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Monday, 27 August 2012

Tips and Tricks for Linux Mint After Installation [Mint 13 Maya - MATE Edition]

Some good stuff for Mint 13

Tips and Tricks for Linux Mint After Installation [Mint 13 Maya - MATE Edition]:

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Tips and Tricks for Linux Mint After Installation [Mint 13 Maya - MATE Edition]

Linux MintLinux Mint is one of the top free operating systems widely used in the world and currently receives the highest hits at DistroWatch.
Even though it's an Ubuntu-based system, Linux Mint features only one panel at the bottom which looks closer to the taskbar in the Windows system, and a well-organized start menu complete with a useful Search box. MATE EditionIt also pre-installs some proprietary software, including the Adobe Flash plugin and necessary media codecs, by default so that you can view streaming media, such as YouTube videos in a browser, and play mp3, mp4 or most other media files with a player right away out of the box.
The MATE Edition of Linux Mint 13 Maya uses MATE, a traditional desktop environment which continues to develop as a fork of GNOME 2. If you have this Edition installed in your PC, you might find these tips and tricks useful for working with the system.
Note: The steps described in this article work best with Linux Mint 13 Maya [MATE Edition]. If you're using the Cinnamon Edition, please check out this article.
Tips and Tricks for Linux Mint - Quick Select Index
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File Browser
Keyboard Shortcuts
Add Fonts, Screenlets and More Software
Drive and Partition
Startup and Shutdown

   Pin Programs to the Panel
Frequently used programs can be easily pinned to the panel.
  1. Browse to a program from Menu > Applications.
  2. Drag and drop the program to an empty space in the panel, or right-click the program and select "Add to panel".
  3. Right click the program icon, select "Move" and drop it to a new place in the panel.
  4. Right click the program icon and select "Lock to Panel".

   Set Fully Transparent Panel
When you set the panel to be transparent in the default Mint-X theme, you will find that some panel items' backgrounds are not transparent, but you can opt for one of the other themes which come with the transparent background for the panel items. If you prefer the default theme with the items' backgrounds transparent, some tweaks are needed with the steps below:
  1. Set Full Transparent PanelClick Menu and select Terminal.
  2. Enter cp -R /usr/share/themes/Mint-X ~/.themes/
  3. Enter pluma ~/.themes/Mint-X/gtk-2.0/Apps/panel.rc to open the file with the default text editor.
  4. Search for two instances of "Panel/panelbg.png"
  5. Comment out the two lines by placing a # at the beginning of the lines, for example: #   bg_pixmap[NORMAL] = ...
  6. Save the file.
  7. Go to Menu > Applications > Preferences > Appearance, switch to the other theme and then back to the Mint-X theme.

   Set Preferences for the Start Menu
Like the Windows' Start button, Linux Mint has an advanced Gnome menu called "mintMenu" where you can start doing things like running a program, looking for files, log out or quit the system and so on.
This menu allows you to set your personal preferences with the steps below, for example:
  1. Start MenuRight click "Menu", select "Preferences".
  2. In the "Main button" tab, remove the word "Menu" from the "Button text" box if you like to hide the text.
  3. Change the keyboard shortcut from Super_L to others, such as Super_R, if you'd like to just press the right Windows key to get to the menu. (This change only takes effect after logging out and back in the system.)
  4. Change the Button icon from /usr/lib/linuxmint/mintMenu/visualisation-logo.png to /usr/lib/linuxmint/mintMenu/mintMenu.png, as shown in the screenshot. (Caution: avoid changing to a huge size image which might affect the panel.)
Other preferences can also be set in the Options, Theme, Applications and Favorites tabs.

   Change Font Type and Color of Panel Clock
The font type and color of the panel clock follow the windows text in a theme by default. In particular, if the font color is black and shown on a dark background through a transparent panel, you can't read the clock clearly, but you can tweak it by changing the font color. And you can define the font type for your panel clock as well.
The code in Step 1 below sets the font color to white and applies Digital Face font (Note 1), bold and size 16.
  1. Panel ClockOpen up the text editor Pluma and paste the following code:
    style "my-panel-clock"
    fg[NORMAL] = "#FFFFFF"
    font_name = "digital-7 bold 16"
    widget "*.clock-applet-button.*" style "my-panel-clock"
  2. Save the file as .gtkrc-2.0 (including the dot in front of the filename) inside your home directory /home/your_user_name.
  3. Log out and log back in (OR enter killall mate-panel into the Terminal) to see the change.
Note 1: The Digital Face font can be downloaded here. After downloading, unzip the file, enter sudo mv digital-7.ttf /usr/share/fonts/truetype into Terminal to move the font file to the restricted folder. See also Install Extra Fonts.
Note 2: The filename leading by a dot represents it's a hidden file and visible by toggling the key Ctrl-H in the file browser.

