Linux Tips

Here are some tips I’ve come across in my ~6 year Linux journey that should prove useful to many Linux users who may not yet have come across these ideas. Many will likely work in most Linux environments. Some may not. So use discernment to question if it fits with your distro. Your mileage may vary. I’ve used primarily Debian- and Ubuntu-based distros.

1. BOOTING FROM A USB STICK
Here’s a helpful explanation for people moving to Linux from Windows about how to get their Windows computer to boot from a USB stick. It shows both the GUI way, using various Windows screens and also, way down the page, after all of that explanation, the easy way, How to access UEFI (BIOS) using boot key option. That may be a big hurdle to get past for many Windows users. Microsoft doesn’t want to make it easy for its slaves to leave the plantation.

2. LINUX PROGRAMS EQUIVALENT TO WINDOWS PROGRAMS:

Here’s a helpful article to provide some guidance on how to meet your former software needs in Linux:
Linux software equivalent to Windows software

Here’s a site for alternative software: AlternativeTo.net.

3. LINUX WINDOW RESIZING TIP: (Alt+F8)
Whether you’re a Linux newbie or a seasoned pro, you may not have come across this tip yet, so here it is. If you’re having trouble grabbing the corner of a window to resize it, hold down Alt and continue holding it while you press F8 (Alt+F8). That grabs the window for you. Then move your mouse appropriately, to resize the window as desired. Commit this one to memory! You’ll be glad you did. Those thin borders sometimes make it tough to find that corner with your mouse. It also works when resizing the horizontal or vertical sides of the window.

4. LINUX TERMINAL TIP: (Y/n)
When you’re downloading software through the terminal, you’ll frequently see a prompt that shows (Y/n). Many people, including many seasoned Linux users you see using the terminal in Linux videos, unknowingly hit y and then press Enter to continue. That works, but it’s totally unnecessary double work. Apparently they never stopped to question why the Y is capitalized and the n is not. I did. They didn’t program it that way just for decoration! The capital Y means that’s the usual, expected response, in that situation, and is usually safe to use it, if you want to continue with that course of action. In that case, pressing only Enter will be the equivalent of pressing y and Enter. So just press Enter, if you want to allow that Y action. In case you don’t want that action, then press n and Enter. Why do twice the work when they programmed it to be quicker and easier for you? Don’t do double duty when you don’t have to. That adds up to a lot of unnecessary keystrokes over months or years of working in the terminal, for no good reason. Learning this tip once will save you a lifetime of wasted keystrokes, from now on.

5. WINDOW TILING QUICK & EASY: (Super+Arrow Keys)
Here’s a Quick and Easy Window Tiling trick that works in Linux Mint 20.3, and likely in many other Debian/Ubuntu derivatives. Possibly other distros too. Try it to see if it works in your distro.

Use left Windows key (Super) + any of the arrow keys. WK+RArrow tiles to right half of screen. WK+LArrow tiles to left half of screen. Using Up and Down arrows can extend window up or down. Once tiled, you can use WK+any arrow to do further sub-tiling.

Hold down the Window (Super) key and while continuing to hold it down, tap different arrow keys to see how all you can move the screen. Play with it to see how easy it is to tile, when you need to see two or more screens simultaneously.

GENERAL WINE TIP:
I’m currently running Wine under Linux Mint Cinnamon 20.3. Once Wine is installed, you need to go to the terminal and run winecfg, since you may need to enlarge the fonts in Windows, if you have a larger screen. Winecfg is sometimes needed to load additional Wine elements, if they’re not already installed. Otherwise, it may pop up the Wine configuration dialog box for you. Remember that command: winecfg (used in the terminal; no sudo needed), in case you want to use it again later, since Linux Mint Cinnamon doesn’t show winecfg in its Wine listings on the start menu. I always use winecfg, right after a new Wine install on a distro, in order to enlarge the Windows font size. When winecfg is loaded, click the Graphics tab of that screen to select it. Then move the slider on that screen to the right to enlarge the font size. I usually set it to 168dpi or 192dpi, since I have a 1920x1080 monitor setup on my 32" dumb TV monitor via HDMI cable. You may prefer less enlargement.

