From Windows to Linux: My Experience Helping a Friend Switch to Linux Mint

Yesterday I helped a friend restore two laptops to good working order using Linux Mint 21.1. My daily driver is Pop!_OS but my friend is new to Linux and I thought Linux Mint with a Cinnamon desktop would be a good place for him to start his Linux journey.  I saved his files from the first laptop on a USB drive and then began the install of Mint from another USB drive that I had prepared for that purpose. The candidate was a three year old Hewlett-Packard Laptop with a lightweight AMD processor and 4 GB or RAM. The computer had really gotten slow and was showing signs of a malware infestation when I suggested to my friend that he let me help him give Linux Mint a try.

The install of Mint went very well and we were done in about fifteen minutes which included adding updates and restoring his word processing and image files from the Windows 10 operating system that had existed on this laptop just a few minutes before. My friend was so excited by the results and the new life in his laptop that he invited me to try Mint on an extra Acer Aspire laptop that he had in a cupboard in his home. The Acer was a great candidate. Eight gigabytes of RAM, i5 processor and 250 GB SSD drive. My friend is quite happy with his two laptops now that they are running Linux Mint. I am always delighted when I can share the gift of Linux and open source software with anyone.

Managing your money on Linux

GnuCash is a popular open-source personal finance or small business accounting for Linux users. It is a full-featured double-entry accounting system that supports multiple accounts, investments, and currency conversions. The app also provides a variety of helpful financial tools, including budgeting, reporting, invoicing and more. GnuCash is a great choice for users who are looking for a comprehensive and powerful financial management solution. GnuCash is my own personal favorite that I have been using everyday for over six years. GnuCash can be installed from the command line or as a Flatpak depending on your distribution and/or personal choice. GnuCash is licensed with Gnu Public License. GnuCash is also available for MacOS and Windows users too.

Homebank is a free, open-source personal finance app for Linux, Windows and MacOS users. It easily imports files from Quicken, Microsoft Money and other software. It also imports from popular bank formats OFX/QFX, QIF and CSV. The source code for Homebank is freely available and licensed with GPL v 2.0. The project provides information about how to download and install on your distribution or operating system.

KMyMoney is a cross-platform double-entry bookkeeping system for personal finance management built on KDE. It’s similar in operation to popular proprietary personal finance applications. KMyMoney also supports multiple accounts and currencies, making it a great choice for users who need to manage their finances in multiple countries. It’s latest stable release was June 2021. It is licensed with Gnu Public License. The project provides download images for Linux, Windows and MacOS.

Skrooge is open source and available for download and install on Linux and BSD. It’s also available on Windows and MacOS. You can import accounts from many sources including AFB120, QIF, CSV, MT940, OFX, QFX. According to their website Skrooge is able to import directly transactions from all your banks web sites in one click. Skrooge provides excellent documentation too.

Windows 11 is not for me

Today I decided to give Windows 11 a try. I downloaded the ‘iso’ from Microsoft onto my Linux laptop. My System76 Darter Pro is an i7 with 16 GB of RAM. I decided to try to run the new operating system in Virtualbox. I gave it a 64GB disk and 8 GB of RAM. I got a message that the configuration wasn’t going to work. I have an extra Dell Vostro 3560 with i5-3230m and 8GB RAM. I created a USB boot drive with WoeUSB and the Vostro booted okay and I began the installation but it halted and gave me the message that my computer didn’t meet the requirements for Windows 11. I was merely curious about the new iteration of Windows. I have virtualized Windows 10 on the Darter Pro before and have installed Windows 10 in Virtualbox on that same Dell Vostro before. Windows 11 is different and it’s a difference I’m not prepared to take. I’m glad I use Linux Mint. I don’t see any good reason to change.

Chromebook thoughts and virtual meetings

I’ve been a fan of Chromebook’s since the first time I saw one seven or eight years ago. I bought my first Chromebook in 2013 and loved it so much that it became my daily driver, replacing the MacBook Pro that I had been using. Since that very favorable experience I’ve had a number of Chromebooks and frequently recommend them to my friends. Aside from a 14 inch Hewlett-Packard Chromebook that I used four years ago my go to recommendation has been the 15.6 inch Acer Chromebook. I like the screen size, the feel of the keyboard and the HDMI output for connecting a digital projector or LCD display.

Recently I gave away an Acer 15.6 to a friend who needed to connect to Zoom meetings. Last weekend our Secular Franciscan Fraternity gathered on Zoom and our spiritual director was using a Chromebook. I’ve helped a number of friends, many of whom are senior citizens make the switch to Chromebook. Recently I recommended a Dell Chromebook and ordered it for a friend to help her get on Zoom. Though it’s got a smaller 11.6 inch display I really liked the feel of the keyboard and the overall construction of the unit. The Dell Chromebook seems more solid than the others and I really like the power cord and adapter. I like too that it came with ability to run Linux applications.

Whether you’re a student, a teacher or a retiree looking for a reasonable alternative to a standard PC or Mac then you ought to consider a Chromebook. I’ve found them to be rock solid, reliable and resilient not to mention that they run on Linux.

