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How This Book Is Organized

The book is divided into several chapters, organized by subject. The first chapters are organized in roughly the same order a user will experience the topics when starting a Linux computer: booting, a console, a login manager, X11, and a desktop environment. Depending on your personal approach to using Linux, you might want to skip a chapter or two. For example, if you never use a text console to do work, you can bypass Chapter 2 without losing momentum on enhancing and personalizing your system. On the other hand, you might miss out on some handy techniques by skipping a chapter that does not appear to appeal to your work style at first glance, so it won't hurt to check out every hack and tip at some time or another.

Starting with Chapter 9, you will learn how to perform some automation and administration tasks that can help you with hacks you learned in other chapters. In addition, some hacks require you to know how to get deep into the innards of Linux. In some cases, the complex information you need to use a hack appears in the chapter itself. Chapter 10, however, is dedicated to helping you learn how to customize and compile the Linux kernel, which will be useful for hacks that appear in previous chapters if you are not already adept at replacing or customizing your Linux kernel.

Whichever way you choose to use this book, you probably will want to familiarize yourself with the contents first, so here's a brief synopsis of each chapter and what you'll find.

Chapter 1, Booting Linux

You have to boot Linux before you can use it. So, why not spiff up the process? This chapter shows you how to add a custom graphical background to your boot manager and even how to design your own. It also shows you how to add a boot splash and progress bar to Debian, one of the only popular Linux distributions left that doesn't automatically provide this capability. This chapter also shows you some tricks for creating graphics consoles, and various ways to boot Linux, including how to bypass the boot manager.

Chapter 2, Console

Contrary to popular belief, the text console is not dead, especially if you learn from Chapter 1 how to turn your text consoles into graphical wonders. This chapter shows you how to customize your keyboard to use those special Internet or multimedia keys to play CDs, start up programs, or automate virtually anything you can imagine. Combine what you learn here with some hacks from Chapter 7, and you can learn how to use the console or even your text-based email client to view Microsoft Word or PDF file attachments, while maintaining some of the original formatting. As you'll see, text consoles put an amazing amount of power at your fingertips.

Chapter 3, Login Managers

Did you know you do not have to close your applications and log out for someone else to log in, start up their favorite graphical desktop, and use the same machine? You can set up Linux to let you switch between simultaneously running desktop sessions started by different users in several ways. This chapter explores both the easy and more challenging ways to accomplish this feat. You can create multiple KDE or GNOME login screens, or be a macho hacker and start multiple sessions from the command line. You can even ditch X11 login screens altogether and run several sessions using Qingy, a fully customizable graphical login manager that runs on a console.

Chapter 4, Related to X

If variety is the spice of life, this chapter will thrill your taste buds more than any other. You will learn how to set up custom-animated mouse cursors, how to add depth to your desktop with window drop shadows, and how to make windows partially transparent. You'll also learn how to create reminders or have your applications display on-screen alerts you can't possibly miss. You will learn how to access other desktops from your computer, including Mac OS X desktops, and you'll find out how to use those Internet and multimedia keys on your special keyboard, plus a whole lot more.

Chapter 5, KDE Desktop

In this chapter, you'll explore KDE features you never knew existed. For instance, add custom menu options that are smart enough to appear only when you select a file where the options will be useful. Use Konqueror to manipulate files on other desktops almost as if they were local files. Patch KDE to make the Konqueror sidebar easier to use, and make the process of selecting files more attractive. Add drop shadows to your KDE windows. Use superkaramba to turn your KDE desktop into a personalized desktop that hardly resembles KDE. This chapter explains all of this, plus how to use DCOP to automate the way KDE applications behave, and much, much more.

Chapter 6, GNOME Desktop Hacks

Want to customize GNOME Nautilus menus to give you many more options for what to do with selected directories and files? How about using gDesklets to add clocks, weather monitors, hardware monitors, and other features that really spiff up the desktop? This chapter will teach you how to accomplish these tasks. And, if you like a challenge, you will also learn how to run the latest GNOME development code.

Chapter 7, Terminal Empowerment

Not everyone uses KDE or GNOME. Many hard-core geeks who prefer lightweight window managers are also likely to prefer lightweight terminal programs. If you're one such user, this chapter contains some tips on how to make your life easier. Set up your terminals to look and behave the same way, no matter which window manager you're using. Add a little transparency without having to use the bloated terminals from KDE or GNOME. And while you're at it, learn how to view Microsoft Word and PDF documents inside terminals or even within the body of messages in email clients such as Mutt.

Chapter 8, Desktop Programs

Beyond the desktop environment you run are the applications you choose to run on it. This chapter covers a diverse range of programs that help improve your desktop experience. You will learn how to start faster. Several hacks also enable you to take better control of your email and web browser. The last few hacks deal with networking, and teach you how to scan wireless networks, plot your location or next trip with GPS, and connect to a Microsoft VPN.

Chapter 9, Administration and Automation

If you're a Debian user, this is a must-read chapter, because it is one of the few places you'll find a way to restore a Debian system after you have accidentally deleted the package database. Learn how to make your system configure and deconfigure network connections simply by connecting or disconnecting the network cable. This chapter also includes a hack that gives CodeWeavers' CrossOver Office and/or Wine users a relatively safe way to view untrusted Microsoft Word documents that arrive in email as attachments. You will also learn some basics, such as how to keep your computer clock synchronized, how to speed up the loading of C++ programs (namely, almost all of KDE and KDE applications), and how to back up or clone information from one machine to another. In addition, this chapter shows you a trick that restarts a background application every time it accidentally (or intentionally) dies, and it does it with a simple script instead of using complicated daemon tools.

Chapter 10, Kernel

This chapter discusses Linux, the kernel. Here you will learn how to compile your own kernel and how to upgrade your system from the 2.4 kernel series to 2.6. It also covers one alternative kernel branch that offers improved desktop performance, and ways to tweak your system performance without modifying the kernel.

Chapter 11, Hardware

Your computer isn't much use if you can't configure the hardware attached to it. This chapter covers how to set up various pieces of hardware, such as 3D video cards, USB devices, and Bluetooth devices. In addition, it teaches you how to optimize your display refresh rates, print to printers when you don't have a driver, and control the power features of your laptop. This chapter wraps up with information on using the two most popular portable music players, the iPod and the iRiver, under Linux.

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