10 things to do first in Peppermint 8


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Congratulations, you have installed a brand new Peppermint 8! What's best for you to do first of all?

I have divided the actions into two categories:
- the absolutely essential ones (part 1);
- the recommended ones (not essential, part 2).

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 Peppermint.

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, 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 list is only meant for Peppermint; the corresponding list for Ubuntu is here and the list for Xubuntu is here.

Do the following things, in this order:


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 Peppermint version you have? You can check that as follows:

Launch a terminal window:
Menu button - Terminal

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

Press Enter.


TEN ESSENTIAL ACTIONS:


First the updates, then the rest

1.1. Before you do anything else: check for available updates and install them all:

Menu button - System Tools - Update Manager

It's very important that you don't interrupt the update process. Don't do anything else, and reboot your system when the updates have finished. This is usually not necessary after updates, but the first batch of updates is so big and contains so many crucial items, that a reboot is best.

Install missing drivers

1.2. Installing drivers is usually not necessary, because they are already present in the Linux kernel. Exceptions are 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 graphics card, or your Broadcom wireless card, you'll want to install the closed source restricted driver (the proprietary non-free driver). Like this:

Menu button - Preferences - Software & Updates

Click on the tab Additional Drivers

When available for your system, you'll be shown one or more installable non-free drivers. Select them.

The required drivers are then automatically downloaded from the internet, from the software repositories of Peppermint (actually those of Ubuntu), and -also automatically- installed. Afterwards you will have to do a full reboot of your computer.

Note: Sometimes you're being offered several versions of the restricted driver for your 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 Ubuntu. 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 Peppermint 7.

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 Peppermint 7, 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 some extra software

1.3. In order to complete Peppermint, you'll definitely want to install some extra software. You can do that as follows.

a. First you'll want to have the package lubuntu-restricted-extras, which contains vital multimedia support:

Menu button - Accessories - Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install lubuntu-restricted-extras

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


b. Furthermore, you'll want to have support for playing encrypted DVD's:

Menu button - Accessories - Terminal

Use copy/paste to transfer the following magical incantation to the terminal:
sudo apt-get install libdvd-pkg

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

Now you'll be presented a couple of times with confirmation requests. Accept all requests.

c. Then copy and paste this green text into the terminal:
sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg

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

Again, you'll be presented a couple of times with confirmation requests. Accept them all. Note: this may take a while, especially on weak hardware. Wait patiently until it has finished.

d. Then, install Firefox as second web browser. Always handy to have, even if it's only for troubleshooting purposes. You can use Software Manager or Synaptic Package Manager to install it.

e. Next, you may want to install Java.

Decrease the swap use (important!)

1.4. This is especially noticeable on computers with relatively low RAM memory (2 GB or less): they tend to be far too slow in Peppermint, and Peppermint 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 Peppermint uses the swap too much, the computer slows down a lot.

Peppermint's inclination to use the swap, is determined by a setting. The lower the setting number, the longer it takes before Peppermint 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. Menu - Terminal

Now check your current swappiness setting. Type in the terminal (use copy/paste):
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. Copy/paste the following green lines:

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

d. Close the text file and reboot your computer.

e. After the reboot, check the new swappiness setting:

Menu button - 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

1.5. It's advisable to turn on the firewall (it's disabled by default):

Menu button - Terminal

Copy/paste this command into the terminal:
sudo ufw enable

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

Now check the firewall status. Copy/paste into the terminal:
sudo ufw status verbose

Press Enter.

Improve the settings of the updates

1.6. You can improve the configuration of the updates as follows.

Better settings in Software & Updates

1.6.1. First change the configuration of the application Software & Updates.

Menu button - Preferences - Software & Updates

Click on the tab Other Software.

In that tab you see some extra software repositories, most of which are disabled. And rightly so. With this exception: I advise to enable the repository Canonical Partners as well. Note: not the one with (source code) in its title, but the other one!

This will give you access to some useful software that you might want.

Note: on the tab Developer Options, do not enable "xenial-proposed"! Because that would make your system unstable and buggy.

Disable automatic updates for the kernel

1.6.2. I advise to disable "automatic" updates for the kernel. Below I explain why and how.

The reason

a. First the why. Although Peppermint uses the Update Manager from Linux Mint, the default settings of Update Manager aren't as cautious as those of Linux Mint. Because in spite of using Mint's Update Manager, Peppermint follows the Ubuntu update policy.

This has been a deliberate choice of the Peppermint developers, because Peppermint doesn't contain the Linux Mint repository. Nor are the contents of that repository being monitored. So unfortunately, it's best to leave the settings of Update Manager as they are.

However: I advise to disable updates for the kernel, so that a new kernel can only be installed when you consciously choose to do so. The kernel is simply too important to replace it in an automatic way.....

Some of the cases in which this can be a lifesaver are, for example, when you've manually installed a driver which would become unusable in a newer kernel. Or when you're a system administrator for remote computers.

But there are more potential situations in which "automatic" kernel updates are unwanted. Disabling them helps to ensure long-term stability and reliability.

The actual how-to

b. Now the actual how-to. In order to pin the kernel in Peppermint, you can remove the generic meta packages for the kernel. By that removal Peppermint won't get kernel updates anymore, because those metapackages ensure that the updates contain newer kernels whenever they become available.

Removal of these metapackages can be done by means of the terminal:

Menu button - Terminal

Now copy/paste the following command into the terminal (this is one line!):

sudo apt-get purge linux-generi* linux-image-generi* linux-headers-generi* linux-signed-generi* linux-signed-image-generi*

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

Just to make sure (in certain cases the execution of this command stumbles over missing "signed" packages, which you might not notice), execute this shortened command as well (use copy/paste, this is one line!):

sudo apt-get purge linux-generi* linux-image-generi* linux-headers-generi*

The risk of such a pinning of the kernel is limited, especially for desktop users (servers are another matter). Because although kernel updates may contain security fixes, attackers usually focus on other system parts.