To install an .exe under Linux Mint Cinnamon, select the .exe file in the file manager, right-click it, select Open With Wine Windows Program Loader, and press Enter. From then on, you can usually just double-click an .exe in the file manager and Mint will proceed to install it for you. Just follow the prompts. I personally only do that with one light-weight TSR (terminate and stay resident) graphics utility and a few other light programs I use. Heavier programs may require that you download PlayonLinux (since Linux Mint Cinnamon doesn’t do that for you) or some other Wine helper, to install additional Wine components. You can check at https://winehq.org for more details on what’s needed for popular Windows programs.

ZORIN WINE TIP:
Zorin OS provides the easiest path to running Windows programs of any Ubuntu-based Linux distro I’ve tried. The Zorin distros I’ve tried, versions 15 and 16, automate the Wine installation for you, if you request it. You do that by trying to run an .exe program, either by double-clicking it in the file manager or by right-clicking it to see if there’s a program that can run it. There isn’t, if you’ve never done that before. When you first attempt to run an .exe file, a dialog box will pop up asking if you’d like for Zorin to install the Windows installer program (or similar terminology; I don’t recall the exact wording) for you. To continue in that direction, press Enter on that prompt. Zorin will then automatically install Wine and PlayonLinux, a helper program which assists Wine. Just follow the prompts. In my Zorin experience, with the Windows apps I’ve used, I’ve never had to use PlayonLinux, even though it’s installed, since I didn’t need more Windows components for a Windows application to run properly. Apparently, in Zorin, PlayonLinux does the heavy lifting for you, in the background. In other distros, however, I’ve had to use PlayonLinux to manually install every .exe I wanted to install. (It’s a tedious and somewhat painful process, but doable. If you haven’t studied how to use PlayonLinux, you’ll learn how to do it by trial and error.) Follow any prompts for other appropriate actions. Then next time you double-click on an .exe file, Zorin will ask you if you want to “Open With Install Windows Application Program” to install the .exe file. Press Enter to have Zorin install the .exe file. Zorin creates a Wine category in your start menu and lists the Windows programs you’ve installed. Unlike Linux Mint, it also creates Wine entries for Configure Wine (winecfg) and for Browse C: Drive. You can choose to run your Windows programs from the menu, or add them to your Favorites, which puts their icon on your Taskbar, or add them to your Desktop, which puts their icon on your Desktop.

WINDOWS VISTA TO LINUX TIP:
This was written in response to a query in the Telegram JP’s Technology chat channel. I installed Linux on an old laptop given to me by a friend who’d been given a new laptop. It’s a Dell laptop with a Windows Vista label on it. I believe it may have had Windows 7 on it when I got it, but I’m not sure of that. I know it wasn’t Vista when I got it. I ditched Windows immediately, when I started playing with the laptop. It has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 500MB hard drive. I recently tried doing a Skype call with it, but that didn’t work out well. After maybe 15 min. it went black and shut down. I guess it got too hot, even though I have it sitting on a laptop stand which has two small fans under the laptop, to help cool it. It just didn’t have the resources necessary to handle the camera and the streaming going on. Otherwise, I’ve never had a heat problem with that laptop. I’ve had these other distros on it at various times and all have worked well, though without trying them on a Zoom call: Zorin 16, MX Linux 19.4, MX Linux 21, Lubuntu 20.2 Xfce, and Linux Lite 5.6. I currently have Lubuntu 20.10 LXQt on it. On a machine that ill-equipped for today’s software, you need to use a very light-weight Linux distro. I’ll have to try a lighter-weight distro on that laptop to see if it can handle a Zoom call with less overhead.

I’m currently running Linux Mint Cinnamon 20.3 on my 2015 Asus desktop with an AMD FX-4300 4 core running at 3.8GHz, Nvidia GeForce GT 620 w/1GB graphics memory, 1TB hard disk, and 12GB of RAM. It obviously runs a lot better than that old laptop!

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Nice journal. Sounds a lot like my lab. See what works on which hardware. Its very satisfying to put Mate on a 2004 12" PowerBook that won’t boot with a Mac system anymore and everything work. Keep on Linuxing!

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I’d like to point out here that a lightweight distro is usually based upon the Window Managers and the Desktop Enviroments. When you see Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Mate, they are all still Ubuntu(which is based of Debian) “under the hood” and that the heavier the window manager & desktop environments “flash demands” the more hardware resources that are required.

I included some links to FOSS articles of Window Managers and different distros and their available Dekstops. Hope this brings you to the understanding that “old” machine 2GB or less ram and Core2 are not completely lost assets in digital freedom.

@MrDeplorableUSA Thanks for the update. All help appreciated.

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