Tuning Linux Mint LXDE

Guide To Setting Up LXDE, The Lightweight Champion

1. The General Linux System & the 64-bit LXDE Desktop12. Updating and Upgrading
2. Browsers & Search Engines13. Purging and Cleaning
3. Desktop14. Password and Name Changes, Autologin
4. Panels15. Hidden GUI's, Run & Menu Launchers for Terminal Apps
5. Terminal & Opening Directories as Root16. Dual Monitors and Autostart
6. Wallpaper, Rotator & Windows Geometry17. Sound & Recording with VLC
7. Installing & Removing Repository Applications18. Network Sharing, Printers & Wireless
8. Installing Nonrepository Applications, Handbrake, SunJava6, Inxi19. Keyboards & Renaming Hard Drives
9. Tarballs, The LXDE Main Menu & Lxmed20. Remastersys
10. Microsoft Programs, Wine, PhotoFiltre & Skype21. Simple Bash Commands by Example
11. Main Menu, Internet Links to the Desktop, .Desktop Files, On The Path22. Some Important Places

1. The General Linux System & the 64-bit LXDE Desktop

LXDE stands for Lightweight X11 Desktop Environment. It is by design a lightweight, no frills, computer-friendly, user-friendly general desktop control system for a variety of operating system. It is basic, and rather primitive by comparison to the slick and bigger desktops. But don't be fooled by the lightweight characterization. LXDE can do everything the bigger distributions do. It is mostly a matter of personal preference. Do you want to spend time removing bloat from a heavy distribution, or add just what you want to a lightweight one? You want plasmoids, fancy multi-dimensional drop-down menus, rotating cubes, etc, just add them. Do you want your computer to be a tool or a toy? Although I sometimes treat it as a toy, I really want it, first and foremost, to be a tool. I want it to conveniently and quickly launch and shutdown the maximum possible number of applications (software) possible, and to flawlessly run these applications. The role of the desktop and its associated companions, the file browser and windows manager, is to supply the tools that do the launching and shutting down. This is where LXDE delivers. It is simple to adjust, offers a broad range of operations and performs quickly. You click on something and BAM there it is, no waiting. LXDE is the most stable of the Linux desktops in my experience. Things that work today will work the same way tomorrow. Finally, don't be fooled by the "conventional propaganda" that the LXDE desktop is only for old computers with lack-luster hardware. I put it on all my computers, some of which have 8 GB of memory and none of which has a CPU under 2 GHz, because it is the best desktop tool available. Most new computers over the past few years come with dual or more CPUs and 3 GBs or more RAM, which means they perform for some tasks better with a 64-bit (Amd64) operating system, instead of a 32-bit (i386 or i686) one. On such systems LXDE is even faster. Few good ready-made 64-bit LXDE systems are available. However, this lack of 64-bit LXDE systems can be easily circumvented by loading an LXDE desktop on almost any 64-bit system and then choosing LXDE as the default. See LXDE-DEBIAN-64-BIT for the best of 5 worlds: lxde, xfce, debian, mint and 64-bit. See XUBUNTU-64-BIT for a guide to installing LXDE on LTS Xubuntu 12.04.

LXDE does have a price. Without a lot of GUI's (Graphical User Interfaces) it is a bit harder for beginners to set-up the intial install. The main purpose of this little tutorial is to help them get over that initial barrier and hopefully end up with their perfect desktop. The big things - internet connection, apps launching, sound, skype, video, etc - probably depend more upon the underlying operating system and your computer's hardware than the desktop system. The main operating systems with LXDE components installed are listed at Linux Distributions Wiki. My experience has been mostly with LXDE on Ubuntu, Mint, PCLinuxOS and WattOS.With all of these, the big stuff generally works right out of the box and they all use the huge Ubuntu-Debian application repositories, which I consider the most important feature of a distribution. It does not make sense to have a perfect operating system without applications (software). Ubuntu offers a special 4 GB distribution called Artistx which includes an LXDE desktop and just about every useful Linux application that exists. The main merit of Artistx is as a tool to investigate an application without being required to actually install the application on your working system. This eliminates the install-dislike-remove procedure necessary otherwise. Just burn Artistx to a DVD and run it directly with your optical drive when you want to try an app without installing it. There is no real use to actually ever installing Artistx on a hard drive.

linux file system

To make reasonable use of any computer system, you need to be comfortable with the files and their layout. So first a few words about the Linux File System in general. The container heirarchy for a Linux system is different from Windows. Windows has the big chest, Computer, and then a flock of rather general boxes nicely named with letters: C, D, E, etc, each heading up its own heirarchy. Linux has only 1 big chest (heirarchy), called the File System and denoted by /. / has several drawers called directories, each of these in turn has its own drawers (sub-directories), etc down the line. There is a sense to the way these directories, sub-directories, etc are named, but don't be too concerned about not being knowledgeable in this regard. A Linux system contains hundreds of system directories. All the directories except one, which is labeled home (/home), contain operating system files, applications, documentation, everything associated with the actual functioning of the computer that are not user related. These files are system-wide and apply to all users. The home directory has a folder (sub-directory) for each user of the computer, and the files in each of these sub-directories is user specific, that is, the files and sub-directories in /home/doug will only apply to the user Doug. These include the user's personal files (documents, music, videos, etc) and some computer-related files that you will not automatically see when opening doug. In the case of this essay, I will assume only one user whose directory I will name doug, and so what I say about the directory doug and the user Doug apply to any user. The user-specific computer files inside doug are hidden unless Doug chooses to make them visible by clicking View in the file browser (pcmanfm) task bar and checking Show Hidden. Usually these hidden files are configuration files associated with applications that are user-specific to Doug. Files that are hidden when initially entering (opening) a directory, regardless of the directory, begin their name with a . (dot), for example, .local. Unhidden files can be changed to hidden by simply renaming them starting their name with a dot, for example, xyz can be hidden by renaming it .xyz.

Every Linux system has a Virtual Superuser called Root, who has a directory called root in /. Root has full access to the computer, and the root directory contains all the system-wide computer files. You need to realize that the general Linux system is designed for the most complicated scenario, namely, a computer with many users, each with his own files and privileges. A few of these users are assigned the special privilege of being a superviser, who can assume the role of Root. In this essay Doug will also be Root, in a sense, a user with two personalities. A word of caution is in order. A Linux system is designed to protect itself from ordinary users like User-Doug by greatly limiting Doug's ability to alter computer folders, but has little defense against Root-Doug, who can change just about anything in any directory. So care needs to be practiced when Root is engaged in a task. When editing a computer file it is good practice to first back-up the original file, which we will say more about in Section 2 below, and second, making many simple edits and actually checking the effect of each one before making the next one, rather than making one many-sided edit and then doing a check of the effect.

By the way, care must be taken when working with files as Root, but be as careless as you like when investigating system-wide files as a normal user. Most Linux computer files are text files and can be opened and read by any user with any text editor. Feel free to read as many as you have time, because this affords a way to learn. Reading is about all you can do without becoming Root, and so it is hard to screw up your system. So, right-click,open-with-leafpad, and read, study and learn, without anxiety!

The LXDE system consists of 11 primary packages and generally 3 supporting packages, each related to a special function: Pcmanfm for file browsing; Openbox for window management and desktop application launching; and Gpicview for quick image viewing. A good description of these packages can be found at the Archlinux Wiki. After installing LXDE you will see a gear-like or dove-like icon on the left side of the lower panel (taskbar) and otherwise, depending upon the distribution, very little in the way of desktop icons or pompous panels. The gear or dove is the Main Menu icon. Clicking it will bring up access to all the applications, places and processes on your computer in one form or another. So, the first step to carry out most of the adjustments listed below will be to click the menu icon, so I'll usually leave that step out of the dialog. The LXDE Main Menu is one, nice, straight forward, clean (white background), vertical (one-dimensional) menu showing about a dozen categories. Clicking these brings up additional menus which include just about everything on the computer that will be needed by the user. I like this all-inclusive, categorized, one-dimensional format because it is the easiest (quickest) menu format to browse - much faster than the pompous menus offered by the bloated desktops.

One of the great things about LXDE is its flexibilty. For example, there are at least 9 ways to quickly launch apps, processes and internet links, one at a time or in bunches (see 11):

I do not know of any other desktop, Linux or otherwise, that offers so many choices to get your apps up quickly and easily!