How to install a new kernel manually

c. If you ever wish to install a newer kernel, that can be done easily by means of the kernel tool in Update Manager:
Launch Update Manager - panel: View - Linux kernels

How to undo kernel pinning (re-enable kernel updates)

d. Do you wish to undo the pinning of a kernel version in Peppermint? You can do that by means of Synaptic: install Synaptic and then use it to re-install the "linux-generic" packages that are relevant for your kernel series.

Reboot your computer. It should run on the latest kernel of your kernel series now.

(Continued in the column on the right)


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Optimize your Solid State Drive (SSD)

1.7. Do you have a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead of a conventional spinning hard disk? Then optimize it for Peppermint (written for Linux Mint and Ubuntu, but applicable in Peppermint as well).

Avoid 10 fatal mistakes!

1.8. There are 10 mistakes that you definitely want to avoid, for the sake of the health of your system (written for Linux Mint and Ubuntu, but applicable for Peppermint as well).

Solve some known bugs

1.9. If you have a problem: look at the solutions for 17 bugs in Ubuntu and its derivatives like Peppermint. Don't skip this! There's a 90 % chance that you'll benefit from at least one of the workarounds presented at that page.....

Multiple accounts: deny other users access to the files in your account

1.10. 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:

Menu - Accessories - Terminal

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

TEN RECOMMENDED ACTIONS (NOT ESSENTIAL):


Optimize Firefox

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

Install and tune Libre Office

2.2. Most people want a full-fledged office suite like Libre Office.

In order to install Libre Office without too much useless frills, you can do the following.

a. Menu button - System Tools - Software Manager
query: libreoffice (no space between "libre" and "office")

b. At first, only install libreoffice-writer. With that you also install all supporting files and all dependencies, but few superfluous things.

Then install libreoffice-impress (for slide shows) and libreoffice-calc (for spreadsheets).

c. Resizing an application window of LibreOffice may cause display corruption, so install an extra package to increase it's integration in your desktop environment, which should fix this problem:

Menu button - Accessories - Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
sudo apt-get install libreoffice-gtk

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

d. Now tune the settings of Libre Office: click here for a how-to.

Speed up your Peppermint

2.3. First of all, you can disable all visual effects (desktop effects). This reduces the load caused by the graphics.
Menu button - Preferences - Peppermint Control Center
Tab Desktop Effects: remove the tick for: Enable desktop effects

Also, you can probably speed up your Peppermint noticeably, by applying these safe speed tweaks (written for Ubuntu, but mostly useful for Peppermint as well).

For little RAM: enable zRam

2.4. When your computer has very little RAM (768 MB or less), the lack of memory will remain a problem. This will cause your system to slow down from time to time. Even when the swappiness has been decreased to 5.

In that case, you might try to 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 reduced 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 - Accessories - Terminal

Type (use copy/paste):
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 - Accessories - 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

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

a. Menu button - Accessories - 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 - Accessories - 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".

Get a good understanding of security in Peppermint

2.5. It's important that you understand how security in Peppermint works. So I advise to read this page about security in Linux Mint and Ubuntu, which is also applicable for Peppermint.

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

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

Increase the double-click interval

2.7. The double-click interval, or the maximum time between two clicks for them to be recognized as a double-click command, might be too short for you. That can make it hard to perform a double-click.

You can increase the double-click interval to a more comfortable value like this:

Menu button - Accessories - Terminal

a. First create a hidden configuration file. Copy/paste the following command into the terminal:
touch ~/.gtkrc-2.0

Press Enter.

b. Open the newly created empty text file with Xed. Copy/paste this command into the terminal:
xed ~/.gtkrc-2.0

Press Enter.

c. Add the new interval setting to the empty text file. Copy/paste the following line into the text file:
gtk-double-click-time=400

d. Save the file and close it.

e. Reboot your computer (or log out and log in again). Double-clicking should have become a lot easier now. Still too short? Increase the delay to 800.

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

Disable the multiple workspaces

2.8. In your panel, next to the system tray, there's an application called Workspace Switcher (a blue rectangle next to a black one). If you don't use that feature, you can now and then be unpleasantly suprised by the sudden "disappearance" of your running applications.

This is how to disable it:

Right-click on the Workspace indicator - Workspace Settings... - Number of workspaces: set it to 1.

Click Close and then do another right-click on the Workspace indicator - Remove.

Improve the clock

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

Right-click the clock

Properties

Clock Options - Format: change it to Custom Format. In the entry box below, replace the existing code by the following code (use copy/paste in order to avoid errors):
%a %B %e %G %k:%M

The full list of clock display options is on this page.

Move the window buttons

2.10. When you prefer to have the window buttons on the left, like in Ubuntu and in Mac OS, you can do that as follows:

Menu button - Accessories - Terminal

Copy/paste the following command into the terminal:
xfwm4-settings

Press Enter.

In the first tab Style, section Button layout: drag the buttons to where you want to put them (and hide some useless ones by dragging them to Hidden). See the screenshot below (click on it to enlarge it):

https://sites.google.com/site/easylinuxtipsproject/first-peppermint/Screenshot_window-buttons-p8.png

Want more tips?

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

Security in Ubuntu and Peppermint

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

How to clean Ubuntu and Peppermint

How to create a strong yet easy password (the answer might surprise you!)

Find help on the Peppermint forum

4. Need help? Get it on the Peppermint forum.


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