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Old 06-17-2017, 06:46 AM   #1
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Question Getting started with Ubuntu and Mint Mate - installation and configuration tips


I am a software engineer with a very rough understanding and rather little experience in Linux.

On a few PCs I plan to replace Windows XP with LTS version of either Ubuntu or Mint MATE - I have still not decided which of them, but the background is that it is for some non-demanding, non-tech-savvy office users, who need just a simple UI and will only use their PC for editing documents (LibreOffice), viewing photos and browsing the internet (Vivaldi browser). I feel Ubuntu is a bit too complex / eye-candy and simplifying the UI to the basics will take some effort, while Mint MATE can be fine quite out of the box.

I would like to ask if you know some (up to date) Getting Started tips for these two distros. I mean just tips on important things I should note and make decision on during installation and initial configuration.
I mean things like which filesystem should be best to choose (and which options to turn on - journaling is worth it? etc.), where the user data / user profile should be best stored (if there are options; I would like user data to be kept in one place and not being mixed with system profile data or at least system data to not be visible for the user).

I would also like to enable fully-automatic security updates for the whole system and all components/apps, as well as it would be great to configure some automatic incremental/diff backup solution to the external drive.

Thanks you a lot for help! :-)
Old 06-17-2017, 07:08 AM   #2
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I'd certainly recommend Mint, which is newbie-friendly and supports a great variety of hardware out of the box. Mate is often recommended as a familiar-looking interface for people transitioning from Windows. Mint is based on Ubuntu, but there is also LMDE (Linux Mint Debian Edition), which is based on Debian.

As far as filesystems are concerned, naive people had better stick to the standard one, which is ext4. This is what your installer will provide by default. It incorporates journalling. You will definitely need to give them a home partition separate from the root partition. Mount it on /home and create individual user home directories on it. You will also need a swap partition about twice the size of your ram.

Linux does not allow for hiding system data from the user. That's the Windows philosophy! In Linux, the permissions system rather than secrecy protects system files. No one can alter them without root access. I suggest you keep the root password to yourself, at least initially, and give your users sudo access to those commands that they will need to do updates or shut down the system, but not much else. For that reason, I'd recommend LMDE. I think Mint itself gives sudo access to all commands, like Ubuntu does.

I don't know about automatic updates. That sounds alien to the Linux way, to me! But I've recently set up a complete computer virgin with another Debian-based distro, and she quickly learned how to do her own updates.
Old 06-17-2017, 07:44 AM   #3
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Hi wojcieche.

I'm running Mint 18.1 MATE. Note that 18.2 is imminent.

On installation, for each machine I would set up the user as "admin" with a good password. You can then subsequently set up an ordinary user "user" with non-sudo rights after installation is finished.

During installation, check the "Install third-party software..." option. When it comes to partitioning, it's up to you what to choose, but if you want to keep things simple, just check the "Erase disk and install Linux Mint" option - Mint will create a single root partition and a small swap partition (I personally run with a swap partition that is my RAM + 1GB, not the RAM * 2 advice of hazel's which I tend to view as being out-of-date).

After installation, do the following (a small subset of what I do):

. run gufw (a GUI to the ufw firewall) and turn the firewall on.

. apt install ttf-mscorefonts-installer - installs Times New Roman and similar fonts for use in e.g. LibreOffice

. sudo tune2fs /dev/sdax -c 10 - does a file system check every 10 boots (replace sdax with your root partition)

. Re-add arrows to scrollbars: gksudo xed /usr/share/themes/Mint-X/gtk-3.0/gtk-widgets.css (.scrollbar section; reverts if upgrade Mint or Mint theme):
-GtkScrollbar-has-backward-stepper: 1;
-GtkScrollbar-has-forward-stepper: 1;

Look at the unattended-upgrades package for your automatic upgrades.

Last edited by hydrurga; 06-17-2017 at 07:45 AM.
Old 06-17-2017, 07:53 AM   #4
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I don't know about automatic updates. That sounds alien to the Linux way, to me! But I've recently set up a complete computer virgin with another Debian-based distro, and she quickly learned how to do her own updates.
Actually, it is not alien to Linux way. On Debian based distros, which includes Mint and Ubuntu, those are easy to set up and you can choose what you will update automatically ( usually security updates ). It comes very handy when you have lots of servers to administer and those updates can be configured to inform you via mail. It is nothing new either.

As for other questions of OP, journaling for sure, ext4 is default and very safe choice. Separate / and /home partitions as well as swap partitions with size depending on your ram ( if you have less than 4G ram make 8G swap partition, if you have more than 4G ram do it as amount of ram plus 2G ). For backup solutions you have several options, including some automatic ones. You can do it simple way with some bash script that will rsync what you want to backup to your preferred destination and setup cron to do it as often as you would like ( google that subject, you will find lots of examples ). Or you can install and use some GUI backup tool like deja-dup, or some of others. As for Ubuntu vs Mint, both have several flavors to pick from. Would advise you to pick depending on your hardware. For older hardware, either Lubuntu, or Mint XFCE. Lubuntu will be bit faster, Mint XFCE will have more things out of the box. If you have newer hardware, Mint Mate, or Ubuntu Mate.
Old 06-17-2017, 08:34 AM   #5
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You might take a look at the minimum hardware requirements for any system before trying them. If you have computers which originally used xp, your hardware is probably not going to be good enough to run a standard Ubuntu with Unity. The link below has links to the various Mints including Mate.
Old 06-17-2017, 11:03 AM   #6
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As an example, I have been running plain Ubuntu 16.04 on my 8 ish year old laptop for about a year,and it runs fine.It is an HP Elitebook ,dual core with 4 GB RAM.The only change I made was to add an SSD boot drive and put data on a 5400 rpm hdd.I have tried Mint on this machine,and other distros as well, but keep going back to Ubuntu.Once I got over trying to make it look like Windows, I found this worked best for me.Unfortunately,there is a learning curve for us former Windows users,but if your users have the time,it is worth the trouble.Also,the added desktop funcionality needed by the derivatives of Ubuntu to make them look like Windows tends to make them a little slower on older hardware like mine.Not sure how all this relates to 32 bit machines,as mine are both 64 bit.
Old 06-17-2017, 05:39 PM   #7
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IMO, your users would be happier with Xubuntu or Lubuntu than with Ubuntu. Those distros are versions of Ubuntu with simpler user interfaces than Ubuntu has.

If you go with Mint Mate, take a look at

If you go with Ubuntu or one of the Ubuntu variants, try That page has links to similar recommendations for Lubuntu and Xubuntu.


configuration, installation, mint-18, tips, ubuntu 16.04

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