2. Browsers & Search Engines

The file manager or file browser is the chap who opens the drawers in your computer chest. A web browser, or just browser, is the chap who opens the drawers of the big universal chest, the web. Well known examples of web browsers are Internet Explorer, exclusively for Microsoft Windows, and Firefox and Chromium-Browser for a variety of operating systems including most Linux systems. However, Linux distributions offer a variety of web browsers and file managers with a variety of features. The default browsers for LXDE is Pcmanfm for computer files and usually either Firefox or Chromium-Browser for the web. I like Firefox because she is reasonably light, fast and easily customizable through add-ons - just open Firefox and go to Tools/Add-ons/Get Add-ons, which include several good Video Downloaders. To add additional search engines to the drop-down search menu in your browser's taskbar, check the offerings presented by Mycroft. Pcmanfm is the Sundance Kid of file browsers - lean, pretty, very fast opening drawers and has all the extra features that make for easy navigating. In the Main Menu Pcmanfm can be usually found right after install in possibly 3 different places: as File Manager in either Accessories or Other, or as File Browser in System Tools. Firefox and Chromium, whichever is installed, is found in Internet.

The first job after a new install of an LXDE system is to caliberate pcmanfm. Open up pcmanfm (Accessories/File Manager) and click Edit/Preferences. Choose your preferences. In general, I keep defaults unless I have a reason to change a setting. In this instance, under General, I always select Open files with single click, because that is what I prefer and it really speeds up accessing things. The double-click is an industry conspiracy to wear out touchpads twice as fast so that they can sell more. Still with pcmanfm, click Go/Network Drives provided you are in a Network. If you are not hooked to other computers or sharing hardware (printers, flash drives, etc), then ignore this. With luck, this will access your network without doing anything more. If you have an external storage device in your network, open it and bookmark it by clicking Bookmarks/Add to Bookmarks in the pcmanfm taskbar. It will now be in the place list (Bookmark List) on the left side of the pcmanfm window. I also add / (file system=computer) to Bookmarks by just clicking ↑ until the window arrives at /, and then do the Add to Bookmarks routine. Finally, under Advanced put gksu %s in the Switch user command box. This activates the pcmanfm tool for switching to root.

Pcmanfm has many very useful features:

If Pcmanfm isn't performing perfectly, he can be relaunched by putting the following in the terminal (See Section 6.):
   pcmanfm --desktop --profile=LXDE.

3. Desktop

There are 3 installed GUI's (Graphical User Interfaces) for customizing the desktop, excluding the lower panel or taskbar and wallpaper:

Choose your preferences. From Openbox/Mouse, I always choose Shades the window for Double click on the titlebar. This rolls up the window when double clicked on the top. Double click the bar and it unrolls. Very nice feature when working with many windows at once. Of course, this essentially duplicates clicking the min button, but there is something to say about having both as a choice. For Theme I always pick one with a thick boundary because windows with thick boundaries are easier to stretch. Once you have chosen a theme, you can also edit (as root - see section 5) window geometry at /usr/share/themes/xyz/openbox-3/themerc, where xyz is the theme name. From Customize... I often choose the red cursor (requires xcursor-themes is installed from Synaptic - see section 7) to spice up appearances a little. Also, be sure the Enable antialising and Enable hinting under Font are ticked to enhance font clarity. From Openbox/Appearance I always put in the "S" button as the first entry, which puts a dash in the upper left hand corner of open windows. When clicked this gives another way to roll up or unroll windows. In case you do not know, a window can be dragged from not just the titlebar, but from anywhere on the window by holding down the alt key.

Right click any empty area of the desktop to bring up a menu which is useless to my way of thinking. All the items are useful but not in the context of the desktop per se. Click the one useful choice, labeled Desktop Preferences, to bring up another menu that offers a choice labeled Advanced. Click it to see a small box labeled Show menus provided by windows manager when (right) clicked. Check this box and close this session. Now right click any empty spot on the desktop to bring up the menu that should have been there in the first place. I cannot imagine why the developers put us through these gyrations, but luckily they should only have to be done once, and what we now get can be made very useful. The new right click menu offers us several choices, among which are:

The Applications List is very small, generally consisting of no more than 3 items, which are usually Pcmanfm, Web Browser (Firefox) and Lxterminal. However, additional applications or processes can be easily added to these three by using gedit (or any text editor)as root (see Section 2 for opening a Directory as root, or Sections 5 and 6) to edit .../openbox/menu.xml. Just add a new section for each app in the "Applications" section, using the format for the apps already there as a template. For example, the following image illustrates the addition of the application PhotoFiltre:

menu edit

The directory in which the relevant openbox/menu.xml resides depends upon the distribution, and a distribution usually has more than one. Although only one has to be edited to affect a change, it is probably good policy to make all of them the same. To find the relevant one, do a search for openbox, open each candidate with gedit or leafpad and choose the one that presents the most evidence that matches what you see from a right click on the desktop. In Lubuntu 11.10 and PCLinux the relevant file is /etc/xdg/openbox/menu.xml, and in Mint 11 it is /usr/share/mint-lxde/openbox/menu.xml. When an aftermarket LXDE is installed, then the relevant file is /home/doug/.config/openbox/menu.xml, because the application (LXDE) is user specific to the installer (Doug).

Advanced! (Study Sections 5, 7 and 8 first): To put icons on the applications displayed by the openbox right-click menu (like the picture on the right), you will need to have openbox 3.5.0-2 installed. Lubuntu 11.10, Watt R5 and Mint 12 Gnome 3 with aftermarket LXDE and 64-bit action have it installed. You can tell which version you have by checking Synaptic. If you do not have 3.5.0-2, or later, you will have to download a .deb version from packages.debian.org. After making the downloaded .deb file executable, right click on it and choose gdebi to open it. The installation will probably fail because you do not have the necessary dependecies installed. This is not a problem because the gdebi installer will tell you which missing dependency stopped the installation. Go back to the debian website where you got 3.5.0-2 and you will see a long list of dependecies (most of them are already on your computer). Find, download and install the one that was missing. Follow this procedure until all the missing dependecies and 3.5.0-2 are installed. With Mint 11 LXDE using the openbox_3.5.0-2_i386.deb version, I had to install only 2 dependecies: libobrender27_3.5.0-2_i386.deb and libobt0_3.5.0-2_i386.deb.

Next, find the two rc.xml files and edit them as root by adding <showIcons>yes</showIcons> after <menu>, which probably will be well down the page. Save and close. Paths to these two files will probably be some modification, depending upon the distribution, of /home/doug/.config/openbox and /usr/share/lxde/openbox. Now reopen as root the relevant menu.xml that reflects your application choices as described above and edit it by modifying the item label for each application as illustrated by the following (for pcmanfm): <item label="PCManFM"> to <item label="PCManFM" icon="/usr/share/icons/pcmanfm.png">.

Icons of the .svg type do not seem to work. You can easily change such icons by opening them (as root, if necessary) with Image Viewer and resaving them as .png type. By the way, there is nothing sacred about the bloated, repetitive dull icon sets included in distro installs. Get a nice image editor like PhotoFiltre (see section 10) and create your own. Notice in the photo above that my Pcmanfm and Lxterminal icons show a lot more character and color than the standard default icons! I keep a special icon directory in my network storage just for LXDE installs. One of the first things that I do to a new install is copy (as root) this set of icons to /usr/share/icons, and then use them as needed.

4. Panels

Right click anywhere on an open space in a panel (the default after the install is usually for just a bottom panel) to get a menu for that panel. Here you can change the geometry of the panel, add and remove items and add additional panels. Clicking Add-Remove brings up a small list of potential panel items and an additional choice to add applications. Highlite any item that you want on the short list and click Add. I recommend adding on the Main Panel at least Notification Area, if it is offered. For some dumb reason, Notification Area is sometimes not automatically on the main panel. Without it, some apps like Skype will not put a location "icon" on the panel. Closing Skype only means it is running in the background (sleeping), and a new version won't launch when there is a sleeping one. Without an icon in the panel, there is no way to find the sleeping one to awaken it, and no way to launch a new one!! Yikes! So the necessity of the Notification Area on at least one panel. With LXDE you have the option of putting up panels on every edge, and even inbetween edges on some monitors in multiple monitor situations, not that you would want to do this!

