Monday, October 19, 2009

Mint Condition

I've been interested in Linux for some time and now I've finally got it installed on my main computer, Sileas (both the computer and the star cruiser in "Sundancer" get their name from the Scottish harp duo of Mary MacMaster and Patsy Seddon).

The other day I downloaded Mint 7 and burned it to a bootable CD. Originally I was going to put it on another computer that already had Ubuntu. I never got too enthused about Ubuntu, and for some reason strange things happen when I have more than one computer running on my little network. For one thing, the router keeps dropping the internet connection. For another, some of the mouse and key functions get wonky.

I was getting set to install, but when I rebooted the computer, there was a rather loud snap, and the monitor showed only a dark screen with the message "Out of range." That snap must have been something on the video card.

Next I thought I'd try the disk on Caristiona, which was my main computer before I got Sileas four years ago. But even though it should've booted from the disk, it didn't. It's probably something simple to fix, but since I wanted to try it out, I decided to put the disk into Sileas's CD drive.

When a computer boots, the monitor flashes the screen resolution. It usually reports several before it reaches the point where the resolution I've set shows up. The monitor will show a resolution of 1360x768, but with Windows that's not an option for some reason. For a while I'd run it with 1024x768, then changed to 1266x720. While the wider screen was nice, it was 48 pixels short of full depth and there were black bars of 47 pixels on either side of the screen. And when I first switched, there was dark screen burn on the right side, although that faded in a couple of weeks.

Sileas accepted booting from the Mint disk and as it finished booting, I got a pleasant surprise. The final screen resolution that flashed was 1360x768. I'd thought the limitation was due to the video card. I'd looked into replacing it, but any decent video card would have required more power, and Sileas' power supply is on the puny side, so it would have meant replacing the card and power supply - more money than I can spend on computer right now.

Suddenly I knew I would be installing Mint on Sileas, which only has one built-in 160GB hard drive, although over time I'd also attached a couple of USB drives. One is also 160 GB and the newer one is 1 TB. I'd freed up a lot of space by moving stuff over to the 1 TB drive, and earlier today I moved even more stuff and deleted several programs I'd installed and then hadn't used much, plus I got rid of Microsoft Office, which like so many Microsoft programs, ate up a lot of space. I've been using the much smaller (and free) Open Office.

Once I'd move stuff and deleted, I had about 88 GB free space on the C: drive. But when I began the installation, I found the choices a bit confusing. I unplugged the two USB drives, but once I'd done that, I wasn't comfortable with editing the partitions within the Linux installation procedure.

I backed out once again and located a free disk partition program online. It allowed me to partition the C: drive into two partitions, and appropriately enough, the program told me the new partition would be L:. It took a long time to partition the drive - about three hours.

Back to the Linux installation program and this time I saw what I wanted - I could set up the L: partition without bothering Windows on the C: partition. The instructions I'd read weren't terribly clear about the swap partition, but I went ahead and the installation program eventually gave me the opportunity to carve out space for that from the L: partition. Once that was done, it did take about 20 minutes for Linux Mint to install.

So far I've gotten Thunderbird email set up, although there's more to do there, but at least I can get mail with it. Also, I figured out how to copy over the files for my home page on Firefox, which is on the computer, not the web. So I'm able to get to everything online I'm used to getting, including this blog.

It looks like finally I've found myself on Linux and I'm hoping as time goes on Windows will fade. I'm already thinking I may take Windows off Caristiona and just have Linux on it. It'll be interesting to see if the networking between the two works.

Now I've got to get this posted - it's less than 15 minutes to midnight!

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