Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Tuning Rebecca (Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon) - Part 1

Rebecca is here! No not that beautiful blonde - but the beautiful Linux Mint 17.1 with the beautiful Cinnamon desktop. This article is all about tuning Rebecca so she is perfect to use - at least to me!

So you have installed Rebecca (aka Linux Mint 17.1 Cinnamon) and you are now staring at the desktop (see figure below) and wondering 'what next?'. Well, wonder no more as I take you on a journey on making Rebecca more beautiful!


As you can see from the desktop shown above, you are greeted by the 'Welcome Screen' right smack in the middle. As the name suggest, it welcomes and thanks you for choosing Linux Mint and also displays a number of icons (13 in all, if you counted!) of items that you are free to click upon in order to explore. For your information, all but 4 items (User Guide, Restore Data, Software Manager and Chat Room) will open the web browser (Firefox by default) and displays the contents for that item. The other 4 items are:
  • User Guide - a window similar to the one shown below will open displaying the contents of a user's guide to Linux Mint.


  • Chat Room - a window similar to the one shown below will open - in fact, this will launch HexChat, an IRC application pre-configured to log into the Linux Mint chat room on IRC. Note that it is extremely difficult to log into the channel - just click on the close button (the 'x' on the top right hand corner of the application window) if you are not successful in connecting to the channel.


  • Restore Data - you will be prompted to enter your password (this item requires admin's privileges) and then a window similar to the one shown below will open. This is the Backup Tool from which you can perform backup and restore of data.


  • Software Manager - you will also be prompted to enter your password (this item requires admin's privileges) and then a window similar to the one shown below will open. This is the Software Manager window from which you can select software for installing on your PC.

     
Remember to close the web browser (if open) and any other open application windows before proceeding any further. You can also close the Welcome Screen now. If you do not wish this screen to display upon system start up, remove the check mark on the 'Show this dialog at startup' text at the bottom of the welcome screen. Remember you can always display this screen later by clicking on Menu - Preference - Welcome Screen.

Updating Linux Mint

We start off by checking for updates to Linux Mint - this is normally indicated by the Update icon in the panel (lower right hand side of the screen). If there are any updates (which is normal for a newly installed Linux Mint) the the indicator will have an lower case 'i' in it as shown in the figure below. If you hover the mouse pointer over this icon the text 'A new version of the update manager is available' will be shown.



Click on the icon, and the Update Manager will start with all the upgradable items shown (see figure below).




Since there is only one item (mintupdate), you can start the update process by clicking on the Install Updates button. Another window will pop up (see figure below), asking for confirmation to install additional package(s). Click on OK to confirm.



Since updating the system requires admin's privileges, you will be asked to authenticate by entering your password (see figure below). Do so and then press the Authenticate button.



The update will start to download as shown on the figure below.



Once the update is downloaded, it is installed and the Update Manager will display more updates as shown in the figure below.



Before the update process is started, I normally set a preference to select and trust all security updates - this is an optional choice. Usually you will only see updates from level 1-3 (which are considered to be safe), but you can make an exception for level 4 and 5 security updates as I have done here. This can be done (as I have) by clicking on Edit and selecting Preferences. A window similar to the one shown below will appear. Then I place a check mark on on the 'Always select and trust security updates' and click on the Apply button.



As usual, you need to enter your password to authenticate.



Enter your password and then press the Authenticate button. The downloading of all the package files will begin.



Once all the files have been downloaded, the installation process will begin.



When all the updates have been installed, Update Manager will then appear again, this time with a blank window (if you have set the preferences just like me), indicating that all updates have been successfully installed.



You can close Update Manager now. Notice that the lower case 'i' in the update icon on the panel has changed to a green check mark - indicating that the system is up-to-date.



Note how useful is the update notification in the panel area - they tell you whether there are any updates that are available for the system at any time. However, you may want to check for updates manually on occasion. This can be easily done by clicking Menu -  Preference - Update Manager (see figure below).



That's it - you now have a fully updated Linux Mint system - Rebecca would be pleased!

