The Perfect Desktop - Linux Mint 8 (Helena)

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme
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Last edited 11/30/2009

This tutorial shows how you can set up a Linux Mint 8 (Helena) desktop that is a full-fledged replacement for a Windows desktop, i.e. that has all the software that people need to do the things they do on their Windows desktops. The advantages are clear: you get a secure system without DRM restrictions that works even on old hardware, and the best thing is: all software comes free of charge. Linux Mint 8 is a Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 9.10 that has lots of packages in its repositories (like multimedia codecs, Adobe Flash, Adobe Reader, Skype, Google Earth, etc.) that are relatively hard to install on other distributions; it therefore provides a user-friendly desktop experience even for Linux newbies.

I want to say first that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

To fully replace a Windows desktop, I want the Linux Mint 8 desktop to have the following software installed:


  • The GIMP - free software replacement for Adobe Photoshop
  • F-Spot - full-featured personal photo management application for the GNOME desktop
  • Google Picasa - application for organizing and editing digital photos


  • Firefox
  • Opera
  • Flash Player 10
  • FileZilla - multithreaded FTP client
  • Thunderbird - email and news client
  • Evolution - combines e-mail, calendar, address book, and task list management functions
  • aMule - P2P file sharing application
  • Transmission BitTorrent Client - Bittorrent client
  • Azureus/Vuze - Java Bittorrent client
  • Pidgin - multi-platform instant messaging client
  • Skype
  • Google Earth
  • Xchat IRC - IRC client


  • OpenOffice Writer - replacement for Microsoft Word
  • OpenOffice Calc - replacement for Microsoft Excel
  • Adobe Reader
  • GnuCash - double-entry book-keeping personal finance system, similar to Quicken
  • Scribus - open source desktop publishing (DTP) application

Sound & Video:

  • Amarok - audio player
  • Audacity - free, open source, cross platform digital audio editor
  • Banshee - audio player, can encode/decode various formats and synchronize music with Apple iPods
  • MPlayer - media player (video/audio), supports WMA
  • Rhythmbox Music Player - audio player, similar to Apple's iTunes, with support for iPods
  • gtkPod - software similar to Apple's iTunes, supports iPod, iPod nano, iPod shuffle, iPod photo, and iPod mini
  • XMMS - audio player similar to Winamp
  • dvd::rip - full featured DVD copy program
  • Kino - free digital video editor
  • Sound Juicer CD Extractor - CD ripping tool, supports various audio codecs
  • VLC Media Player - media player (video/audio)
  • Helix Player - media player, similar to the Real Player
  • Totem - media player (video/audio)
  • Xine - media player, supports various formats; can play DVDs
  • Brasero - CD/DVD burning program
  • K3B - CD/DVD burning program
  • Multimedia Codecs


  • KompoZer - WYSIWYG HTML editor, similar to Macromedia Dreamweaver, but not as feature-rich (yet)
  • Bluefish - text editor, suitable for many programming and markup languages
  • Quanta Plus - web development environment, including a WYSIWYG editor


  • VirtualBox - lets you run your old Windows desktop as a virtual machine under your Linux desktop, so you don't have to entirely abandon Windows
  • TrueType fonts
  • Java
  • Read-/Write support for NTFS partitions

All desired applications are available in the Linux Mint repositories.

As you might have noticed, a few applications are redundant, for example there are two CD/DVD burning applications in my list (Brasero, K3B). If you know which one you like best, you obviously don't need to install the other applications, however if you like choice, then of course you can install both. The same goes for music players like Amarok, Banshee, Rhythmbox, XMMS or browsers (Firefox, Opera).

I will use the username falko in this tutorial. Please replace it with your own username.


2 Installing The Base System

The installation of the base system is easy as 1-2-3 because the Linux Mint installer doesn't offer a lot of options to choose from, so you cannot go wrong.

Download the Linux Mint 8 iso image from, burn it onto a CD, and boot your computer from it:

The system boots and starts a desktop that is run entirely in the RAM of your system (the Linux Mint installation CD is also a Live-CD) without changing anything on your hard disk. This has the advantage that you can test how Linux Mint works on your hardware before you finally install it.

