An introduction to the GNOME desktop, covering file management and launching applications;
system setup, including display resolution; printers and connecting to the internet via ethernet and wireless LAN. This chapter guides the user through loading the newly installed system for the first time and making some initial system settings.
After your computer has booted, you should be presented with the graphic login screen. Enter the user name and password you chose during the install (or that your System Administrator gave you, if someone else installed it), and your new GNOME desktop should open up before you. The default screen may seem rather spartan, but it hides incredible power - all the tools you need to realise your creative projects sit before you. If the way it looks is not to your liking, you can customise almost every part of it - this is your desktop. Welcome.
When you have to choose an icon or menu item with the mouse, you may be told to select or to click or click on it. All these instructions mean that you should select an item with the cursor while depressing the left mouse button. Left-handed users may need to reverse this, naturally. Similarly, right click means to use the outside mouse button, while, middle click means to use the middle mouse button or the equivalent. Linux generally works best with a three-button mouse. If you do not have a middle mouse button, you can emulate three buttons by clicking the left and the right mouse buttons at the same time. Dragging is the action of moving the mouse whilst holding down the mouse button.
Some applications use a Windows or Mac style Clipboard, but there are also these things called the primary and secondary selections. The middle mouse button is nearly always configured to paste the primary selection, which is the bit you just highlighted with the mouse (just in case you were wondering).
The icons on the desktop open up file-browser windows when you double click on them: for the computer; your home directory; any mounted partitions and the wastebasket respectively. The main menu is located under the 'foot' icon on the extreme left of the panel at the bottom of the screen. On the right hand side you have a clock, volume control and desktop switcher. You have four independent desktops that you can spread your work over, and then easily switch between views by clicking through the squares on the right hand side of the panel.
If you are used to having icons for your most commonly used applications on the desktop, you can drag the entry from the menu on to the desktop or panel, where a link will be automatically created.
Most of 64 Studio's configuration tools are in the Desktop > Administration menu. You need to have root privileges to use most of these configuration tools. If you're not the person who deals with this stuff on your machine, you can skip to the end of the page.
If you find you have problems accessing these functions as root, receiving messages like "You are not allowed to access the system configuration" or "There was an unknown error communicating with the backends:", it is possible that you don't have the package libnet-dbus-perl installed / configured correctly. The fix for this is as follows:
# apt-get install libnet-dbus-perl
# /usr/sbin/64studio-config new
The installer should configure the network for you. If for some reason that hasn't happened, then you will need to configure the network by hand.
The network configuration utility can be accessed from the Desktop > Administration > Networking menu entry. You can also invoke it from the command line thus:
You will be prompted for the root password, then a window comes up listing all the available devices, You will probably want to select the Ethernet connection. Click the Properties button and check enable this connection. Choose DHCP under Configuration unless you know you want to use a static IP address. OK your settings.
Back at the main Network Settings window, click the Activate button and you should see the message that interface eth0 is now active. You may need to specify DNS addresses in the DNS tab if using a static IP address (DHCP connections should pick up DNS addresses automatically). These DNS addresses are stored in the file
If you use dial-up or PPPOE (PPP over Ethernet) on an ADSL connection, use
If you're on a laptop with a PCMCIA network card, you may need to configure pcmcia-cs before this will work. Common and well-supported PCMCIA network cards are usually set up automatically.
As this is a GNU system, there are several different methods you could use for configuration. If you have a preferred method of setting up your network, it should also be available, and you can always edit
/etc/network/interfaces by hand. The information you need to do this is at:
# man 5 interfaces
The name of your computer is kept in the file
/etc/hostname, check that is correct. If there are other machines on your network, you can list their
hostnames and network addresses in the /etc/hosts file, so your machine can easily find them.
You can then bring the network up with:
# ifup eth0
And bring it down again with:
# ifdown eth0
or whatever interface you are using instead of eth0. You can also do this with the Activate and De-activate buttons in the Network Settings interface.
You can check whether the network is active by pinging a known address, such as a modem configured to act as a gateway:
$ ping 192.168.0.1
If it comes back with a list of times taken to get a response and 0% packet loss, you can be sure that the network is OK. If you are experiencing any degree of packet loss, then you need to delve deeper. System Tools > Network Tools provides a box of graphical tools for further investigating the network.