Changing the Desktop Background

The next thing that I normally do is to change the desktop background from the awful looking (sorry, Clem) default Linux Mint desktop. This can be easily accomplished by right-clicking on a blank area of the desktop. A window similar to the one shown below will pop up.


Select 'Change Desktop Background' from the window and another window will pop up (see figure below). This window is part of the System Settings and from this window, it is possible to select a more suitable (and beautiful) desktop background - and also, make the background images change automatically and other cool stuff. Feel free to explore all the options. Don't forget to close the Backgrounds window when done.


My personal preference for a desktop background is 'The Trail' from, what else, Rebecca's choice of images. My final desktop looks like this:


Rebecca is looking more and more beautiful!

Setting up WiFi

Normally, my Internet connection is via an Ethernet network connection. Occasionally, I use a WiFi 'dongle' with my PC to connect to another Internet network connection. I will show you how to set up this connection using the 'Network' icon on the panel. If you hover the mouse pointer over the network icon, the text 'Connected to the wired network' is shown (see figure below).


Click on this icon, and a menu will pop up as shown in the figure below.


If your WiFi 'dongle' works (and is recognized by the PC), you will see both the 'Wired' and 'Wireless' items as shown in the figure. Then click on the wireless item you want to connect to, and a window will pop up (see figure below) asking you for the authentication password. Enter it and press the 'Connect' button (which will be enabled if you enter the correct password - else it will remain 'greyed out').

 
If you have successfully connected to the wifi network, a notification will appear briefly on your desktop. If you click on the network icon, the active wifi connection will have a 'dot' to the left of its name (see figure below).


I normally switch off the wired connection at this point by clicking on the 'switch' to the right of the 'Wired' item. If successful, another notification will appear briefly on the desktop and the menu will look something like the figure below.

  
Notice also that the network icon has changed as shown in the figure. This is an indication that your Internet connection is now via WiFi.

Adjust Audio Volume

I usually adjust the audio volume to a higher level using the sound icon found in the panel. Because of my loudspeakers input level, I adjust the level to about 85% as shown in the figure below.


The level is set by dragging the 'knob' using the mouse to the required level. To test out the level, click on the 'Sound Setting' item - a window similar to the one shown below will open.


Click on the Test Sound button and another window will open (see figure below) - click on the Test buttons for the left or right channels in order to test the sound levels.


Click on the Close button when done. You will beck at the Sound setting window - click on the Input tab. Here you can set the input microphone device and levels. Since I have a Logitech Webcam model C250 with a built-in microphone, I set that as my input device and the input level for this is as shown in the figure.


The Sound settings window was then closed.
 
Setting Up A Terminal

Simply put, a terminal (or console) is a place from where you execute a Linux command line. It is useful as it allows you to execute esoteric commands otherwise not available as GUI applications. As a programmer, I particularly find it useful - your mileage may vary here.

If you spend a lot of time in the terminal, then setting it up properly is a must - the process is fairly simple and is as follows. Click on the Terminal icon in the panel (see figure below) and it will launch.


Then right-click on a blank area of the terminal and the menu will appear as shown. Select Profile and Profile Preference as shown in the figure below.

 
A window labelled Editing Profile "Default" will appear as shown below.



I prefer a terminal using a larger font size (12 points) and the physical size of the terminal to display 110 characters in 34 rows. So I set the profile as shown in the figure below.


To set the profile and close the window, the Close button was clicked. The terminal was then closed (via a Ctrl-D key sequence) and re-opened using the terminal launcher. The final terminal looks like the one showed below.


Installing Software From A Terminal

Rebecca (aka Linux Mint) gives you 3 main methods of installing sofware; namely, the new Software Manager, the old and trusty Synaptic Packet Manager and lastly, for the geek (or nerd - take your pick) in you, the Terminal's command line. This section shows you how to install software from a command line in a terminal.