   Roll Up and Down a Window
Window ShadingWhen you double-click the title bar of a window, the default setting is to maximize a window. Since there's already a maximize button you can use for this, I always like to change the default setting to rolling up a window when I double-click on its title bar.
  1. Go to Menu > Control Center > Personal
  2. Click "Windows" to open up "Window Preferences".
  3. In "Titlebar Action", select "Roll up" (or "Shade") from the drop-down list.
Now you can roll up a window when you double-click its title bar, and roll it down by double-clicking the title bar again. Simple as that.

   Customize a Theme
Linux Mint is using the Mint-X as the default theme, but you can either select another theme or customize it to suit your preferences easily.
  1. Customize the ThemeGo to Menu > Applications > Perferences > Appearance
  2. Select the other theme, for instance Mint-Z, and your window will reflect the changes to the new theme.
  3. Click the "Customize" button.
  4. Select one of the tabs, such as Icons.
  5. Choose one of the icon packages, for example, MATE, and click the "Close" button.
  6. Now it becomes your Custom theme and you can save it as a new theme, such as "Mint-Z with MATE Icons".

   Hide Drive Icons on the Desktop
In addition to the Computer and Home icons, Linux Mint adds an icon to the desktop for every removable drive that you attach to your system. The icons can be hidden by these steps:
  1. Go to Menu > Preferences > Desktop Settings
  2. Untick Computer, Home and Mounted Volumes, then close the window.
The drive icons as well as Computer and Home icons will then disappear from the desktop. Remember that you can always access the drives from Menu > Places.

   Set a Default View in File Browser
Windows Explorer allows for users to set a default view to all folders. In almost the same way, Linux Mint's Caja File Browser allows for these settings:
  1. Set File BrowserGo to Menu > System Tools > File Browser.
  2. At the top of the File Browser, click "Edit" and "Preference".
  3. Under Default View, change "Icon View" to "List View", which lists more details in columns.
  4. Tick "Show hidden and backup files" if that's your choice.
Other various settings, such as single or double click to open items, icon captions, list columns, preview files and media handling can be done in the same window as well.

   Change a Folder Icon
When running a Caja file browser, you will see that the folder icons are predetermined by the theme you set. If you wish to change a folder icon to another for it to stand out from the system-wide icons, follow these steps:
  1. Go to Menu > System Tools > File Browser, right click a folder icon, select Properties.
  2. Under the Basic tab, click the icon image to open up the "Select Custom Icon" window.
  3. In the Location field, type /usr/share/icons, press Enter. (You can hide or unhide the Location field by clicking the Edit button on the top-left of the window.)
  4. Browse and select an icon you want.
  5. Click the Open button on the bottom-right of the window to confirm.
Note: You can change your custom folder icon back to the default by clicking the "Revert" button in the "Select Custom Icon" window at Step 2 above.

   Create an Advanced File Browser
In the Mint file system, you can use Caja file browser to browse most files but can only write files in your home folder /home/your_name and its sub-folders such as Desktop and Documents. If you have to rename a folder or write files outside of your home folder using the file browser, you won't be able to but you can create an advanced file browser for this purpose.
  1. Advanced File BrowserGo to Menu > Applications > Preferences > Main Menu
  2. Select "Accessories" in the left panel and click "New Item" in the right panel.
  3. Enter a name such as Advanced File Browser in the "Name" box.
  4. Enter gksu caja in the "Command" field.
  5. Click the "OK" button and the "Close" button.
Now you can go to Menu > Applications > Accessories and see that the Advanced File Browser is ready for use. But be careful since you can use it to delete or change any files on your system.

