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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Introduction

This is the year of Linux for the everyday user.

I have already written reviews for Ubuntu 14.04 and Linux Mint 17 and they are both exceptionally good for the average computer user.

This review is about Netrunner 14.

There are two versions of Netrunner available. This article looks at the Standard Release which is based on Kubuntu 14.04. The other version is a rolling release based on Manjaro.

System Requirements

I am listing the requirements as stated on the FAQ - Installation page on the Netrunner website.

It appears the requirements have been set from the fact that they were tested on a netbook.

  • CPU - 1.6ghz Intel Atom
  • RAM - 1 gigabyte
  • Hard Drive Size - 10 gigabytes
  • Graphics Card - Intel GMA 945
  • Video Memory - 128 megabytes
I tested on a more powerful machine:
  • Intel i5 quad core 
  • 8 gigabytes RAM
  • 2 terabyte hard drive
Needless to say it worked like a dream on my computer.

How to get Netrunner

To download Netrunner visit http://www.netrunner-os.com/download/

There are 32 bit and 64 bit versions of both the standard and rolling release.

To create a bootable USB drive I used UNetbootin.

If you have a poor internet connection or you are unsure about creating a bootable USB drive you can always click here to buy a bootable DVD or USB drive.

How to install Netrunner 


First of all boot into the Live version of Netrunner by inserting either a live USB or live DVD into the drive and turning on your computer and then click on "Install Netrunner 14 LTS".

The Netrunner installer is linear, making it very easy to follow. You can see the steps that the installer is going to take you through.

The first thing you have to do is choose the installation language and click "Continue".























You can now set up your internet connection if you so wish. Setting up the internet automatically chooses your timezone, installs third party software and downloads updates.

It is an optional choice whether to connect or not. My preference, because I have a poor internet connection, is to not connect and download the updates later. The third party software is installed by Netrunner anyway.























The third screen shows how prepared you are to install Netrunner. As long as your computer is plugged in (or has enough battery life) and it has enough disk space you are good to go.























The disk setup screen isn't as easy to follow as the one provided with Linux Mint. If you read the options carefully though it is quite straight forward.

The options above are basically saying

1. Install Netrunner alongside Linux Mint (I had Linux Mint installed previously)
2. Replace Linux Mint with Netrunner (use entire disk)
3. Replace Linux Mint with Netrunner and use LVM
4. Replace Linux Mint with Netrunner and use encryption with LVM
5. Perform a manual installation and setup the disk layout yourself

I chose option 2 to replace Linux Mint.























Now you have to choose your timezone by clicking on the map or selecting from the drop downs.























Choose your keyboard layout.























Finally create a default user by entering your name, a username, a password and a name for your computer.























The files will now be copied and your hardware will be detected and setup.

First Impressions





















Netrunner boots into a plain looking desktop. As with Linux Mint everything should look familiar to most people who have used computers before.

There is a panel at the bottom with a menu and quick launch icons in the bottom left and a system tray in the bottom right.



There are also some icons on the desktop. The "My Computer" icon shows you details about your computer such as the processor, memory, disk usage and operating system. The "Network" icon lets you connect to network drives. Finally the "Readme" takes you to the Netrunner website which contains some useful tutorials.



The quick launch part of the panel has an icon which brings up the menu, access to the file manager and an icon for the Firefox web browser.



The system tray has a multitude of icons which by default are as follows:
  • a terminal window
  • audio settings
  • software updates
  • contacts
  • clipboard manager
  • bluetooth
  • network settings
  • clock
  • search bar
  • notifications
  • activities
The menu is crisp and clean with useful icons on the left and categories on the right. Hovering over a category brings up the applications within that category.

To add icons to the favourites list, right click on them in the menu and select "Add to favourites".

Customising the desktop

The KDE desktop is highly customisable and there is just too much to discuss for including in this review.

Starting off nice and easy though you can change the desktop wallpaper. Simply right click on the desktop and select "Netrunner Desktop Settings".


































There are a number of wallpapers available with Netrunner and they all appear to have a very blue theme to them.

You can choose your own wallpaper by clicking on the "Open" button and finding the image you wish to use or you can click the "Get new wallpapers" button to search online for more.





















You can adjust the items that appear on the panel by right clicking on the panel and clicking "add panel items". You can also add new panels to the display.

The KDE desktop also has the concept of activities which is like a new play on the virtual workspaces concept.





















The choice of activities isn't as expansive in Netrunner as it is for openSUSE but you can download more if you need to.

The above image shows the photos activity.

Connecting to the internet





















As long as you have a fairly standard network card, connecting to the internet should be as easy as clicking on the network icon in the system tray and choosing your wireless connection.

You will need to enter the security key if one is required.

The default web browser in Netrunner is Firefox.

Flash and MP3



























Netrunner has everything you need to get started installed by default and as such Flash videos work and you can play MP3 audio without installing any further software.

Applications

Netrunner has a really good set of applications installed at the outset.

Games


  • Burgerspace
  • Chess
  • Duckhunt
  • Frozen Bubble
  • glTron
  • GNUDoQ
  • KBreakout
  • KDiamond
  • KMahjongg
  • KDiamond
  • KMines
  • KPatience
  • KSnake
  • KDuel
  • STEAM
I have written an article previously about the default KDE games but Netrunner includes some extras that I never covered.

More importantly is the inclusion of STEAM. I think the thing that annoys me with STEAM (and this is the same with every distribution that includes STEAM) is that as soon as you click the icon it downloads 200+ megabytes of updates.

STEAM is the best thing to ever happen to Linux gaming and provides 500+ games for the Linux desktop.