To add applications, click Application Launch Bar, which will then put the application name at the bottom of the list. Highlite it (Application Launch Bar) and click Edit. A box appears with the complete list of applications as appears in the main menu. You need to find the application you wish to add to the panel, highlite it, then click add. For example, if you want to add Firefox, click the + sign by Internet and a list with Firefox appears. Click it. Applications can be added in groups. Do this for all the applications you want in this panel group. I prefer a clean panel, only adding Firefox, Pcmanfm (Accessories/File Manager)) and perhaps a few other app controls as one group. Then I close that box and restart the process to add a second application group. The reason for putting them in different groups is that empty space on the panel can be put between groups, but not between applications in the same group, although even that can be achieved by just adding an Application Launch Bar without specifying an Application. So you should decide ahead which applications you want on the taskbar and how you want them grouped. All the application groups, other stuff and spaces can be ordered by highlighting and using the up and down arrows. You will notice the icon for a new applications will always first appear on the right side of the panel. Highliting it in the main list and repeated clicking up will move the app's icon on the panel to the left. Clicking down will move it to the right. I like the browser pair to be on the left side of the panel right after Menu, then some space, and then Task Manager from System Tools, which lists the running processes. If an application freezes or goes to sleep and needs to be removed, simply open Task Manager by clicking its panel icon and right click on the frozen or sleeping app from the Processes list to produce a menu on which is the option to end or kill the process. The CPU Usage Monitor is also a useful addition to the taskbar. Sometimes an application will not shut down properly although it does disappear. High activity level still showing in the CPU Usage Monitor will indicate that something is wrong. Checking the Task Manager will then show exactly what is happening and gives a way to stop or kill the wayward app. Conversely, Task Manager can be sometimes used to restart or awaken a frozen or sleeping app by clicking Continue Process. For example, if lxtask (panel) freezes, launch pcmanfm using the Openbox Menu, and then launch Task Manager using the pcmanfm applications menu!

You can watch the icons move on the actual panel as you click the up- or down-key, which makes it easy to place them exactly where you want them. Two of my basic LXDE taskbars:

LXDE Panel

LXDE taskbar

I constructed the above taskbars by using two taskbars (multiple taskbars possible in LXDE), a transparent one (black in the second image because background was black in wallpaper up at that moment) along 97% of the bottom edge and an opaque red one along 3% of the right edge at 104 pixels wide. Pictures, unmuddied with desktop links, are automatically rotated across the main screen at whatever rate I choose. And all of this is easily achievable with little terminal use, and is very stable. With a nice functional taskbar (or two) like this one and a supplemented right-click openbox menu as described in section 3 above, LXDE is a functional delight.

My two monitor LXDE-Gnome taskbar set-up without applications:

lxde-gnome taskbar

The above panel was achieved by using Synaptics to install lxpanel into a Gnome 2 desktop. After installation enter lxpanel into the terminal (see 5 below) to launch it. It should cover the lower taskbar on both monitors, thus, covering the gnome panel. Right click it, select Panel Settings and adjust the geometry, particularly the length, so that it just sits on the second monitor and the gnome panel is again visible. To achieve this set-up in future boots, go to the Gnome menu, Systems/Preferences/Startup Applications, and Add: lxpanel, with command lxpanel. If Gnome panel gets rebellious (doesn't launch) in future sessions, then add it to Startup Applications in the same way. The command for the gnome panel is gnome-panel. Editing the Start-up Applications file in an LXDE desktop is discussed in detail in Section 16 below.

Occassionally people have had the LXDE taskbar freeze, especially when compiz is installed and multiple instances of libre office are open. One solution that allows keeping these applications is to put the LXDE taskbar at the top or sides and install tint2, an alternate light-weight panel usually listed in Synaptic, on the bottom. Be sure to put @tint2, into the /etc/xdg/lxsession/Lubuntu/autostart file (see section 16). See Tint2 Guide for putting applications on a Tint2 panel. My bottom Tint2 panel:

tint2 panel

For more details and pictures of these procedures, see Configuring LXPanel.

5. Terminal

A user has two options for communicating with the operating system (computer). One is geometrical by means of a GUI and one is with words or symbols. Every operating system has a program called the shell which takes the commands that a user types on the keyboard and gives them to the operating system to perform. Some of these commands are saved as shell scripts to direct the computer every time he is switched on. We will be illustrating some shell scripts in some of the next sections.

There are several shells in existence. Linux Mint and Ubuntu use one called bash (Bourne Again SHell). The main difficulty in using the shell is that it has its own special language which includes both a special vocabularly and a special grammer. And not only does a user have to learn a new language but he has to learn to use it precisely. There can be no sloppiness - no spelling errors or grammatical errors. Otherwise, there is nothing mysterious or difficult about bash, just another language course. My advice to beginners, whose professions will generally not involve shell languages, is to use it precisely and carefully but learn only what you have to know as the need arises.

In LXDE the vehicle for using bash is called the Terminal, as listed in the main menu, or as LXTerminal in Accessories,or as Terminal emulator seen in some System Tools categories. For the normal user, these are all the same. Clicking any of them brings up the starting terminal picture. The grey rectangular box is where the command is to be entered; the $ sign indicates a normal user (doug); and the tilda (~) means the user is issuing the command from his home folder (/home/doug). Terminal pain for beginners can be greatly reduced by memorizing the following 6 commandments right at the start:

When you open a computer directory not in your home directory, you are generally prevented from doing much beyond right clicking and reading text files in gedit or leafpad. This is because you are there as normal-doug. If you open Tools in pcmanfm's upper taskbar, you will see that you can switch directly to root-doug by picking either of the choices offerred. The Open Current Folder as Root choice really speeds up the process, because then you can edit any of the files in the same way as you would do to files in your home directory, that is, files that you own. In other words, you have all the priveleges of reading, writing, moving, coping, editing, dragging, deleating, etc. So be careful!

6. Wallpaper, Rotator & Windows Geometry

There are theoretically at least two ways to change the wallpaper in LXDE, one by using the installed GUI and one by directly editing the pcmanfm configuration file (.conf). Right clicking an empty space on the desktop and choosing DesktopPreferences, or using the terminal as indicated in (15) below, should bring up the GUI. To edit the configuration file directly, use leafpad (or gedit) as text editor to open /home/doug/.config/pcmanfm/pcmanfm.conf as root (see last paragraph in Section 5). Edit wallpaper= to the address of the picture you want as wallpaper. Click save in the leafpad file menu and reboot to hopefully see your new wallpaper. The default LXDE wallpaper folder is /usr/share/backgrounds, and in one instance, I found wallpaper in /usr/share/lxde/wallpapers. In the latter case I think it was the LXDE.conf file that had to be edited instead of pcmanfm.conf. I usually create a special wallpaper directory, /home/doug/Wallpaper/, to make moving and editing pictures easier. The terminal command to move an item is identical in nature to the copy command illustrated in the terminal picture above, just replace cp by mv. For example, to move wolf.jpg from doug's pictures directory to the default wallpaper directory mentioned above, enter into the terminal the following:
  sudo mv /home/doug/pictures/wolf.jpg /usr/share/backgrounds
where you can leave off the item's name in the destination address if you are not changing it (compare with using cp in (5)).


A great shell script (.sh) to set-up an automatic rotator (slide show) for wallpaper is given by Longform in the Pclinuxos Forums. The script is given on the left. Just copy it to leafpad or gedit, edit DIR= and sleep to your situation, and save as rotator.sh, wherever you like. I generally put shell scripts like this in /usr/local/sbin. See section 11 for the advantages of putting executable files on the path. Finally, right click rotator.sh, choose Permissions and Make Executable. If you store it in a Directory not in your home folder, you may have to change the permissions before it will execute (see section 16). Click it to execute. Next, try it to see if it automatically executes at boot. If it does not, put
in autostart following the procedure described in section 16. This assumes you have stored it on the path.

To cap the wallpaper story for LXDE, you need to install gnome-webilder, which, in general, is a rotator and downloader for other desktops than LXDE. Luckily the part that does work for LXDE is exactly what is needed to compliment our rotator, which is an automatic downloader from the best source of wallpaper, Flikr, in the universe. See the next section (7), for installing webilder. Use Run from the main menu or the Terminal to launch webilder_desktop and webilder_unity_indicator to adjust the rate, type, destination, etc of the downloads.

Wallpaper pictures look best if their size mimics the screen resolution. For example, if your resolution is 1680x1050, then only use pictures 1680 pixels wide and 1050 pixels high. To use photos whose dimension proportions are not 1680 to 1050, first change the photo size, maintaining dimension proportion, so that either the width is 1680 and the height is less than 1050, or the height is 1050 and the width is less than 1680. Then center your photo on a colorful 1680x1050 canvas, and the result is set to go as wallpaper. All this can be easily accomplished by using a simple photo editor like PhotoFiltre (see 10 below), which has the exact tool (Automate Batch) needed to resize and canvas batches of images. PhotoFiltre saves your settings, and thereafter, resizing and canvassing takes about 30 seconds from launch to shut-down to do 20 images.

The ability to resize windows by dragging on the boundary appears to be connected to boundary thickness. A windows theme can be chosen in Openbox Configuration Manager (Preferences). You can change (as root) the geometry of your choice by editing /usr/share/themes/Oldred/openbox-3/themerc, where Oldred is replaced by the name of your chosen theme.