   Add or Change Keyboard Shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are preset in the system, but you can add new ones or change them easily. For instance, the keyboard shortcut to the Terminal is disabled by default and you can change it to Ctrl+Alt+T which is common in Linux system.
  1. Keyboard ShortcutsGo To System > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts
  2. Browse to Desktop > "Run a terminal"
  3. Click on the Shortcut, and it shows "New shortcut..."
  4. Press Ctrl+Alt+T, and it shows Ctrl+Alt+T
  5. Click the Close button and try the new shortcut.
Note 1: To disable a shortcut, press Backspace when it shows "New shortcut..." after the step 3 above.
Note 2: Shortcuts begin with XF86 refer to special keys available to some multimedia keyboards.
Note 3: Keyboard shortcuts can also be set by changing keybinding values with Configuration Editor. Press Alt+F2 and enter metaconf-editor, then navigate to apps > meta_settings_daemon > keybindings, or apps > marco > global_keybindings and window_keybindings.

   Terminate Unresponsive Programs
Xkill is part of the X11 utilities pre-installed in Linux Mint and a tool for terminating misbehaving X clients or unresponsive programs. You can easily add a shortcut key to launch xkill with the steps below.
  1. xkillGo to Menu > Applications > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts.
  2. Click the Add button to create a custom shortcut.
  3. Enter xkill to both the Name and Command boxes and click the Apply button.
  4. Click on Disabled at the xkill row in the Keyboard Shortcuts window (Disabled is then changed to New shortcut...).
  5. Press a new key combination, e.g. Ctrl+Alt+X (New shortcut... is then changed to Ctrl+Alt+X).
  6. Click the Close button.
Xkill is ready for use. Press the above key combination to turn the cursor to an X-sign, move the X-sign and drop it into a program interface to terminate the unresponsive program, or cancel the X-sign with a right-click.
Note: As an alternative, you can right-click the panel, select "Add to panel", then choose "Force Quit" to add to the panel. This works similarly to the above but it's activated from a button on the panel instead of the keyboard shortcut.

   Re-start System without Rebooting
If you press Ctrl+Alt+Delete, Linux Mint brings you a menu to shut down, restart, or suspend your system. But for some reason you might encounter that the system freezes, the mouse cursor can't move, neither pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete can work.
Remember that there's a shortcut key Alt+PrintScreen+K that can bring you back to the log-in screen immediately without the need to reboot the system. That's a time saver.
As an alternative, you can also use Ctrl+Alt+Backspace to do the same. If this shortcut key is disabled, you can easily enable it by the following steps:
  1. Go to Menu > Preferences > Keyboard.
  2. Select the “Layouts” tab and click the “Options” button.
  3. Select “Key sequence to kill the X server” and enable “Control + Alt + Backspace”.

   Set Sound Preferences
If you use a PC with an integrated audio device and it has no sound when playing a media file on a player, try these simple steps to set Sound Preferences for your PC. It works for me for the audio device I have.
  1. Go to Menu > Applications > Preferences > Sound to bring up the Sound Preferences window.
  2. Under the Hardware tab, change Profile to Analog Stereo Duplex from the drop-down menu.
  3. Click "Test Speakers" to check if it works.
As the items available from the drop-down menus might differ depending on the hardware devices detected by the system, you might want to try other items in the menus to see if they work for your devices.

   Change or Disable Login Sound
Each time when you login to Linux Mint, it plays a login sound. If you don't like to listen to it each time you login, you can easily disable it, or change it to your favorite sound.
  1. Go to Menu > Administration > Login Window.
  2. Under the "Accessibility" tab, change to a sound you like from the drop-down menu for "Login successful", click "Play" to try the sound if needed.
  3. If you want to disable the log-in sound, untick "Login successful"
Log out and log back in to check the new setting for login sound. Similarly you can try out sounds for "Login screen ready" and "Login failed".