Graphics


  • GIMP Image Editing
  • Gwenview Image Viewer
  • Kamoso Webcam Viewer
  • Karbon Vector Graphics Drawing Application
  • Krita Digital Painting
  • KSnapshot Screenshot
  • Skanlite Scanning Application

Internet

  • FireFox Web Browser
  • Kontact Address Book
  • Pidgin Instant Messenger
  • QTransmission BitTorrent
  • Skype
  • Telepathy Instant Messenger
  • Thunderbird Email Client
It is interesting that Netrunner has a mix and match approach to the applications installed as opposed to choosing all the default KDE applications.

Skype is a good default choice.

Multimedia 

  • Clementine Audio Player
  • KDenlive Video Editing
  • KMix Audio Mixer
  • Qmmp Audio Player
  • VLC Media Player
  • Vokoscreen Screencasting
The default audio application in Netrunner is Clementine. I mentioned in my review of Linux Mint that Linux has a plethora of music applications. Clementine is a great example of how an audio player should work.

I wrote an article not so long ago comparing Clementine with Amarok in which I mentioned the virtues of a clean easy to use interface. Clementine really is the best that KDE has to offer.




























For watching videos there is the VLC media player, which allows you to watch videos that are local to your PC or online.

Netrunner also includes a video editor and screencast tool which is something you don't see in many other distributions but which are welcome inclusions.

Office





















  • LibreOffice Writer
  • LibreOffice Calc
  • LibreOffice Impress
  • LibreOffice Base
  • LibreOffice Math
  • Okular
The full LibreOffice office suite is included with the excellent LibreOffice Writer and the very competent LibreOffice Calc spreadsheet package. For presentations there is LibreOffice Impress and LibreOffice Base is a clone of MS Access.

Okular is included as a PDF viewer.

Installing Applications

































For package management, Netrunner 14 uses MUON.

The MUON graphical package manager is fairly straight forward and isn't unlike the Mint package manager.
































If you know the name of the package or you have a particular type of package you can search by keyword or name.

If you just want to browse then you can select the category you wish to view and scroll down the list.
































Double clicking on one of the items brings up a description of the application, reviews and the file size.

To install the package all you have to do is click "Install".

If you prefer a more powerful package manager, Synaptic is available as well.

Issues

I used Netrunner 14 for a week before writing the review and I never really came across any issues.

Audio, video and basic functionality behaved themselves nicely.

Summary

For the Everyday Linux User the future is bright. Netrunner is another great example of how good Linux can be.

Users can get up and running with Netrunner in about 15 to 20 minutes. Most computer users should be able to perform the most common tasks such as browsing the internet, watching videos and listening to music without too much thought.

The most challenging aspect will be customising the KDE desktop and learning the finer points about activities. How much effort each user puts into this is up to the individual concerned and is certainly not mandatory.

All in all, Netrunner is definitely worth checking out.


Netrunner 14 - KDE for the Everyday Linux User

Introduction

This is the year of Linux for the everyday user.

I have already written reviews for Ubuntu 14.04 and Linux Mint 17 and they are both exceptionally good for the average computer user.

This review is about Netrunner 14.

There are two versions of Netrunner available. This article looks at the Standard Release which is based on Kubuntu 14.04. The other version is a rolling release based on Manjaro.

System Requirements

I am listing the requirements as stated on the FAQ - Installation page on the Netrunner website.

It appears the requirements have been set from the fact that they were tested on a netbook.

  • CPU - 1.6ghz Intel Atom
  • RAM - 1 gigabyte
  • Hard Drive Size - 10 gigabytes
  • Graphics Card - Intel GMA 945
  • Video Memory - 128 megabytes
I tested on a more powerful machine:
  • Intel i5 quad core 
  • 8 gigabytes RAM
  • 2 terabyte hard drive
Needless to say it worked like a dream on my computer.

How to get Netrunner

To download Netrunner visit http://www.netrunner-os.com/download/

There are 32 bit and 64 bit versions of both the standard and rolling release.

To create a bootable USB drive I used UNetbootin.

If you have a poor internet connection or you are unsure about creating a bootable USB drive you can always click here to buy a bootable DVD or USB drive.

How to install Netrunner 


First of all boot into the Live version of Netrunner by inserting either a live USB or live DVD into the drive and turning on your computer and then click on "Install Netrunner 14 LTS".

The Netrunner installer is linear, making it very easy to follow. You can see the steps that the installer is going to take you through.

The first thing you have to do is choose the installation language and click "Continue".























You can now set up your internet connection if you so wish. Setting up the internet automatically chooses your timezone, installs third party software and downloads updates.

It is an optional choice whether to connect or not. My preference, because I have a poor internet connection, is to not connect and download the updates later. The third party software is installed by Netrunner anyway.























The third screen shows how prepared you are to install Netrunner. As long as your computer is plugged in (or has enough battery life) and it has enough disk space you are good to go.























The disk setup screen isn't as easy to follow as the one provided with Linux Mint. If you read the options carefully though it is quite straight forward.

The options above are basically saying

1. Install Netrunner alongside Linux Mint (I had Linux Mint installed previously)
2. Replace Linux Mint with Netrunner (use entire disk)
3. Replace Linux Mint with Netrunner and use LVM
4. Replace Linux Mint with Netrunner and use encryption with LVM
5. Perform a manual installation and setup the disk layout yourself

I chose option 2 to replace Linux Mint.























Now you have to choose your timezone by clicking on the map or selecting from the drop downs.























Choose your keyboard layout.























Finally create a default user by entering your name, a username, a password and a name for your computer.























The files will now be copied and your hardware will be detected and setup.

First Impressions





















Netrunner boots into a plain looking desktop. As with Linux Mint everything should look familiar to most people who have used computers before.

There is a panel at the bottom with a menu and quick launch icons in the bottom left and a system tray in the bottom right.



There are also some icons on the desktop. The "My Computer" icon shows you details about your computer such as the processor, memory, disk usage and operating system. The "Network" icon lets you connect to network drives. Finally the "Readme" takes you to the Netrunner website which contains some useful tutorials.