Launch a terminal, and type the following command and press the Enter key:

  sudo apt-get install mc
 
This command will execute the apt-get - the APT package handling utility for command line, and will install mc - a terminal-based file manager. First it will prompt you for your password - the sudo command allows you to execute commands at the admin's level. Enter your password and press the Enter key. It will then check the system and if the package exists, it will prompt you to continue or cancel. Press the Enter key to say 'Yes'. It will then start to download the package and, when finished, will start to install it. If successful, you will the see the prompt again without any error messages. The screen display below illustrate the whole process.



While the terminal is open, you can now start the mc software. Enter mc (followed by the Enter key) and the screen shown below will appear.



In case you are wondering why I use this file manager instead of the GUI file manger (Nemo), there are some things that this file manager can do that Nemo cannot. In any case, I am an 'old-school' Linux user and mc happens to be one of my favourite command line file manager.

While mc is open, you can explore it to your heart's content - when you have finished playing around with it, close it by pressing the F10 (or click on the Quit 'button' at the right-hand bottom) and the pressing the Enter key to confirm you really want to quit mc.

To close a terminal, you can either type the exit command or press the Ctrl-D key sequence.

Installing Hardware

I have a fair bit of hardware, like printers, scanners, etc., that I want to use with Rebecca. This section is all about installing them - your choices of hardware may differ from mine so view this section as a guide for hardware installation in general.

a) Installing Printers

Most modern printers (lasers and inkjets) uses USB connections, so it's just a matter of connecting them to Rebecca, switching them on, and then using System Settings to add the printer(s). The System Settings can be started from clicking on Menu and selecting the icon as shown in the figure below.


The System Settings window will open (see figure below). The Appearance and Preference items will be displayed. If you scroll down, the Hardware and Administration items will be shown (see figure below).




We need to use the Printers (under Hardware) item for adding printer(s) - so click on that and a new window will pop up (see figure below).



Click on Add - the New Printer window will appear (see below). Note that 'Enter URL' is selected by default - however, since we are NOT using a networked printer, and that the printer we have connected to Rebecca has been detected (an HP Laserjet Professional P1102, in my case here) has already been detected.



So we click on the correct printer (HP Laserjet Professional P1102) as shown in the figure below.



Click on the Forward button. The drivers for the printer will be searched for, and if found, it will be installed and the screen will change to one similar to the one shown below.


You can make any changes here (I shortened the short printer name to HPLJ-Pro-P1102) and then click the Apply button. Another window will pop up (see below) asking you whether you want to print a test page. I suggest you do so and click on the Print Test Page button.



A confirmation that the test page has been sent to the printer will appear (see below). Click on the OK button to close the window.



You should check the printer to see if the test page has been printed correctly - in my case, it had. The Printer Properties window (see below) will appear. You can set anything here - notice the amount of information on the printer! In addition, you can also perform other tasks by using the 3 buttons located at the bottom of this window. Click OK to dismiss this window.


The Printers window will appear again (see below) - this time with the newly added printer appearing in the window. Notice the check mark on the icon for this printer. Since it is the only printer (so far) in the system, it is marked as the default printer - hence the check mark.


You can go ahead to add more printers at this stage by clicking on the Add button or you can close this window if you have completed adding printers.


b) Installing Scanners

By comparison, installing a scanner (I have two) to Rebecca is not as simple and straightforward as installing printers. There is no Scanners item under Hardware in System Settings - and therein lies the problem. If Linux Mint (or any Linux, for that matter) makes this as easy (are you listening, Clem?) as installing printers, then I can safely say that Linux have come a long, long way to matching ease-of-use to Windows and Mac OS X.

The first scanner I have is an Epson Perfection V330 Photo scanner - do not be fooled by the term "Photo" in the name - it is a general purpose scanner. As it is a USB device, I plugged it using the USB cable supplied and powered it on. I then launched the Simple Scan program (Menu - Graphics - Simple Scan) and the result is as shown in the figure below.


As you can see, the Epson scanner was not detected and there was no way I could proceed any further until I have the correct drivers from the manufacturer (Epson, in this case) and installed them on Rebecca.

