Configuration Guide

Submitted by Tim on Thu, 09/06/2007 - 12:07

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.

Exploring the software

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.

Selections and Icons


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.

Main Desktop Menu

  • Applications
    • Accessibility - On screen keyboard, Screen reader and magnifier
    • Accessories - Calculator, terminal, text editor &c
    • Graphics - Bitmap and vector editors, 2D & 3D animation
    • Internet - Web design, browsing, IM, FTP and email
    • Office - Word processing and spreadsheets
    • Sound & Video - DSP, Audio editing, MIDI, Synthesis, Sampling, Video player &c
    • System Tools - Bug reporting, file browsing, logging
  • Places - links to various useful parts of the file-system
  • Desktop
    • Administration - Networking, Printing, Services, Software upgrades, Users and groups
    • Preferences - Accessibility, Themes, Fonts, Screen-saver &c
    • Help - for the GNOME Desktop and related applications
    • About GNOME - what it says
    • Lock Screen - if you want to go away for a bit
    • Log out - if you want to end your session without shutting down the machine
    • Shut Down - To shut down or reboot the machine

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.

Administration

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.

  • Login Window - Customise the look of your login window
  • Network - Ethernet & Modem Settings
  • Printing - Manage printers
  • Services - Activate and deactivate services as required
  • Shared Folders - Add files and directories that you want to be able to share over the network
  • Software Properties - Choose software channels
  • Time & Date - Set the clock right
  • Update Manager - checks for security and bugfix updates
  • Users & Groups - Administrate users and their groups

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

Networking

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:

# network-admin

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 /etc/resolv.conf.

If you use dial-up or PPPOE (PPP over Ethernet) on an ADSL connection, use pppconfig or pppoeconf instead.

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 connections

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 iwconfig.

Printing

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 lpq(1) and lprm(1). See the links at the end of the page for further reading.

Services - Taming daemons

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:

  • anacron - Executes scheduled actions
  • cron - Executes scheduled actions
  • klogd - Keeps a log of computer activity
  • sysklog - Keeps a log of computer activity
  • samba - Shares folders over the network
  • gdm - Graphical login
  • cupsys - Printer service
  • ssh - Secure remote shell server

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.

Users & Groups

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

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 contrib and 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

Shutting Down

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

links

Jargon busting
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 Linux Documentation Project:
Linux Tutorial
Configuration HOWTO

Network config:
Debian Reference - Network configuration
The Network Administrators' Guide
Linux Networking-HOWTO

Printing
OpenPrinting - The Linux Foundation
CUPS Printing Setup Mini-HOWTO
Common UNIX Printing System