The quick launch part of the panel has an icon which brings up the menu, access to the file manager and an icon for the Firefox web browser.



The system tray has a multitude of icons which by default are as follows:
  • a terminal window
  • audio settings
  • software updates
  • contacts
  • clipboard manager
  • bluetooth
  • network settings
  • clock
  • search bar
  • notifications
  • activities
The menu is crisp and clean with useful icons on the left and categories on the right. Hovering over a category brings up the applications within that category.

To add icons to the favourites list, right click on them in the menu and select "Add to favourites".

Customising the desktop

The KDE desktop is highly customisable and there is just too much to discuss for including in this review.

Starting off nice and easy though you can change the desktop wallpaper. Simply right click on the desktop and select "Netrunner Desktop Settings".


































There are a number of wallpapers available with Netrunner and they all appear to have a very blue theme to them.

You can choose your own wallpaper by clicking on the "Open" button and finding the image you wish to use or you can click the "Get new wallpapers" button to search online for more.





















You can adjust the items that appear on the panel by right clicking on the panel and clicking "add panel items". You can also add new panels to the display.

The KDE desktop also has the concept of activities which is like a new play on the virtual workspaces concept.





















The choice of activities isn't as expansive in Netrunner as it is for openSUSE but you can download more if you need to.

The above image shows the photos activity.

Connecting to the internet





















As long as you have a fairly standard network card, connecting to the internet should be as easy as clicking on the network icon in the system tray and choosing your wireless connection.

You will need to enter the security key if one is required.

The default web browser in Netrunner is Firefox.

Flash and MP3



























Netrunner has everything you need to get started installed by default and as such Flash videos work and you can play MP3 audio without installing any further software.

Applications

Netrunner has a really good set of applications installed at the outset.

Games


  • Burgerspace
  • Chess
  • Duckhunt
  • Frozen Bubble
  • glTron
  • GNUDoQ
  • KBreakout
  • KDiamond
  • KMahjongg
  • KDiamond
  • KMines
  • KPatience
  • KSnake
  • KDuel
  • STEAM
I have written an article previously about the default KDE games but Netrunner includes some extras that I never covered.

More importantly is the inclusion of STEAM. I think the thing that annoys me with STEAM (and this is the same with every distribution that includes STEAM) is that as soon as you click the icon it downloads 200+ megabytes of updates.

STEAM is the best thing to ever happen to Linux gaming and provides 500+ games for the Linux desktop.

Graphics


  • GIMP Image Editing
  • Gwenview Image Viewer
  • Kamoso Webcam Viewer
  • Karbon Vector Graphics Drawing Application
  • Krita Digital Painting
  • KSnapshot Screenshot
  • Skanlite Scanning Application

Internet

  • FireFox Web Browser
  • Kontact Address Book
  • Pidgin Instant Messenger
  • QTransmission BitTorrent
  • Skype
  • Telepathy Instant Messenger
  • Thunderbird Email Client
It is interesting that Netrunner has a mix and match approach to the applications installed as opposed to choosing all the default KDE applications.

Skype is a good default choice.

Multimedia 

  • Clementine Audio Player
  • KDenlive Video Editing
  • KMix Audio Mixer
  • Qmmp Audio Player
  • VLC Media Player
  • Vokoscreen Screencasting
The default audio application in Netrunner is Clementine. I mentioned in my review of Linux Mint that Linux has a plethora of music applications. Clementine is a great example of how an audio player should work.

I wrote an article not so long ago comparing Clementine with Amarok in which I mentioned the virtues of a clean easy to use interface. Clementine really is the best that KDE has to offer.




























For watching videos there is the VLC media player, which allows you to watch videos that are local to your PC or online.

Netrunner also includes a video editor and screencast tool which is something you don't see in many other distributions but which are welcome inclusions.

Office





















  • LibreOffice Writer
  • LibreOffice Calc
  • LibreOffice Impress
  • LibreOffice Base
  • LibreOffice Math
  • Okular
The full LibreOffice office suite is included with the excellent LibreOffice Writer and the very competent LibreOffice Calc spreadsheet package. For presentations there is LibreOffice Impress and LibreOffice Base is a clone of MS Access.

Okular is included as a PDF viewer.

Installing Applications

































For package management, Netrunner 14 uses MUON.

The MUON graphical package manager is fairly straight forward and isn't unlike the Mint package manager.
































If you know the name of the package or you have a particular type of package you can search by keyword or name.

If you just want to browse then you can select the category you wish to view and scroll down the list.
































Double clicking on one of the items brings up a description of the application, reviews and the file size.

To install the package all you have to do is click "Install".

If you prefer a more powerful package manager, Synaptic is available as well.

Issues

I used Netrunner 14 for a week before writing the review and I never really came across any issues.

Audio, video and basic functionality behaved themselves nicely.

Summary

For the Everyday Linux User the future is bright. Netrunner is another great example of how good Linux can be.

Users can get up and running with Netrunner in about 15 to 20 minutes. Most computer users should be able to perform the most common tasks such as browsing the internet, watching videos and listening to music without too much thought.

The most challenging aspect will be customising the KDE desktop and learning the finer points about activities. How much effort each user puts into this is up to the individual concerned and is certainly not mandatory.

All in all, Netrunner is definitely worth checking out.


Posted at 07:30 |  by Gary Newell

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Introduction

I believe that there is a version of Linux out there for everyone. One of the hardest sells is trying to convince someone who is using Windows 7 that there is a version of Linux suitable for them.

I have already written articles giving 5 reasons why Lubuntu might be better for Windows XP users and that PCLinuxOS might be better for Windows XP users with more powerful machines and Windows Vista users.

