Further Thoughts On Linux – By Paul Surman

Further Thoughts On Linux

I wrote a piece a while ago from the standpoint of a new user using Linux Mint. It’s now a couple of years since I first started to use Mint, so thought it might be useful to new users, or potential new users, to hear how, as a non-techie, I’ve got on.

Well, I am still using Linux Mint, but have moved on from 17.1 to 17.3, and am contemplating installing version 18.1.¬† Although not a techie, I am an inveterate tinkerer, and I’ve done a lot of that in the meantime. I’ve installed things, uninstalled things, and altered the appearance of Mint to my heart’s content. At first I kept thinking that too much fiddling about with it was sure to slow my system up, but it still zaps along as if new, and I still love using it.

Be warned though, if you are of a tinkering nature, Linux will definitely encourage your habit. The most successful of my visual changes has been the Numix Circle Icon set, and Numix Folders. I’ve tried a lot of different themes, but it’s testimony to the quality of the Mint X theme that I’ve always gone back to it. Longing to try out the darker themes in Mint 18 though, because I use my computer a lot, and I feel a darker theme may be easier on the eyes.

If you are considering using Linux, but think it won’t have enough programs for you to use, think again. I’ve found everything I need, and more than a few things I didn’t need, but installed anyway. It does require discipline not to install things from the cornucopia of programs available purely on the basis that you fancy them. The one thing I truly missed was my Oxford Concise Dictionary, that came with the Oxford Thesaurus, and a dictionary of quotations. Instead I installed Artha, which has the benefit of being available offline, and is based on the Princeton WordNet project. This is a dictionary and thesaurus combined, has UK as well as American spellings, and an excellent interface that Oxford dictionaries would do well to take note of. For many it would be a perfectly good dictionary cum thesaurus, but wasn’t quite right for my purposes. So, one day I did the obvious, and installed Wine to allow me to run Windows programs. I now have my Oxford dictionaries back, working faster than ever, and complete with the useful spoken pronunciations.

Nothing in the world is perfect, of course, and computer programs are complicated, so glitches are bound to occur. One day Mint informed me that the desktop had crashed, and asked if I wanted to restart it. I sighed that Windows-type, fatalistic sigh, thinking that it would entail having to close down and start all over again. Instead of which, it gave a little blink, and everything was back to normal and working perfectly.

There have been minor problems, things like my Dropbox icon not displaying its menu, and although still functioning, failing to show the little blue dot while saving. This is where the numerous forums come in. I soon found a way of sorting that problem out. I also joined the local Linux User Group who helped me in the early days. I don’t need them much now but have stayed on their email circulation, and enjoy their more abstruse conversations, which I like to think of as them talking dirty. Well, it still sounds like that to me.

There is absolutely no need to use the terminal, but it is surprising that I have found myself doing so quite happily and successfully. Also, I had no intention of getting involved with the additional software sources known as PPA’s, but I now have a couple of them. You soon find yourself gaining confidence and trying things you never thought¬† you would try. For example, the easy availability of programs encouraged me to at long last install a password manager (KeePass2) to help my ageing brain (70 this year, so Linux is not just for tech savvy youngsters) to securely remember all those online passwords. Also, I now have a dock on my desktop, rather like the ones used by Apple, which I find surprisingly useful. Many other things too.

I haven’t become that Linux sub-species known as the distro-hopper, going from distro to distro, Mint works perfectly well as far as I’m concerned, and does everything I need as a working poet, and publicist for the group of poets I belong to. I keep an eye open for other distro’s though, and Solus seems to me to be an interesting relative newcomer that has risen up the Distrowatch rankings, and might attract me one day, but for now I’m a confirmed Mint fan, and think I will stay faithful to this remarkable, easy to use, operating system.

Incidentally, long-time Linux users usually sound pessimistic about Linux ever going mainstream. I’m not so sure. It seems to me that from the point of view of Microsoft, the existence of an alternative operating system that is getting better and better, is not an entirely comfortable situation. Big corporate near monopolies can have wobbles, for example Google’s little advertising problems at the moment, and Microsoft’s terrible decision to foist Windows 8 on people. I came to Linux because a little netbook I use when away from home had Windows XP on it, and I installed Lubuntu when Microsoft no longer supplied security updates for XP. This led me to abandon Windows entirely. What would really do for Windows would be for Linux to become fashionable, which is not impossible. And Linux has so many versions, that once the fashion conscious arrived, there would always be another version to appeal to their desire for constant novelty. I certainly intend to stay.

Click here for Paul’s original article “thoughts on using Linux Mint”.