Wireless network connections are set up in the same way as Ethernet, except there are extra fields to fill in with details of your access point. If you configure your wireless connection with the correct details but it does not work, you should search on the internet for information about Linux support for your specific hardware. You will need to make sure the wireless-tools package is installed before you can configure your wireless card, with applications such as
In order to set up a new printer, double click on the 'New Printer' icon. Follow the steps presented to you by the wizard. Choose the means by which the printer is connected, find the Manufacturer and model from the drop down lists, and click Apply. You should see your new printer appear in the Printers window. You can also configure your printer using your Web browser, go to http://localhost:631/ and follow the instructions. For command line queue management, read the manual pages of
lprm(1). See the links at the end of the page for further reading.
One of the common questions asked by new users concerns the various services that the computer keeps running in the background. Under Linux these are known as daemons. 64 Studio enables a limited set of daemons, so that your computer has more resources available for making music, editing video and other real-time operations. You probably won't need to worry about these initially, but they can be easily managed from Desktop > Administration > Services.
By default, you have running:
The configuration files for these services live in
/etc/init.d/ and are started and stopped by means of links in
/etc/rc2.d/, which can be updated via the
update-rc.d command. Further information about what these daemons do can be found by looking up the respective man pages.
When you installed 64 Studio, you will have created at least two user accounts: a regular user account for everyday computing, and a root account for system administration. Normally, you also want one regular user account for each person who uses the system. User accounts can be managed via System > Administration > Users & Groups.
In order to create a new account, click on Add User then Add the new username and password. You can have a random password generated if you want, but it's probably more useful to choose something memorable. You'll want to leave the advanced settings as they are unless you know what you're doing, but you may want to set various user privileges, such as being able to use audio devices and CD-ROMs.
For greater security, Linux makes strict use of accounts. Unlike some operating systems, you cannot bypass logging in to the system by pressing the Enter key. Most users have only limited access to files. Typically, only the root user (also called the superuser or system administrator) has access to all files. User accounts are organized into groups of accounts with similar access to the system. The software and the hardware you can use depends on the user account that you are using and the groups to which it belongs. One of the most common problems faced by new users is not being able to open files due to not having the right permissions.
Synaptic allows you to install additional software as and when you need it. You can find it on the System Tools menu. The software is organised into downloadable Packages, which can be further grouped into Tasks for ease of installation.
Upgrading: Click on the Reload button, Synaptic will download all the new package information available and then click on Mark all Upgrades. In the left-hand panel there are four buttons at the bottom, click on Custom Filters > Marked Changes to check what changes are being recommended. If you are happy with what you see (you can usually trust the APT system to do the right thing) then click on Apply. Synaptic brings up a summary screen to give you a last chance to change your mind, which if you confirm your choices, will fetch the necessary packages from the repository and install and configure them. Occasionally it may prompt you for some input, but mostly it will do it all for you. As soon as you exit Synaptic, the new applications should become available in your menu.
If you've just installed 64 Studio, the chances are there won't be all that much to upgrade just yet, so far so boring. However 64 Studio only supplies a limited set of applications (a measly 941, most of which you'll already have installed) and you may soon discover that you want other free software to run on your system. The good news is that there are nearly 17,000 more packages available from Debian, most of which will work well in 64 Studio.
First we go to Settings > Preferences; in the Distribution tab change Package Upgrade Behaviour (default distribution) to Prefer versions from:
64studio and click OK. Second, we open up Settings > Repositories and click on New. In the URI: field paste the address of your nearest Debian mirror, this can be found at http://www.debian.org/mirror/list, I put in
ftp://ftp.uk.debian.org/debian/. In the Distribution: field you want to include the version of Debian closest to 64 Studio, at the moment this probably wants to be the
stable branch (codename etch). The Section(s): field should contain at least
main, but you can include
non-free if you really need to. You will have to click on the Reload button again for your changes to take effect.
Now you have 17,000 more packages to choose from. Nice. If you want to find a particular package, use the Search dialog to find it, Synaptic will provide a filtered list with all applications that mention your search term in the package name or description. In order to install a package, right click on the entry and select Mark for Installation. Synaptic will probably come up with a list of recommended changes; it's usually best to accept them, unless you know better.