For Windows 8 users, I would imagine that just about any flavour of Linux is preferable but I would probably lean towards Ubuntu as I think Ubuntu provides the killer new desktop that Windows 8 has tried to introduce but in a much better way.

Windows 7 users are not running out of support and there isn't all that much wrong with Windows 7, especially if you have used it for a while. Windows 7 is  probably the best version of Windows there has ever been.

The best Linux alternative for Windows 7 that I have found thus far is probably Zorin OS 8. That is up until now.

Today I am going to be reviewing Linux Mint 17 with the Cinnamon desktop environment which is the best that Linux Mint has to offer.

System Requirements

  • x86 processor (32-bit) or x64 processor (64-bit)
  • 512 megabytes RAM (1 gigabyte recommended)
  • 10 gigabytes disk space
  • DVD or USB support

Installation

Click here for my guide showing how to create a bootable Linux Mint USB drive.
Click here for my guide showing how to install Linux Mint as a virtual machine.
Click here for my guide showing how to dual boot OSX and Linux Mint 17 on a MacBook Air.

I will be writing a guide shortly showing how to dual boot or replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint 17.

For now though I am going to take you through the installation steps to show just how easy it is.

You will need to follow the guide showing how to create the Linux USB drive first.

Before you begin, backup your computer using the Windows 7 backup and recovery tools.

Insert the USB drive and reboot your computer.



Your computer should boot into a live version of Linux Mint 17.

Click on the install icon on the desktop.


Choose your installation language and click "Continue".

 

You are then asked to connect to your wireless network. This is optional and to be honest I always choose not to connect.

The installer will use your internet connection to download updates as it goes which means when you boot Linux Mint 17 for the first time after installation it will be completely up to date. 

If you have a slow internet connection this can take ages and if your connection drops then it is hard to know the state of your installation. I prefer to get the installation done first and then apply updates later.

Select your preferred option and click "Continue".

 

The next steps shows you how well prepared you are for installing Linux Mint. If you have three green ticks then you are good to go. (The only one you really have to worry about is disk space and if you are not using a power source make sure your battery is charged).

Click "Continue".

 

If you are running Windows 7 then the image above will look slightly different but basically you get the option to replace the current operating system, install alongside the current operating system or something else.

In the past I have always recommended choosing something else as this will help during upgrades but because Linux Mint 17 is a long term support release with a number of years support it is OK to choose the option to erase the disk and install Linux Mint 17.

Choose your preferred option and click "Continue".

 

The rest of the steps are very straight forward. Choose your location.


Choose your keyboard layout.


 Create a default user and a name for your computer.


and wait for the installation to complete which for me took less than 10 minutes.

First Impressions

The best thing about Linux Mint is that the developers haven't tried to be too clever. 

One thing that turns people off Ubuntu is the Unity Desktop because the user interface just isn't familiar to them.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Ubuntu and I like the user interface that Unity provides. I get what the Ubuntu developers have tried to achieve and I think they have done an amazing job.

A few years ago people heard the word Unity and they said "Yuck". Now more and more people ask how to get Unity for their Linux distribution.

Linux Mint bucked the trend and stuck with the same principles that made Windows XP and Windows 7 a success. The user interface is completely familiar to anyone who has used computers for the past 20 years.

Linux Mint is also incredibly consistent. Whether you use the lightweight XFCE version, KDE, MATE or Cinnamon the look and feel is pretty much the same. The only thing that changes is the programs used to achieve the look and feel.

The Cinnamon desktop is extremely well polished and more than matches anything that Windows 7 has to offer in terms of asthetics.


Everything is just where you would expect it to be. The panel at the bottom works in much the same way as the Windows 7 task bar. There is a menu, a set of quick launch icons and a system tray.




The quick launch icons allow you to show the desktop, load the default web browser, open a terminal window and open the file manager. The quick launch icons can be customised.


The system tray has icons for helping you to manage common system settings. 

The default icons are as follows:

  • Notifications
  • User settings
  • Bluetooth settings
  • Network settings
  • Audio settings
  • Power settings
  • Updates
  • Clock
  • Workspace selector



The menus used by Linux Mint are slightly different depending on the desktop environment that you choose to use.

The Cinnamon desktop environment doesn't try and confuse you with new interfaces but enhances on the experiences that you are likely to already have encountered.

The menu is fairly straight forward. 

The left column has a series of icons for the applications that you will use regularly. (Favourites). 

By default the icons are as follows: (From top to bottom)
  • FireFox Web Browser
  • Software Manager
  • Settings
  • Terminal
  • File Manager
  • Lock Screen
  • Log Out
  • Quit
The second column in the menu is a list of categories and by hovering your mouse over a category the third column changes to show the applications within that category.

Dragging an icon from the applications column to the favourites column will make it more accessible next time you open the menu.

Connecting to the internet





















Connecting to the internet with Linux Mint is generally incredibly simple. Assuming that you have a network card that is automatically catered for then all you need to do is click on the icon in the system tray and select the wireless network you wish to connect to.

You will then also need to enter the security details for the wireless network (assuming that it isn't an open network).

To browse web pages use the FireFox web browser.

Flash and MP3

Some Linux distributions do not include proprietary technology such as the ability to play Flash videos and listen to MP3 audio.

Linux Mint has everything you need installed from the outset, so you can watch your favourite Youtube videos, play your favourite games and listen to your music collection with no further setup required.

Applications

Linux Mint has a great selection of applications that are installed by default.

Linux Mint is in a better state when it is first installed than Windows is and for the most part requires no extra specialist software to be installed for the most common uses of home computers.

