Configure Linux

Posted: February 12, 2008 in Computer Related, Tweaks
Tags: , , ,

Some people are happy with their operating systems as installed. Others like to tinker. Still others—PC Magazine readers, often enough-need to dive under the hood and make those systems run exactly the way they want. Its all about control, and Linux gives you as much control as you can handle. The configuration tools in Ubuntu Linux provide a full range of customization choices. Some are cosmetic, of course, but others dig deep into system settings. As with so much in Linux, the key is finding the settings; once you’re there, configuration is fairly straightforward. For less-than-straightforward settings, stay tuned for future columns!

The Administration Menu
Another set of applets can be found in the Administration menu, also accessible through the main System menu. For example, Network Tools, one of the many applets available here, contains a series of tabs that provide extensive information about your network connection: Traceroute, Ping, Lookup, Finger, and Netstat can provide highly useful details for troubleshooting.

Choosing Services opens the Services settings window, from which you can toggle system services on or off. The System logs give you full details about system behavior, while Shared Folders lets you establish Unix or Windows network support to share directories among different machines. The protocols for these shared folders will need to be installed, but the Shared Folders dialog box automatically gives you the option to do so.

The Preferences Menu
The Preferences submenu of the main System menu (the most direct counterpart to Windows’ Control Panel) contains options for accessibility, desktop background, displayed fonts, keyboard and battery behavior, and much more. Under Font Preferences, for example, you can choose among Monochrome display, Best contrast, Best shape, or Subpixel smoothing (LCDs). Control fonts further by clicking Details and adjusting such options as Hinting, which can help with the display of especially small text.

The Sessions Dialog
Found under Preferences, the Sessions dialog lets you decide which programs run on start-up. As with Windows, the initial group is determined during installation, with others added as you install new software. To add new items, click New and then browse to the “bin” subdirectory of the File System directory. Scroll to the program (often unintuitively named) and double-click it. Set your start-up programs and their behavior-under the Current Session tab you can choose the order of the programs-then save them from the Session Options tab.

Want access to all these settings in one place? Check out the Configuration Editor. Available from the Applications | System Tools menu, this control panel gives you access to an array of interface and system settings. If the Editor isn’t installed, launch the Synaptic Package Manager (System | Administration), click Utilities in the left pane, and scroll to gconf-editor on the right. Check it and click Apply.

To use the Editor, open it, then expand an entry from the left-hand pane, and click an option in the top-right pane. At bottom right you’ll see a short explanation of the option. To modify it, double-click and change the option’s value in the resulting Edit Key dialog box. While this method is quick and powerful, editing a key requires typing a valid value; there’s no selection menu to help you make decisions.


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