I was fortunate in finding drivers and software for this scanner from the Epson Download Center (URL is here). After filling in 'V330' and 'Linux' in the search boxes (see figure below), and clicking on search, I was presented with a list of of available software as shown.



By clicking on the Download button for the first item in the list, I arrived at the page shown below. By scrolling down, I managed to spot the Accept button - on which I clicked.



I was then presented by the list shown below. Knowing that my Rebecca uses the '.deb' file format and is a 64-bit PC, and guided by the FAQ (link shown on web page), I downloaded the 'iscan_2.30.0-1~usb0.1.ltdl7_amd64.deb' and 'iscan-data_1.33.0-1_all.deb' files, which, by default, to the Downloads folder.



The procedure was repeated for the second item in the first list (close the current window and you will be back at this list) and the file was downloaded. You should now have 3 Epson driver files in the Downloads folder. They are as listed below:

iscan-data_1.33.0-1_all.deb
iscan_2.30.0-1~usb0.1.ltdl7_amd64.deb
esci-interpreter-perfection-v330_0.2.0-1_amd64.deb 

I could have used the GDebi program (Menu - Administration - GDebi Package Installer) to install the downloaded files but instead I selected to use a Terminal and show you how to install the files from a command line. First, of course, is to launch a Terminal. Click on the item in the panel or, alternatively, click on Menu, then click on the Terminal icon found there - either way, a Terminal is launched. Then enter the following command to switch to the Downloads folder.

  cd Downloads

The switch to the admin (root) mode by executing:

  su

Enter your password when prompted. Then execute the following command.

  apt-get install xsltproc

This command is to install the 'xsltproc' package to meet one of the requirement (or dependencies) of the iscan program. Then execute the following command.


  dpkg -i ./iscan-data_1.33.0-1_all.deb

This command will execute the dpkg package installer (the grand-daddy of the DEB package manager) and install the 'iscan-data_1.33.0-1_all.deb' package found in the Downloads folder. In a similar manner, execute the following command.

  dpkg -i ./iscan_2.30.0-1~usb0.1.ltdl7_amd64.deb

and:

  dpkg -i ./esci-interpreter-perfection-v330_0.2.0-1_amd64.deb

If you don't see any error messages resulting from the execution of any of the commands above, then you have successfully installed the iscan program for the Epson V330 scanner. Exit from the admin (root) mode by pressing the Ctrl-D key sequence.

Now plug in the Epson scanner and switch it on. Then launch the iscan program by either executing 'iscan' from the Terminal or clicking on Menu - Graphics - Image Scan! for Linux. Either way, you should see the following display.



NOTE: If you see a screen similar to the one below, then you have run into problems with the scanner. First check whether the scanner is connected to a USB port and powered on. Usually, fixing these will solve the problem but if you still see the screen below, then check whether you have installed all the files mentioned above IN THE ORDER indicated. Failing to do this will cause the problem. Un-install the files and try again. Should all fail, go the Linux Mint forum and search for a solution.




A test scan was then performed using the test page of the HP LaserJet P1102 that was installed in the previous section. The Preview button was pressed and the scanner started scanning the document - with the result shown in the figure below.


The image was then scanned using the Scan button, and upon completion, another window popped up (see below) for saving the image file to a destination with the suggested file name.



The OK button was pressed and the image file was saved to the Documents folder with the name 'default.png'. A quick check revealed the file was there and then viewed using the Image Viewer.
 
As a last test, the Simple Scan program (Menu - Graphics - Simple Scan)was again launched. This time there was no error message and a scan of the same test page was performed with the end result as shown in the figure below.

 
The Epson Perfection V330 Photo scanner has now been successfully installed.

As mentioned previously, I have another scanner - a HP ScanJet Professional 1000 Mobile Scanner - mostly used with my laptop as a mobile scanner since all the power it need to operate is from the USB port (hence the 'mobile' name). Plugging this scanner in a USB port on Rebecca and starting the Simple Scan program produces the same error message - 'No scanners detected'.