Accessories

  • Archive Manager
  • Calculator
  • Document Viewer
  • Screenshot
  • Terminal
  • Text Editor
  • USB Image Writer

Graphics


  • GIMP image editor
  • gThumb image thumbnail viewer
  • Image Viewer
  • ImageMagick
  • LibreOffice Draw
  • Scan
For those of you that haven't heard of GIMP it is a fine picture editing tool. A lot of people liken it to Photoshop. Generally there is a debate to be had as to whether it really has everything that Photoshop has to offer but for the casual user it certainly is incredibly powerful.

Internet

  • FireFox Web Browser
  • HexChat IRC Chat Client
  • Pidgin Internet Messenger
  • Thunderbird Mail Client
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client

Office


  • LibreOffice Writer (think Microsoft Word but without the awful Ribbons)
  • LibreOffice Calc (think Microsoft Excel but without the awful Ribbons)
  • LibreOffice Impress (think Microsoft Powerpoint)
  • LibreOffice Draw
  • LibreOffice Math
LibreOffice complements Linux Mint very well as it provides the same sort of continuation and familiarity that Linux Mint provides. There are certainly none of those stupid ribbon bars making it impossible to find settings.

For home use LibreOffice definitely has all the features you will require and is perfect for children who have homework assignments or for parents to create budgets.

Sound and Video

  • Banshee Audio Player
  • Brasero DVD burning
  • Totem Video Player
  • VLC Video Player
One thing that Linux isn't lacking is good quality audio applications.

Off the top of my head there are Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarok, Clementine, GMusicBrowser, DeadBeef, Noise and QMMS.

Linux Mint comes with Banshee. I have had problems with this application in the past but it works perfectly within Linux Mint 17.

Importing music is as simple as selecting the "Import Media" option from the "Media" menu. This allows you to select the folders on your computer that contain audio files.

Banshee lets you listen to music from your own collection or you can listen to online radio stations.

All the standard features are available such as the ability to create playlists.

Banshee works very well with external audio devices and picked up my Sony Walkman and Samsung Galaxy S4 without any issues.

The VLC media player can be used to watch online videos and also to watch videos stored on your computer.

Installing Applications

One area where Linux Mint is better than Ubuntu is the graphical tool used for installing applications.

The Ubuntu Software Centre is probably the biggest let down and the one area where Ubuntu really needs to improve.

Linux Mint's software manager is actually pretty decent.

The default view provides a list of categories and a search box in the top right corner.


If you just want to browse applications click on a category and a list of applications will appear.

The applications are listed by title, description, rating and number of people who voted.

To get more information about an application double click on the name.































The details page includes screenshots, version numbers, file sizes and reviews.

To install the application click "Install".

Gaming

One thing that isn't installed by default is games.

There are various ways of installing and playing games in Linux Mint.

The first way is to open the software manager and browse the games section.





The number of games listed in the software manager aren't incredibly extensive but there are first person shooters, platform games, racing games etc.

Another option is games emulation. The software manager has emulators for the Commodore Amiga, Atari 2600, Sinclair Spectrum, SNES, NES, Playstation One, N64 and many others.

If you already have a good selection of Windows games then the third option is to use PlayOnLinux which is also available from the software centre.
 

PlayOnLinux sits on top of WINE which allows you to run Windows applications within Linux Mint.









PlayOnLinux can be used for more than just installing Windows games and it can be used to install other Windows applications such as Microsoft Office.

The level of success with running Windows applications is improving but is still a bit hit and miss.

The games seem to work very well generally. I bought and installed Sensible World Of Soccer from GOG.com and it works really well.

The final but best option for playing games is through STEAM. More and more top quality games are provided for Linux via the STEAM platform.

You can install STEAM from the software manager.

Using STEAM you can buy, download and install games which can be used directly from your Linux Mint desktop.

Customising the desktop

The first thing that you might like to change is the default desktop wallpaper.

To change the wallpaper right click on the desktop and choose "Change Desktop Background".

Linux Mint comes with a nice selection of wallpapers but you can add your own by clicking on the "Add" icon.

Another thing you can add to the desktop is something called desklets. The "Add Desklets" option is available from the right click menu on the desktop.

By default there aren't that many desklets available but you can get more online. (Click the "Get More Online" tab.

The desklets for me look a bit clunky but they make it easier to view photos and provide instant access to your music collection etc.

Another thing you can customise is the panel at the bottom. You can add more items to the panel by right clicking the panel and selecting "Add applets to panel".

New features for Linux Mint 17

The release notes for Linux Mint can be found at http://www.linuxmint.com/rel_qiana_cinnamon.php.

The new features are as follows:

  • Improved update manager 
  • The driver manager can now install drivers without an internet connection
  • Refined MDM login manager and multi monitor support improved
  • HTML greeter comes with HiDPI support
  • MDM now has a recovery command
  • Language Settings tool added to make it easier to select your language
  • Improved Software Sources display
  • Welcome screen now uses less resources
  • Improved graphical interface for system settings
  • Power management and screen saver settings redesigned
  • Menu improvements
  • HUD and Hover Management Improvements
  • MPRIS support added
  • HiDPI and Retina display support added
  • The "WACOM" plug has been re-introduced
  • Windows opacity improvements
  • Better integration with Gnome
  • Better support for GDM
  • Support for MDM failback shutdown sequence
  • New shutdown hotkey
  • Lots of bug fixes
This list doesn't cover everything and may not make sense to new users so it would be beneficial to click the link above to get the full list.

What is important with Linux Mint 17 is the LTS strategy. Linux Mint 17 will receive support updates until 2019.

Until 2016 Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 17 making it easier to upgrade.

Until 2016 the developers won't begin work on a new base and will be focus completely on the current base.

Hot Corners and Workspaces 

The Cinnamon desktop has a configuration tool called "Hot Corners" which lets you determine what happens when you move your mouse into the corners of your screen.

Before thinking about hot corners it is worth discussing workspaces first.

In Windows you only have one workspace. This means if you have lots of applications open then you either have to make windows smaller to place them side by side or have them overlay each other.

