Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Making Linux Work on Your PC, Part 2: Productivity and Gaming

If you have decided to give Linux a try as I talked about in Part 1, there are a couple more things that you can do to get more out of your Linux machine and lessen your dependence on Windows.

While Linux comes preinstalled with perfectly usable (and in certain aspects, better) open source alternatives to commercial software (e.g., Libre Office for MS Office and GIMP for Adobe Photoshop), I recommend that you install several more applications to enhance your Linux experience.


Even if Firefox is preinstalled in Linux Mint, I strongly suggest installing and using Chromium, the open source version of Google's infinitely-better Chrome web browser. Installing Chromium is easy: just go to Menu > Software Manager, search "chromium" in the search bar, and then install.

One minor issue that you may have with Chromium on Mint is the custom Google search behind the omnibox. To revert to the default version of Google, just click the Menu > Terminal and type and enter:

sudo rm -fr /etc/skel/.config/chromium ~/.config/chromium


Dropbox is a handy tool that lets you automatically sync selected files and folders across different machines and different platforms--perfect if you use a different machine at work and at home, or if you want ready access to your files via your mobile phone.

First, create a free account on the Dropbox website (or pay a fee if you want more cloud storage space). Then install Dropbox by downloading the Ubuntu installer (choose 32- or 64-bit depending on what kind of system you have). Next, go to Menu > System Tools > GDebi Package Installer and open the *.deb file that you just downloaded to install. Find the Dropbox button under Menu > Internet (or use the search bar in Menu), click it, and log in to connect your Linux PC to your Dropbox account.


Everpad is the Linux port of Evernote, the cloud-based note-taking software. To install, run the following lines (one at a time) in the terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nvbn-rm/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install everpad


Picasa is a free and user-friendly tool for storing, managing, and editing photos. Install by searching "picasa" in Software Manager.


Steam may be the one application that will eventually take Linux to the mainstream. Steam is a platform for buying and playing games for Windows, Mac, and now, Linux machines--kinda like iTunes, but for games. While not every Steam game is currently available to play on Linux, the list--which includes Amnesia, Portal, Half Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and almost all Humble Bundle games--will just get longer over time.

To install, go to the Steam website and download the *.deb package. Same as with Dropbox above, use GDebi Package Installer to open the file and install the application.

Other software

There are some other open source software applications in Software Manager that you may be interested in. I have started learning LibreCAD (an AutoCAD alternative) for 2D designs and I plan to learn how to make 3D models using Blender in the near future.

Linux is slowly turning out to be a viable alternative to Windows and even Mac. While it's still not perfect, it's more than enough for most of our needs, and it just gets better with each passing year. With these series of guides, I hope that I was able to convince at least some of you to give Linux a try.

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