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Well it has been about 10 days since I bought a Dell 15R 5521 Laptop (Note that I have the non-touch version) and installed Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon on it. As you can see it looks pretty sweet. Just in case you’re wondering that’s a photo I took in Tinian from inside a Japanese held defensive cave.

Anyway I picked the laptop up for a song and after running several Raspberry Pi computers over the last year I decided that my Linux skills were sharp enough to take a go at a linux box. So after 10 days here’s what I have to report. I love it! It’s a huge surprise. First time I installed Linux was when Red Hat 4.2 was released in 1997. Wow. Am I that old already? I bought a box set somewhere and then gravitated to RedHat 5. The learning curve was steep for me and hardly any of my hardware devices worked. If they did work you had to figure out where the heck they were and then mount them. EECK!

Anyway i got pretty good at it and even built my young daughter a Mandravia desktop so she could safely surf the internet without me having to remove the crap that Windows seems to attract such as viruses and malware. It was for Dad to set and forget and it just plain worked. Then she got a little older and the school wanted her work done in Microsoft Office. Crap. Oh well, I got a Linux box back for my own use.

Years went by and I just gave up on Linux. Not because I hated it but it always seemed one step behind and everything was just well........harder. So I bought a Mac and I’ve been a loyal Mac Fanboy for years.

But the Raspberry Pi peaked my interest as I said before.

So here I am with Linux Mint 16 installed. Hmmmmm all the hardware seems to be detected. Check. Sound works. Check. Wifi. Check. Wow! Already this isn’t the Linux I remember.

Now lets get tricky. I’m a DOD employee. We use Common Access Cards (CAD ID cards) to access websites and hold our digital certificates. They work in Windows and they even work in Mac if you’re willing to struggle a little bit with help from the great website MilitaryCAC.com. Note that the link is to their Linux page. Not the main page.

Also their page recommends the use of middleware called CacKey. For the life of me I couldn’t get that to work but I used Coolkey and it worked like a champ.


But this won’t work in Linux, right? MilitaryCAC can’t help me now, right?

WRONG! My DOD certificates work PERFECTLY in Linux. Even better than my Mac. Look here. The most finicky DOD CAC enabled website, Defense Travel System, is asking me for my Pin Number. It worked and was easy to configure. I even managed to import my certs into the Linux email program Thunderbird. Works way better than with Mac OS X Mail.
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Okay. Color me impressed. Now for something really hard. I have a Roland GX-24 Vinyl Sign Cutting Machine. Even if the driver works I’ll never find software for it, right?

Wrong again. Linux has a great vector graphic program called Inkscape. Sure enough somebody developed an extension for it called InkCut. I made a simple graphic and then opened it in InkCut and expected total and abject failure. Wrong!. It cut out like a champ. Do you guys have any idea how much Windows Vinyl Sign Cutting software costs? Hundreds. Sometimes thousands. This is free. Are you kidding me?

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Once again, color me impressed. If you owned a vinyl sign business and made complicated signs this might not cut it, but a guy like me just using it as a hobby device it is way more than adequate. Heck the extension I use for Inkscape in Mac is very similar and called SignCut and costs money!

Next up is Samba File Sharing. Wow. First time i did this in Linux in RedHat 5 it took me two or three days to set up the shares by manually configuring the smb.conf file I used a GUI client in Mint and added a user and a couple of shares and it worked in reverse as well. Found my home network like a champ. Impressed again.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 8.05.38 AM


One of my Raspberry Pi’s is an OwnCloud server. If you don’t know what OwnCloud is check it out. Your own personal Cloud Server like Dropbox or Google Drive only better. Sure enough OwnCloud has a Linux Client and I can access my Cloud Server easily from Linux.


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Had a little trouble with the OwnCloud client not loading in the system tray after a re-log in. Simple. Just delay the launch like this. Open your Startup Applications Preferences and do this:

sh -c “sleep 9 && owncloud”

Edit Startup Program_015

This delays the launch for 9 seconds and allows it to load. Don’t know why it won’t otherwise.

I’m not sure I have a lot more to add. Linux does all the normal user stuff and even fills my advanced needs. This isn’t your fathers Linux anymore.

The only real problem that I have encountered was that when i bought my Laptop I didn’t check the BIOS version before I deleted Windows 8. My Dell BIOS version was A05 and they were up to A12. Worst of all the fans were spinning full speed under Linux Mint and BIOS A06 had some fan control improvements. I really should have updated the BIOS before I deleted Windows because it isn’t easy. I could tell you the whole sorted tale but this gentleman tells it best.

Basically I created a Windows System Recovery Disk, then downloaded the BIOS update file to a USB hard drive. Then disconnect the Laptop hard drive otherwise it failed with some goofy “Can’t repair your Windows Installation” failure. I cringed at the thought of disconnecting the hard drive but it was much easier than I thought. It was right under a panel on the bottom of the laptop. Remove panel, remove 2 hard drive screws, slide the drive back out of the connector. Took a whole 30 seconds. And 30 more seconds to undo it. So disconnect hard drive, insert USB hard drive, boot to recovery CD, navigate to USB drive (in my case D:) then execute the file.

And best of all I just sat down to install a USB Digital to Analog Converter (Audio DAC). I anticipated as much trouble installing the device as I did on my Raspberry Pi’s. Figured I’d be hacking asound.conf files and loading modules and such but I plugged it in, it lit up and it showed up as a sound device in the system systems. Holy Toledo! It just worked.

And one more item of note.........I installed Samba to share files across my network or rather samba was already installed. Samba configuration is not for the faint of heart and I thought I was lucky to have found a GUI tool to configure it. Well that was a mistake.

The thing to do is to blast your samba.conf file when you foul it up as bad as I did with the graphical interface.

A clean copy exists at /usr/share/samba/smb.conf

So do this cp /etc/samba/smb.conf /etc/samba/smb.conf.bak

That backs up your existing file. Now copy the clean file to where the old one resides

cp -a /usr/share/samba/smb.conf /etc/samba

Now open the file

sudo gedit /etc/samba/smb.conf

Look for the line that says “encrypt passwords = no” and change it to

encrypt passwords = yes
sudo service smbd restart
sudo service nmbd restart

In my configuration I only could see my Mac and Windows shares from my Linux box and not the other way around. Mac and Windows would report no path to network. No problem. Your firewall on your Linux Box isn’t allowing inbound connections on the samba port.

Do this and please note this turns your firewall off and you don’t need it if you are behind a NAT Router with a firewall already.

sudo ufw disable

Now reboot or reload the firewall. sudo ufw reload

And now your Samba should work in two directions. You can also just add rules in your firewall by getting gufw which is a GUI for ufw.

sudo apt-get install gufw

Then lanuch gufw

sudo gufw

Enter your password and this appears:


Click on the plus (+) button just below the red rules (mine have already been added in this screenshot).

Now configure the screen that pops up like below:

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Click add and then type

sudo ufw reload

Yer doing it.