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Any operating system, or desktop interface, must have some tools for administering the system. An entire chapter of this book was devoted to administering a Linux machine via the KDE interface. You will find that many of the same system tools are available in GNOME, and in the same place. However, there are a few tools either that come only with GNOME and do not come with KDE or that work with both GNOME and KDE, but that we did not examine in our exploration of KDE-based systems administration. Let’s take a look at a few of these now.
In the preceding chapter we looked at one of KDE’s system monitors. If you will recall, we found a great deal of information with this tool, including the current central processor use, memory use, and more. We also explored how this information could be very useful in diagnosing system problems and determining what if any hardware your system might need upgraded.
GNOME has its own system monitor, called GKrell system monitor. GKrell, shown in Figure 7.12, has its own unique features. To launch GKrell, you go to the Start menu, select System Tools, and choose GKrell System Monitor. Once you have launched it, you can see that it displays current CPU use, memory use, and date and time.
Figure 7.12: GKrell system monitor.
The first thing you probably notice about GKrell that differentiates it from either the KDE System Monitor or the Windows System Information screen is that it is a floating bar. This means that you can position it anywhere on the screen. You can even leave it open when you are working with other applications. This can be a wonderful asset when trying to diagnose what application is consuming the most resources. GKrell is meant to be a running system monitor. That means that it is meant to be left open and running during normal operations. That is why this tool is very popular with system administrators. They can keep an ongoing view of their system’s performance, thus helping to diagnose problem areas.
If you right-click on GKrell, you can then select the Configure option. This brings you to the Configuration screen, shown in Figure 7.13. This screen allows you to configure many aspects of GKrell’s appearance and performance. You can use the options on tab one to determine whether or not to display the hostname, system name, and more. The second tab allows you decide whether GKrell should be included on top of all other windows or not.
Figure 7.13: The GKrell Configuration screen.
As you can see, GKrell provides the same information as the KDE System Monitor did. Its real advantages is that it is very easy to keep up and running on one portion of the screen, allowing you to keep a vigilant watch on system resources. This is often quite popular with system administrators.
There are several interesting utilities that are simple but interesting. A few of these will be examined here. You should be aware that under any of the major groups, such as System Tools or Accessories, there is a plethora of small but useful utilities. It would take a book several thousand pages in length to cover all of them. In this book we will try to touch on the more commonly used utilities, but you should not feel at all shy about exploring and experimenting. Most of these utilities are fairly self explanatory. You are very unlikely to do any harm to your system if you simply read whatever dialog boxes or instructions a utility presents you with.
You already know by now that you can use either GNOME or KDE and that you can have both installed on the same system at the same time. You also know that you can log out of the system and, when you log back in, use the Session settings to change what desktop environment to use. What you don’t know but are about to find out is that there is a quicker way to switch desktops. Under System Tools, you will see something called the Desktop Switcher, shown in Figure 7.14. When you click on this option, you can select any desktop environment installed on your machine and switch to it immediately. This is very convenient for users who like more than one desktop environment.
Figure 7.14: The Desktop Switcher.
7.15: The Floppy formatter.
Consider that Linux gives you multiple desktop environments that you can easily switch back and forth between, as well as multiple desktops within a single environment. This should begin to impress upon you a theme that will be repeated throughout this book. The open source software philosophy is all about choice. You, the computer user, should have a plethora of choices for anything you want to do. Once you have made a choice, the open source licensing model allows you to do just about anything you want with the application you have chosen.
Formatting floppy disks is still a task that needs to be done from time to time. Most floppy disks come preformatted, but there are many reasons why you may want to reformat a disk. You might want to reformat it to change the filesystem it uses, or simply to scan it to check for errors. If you look under System Tools, you will find the Floppy formatter, shown in Figure 7.15.
You should notice two separate areas of this screen. One area lets you determine what filesystem you want to use. The choices are FAT and ext2. ext2 is strictly used with Linux systems. If you format the disk as ext2, then no other operating system will be able to read the disk. If you plan to share the contents of the disk with anyone using Windows, then you should format the disk with FAT.
It is also important to notice that you have three different formatting options. You can select to do a Quick format, which is really just a matter of completely erasing the disk. You also may select the Standard format. Finally, you have the Thorough format. This final option checks for any bad sectors on your disk. If you are concerned about disk errors, use the Thorough format option.
The Desktop Sharing feature, found under Preferences, is truly an amazing utility. Have you ever wanted to show someone, a person not in the room with you, exactly what is on your computer screen? You might be calling a friend and asking him a technical question and want him to see exactly what is going on, or even have him fix the problem for you. You can do this with the Desktop Sharing tool. When you launch the Desktop Sharing tool, shown in Figure 7.16, you can e-mail an invitation to the person you want to log on to your system, or you can simply call him and give the settings the utility tells you to. The items the person will be given are your machine’s IP address, a password, and the expiration date and time.
Figure 7.16: The Desktop Sharing tool.
If you are connected to the Internet and the person you want to log on is connected and using Linux, he can log on to your system and take control of your desktop. The reason for the password is to ensure that only someone you authorize can log on to your system. The expiration date is to ensure that this person does not have indefinite carte blanche to hijack your system at his whim. While this tool can be dangerous because it gives another person control of your computer and should be used with care, it can be an incredible tool. If you are working remotely with someone, the ability for one of you to take control of the other’s desktop and collaborate directly is invaluable.
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