Top Tech Support Questions

Welcome back to my Top Five Tech Support Questions for Linux. Many thanks to everyone who submitted questions for this issue. New inquiries can be sent to stumpmike@linuxcare. com. Whoever has the toughest question -- the stumper -- gets a mug!

Welcome back to my Top Five Tech Support Questions for Linux. Many thanks to
everyone who submitted questions for this issue. New inquiries can be sent to stumpmike@linuxcare.
com. Whoever has the toughest question — the stumper — gets a mug!


I was dismayed to boot
Linux for the first time and be greeted by a full-screen command line. What’s this about Linux
“window managers”?

Window managers are desktop utilities running on top of your X Windows System server. Basically,
they do just what their name implies — manage windows for running applications and console
sessions. They also provide their own menuing, startup functions, and graphical themes. I’ll discuss
one popular window manager — WindowMaker — as an example of what the whole class can do.

There are a few ways you can get WindowMaker. You can install a recent RPM file for your
distribution or visit http://www.windowmaker.org and get the compressed file. If you have never
installed WindowMaker before, you will also need the “libPropList” library. The version of
WindowMaker which comes on installation CDs may not be the most recent so you may want to download
the sources and try your hand at compiling them.

Now, either do anrpm -Uvh for each RPM file or unpack each tarball archive into its own
directory and run theconfigure,make, andmake install scripts. This will
create both a WindowMaker configuration and install the libs that WindowMaker needs. Again, be sure
to build the “libPropList” library first, since WindowMaker looks for this library when it runs.

Next, go to the directory of the user for whom you want to install WindowMaker and
typewmaker.inst. This will create a default WindowMaker directory structure and make it
ready for use. WindowMaker will offer to edit your.xinitrc file and insert a command to
start itself. You can either agree or edit the file yourself by addingexec wmaker as the
very last line. If your distribution includes a line which loads its own default window manager
application, you can comment that line out with a hash mark and addexec wmaker below

Now, simply typestartx and you should see WindowMaker running.

WindowMaker’s configuration tools give you control over your entire windowed environment. The
tools can be found in the upper right corner of the screen under the WindowMaker dock icon. You are
looking for the little dock icon with the red line going through it. This is the overall system
configuration tool.

You can now right click on the desktop to define wallpaper, themes, and to save your new
options. Additionally, you can download themes and “dock applications” — tiny applets which run in
the docker on the right side of your screen. Theme files can be stored either in the system
configuration file area for WindowMaker or in your home directory beneath~/
. Note that if you place themes in your home directory, they will be
unavailable to other users. The stored themes appear as archive files, which you must decompress
before either issuing the commandtouch* in the themes directory or simply restarting


I already have NT Workstation
4.0 installed in its own partition and I would like to add Linux.
Is this possible?

Not only is this possible, it’s easier than it sounds. I’ve done it myself a few times. I’ll
boil down a few pertinent ideas from the mini NT/Linux Howto.

First, I assume that you have NT Workstation installed on a primary NTFS partition as the C
drive, and that NT is booting using the NT boot loader without problems. Note that there is some
misconception about this approach; some say that booting Linux with NT boot loader will not work
with NTFS partitions present on the disk. Au contraire! Dual boot will work quite well with

My second assumption is that you have an available hard disk, or at least a free partition, for
installing Linux. You should be familiar with how Linux identifies your particular hardware. In
Linux, your first IDE hard disk is called/dev/hda, the second is/dev/hdb, etc.
Partitions within each disk are given a number.

Now, just follow the rather detailed directions in the NT + LILO HOWTO
athttp://www.nbs.at/linux/mini/ Linux+NT-Loader-1.html. Be sure you understand all the concepts in
the HOWTO before trying this at home, folks! I am not responsible if you lose the ability to boot
NT, although that may not be entirely a bad thing!


I have seen people switching between consoles and X Windows and launching a
variety of applications, all at one time. This seems rather cool! I would like some tips on using
this interface.

