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Learning the Unix Operating System: A Concise Guide for the New User (In a Nutshell) [Paperback]

Jerry Peek , Grace Todino , John Strang
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Product Description


A useful reference for those interested in the Unix operating system... -- Joe Huber, The Book Report, March/April 2002

Its small footprint makes it an ideal desk reference for the learning period. -- Major Keary, Book News, 2002 No 6

From the Publisher

If you're new to Unix, this concise book will tell you just what you need to get started and no more. This fifth edition is the most effective introduction to Unix in print, covering Internet usage for email, file transfers, and web browsing. It's an ideal primer for Mac and PC users who need to know a little about Unix on the systems they visit.

About the Author

is a long time user of the Unix operating system. He has acted as a Unix consultant, courseware developer, and instructor. He is one of the originating authors of Unix Power Tools and the author of Learning the Unix Operating System by O'Reilly.

John Strang now finds himself "a consumer--rather than a producer of Nutshells." He is currently a diagnostic radiologist (MD) at Stanford University. He is married to a pediatrician, Susie, and they have two children, Katie and Alex. John enjoys hiking, bicycling, and dabbling in other sciences. He plans to use his experience as an author at ORA to write his own book on radiology.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 2 - Using Window Systems

Introduction to Windowing
Starting X
Running Programs
Working with a Mouse
Working with Windows
Other Window Manager Features
Unresponsive Windows
Other X Window Programs

All versions of Unix work with alphanumeric terminals that handle a single session in a single screen, such as those described in Chapter 1. On most modern Unix versions, you can also use a window system. A window system is software that lets a single screen handle many sessions at once.[1] Window systems use a mouse or another device (such as a trackball) to move a pointer across the screen. The pointer can be used to select and move parts of the screen, copy and paste text, work with menus of commands, and more. If you've used a Macintosh or Microsoft Windows, among others, you've used a window system. Figure 1-1 shows a typical screen with windows.

[1] If you're using a PC operating system, such as Linux or NetBSD, your system probably also supports virtual consoles.

This chapter introduces the X Window System, which is called X for short, the most common Unix window system. This introduction should also help you use window systems other than X.

Introduction to Windowing
Like Unix, X is very flexible. The appearance of windows, the way menus and icons work, as well as other features, are controlled by a program called the window manager. There are many different window managers; some have many features and "eye candy," while others are simple and have just basic features. A window manager can make your desktop look a lot like a Macintosh or Microsoft Windows system, or it can look completely different. Your system may also have an optional desktop environmentthat provides even more features, such as support for "drag and drop" (for example, printing a file by dragging its icon onto a printer icon). Two popular desktop environments are GNOME and KDE. In this chapter, we show GNOME with the Sawfish window manager, as well as KDE with the kwm window manager. Details of other window managers, including how they make your screen look, are somewhat different -- but this chapter should help you use them, too.

Starting X
There are several ways to start X and its window manager. This section explains a few common ways. Figure 1-2 shows some steps along a few different paths to starting X. (The large "X" on the figures is the mouse pointer, or cursor, that you may see on your screen.) If your screen is like any of the following, refer to the section noted. If none fits your situation, skim through the next three sections or ask another X user for help.

· Figure 1-2A, xdm (or another program, such as gdm or kdm) is running and waiting for you to log in graphically. Start reading at Section A.
· Figure 1-2B has a standard Unix login session; the X Window System is not running. Start reading at Section B.
· Figure 1-2C shows X running, but a window manager probably isn't. (You can tell because the window doesn't have a framearound it: there's no titlebar or border.) Read Section C.
· Figure 1-2D shows the window with a frame (titlebar and border), so X and the window manager (in this example, mwm) are running. You're ready to go! Skip ahead to "Running Programs."

A. Ready to Run X (with a Graphical Login)
Some terminals, like the one whose screen is shown in Figure 1-2A, are ready to use X. Your terminal has probably been set up to use one of the X display managers called xdm, gdm, kdm, or others; these log you in to your account and usually also start the window manager.

When you start, there's a single window in the middle of the screen that has two prompts like "login:" and "password:". The cursor sits to the right of the "login:" line. To log in, type your username (login name) and press RETURN, then do the same for your password. The login window disappears.

If a screen something like Figure 1-1 or Figure 1-2D appears, you're ready to use X. You can skip ahead to "Running Programs."

If you get a screen such as Figure 1-2C (a single window with no title and no border), read Section C. Or, if you get a blank screen, press and release your mouse buttons one by one, slowly, to see if a menu pops up.

B. Starting X from a Standard Unix Session
If your terminal shows something like Figure 1-2B, with a standard Unix "login:" prompt (not in a separate window; the display fills the whole screen, making it look like a terminal), X isn't running. Log in (as " in explains) and get a shell prompt (such as $ or %). Next, you need to start X. Try this command first:
$ startx

If that doesn't seem to work (after waiting a minute or so; X can be slow to start), try the command xinit instead. If all goes well, your screen sprouts at least one window. If the window looks like Figure 1-2C, without a titlebar or border from a window manager, read Section C. Otherwise, your window manager is running, so skip ahead to "Running Programs."

Problem checklist
No windows open. I get the message "Fatal server error: No screens found."

Your terminal may not be able to run X. Try another terminal or ask a local expert.

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