   Install Extra Fonts
Do you prefer Windows TrueType fonts to the default fonts installed by Linux Mint? The mscorefonts package containing most Microsoft fonts can be installed and configured easily in a few steps below:
  1. Ubuntu Extra FontsGo to Menu > Terminal.
  2. Paste sudo apt-get install ttf-mscorefonts-installer into the Terminal (by pressing Ctrl-Shift-V in the Terminal after copying the highlighted code).
  3. When prompted, use the arrow left/right keys to navigate and agree to the EULA license terms for the install.
  4. Go to Menu > Applications > Preferences > Appearance > Fonts.
  5. Click each of them, pick a font and size to configure for window title and so on.
How about installing more TrueType fonts? With your font files, you can manually add them into the system following the steps below:
  1. Press Alt+F2 to bring up "Run Application" window.
  2. Paste gksu caja /usr/share/fonts/truetype into the box, click "Run" to open Caja File Browser in the right folder.
  3. Create a new sub-folder and copy your files ending with .ttf into the sub-folder.
  4. Enter sudo fc-cache -f -v in the Terminal to rebuild the font information.
Besides this, you can run an application such as Font-Manager to view, install, remove fonts and so on.
Note: If you like the Tahoma font which is not included in the mscorefonts package, you might want to copy the two files tahoma.ttf and tahomabd.ttf from /Windows/Fonts and install them.

   Install Screenlets
Screenlets are small applications to represent things such as sticky notes, clocks, calendars around on your desktop. You can launch a pre-installed screenlet from Screenlet Manager, or install a new one into the Manager for launching it. Here are the steps for installing and launching a screenlet, for example, WaterMark System Information.
  1. WaterMark ScreenletInstall Screenlets Manager if it has not been added.
    1. Go to Menu > Software Manager.
    2. Enter screenlets into the Search Box.
    3. Double-click Screenlets, then click the "Install" button.
  2. Download the screenlet "WaterMark System Information" to a folder.
  3. Go to Menu > Applications > Accessories > Screenlets.
  4. Click Install, select Install Screenlet and click OK.
  5. Browse to the folder, select the file downloaded and click "Open" to install the screenlet into the Screenlets Manager.
  6. Select the screenlet "WaterMark" and click "Launch/Add". (Tips: you can add more than one WaterMark screenlet and set it to display other system information.)
More screenlets are available for installation from

   Install Oracle Java Packages
Linux Mint uses OpenJDK by default, but some web services might need the Oracle Java Runtime Environment (JRE) to be installed for running the services properly. If you would like to get the proprietary Oracle Java package for your system, you can download and install it with the steps below:
  1. Go to Menu > Terminal.
  2. Enter sudo add-apt-repository ppa:webupd8team/java to add the partner repository.
  3. Enter sudo apt-get update to update the source list.
  4. Enter sudo apt-get install oracle-java7-installer
At any time, you can check the Java version you're using and configure it when necessary:
  • Enter sudo java -version to check the version of the Java used in the system.
  • Enter sudo update-alternatives --config java to choose the default Java for use in the system.

   Install Apps from Ubuntu Apps Directory
The Ubuntu Apps Directory is one of the good sources to look for applications to run in Linux Mint system. On a web page listing a product such as K3b, you can click a download button, in which the APT protocol is applied to invoke the default package manager to download and install software for you, right from a web browser and pretty straightforward.
This works well when you're using Firefox which allows you to choose "AptUrl" to handle the protocol. But when you're using Chrome, clicking the download button triggers "xdg-open" which is unable to detect the MATE desktop environment.
With some tweaks below, you can then use Chrome to download software from the Ubuntu Apps Directory.
  1. Go to Menu > Terminal
  2. Enter gksu pluma /usr/bin/xdg-open
  3. Search for detectDE(), then above this line else DE="", insert a new line:
    elif [ x"$MATE_DESKTOP_SESSION_ID" != x"" ]; then DE=mate;
  4. Search for open_gnome(), then after the section of open_gnome() {...}, insert a new section:
    if gvfs-open --help 2>/dev/null 1>&2; then
    gvfs-open "$1"
    mate-open "$1"
    if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
  5. Search for this line case "$DE" in, and after this line, add a new section:
    open_mate "$url"
  6. Save the file and retry the download links.

   Add More Useful Software
Linux Mint's Software Manager lets you search and get free software, or straight from the Menu, you can type an application name into the Search box to see if the software has been installed and ready for use. If the software has not been installed, you can click "Install" when a software package is shown in the search result. What's more, you can also go to Menu > Package Manager, type in an application name to search and install a software package from the repositories.
Besides this, you can browse the Ubuntu Apps Directory to find software products you need as mentioned in the tip above.
Alternatively, you can get the latest freeware applications by clicking the Install this now button from the GetDeb Repository after the getdeb package is installed with the instructions given.