7. Installing & Removing Repository Applications

The main tool to install applications in Linux systems is through the software repository, which is a collection of free softwares, controls and tools that have been thoroughly investigated to be compatible with the operating system. The Ubuntu Repository includes over 33,000 applications, which is a powerful reason to use an Ubuntu based operating system. To access the repository, go to Preferences/Synaptic Package Manager. Type in the search box, which hopefully won't be the drop-down box set-up which greatly slows down the search and is used by some distro releases, whatever you are looking for. When you find it, right click on the name and follow the prompts, which allow for either Installation or Complete Removal, whichever applies. Synaptics has a very useful tool that is easy to miss. Click Package/Properties in the heading after highliting an application in the repository list. A box will appear on which is a load of information about that application.

System tools that I usually install if they are not already installed are:

   alien package installer
   fortunes-min & -mod
gdebi package installer


Alien and gdebi are useful for installing certain applications (see section 8). Arandr and lxrandr are needed for monitor control. If arandr does not function, replace it with grandr. Pavucontrol is needed for sound control, since gnome-volume-control has been difficult to install since the advent of Gnome 3 (see section 17 below). Gnome-search-tool is only needed if the install does not include a search tool. Similarly, xfce4-screenshooter is only needed if there is no screenshooter tool installed that makes images of rectangular subregions of the desktop. Be careful regarding what you install as ones like pyshot and Gnome-screen-shooter, who used to take subregion shots, no longer do. Faststone Image Viewer (see section 10) is a Wine program that takes screenshots including sub-region shots. For a notes tool, gnote is preferable to its clone, Tomboy, should the latter be installed, because it is much lighter on resources. Apt-xapian-index creates a much friendlier Synaptic search tool than the one with the drop down box if that is the one that comes with your install, which is the case with some Lubuntu installs. Fortune is a luxury - provides a fortune comment with each terminal launch. To get a fortune to appear, edit (as root) /etc/bash.bashrc to include the word fortune at the end (just before fin).

To add repositories not included in the Mint install, go to Synaptic Package Manager/Settings/Repositories/Other Software and check the box beside the desired repository. For example, to have webilder-gnome, mentioned in section 6 above, available, the box beside ... getdeb apps needs to be checked. If the getdeb repository isn't offered, then go to /etc/apt/sources.list, which is a list of all the installed repositories, and add (as root) the following lines:

   deb http://mirrors.dotsrc.org/getdeb/ubuntu lucid-getdeb apps
   deb-src http://mirrors.dotsrc.org/getdeb/ubuntu lucid-getdeb apps .

Save and exit the file. Next, enter, in turn, each of the following lines in the terminal:

   gpg --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net --recv A8A515F046D7E7CF
   gpg --export --armor A8A515F046D7E7CF | sudo apt-key add -
   sudo apt-get update
   sudo apt-get install webilder webilder-gnome .

In general, you can add special repositories not on the sources list by getting the so-called APT for the desired repository, and enter it in the box that appears when the Add button is clicked in Other Software. This is a good time to check out the applications that came with your operating system and to uninstall the ones you don't want. To get rid of the overlay scrollbar, an annoying feature, in my opinion, introduced in Mint 11, two programs must be removed: overlay-scrollbar and liboverlay-scrollbar-0.1-0. If you change your mind and later want to retry overlay scrolling, then just find these two applications in the repository and install them.

8. Installing Nonrepository Applications, Handbrake, SunJava6, Inxi

There are some useful general procedures available for installing other linux applications not in the Linux-Ubuntu repository. First, if it is a Linux application then you can often add it to the Repository by using its so-called PPA-number. This can be usually found on the website of the software. For example, to install HandBrake, one of the best video ripping tool available, go to Synaptic Package Manager/Settings/Repositories/Other Software and click Add. For APT enter

   deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org wheezy main

and then click Add Source. Next you need to add the GPG key of the repository:

    sudo apt-get install debian-multimedia-keyring .

Reload Synaptic and you should see handbrake-gtk in the application list to install in the usual way. You may want to go back to Other Software now and uncheck the debian-wheezy repositories, which are testing repositories and not considered safe by Ubuntu.

OpenJDK and the companion IcedTea Plugins are the default Java installs for most Linux distributions these days, and they are probabily satisfactory for most people. However, for the users who need more from their Java, Oracle Java can be still installed. One way to do this is to add an outside repository that includes SunJava6, but these are getting harder and harder to find. It is probably quicker to just do a direct install by going to the Oracle Website, downloading the appropriate version (32-bit or 64-bit) of JDK and doing the install from scratch. The following recipe is from the Liberian Geek. Suppose you have downloaded jdk-7u4-linux-x64.tar.gz to your Downloads directory. Open it by putting into the terminal the following command (don't forget to press enter):

    tar -xvf ~/Downloads/jdk-7u4-linux-x64.tar.gz.

Be sure the folder name in the above command reflects exactly the name of the jdk file in your Downloads directory. It will be different if you downloaded the 32-bit, or if these instructions are outdated. This should put in your home directory a folder, named something like jdk1.7.0_03. Next (remember, press enter after each line):

   sudo apt-get install build-essential
   sudo mkdir -p /usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.7.0
   sudo mv jdk1.7.0_03/* /usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.7.0/ .

Be sure the first directory name in the last command exactly reflects the name of the extracted java folder in your home directory. This command is just moving the downloaded java files to the newly created directory. Now do each of these commands in turn:

    sudo update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/java" "java" "/usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.7.0/bin/java" 1
   sudo update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/javac" "javac" "/usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.7.0/bin/javac" 1
    sudo update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/javaws" "javaws" "/usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.7.0/bin/javaws" 1 .

Next, creat a Mozilla plugin in your home directory:

   mkdir ~/.mozilla/plugins/ .

Finally, create a symbolic link to your Mozilla plugins folder. For 32-bit systems, replace "amd64" with "i386":

   ln -s /usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.7.0/jre/lib/amd64/libnpjp2.so ~/.mozilla/plugins/ .

You can now use Synaptic and remove at least icedtea-plugin. I always remove the other icedtea and OpenJDK installations that don't have important looking Dependants (right click on name in Synaptic list and select Properties/Dependecies/Dependants, the last one from the drop down Box). You can always reinstall them if needed.

To do a simple install of an alien Linux application without a PPA, first find and download the application. Your success after that will depend upon the type of package. To install a package.deb, where package is the name of the application, first try double clicking it. A menu offering to install should appear provided you installed GDebi (see list of apps to install in (7)). If that doesn't work, put it in home/doug and enter the following command into the terminal:

   sudo dpkg -i package.deb
which should work provided dpkg installer, (see (7)) is installed. To install a package.rpm, use:
   sudo alien -i package.rpm
which should work provided you already installed the alien package mentioned in (7). Also, you can use
   sudo alien -d package.rpm

which changes the .rpm package (works as well for .tgz, .txz, .tlz and .tbz packages) to a .deb package, which can be then possibly installed with GDebi or dpkg. If a package is not compatible with your system, don't worry because it will not install.

A handy little tool for determining your computer's hardware is inxi. If it isn't in Synaptics, then you can install it by first running the following command in the terminal:

   sudo wget ftp://cathbard.com/binary/inxi*.deb.

Now find (probably in your home folder) inxi_[...]_all.deb, and use gdebi to install. Run inxi -F in terminal to get a list of your computer components.

9. Tarballs, The LXDE Main Menu & Lxmed

Packaged software files with names ending in .tar.gz or tar.bz2 are called tarballs. A tarball is just a compactification of the installer. Depending upon what is inside, tarballs can be difficult to install. A program for installing a tarball will be usually in the package as a text file with a name that includes install or read me. Some may come with all the files built, in which case, the install process just amounts to identifying them with the appropriate directory and moving them there. We will illustrate one of the latter in (20) and one of the type that requires compilation here. Others may be just a .deb file which can be installed using gdebi (see section 10).

Most applications made for the LXDE Desktop, and installed from the Ubuntu Repository, are automatically listed on the Main Menu in the appropriate category. Other applications installed from outside the Synaptic repository, or system tools and other desktop apps installed from within the repository, may not be listed. LXDE, unlike Gnome, does not come with a Main Menu Editor, although the Gnome one, called alacarte, can be installed. However, there is a better one made just for the LXDE desktop and it includes as a small bonus a GUI editor for .desktop files. It is called lxmed and can be downloaded as a tarball (lxmed-20110717.tar.gz) from sourceforge. Right click on the tarball, and extract it to the Desktop (select Extract to, and then check Desktop). See section 10 for extracting tarballs using the terminal. This should put a folder labeled lxmed in the Desktop directory. Now open the terminal, and type in exactly or copy-paste the following (press enter after each line, type in your password when asked, and waite for the response to end for one line before typing the next line):

    cd Desktop/lxmed
    sudo apt-get install build-essential
    sudo mkdir -v /opt/lxmed
    sudo cp -v content/lxmed /usr/bin
    sudo chmod -v +x /usr/bin/lxmed
    sudo cp -v content/LXMenuEditor.jar /opt/lxmed
    sudo cp -v content/uninstall.sh /opt/lxmed
    sudo chmod -v +x /opt/lxmed/uninstall.sh
    sudo cp -v content/lxmed.png /opt/lxmed
    sudo cp -v content/lxmed.desktop /usr/share/applications

A GUI menu editor should now be present: Preferences/Main Menu Editor. This script was in the install files in the download. Check it out to get an idea of what to expect if you ever encounter similar tarballs. There was also a script for removing old menu files to be run first, but that isn't needed in a first time install. I will illustrate how to use the Main Menu Editor in (10) below. Lxmed is a java program and requires a good Java software be installed to run successfully.

