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Mint 13 Xfce Breifings

I prefer Mint 13 xfce because it works better with older hardware– without needing to be re-configured to such an extend that I would be creating my own sub-distribution of a Linux distro.

However, Mint is not as robust and refined as I have come to expect from Ubuntu. So here are a few things that any Ubuntu user needs to know about Mint 13:

When the Xfce Desktop "Behaves Badly"

The Xfce Desktop used by Mint 13 apparently has an obscure bug that will occasionally cause the Desktop to mess up or “behave badly”. (On my own PC, it was months before I saw this happen for the 1st time.) When this happens, the symptoms include:

  • The minimize, maximize and close-down buttons are missing from the title bar of all windows.
  • All application windows open in the top left of the screen– usually in a smaller than expected size.

To set everything right, use the following steps:

On the PCs that I am now loading, the “Fix Xfce Desktop” script can be used.

  • Using the program Menu, open the “File Manager”, then go to the “File System” directory.
  • Double-Click on “” to run the desktop restore/reset script.
  • Using the program Menu, select “Log Out”, then ensure “Save session for future logins” is checked when clicking “Reboot”.

On PCs that do not have the above script, see the full restore/reset instructions at: When the Xfce Desktop "Behaves Badly"

Mint 13 Xfce Updates

The server structure for Mint Updates does not seem to be as robust as for Ubuntu. Thus, occasionally Mint Update cannot connect to one or more of of its package repositories on the Internet. When this happens, just wait a few hours, and everything will work again as it should.

When using Mint Update, it will sometimes present the user with a pop-up. When it does this:

  • click the “OK” button for any additional changes pop-up
  • click the “Replace” button for any “Replace configuration file” pop-up

For the advanced user (which most end-users are not), the only time you would not replace a configuration file, is if the updates want to replace a file that the user knows has been edited (using the terminal or command line) on that computer.

The Mint Updater also provides stability levels to packages:

  • “Levels 1 and 2 are safe”
  • “Level 3 are OK” (advanced users might want to pick & choose which of these to install)
  • “Levels 4 and 5 can make drastic changes to your Mint system, so use those only if you are experienced at fixing what might break.”

Far more important than any of the above, Mint should NOT be updated using the command line! (Except by very advanced users.)

The short explanation is that Mint uses the Ubuntu repositories, but Mint is not Ubuntu … so the Mint updater knows about what not to install. (It will not install the level 4 & 5 stuff– unless you deliberately configure it to do so.)

For a better explanation about command line updates see: Howto APT and dpkg (scroll down to the “Updating your system” section)

Mint 13 Software Manager

The Software Manager used by Mint 13 works well, but what is displayed to the user does not refresh or update in the manner it should– which can lead to an unexpected and possibly confusing experience for anyone using this.

The following can be expected when using the Mint Software Manager to install a program package:

Once the package to install has been selected, near the top of the package screen will be a colored bar. On the left of that bar will be the words “Not installed”, and on the right side of that bar will be an “Install” button.

When the “Install” button is clicked, the bottom of the window will change to “1 ongoing actions”, and the progress bar will seem to hang at 16%. Once the progress bar stalls at 16%, just sit back and leave the Software Manager to finish installing the package! (Depending on what you are installing, this could take considerable time.)

When the package finally is installed, the bottom indicator will go back to “0 ongoing actions” with no % progress indicated. On the Colored bar near the top of the page, the “Install” button will also have disappeared. However, the “Not Installed” message will still be there on the left side of the colored bar.

At this point, if you either go back a level or just close the Software Manager, when you come back to the page for the (just installed) program package, the page will be refreshed, and everything will show correctly … meaning that the colored bar near the page top will show “Installed” on the left side, and have a “Remove” button on the right side. Seeing that is final conformation that the package has been completely installed.

Sound with Mint 13

Mint 13 Xfce handles the sound hardware & sound in a noticeably different manner than Ubuntu 12.04. For some things I really prefer how Mint handles the computer sound, while for others the way Ubuntu does something works better. So here is a summary of a few things that are “good to know”:

HDMI Audio

If a system has HDMI audio, then Linux seems very determined to set that as the “default” audio device. This is one respect in which Ubuntu and Mint are very alike. For Mint 13, the separate PulseAudio Volume Control needs to be used to either disable or attempt to re-order the priority of the audio devices. For any System that has HDMI Audio, where Linux using this as the audio device for all sound is desired, this default behavior is what is wanted, so nothing needs to be done.

