Linux - Don't Be Scared

March 7, 2018

This tutorial is designed to just get your feet wet. It certainly is, by no stretch of the imagination, all that Linux can do. I hope it will inspire you to explore Linux and other alternative operating systems.


Today is going to be a two pronged attack. We're going to install Linux and dispel a lot of myths and mysteries about Linux. This probably is going to be graphics / bandwidth intensive so viewing on your cel phone might be a bad idea. 


First up, some myths I hear a lot from people who have heard about Linux "The FREE OS" and maybe have been given some misguided information.


1. Linux is way too complicated: Out of all the ones I hear this is probably the most common. I think several things are in play here. For one, most people that have any interaction with a computer do it on a Windows based PC with all it's graphical interfaces and icons. And true, in the past Linux was somewhat difficult to use, but not any more.


2. The GUI is old and cludgy: Far from it. Most distros like Ubuntu have a very sleek, streamlined GUI that most people would recognize even if they had never seen a Linux desktop. In fact, if you don't like the way your desktop looks or feels you can always create your own....for realz!


3. You gotta use the $#$# command line and I just don't have the time to learn all those commands: Yet another valid point except that for the most part it's not that way. I would venture to say, that for the average user, the experience of installing and maneuvering around your Linux distro will feel much like it does in Windows. Sure, there may be stuff that you just have to use the command line for. But on the other hand, the same goes for Windows. For the majority of the time you can click your way to happiness. Using the command line doesn't make you more l337 than anyone else. 


4. Don't you have to build that OS from it's source. I've heard something about compiling: Most distros have their own package manager. In linux, a package is a collection of files and instructions which are interpreted by the manager. Long story short, packages can be used similarly to one-click installers. Much like Windows PC.


5. Linux got no game: There are tons and tons of Linux games out there. Most of the repositories such as Steam keep a massive list of Linux games. Also, commercial entities like GOG list out all their Linux offerings. And these are kick ass games. We're not talking about pong and shit. 


6. The software selections are limited: To this I would have to say bs. And I'll show you what I mean later in this as we go along.


OK so let's get started. First we're going to head over to Unebootin and download Unebootin:




Then We need to download Linux. I am going to be using Ubuntu and a different flavor of Ubuntu called Ubuntu Mate. I really like it. Any Linux distro will work, some are addressed differently than others. Ubuntu, and furthermore Ubuntu Mate I think are very straightforward introductions to the world of Linux without too much pain.




I'm going to be using one of my Intel NUC boxes. It has 1 tb HDD, 8 gb mem, onboard video, wifi, & bluetooth, with an Intel Celeron 1.60GHz processor. This configuration should be good enough to accomplish most things we want to do, although I would recommend some more ram. I also have a 5 gb thumb drive and a keyboard. Since I am on the lab comp, and I really didn't want to pull out a full fledged keyboard just to install Linux, I opted for a small hand held micro keyboard. 


 OK Let's get dangerous! Plug in your thumb drive. Make sure that whatever is on your thumb drive can be erased because we are about to wipe it and install a bootable Linux distro on it. We're going to fire up Unebootin, select DISKIMAGE, browse to where you downloaded the Ubuntu distro by clicking the button with the three [...]  and select the distro. Where Unebootin says DRIVE, select the thumb drive you inserted. Make sure that's the right drive before you continue. Click OK and let Unebootin do it's thing. 


When Unebootin is finished we now have what we need to install Ubuntu Mate onto our new Intel NUC. Plug your thumb drive into the box you wish to install Ubuntu Mate on, and boot the computer. Now, on mine, I had to finagle with the settings in the BIOS to make the thumb drive the first polled device. Usually while booting (posting) the BIOS will give you instructions like "Press F2 for setup". It's really not that complicated. 



Once everything has posted and booted up you will be given these choices:


What we want to do is INSTALL UBUNTU MATE. The process is much like a normal Windows installation. Ubuntu will walk you through some simple steps such as setting up your wireless, choosing a keyboard layout, choosing a timezone, etc. Much like Windows.


When you are all done, you will be greeted by the welcome screen and you are ready. So far no pain amiright?


You are ready to play around on your brand new Ubuntu Mate machine!


Now what do we do with it? Let's grab some software how about it? There are several ways to get software in Ubuntu Mate. First you have the App Grid which contains thousands of softwares.


There is the Software Boutique:


The Ubuntu Software Center:


The Synaptic Package Manager:


If all of that isn't enough then you can install WINE and PlayOnLinux which are Windows emulators and a front end, and install and run some Windows programs:


And gosh, if ALL of that just doesn't do it for you, there is always the internet, with many tutorials. So We've pretty much dispeled the notion that there isn't any or a lot of useful software for Linux. There's a ton.


" But I want programs like I had on Windows" I hear you say. Well, let's install some. In my setup I have installed Spotify because I like my tunes: 


1. Pull up your SOFTWARE BOUTIQUE and search for SPOTIFY. Click INSTALL and that's it! See? No pain.


And there we go. Spotify just like it should look and operate. 


Similarly, Pandora is handled by another program called Pithos. 


How about a little small game? Minecraft, one of my favorite open world environments. Search through your repositories whether it be App Grid, Software Center, or what have you and point n click. Here we are playing Minecraft minutes later.


It just can't get any easier. 


More games you say? No problem, just install Steam, sign in or create an account, and bingo - just about all the gaming you'd want. I have filtered the list by Linux games:


In fact I installed an Office Suit, everything we've mentioned above, Audacity, Private internet access, VirtualBox, BleachBit, Google Chrome, Google Play Music Desktop, Shotcut, Tor, Gimp, and the neat little dock at the bottom of the screen called Plank, all by pointing and clicking. 


