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Showing posts from April, 2018

Keepass and KeepassX

The project is to build a Linux Mint machine to have the identical functionality and ergonomics as the existing Windows 10 machine.

This stage relates to password manager, Keepass.
Environment & required functionality A number of encrypted password vaults synchronise between three machines:

The Linux Mint Xfce laptop "Gandalf";The Windows 10 laptop "Legolas";Another Windows 10 machine, name withheld to protect the guilty.
The synchronisation agent is Google Drive in Windows 10, and grive2 in Linux Mint.
Alternatives My original decision to use Keepass was in 2016 and was based on:

Keepass is open-source;Keepass is locally stored, not stored in the cloud;Keepass does not automatically plug into the browser (a plugin permits this if ever necessary);higher security standards at the office, worth deploying at home;portability of the password vault via Google Drive, encrypted such that Google would not be able to slurp data from an otherwise-unencrypted vault.overall …

Google Drive Backup & Sync: Grive

The project is to build a Linux Mint machine to have the identical functionality and ergonomics as the existing Windows 10 machine.

This stage relates to Google Drive.
Environment & required functionality Google Drive serves as a virtual server for three laptops (!):

The Linux Mint Xfce laptop Gandalf;The Windows 10 laptop Legolas;Another Windows 10 machine, name withheld to protect the guilty.
So, in effect, Google Drive is a common fulcrum to a three-way sync of data.
LibreOffice open remote: a cheeky alternative? In the early stages of initially configuring Gandalf, the inevitable poke around Xfce’s pre-installed software revealed LibreOffice.  Excel is my favourite application of all time, so LibreOffice Calc was (and still is) intriguing.  Loving the promise of power-useability based upon its Excel 2003-style menus.  (Real words instead of insane icons!)

Unfortunately, “File > Open Remote…” turned out to be a false promise.  With a Gmail account locked down with two-factor …

Installing apps


Introduction For a Windows user emigrating to Linux Mint (or any other distribution of Linux, for that matter), an early learning curve is how to install apps.
Installing apps in Linux Mint depends upon understanding two things: the primary framework in which Linux Mint is distributed, updated and supported; andthe secondary framework in which vendors distribute, update and support their software. For all Linux distributions, understanding the theory of the above frameworks is slightly essential.  Windows operates the same frameworks, but in a very different way, and the primary framework is functionally invisible to the user, especially in Windows 10.
Language: translating Windows into Linux To understand how the Linuxverse manages software collectively, a Windows user needs to learn the framework of software delivery in Linux and its (typical) language.
Let’s teac…

Selecting text SHIFT+HOME and SHIFT+END

All Windows users, whether a power-user or an average-user, will natively select a line of text in Windows by using SHIFT+HOME and SHIFT+END.

Linux Mint Xfce supports this keyboard combination, but not by default.  The user needs to choose the option.  The command to do so is:

setxkbmap -option numpad:microsoft

But this works only for the current user's current session.

There are two choices for setting this option:

run the option command automatically on log in of each user on the machine;run the option command automatically upon machine startup. It makes perfect sense for Linux Mint to assume the option as off.  Not all Linux Mint users will be Windows users migrating to Linux Mint: others will migrate from other Unix-based or Linux-based environments, so defaulting the option to on out-of-the-box would probably drive them nuts.

Option 1: user settings via graphical interface (Xfce) Mint/Start > "Session and Startup" > "Application Autostart" >…

Adjusting screen brightness

The machine on which Linux Mint is installed an old Acer Aspire 5732Z ("Gandalf")

It has buttons to adjust the brightness of the screen's backlight.  When the user uses these buttons, Linux Mint correctly presented a fading-popup box (a slider bar) to denote relative brightness.  But Linux Mint did not actually adjust the brightness of the screen.

It seems to be a known issue in the Linux Mint forums and solved in multiple  stages by the Easy Tips Project.

I followed the instructions on Easy Tips section 5.2 in Gandalf's admin account, then re-booted, then logged in using the user account, and the brightness adjustment function worked correctly.

Easy Tips asks the user to discover the relevant property of the machine, then creates a file that contains a script of parameters that other programs in Linux Mint understand.