This is how the Linux Mint desktop looks. Double-click the Install Linux Mint 8 icon on the desktop to start the installation to the hard drive:

The installer starts. First, select your language:

Then choose your time zone:

Change the keyboard layout, if necessary:

Now we come to the partitioning of our hard disk. Usually Erase and use the entire disk is a good choice, unless you need custom partitions and know what you're doing. Erase and use the entire disk will create one big / partition for us:

Type in your real name, your desired username along with a password, and click on Forward:

The next screen shows us a summary of the installation settings. Click on Install to start the installation:

The Linux Mint system is being installed. This can take a few minutes, so be patient:

After the installation is complete, we must reboot the system to use it. Click on Restart now:

The Live-CD desktop shuts down. At the end, the Linux Mint CD is ejected. Remove it from the CD drive and hit the <ENTER> key to boot into your new Linux Mint desktop:

Your new Linux Mint system starts. Log in to the desktop with the username and password you provided during installation:

When you log in for the first time, you will see the following help window. Click on Close:

This is how your new desktop looks:

Now the base system is ready to be used.

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21 Comment(s)

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From: boB at: 2010-03-15 03:25:30

Firefox goes to bottom of screen and won't activate.  The system refuses to put any shortcuts on desktop.  Difficult to find programs to activate to work with.  Having used Ubuntu since 6.04 this Mint 8 is frustrating.  Not surprising though.  I have been buying LXF for several years and have yet to get a usable program disk.  Would like to give Mint 8 a fair shot so need a comeback on this issue.  Printed out your Official User Guide and am thinking of downloading Mint from source.  Credible idea or no.  LXF needs to stay in England, maybe.  Won't be buying another one of their over-priced magazines; that's for sure.                                               Always liked and respected Ubuntu.  Just thought of trying something new.                                                                                                               Thanks for letting your ears or ear.    boB

From: Ed at: 2009-12-01 12:48:37

Hi, While seems to say Mint is based on Debian, your howto says it is based on Ubuntu. From the URL above: "Originally launched as a variant of Ubuntu with integrated media codecs," ... "It is a Debian-based distribution". I suppose if Mint 8 is based on Ubuntu 9.10, it will have the same problems (e.g. PulseAudio) that Ubuntu 9.10 does? Thanks, Ed.

From: Archdevil at: 2009-12-02 11:15:48

Mint is based on Ubuntu, which is based on Debian.

So Mint is based on Debian too.

In this case Mint 8 is based on Ubuntu 8, so problems in Ubuntu might show up in Mint too.

From: at: 2009-12-03 22:09:38

Not exactly.

Mint 8 is based on Ubuntu 9.10 and 100% package compatible with it. So you may also install directly from the Karmic repos, and if you have a problem, you can go and ask your question on the Ubuntu forums - unless your problem has to do with one of the "mint tools", that is.

From: Bruno at: 2009-12-03 21:09:26

Just a small correction to your comment.

 Linux Mint 8 Helena is not based on Ubuntu 8, it's based on Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic.

And yes, Ubuntu is based on Debian, so Mint is a derivate of Debian.

From: Richard Sanitizer at: 2009-12-16 01:25:59

The new Linux Mint installs easily and works very well.  Including the basic install, updates, other programs and setting up mail it takes less than thirty-minutes to get the system up and running with all these features.  I still dual-boot with Windows because I like to record vinyl  and Audacity is fine but it does not have all the features I want.  If Linux had a program like "Spin-It-Again" and another program that would make "FLV" files for YouTube I would probably just use Linux, unless I'm missing something that Linux has.

From: at: 2009-12-28 15:44:07

Mint 8 is indeed a Ubuntu/Debian based distro,The Mint developers seem to have sorted out the various PulseAudio issues that Ubuntu 9.10 and Fedora 12 have,namely the crackle and popping at the start of an audio track that I have experienced,and many other users have reported .If you want to download Youtube videos in .flv format then install the Firefox add-on ¨Easy Youtube Downloader¨it´s available from the Firefox website and allows you to download in .flv,Mp3,Mp4,3Gp formats.As for recording vinyl records this does seem to be possible,take a look at this is quite a bit of info on the subject just google.