Free Software for Windows

I’m frequently called as I was this morning to support Windows computers. Many of those calls come from senior citizens as was the case this morning. The fellow was running Windows 7 and had recently purchased virus protection for it. He didn’t know how to install it and had called me to do that for him. That’s when I used Ninite to help him out. One of the Windows 7 options is to install Microsoft Security Essentials. Though Windows 7 reached end of life in January 2020 , MSE lives on and will continue to be updated. I told the chap that I wouldn’t recommend using the computer for secure transactions. I suggested that I could install Linux on the computer for him if he wanted to do that. I explained to him that I could easily install Linux on his computer and then short of hardware failure he’d have a viable desktop PC for the foreseeable future. He was tickled to be able to return the unopened antivirus software that he had purchased for $85 at a local store.

I recommend Ninite for much more than security software too. It’s a great collection of easily installable free software. Many of the titles are FOSS projects like LibreOffice which is my own “go-to” office suite.

The future is open

I came across a blog post from 8 years ago where I wrote about how I was working with students and talking about computers. In the post I shared that I used Ubuntu Linux as my operating system.  I still work with students and I still recommend Linux over any other operating system because there is something wonderful about software freedom. A lot has changed in 8 years. That was a time before Raspberry Pi and the iOT, Chromebooks, iPads and more. I was using a Blackberry as a mobile device then and an iPhone now. That was before FaceTime and Google Hangouts. In that time Linux has evolved too. It’s found in all the Chromebooks, Androids, and most everything else except iOS devices. Even Microsoft is using Linux these days. There are just so many things you can do with Linux. In addition to the open source operating system the Linux concept has spread to an entire open ecosystem that pervades not only software but philosophy too. Openness and transparency are becoming overarching goals of most forward thinking organizations. I always have enjoyed helping people. Linux and open source software help fuel that passion to assist others.

Newly Minted

I’ve been using Linux as my primary desktop for quite awhile. Over the years I’ve used Mandrake, Red Hat, Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and now Linux Mint. Mint is a Ubuntu derivative which makes it part of the Debian tree in Linux. A bit over a month ago I gave my four year old MacBookPro an upgrade to Linux. I installed Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and eventually decided to try Linux Mint 18. I really like the Cinnamon desktop on Mint. It’s very intuitive and it makes using Linux on the desktop a snap even for a veteran user. I have a young friend who has had to rebuild his Windows 10 computer twice in the past few months due to malware problems and I think Linux Mint would be just the ticket for him. I’m also donating a spare laptop to an older friend and I’m giving that to her with Linux Mint installed.

Phil Shapiro recently told me that Steven Vaughn-Nichols wrote that Linux Mint was his favorite Linux desktop and I can see why.

Another Happy Chromebook User

Recently my friend John came to me with a problem. His Windows 8 notebook computer which is only about three years old was getting tired and not running well. He wanted to know what my suggestion was. I said, “Get a Chromebook!” He wanted to know what that was and I did a bit of explaining but nothing really succeeds until a user experiences ChromeOS on a Chromebook. John picked up his new Acer 15.6 inch Chromebook at the local Wal-Mart. It’s a modest unit with only 2 gigabytes of RAM but any Chromebook veteran realizes that more than enough memory. Once the Chromebook was out of the box it only took about five minutes of minimal instruction to get John up and running. He soon realized that this inexpensive laptop was way faster than the Windows laptop it replaced. John wanted to know about antivirus and was happy to know that he didn’t need any. It always pleases me when I can help steer a friend in the right direction. What pleases me most is that Chromebooks are just another example of the power of Linux.

Fixing LibreOffice after an upgrade to OSX El Capitan

I read an article this morning which stated that more developers use Macs than Linux and while I can’t disagree with that I am perplexed by my recent upgrade to El Capitan. My four year old MacBook Pro continues to perform well despite its age. I’m happy with that, but after upgrading to El Capitan from Yosemite yesterday, LibreOffice 5 no longer worked. I kept getting an error message about the need to install Java JRE. I’ve downloaded the Java packages from Oracle after reading some “how-tos” after doing some “googling.” I use my Linux laptop more for everyday so it’s not a huge inconvenience, but I’d really like to know how to solve this current problem.

There is a fix I’m happy to report and it involved downloading the appropriate JRE environment from Oracle for OSX 10.11.3. Then I deleted LibreOffice from my system and then downloaded and installed the most recent version of the software. After doing all that I had to open LibreOffice for the first time and then go to LibreOffice  -> Preferences  -> Advanced then select the version of the Java Environment which in my case was version 1.8.0_73. Highlight that selection, press “Add” and then “Okay” and you’re done.

Once again Linux to the rescue of a Windows 8.1 machine

A former colleague has a Windows 8.1 computer that had been overtaken by trojans, worms and spyware and was not working well at all. Last week his wife called and asked if I could fix it. I agreed to take a look at it. I downloaded an anti-virus rescue disk that ran on Linux. I couldn’t get the proprietary anti-virus to work but I was able to install Clam anti-virus and install the latest definitions. I discovered in the process that the system needed to be rebuilt using it’s recovery partition. However, none of the factory installed backup solutions worked. I decided I would use a Linux USB drive to boot the computer and save the user’s important files. However, upon re-booting with Linux none of the Windows partitions were mountable. Thank God for an internet search and I was able a way to mount the Windows drive and backup the files. Here is the solution that saved my friend’s files.  Thank you to the person who shared this and here’s hoping this helps someone else.

using the following command , get info about your drives


Then mount the drives using following command

sudo ntfsfix /dev/sda1

Here sda1 is used as example , replace sda1 with corresponding sda number ,command 1 gives the sda number of your drive

and remember windows drives are of ntfs partition