This method worked for Gandalf, because Gandalf has an integrated Intel chipset.

Useful commands at the Terminal ALT+T (or the Mint) menu gets to the …

Anti-virus on Linux Mint?

Every Windows user knows that anti-virus software is essential.  We know that because marketing people tell us, so it must be true.

Even if it's a blatant money-making falsehood, no-body really wants to take the risk that a Windows machine might be easy to compromise.  So all Windows users deploy some sort of anti-virus software on their machines.

For Linux, the game seems different.  One opinion is from the Easy Linux Tips Project ("ELTP").  ELTP is quite hardcore about a security approach, but the key takeaway from the opinion is section 1.1 (Antivirus software and rootkit removers).  Anti-virus software decreases security on Linux Mint because the elevated permissions requires to do its job are the target of a vector attack, i.e. compromise the anti-virus software, then compromise the whole computer.

A consequence of this is that the use of Mono or Wine - translation layers that enable Windows applications to run on Linux Mint - are thus also effective attack vectors,…

Choice and installation of Linux Mint

Installation of Linux Mint was easy and flawless.

The hardest part was to pick a version of Linux Mint.  Based on Linux Mint's own installation guide and Easy Linux Tips Project, XFCE 64-bit Linux Mint was probably the most appropriate to install on an Acer Aspire 5732Z ("Frodo").

On the Windows 10 machine, I downloaded the CD disk image (*.ISO) from and burned the ISO image onto a DVD-RW disc.

The DVD-RW then went into Frodo, which booted up from the DVD-RW straight away and Linux Mint installed itself.

Linux Mint asked the usual questions about initial administrator username, password and wifi connections etc.

And then that was it.  All done.

Completed Mar2018.

Project definition: to build a Linux Mint machine functionally identical to a Windows 10 machine

The aim of my project is to build a Linux Mint machine to have the identical functionality and ergonomics as the existing Windows 10 machine.
Software The functional list of requirements, listed as software available on Windows, are:
Google Chrome;Google Earth;Microsoft Office (but not Office 365);Foxit PDF Reader;Google Backup & Sync for Google Drive;Password vault (Keepass);Picasa;GPS Prune (a Java applet);XN Convert;XN View;a VPN client;SatSync;ProRealTime (a Java applet);7-ZIP;MP3tag;PDFill Free Tools;device driver for an HP OfficeJet Pro 276dw, used mainly for scanning;Duplicati 2;a standalone media player;Treesize. Ergonomics The basic ergonomics is that keyboard access must be at least as good as Windows, if not better.  Keyboard accelerators and keyboard shortcuts must be clearly marked and traceable, without being hidden (if they are hidden, then hidden no more so than in Windows).

Network To join the Linux machine and the Windows machine in a network to share data (server…

An orientation: reading an e-book

A good orientation for a Windows user to Linux Mint is "The Linux Mint Beginner's Guide - Second Edition" by Jonathan Moeller, available from Amazon.

Almost immediately, the book reveals why the command line is so useful to the ordinary user.  Linux Mint's graphical user interface is easy for a Windows user to navigate, but the command line is more efficient.  This book sets out why, with examples that an ordinary user would typically need to do when building the computer to meet their requirements.

It sets out the ground work that gets the power user started.

Why would a Windows user think about using Linux Mint?

Since Windows Vista, users of Windows have very clearly needed an escape route, an alternative to Windows.  In every version of Windows, Microsoft punishes its early adopters by either breaking the software or corrupting data following one mega-big update that eliminates the bugs that Microsoft cretinously allows into the first production versions of its software.  This happened in Windows 7 and again in Windows 10.  Enough is enough!  There must be an alternative!

This blog is my notes on learning Linux.  I've chosen to publish it, because it might serve somebody a purpose.
Background Windows has been a workhorse environment for me since my teens.

I've grown up with Microsoft's Windows environment.  I've worked with it on a daily basis for 21 years.  I've watched it evolve, develop and form the basis of working habits that are now common practice for nearly everybody I know.

But I'm only a user.  Actually, I'm a power user.  I use the keyboard in preferenc…