To switch between applications you have to either alt and tab or click with your mouse.

Linux has virtual workspaces which means you can have for instance one workspace which you use to do work and another for emails, chat, Facebook etc.

To use hot corners open the settings screen and select "Hot Corners".

You can specify what happens when you click or hover in a corner. The choices are to show all workspaces, show all windows, run a command or show the desktop.

All four corners can be customised to work the way you want them to.

For instance if I hover into the top left corner on my computer I will see the following screen:

By default there are two workspaces and switching is as simple as clicking the workspace. To add a new workspace click the plus symbol.

Issues

There are a number of known issues listed as part of the release notes:

  • The "Replace OS with Linux Mint" option doesn't just replace the operating system with the Linux Mint it erases the entire disk. This is important for people who dual boot. You need to use the "Something Else" option.
  • There may be an issue with Skype which can be fixed by installing "ia32-libs". 
  • If VLC does not find your DVD player, click on Media->Open Disc, and specify '/dev/sr0' as the disc device.
  • HiDPI is detected automatically. You can however force Cinnamon to run in low or in high DPI mode by going to Menu->Preferences->General.
  • If your system is using secureBoot, turn it off.
    Note: Linux Mint 17 places its boot files in /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu to work around
  • Freeze issues with NVidia cards (there are workarounds provided via the release notes)
  • Booting with Non-PAE causes issues (refer to the release notes for the workaround)
Something that isn't on the list but that was reported via Reddit last week is that copying from a device to Linux Mint via the file manager can cause the file to get lost.

To try this out I plugged in my Samsung Galaxy S4 and moved files from the Samsung Galaxy to my Linux Mint 17 installation.














































As you can see from the images above I wasn't able to reproduce this issue.

My advice when moving files from one device to another would be to copy the files first and then when you are sure they have reached their destination delete the source files. This prevents the chance of the files getting lost.

I haven't had any other issues whilst running Linux Mint 17 and I have had it installed for around 2 weeks now.

Summary

Linux Mint 17 is a great choice for the everyday Linux user. It is easy to install, easy to use and has a good selection of applications.

There is nothing revolutionary about Linux Mint. It isn't like Ubuntu daring to enter new territory with a new user interface. It sits firmly in the camp of "things were and are working just fine so lets not change them".

The user interface for the Cinnamon desktop is visually pleasing and very professional.

The hardware support is extensive and the stability is incredibly good.

I would recommend Linux Mint for all users and not just Windows users looking to try Linux for the first time.

Linux Mint is a great example of how good an operating system can be.

Thankyou for reading.


Linux Mint 17 Cinnamon - The ultimate Windows 7 replacement

Introduction

I believe that there is a version of Linux out there for everyone. One of the hardest sells is trying to convince someone who is using Windows 7 that there is a version of Linux suitable for them.

I have already written articles giving 5 reasons why Lubuntu might be better for Windows XP users and that PCLinuxOS might be better for Windows XP users with more powerful machines and Windows Vista users.

For Windows 8 users, I would imagine that just about any flavour of Linux is preferable but I would probably lean towards Ubuntu as I think Ubuntu provides the killer new desktop that Windows 8 has tried to introduce but in a much better way.

Windows 7 users are not running out of support and there isn't all that much wrong with Windows 7, especially if you have used it for a while. Windows 7 is  probably the best version of Windows there has ever been.

The best Linux alternative for Windows 7 that I have found thus far is probably Zorin OS 8. That is up until now.

Today I am going to be reviewing Linux Mint 17 with the Cinnamon desktop environment which is the best that Linux Mint has to offer.

System Requirements

  • x86 processor (32-bit) or x64 processor (64-bit)
  • 512 megabytes RAM (1 gigabyte recommended)
  • 10 gigabytes disk space
  • DVD or USB support

Installation

Click here for my guide showing how to create a bootable Linux Mint USB drive.
Click here for my guide showing how to install Linux Mint as a virtual machine.
Click here for my guide showing how to dual boot OSX and Linux Mint 17 on a MacBook Air.

I will be writing a guide shortly showing how to dual boot or replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint 17.

For now though I am going to take you through the installation steps to show just how easy it is.

You will need to follow the guide showing how to create the Linux USB drive first.

Before you begin, backup your computer using the Windows 7 backup and recovery tools.

Insert the USB drive and reboot your computer.



Your computer should boot into a live version of Linux Mint 17.

Click on the install icon on the desktop.


Choose your installation language and click "Continue".

 

You are then asked to connect to your wireless network. This is optional and to be honest I always choose not to connect.

The installer will use your internet connection to download updates as it goes which means when you boot Linux Mint 17 for the first time after installation it will be completely up to date. 

If you have a slow internet connection this can take ages and if your connection drops then it is hard to know the state of your installation. I prefer to get the installation done first and then apply updates later.

Select your preferred option and click "Continue".

 

The next steps shows you how well prepared you are for installing Linux Mint. If you have three green ticks then you are good to go. (The only one you really have to worry about is disk space and if you are not using a power source make sure your battery is charged).

Click "Continue".

 

If you are running Windows 7 then the image above will look slightly different but basically you get the option to replace the current operating system, install alongside the current operating system or something else.

In the past I have always recommended choosing something else as this will help during upgrades but because Linux Mint 17 is a long term support release with a number of years support it is OK to choose the option to erase the disk and install Linux Mint 17.

Choose your preferred option and click "Continue".

 

The rest of the steps are very straight forward. Choose your location.


Choose your keyboard layout.


 Create a default user and a name for your computer.


and wait for the installation to complete which for me took less than 10 minutes.

First Impressions

The best thing about Linux Mint is that the developers haven't tried to be too clever. 

One thing that turns people off Ubuntu is the Unity Desktop because the user interface just isn't familiar to them.