See also: Upgrading 64 Studio
Eventually you realise that your eyes are beginning to fall out of their sockets from too much reading. It's probably time to switch the computer off for a bit and slip into something more comfortable, like sleep. Linux generally runs several processes at once, most of them in the background, where they are easy to forget. For this reason, shutting down the system properly is essential. If you do not shut down properly, you may damage the operating system or lose files. Although the ext3 journaling file system provides some protection against unexpected power loss, there's no need to risk possible system damage by reckless disconnnection. You can shut down safely from the menu, command line or log-in screen. In an emergency, such as a software crash, it is usually possible to get the machine to safely reboot using the Ctrl+Alt+Del key combination. As a general rule, so long as your keyboard still works (you can usually test whether the CapsLock or NumLock keys light up their respective LEDs) you have a chance of safely rebooting the machine.
Now you are ready to start personalising your working environment.
Next: GNOME Preferences
There is a lot of jargon that goes along with Free Software - processes, packages, daemons, bash, HOWTOs and so on. The best resource to study is Eric Raymond's famous Jargon File and its print version, The New Hacker's Dictionary. You may find it useful to keep it open in another browser tab while you're reading this if you're new to Linux.
The GNOME desktop is an infinitely customisable environment. The Desktop > Preferences menu provides the means to adjust the most commonly used settings. Here follow some suggestions on how to tweak GNOME appropriately for your own needs.
You can configure assistive technology support such as the Gnome Screen reader, Magnifier or On-screen Keyboard, should they be required. You will need to log out and back in before these changes will take effect.
Fill in personal details. Most importantly, this dialog allows you to change your password if necessary.
Configure the system to look-up and submit CD track listings.
You can choose one of the supplied images or import one of your own. The dialog allows you have the image fill the screen, centred, scaled, zoom or tiled as you choose. You can also choose to have a plain colour instead.
The process of creating a new desktop background is simple, just create a new folder called 'wallpapers' or something similar and save appropriate artwork into that. You can make wallpapers yourself quite easily using one of the graphics applications.
Configure the behaviour of nautilus, the file browser. Nautilus also controls the look and behaviour of your Desktop.
File Associations can be controlled by selecting Right-click > Properties from the File Icon's context menu. The Open With tab controls file associations and the Permissions tab controls, erm, permissions. So long as you own the file you should be able to edit as you see fit.
Files with names beginning with a dot (period) are hidden by default. Tick View > Show Hidden Files in order to view them with the file browser.
Choose which fonts are used to display things on the desktop. Some users find larger fonts or a different style such as
serif can make on-screen reading easier.
If you don't like the initial font selection in 64 Studio, you can get more fonts from the main Debian repositories. Search for "fonts" using the Search facility in Synaptic. Look for packages starting with "ttf" or "xfonts", there should be plenty to choose from.
Configure keyboard behaviour to suit your needs.
Many functions can be called using key combinations, as in other operating systems. Linux's equivalent of 'hotkeys' are called keybindings: there are two main conflicting standards - A sort of Windowsy one and the GNU-emacs standard (all that C-x C-c stuff you keep seeing) The good thing is you can usually define your own.
You can drag an appropriate image of yourself to be used on the GDM login screen. You need to use a theme that displays a list of users for this to work.
Configure the behaviour of Menus and Toolbars on a simple level.
Configure the mouse for left handed use, pointer themes etc.
Define the default plugins to use to play Audio and Video. You shouldn't have to mess with this.
If you don't know what one of these is, you probably don't need it right now. Your network administrator may require you to use a proxy to access the internet, if direct connections are disallowed.
Allows you to specify which Web browser, mail client and terminal application you want to use as default. For greater control over default applications, you need to use the command-line
# update-alternatives --all
This will take you through all the application types that have multiple posibilities and offer you the choice. If you don't know or care, you can press enter to choose the existing default.
Configure how the system deals with external drives and devices, like digital cameras, removable storage devices, PDAs, printers, scanners and the like.
Adjust the screen resolution from your desktop.
Choose screensaver themes and fine tune them. You can choose whether to lock the screen when the screensaver activates, this forces you to enter a password when you return to your computer before you are allowed back into your Desktop. It's enabled by default, but only really useful in multi-user situations.