From: cprice at: 2009-12-03 23:40:58

Archdevil...Mint 8 is based on Ubuntu 9.10 based on their release notes.  Why would they even think to base it on a version of Ubuntu that was released over 18 months ago?

From: Anonymous at: 2009-12-04 03:26:42

roflmao... Mint 8 Helena is based on Ubuntu  9.10, read it, :P, and again, you need to read again (not here, but the offcial site of mint), Mint have devs too and they work to change something who can go wrong !

From: Anonymous at: 2009-12-04 03:30:13

roflmao... Mint 8 Helena is based on Ubuntu  9.10, read it, on the official site

From: Anonymous at: 2009-12-04 03:50:00

Mint is based on ubuntu 9.10

 Please, avoid to reply if you are going to write false information.

From: Anonymous at: 2009-12-02 14:30:50

dude ubuntu is based on debian ( which is  without any proprietary drivers  )

and mint linux is based on ubuntu which is derived  from debian 

From: Anonymous at: 2009-12-02 01:12:18

Please, do not use the word "perfect".

All linux distributions are far away from PERFECT.

From: Anonymous at: 2010-01-08 03:38:19

Have u consider playon linux ?

From: Carling at: 2009-12-02 01:37:50

Perfect Desktop that is if it can be installed on a Sata or External USB drive, I have just spent two days trying to install Mint 8 on to a Sata Drive with no avail, It also messed up two USB external hard drives I tried to install it on and rendered both of them unreadable, I have been using Mint 7 on a small  IDE drive since it came out, and love it, By the way I can't get any answers from Mint forums as to why this is happening, 

Yet I installed Ubuntu 9.10 on the Sata drive with no problems though it is not my favourite distribution, Mint is, though I most say that the boot up time for buntu is extremely fast, one good point for it.   


From: Anonymous at: 2009-12-02 09:14:19

you should also mention that openoffice can be a replacement for pdf creator

From: Xyie at: 2009-12-03 17:06:07

Talk about doing it the hard way. While you might be more satisfied getting the software straight from the repository in Synaptic, Mint has its own Software Manager that you completely missed in the menu. The program makes it much easier to find and install many of the programs you listed without having to figure out which packages you need and which you don't among the ones you find with Synaptic. You may have more control and a wider selection with the path you took, but the Software Manager can be much more user friendly than the Package Manager, especially for new users.

From: playnicekidz at: 2009-12-22 23:33:59

i've tried mint 8 a couple of days ago for the 1st time and it really impressed me!

looks wonderful. not less beautiful then opensuse.

it can use ubuntu repos and all the variety and number of packages - that's great!

the menu is great! the best gnome menu then in any other distribution (yes, much better then the standard one or then that buggy slab in opensuse)

the most easy to install and ready for work out of the box distro then any other distro i've tried (unless one chooses the "universal" variant of mint).

and finally - there is one more advantage of mint for me in comparison with ubuntu - it is that when an application starts you see another window next to the window of the starting app with the title "starting ****" in ubuntu (i have also noticed this in fedora) - and this is what i disliked much in ubuntu since 8.04.  there is no such window in mint (as well as in suse gnome).

i'm going to stick with mint for now. if something goes unresolvably wrong with it, going back to opensuse gnome. these are 2 the most nice-looking and user-friendly linux distros for me for now =)

From: Christopher at: 2010-01-30 03:00:58

Why would you want to install Adobe Reader? I don't even use it on Windows.

From: mikal at: 2010-02-18 23:08:49

I am very new to linux and have install Mint 8 on my Dell vostro 1320 laptop. I have 2 issues. When i try and install 'Flash player' (on Facebook it says plugins missing) auto install doesn't work and I have to select manual. Flash gives me 4 file types! Which 1 do i use and how do i install it. My 2nd issue is my wireless doesn't work, but it works perfectly in WinXP can someone please tell me a way for my wireless to work in Mint8 Thank you so much Mikal

From: Klop at: 2010-04-21 06:23:04

So helpful, really helping me get used to using Linux.  Thank you.

 Only issue I'm having, I installed vbox and ran the command line to add myself to the group, but go into my program menu and it's not there?

 Thank you,