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.

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.

Free Software is Freedom

I’m blogging tonight using my System76 Darter Pro which is now nearly three years old. The laptop came with Pop!_OS installed on it and I kept using that Linux distribution for much of the first two years. Last year I made the switch to Linux Mint and I enjoy that very much. Whether I’m running Pop!_OS or Linux Mint my computer runs as well as it did when it was new nearly three years ago. Linux and free software provide the best value for most users and yet daily I encounter folks who have never heard of Linux or free software. Last week I helped a friend access their inaccessible Microsoft Word and Excel files by installing LibreOffice 7.2 on their Windows laptop. I hoped to encourage this person to upgrade their Windows 7 operating system which is out of date with the Linux option. Their computer which is a Hewlett-Packard DM4-2070us is an excellent candidate. It has an i5 processor and six GB RAM. One of the impediments for my friend is the need to edit PES files for a Brother embroidery machine. I found an open source workaround using the Inkstitch extension with Inkscape. I wish I was more proficient with that application than I am.

Vostro 1520 Restored with Linux

Today when I came home there was a box sitting in the house waiting for me. My wife said it was a computer my brother-in-law had used in his business. She said, “Dave wanted you to have this computer back now that he’s retired.” I vaguely remember helping Dave get this computer about ten years ago. It’s a Dell Vostro 1520. Checking on the Dell support website I found that the warranty expired nine years ago. The computer came with Windows XP which is what he needed at the time. I checked out the BIOS and determined it had a Core 2 Duo CPU with 2 gigabytes of RAM. It has 300 gigabyte SATA hard disk and Intel wireless.

It was a perfect candidate for Linux Mint XFCE. I made the Mint XFCE 20.1 thumb drive with my desktop computer and fired up the Vostro. I pressed F12 to boot from the USB drive and the install went really well. I ordered a new battery and a memory upgrade to bring it up to 4 GB of RAM. I’ve got a spare 120 GB SSD drive to put into it. Someone will soon be getting a lovely refurbished Dell Vostro 1520 that’s been refitted with Linux. You just have to love Linux and open source. It’s the gift that keeps giving.

Moving to Mint

I’ve been a Linux user for more than twenty years. I started with Red Hat 6.1 in the late 1990’s. Since then I’ve used a number of distributions and have loved the experience and freedom of open source software. My journey has taken me from Red Hat to Suse then Mandrake. Fedora 1 to Fedora 5 and then Centos and Ubuntu 5.04 in 2005. In the past couple of years I have been running Pop_OS! which I really like. It’s a great implementation of Ubuntu. It’s better than the stock release of Ubuntu Desktop in my estimation.

I first heard of Linux Mint a dozen or more years ago when a community member shared that he used that distribution. Last year a friend asked me to install Linux on an under powered Windows laptop that they owned. In my search to find the right distribution I settled on Linux Mint XFCE. It worked well. Then came the pandemic.

Since March of last year I’ve been helping folks get connected to Zoom and other video conferencing solutions and in all but one case I’ve used Linux. Several of the units I’ve purchased on Ebay came from Free Geek which is a non-profit in Portland, Oregon. Those laptops have come with Linux Mint installed. Most of the time I reinstalled Pop_OS on them. Recently when looking for a Linux solution for an aging Acer laptop with a Pentium processor I opted to install Linux Mint XFCE. It fit the bill perfectly. The client was very happy that a computer that was in their storage closet would now be the solution to their problem created when Google nixed cloud printing and made it impossible to print from their Chromebook to a two year old HP LaserJet multi-function device.

In helping a client find a Linux solution to his problem I decided it was time to try Mint on my System76 Darter Pro. I installed the Cinnamon desktop and had fun learning the nuances of this new interface. I liked it so well that I decided to use it on my Intel NUC desktop. I backed up my files and had Linux Mint 20.1 installed. I’m having fun configuring it the way I like it. Mint comes with a backup solution of it’s own but I opted to install Cronopete which is my favorite backup software. There’s always a learning curve with any new distribution. I’m looking forward to the experience. Thank you Linux for the freedom to choose.

Linux Mint on MacBook Air

I have an early 2015 MacBook Air that developed problems a couple years ago when it’s battery gave up the ghost after an upgrade to MacOS Mojave. Then last fall the SSD drive gave out. I ordered a new battery and installed it and ordered a 240 GB NVMe drive for the unit and installed it also. I couldn’t get MacOS reinstalled on it. An internet search revealed that I needed a firmware upgrade. Interestingly enough Linux recognizes the SSD without difficulty.

I experimented with Ubuntu 19.10, Fedora and eventually settled on ElementaryOS which worked the best. I wrote an article about how to “Give and old MacBook new life.” Since then I have used the machine as a test platform for various projects including another article about “Why I use WordPress.” I set up WordPress in a virtual machine on that box.

Fast forward to last week when Ubuntu 20.04 was released. I wanted to see how this latest version of Ubuntu would work. I downloaded the ISO on my daily driver which is a System76 Darter Pro running Pop_OS and created a bootable USB with “Popsicle” which is a great tool. I tried a live session and determined that out of the box the new version didn’t support the BroadComm 4360 wireless chipset in the MacBook Air. I did some research and decided I’d try the full install and add the Broadcom software after the fact. I connected to the ethernet port and performed the installation. All went well and then I added the Broadcom drivers later. All seems to be working well now except the FaceTime camera.

Much to my chagrin the next time I started the computer it just would not get past the startup screen and after a number of trials I decided to try Linux Mint XFCE . I had already installed Mint on another PC in February and had the ISO already to burn. I used Popsicle again and then installed Mint on the MacBook Air. After the install was complete and I had rebooted Mint found the Broadcom 4360 in the MacBook and invited me to install the drivers. Linux Mint quickly found my HP printer and installed the necessary software. If anyone reading this blog has suggestions for how to solve the FaceTime camera issue I’d appreciate any suggestions. Once again Linux has extended the life of a five year old computer.

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.