Welcome to the world of GNU/Linux, liberating the computing desktop
from the shackles of proprietary interests.
The aim of this book is to get you up to speed with GNU/Linux and to
deliver a fun and productive environment. It guides you through the
many different regions of a GNU/Linux system with a focus on getting
your desktop environment to do what you want it to do. It is
comprehensive with basic support for the user who installs and
maintains the system themselves (whether in the home, office, club, or
school). It provides insights and step-by-step procedures that deal
with specific tasks in setting your system up and maintaining it. The
book covers many of the core features of a GNU/Linux system and you
will gain the knowledge to enjoy and use one of the most comprehensive
and useful developments in the history of computing.
The details in this book are presented in the context of
Debian GNU/Linux--the most open of the GNU/Linux
distributions and the distribution setting the standards for free
(as in liberty) software and collaborative developments. In general
the details translate directly to Red Hat and other standard
distributions of GNU/Linux. A growing number of the applications
(including OpenOffice, AbiWord, The Gimp, Dia and gPhoto, to name just
a few) are cross-platform developments and run also under MS/Windows.
The chapters that cover these applications in this book will also
generally apply to those versions.
The structure of this on-line version of the book is basically
alphabetical. Each individual chapter aims to be a standalone
reference. The book includes an overview of GNU/Linux and its
history, a guide to installing GNU/Linux, introductions to the suite
of GNU/Linux desktop productivity tools, and recipes for tuning
specific parts of a GNU/Linux system.
The book begins with an introduction to the world of GNU/Linux,
Free/Libre Open Source Software (as in liberty or
free speech, not price or free beer), and the Free and Open
Source Software movement. Software covers computer applications that
equal, and often surpass, the commercial offerings of the same or
equivalent functionality. However, the freedom we are talking about
here is more the freedom to choose between the offerings, not
necessarily the lack of a purchase fee for the software.
In this book we present historical and philosophical perspectives.
Chapter 3 briefly reviews GNU/Linux, the various
distributions, the licensing issues, and the freedom that GNU/Linux
delivers, and the considerable attack on our freedom represented by
software patents and the incredible invested interests and wealth
behind the push for software patents.
There are many ways of obtaining GNU/Linux and we only cover the most
common approaches. Chapter 4 provides an overview of
installing Debian with detailed examples for a number of hardware
platforms. Chapter 5 is a brief introduction to some
of the essential GNU/Linux utilities that you are likely to come
across soon. The Debian packaging system used to manage (and take all
of the hard work out of maintaining) packages is described in
Chapter 3.5. Setting up the X Window System is covered
in Chapter 99. By this stage you will have a system ready
to take full advantage of. On a more technical level
Chapter 50 shows how simple it is to compile your own
kernel to suit your hardware requirements.
The remaining alphabetical chapters cover the Desktop Environment and
Debian GNU/Linux administration.
All of the major classes of desktop tools are covered, including word
processing, spreadsheets, personal information management, graphics,
databases and, of course, games. Also included are chapters covering
some of the tools for developers, including emacs and glade. The aim
is to set you well on the road to using these tools at a level that is
sufficient for many users. Of course, each tool itself deserves, and
often has available for it, a book or extensive manuals.
The administration chapters cover very many different topics that let
you tune your GNU/Linux system to suit your needs. Not everything here
is relevant to everybody, but it brings together many recipes for many
of the typical tasks that users sometimes need to know about, again
without going into exhaustive detail (which is available elsewhere if
you need it or are interested).
So sit back and cherish the liberty of free software and become part
of the community that is making computers and the applications they
run a benefit to society world wide, rather than a costly privilege.
