How I set up Linux Mint 20 (and dual-boot with Windows 10) on my laptop

A year ago, I bought a new laptop (a Lenovo Ideapad). Breaking with home computing tradition, I opted to stick with the default Windows 10 installation instead of installing Linux. I wanted a "mainstream" operating system around, but didn't have the money for a Mac.

Things mostly worked OK, until several months ago, when a Windows update saw the laptop unable to wake from sleep or shut down properly. I tried everything to fix it, but nothing worked. After several months of putting up with this, I finally gave up a few weeks ago and installed Linux Mint (version 20/"Ulyana"), Cinnamon desktop version.

This fixed my sleep mode/power down situation, while putting me back on Linux as a primary desktop. However, unlike previous Linux usage, I've left Windows 10 installed on the same desktop, setting up Mint as a dual-boot.

Setup

While there's fancier instructions on how to install Mint (including setting up partitions manually), the basic installation option worked pretty smoothly.

At the appropriate screen, I selected the option to install Mint alongside the existing operating system (Windows). On the next screen is the option to resize (via a slider) how much space to allot to each operating system. After having already cleared space on the Windows install beforehand, I went with giving both an almost-equal amount of space (splitting my laptop's 250GB SSD as closely in half as possible).

Installation went without any problems, though I had Windows backups beforehand. After it was done, I gained the option at startup to choose which OS to boot into. I tested both out, and they both work just fine. The Linux Mint installation can even see the files on the Windows partition, though the reverse (unsurprisingly) isn't true.

Installing Snap access

For the basic installation, I didn't need to touch the command line at all, which is a good (and user-friendly) thing. However, I did use it to activate Snap as an option.

Snap is a software installation option offered on Ubuntu (and its derivatives). However, Mint blocked it by default; while there's reasons for doing so, they're mostly ideological. While Snap isn't a necessity, for those that want to set up Snap usage, open the terminal, and enter the following:

sudo rm /etc/apt/preferences.d/nosnap.pref
sudo apt update
sudo apt install snapd

Afterwards, either log out and log back in, or restart Linux Mint.

Apps installed

Software manager
The Linux Mint Software Manager. (Screenshot by author)

While Linux Mint comes with a decent set of default apps (LibreOffice, Firefox, etc.), I still installed a few programs:

  • Chromium. I'd been using the Chromium version of Edge on Windows, and Chrome worked well in the past, so opted to install Chromium. It's basically open source Chrome without most of the proprietary Google aspects; at this point, most browsers besides Safari and Firefox are based on Chromium (such as Edge). While there have been recent issues involving Chromium (both Google's involvement with the browser and Mint's own version), it still works fine for me. Firefox is nice, but it's had a few issues on some sites; I suspect said issues are a byproduct of sites being geared to Chrome/Chromium based browsers these days. Firefox's global browser market share is about 3.7%; Chrome makes up 63.6%, with Safari second at 19.4%.
  • Emote (via Snap). One of the advantages of Windows was it had an emoji picker built in via a shortcut. While there's browser-based extensions for such, I went with a stand-alone emoji picker program.
  • Joplin. A note-taking application that's open source and available cross-platform (on every major operating system). Notes can be stored via a cloud storage service like Dropbox; Joplin also uses Markdown, though the desktop versions come with a WYSIWYG editor option.
  • Spotify. I'm mainly using the default music player (Rhythmbox, a longtime Linux program) in Mint, seeing as I cancelled my Spotify subscription awhile ago. Since I was playing the same songs, it seemed better to just go back to buying music as needed, rather than pay $10/month. However, Spotify still offers a free tier (with ads), so keeping Spotify's app on hand for that was worthwhile.

Observations

The first thing I noticed is how fast Linux Mint is on startup. Some of it's from using Mint on a laptop with a SSD (versus spinning hard drive), but it's still much faster than Windows 10.

Additionally, system updates go much faster on Linux Mint versus Windows. It's appalling how slow the latter was at updates.

I migrated most of my most often used files over to the Linux side. As I was already using some of the same programs on Windows (LibreOffice, VLC, etc.), switching operating systems wasn't difficult.

Linux Mint also comes with a new IPTV program, "Hypnotix," which offers streaming of free TV services from around the world. It's mostly public broadcasters from each country: some PBS stations in the US, Canada's CBC, Australia's ABC network, etc. The app's a bit buggy/low on features, and it probably raises questions about region-blocking, but it seems useful. In my case, it's a way of watching CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" hockey broadcasts.

Issues so far

Font selection settings
Linux Mint's Font Selection settings. (Screenshot by author)

As much as Mint's improved, there's still some drawbacks. The main one is the default screen text size upon installation. My laptop's 1920 x 1080 resolution, and the default text size looked a bit small. What I opted for:

  • In the Mint menu > Preferences > Font Selection, under "text scaling factor," I increased it to 1.2, which blew up most of the text across the board. (Oddly, Firefox wasn't affected, despite being the default browser). An alternative option would've been to adjust the individual settings' fonts/font sizes.
  • For the desktop icons, I right clicked on the desktop, selected "Customize," and increased the default icon side from "normal" to "large."

Some of the default keyboard buttons on my Ideapad laptop also either don't work (the webcam on/off button) or don't work properly. I had to go into the keyboard shortcuts (Linux Menu > Preferences > Keyboard, then select "Shortcuts") to change the screen lock button (which was pulling up an unrelated program), while the brightness up/down buttons only offer "100%" (up) or "0%" (down).

Conclusion

Overall, I'm glad to have my laptop working normally again, and it's nice to be back on a non-Windows OS. Mint seems to have improved a lot recently, and is working well.

"Lenovo Ideapad 720s with Linux Mint" by veer66 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

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Anthony
Diverse Tech Geek is a blog about media and technology. Topics include tech news/tips, comics, animation, and diversity issues.