Don't get me wrong, I really like Ubuntu and I like the user interface that Unity provides. I get what the Ubuntu developers have tried to achieve and I think they have done an amazing job.

A few years ago people heard the word Unity and they said "Yuck". Now more and more people ask how to get Unity for their Linux distribution.

Linux Mint bucked the trend and stuck with the same principles that made Windows XP and Windows 7 a success. The user interface is completely familiar to anyone who has used computers for the past 20 years.

Linux Mint is also incredibly consistent. Whether you use the lightweight XFCE version, KDE, MATE or Cinnamon the look and feel is pretty much the same. The only thing that changes is the programs used to achieve the look and feel.

The Cinnamon desktop is extremely well polished and more than matches anything that Windows 7 has to offer in terms of asthetics.


Everything is just where you would expect it to be. The panel at the bottom works in much the same way as the Windows 7 task bar. There is a menu, a set of quick launch icons and a system tray.




The quick launch icons allow you to show the desktop, load the default web browser, open a terminal window and open the file manager. The quick launch icons can be customised.


The system tray has icons for helping you to manage common system settings. 

The default icons are as follows:

  • Notifications
  • User settings
  • Bluetooth settings
  • Network settings
  • Audio settings
  • Power settings
  • Updates
  • Clock
  • Workspace selector



The menus used by Linux Mint are slightly different depending on the desktop environment that you choose to use.

The Cinnamon desktop environment doesn't try and confuse you with new interfaces but enhances on the experiences that you are likely to already have encountered.

The menu is fairly straight forward. 

The left column has a series of icons for the applications that you will use regularly. (Favourites). 

By default the icons are as follows: (From top to bottom)
  • FireFox Web Browser
  • Software Manager
  • Settings
  • Terminal
  • File Manager
  • Lock Screen
  • Log Out
  • Quit
The second column in the menu is a list of categories and by hovering your mouse over a category the third column changes to show the applications within that category.

Dragging an icon from the applications column to the favourites column will make it more accessible next time you open the menu.

Connecting to the internet





















Connecting to the internet with Linux Mint is generally incredibly simple. Assuming that you have a network card that is automatically catered for then all you need to do is click on the icon in the system tray and select the wireless network you wish to connect to.

You will then also need to enter the security details for the wireless network (assuming that it isn't an open network).

To browse web pages use the FireFox web browser.

Flash and MP3

Some Linux distributions do not include proprietary technology such as the ability to play Flash videos and listen to MP3 audio.

Linux Mint has everything you need installed from the outset, so you can watch your favourite Youtube videos, play your favourite games and listen to your music collection with no further setup required.

Applications

Linux Mint has a great selection of applications that are installed by default.

Linux Mint is in a better state when it is first installed than Windows is and for the most part requires no extra specialist software to be installed for the most common uses of home computers.

Accessories

  • Archive Manager
  • Calculator
  • Document Viewer
  • Screenshot
  • Terminal
  • Text Editor
  • USB Image Writer

Graphics


  • GIMP image editor
  • gThumb image thumbnail viewer
  • Image Viewer
  • ImageMagick
  • LibreOffice Draw
  • Scan
For those of you that haven't heard of GIMP it is a fine picture editing tool. A lot of people liken it to Photoshop. Generally there is a debate to be had as to whether it really has everything that Photoshop has to offer but for the casual user it certainly is incredibly powerful.

Internet

  • FireFox Web Browser
  • HexChat IRC Chat Client
  • Pidgin Internet Messenger
  • Thunderbird Mail Client
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client

Office


  • LibreOffice Writer (think Microsoft Word but without the awful Ribbons)
  • LibreOffice Calc (think Microsoft Excel but without the awful Ribbons)
  • LibreOffice Impress (think Microsoft Powerpoint)
  • LibreOffice Draw
  • LibreOffice Math
LibreOffice complements Linux Mint very well as it provides the same sort of continuation and familiarity that Linux Mint provides. There are certainly none of those stupid ribbon bars making it impossible to find settings.

For home use LibreOffice definitely has all the features you will require and is perfect for children who have homework assignments or for parents to create budgets.

Sound and Video

  • Banshee Audio Player
  • Brasero DVD burning
  • Totem Video Player
  • VLC Video Player
One thing that Linux isn't lacking is good quality audio applications.

Off the top of my head there are Rhythmbox, Banshee, Amarok, Clementine, GMusicBrowser, DeadBeef, Noise and QMMS.

Linux Mint comes with Banshee. I have had problems with this application in the past but it works perfectly within Linux Mint 17.

Importing music is as simple as selecting the "Import Media" option from the "Media" menu. This allows you to select the folders on your computer that contain audio files.

Banshee lets you listen to music from your own collection or you can listen to online radio stations.

All the standard features are available such as the ability to create playlists.

Banshee works very well with external audio devices and picked up my Sony Walkman and Samsung Galaxy S4 without any issues.

The VLC media player can be used to watch online videos and also to watch videos stored on your computer.

Installing Applications

One area where Linux Mint is better than Ubuntu is the graphical tool used for installing applications.

The Ubuntu Software Centre is probably the biggest let down and the one area where Ubuntu really needs to improve.

Linux Mint's software manager is actually pretty decent.

The default view provides a list of categories and a search box in the top right corner.


If you just want to browse applications click on a category and a list of applications will appear.

The applications are listed by title, description, rating and number of people who voted.

To get more information about an application double click on the name.































The details page includes screenshots, version numbers, file sizes and reviews.

To install the application click "Install".

Gaming

One thing that isn't installed by default is games.

There are various ways of installing and playing games in Linux Mint.

The first way is to open the software manager and browse the games section.





The number of games listed in the software manager aren't incredibly extensive but there are first person shooters, platform games, racing games etc.