New categories can be added to the Main Menu, but great care should be employed. To illustrate, suppose a new category named Favorites is to be added. First, place in /usr/share/desktop-directories a new directory named lxde-favorites.directory constructed as pictured on the left (path to the icon of your choice). Next, edit all lxde-applications.menus by adding a new section as in the image on the right. Position this clip among the other <Menu> clips where you want Favorites to appear in the Main Menu. Paths to the two lxde-application.menu will be some version of /etc/xdg/menus and /etc/xdg/lubuntu/menus.

Favorites will probably not appear in the Main Menu until an application is added. To add an application find its .desktop file (see Section 11), which will be in at least one of the directories: /usr/share/applications, /usr/local/share/applications or /home/doug/.local/share/applications. Edit it (as root) to have Favorites; as part of the Categories= line. If that is not sufficient to put Favorites in the Main Menu, then make sure a copy of the application's edited .desktop file is in each of the three directories just identified. After 1 application has been successfully added, additional additions should require editing only the .desktop file already present, that is, adding copies to the other two directories should not be necessary.

10. Microsoft Programs & Wine

The Linux tool that I use to run applications made for just Microsoft Windows is Wine, which can be usually installed from the Synaptic repository. First, however, make sure the repository has the latest version by entering the following in the terminal:
   sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa .
Repositories for pure Debian based distros such as Mint LMDE may not contain Wine. To get Wine requires downloading and installing the appropriate .deb packages from the Debian packages websites. My thanks to GregE of the Linux Mint Forums for this recipe:

For my Windows programs, I always create a new folder /home/doug/programs, which is easier to access than the default /home/doug/.wine/drive_c/Program Files. Do this by right clicking an empty area in your home directory and then choosing create folder. When you install a Windows program using Wine, tell it to install the program in this programs folder (most Windows program installers give you a choice) rather than in the installer's default C/Programs, which in Linux is the hidden directory just identified. There is sometimes a problem with programs located in a hidden file being listed in application drop-down boxes, so just don't install them there. Before you use a Wine program, or any .exe, which is a file extension that only applies to Windows, you need to first right click on the .exe, and select from the ensuing menu Properties/General and choose Wine Windows Program Loader to Open with. Then go to Properties/Permissions and check the Make executable box. After Wine is installed the Main Menu should show it either on the primary list or in Other category. You may have to use (calibrate) it once before it will be listed. Or you may have to find the wine.desktop file (probably in /usr/share/applications as Wine Windows Program Loader) and edit it to say NoDisplay=false.

My favorite Windows programs (first 3 are freeware) are:

   Araneae HTML Editor         Faststone Image Viewer & Editor         PhotoFiltre Image Editor         Goldwave Audio Editor.

One of the greatest weaknesses of Linux operating systems is lack of good application choices. One of the main consideration a wise newcomer to Linux should consider is the size of the Application Repositories that come with a distribution. No matter how great an operating system operates, it is a useless tool if greatly limited in applications. This is why getting applications, especially non-proprietory ones, built for Windows operating systems to work on Linux is really important. Linux users should search out Windows applications and publicize the ones that can be adapted, and Linux developers should be encouraged to move some of their great creative energy to applications and away from cloning a so-called new operating system every 6 months, or whatever time interval applies. To get information on Wine compatible programs or how your favorite Windows program might fare under Wine, go to Wine HQ and complete the filter form. If you have a particular app in mind, just put its name in the Name box and click Update Filter.

To illustrate how to use lxmed (Main Menu Editor), suppose you have installed Faststone Image Editor in doug/programs/faststone image editor and the .exe is fastsone ie.exe. Open the Main Menu Editor, highlite Graphics in the left column and click on New item. There will be a text form to complete. For Faststone Image Viewer the Categories will be Graphics (already entered), Name will be Faststone Image Viewer and now the hard one, Command. For Windows apps this will always be the path to the .exe. So either type or paste in the path, or navigate the Browse there and click Ok. For icon feel free to do whatever you like. The LXDE icon directory is at /usr/share/icons, but you do not have to use any of the LXDE icons. You will probably want to navigate to the Faststone web site, find the regular icon, take a picture of it with Take Screenshot from Accessories, use PhotoFiltre to make the picture icon size, like 48x48, and then move it to the icon directory to use here. Make sure Visible is checked and click Ok. Now go to Graphics in the main menu, and you will see FastStone Image Viewer. Click it, and nothing will happen! Why not? The answer is in Commandment Number 1 in the terminal section above. Thou shall not allow empty spaces in names! So go to programs and change the faststone folder name to faststone-image-editor and the .exe inside it to faststone-ie.exe, or anything you like provided there are no empty spaces and the .exe is not changed. Now edit the Command entry in the Main Menu Editor to reflect this new information, and all should work. If this is too much work, then you can leave the names unchanged and use quotes to edit the command path to /home/doug/programs/'faststone image editor'/'faststone ie.exe', and that should also correct the problem. Notice that the setting after highliting an app and clicking Properties brings up a page with a small box in the lower left corner that says Edit code manually. Clicking that box will bring up the .desktop file for the app. You can edit in general here, for example, adding the line NoDisplay=true will remove the item from the menu without deleting its .desktop file. Or if you need to create a .desktop for a new app for whatever reason (see, for example, section 16), you can use this handy little GUI to do it. Clicking OK will save your new creation in /usr/share/applications or /usr/local/share/applications, and from there you can just copy it to whereever it needs to be.

If you install PhotoFiltre, I recommend first creating a folder named photofiltre in /home/doug/programs, and then download the .zip version and simply extract its contents into /home/doug/programs/photofiltre. All the files to run PhotoFiltre are already present in the .zip and so no installation is required. It could just as well be a Linux program! The same procedure applies to the portable version of Faststone Image Editor. In my opinion Photofiltre is the best photo editing program available for non-professionals, and Faststone Image Editor is unique for combining photos. Araneae is a simple, basic html, xhtml, xml, editor whose structure consists mostly of text files that are easy to edit. Thus, it is easy to adjust these files to construct an editor that fits your needs, that has the buttons, clips and templates that you use, not what somebody else thinks you and the rest of the world want. Most HTML-editors, like a lot of applications and operating systems, are bulky and clumsy because their developers include too much which in turn leaves them impossible to edit. Not Araneae, you could say it is the LXDE of html editors! To read more about Araneae and to download my clips, go to ARANEAE.

To install the latest version of skype go to the skype website, download the appropriate skype file as a .deb file and use gdebi to install.

11. Adding Applications, Internet Links to the Desktop, .Desktop Files, On The Path


The computer heirarchy between the controls, applications, internet places, and the desktop and taskbar is remarkably simple and logical in LXDE. The diagram on the left illustrates the connections. There are two main paths to desktop links, either with a symlink (see end of this section) or using a .desktop file. The former is easier to set-up but only shows the standard folder or exec icon with words underneath. The best key to getting links with your icon choice into the Menu, Desktop and Panels are the .desktop files, which are located at /usr/share/applications, /usr/local/share/applications or /home/doug/.local/share/applications. Anyone can read the .desktop files by opening them with gedit. However, to edit (write) them requires opening the directory as root, which can be accomplished by using pcmanfm to open it normally, then going to pcmanfm Tools and clicking Open Current Folder as Root. If a .desktop file represents an application listed in the main menu, then it can be also edited by right clicking the app's name in the main menu and then clicking Properties. Finally, lxmed can be used to edit .desktop files for apps in its lists, or create new .desktop files.

