So you have now installed your new Linux Mint 7 as per my guide. Now here comes that old myth that you cant install new programs or its hard to use. Well lets talk about those two points for a bit. I promise no terminal action in this post. You can mail me for more advanced things but more than likely you can just search online giving the description of the problem you are having and someone will have a solution.
Installing New Programs
Here we are going to talk about two things, using a package manager and also getting some windows applications(if you really, really need them) to work.
Synaptic (Package Manager)
Most linux distributions use package managers. This is a different way of installing software like your normal Windows or Mac programs. On windows, you would buy some CD (MS Office etc.) or download some installer (.exe, .msi file) and then do the double click and then the program would start installing. On Mac you get your little dmg file double click, drag to application folder and Run. There are similar things for Linux but I find the package manager to be the best way for me to look for software. Ubuntu Uses the Synaptic Package Manager (GUI). In Linux Mint, go to start menu and click on Control Center (Now doesn't that sound like that other OS)
From the control panel you can then scroll down and find the Synaptic Package manager in the System Section.
Synaptics will then launch. You will see a long list of software.
You can basically search for open source software in that list. This is a comprehensive list of software that is kept up to date by updating the package lists from numerous Ubuntu and Linux Mint repositories. You hit the reload button and the program goes online and download lists that contain the latest versions of the software.
After this you can choose to mark all upgrades (which chooses to upgrade all available software to their newest versions) or you can look for software to install. For example lets install for that great open source media player VLC. First search for it by using the search button and then click the checkbox next to it.
Choose to install. And a screen will pop up asking you to confirm/mark changes. This screen tells you what other dependencies have to be met.
What does this mean? What are dependencies? The program you are going to install needs other small programs to be installed to support it, so that can function (thus dependency). This is what comes with that large installer you get in Windows, small little programs that support your big program. Thats one reason you dont just get a simple .exe file to use with 90% of programs and you have to install it. Linux will download the dependencies along with the program you want to install. 99.9% of the time for a normal user you will just confirm the dependencies and not be worried about them being installed. Some dependencies will already be installed so less stuff to download (Bandwidth is expensive in South Africa!!!). Then after this click Apply changes and let the magic happen.
Synaptics will download and install all of the programs. When done, your program that you wanted will be in the start menu and you can start it and play all of those videos you have. How easy was that?
Very easy. No downloading of that dodgy .exe from that dodgy website that installs other things along with your program. The repositories that normally ship with your ubuntu are official so the chances of downloading software that has viruses is little unless the developers of the program themselves put the virus in there. There is another way to get programs in Linux Mint and that is Mint Install. I personally do not use this, but a lot of people do and it seems a lot simpler than Synaptics, but I like Synaptics better as a developer (closer to apt-get).
Wine (Installing Windows programs on Linux)
Okay if you really have to install some Windows programs on Linux then I suggest you use WINE. You can get it from Synaptics and download and install. There are some programs that some people still use a lot like Microsoft Office or iTunes for some. But mostly for me is for installing Windows based games like Command and Conquer. After you have installed wine you can actually double click on an .exe file and run the installer and it will install. Not all programs are supported but a mind-boggling number are check out the compability list at WINEHQ. Okay lets install a program. This assumes you have installed wine on synaptic. Choosing which program to do an example for me was hard. I simply use only a few OS specific programs these days, the programs I use are multiplatform and when you get yourself thinking that way you find less and less need to use commercial products unless necessary. Anyway I chose VLC again, just to show you the install. So I downloaded the VLC windows installation file from the VideoLan website.
After downloading the installer just double click on it and the process will start just like you are on windows.
Then you can install the program just like on windows.
After the installation there will also be a desktop icon in this case. You can run the VLC. In the image below you can see VLC for Linux running on the left and VLC for Windows running on the right. They both work.
To find out how this magic works go to WineHQ. They also have a list of windows applications that are supported by WINE called the App DB
A Little Advanced
Okay just a little snippet for advanced users. If you are in South Africa, one of the best mirrors to use is http://www.mirror.ac.za. I just dont have time to to do the tutorial on that too but here is the sources.list.
This is for Ubuntu 9.04/ Linux Mint 7.
Well thats it for today. If you have questions just put them in the comment box.