Linux Mint 18

Ah, my neglected, seldom ever used blog. This post will be of little interest to non-nerds, but I wanted to get down on paper my experiences transitioning (again) from Windows to Linux.

Background

Many moons ago I had an aging desktop machine that would no longer satisfactorily run Windows XP. Being the wannabe nerd I am, I thought linux would be a good way to breathe life into an old machine. I tried several different distros eventually settling on OpenSUSE with the KDE desktop. I had a problematic Nvidia card and this was the only one that would run with a minimum of problems.

I got used to system and as time went on it became slower and slower so I tried out Ubuntu, which worked for a while. Eventually that too started to lag so I moved to Mint and eventually settled on the Xfce desktop. This worked for a long while and is actually still installed on that now decommissioned desktop.

With my transition to laptops I occasionally experimented with dual booting my machine with linux, with varying results but never really catching on.

The Present

About a year ago I decided to seriously consider dual booting again and making it work. My current laptop, a Lenovo, was at that time two years old, though still in pretty good shape. I was just getting tired of the same old annoyances of Windows and with the advent of Windows 10, it’s built-in spyware and adware, and the potential for eventually having a subscription I thought it was a good idea to have a working alternative.

I liked Mint so I tried Mint 17. Amazingly, pretty much everything worked. I would spend weeks in nothing but linux. But I missed some major applications. Media Monkey in Windows is absolutely the best music application for large libraries (I have north of 50,000 songs). And Pot Player is the most amazing video player. And for work I need access to Microsoft Office, as quite a bit of what work with just doesn’t show up correctly in Libre Office.

So it was always the second choice. And then my laptop headphone jack started acting up. It is loose in the cabinet, something I could probably fix if I really wanted to take the time to do it, but the easier thing to do was to buy an external USB DAC (an ASUS Xonar U3). This thing is awesome. The sound is better than I have ever had…but it was problematic in Mint 17. Pulse audio kept getting borked with it eventually getting so screwed up (admittedly, I probably screwed it up trying so many things to get it to work right) that I lost all sound and try as I might I couldn’t get it back.

So I thought I would try Ubuntu again. And it worked well. The interface of Ubuntu these days is not great, but I can deal with that if everything works. But a new problem cropped up. Video tearing. Scrolling on webpages or anywhere else caused really annoying lines and artifacts. No amount of futzing with it made it better. So I abandoned it again for a short while.

Until Mint 18, which I thought I might as well try out as Mint 17 was near perfect. And Mint 18 is in fact pretty much perfect. No tearing. Everything worked out of the box. I mess around with my music files much less since Spotify so that is less of an issue. SM Player is pretty much what I want from a video player (A note about VLC: VLC is great. But it has a couple of niggling problems I can’t get past. One is that it won’t remember the place I was at in a video. There is an addon to handle this but I can’t seem to get it work, even when I compile it myself. And I use video to fall asleep and one thing I like to be able to do is advance over TV show themes in the dark, with the laptop closed and using the mouse. SM Player will do this with the mouse wheel rocker. VLC has no such function).

My USB sound works well, with caveats. I get crackling sounds when I reboot, particularly a reboot from Windows (rebooting from Windows messes with my mouse too, so I disconnect my mouse before entering Windows and use another one. Windows apparently does something to hardware that does not reset from a reboot but does with a shutdown). Turning the computer off and on again fixes it (Thanks for the advice, It Crowd). But I also need to be careful when I shutdown. Occasionally, if I unplug the Xonar before shutting down, I have no sound at all when I startup again. Deletion of the Pulseaudio config files fixes this.

A few other minor bugs (the biggest one being that occasionally after a suspend (sleep for Windows folk) I lose a lot of the text and icons in various programs. A reboot fixes this and there is a bug report open for it). And Chrome is laggy, especially after being open for a while so I mainly use Firefox, which I did half the time in Windows anyway.

Everything works. I have spent the last few weeks exclusively in Linux Mint and couldn’t be happier. My computer is faster and frankly I think it looks much better (I suspect there is something very wrong with my Windows video drivers as everything is…flat and dim and changing brightness or gamma distorts colors). There is the occasional problem, but then I get to flex my nerd muscles and figure out how to fix it. And there is almost always a fix. And I occasionally still must boot into Windows but it is getting more and more seldom.

I couldn’t recommend Mint 18 enough. It works and is a viable replacement for Windows, at least for the technically inclined and even so it wasn’t that difficult to get working like you want.

screenshot-from-2016-09-11-21-38-52

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