By Paul Gorski
Last summer, I tried to inspire readers to revive old PCs by installing Lubuntu, a Linux-based computer operating system. Read that article, “Bring new life to an old PC with Lubuntu,” posted online July 10, 2013, at http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/07/10/tech-friendly-bring-new-life-to-an-old-pc-with-lubuntu/. This year, I bring you Linux Mint (http://www.linuxmint.com), which claims to be the third-most popular computer operating system after Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X.
I remind you that this is not really a “tech-friendly” article. This is a “summer project to save a few bucks” article, as it might involve installing a new operating system on a retired desktop or laptop computer. That said, Linux Mint is easy to install, and you may try it out before you install it by running it from the installer DVD.
Linux Mint (Xfce) is a customized version of Ubuntu (http://www.ubuntu.com/desktop), which is a desktop Linux-variant, developed by a worldwide network of volunteers. Linux Mint is free, but the developer accepts donations to help fund the work. Linux Mint is a full-featured computer operating system that has the basic apps you need, is easy to use, and frees you from a Windows-dominated computer world.
You can try Linux Mint 17 on your old PC without erasing any data by downloading a disk image and making a live DVD to boot from. There are different versions of Linux Mint 17: I suggest you download the 32-bit, Xfce version at http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php. The 32-bit version will run on many PCs that were able to run Windows XP and Windows Vista. Xfce refers to the look and feel of the operating system, which is clean and uncluttered.
If the live DVD works, then your computer is compatible, and the installation process is pretty simple. However, depending on how you install Linux Mint, you will likely erase information already on your PC. So, back up the PC before installing if the old information is valuable to you. Again, the goal is to reuse old computers, not break a computer that is working well now.
Linux Mint (Xfce) has a simple interface and is pretty perky, even on old computers. The installer will install Firefox, the LibreOffice office suite, and a variety of programs for managing e-mail, videos and music; perfect for a backup Internet surfing and word processing computer. The installer will ask if you want to install third-party utilities — choose “yes” for compatibility with websites that use Adobe Flash and other multimedia software. Depending on your computer, the installation should complete in fewer than 30 minutes.
Once installed, you can do real work and research with your Linux-based computer. I wrote this article on a computer running Linux Mint, using LibreOffice, the free office suite included with the Linux Mint installation, and I posted the article to my editor using Firefox.
Looking for support? The Linux Mint website offers support documentation, screenshots and community-based discussion forums. No toll-free numbers, no tech staff e-mail addresses. Read my review of LibreOffice at http://rockrivertimes.com/2012/10/24/tech-friendly-a-free-reliable-office-productivity-suite for background information on that free business office package. When you are ready, download Linux Mint 17, 32-bit, Xfce at http://www.linuxmint.com/download.php. Good luck.
Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple lle.
Posted July 9, 2014