This allows you to save your session. Whatever applications you have open now will start up the next time you log in. You can manage your Current Session in the middle tab. Select any applications that you don't want to start up by default and click on the Remove. When you are happy with the list you have left click on Apply. You can configure which applications you do want to open up by default the next time you log in, by adding them to the list in the Startup Programs tab. Once you're satisfied with your choices you can click on the Save the current session button in the Session Options tab.
Enables you to choose audible alerts and ear-candy themes. This is disabled by default in 64 Studio.
New themes can be installed using Synaptic; go to Sections > GNOME Desktop Environment and select gnome-themes-extras for installation or choose one of the gtk2-engines-* packages. Alternatively there are lots of themes available online (see links below).
Themes, Icons and window borders can be installed by dragging and dropping them onto the theme manager.
It is possible to create custom themes by mixing and matching theme, icon and window border sets and it is also possible to edit your
gtkrc file and make custom pixmap textures to create further variations.
The default mixer for the audio system. File > Change Device allows you to switch between audio devices if you have more than one attached to your machine. Edit > Preferences controls which channels are visible.
Hold down the ALT key whilst dragging with the mouse to move windows around.
The behaviour of windows can be further modified in Desktop > Preferences > Windows.
One of the first things you're going to want working on your new system is Internet access. This section walks you through the basic steps to get email set up, configure the web-browser and get chatting on IRC.
Launch the default e-mail client from the main menu Internet > Icedove Mail Client
First you will be prompted to import Preferences, Account settings and Address Book. If this is a new install there will not be anything to import, so select Don't import anything and click Next. Icedove should open up with the New Account Wizard activated; you probabaly want to set up at least one email account. First you fill in the name you want others to see in the 'From' field when they receive your emails and the address that they will send emails to you by. Next choose whether you want POP or IMAP (POP mail is downloaded onto your computer and is the usual choice, IMAP reads mail from the server and requires being on line, this second option is less usual) and fill in your incoming and outgoing server with the addresses that were given to you by your ISP. Next, you need to fill in your actual user name as given by your ISP (this may be different from your Identity that you specified first). Lastly, you specify how you want Icedove to refer to this account. You can put whatever you like here, something nice and clear like Personal Email would work.
Assuming you have filled in all the details correctly, Icedove will immediately connect to your email server and attempt to download your emails. You will be prompted for the password given to you by your ISP.
Because of the problems of spam you may need to train Icedove to recognise junk. When you download your emails for the first time, Icedove will do its best to figure out what is spam, and what isn't. It is a very good idea to go through the mail once it has all been downloaded and correct Icedove's guesses. You will see that some mails have a junk icon in the 6th column, in between Sender and Date. Clicking in this space will toggle the setting. Once all the mails have been correctly identified, go to Tools > Delete mail marked as junk and move all the spam into Icedove's trashcan. If you are sure that you don't want to keep any of it you can get rid of it permanently by clicking on File > Empty Deleted.
Now might be a good time to consider signing up to the mailing list.
New users often find that clicking on email links in web pages brings up an unfamiliar interface. The fix for this is to set Iceweasel to mail links using Icedove. In Iceweasel, type
about:config in the URL line and hit Enter. That results in a display of a long list of advanced preference settings. Then, perform these steps:
Right-click > New > String
in the dialog box, type
network.protocol-handler.app.mailto and click OK
in the next dialog box, type
/usr/bin/icedove and click OK
Finally, be sure there's a symlink at
/usr/bin/icedove that points to your system's Thunderbird executable. Iceweasel's preferences are stored in
/etc/iceweasel/iceweaselrc to include
# which /dev/dsp wrapper to use
Iceweasel's extensions are add-on programs which are installed within Iceweasel from the Mozilla web site. Extensions are available for Blogging, Web Developing, Dictionaries, Download Tools, Editing and Forms, Image Browsing, Languages, Message Reading, News Reading, Privacy and Security, Search Tools and lots more. To add an extension click on Tools > Add-ons to bring up the Extensions dialog.
Enabling Flash is now a simple job.
# apt-get install flashplugin-nonfree nspluginwrapper
The flashplugin-nonfree package is actually a wrapper which downloads the latest proprietary plugin from Adobe when you install it. You will need to restart the web browser before this takes effect.
