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The KDE Desktop

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Several KDE applications—namely the Konqueror web browser, Kontact personal information manager (a

Microsoft Outlook work-alike), and Kopete instant messenger—are covered in Chapter 5.

The KDE Desktop

Once you log into KDE, you are presented with a desktop pretty similar to Windows XP. The display is filled with a background image, icons, and a panel running along the bottom of the screen. All of these things will work pretty much as you’d expect. However, there are some features that are not immediately obvious or that have more functions than their Windows counterparts, and those are what I’ll talk about.

First off is the kicker, which is the panel along the bottom of the screen. This panel contains the usual culprits: a program menu called the K Menu in the lower-left corner (usually represented by a big K, a gear icon, a distribution logo icon, or the word Start); icons to launch popular programs with a single click; a taskbar area that can display icons of your running programs; and a system tray area that contains applets like a lock screen tool, virtual desktop pager, and a clock.

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Text Logins

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The only other option is gnome.

The login manager for Mandriva and SUSE is called the KDE

Display Manager (KDM). To change your default desktop, click Menu ➝ Session Type, make a selection, then log in.

Each display manager remembers your desktop choice on a per-user basis.

As a Gentoo user, your display manager is whichever one you configured it to be when you modified your /etc/rc.conf file during system configuration. In case you skipped that step when you set up Gentoo, use your favorite text editor to modify the following line of /etc/rc.conf:

DISPLAYMANAGER="xdm"

Simply change xdm to gdm or kdm. Next, tell Gentoo to load the display manager when it starts up by adding the /etc/init.d/ xdm init script to your default runlevel. Here is the command for this step:

$ sudo rc-update add xdm default

Confusingly, the init script is always xdm, even when you are running a different display manager.

Text Logins

Some people have their system set to boot to text mode, then they log in, and finally launch a desktop environment if they so choose. This setup is less common than it once was, but some people find that they like the flexibility this method provides. If you want to give it a try, there are a couple of things you need to configure.

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Web Browsers

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When possible in this chapter, I’ve tried to present at least two programs for each program type. One will integrate nicely with GNOME, and the other is either part of KDE or is made to integrate with it. Of course, all of these programs will run under the other desktop environment—they just might not look as nice, or they may take longer to load.

With most distributions, you can install the program using the appropriate package manager command followed by the program name. If you can’t find the right name for the program, use the package manager search feature I’ve provided in Chapter 6.

Many of the programs in this chapter are focused on multimedia. There is no surprise, as a desktop computer is used just as frequently for entertainment as it is for work. To learn more about the multimedia capabilities of Linux, read Linux

Multimedia Hacks (O’Reilly).

Web Browsers

There are a plethora of web browsers for Linux. Though you won’t be using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Apple’s

Safari, you will find plenty of other browsers that offer just as many features, if not more. Their basic use is the same with other browsers, such as Internet Explorer, so I won’t bore you with simple usage instructions.

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Gentoo

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two sites especially useful: the Unofficial Fedora FAQ (http:// www.fedorafaq.org) and the forums (http://www.fedoraforum. org). The Fedora project maintains a page of other community resources, located at http://fedora.redhat.com/participate/ communicate/.

Overall, I believe Fedora is a solid distribution that is great for beginners and experienced users alike. It is a particularly good choice if you are familiar with Red Hat server offerings, need to work with a distribution that is likely to be found in a business setting, or prefer GNOME and its related programs over KDE.

Gentoo

Gentoo (http://www.gentoo.org) is a fairly new distribution that began gaining popularity around 2002. Started by

Daniel Robbins, it has since evolved into a very successful project that has captured the hearts of many Linux users. It is entirely free, so you don’t need to purchase it from a web site or buy it in a store. There is a Gentoo store, however, where you can buy install CDs with nice artwork on them—such a purchase is an easy way to support the project.

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Wireless Networking

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There are also a handful of commands that are particularly useful when troubleshooting your network card. Some of these work with wireless cards as well. I’ll assume your wired network card is eth0. ifconfig

Lists your network interfaces and their settings. Add an actual interface to the command, such as eth0, to see settings specific to that card. ifconfig eth0 up|down

Activates or deactivates a specific network interface. dhcpcd eth0

Pulls down DHCP configuration information for your network card. dhcpcd –k eth0

Clears the cached DHCP information and sends a signal to the DHCP server to release the IP address. dhclient eth0

Can be used in place of dhcpcd in some distributions, such as Mandriva, SUSE, and Ubuntu. This specific command requests configuration information and an IP address lease from a DHCP server. dhclient –r eth0

Releases the DHCP information associated with the card.

Wireless Networking

I’ll admit it: when I started this book, I had grand plans of providing configuration information for every form of wireless networking that Linux can support. After several weeks of tinkering and trying configurations on various laptops and distributions, I had to give up. There are just too many variations, and I don’t own enough laptops or wireless networking cards to cover them all.

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