15 best things to do after installing Linux Mint

Although Linux Mint runs out-of-the-box mostly as a charm, there are always things that need to be done or can be done to optimize your system and improve your user experience and pleasure even more. In this blog post I will talk about the in my opinion 15 best things to do after installing Linux Mint from a beginner perspective.

As part of my beginner course I think it is important to help you out with setting up a well-considered starting point after you finished the basic installation of Linux Mint.

In this blog post I will discuss 15 best things to do after installing Linux Mint that will help you setup a great initial implementation for your operating system:

  1. Change to nearby update servers
  2. Update your operating system
  3. Install newest microcode
  4. Check and install drivers
  5. Install multimedia codecs
  6. Setup Timeshift for backup and recovery of your system files
  7. Setup a backup strategy for your personal files
  8. Improve use of internal memory
  9. Setup a firewall
  10. Improve battery life
  11. Setup Redshift
  12. Install basic software
  13. Remove unwanted applications
  14. Setup additional users and parental control
  15. Install additional fonts

1) Change to nearby update servers

In the standard installation of Linux Mint the Main and Base mirrors, which are the starting point for retrieving your software updates, are probably not the closest to your location and not the fastest option for your specific situation. To change to a more nearby update server to improve update performance you can do the following:

1) Launch the Update Manager by clicking on the Update Manager icon on the panel or by searching for Update Manager in the Applications menu.
2) Select the menu option Edit.
3) Select Software Sources and provide the admin password.

The Software Sources screen will appear:

 

4) Click on the current server location of Main (tara).
5) In the Select a mirror screen click on the Speed column to order from high to low.

6) Select if possible a mirror in your country or the one that is nearby. If another one is even faster, just choose the fastest one. Click on Apply.
7) Do the same for current server location of Base (bionic).
8) When the Software Sources screen shows the messages to update your APT cache, click on OK.

Now the cache will be updated.

9) After the cache update is finished close the Software Sources screen.

2) Update your operating system

After we changed to a nearby server for optimal download results we should update our package index files and upgrade to install the newest versions of all packages to start with the most up-to-date foundation. Then we now we install the most recent software. An update should always be performed before an upgrade.

1) Open a terminal session with keyboard combination Ctrl + Alt + T.

Update is required to synchronize the package index files.

2) Type “sudo apt-get update” and give enter.

Upgrade is required to install the latest versions of all packages currently
installed on the system

3) Type “sudo apt-get upgrade” and give enter.

You will get the message “Do you want to continue? [Y/n]”.

4) Type “Y” and give enter.

3) Install newest microcode

Do you remember the recent commotion surrounding the problems found in virtually all processors that have been released in the past 10 years, also called the Meltdown and Specter vulnerabilities? Processors can contain errors like these and motherboards can deliver incorrect microcode to the processor. UEFI updates and BIOS updates for your motherboard may include new microcode for processors. It is a good idea to check regularly whether the supplier of your motherboard has released new updates so that you can implement them in your motherboard. But maybe no recent updates are available for your motherboard. Then it is wise to install the latest microcode within Linux, which is then loaded at every start. It won’t improve the performance of your processor, but it will fix bugs and it might enable new features, depending on the type of processor.

To install the latest microcode you do the following:

1) Go to Menu and search for Synaptic to start the Synaptic Package Manager.

2) Click on Search.
3) Search for “Microcode”.

It may be, as in the above situation, that the microcode is already loaded. In that case you do not need to do anything anymore and you close Synaptic Package Manager.

Note: If the BIOS or UEFI update of your motherboard is newer than the Linux microcode, do not install the latter. You probably have to go into your BIOS or UEFI when you start your computer to check the date and check this against Installed version and Latest version Synapic Package Manager like in above screenshot.

4) If the microcode for your processor (Intel or AMD) is not yet installed, click on the checkbox and mark it for installation.
5) Click on Apply now.
6) Click Apply again in the Summary screen.
7) Close Synaptic Package Manager.
8) Now start your Driver Manager by searching for Driver Manager in your Applications Start Menu search bar.

9) Select your microcode option and click Apply Changes.
10) Reboot your computer to effectuate the changes.

