Monday, July 31, 2006

Linux Made Easy

Linux: Some tweaks to make your life a bit easy.

Can you figure out which is the fastest internet application ever created? Yes, you guessed it right. It is a unique Linux distribution with built in Web Server right there in its Kernel! Linux may not be in a position to give real threat to Windows in desktop computing in near future, but it is all set to dominate the areas of Internet and special computing requirement.

One of biggest hurdles you may find in using Linux is its true customizability (its Kernel too is customizable to individual computers and devices), which hardcore Linux users find it as its positive trait. Every distribution has its own customized installation procedure and their installation files too were customized. If you find an application attractive enough to try a hand at it, only to find later that it is of different distribution and can not be installed in your system. If you find appropriate distribution of this application by vigorously searching from Internet, still there is no guarantee that it will install smoothly. In all probability, when you start its installation script; only to find later that it has various file dependencies and version compatibility issues which are not complied in your Linux installation; hence the application will not install in your computer. Though you love variety in your eating and clothing etc, but you can find performance degradation when you encounter variety in your learning process. And there are varieties of Linux distributions! Further, popular Linux distribution, though they are easy in installation, by default, they install more than one window managers, which are radically different from each other in every aspect. Even an application may behave differently in different Window manager. Users often get confused in selecting their window managers. Again, since Linux primarily focus on Internet / Server Computing, its tight security issues and numerous configuration settings repel average desktop users. Simple tasks such as to change your display settings, you have to run geeky applications like Xconfigurator!

Well, despite its steep learning curve, Linux is really a cool Operating System that has attractions for many and if you take some care and with some tweaking, you can make your life easier with it. Here are some tips that you can try out. However, kindly note that every Linux distribution and its Window managers may not give you results as indicated; again, because Linux and its application are built that way.

· When Linux Crashes…..

Newer version of Linux crashes extremely rarely. However, an application may crash and your desktop computer running Linux (typically Xwindows applications) may stop responding to your command, and you think that it has crashed. It happens normally due to crashed Xwindows applications. In this situation, try pressing Alt, Ctrl and Backspace keys simultaneously. Your Xwindows will terminate immediately and you can start all over again. If this trick does not work, then press Ctrl, Alt and any of Function Keys from F1 to F6. A new login window will appear and you can login as root or any other user and then can safely reboot from here. You can login up to seven instances in the same or different name this way from same terminal; however Xwindow will be available to only one instance.

· Where is Speaker Icon?

In some window managers, you may not find Volume or sound mixer’s icon in its desktop environment’s taskbar, such as on Gnome environment. To control volume and access mixer settings, you have to go through start menu. To make life easy here, create a link to your sound mixer’s settings on your desktop or on taskbar at an appropriate location. To make shortcut at Gnome taskbar, right click at an appropriate location on taskbar, and go to ‘Panel’ on context menu that appears. Click on ‘Add to panel’, and then click on ‘Launcher from menu’. Finally, select ‘Aumix’ (Gnome sound mixer) or ‘Sound mixer’ (KDE Sound mixer) from menu’s multimedia section. You may need to browse a bit to find out exact location of these in Menu. Your link has now permanently attached there until you remove it deliberately, but remember to check save settings dialogue when logging off, else your effort may get vanished next time you login.

· No CD / floppy Drive?

In some desktop environment, you may not find icon for floppy or CD Drive. Since these Icons make life easy, you can make shortcuts for those in your desktop. In Gnome Desktop environment, simply right click on desktop and select Floppy drive or CD Drive from the context menu that appears. An icon with caption Floppy or CD Rom Device will appear, which can be used to mount, un mount and access the device. Alternately, you can write a shell script to mount or un mount CD Rom device or Floppy drive and put a link of this on your desktop. Now simply double click these links to perform your desired task. The similar procedure can be performed for any number of tasks that are repeated. The size of most used icon can be increased to distinguish it from other. For that, right click on the selected icon and then select ‘Stretch icon’ from the context menu that appear. Now you can drag any corner of the icon to a suitable size.

To write shell script for mounting CD Rom Drive, start any text editor and type following lines exactly as they appear:


mount /mnt/cdrom

Save the file as mount cd and then through file manager, change its property to executable. Now, put a link to the file or put the file itself in your desk top. You can assign a nice icon for this link or file. Simply clicking on this icon and selecting ‘Run’ will mount your CD Rom Drive.

Similarly, for un mounting your CD Rom Drive, write following script and follow above steps to create desktop icon as un mount CD.


umount /mnt/cdrom

· Desktop Colours and Settings......

In Linux, you simply cannot change your desktop colours and settings on the fly as in Windows OS. You have to run X configurator or manually edit Xconfig file to do this. However recent Gnome and KDE environment lets you setup these parameters more easily. In KDE, open Control centre (Mandrake Installation), click on Display and then click on ‘Change Resolution’. Here you can change the resolutions as per your likings. Before applying these settings, be doubly sure that your Graphic card and Monitor supports those resolutions, else your XWindow may crash.

Now this is the time to take easy control of your Linux machine till next time when we sit back again to discuss some more tweaks...

Snapshot Descriptions:

1 Linux01.jpg: A small green flag indicates the CDROM Device mounted or not. Right click at this Icon to change its settings like permission etc.

2 Linux02.jpg Right click anywhere on your desktop to make link of your favorite application or device or a task and select ‘Link here’ from the context menu that appear.

3 Linux03.jpg: You can set your Window Manager’s behavior by KDE’s desktop settings wizard. You can set the look and behavior like GUIs of popular Operating System like Windows and MAC etc.

4 Linux04.jpg: Latest version of KDE offers visually appealing special effects to transform your desktop to look more glamorous and appealing.

5 Linux05.jpg: Through login manager, you can set your window manager, default user and other parameters for bit easiness.

6 Linux06.jpg: You can add further convenience to your Linux such as enable auto login, password less logins etc. if you are sole owner of your terminal.

7 Linux07.jpg: Settings like Login, Printing and Sessions etc can be changed and configured for better productivity and easiness in operation.

8 Linux08.jpg: Before logging out, make sure to save and restore settings and sessions, else your previous settings will be loaded.

9 Linux09.jpg: You have to manually create Volume control and Audio Mixer Icons on some Window manager like Gnome.

10 Linux10.jpg: Shell Script files one each for Mounting and un mounting CD ROM on desktop makes using this device more convenient.

11 Linux11.jpg: Now Xwindow’s Display settings can be changed from new tool such as Mandrake Control center’s Display menu.

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