Vox Does Linux Part 2 – A Tour of my setup

After a much longer than intended hiatus, it’s time to return to the Vox Does Linux Series! In the first post I introduced Linux and how it sits alongside Windows and OSX as a desktop platform. In this article, before I more on to cover specific elements of Linux in more detail, I thought I would show you around my setup which should act as a good foundation before I get specific.

The Linux OS

I am currently running 64 bit Linux Mint 17.3 using the Cinnamon desktop environment. I’ll pause for a moment here to cover how different versions of Linux work (please feel free to skip this part if you’ve heard it before!). Simply put, unlike Windows and OSX, there are literally thousands of versions of Linux, known as distros. Some distros are based on other distros, like Linux Mint which is a derivative of Ubuntu, which is in turn a derivative of Debian. Ubuntu and Linux Mint are consistently at the top of the list of most popular distros listed on distrowatch.com  (a great resource for comparing and contrasting different distros) which is why I chose to use Mint for this series. Linux Mint itself comes with four desktop environments which are based Ubuntu – Cinnamon, MATE, XCFE and KDE plus a further flavour that is based on Debian. A desktop environment is essentially what you will see when you boot up your machine – just like a Windows or OSX desktop. With the exception of XCFE, which is intended to be super lightweight and frugal with system resources, the environment you choose is largely a matter of personal preference. I used to be a die-hard KDE devotee and I still love it, but I moved over to Cinnamon when I rebuilt my machine as it had a lot of style with a lighter burden on my ageing system. If you are a total beginner, then I would recommend you give a Cinnamon Live CD a look because it is very friendly to new users. Speaking of live CDs, the next article in the series will be a look at what they are and how to use them, so stay tuned! Finally, version 17.3 of Mint will be supported until 2019 which is very handy!

Vox does Linux 2 - Desktop Screenshot
My Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon Edition Desktop. (Please note that the text you can see to the top right is from a program called Conky and not included with the Mint install)

The hardware

You can see my full rig specification here but in brief I am running an ageing Core 2 Quad gaming rig with 8GB DDR2 RAM and a Nvidia 650 TI on board. I have two hard drives – a very old 300GB System drive and a fairly new 3TB drive that is used for my Steam library. Originally this system only had Windows 10 installed, but when it annoyed me one too many times I partitioned the hard drives to make room for Linux. Both drives received a haircut, with the system drive housing the Linux system and a portion of the 3TB drive being given over to data storage. At present the Linux System Drive is 142GB and the data drive has 531GB of storage. I also have my SWAP partition on the 3TB drive. (As a side note, I partitioned using a live CD and other than a minor tantrum Windows was unaffected by the partitioning.) On this hardware Mint runs extremely fast and consumes far less system resources than Windows 10. With the configuration I have, there were no problems with drivers and although the open source drivers were used initially for graphics, Mint presented the Nvidia drivers as an optional download, which allows me to play games on Steam’s native Linux client with no problems.

Vox Does Linux 2 - Graphics Drivers
Linux Mint handles drivers very well, with many drivers being included by default. Shown here is the option to use the Nvidia proprietary driver instead of the Nouveau open source driver

The software

This is a fairly fresh build, so there is little to see here so far. Mint itself ships with a comprehensive suite of software, such as Firefox, office software, media players (complete with all of the codecs needed to get maximum use out of them) and Flash as standard. I have added Google Chrome (mostly for the excellent Evernote web client as Linux sadly lacks a native version), Steam, a few simple games such as card/ solitaire Mahjong games) and Wine. Wine will be getting its own discussion article, but basically it is a piece of open source programming genius that allows me to run certain pieces of software that are designed for Windows. (And yes, it’s legal!) Because of this, I also have the Windows version of the Steam client installed and I can run some games, such as EVE Online, very well using this software.

Vox Does Linux 2 - Menu
The Cinnamon menu is friendly to users coming from Windows making software easy to find. The Libre Office Suite shown here was included in the Mint installation

So, that concludes the tour of of my current Linux setup. My intention is that the next few articles will be an introduction to using Linux, focusing on Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon Edition. I’ll start with Live CDs and how to use them, then move through installation, day to day use and a few neat tricks I’ve picked up along the way. Once I’ve covered the basics, I’ll start looking at different pieces of software on Linux, using Wine and even a bit of terminal-fu. I also plan on writing articles covering broader subjects such as gaming on Linux and the best distros for older hardware. I profess no special expertise on Linux, I am just someone that has been using it off and on for the best part of a decade and I think that writing about Linux ia a lot of fun! Finally, if you have any questions about what I’ve written today, feel free to comment on this article and I’ll do my best to answer.

Until next time!

Izzy

Izzy Tinsley is a gamer, geek and crafter. She writes for vox-tower.com on Linux, retro and gaming. She also runs www.izzytinsley.com with her musings on life, the universe and everything. You can find her on Twitter as @izzytinsley

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