Certification Objective 4.02: The Basic User Environment

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Each user on your Red Hat Enterprise Linux system has an environment when logged on to the system. The environment defines directories where Linux looks for programs to run, the look of the login prompt, the terminal type, and more. This section explains how you can configure the default environment for your users.

Home Directories and /etc/skel

By default, when you create a new user in RHEL 3, they get a default set of configuration files in their home directories. These defaults are hidden files stored in the /etc/skel directory.

Home Directories

The home directory is where users start when they first log on to a RHEL system. The home directory for most users is /home/username, where username is the user's login name. Users should normally have write permission in their own home directory, so they're free to read and write their own files. In Chapter 5, you'll learn how to configure disk quotas, so users don't take more than their fair share of disk space.


The /etc/skel directory contains default environment files for new accounts. The useradd command and the Red Hat User Manager copy these files to the home directory when you create a new account. The contents of /etc/skel may vary depending on what you have installed. Standard files from my RHEL 3 /etc/skel are described in Table 4-5.

Table 4-5: Default Home Directory Files from /etc/skel




The basic bash configuration file. May include a reference to the general /etc/bashrc configuration file. Can include commands you want to run when you start the bash shell, appropriate for aliases such as rm=‘rm -i'.


A file executed when you exit a bash shell. Can include commands appropriate for this purpose, such as clearing your screen.


Configures the bash startup environment. Appropriate place to add environment variables or modify the directories in your PATH.


Several directories that include startup settings for the GNOME desktop environment.
For example, details of desktop icons such as Trash are stored in .gnome-desktop/Trash.


Adds the Bluecurve theme for the default Red Hat GUI.


A directory that includes autostart settings for the K Desktop Environment. Not copied
to user home directories if you haven't installed KDE on this computer.

If you've installed more than the default software on RHEL, you may see additional configuration files in the /etc/skel directory. For example, if you've installed the appropriate RPMs, you may see configuration files associated with emacs and the z shell (zsh) in this directory.

On The Job 

Linux includes many hidden files, which start with a dot (.). To list these files, run the ls -a command. For example, if you wanted to list the files in the /etc/skel directory, run the ls -a /etc/skel command.

As the system administrator, you can edit these files or place your own customized files in /etc/skel. When new users are created, these files are propagated to the new users' home directories.

On The Job 

Adding files to /etc/skel may be a convenient way to distribute files such as corporate policies to new users.

Window Manager Configuration File Locations

RHEL 3 comes with several window managers. At some point, you will want to configure one or more of them for use on your system. Most window manager configuration files are stored in the /etc/X11/windowmanager directory, where windowmanager is the name of the specific window manager. This includes window managers such as twm (Tom's Window Manager), xdm (X Display Manager), and gdm (GNOME Display Manager). The exception is KDE, where the default window manager configuration files are stored in the /etc/kde/kdm directory.

On The Job 

Red Hat Linux 9 stores default KDE window manager configuration files in the /etc/skel/.kde directory.

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RCHE Red Hat Certified Engineer Linux Study Guide[c] Exam (Rh302)
RCHE Red Hat Certified Engineer Linux Study Guide[c] Exam (Rh302)
ISBN: 71765654
Year: 2003
Pages: 194

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