Now you can check if the microcode is indeed active by the following steps:

11) Start a Terminal session with Ctrl + Alt + T.
12) Type “dmesg | grep microcode” and give enter.

Here we can see that the microcode is active.

4) Check and install drivers

The modern Linux distributions have out of the box terrific support for most of the available hardware components, like graphics cards, printers and WiFi adapters. But it is always possible that the setup procedure doesn’t come up directly with the correct or most optimized drivers. So it is advisable that you check and adapt your drivers for devices and hardware components like your Wifi adapter, graphics card and Printer. Read my articles “How to install graphics drivers in Linux Mint“, “How to install WiFi drivers in Linux Mint” and “How to setup your printer in Linux Mint” for more detailed information on the actual setup.

5) Install multimedia codecs

Some content requires additional multimedia codecs to be installed. A codec is a piece of software that enables encoding or decoding of a digital data stream or signal. Codecs for playing multimedia formats are not standard activated in Linux Mint by default. When you were connected to the internet while installing linux Mint there was an option to install these codecs. If you did so you can forget this part. If you didn’t select it you can get support for the extra codecs by installing them.

1) Search for “Software Manager” in your Applications Start Menu and open it.
2) Search for “Codecs” and select Multimedia Codecs.

3) Click Install.

6) Setup Timeshift for backup and recovery of your system files

There are two types of people in the world, those who have already had a hard drive crash and those who will get one soon. The question is not if your storage device will break down, but when it will actually happen. Every storage device like a hard drive or SSD device has a limited lifespan and the moment it stops working is always at an unexpected and undesirable moment. But the risks are not only about crashes, as it also involves flooding, fire and lightning strike, but also just wrong human actions and decisions. So we need to be aware about those situations and act on it by setting up a good backup implementation. From version 19 Linux Mint offers the application Timeshift as the standard tool to backup and restore your system files. Read my article “How to use Timeshift to backup and restore Linux Mint” for further details.

7) Setup a backup strategy for your personal files

As already explained for item 6 the question is not if your storage device will break down, but when it will actually happen. In the previous item I focused on backup and recovery of your system files, but your personal files are probably far more important so a good backup strategy is very important. In my article “How to design your perfect backup strategy for Linux” you can read about the globally known 3-2-1 backup concept. This strategy is even embraced by governments worldwide, so it will also be sufficient for us as simple souls. The 3-2-1 strategy simply means that you save at least 3 versions of your files, of which 2 are stored locally (on site) but on different media and 1 version in a location out of the reach of your computer and local versions (offsite).

After you read the article on setting up a backup strategy, it is time to actually setup and use backup software. In my article “luckyBackup is a powerful backup solution for linux” and “Cronopete backup software for Linux is a good alternative to Apple Time Machine” you can read about some great alternatives and how to set them up.

8) Improve use of internal memory

Linux Mint is configured in such a way that if your memory usage reaches a certain percentage of the internal memory in your machine, it is starting to use the swap. The swap is a technique to use a special swap partition or swap file as additional working memory. But using swap is much slower than your internal memory so it should be used only when really required. The default value is 60 and means that swap comes into operation when 40% of the RAM is in use. This standard turning point of 60 is in my opinion a bit early, specially if you have only 2 or 4 GB of internal memory. The advice is to bring this value down to 10, which means that swap comes into operation when 90% of the RAM is in use. This can be adjusted by defining the swappiness in the sysctl.conf.

1) Open a terminal session with the keyboard combination Ctrl + Alt + T.
2) Type “sudo xed /etc/sysctl.conf” and give enter.

An editor will be opened with elevated privileges. Here we can edit the sysctl.conf file.

3) Go to the last line in the file and give enter to start a new line.
4) Type “vm.swappiness=10”.
5) save the file and close the file.
6) Reboot your computer.

When the computer is up and running again you can check the new configuration.

7) Open a terminal session with the keyboard combination Ctrl + Alt + T.
8) Type “cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness” and give enter.

Here you can see that the swappiness value is indeed 10 now, which means that your system will use up to 90% of your internal memory before switching over to a swap file. This should keep your system more responsive when using heavier workload.

9) Setup a firewall

Setting up the firewall in Linux Mint is childishly simple.