Conventions Used Throughout The Book
Screen shots from the Firefox web browser are based on Firefox at
What's In A Name
The phrase Microsoft Windows (and less informatively just
Windows) usually refers to the whole of the popular operating
systems, irrespective of which version of Microsoft Windows is being
run, unless the version is important. But Microsoft Windows is just
one of many windowing systems available, and indeed, Microsoft Windows
came on to the screen rather later than the pioneering Apple Macintosh
windowing system and the Unix windowing systems. We will simply refer
to all varieties of Microsoft's windowing systems (Windows
95/98/NT/2000/XP) as MS/Windows. If the particular version is
important it will be referred to as MS/Windows/XP, for
We use the phrase GNU/Linux to refer to the GNU environment
and the GNU and other applications running in that environment on top
of the Linux operating system kernel. Similarly, GNU/Hurd
refers to the GNU environment and the GNU and other applications
running in that environment on top of the GNU Hurd operating system
Debian is a complete distribution which includes many
applications based around a particular choice of operating system
kernel (usually either GNU/Linux or GNU/Hurd). Where the particular
kernel is not important we will refer to whole system as Debian.
The common windowing system used in Debian is a separate, but
integral, component that we will refer to as the X Window
Through out the document screen shots are presented using a variety of
Gnome and KDE themes. The theme specifies what things look like inside
the windows that an application displays, and now also tend to
specify what the window frame looks like--that is, the area
immediately surrounding the application's window. There is an endless
variety of themes to suit your own preferences. Some favourites
include the E-efm-GTK+ Gnome theme and the QN-X11
and Crux window themes. Refer to the discussion of themes
in Chapter 94 for details, if interested.
About This Book
The book is copyright by the author
Please feel free to contribute to the book in any way, by sending
corrections, comments, updates, suggestions, or even whole new
chapters, to me at
The following web pages provide links into this book:
Lastly, but by no means least, there are many people to thank.
Many Debian and GNU/Linux folk have contributed directly and
indirectly to this book, with snippets from email messages and
discussion group postings and directly to me.
Also, financial support for maintenance of the book is always welcome.
Financial support is used to contribute toward the costs of running
the web pages and the desktop machine used to make this book
available. I acknowledge the financial support of many readers.
The following have contributed to the content of the book in one way
or another: Damien McAullay started that Chapter on Oracle 10g and
others provided suggestions, including Roy Bixler, Mark Bucciarelli,
Eduardo Diaz Comellas, Giuseppe Sacco, Oliver Bankel, Daniel
Hofstetter, Gopal Mukkamala, and Hans Schou. Damien McAullay provided
the initial information on the iPod. John Maindonald helped with
understanding R and providing some of the R insights here. Rohinton
Kazak fixed many typos. Vincent McIntyre provided information on the
installation of the machine I've called Vince (101.15). Raj Nair,
Marcelo E. Magallon, Lanny Godsey, Roberto Sanchez, Damien McAullay,
Christian Kaske, Yoshiro Mihira, Jason Burrell, Bob Bownes, Peter
Lamb, Dirk Eddelbuettel, Dean Jackson, Karsten Self, Shaul Karl, Ethan
Benson, John Flinchbaugh, Nathan Norman, Noah L. Meyerhans, Manoj
Srivastava, Colin Watson, and many others have provided insights and
comments that have been incorporated somewhere in the book. Thanks.
Contributions from the following are acknowledged:
Jose de Jesus Rodriguez Limon,
Dr Stephen Riley,
Jim B Belcher,
Osman Kemal Kadiroglu,
Tobias Bo Hansen,
M D Dawson,
Kelleys Computer Services,
Robert W Harrington,
William Oldham, Asad Hewlett, John Budke, Colin Wantling, Peter
Wyckoff, Dimitri Moonen, Charles Catlett, Farimah Fleschute, James
Prince Serna, Patrick Frejborg, Arthur E Travis Jr, Konstantinos
Papamiltiadis, Prasanna Kumar, Dunham Williams, Marian Radulescu, R
Monz, Haukur Matthiasson, Peter Westlake, Paul Vannitsem, Dagur
Gunnarsson, Mike Kranidis, College of Engineering at Montana State
University, Ernest J Visser, Matthew Reynolds, Jerry Novetsky,
Mariano S. Tanenglian, Jr., Robert Milam, and Robert Weggler.
Copyright © 1995-2006 [email protected]