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FreeBSD Basics

Customizing Your Desktop Environment


One of the most addictive activities a computer geek can engage in is tweaking his desktop settings to reflect his own taste and personality. Most of the Window Managers that run on The X Window System allow you to customize your menu options and wallpaper. Unfortunately, you'll also find that most Window Managers aren't ready to use "as is," since they come with shortcuts to applications that haven't been installed yet and don't necessarily have shortcuts to your favorite applications. And unless you've used a specific Window Manager before, you may spend a lot of time figuring out how to change the defaults. This article will help you get started on the XFCE Window Manager.

Let's assume you've just installed XFCE from either the package or the port and want to check it out. To launch XFCE, you can type:
startx xfce.
Later on, if you decide you like XFCE, you can save yourself future keystrokes by editing the .xinitrc file located in your home directory so that it only contains these lines:
exec xfce.
Now you'll just have to type:
A program named xinit will read the .xinitrc configuration file in your home directory and start XFCE for you.

Once you've launched XFCE, let's start looking around. OK, boring gray zigzag wallpaper, and a menu bar with some icons. If you start clicking on icons, some will execute applications, while others won't seem to do anything. If you click on the arrow above an icon, you'll discover a pop-up menu with shortcuts to other applications; if you click on all eight arrows, you'll end up with eight pop-up menus. It might take a couple of minutes to figure out you have to click the arrow again to close the pop-up menu. If you start clicking on applications in the pop-up menus, usually nothing happens. It's time to start customizing.

Let's start with the arrow on the far left. It has entries to mount and unmount floppies and CD-ROMs; unfortunately, the commands are incorrect for your FreeBSD system.

When you wish to mount CD-ROMs or floppies in Unix, you can shorten the mount command, which forces it to read a configuration file called fstab. We'll need to double-check that this file contains the information that the menu option requires.

Open up an xterm by clicking on the icon that has a monitor with a red check mark in it. You'll notice that you can only type in this xterm if your mouse is hovering somewhere within the white box.

more /etc/fstab

Near the bottom of this file should be two entries like this:

/dev/acd0c   /cdrom    cd9660   ro,noauto   0   0
/dev/fd0     /floppy   msdos    rw,noauto   0   0

If there isn't, as root, use your favorite text editor to add them; remember to carefully double-check your changes before saving them.

We'll also need to double-check that we've created empty directories to use as mount points for the floppy and the CD-ROM. Try this:
cd /

Check that you have directories called cdrom and floppy. If not:

mkdir cdrom
mkdir floppy

When you are finished, type exit to close the xterm.

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