1) Search for “Firewall” in your Applications Start Menu.
2) Start Firewall Configuration.

The following screen will appear.

3) Make sure that you have the following settings:

Status = On
Incoming = Deny
Outgoing = Allow

10) Improve battery life

Out of the box Linux Mint is not optimized for working on a laptop. On a desktop you don’t need to improve battery life, but on your laptop you should have some attention for that. Uptil now it was never possible to squeeze as much hours out of your laptop with Linux as compared to macOS and Windows, but things are getting better and better. You can use the program TLP, which offers a good configuration out of the box for improved power management and improved battery life on your laptop.

1) Start a terminal session via the keyboard combination Ctrl + Alt + T.
2) Add the TLP Package Repository to your package sources with the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:linrunner/tlp
sudo apt-get update

3) Install the packages tlp, tlp-rdw, tp-smapi-dkms and acpi-call-dkms via the following command:

sudo apt-get install tlp tlp-rdw

ThinkPads require an additional command:

sudo apt-get install tp-smapi-dkms acpi-call-dkms

If you want more details of everything TLP has to offer, please have a look at the TLP website.
https://linrunner.de/en/tlp/docs/tlp-linux-advanced-power-management.html

11) Setup Redshift to prevent negative effects of blue light emission

Lately we read and hear more and more about the dangers of looking too long at displays. Displays of computers and mobile devices emit significant amounts of blue light. Under certain circumstances and with long-term exposure there are some concerns about possible long-term effects on the health of your eyes. Linux Mint uses a simple but effective application called Redshift to prevent such effects, as it reduces the emission of blue light and also schedules this for the most important moments of the day. Read my blog post “How to change default color temperature values of Redshift at startup” to set up Redshift.

12) Install basic software

Linux is great, but at the end it is all about applications. We are all different and so are our needs, but there are probably some basic applications that should be part of your setup. Use my list of my favorite Linux applications or read my article “What are the best alternatives to Adobe products for Linux” to get inspired.

13) Remove unwanted applications

Linux Mint comes standard with many applications installed out-of-the-box, but probably you don’t need them all. If you are a tidy person like me, then you may need to feel the urge to remove these unused applications.

1) Open your Applications Menu and use the application categories or All Applications to browse through your currently installed applications. Look for applications that you won’t need. If you don’t use a scanner you can remove Simple Scan. If you don’t use chat networks you can remove Pidgin. But have a good consideration before removing applications.
2) To remove applications right click on an application and choose Uninstall.

14) Setup additional users and parental control

A Personal Computer is called a Personal Computer, because it is mostly used for personal purposes. But if this computer is intended to be used as a family computer you probably want to set it up with multiple users. And if there are children in your house you may want to think about parental control options as well to arrange some restrictions for your children, such as the times at which they can use the Linux family computer or their own Linux computer, the length of the time they can use it and most likely you want the limit their rights to do administrative tasks.

In my article “How to setup Parental Control in Linux Mint” you can read more about how to disable the standard guest account, create kids accounts without administrator rights, determine when the children are allowed to use their computer, limit the applications you want your kids being able to use and limit the type of websites that the children are allowed to access.

15) Install additional fonts

After you installed Linux Mint a large number of fonts are already available and ready to use. But some fonts can be considered as a global standard, like Arial and Times New Roman. These fonts are not standard available in linux Mint, so if you receive documents based on these kind of fonts an alternative font will be used. So why not add these fonts to prevent this kind of translations.

1) Search for the Software Manager by typing “software” in the search bar of your Applications Start Menu.
2) Start Software Manager.
3) Search for “mscorefonts”.

4) Select this entry and click on install.

16) Use your system

16??? I thought the title of this blog post was “15 best things to do after installing Linux Mint”? Yeah, you are right, but there is one thing that is probably obvious, but often forgotten. In my opinion you should focus on actually using your nice new Linux Mint system instead of doing too much tinkering. I actually understand the need to just play with your system and change it to your liking, but we all lose so much time with playing around, while the whole idea is to actually use our system for content creation and consumption. So don’t lose yourself in distro hopping and over-customization and just use your system to create beautiful, important or world changing stuff.

Have fun!