Application .desktop

There are three kinds of desktop files (.desktop) in Linux distributions, the two most used are illustrated on the right. The upper one is called an applications desktop file; the lower one is a link desktop file. These two images can be used as templates for all .desktop files of these types. Each application in the LXDE menu reflects a .desktop file. To put a new application on the main menu, use leafpad or gedit to construct one of these application desktop files for the application, name it with a .desktop suffix and put it in /usr/share/applications. Or just use lxmed to do the job as described in section 10 for windows applications. The only difficult part is to get the correct exec=.... The main directories for Linux exec's are the bin and sbin directories, and/home/doug/.local/share/applications. Linux systems have a pre-set collection of directories that the computer will search to carry out a command whose exec path is not completely specified. The directories in this search path can be identified by putting
   echo $PATH
into the terminal. For LXDE this will probably identify the bin and sbin directories in /, /usr and /usr/local, and /usr/games. So usually just putting exec=exact-name-of-the-command will do the job when the exec is in one of these directories (on the path). Otherwise, use the search tool included in Accessories to find files with exec and the command or app name in its title. Go to the directory containing the file, right click it to make sure the Make executable box is checked, and then left click it to see if that launches the app. If it does, then make the exec the path to this file.

link .desktop

Sometimes not finding or getting an app to launch from the Main Menu can be caused by simply having an error in its .desktop file. One (gnome-volume control, or Sound) that I finally discovered after much learning time, was that the OnlyShowIn=... line did not include LXDE, because it probably was just a default carry-over from a distribution with a different desktop. Just adding LXDE there solved the problem!

The second image on the right, a standard link desktop file, can be saved as a .desktop in /home/doug/Desktop. Make it executable and that should put a link on your desktop to the URL in the file. The example will link to this tune-up essay. Of course, desktop links to applications can be created automatically by right clicking on the application's name in the menu and following the prompt. Another way to achieve this end is to copy (as root) the application's .desktop file to the Desktop Directory.

mint gnome-like menu
Desktop links to directories, computer, trash, main menu, any place opened by pcmanfm can be created by putting a .desktop file in /home/doug/Desktop with
   exec=pcmanfm address-in-pcmanfm-address-bar-when-place-is-open.
For example, the following .desktop file will create a desktop link to the Mint Gnome-like Main Menu pictured on the right:

The little image in the upper left-hand corner and labeled MENU is a seperate picture of my desktop icon for this menu.

Now for some slightly more interesting stuff. Some people like to launch multiple applications and/or multiple web sites with just a single click, or to have desktop links to attached storage devices. These are easy to achieve in LXDE. All that is needed are simple bash scripts like those pictured on the left.

The first one will simutaneously launch the applications gwrite and abiword. In general, just use gedit to put the launch code, which is the exec=... in the desktop file for the application, into the script for the application group that you are creating, like in the example. Save your script as a .sh, make sure it is executable, that you own it (see chmod in section 16) and save it wherever you like - I use /usr/local/sbin, since it is on the path and generally has little in it. Now create an application desktop file as described above, using, for my example, exec=app.sh, since the complete path does not have to be specified for an application in a directory on the path. From there you are on the way to a desktop and/or taskbar link as already described.

The procedure is almost the same for grouping a set of internet links. The third image on the left is the bash script that simultaneously launches my 3 emails using Firefox. If you use Chromium-Browser, then just replace firefox in the script with chromium-browser. Use this script as a template for your situation, and from it create an application desktop file, etc, etc.

The places.sh is a script that launches the external hard drive named freeagnt mounted in /media and simultaneously puts the external hard drive named hitachi in the pcmanfm taskbar. Save it in /usr/local/sbin, doing the usual execute and ownership stuff. Now create an applications desktop file with exec=places.sh and icon=[path to a pretty icon] and save it in /home/doug/Desktop, and you have a pretty link on the desktop, if desktop clutter is your thing.

An alternate way to get a desktop link to a folder is to use a symlink, which is a Linux shortcut. The general terminal code for a symlink is:
   sudo ln -s path-to-folder path-to-symlink.
For example, the previously described desktop link to just freeagnt can be also created by the terminal command:
   sudo ln -s /media/freeagnt /home/doug/Desktop.
However, in this case, the desktop icon is just the standard, dull folder icon with the name freeagnt underneath.


12. Updating and Upgrading

Shortly after the initial install, an update should be run by first entering into the terminal the following:
   sudo apt-get update .
This updates everything that was installed from the disk stuff, which can be quite old. Thereafter, Preferences/Update Manager should be occassionally checked for new updates. It has the advantage of telling you what each package does.

Next, enter the following into the terminal:
   sudo apt-get dist-upgrade .
When prompted (Y or N, for yes or no), type Y . Don't forget, click enter after each terminal command entry. This upgrades the big stuff, like installing the latest kernel, which is the heart of the operating system. This operation may take a long time. You can clear the terminal after any process has ended by simply typing in clear, and pressing enter.

13. Purging and Cleaning

It is probably a good idea to clean and update every few months depending upon how much you use your computer. To clean your operating system of orphaned packages and other junk that might slow performance, do the following two terminal operations:
   sudo apt-get --purge autoremove
   sudo apt-get --purge clean.

Now go to Preferences/Start-Up Manager/Boot Options. Click the drop-down arrow on Default operating system. This shows all the operating systems and their locations. The Linux systems are listed as pairs and in terms of both old and new kernels. For each kernel still present in the system there will be the base entry (....-generic-pae....) and a recovery mode entry (... -generic-pae...-recovery mode). Only the pair with the largest number are being used. The others can be uninstalled by going to Synaptic Package Manager, locating them and clicking remove. Be careful that you are uninstalling the old ones (smaller numbers) and not the latest pair (biggest number). You may want to wait a few days before removing an old kernel, so as to have confirmation that the new one is working.

If you have more than one operating system on your computer, then click the one that you want as default to bring it to the top of the list. With multiple operating systems, the computer will present the choice to you at the beginning of the boot. The time in seconds that you have for choosing before the default is booted is the number in the Timeout in seconds box. You can make this number whatever you like.

14. Password and Name Changes

The easiest way to change names and users is to use Preferences/Users & Groups. If you do not have Users & Groups, then try adding it by installing adduser from Synaptic. Changing names this way is a bit tricky for the computer administrator. Suppose I want to change administrator doug to administrator roger. First, I create roger as a new user with his own home directory and any password (GUI requires longer password than I usually like). I give roger administrative powers, and test that roger really can function - login at start, open synaptic, etc. If roger passes this test, then he can use Users & Groups to delete the user doug. He can also deletes the home directory doug, but I do not recommend this because that will delete everything including program subdirectories like /home/doug/programs and the hidden files that may include important computer files, in particular, configuration files. So I would keep the directory doug, and just delete or move individual files in doug, which roger can do as root. Finally, use terminal to change roger's password to what he really wanted (something shorter):
   sudo passwd roger
and follow the prompts. There is no restriction on password length here!

To use terminal to add a new user named roger with home directory /home/roger, password xyz, starting shell /bin/shell (this is normal) and in the group named users (this can be omitted):
   sudo useradd -m roger -d /home/roger -p xyz -s /bin/bash -g users .
To remove the user roger and his home directory::
   sudo userdel -r roger .
To see user names and primary groups:
   sudo cat /etc/passwd .
More information can be found at ahinc.

Preferences/Passwords and Encryption Keys should show passwords. To change one, right click on it and select change password, complete the form and click Ok. Changing a user key does not necessarily change the password to keyring, the main controller. To change that, right click Passwords: login, and follow the same procedure. If you have "enter password to unlock your keyring" annoying you after every boot, you should be able to get rid of it by deleting login.keyring in /home/doug/.gnome2/keyrings.

Your computer has a name, which can be seen at Preferences/System Monitor/System, at System Tools/System Profiler and Benchmark/Operating System, and every time you launch the terminal (the word after doug@). To change it, enter the following into the terminal:
   sudo old-name new-name .
If this doesn't work, then use your text editor, say leafpad,to directly edit the files responsible for naming the computer:
   sudo leafpad /etc/hostname ,    replace old name with new, then save;
   sudo leafpad /etc/hosts ,    replace old name with new, then save.

To activate autologin, open (as root) /etc/lxdm/default.conf, /etc/lxdm/lxdm.conf, /etc/xdg/lxdm/lxdm.conf and edit
   # autologin= to autologin=user-name.

15. Hidden GUI's, Run & Menu Entries for Terminal Launched Apps

Gui's, provided they are installed, that need to be started from terminal:
   sudo lxrandr     on-off control for multiple monitors;
   sudo lxsession-edit     configures start-up apps;
   sudo gufw    configures firewall;
   sudo pysdm    configures storage devices;
   sudo time-admin    edit time and date;
   sudo pcmanfm --desktop-pref     brings up wallpaper menu (see (6));    
   sudo v4l2ucp    configures video;
   sudo gnome-volume-control      configures sound (see (18)).

At the bottom of the main menu in LXDE is Run. This is a launcher (shortcut) that is really useful, especially for things you know are installed but have their location hidden. Just start typing the name into the Run box, for example, gn... for gnome will bring up a drop-down box with about a dozen entries, among which will be gnome-volume-control, gnome-screenshot, etc. Click the one you want to launch to complete the box entry, and then OK! A really nice feature for us bad typists and spellers, as well as giving choices that may not come up in searching by the terminal which is limited to the exact name printed.