This time I was not so lucky in finding drivers as in the case of the Epson scanner. To cut a long story short, the HP scanner WILL NOT work on Rebecca and, to the best of my understanding, HP do not plan to support this scanner with Linux at all. End of story. This brings home the point that, with Linux (any Linux), do not depend on the manufacturer of the hardware to supply Linux drivers or software for that product.

c) Connecting a Digital Camera

Most of us will have (at one time or another) a digital camera, whether a simple point-and-shoot unit or a more sophisticated DSLR unit. One of common things, however, of these units, are attaching it to a PC for image transfer to do further processing on the images taken by the camera. Most digital camera manufacturers will supply software to transfer and process these images; but those software mainly works on Windows and Mac. They very rarely supply software for Linux.

Fortunately, Linux is able to read the memory storage (whether CF, or SD cards, or other types of memory cards) and also the ability to transfer files from these cards to the PC over USB. Note that most digital cameras will have a USB connection, as well as store the camera images on the memory cards under a standard folder - the DCIM folder. Provided the digital camera's manufacturer follows these 'standard', it will be extremely easy for image transfer to a Linux Mint PC - just follow these steps.

First connect the digital camera to the PC via a USB cable. Most manufacturers supply these cables - use these instead of a standard USB cable - you just don't know what the manufacturers have done with the cable and it is advisable to use these.

Then switch on the power to the digital camera. If you are lucky and the manufacturer of the digital camera follows standards, a window will pop up (see figure below) asking you what to do. I have a Canon PowerShot A550 digital camera - so it was gratifying to see that it was detected, as evident by the title in the window and the icon labelled 'Canon Digital Camera' that appeared on my desktop (see figure below).



Since the purpose of this exercise is the transfer of images from the camera to the PC, the images from the camera was imported using gThumb, a software installed by default on Linux Mint 17.1 for just this purpose. This action was selected by clicking on the 'down arrow' in the window and the text 'Ask what to do' was replaced with 'Import with gThumb' (see figure below). Note that you could make this the default action by placing a check mark on the 'Always perform this action' item. Next, the OK button was clicked.


Another window will pop up (see below) - the images to import were selected by using a Ctrl-Click sequence, followed by clicking on the Import button.



Note that the images will be imported to the Pictures folder by default - you can change this if you wish - for example a sub-folder off the Pictures folder called Canon Camera. There are other items that you can set if you wish - click on the Import button when finished. The main gThumb window wll the open as shown below.




There are a fair bit of things that you can do with gThumb, but mainly this software is useful for light editing of the images, sharing the images and printing the images. If you want to do some heavy editing then you need to use a heavyweight software like Gimp - which is installed by default on Rebecca (Menu - Graphics - Gimp Image Editor) and is shown in the figure below.




To disconnect the camera from the PC, simply switch off the camera and then disconnect the USB cable.


This is the end of Part 1. In the second part, we will continue with connecting other hardware like smart phones and tablets using USB, Bluetooth and other methods. Stay tuned.










6 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for making this information available. Clear, concise and very helpful! Especially useful for me was the part on Software Manager. As I've just recently installed Mint 17.1 I'll surely be back soon.

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  2. Very clear instructions! I have the same version of Linux Mint. I hope your next set of advice covers webcams.

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  3. I entered a post here a couple of minutes ago and clicked Publish, but it doesn't show. I'll try again, hoping they don't both show up.

    I used the command sudo fdisk-l in a terminal window opened with Ctrl-Alt-T, and, after asking for my password, it said that command isn't recognized. So I opened a terminal by using Ctrl-Alt-F2 and the command was recognized. The problem came when I wanted to return to the Mint GUi. Ctrl-D and exit didn't work. How can I do that without having to shut down the computer?

    Also, is there an app that has a graphical interface that I can use to see the partitions on the hard drive? It was hard for me to make out the info given by the commands above. I'd like to know what doing a full install of Mint on my XP did with the hard drive.

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  4. I have been reading your posts regularly. I need to say that you are doing a fantastic job. Please keep up the great work.


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  5. Wow! That's really great information guys.I know lot of new things here. Really great contribution.Thank you .

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  6. Thank you very much for your kind words.


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