   Auto Mount Drives at System Startup
Linux Mint is capable of reading and writing files stored on Windows formatted partitions, but partitions must be 'mounted' before they can be accessed each time you start up the system. With these steps, you can auto mount the drives or partitions without the need to manually mount them for access.
  1. Storage Device ManagerGo to Menu > Software Manager, type pysdm into the Search box and press "Enter".
  2. Select "pysdm" and click "Install" if it has not been installed.
  3. Go to Menu > Applications > Administration > Storage Device Manager.
  4. Extend the list of sda and select the sda you want to auto mount, click 'OK' to configure.
  5. Click the "Assistant" button.
  6. Uncheck "Mount file system in read only mode" and keep "The file system is mounted at boot time" checked.
  7. Click the "Mount", "Apply" then "Close" button, and restart the system.
In case you wish to remove the auto-mount of a certain drive or partition, you can similarly use Storage Device Manager to do the setting.
Note: If you need to identify disk partitions by label, paste ls /dev/disk/by-label -g in Terminal, or to view partition sizes and file systems, enter sudo fdisk -l. Disk Utility mentioned in "Name or Label a Partition" also gives you a glance of device numbers, partition types, sizes and labels.

   Manually Mount a USB Drive
A USB storage device plugged into the system usually mounts automatically, but if for some reasons it doesn't automount, it's possible to manually mount it with these steps.
  1. Go to Menu > Terminal.
  2. Enter sudo mkdir /media/usb to create a mount point called usb.
  3. Enter sudo fdisk -l to look for the USB drive already plugged in, let's say the drive you want to mount is /dev/sdb1.
  4. Enter sudo mount -t vfat /dev/sdb1 /media/usb -o uid=1000,gid=100,utf8,dmask=027,fmask=137 to mount a USB drive formatted with FAT16 or FAT32 system. OR:
    Enter sudo mount -t ntfs-3g /dev/sdb1 /media/usb to mount a USB drive formatted with NTFS system.
To unmount it, just enter sudo umount /media/usb in the Terminal.

   Name or Label a Partition
The File Browser shows the root directory as File System for your Mint system partition. If you have other partitions (or volumes), it shows them as xx GB Filesystem if they’re not named or labelled.
Using Disk Utility is one of the effective ways to name a partition easily:
  1. Disk UtilityInstall Disk Utility if it has not been added.
    1. Go to Menu > Software Manager.
    2. Enter gnome-disk-utility into the Search Box.
    3. Select gnome-disk-utility, click the "Install" button.
  2. Go to Menu > Applications > Preferences > Disk Utility
  3. Select the item Hard Disk.
  4. In the Volumes section, click a partition you want to label.
  5. Click "Edit Filesystem Label" (Note 1)
  6. In the Label box, enter a name, e.g. Data-Disk, and click Apply.
The File Browser should now show the partition label, such as Data-Disk, instead of xx GB Filesystem.
Note 1: If the option for "Edit Filesystem Label" is not shown, click "Unmount Volume" before hand. In case you can't unmount a volume, try Storage Device Manager to unmount it. See Auto Mount Drives at System Startup.
Note 2: This tip is for naming a partition using Disk Utility, use other advanced features such as format, edit or delete partition with caution as they can delete data on your disk.

   Auto Start Up an Application
In Windows, you can place a program shortcut in a startup folder for running a program automatically when the system starts. In Linux Mint, you can do the same in this way:
  1. Auto Start Up ApplicationsGo To Menu > Applications > Preferences > Startup Applications
  2. Click the "Add" button.
  3. Name a program.
  4. Click the "Browse" button and navigate to File System > usr > bin, where programs are usually installed.
  5. Select a program, click the "Open" button followed by the "Add" button.
The above program will then be listed in additional startup programs. Check if the program runs automatically by logging out and back to the system.