#! /bin/bash
Applications not on the main menu launched from the terminal without the aid of a browser or special program can still be put on the main menu with the help of the little bash program on the left. Make tlaunch.sh executable and store it wherever you like. I stored it in /home/doug/Programs. To get any app on the main menu, it has to have a desktop file (see Section 11). To illustrate the desktop file for a terminal launched app, consider inxi mentioned in Section 8 above. Make a standard application desktop file with

   Exec=/home/doug/Programs/tlaunch.sh inxi -F
   Terminal=true .

To put your desired app into the main menu, just replace inxi -F with the terminal command that normally launches your app and, of course, the address in the exec must reflect where you have stored tlaunch.sh. Put sudo in the exec if it (root) is required in the terminal command.

16. Dual Monitors and Autostart

To establish dual monitors with LXDE, install Arandr from Synaptics. Arandr can set-up placement, orientation and resolution (for each monitor). Before saving, set up the geometry of any horizontal panels (taskbars). For a bottom panel, align the bottoms of the displays; for a top panel, align the tops. A second horizontal panel can be only set-up on the display whose unaligned edge is outermost. Anything set-up on the other display will be hidden. Otherwise, the horizontal placement and geometry in general can be achieved in the usual way, right click an open spot on the taskbar and choose Panel Settings (see (4)). Clicking the save setting in Arandr will save the final template in /home/doug/.screenlayout, for example, suppose it is named acer-dv6.sh. After each boot, acer-dv6.sh needs to be clicked to establish that monitor setting. The file permissions may have to be changed. Do this by entering the following into the terminal:
   sudo chmod 777 /home/doug/.screenlayout/acer-dv6.sh .
The "777" entry allows everyone access to this file. You need to enter a different number if universal access is not your intention. Seek information about the chmod command to see what these numbers mean.


If Arandr doesn't work, then install its near-clone Grandr. Grandr does not have the save tool, so a typical dual monitor shell command is illustrated on the left. If you build one of these and it does not work, then redo it changing the order of the monitors in the command. I speculate the laptop monitor data has to come first in the command for it to work.


To make the procedure a bit easier and quicker, the template for each monitor pair can be put on the Main Menu like an application (see (11), and then put on the lower panel in the usual way (see (4)). Or if you are stuck with the same monitor configuration, then program it to launch automatically at start-up by using gedit or leafpad to edit as root (see last paragraph in Section 5) /etc/xdg/lxsession/lubuntu/autostart. Edit autostart by simply adding
as shown in the picture at the right. Click save from the leafpad menu.  To turn individual monitors on or off, use lxrandr. It is useful to have the control (lxrandr) in the taskbar (or desktop) of both monitors so that there is a visible control to turn on the monitor that is off. Alternatively, just add lxrandr to the openbox right click menu as described in section 3, and you have easy access to it on all monitors whether on or off. The exec for lxrandr is /usr/bin/lxrandr, or just lxrandr as it is on the path (see 11).

Apparently adding an application to autostart can be also accomplished by putting a .desktop file for the app into the /etc/xdg/autostart directory. This can be done by coping an existing file (see 22 for .desktop locations), or using leafpad to creat one. Example desktop templates are pictured in section 11 above. The important entry is the Exec=... (see 11 for more on exec) . See also section 10 above for creating .desktop files using the handy little GUI contained in the lxmed main menu editor.

Having rotating wallpaper in dual monitors of different resolutions and in extended desktop mode is possible with a little prepatory work. The idea is to create wallpaper images that cover the extended desktop and consist of two images such that the image on the left centers on the left monitor and the image on the right centers on the right monitor. To illustrate the procedure, assume two monitors with resolutions 1280x1024 and 1920x1200, a rather extreme situation. Also, assume the monitors are alligned at the bottom (bottom taskbar scenario). First, create two wallpaper directories, one for images 1280x1024 and one for images 1920x1200. Follow the procedure described at the end of Section 6 above. Next, extend the images in the 1280x1024 directory to be 1280x1200 by putting a canvas behind them so that the image is at the bottom of the canvas. Put the image at the top if your monitor set-up is aligned at the top. Finally, use a simple photo editor like Faststone-Image-Viewer, mentioned in Section 10 above, to horizontally join images from the 1280x1200 folder to images from the 1920x1200 folder to create a third folder containing 3200x1200 images. This becomes the Wallpaper folder for the extended dual monitor desktop. Set the pcmanfm wallpaper setting (see 15 for terminal command) to this directory and Center on the screen. Finish with a rotator set-up as described in Section 6.

17. Sound & Recording with VLC

Sound is the Achilles Heel of LXDE in both Mint & Ubuntu. Except for a volume control (applet), which only allows volume to be adjusted, there are no controls in the installation package. One alternative is to install the mate-media package, which is in Synaptic, is lightweight and doesn't seem to do anything. Be sure to check that /usr/applications/sound has LXDE in the line OnlyShowIn=LXDE;. A second alternative is to install pavucontrol. If pavucontrol (Sound and Video/PulseAudio Volume Control) doesn't immediately work, then check Synaptic to make sure pulseaudio, pulseaudio-utils and libgtk-3-0 are installed. With an audio player playing something that you know makes sound, simply try the available choices offered by PulseAudio Volume Control until your sound hopefully becomes functional.

Recording streaming audio (radio) was once easy using the universal what-you-hear is what- you-record setting on most recording software. Then the recording industry colluded with Microsoft and computer manufacturers to effectively eliminate that option. This has made it difficult for the past few years to get good streaming audio recordings. Recently I discovered that VLC player can save (record exactly) streaming audio and video, albeit, the set-up is rather hidden.

First, you will need the URL of the stream. One way to get it is to go to the station's website and play the audio output on VLC. Right Click the station title on the VLC playlist and select Information. Copy the station URL from the ensuing information. If there appears to be nothing in the URL box, run the cursor in highlite mode (left clicker held down) over the box. This will create a colored background so that the URL will show if it happens to be in white font, something that occasionally happens with VLC installs.


The procedure to set-up recording is as follows (see photos):

Computer alert sounds can be turned off by changing the two iNet entries in /home/doug/.config/lxsession/LXDE/desktop.conf from 1 to 0. In this address, LXDE may be replaced by the operating system name.

18. Network Sharing, Printers & Wireless

WICD (see section 7) is an alternate network control to /Preferences/Network Connections. Once installed, it should appear on the Menu in the Internet category from which it can be put on a Panel.

If there is a problem getting a wireless connection to the Internet, then you may have to instal additional firmware. First, however, check to make sure the wireless switch that exists on most laptops is open. The switch is often well hidden enough to be missed. It is usually somewhere along the front edge or somewhere above the keyboard. Firmware depends upon the network card. Put

   lspci | grep -i ethernet

into the terminal to identify your network card. Then use Synaptic to install firmwares that most closely matches your network card name. A good choice to try are the packages firmware-b43-installer and b43-fwcutter, and uninstalling bcmwl-kernal-source if necessary. You can also download b43.zip from this website by putting the following into the terminal:

   wget http://douwil7.100webspace.net/linux/b43.zip.

Extract b43 from b43.zip and move it to /lib/firmware, and finish the procedure by entering the following into the terminal:

   sudo modprobe -v b43.

To share a printer attached to your Linux computer on a network, go to Preferences/Printing and right click the attached printer, which should be identified there with an arrow in a green circle. Then click Properties/Policies and be sure Enabled, Accepting jobs, Shared are checked (enabled). Now go to Preferences/Printing/Server/Settings and be sure Publish shared printers connected to this system is checked, and whatever else is appropriate for your needs. For additional help see strangebutfunny.

19. Keyboards & Renaming Hard Drives

To add the functionality of multiple keyboards, first add (as root) to the autostart file (see Section 16) your language choices, for example, for US and French, add

   @setxkbmap -layout "us,fr" .

The first entry (us in the example) will be the default. The two letter country codes are listed in /usr/share/X11/xkb/symbols. Washington State University has a nice website with images of many keyboards. Just do a website search for the desired keyboard. Next, right click a panel (taskbar) and add Keyboard Layout Switcher (see Section 4). The flag of the default keyboard country will appear on the panel. When clicked the keyboard will change and the icon should display a new flag. Finally, check /etc/default/keyboard to make sure it reads (in the example of us,fr choice):


Linux apparently is quite arbitrary in naming secondary hard drives. Especially irritating are names involving more than 1 word, which violates terminal commandment number 1. A little application, GParted, which can be installed via synaptics, can be used to change the name. It requires the drive to be first unmounted, which usually can be accomplish using GParted. However, I had one drive, formatted ntfs, that resisted being unmounted by GParted, or any of the other means that I knew for unmounting. I finally got it unmounted by using another tool, NTFS Configuration Tool, installed via Synaptics. When unplugging a USB connected external storage with the computer running, it should always be first unmounted. This can be most quickly accomplished by right clicking the drive's name in the Pcmanfm's mounted storage list in the left upper column, and clicking unmount.