You can test the plug-in by visiting a site that you know has flash content such as http://www.myspace.com/. If, for some reason installing the flash plug-in didn't work you have the option to click on the 'install missing plug-ins' button, which will appear at the top of the page, or you can also install it from the Tools > Add-Ons menu in Iceweasel, which will take you to the Firefox website https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/plugins/
Flash player is in the plug-ins section. The link takes you to the Adobe site and you will want to download the .tar.gz file which will be something like http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/current/install_flash_p.... Follow the instructions, extract the package and run the installation script as root. This will enable all users to take advantage of the plug-in. You will need to tell the installer where your copy of Iceweasel is located, which will be something like
/usr/lib/firefox if you're not using the Debianised version.
Iceweasel and Icedove are re-branded (i.e. Debianised) versions of Firefox and Thunderbird respectively. This is due to an ongoing argument over trademark issues, which I can't be bothered to go into here. We use Snowpigeon and Slushferret, or was that Frostchimp? If you don't like it, install something else. This is Linux, you're in control now, you'd better get used to it.
Messaging software can be found at Internet > Gaim Internet Messenger. Go to the Accounts menu and click Add/Edit. Gaim supports AIM/ICQ; Bonjour; Groupwise; IRC; Jabber; MSN; QQ; Simple and Yahoo. Gaim will then connect to the specified account and you can start messaging right away. This would be a good point to set up an IRC account. Just specify a nickname in the dialog provided in Accounts > Add/Edit with
irc.freenode.net as your server. You don't need to create a password. Login to
#64studio using Buddies > Join a Chat and say hi.
Next: Advanced configuration
Every creative user will quickly reach a point where the standard desktop utilities don't provide them with the options they're looking for. In this section we introduce some advanced tricks and tips which allow you to further customise your desktop.
In order to get to grips with more advanced configuration of the system it will be necessary to familiarise yourself with the Command Line Interface. The CLI is much more flexible than you might think. It includes the abilities to cut and paste, to re-use previous commands using the Up Arrow key, and to auto-complete commands and addresses as you type them using the Tab key. Try it for yourself! The command line can be accessed from Accessories > Terminal in the main menu.
We use a few conventions in this manual when referring to command-line techniques.
$ - The dollar sign is the prompt for an ordinary user. You don't type this in, just everything after it.
# - This is the prompt for the root user, again type in everything after it.
In order to access this prompt you need to use the 'Switch User' command:
You will then be prompted for the root password. It is best practice not to stay logged in as root any longer than you need to in order to perform certain configurations. Heed these warnings and you will have a much easier time of it.
Many Linux system settings can be changed by editing a configuration file in a text editor, such as gedit or nano. These can both be launched from the command line.
Essential further reading on this subject is listed at the end of the page.
From time to time you will need more information about what processes are actually running on our system and how much processor power and memory they are using up. Right-click on the Panel and choose Add to Panel and select 'System Monitor' - this will add a little box that shows a graph of processor activity. It's quite useful to check whether your computer is actually doing anything. There is also a nice little graphical toolbox available from System Tools > System Monitor, which covers most of these functions.
In order to see what processes are currently running use
$ ps fax
The standard means for checking resource usage is
You can also check how full your hard-drives and partitions are with
$ df -h
You can list all your hardware devices and their addresses with
$ lspci -v
And you can check which driver modules you have loaded with
You can view the boot messages (all that scrolling text you see when you boot up the machine) with:
If you want a running commentary on what the system is seeing,
$ tail -f /var/log/syslog
can provide useful debugging output in many situations.
You can use these messages to help troubleshoot problems at boot-time and copy / paste the relevant error messages into an email if you need to ask for help.
GConf-Editor is a tool used for editing the GConf configuration database. It looks like a simplified version of the Windows registry editor, but don't let that put you off. It controls the entire GNOME configuration database and can often be a convenient way of adjusting advanced settings if you don't want to get your hands dirty with the command line. Gconf-editor does not come as standard in 64 Studio so you will have to install it:
# apt-get install gconf-editor
You may want to bind an arbitrary keyboard shortcut to an action (eg. launching an application), but the default Gnome tool allows only a set of predefined actions. Here is the procedure to add custom actions to bind to a key combination. This is not the recommended way of setting desktop preferences, but it might be useful when the proper configuration utility for some software provides no other way of changing some option. First you must launch
gconf System Tools > Configuration Editor.