   Change a Login Screen and Theme
Linux Mint offers you a Mint Display Manager (MDM) to configure a login session. You can use it to change a login screen or a theme you like in a few steps:
  1. MGM Theme with a User ListGo to Menu > Administration > "Login Window" to open this window "Login Window Preferences".
  2. Under the "Local" tab, select a built-in theme such as "Circles", then log out and back in to try a new log-in screen.
Get a Theme showing User Names
Under the same tab, you can choose a style "Themed with face browser", which lists user names on a login screen and saves you the trouble of typing out a username each time you log in:
  1. Download an MDM theme for example Super Brothers mdm, which supports this style, from
  2. Add the theme file (.tar.gz) by drag-and-drop to the MDM, under the "Local" tab with the style "Themed with face browser" chosen.
  3. Click "Install", select this new theme and enjoy a new login session with a user list.
Tweak a GDM Theme for MDM Display Manager
Some themes are made for Gnome Display Manager (GDM), but you can also add it to MDM with just a minor tweak:
  1. Right click a downloaded theme file (.tar.gz) and select "Open With Archive Manager" from the context menu.
  2. Double click the folder inside the archive manager, then double click this file "GdmGreeterTheme.desktop" in the expanded folder.
  3. In the opened text editor Gedit, change this line [GdmGreeterTheme] to [MdmGreeterTheme], click "Save", "Update" and close Gedit.
  4. Right click the file "GdmGreeterTheme.desktop" and rename to "MdmGreeterTheme.desktop", then close the archive manager.
The archived theme file is then tweaked and can be added to the MGM for use.

   Change Default Boot Options
After full installation, Linux Mint is set to be the default operating system to boot up if no key is pressed within a few seconds on a multi-boot system. You might want to set your preferred operating system to boot up by default. This can be done easily with StartUp-Manager.
  1. Go to Menu > Applications > Administration > StartUp-Manager
  2. Enter password to perform pre-configuration tasks, which include searching bootloaders to operating systems.
  3. Select the default operating system from the pull-down menu, click "Close" to perform post-configuration tasks.
With StartUp-Manager, you can also do others such as manage Usplash themes, adjust bootloader menu resolution or set timeout in seconds. Avoid changing timeout to 0 seconds if you need to select a system to boot up from a multi-boot menu.
Note: If your startup splash logo is changed to text after applying a graphics driver, the StartUp-Manager can be used to change the text back to the logo by adjusting to higher resolution and color depth supported by the driver.

   Remove Old Linux Kernel, Clean Up Boot Menu
Each time when Linux Mint updates to a new Linux kernel, the old one is left behind and the boot menu gets longer. If your new Linux kernel works well, it's safe to remove the old one and clean up the boot menu. Do take these steps carefully as incorrect removal of the items can make your system unbootable.
  1. Go to Menu > Terminal.
  2. Enter uname -r to print the Linux kernel version you're running (e.g. 3.2.0-23-generic).
  3. Go to Menu > Package Manager.
  4. Click Status from the left panel and select Installed.
  5. Enter the main version number (e.g. 3.2.0) in the Search box.
  6. Right-click the items with smaller sub version number (e.g. 3.2.0-22) for older Linux kernel and select Mark for Complete Removal. The files for the older version to remove may include linux-headers-3.2.0-22, linux-headers-3.2.0-22-generic and linux-image-3.2.0-22-generic.
  7. Click Apply from the top panel.
  8. Click Apply again from the pop-up window to confirm removal of the marked packages. The boot menu will be cleaned up automatically after the removal is confirmed.
Note: Try also Grub Customizer which can be used to hide items from the boot menu. Just install the program by entering the following in the Terminal, then run the program, untick the items you want to hide and click 'Save'.
  1. sudo add-apt-repository ppa:danielrichter2007/grub-customizer
  2. sudo apt-get update
  3. sudo apt-get install grub-customizer

   Auto Shutdown the System
A simple command can be entered in the Terminal to schedule a time for the system to shut down.
  1. Go Menu > Terminal.
  2. Enter sudo shutdown -h +m (replace m with the number of minutes, e.g. +60).
    OR: enter sudo shutdown -h hh:mm (replace hh:mm with the time on the 24hr clock, e.g. 23:15).
  3. Enter password and minimize the Terminal window.
The system will then shut down within the minutes or at the time specified. To cancel a scheduled time, enter sudo shutdown -c in the Terminal.
Alternatively, you might want to download and install GShutdown, which is a GUI program for scheduling a time to shutdown the system.


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