20. Remastersys

Ubuntu has a cool tool called Remastersys which can make a .iso image of any operating system which is based upon a Ubuntu distribution. For installing Remastersys on a Debian system, see LXDE Mint Debian 64-Bit. The iso can be burnt on a DVD, or put on a flash drive, and from there be used to install the operating system. So when I get an operating system that I like and it is completely tuned-up, loaded with the apps and controls that I like, and has all the stuff that I don't like removed, I usually make one of these .iso images to use to do a reinstall, if needed, or to do a new tuned-up install on a new computer. First, check the Preferences category of your Main Menu or Synaptics to see if you have Remastersys installed or if it is in the Synaptics Repository. If the answer is "no" to both of these questions, then the proper outside repository has to be added. Go to Synaptic/Repository/New and enter the following PPA in the Add box:

    deb http://www.remastersys.com/ubuntu/ precise main.

Replace precise with oneiric, natty, maverick, or lucid, whichever is the base for your operating system that you want to copy. Click Add Source, and close Synaptic. If your version of Synaptic has a form instead of the Add box, then complete the form as follows:

    Binary     (deb)
    URL:    http://www.remastersys.com/ubuntu/
    Distribution:    precise
    Section:    main

Click OK. To get the remastersys key, enter the following command in the terminal:

     wget -O - http://www.remastersys.com/ubuntu/remastersys.gpg.key | sudo apt-key add
     sudo apt-get update.

Next, open /etc/apt/sources.list with a text editor and confirm the above URL-address is listed without a # symbol prefix. If # is present, reopen the file as root and delete it. Go back to Synaptic and Reload. Remastersys and remastersys-gui should now be listed to install in the usual manner. After they are installed, launch remastersys from whereever it is placed in the Main Menu (usually Preferences), and click Backup to make a copy of your total operating system. It will appear as custom-backup.iso in /home/remastersys/remastersys. Finish by burning custom-backup.iso to a DVD to have a new installation disk that can be used to run or install your system on any computer. Before you run remastersys, clean your system of trash, temporary files, cookies, music, videos, movies, etc. The .iso must be under about 4.7 GB to fit on a standard DVD.

21. Simple Bash Commands by Example

apt-rdepends xyzLists dependents and subdependents of app named xyz (provided apt-rdepends is installed).
apt search keywordSearches for anything with keyword in name.
cd /usr/sharePuts you in share folder for issuing next command.
clearClears the terminal window.
dpkg-reconfigure tzdataTo edit date and time.
echo $PATHshows directories computer automatically searches for execs
find /usr -user dougShows files in /usr owned by doug.
find /usr ! -user dougShows files in /usr not owned by doug.
file /usr/bin/xyzShows file type of file xyz in /usr/bin
getconf LONG_BITTells bit size for your system.
inxi -FProvides information about the computer.
lsLists items in directory that you are in.
lspci | grep -i ethernetIdentifies network card.
lsusbLists items connected by USB.
lxpanelctl restartRestarts lxpanel.
lxpanelctl runExec for Run.
man xyzProvides information about xyz.
md5sum /home/doug/linux.isoshows md5 number for /home/doug/linux.iso .
passwdchange password.
pkill appshutsdown app.
ps auxlists all processes running on the system, including Process ID (PID).
startxstarts desktop session.
wget http://website.com/xyzdownloades xyz.
wget ftp://ftp.website.com/xyzdownloades xyz.
sudo cp /usr/share/icons/xyz /sbinCopies file xyz from /usr/share/icons to /sbin (see Section 5 above).
sudo cp /usr/share/icons/* /sbinCopies all the files in /usr/share/icons to /sbin.
sudo cp*.jpg /usr/share/iconsCopies all the files with extension .png to /usr/share/icons (issued from directory).
sudo cp xyz* /usr/share/iconsCopies all the files whose name starts with xyz to /usr/share/icons (issued from directory).
sudo mv /usr/share/icons/xyz1 /sbin/xyz2Moves file xyz1 from /home/doug to /sbin and renames it xyz2 (see section 6 above).
sudo mv /usr/share/icons/* /sbinMoves all the files in /usr/share/icons to /sbin.
sudo mv*.jpg /usr/share/iconsMoves all the files with extension .png to /usr/share/icons (issued from directory).
sudo mv xyz* /usr/share/iconsMoves all the files whose name starts with xyz to /usr/share/icons (issued from directory).
sudo rm /tmp/xyzRemoves (deletes) file xyz in /tmp.
sudo rm -r /tmpRemoves (deletes) folder tmp from the system.
sudo rm -rf /tmpForcefully (no recourse or warning) removes (deletes) folder tmp from the system.
sudo ln -s path-to-folder path-to-symlinkCreates a shortcut, stored in symlink, to folder.
sudo rm -rf /dev/xyzRemoves (deletes) the directory /dev/xyz.
sudo mkdir /dev/xyzMakes a new directory named xyz in /dev.
sudo mkdir -p /dev/xyz/abcmakes both directories named xyz and abc, if required.
sudo xkillMakes the cursor act as a terminator - click on app to kill it.
sudo shutdown -h 0Shuts down computer.
sudo shutdown -r 0Reboots the computer.
sudo fdisk -lucShows all partitions on all hard drives. df -h shows used-available data.
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:user/ppa-nameWill add repository with name user/ppa-name. See also /etc/apt/sources below.
sudo apt-get install xyzWill install xyz - do not include package type, for example, enter xyz for xyz.deb.
sudo apt-get remove xyzWill remove (uninstall) xyz (first cd to folder containing xyz).
sudo apt-get remove --purge xyzWill remove (uninstall) xyz including installer and dependencies (first cd to folder containing xyz).
sudo apt-get f xyzMay fix broken xyz (first cd to folder containing xyz).
sudo update-grubUse if booting is troublesome.
sudo leafpad Will open text editor (leafpad) to edit computer text files. Use leafpad taskbar and/or file directory to find file (Use style in 6. above for hidden files.). Be sure to save after editing. File type is not usually identified in names (see file above).
sudo chown doug /usr/bin/xyzChanges ownership of xyz to doug.
sudo chmod abc xyzIssue from directory containing xyz. Assigns access rights to xyz according to the following code: full=7; read & write=6; read & execute=5; read only=4; write & execute=3; write only=2; execute only=1; none=0 (x=you, y=group, z=all others). Thus, sudo chmod 777 xyz gives full access to xyz to everyone and every group.
Use gksu instead of sudo for some operating systems, for example, PCLinux.

22. Some Important Places

/etcSystem configuration files
/mediaMounted removable media such as external hard drives, pendrives, etc
/tmpTemporary files, usually not preserved between boots
/etc/apt/sourcesRepository sources list - remove # before name to add.
/usr/share/applications.desktop files
/home/doug/.local/share/applicationsMore .desktop files
/home/doug/.wine/drive_c/Program FilesWine program directory
/usr/binExec files
/home/doug/.config/autostartPrimary autostart files
/home/doug/.config/openbox/lubuntu-rc.xmlEdit Keybindings, Fonts, Mouse Controls
/home/doug/.config/user-dirs.dirsEdit directories in your home directory - especially important for re-establishing system directories like Desktop.
/home/doug/.config/xyz/...first place to check when xyz is misbehaving
/etc/timezoneShows timezone clock set to
/etc/xdg/autostartSecondary autostart
/etc/xdg/lxsession/Path to autostart
/etc/xdg/menusCategory files for Main Menu
/usr/share/backgrounds, icons, lxde, lxpanel, piximapsPictures (wallpaper, icons, etc)
/usr/share/fontsFonts directory
Synaptic Package Manager/xyz/Package/Properties Dependencies, Installed Files, Versions and Description of xyz.

To conclude, if you think this is a lengthy or difficult set-up procedure, please remember what you get with a new computer running Windows, namely, bloatware galore, commercials for aol, hulu, ebay, facebook, youtube and god only knows what else, as if you can't find these things without their help, and finally all the junk that comes with your computer maker including a pile of poorly performing softwares (applications). It takes hours to remove this bloatware, and if you choose to not do it, your computer's performance will suffer. And then there are the daily Window Updates, mostly security patches to plug security holes that make your system susceptible to intruders and viruses, and there is the job of installing antivirus, antispyware, registry cleaners, defragging softwares, none of which is needed in a Linux system. And you wonder, "Why is my computer so slow?" Windows 7 and this junk generally take over 30 GB of space on your computer's hard drive at install; the operating system itself is about 18 GB. The typical LXDE system with a complete set of audio, video and office applications and Wine will be less than 3 GB. Which do you think reacts faster, LXDE or Windows?! Be free and fast, install a LXDE system! Why Linux is Better

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