for this, is threefold:

- Your processor (CPU) is being taxed more heavily, because it'll have to compress and decompress all the time;

- When the system has filled the RAM swap, it'll start swapping on the hard drive as well. With a heavy burden: the chunk of memory that has been sacrificed for the RAM swap.

- For the time being it's still an experimental module, so this extra layer of complexity might cause instability.

That's why, for the time being, I advise zRam only for computers with very little RAM, and even then only in combination with a swappiness that has been decreased to 5. Furthermore, zRam isn't suitable yet for production computers, but only for test machines and other, non-essential computers.

You can install it as follows:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Type (use copy/paste to transport this magical incantation to the terminal):

sudo apt-get install zram-config

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

Reboot your computer.


Check

Now check whether it works, like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:

cat /proc/swaps

Press Enter.

If all has gone well, you should receive a report about one or more /dev/zram "partitions". zRam is active then; no need for further action.


Removal

a. When you want to remove zRam, it can't be done by the simple terminal command "apt-get remove". So:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:

sudo apt-get purge zram-config

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

b. Reboot your computer.

c. Now check whether the removal has succeeded, like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:

cat /proc/swaps

Press Enter.

If all has gone well, you should receive no report anymore about one or more /dev/zram "partitions"

Install some simple games

3.7. Always fun: install some simple games.

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command (it's one line!):

sudo apt-get install aisleriot gnome-cards-data gnomine quadrapassel gnome-sudoku

Press Enter. Type your password when prompted; your password will remain entirely invisible, not even dots will show, this is normal.

After the installation you can find them like this: Menu - Games.

Make the Grub boot menu pretty

3.8. The Grub menu, from which you choose what operating system to boot on a dual boot computer, is practical but ugly.

Luckily, it's easy to make it prettier: *Click*.

Trick for shortcuts on the desktop

3.9. In Xfce there's an annoying and useless "protection of the user against himself": whenever you want to launch a newly-made application shortcut on the desktop, Xfce sometimes issues a warning for that, because.... the file is supposedly in an insecure location!

That's nonsense, of course. So you can simply click "Mark Executable", as shown in the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it):

https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/first-mint-xfce/Screenshot-executable.jpg?attredirects=0

Turn Num Lock on automatically

3.10. Does your keyboard (laptop?) have a separate numeric keypad on the right? Then it's useful for Num Lock to be switched on automatically, when you start Linux Mint.

Note: this instruction is only meant for desktops and laptops that have a separate numeric keypad! It's definitely not desirable to have the Num Lock on by default on a laptop that has no such separate keypad.

You can achieve that as follows:

a. Menu - System - Xfce Terminal
Copy/paste the following command into the terminal:

sudo apt-get install numlockx

Reboot your computer. The numeric keypad should turn on automatically after you log into your user account. If not, read on below.

b. It's possible that during login, Mint will turn Num Lock off again (sigh). If that happens, you can counteract that irritating behaviour as follows:

Menu button - Settings - Session and Startup

Click Add

Name:
Numlock on

Command:
sh -c "sleep 20 && numlockx on"

Click OK.

This will turn Num Lock on, 20 seconds after login. This delay is necessary, because you have to make sure it happens after Mint has turned Num Lock off.

Note: user preference: repeat this in each user account.

Make available updates more prominent

3.11. Some people have difficulty noticing the blue icon in the system tray, that signifies that new updates are available.... In that case you can make available updates more prominent like this:

First download this shell script.

Then move it from the folder Downloads to the folder Documents, for example like this:

Menu button - System - Xfce Terminal

Copy/paste the following terminal command:

mv -v ~/Downloads/check_for_updates-2.sh ~/Documents

Press Enter.

Then make it executable with this terminal command:

chmod 755 ~/Documents/check_for_updates-2.sh

Press Enter.

Then: Menu button - Settings - Session and Startup

Click Add

Name: Update check

Command: press the Browse button near that entry field and click your way through to check_for_updates-2.sh in your Documents folder.

Click OK

From now on you should be presented with a reminder to update, 99 seconds after you log in. Clicking the reminder launches Update Manager. You can't overlook it: it's "in your face".

The disadvantage is, that you also get to see it when there are no updates at all. But that's better than overlooking updates that need to be installed....

Want more tips?

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

Security in Linux Mint

Four popular myths and 11 tips about wireless security (for wifi)

How to clean Linux Mint

How to create a strong password that's easy to remember (the answer might surprise you!)

Get help

5. You can get quick and friendly help on the official Linux Mint forum.


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