Another option is games emulation. The software manager has emulators for the Commodore Amiga, Atari 2600, Sinclair Spectrum, SNES, NES, Playstation One, N64 and many others.

If you already have a good selection of Windows games then the third option is to use PlayOnLinux which is also available from the software centre.
 

PlayOnLinux sits on top of WINE which allows you to run Windows applications within Linux Mint.









PlayOnLinux can be used for more than just installing Windows games and it can be used to install other Windows applications such as Microsoft Office.

The level of success with running Windows applications is improving but is still a bit hit and miss.

The games seem to work very well generally. I bought and installed Sensible World Of Soccer from GOG.com and it works really well.

The final but best option for playing games is through STEAM. More and more top quality games are provided for Linux via the STEAM platform.

You can install STEAM from the software manager.

Using STEAM you can buy, download and install games which can be used directly from your Linux Mint desktop.

Customising the desktop

The first thing that you might like to change is the default desktop wallpaper.

To change the wallpaper right click on the desktop and choose "Change Desktop Background".

Linux Mint comes with a nice selection of wallpapers but you can add your own by clicking on the "Add" icon.

Another thing you can add to the desktop is something called desklets. The "Add Desklets" option is available from the right click menu on the desktop.

By default there aren't that many desklets available but you can get more online. (Click the "Get More Online" tab.

The desklets for me look a bit clunky but they make it easier to view photos and provide instant access to your music collection etc.

Another thing you can customise is the panel at the bottom. You can add more items to the panel by right clicking the panel and selecting "Add applets to panel".

New features for Linux Mint 17

The release notes for Linux Mint can be found at http://www.linuxmint.com/rel_qiana_cinnamon.php.

The new features are as follows:

  • Improved update manager 
  • The driver manager can now install drivers without an internet connection
  • Refined MDM login manager and multi monitor support improved
  • HTML greeter comes with HiDPI support
  • MDM now has a recovery command
  • Language Settings tool added to make it easier to select your language
  • Improved Software Sources display
  • Welcome screen now uses less resources
  • Improved graphical interface for system settings
  • Power management and screen saver settings redesigned
  • Menu improvements
  • HUD and Hover Management Improvements
  • MPRIS support added
  • HiDPI and Retina display support added
  • The "WACOM" plug has been re-introduced
  • Windows opacity improvements
  • Better integration with Gnome
  • Better support for GDM
  • Support for MDM failback shutdown sequence
  • New shutdown hotkey
  • Lots of bug fixes
This list doesn't cover everything and may not make sense to new users so it would be beneficial to click the link above to get the full list.

What is important with Linux Mint 17 is the LTS strategy. Linux Mint 17 will receive support updates until 2019.

Until 2016 Linux Mint will use the same package base as Linux Mint 17 making it easier to upgrade.

Until 2016 the developers won't begin work on a new base and will be focus completely on the current base.

Hot Corners and Workspaces 

The Cinnamon desktop has a configuration tool called "Hot Corners" which lets you determine what happens when you move your mouse into the corners of your screen.

Before thinking about hot corners it is worth discussing workspaces first.

In Windows you only have one workspace. This means if you have lots of applications open then you either have to make windows smaller to place them side by side or have them overlay each other.

To switch between applications you have to either alt and tab or click with your mouse.

Linux has virtual workspaces which means you can have for instance one workspace which you use to do work and another for emails, chat, Facebook etc.

To use hot corners open the settings screen and select "Hot Corners".

You can specify what happens when you click or hover in a corner. The choices are to show all workspaces, show all windows, run a command or show the desktop.

All four corners can be customised to work the way you want them to.

For instance if I hover into the top left corner on my computer I will see the following screen:

By default there are two workspaces and switching is as simple as clicking the workspace. To add a new workspace click the plus symbol.

Issues

There are a number of known issues listed as part of the release notes:

  • The "Replace OS with Linux Mint" option doesn't just replace the operating system with the Linux Mint it erases the entire disk. This is important for people who dual boot. You need to use the "Something Else" option.
  • There may be an issue with Skype which can be fixed by installing "ia32-libs". 
  • If VLC does not find your DVD player, click on Media->Open Disc, and specify '/dev/sr0' as the disc device.
  • HiDPI is detected automatically. You can however force Cinnamon to run in low or in high DPI mode by going to Menu->Preferences->General.
  • If your system is using secureBoot, turn it off.
    Note: Linux Mint 17 places its boot files in /boot/efi/EFI/ubuntu to work around
  • Freeze issues with NVidia cards (there are workarounds provided via the release notes)
  • Booting with Non-PAE causes issues (refer to the release notes for the workaround)
Something that isn't on the list but that was reported via Reddit last week is that copying from a device to Linux Mint via the file manager can cause the file to get lost.

To try this out I plugged in my Samsung Galaxy S4 and moved files from the Samsung Galaxy to my Linux Mint 17 installation.














































As you can see from the images above I wasn't able to reproduce this issue.

My advice when moving files from one device to another would be to copy the files first and then when you are sure they have reached their destination delete the source files. This prevents the chance of the files getting lost.

I haven't had any other issues whilst running Linux Mint 17 and I have had it installed for around 2 weeks now.

Summary

Linux Mint 17 is a great choice for the everyday Linux user. It is easy to install, easy to use and has a good selection of applications.

There is nothing revolutionary about Linux Mint. It isn't like Ubuntu daring to enter new territory with a new user interface. It sits firmly in the camp of "things were and are working just fine so lets not change them".

The user interface for the Cinnamon desktop is visually pleasing and very professional.

The hardware support is extensive and the stability is incredibly good.

I would recommend Linux Mint for all users and not just Windows users looking to try Linux for the first time.

Linux Mint is a great example of how good an operating system can be.

Thankyou for reading.


Posted at 15:42 |  by Gary Newell

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