Yes, the X approach is nothing if not cool. After launching an X Window session, you can reach
other consoles by typing a “ctl-alt-F#” combination. If you try this in X by typing “ctl-alt-F2″,
you will see a new console session waiting for login and use. I think it’s quite handy to have
full-screen functionality when the need arises. Keep in mind that you always reach your default X
session at “ctl-alt-F7″.

Another great X feature, implemented by most modern window managers, is the pager utility. The
pager utility provides a variety of virtual desktops that you can use to run programs. Each virtual
desktop occupies a full-screen, making it more convenient to run many applications simultaneously by
reducing desktop clutter. For example, you can start Corel Word- Perfect 8 full-screen in one
desktop, move to a second to start downloading mail, then switch a third containing several xterm


Now that I have Linux all
set up, how do I get my
e-mail delivered to my new, screamin’ power system?

Linux seems to handle Internet e-mail differently from Windows. This general impression is
accurate since Linux (and UNIX) allows you to split e-mail functions into several different pieces,
each handled by a different “agent”. The first such agent is the transport agent, which routes
e-mail around networks. On many Linux distributions this function is handled by a famous Open Source
program calledsendmail. Check out http://www.sendmail.org or do aman sendmail to
see what it does.

Another important function is the retrieval agent, handled by programs likefetchmail.
To me, Eric Raymond’sfetchmail is the unknown champion of Linux e-mail. It will go out and
poll more than one account, retrieve your mail, and even sort it. And if you have a system which
usesprocmail,fetchmail will deliver the mail toprocmail to sort out.

So how does one usefetchmail? One can callfetchmail from the command line with
the commandfetchmail -u username pop. email.account.com. Just substitute your particular username and pop account. You must have a system that resolves itself on the
Internet so ensure that/etc/resolv.conf works and that you can see Web sites by entering
their name.

A last e-mail agent is the filtering agent, as implemented in programs
likeprocmail.Procmail runs in the background with some preparation and sorts,
moves, deletes, or forwards email. I useprocmail to sort out the several e-mail lists I
belong to. Usually,procmail is included on each distribution. To get an idea about its
versatility and power, typeman procmailex at a console or xterm prompt. This man page gives
you a fair indication of its use. Also, navigate to Yahoo! and search onprocmail.

You will find Infinite Ink’sprocmail FAQ there. The FAQ offers comprehensive
information on how to set upprocmail to manage mailing lists. This brief tour of e-mail
agents will get you on the road to e-mail Nirvana. Note that the e-mail reader (client) you choose
may eliminate the need forfetchmail, because some Linux e-mail clients include mail
fetching. These includeXFmail,kmail, andmutt. To add a retrieval agent
tomutt, you must recompile with the “enable POP3″ option.

All of these programs can be found at your favorite Linux megasite like
http://www.xnet.com/~blatura/ linapps.shtml. However, you can easily start with a fine client
included with each distribution: the venerable Pine. Give Pine a try. It has been around for quite
some time so it has a rather rich feature set and a rather unusual interface. Choosing an e-mail
client seems to be a long personal experiment for most people in the Linux world, but you can do
worse than to get started with Pine. Take a look at Pine’s configuration when starting it, though,
to ensure you have the basic information in there correctly. Pine can use either your local system
or a remote SMTP server to send mail. I will leave some experimentation for you since it’s good for
the soul.


What tools can I use to
monitor my system’s memory
and hard disk utilization or see
a system usage display?

Administration and management tools ship with each Linux distribution as bundled components of
the overall toolset. Red Hat, for instance, includes both the control-panel and the
toollinuxconf, which can be used on any system with the required libraries installed.

Xosview is a fine graphical tool for overall management and support.Xosview
continuously monitors system state data like memory, network connections, swapfile usage, etc. The
desktop environments KDE and GNOME include their own graphical tools for monitoring system
operations like printing.

In the classic console tools department you’ll findtop for monitoring overall processes
running at a given time,df for determining the free space on a disk, andps for
process monitoring. Try looking up any of these with your on-board resources likeman top
orman df.

Michael Perry documents tech support issues and spends hours staring at and posting to Linux
newsgroups. He can be reached at stumpmike@linuxcare.com.

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