Networking was super simple and works the same way a Windows network would:


And I might add to all of this, the was all free. How about that?


I have several Ubuntu Mate machines here and I love them. Sure, one OS will not rule them all. Each OS has its quirks. Each OS has its pros. Each one has a position to fill here in the lab and I think if you'll give it a try, you'll find that Ubuntu (Linux) is not so daunting after all.


So now we have our shiny new Ubuntu box with a few new pieces of software installed. 


We've connected to network shares, cloud services, connected a web cam, and installed BleachBit to get rid of all the lint we create.


I'm running this headless, and if you do, you will find out that once you disconnect from your monitor, Ubuntu will no longer show you the desktop because it can find no monitor now. No problems, we will just install a 'dummy' monitor.  


So let's tackle that:


This is one time you are going to need to use the terminal so don't get all nervous. Fire up your favorite terminal and let's get busy:


To install the dummy driver open a terminal and type:
sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-dummy
Next step, we have to configure the virtual display for TeamViewer. This is done by writing a configuration file: /usr/share/x11/xorg.conf.d/xorg.conf. If you already have such a file in your system, change its name:
sudo mv /usr/share/x11/xorg.conf.d/xorg.conf /usr/share/x11/xorg.conf.d/xorg.conf.old
Now let's create a new one:
sudo mv /etc/X11/xorg.conf /etc/X11/xorg.conf.old
And fill it with the following content:
# This xorg configuration file is meant to be used
# to start a dummy X11 server.
# For details, please see:
# Here we setup a Virtual Display of 1600x900 pixels
Section "Device"
    Identifier "Configured Video Device"
    Driver "dummy"
    #VideoRam 4096000
    #VideoRam 256000
    VideoRam 16384
Section "Monitor"
    Identifier "Configured Monitor"
    HorizSync 5.0 - 1000.0
    VertRefresh 5.0 - 200.0
    Modeline "1600x900" 33.92 1600 1632 1760 1792 900 921 924 946
Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Default Screen"
    Monitor "Configured Monitor"
    Device "Configured Video Device"
    DefaultDepth 24
    SubSection "Display"
        Viewport 0 0
        Depth 24
        Virtual 1600 900


This configuration file refers to a virtual display of 1600x900. The following are other common Modelines:


  Modeline "32768x32768" 15226.50 32768 35800 39488 46208 32768 32771 32781 32953
  Modeline "32768x16384" 7516.25 32768 35544 39192 45616 16384 16387 16397 16478
  Modeline "16384x8192" 2101.93 16384 16416 24400 24432 8192 8390 8403 8602
  Modeline "8192x4096" 424.46 8192 8224 9832 9864 4096 4195 4202 4301
  Modeline "5496x1200" 199.13 5496 5528 6280 6312 1200 1228 1233 1261
  Modeline "5280x1080" 169.96 5280 5312 5952 5984 1080 1105 1110 1135
  Modeline "5280x1200" 191.40 5280 5312 6032 6064 1200 1228 1233 1261
  Modeline "5120x3200" 199.75 5120 5152 5904 5936 3200 3277 3283 3361
  Modeline "4800x1200" 64.42 4800 4832 5072 5104 1200 1229 1231 1261
  Modeline "3840x2880" 133.43 3840 3872 4376 4408 2880 2950 2955 3025
  Modeline "3840x2560" 116.93 3840 3872 4312 4344 2560 2622 2627 2689
  Modeline "3840x2048" 91.45 3840 3872 4216 4248 2048 2097 2101 2151
  Modeline "3840x1080" 100.38 3840 3848 4216 4592 1080 1081 1084 1093
  Modeline "3600x1200" 106.06 3600 3632 3984 4368 1200 1201 1204 1214
  Modeline "3288x1080" 39.76 3288 3320 3464 3496 1080 1106 1108 1135
  Modeline "2048x2048" 49.47 2048 2080 2264 2296 2048 2097 2101 2151
  Modeline "2048x1536" 80.06 2048 2104 2312 2576 1536 1537 1540 1554
  Modeline "2560x1600" 47.12 2560 2592 2768 2800 1600 1639 1642 1681
  Modeline "2560x1440" 42.12 2560 2592 2752 2784 1440 1475 1478 1513
  Modeline "1920x1440" 69.47 1920 1960 2152 2384 1440 1441 1444 1457
  Modeline "1920x1200" 26.28 1920 1952 2048 2080 1200 1229 1231 1261
  Modeline "1920x1080" 23.53 1920 1952 2040 2072 1080 1106 1108 1135
  Modeline "1680x1050" 20.08 1680 1712 1784 1816 1050 1075 1077 1103
  Modeline "1600x1200" 22.04 1600 1632 1712 1744 1200 1229 1231 1261
  Modeline "1600x900" 33.92 1600 1632 1760 1792 900 921 924 946
  Modeline "1440x900" 30.66 1440 1472 1584 1616 900 921 924 946
  ModeLine "1366x768" 72.00 1366 1414 1446 1494  768 771 777 803
  Modeline "1280x1024" 31.50 1280 1312 1424 1456 1024 1048 1052 1076
  Modeline "1280x800" 24.15 1280 1312 1400 1432 800 819 822 841
  Modeline "1280x768" 23.11 1280 1312 1392 1424 768 786 789 807
  Modeline "1360x768" 24.49 1360 1392 1480 1512 768 786 789 807
  Modeline "1024x768" 18.71 1024 1056 1120 1152 768 786 789 807
  Modeline "768x1024" 19.50 768 800 872 904 1024 1048 1052 1076

Reboot and access with TeamViewer. Viola!


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