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The GNOME Configuration HOWTO


1. What is GNOME?

The Project 

The GNOME project is a free software project dedicated to the development of GNOME, a Unix/Linux desktop suite and development platform. The GNOME Foundation coordinates the development and other aspects of the GNOME Project.

The Software 

GNOME is a desktop environment and a development platform. This piece of free software is the desktop of choice for several industry leaders. It is interesting both for business users, home users as well as developers.

The Community 

Like with any big free software project, GNOME has an extensive user- and development base. Footnotes contains GNOME Desktop news for users; GnomePlanet is for hackers/contributors and Developer.Gnome.Org is for the GNOME developers.

2. Installing GNOME

What do you need? 

Before you start installing GNOME, you might want to edit your USE variables. Make sure that gtk and gnome are in your USE variable listed in /etc/make.conf. If you don't want KDE support (the other big desktop environment), remove qt and kde.

Code Listing 2.1: Example USE in /etc/make.conf

USE="-qt -kde gtk gnome"

Once done, start installing GNOME by emerging gnome and xscreensaver:

Code Listing 2.2: Installing GNOME

# emerge gnome xscreensaver

This will take a while, so you might want to start reading all those books your mother bought you but you never opened. Done? Great, now update your environment variables:

Code Listing 2.3: Updating environment variables

# env-update && source /etc/profile

If you paid attention to the output of your previous emerge command, you'll notice that it suggests adding famd to the default runlevel to have nautilus and gnome-vfs monitor file changes:

Code Listing 2.4: Adding famd to the default runlevel

# /etc/init.d/famd start
# rc-update add famd default

First Impressions 

Let us first take a look at what we just built. Exit your root shell and log on as a regular user. We will configure our session to run GNOME when we issue the startx command:

Code Listing 2.5: Having GNOME as default desktop environment

$ echo "exec gnome-session" > ~/.xinitrc

Now start your graphical environment by running startx:

Code Listing 2.6: Starting GNOME

$ startx

If all goes well, you should be greeted by GNOME. Congratulations. Now let us take a look at how you can configure GNOME to suit your needs.

3. Configuring GNOME

GNOME's Graphical Login Manager 

If you want the GNOME Display Manager (GDM) to run automatically when you boot (so you can log on graphically), you must add the xdm init script to the default runlevel:

Code Listing 3.1: Adding xdm to the default runlevel

# rc-update add xdm default

Now check the contents of the /etc/X11/Sessions:

Code Listing 3.2: Checking the contents of /etc/X11/Sessions

# ls /etc/X11/Sessions
Xsession Gnome

As you can see, there is a session called gnome available. Now edit /etc/rc.conf and alter two variables: DISPLAYMANAGER (which should be set to gdm) and XSESSION (which should be set to Gnome):

Code Listing 3.3: Editing /etc/rc.conf


If you reboot now, the GNOME Display Manager will prompt you for your username and password and will default to using GNOME as Desktop Environment (even though you will have the option of selecting a different one of course).

The contents of this document are licensed under the Creative Commons - Attribution / Share Alike license.
Updated May 12, 2004
Sven Vermeulen

Summary:  A frequently used environment is GNOME. This HOWTO tries to describe all aspects of GNOME, including installation, configuration, usage, ...
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