Then you have to find the key apps > metacity > keybinding_commands > command_1 through the gconf tree. There you can specify (in the "value" field) the command to be launched (eg. xterm). You have now associated command_1 to the command
Now go on and define the key combination; go to apps > metacity > global_keybindings > run_command_1 and put in the "value" field the key combination you like (eg.
Now you should be able to launch the command
xterm with Alt+F1.
To disable printing and printing setup, set the following keys in gconf:
desktop > gnome > lockdown > printing
desktop > gnome > lockdown > print-setup
To remove one or more of the default icons from the desktop, unset the appropriate key
apps > nautilus > desktop > *_icon_visible
To prevent the appearance of icons representing mounted media such as cdroms, unset the following key:
apps > nautilus > desktop > volumes_visible
To disable changes to the configuration of the panel, set the
apps > panel > global > locked_down key.
To disable certain applets from loading or appearing in the applet menu, you can specify which applets you wish to disable by adding the appropriate applet IID to the apps > panel > global > disabled_applets key.
<!--Your desktop menus can be customised by right clicking on the foot-shaped 'Main Menu' icon and selecting Edit Menus.--> If you want greater control over your menus it may be worth installing
alacarte from the Debian repositories.
Sometimes new packages don't appear in the menus for one reason or another. It's worth knowing the
command for these situations. You can also run this as an ordinary user, it's worth reading the man page for this command first.
If you want to start creating your own custom menu entries by hand then you may need to read up on the FreeDesktop menu specification for all the gory details.
You can access the data on other partitions and drives that were not configured when you installed 64 Studio, such as those belonging to other operating systems by editing the file
# gedit /etc/fstab
man fstab for further instructions.
If your soundcard failed to configure on install, the first approach is to run alsaconf:
If that fails you need to check out whether your card is supported by ALSA and whether you have the correct driver installed. There is a wealth of information on the ALSA websites listed at the end of the page, along with advice on how to test your soundcard, troubleshoot problems and lots of useful and intriguing HOWTOs.
Every so often you will encounter media files that 64 Studio refuses to play. This is often because we cannot distribute codecs for certain patent-encumbered file formats. It is possible to access these additional codecs by adding another software source to your
# nano /etc/apt/sources.list
in the file add the following text:
deb http://www.debian-multimedia.org/ etch main
I ended up with: ffmpeg; gstreamer0.10-ffmpeg-full; libavcodeccvs51; libavformatcvs51; libavutilcvs49; libdvdcss2; libdvdread3; libfaac0; libfaad0; libimlib2; liblame0; libmikmod2; libmikmod2; libxvidcore4; m4; mozplugger; msttcorefonts and w32codecs, which seemed to do the trick, but as they say, Your Mileage May Vary.
64 Studio comes with a realtime Linux kernel which helps avoid audio latency problems. The distribution includes a program called the JACK audio connection Kit (It's a recursive acronym, you'll get used to it) which routes audio between real-time applications. Check out Nate Figlar's excellent Jack Quickstart Guide if you want to jump straight into real-time audio operations.
If you want to be able to ssh into this machine you will probably need to edit
/etc/ssh/ssh_config. SSH stands for Secure SHell and is a more secure alternative to telnet that you can use to remotely run commands on other machines over the network.
Before you reboot your machine after all these changes, it's best to check that GRUB is configured correctly. GRUB stands for the GRand Unified Boot-manager and is the application responsible for booting up the Operating Sytem when you first turn your computer on. Many users have multiple operating systems or Linux kernels on the same computer. Using a boot loader, you can choose which operating system or kernel to start your computer with. You can edit grub to display any installed operating system or kernels. Your 64 Studio system also includes a single-user mode. The single-user mode starts the machine with a basic system that the root user can use for troubleshooting.
You can reconfigure grub by editing /boot/grub/menu.lst
# gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst
see the grub website for further information. You can also browse the documentation of GNU GRUB by typing
$ info grub
on the Command Line.