A Built-in Mono Speaker

The older Commercial Desktop computers that I am often loading have a built-in Mono speaker… and that is one thing that Mint 13 sometimes does not handle as well as Ubuntu. That for this built-in speaker, the volume control can be completely separate from the main “Master” volume control, and every time the computer is started up this “Mono” control is muted by Mint. So each time I power on or restart a system that uses the internal speaker in this manner, I must un-mute this speaker, set the Mono volume to half or 2/3rd's, and then I can use the individual volume slider for each program or webpage– which do all work as expected.

Headphone & Mic Jacks

Unlike Ubuntu, a Headphone Jack is something that Mint 13 can be configured to handle in the desired manner. That by enabling then checking the “Sense” control for the Headphone jack, plugging in a set of headphones will actually mute the other speakers. (Ubuntu requires going into the PulseAudio Volume Control, then selecting Headphones instead of Speakers to get sound only out of the headphones.)

The Mic Jack will also have a “Boost” control that can be enabled & checked. Doing that provides significantly louder sound from a Microphone, which in most cases is what is actually desired.

Mint 13 Xfce User Management

By default, the Xfce Desktop does not provide any Graphical Utility for user account management. For those who do not want to manage things like user accounts and passwords from a terminal command line, the Gnome System Tools utility can be installed to handle this– with the exception that User Permission Groups must be adjusted manually.

The Mint Software Manager can be used to install the “gnome-system-tools” … which will add a “Users and Groups” utility to the program menus.

The important point to understand is that any Linux Distributions based on Ubuntu 12.04LTS (including Mint 13) changed the permission group for making Operating System changes from “admin” to “sudo”. So for any User Account with “Account type: Administrator”, the “Manage Groups” button and “Group Settings” pop-up must be used to manually add that user to the sudo permission group.

Xfce Screensaver Problems

The Xfce screensaver is an older Linux program, that now can cause a number of problems when it is used. The problem I experienced was using the current version of Skype for Linux. That if the screensaver is on when a Skype call comes in, the pop-up to answer or decline the call will show for a moment, but as soon as the screensaver graphic disappears, that takes the pop-up with it– so it is no longer possible to answer the incoming call. The way the Xfce screensaver works also prevents multiple user accounts from being logged in at the same time.

The answer to all of this is to simply uninstall the Xfce screensaver (xscreensaver), and to instead configure the power management to blank out the screen after the period of time set by the user. (That requires adding a few lines to to the configuration file /etc/X11/xorg.conf) Doing this means no “pretty pictures” from a screensaver, but the power management screen blanking still provides the needed functionality.

This is exactly how every Xfce Desktop system I load is configured to use screen blanking instead of a screensaver

Mint 13 Wi-Fi Roaming Problems & DNS "issues"

Ubuntu 12.04 changed how the operating system handles DNS … and that sometimes causes problems connecting to the Internet. This seems to be most noticeable when using Wi-Fi, and going from one location/network/hotspot to another. Specifically, I was running into a situation where the WiFi would connect, but the connection out to the Internet was not usable.

For Mint 13 (which is based on Ubuntu 12.04) the work-around that I have tested on many systems is as follows:

From the terminal use the command: sudo dpkg-reconfigure resolvconf

Answer YES to the first question, NO to the second question, then OK to needing to restart the system. (reboot after running this)

I now do this on every Mint 13 system that I load; and in every situation that I have used this to fix the above problems, it has solved the connecting to network & Internet problems, with no recurrence of what it fixes.

Since it is Ubuntu 12.04 that made these changes, this may be needed with Ubuntu 12.04 as well as Mint 13. (If anyone using 12.04 or above experiences this problem, this is the fix I would try to resolve that.)

kb/linux/mint13breifings.txt · Last modified: 2016/01/13 20:35 (external edit)