Linux Administration for Nerds

Copyright 2018 Brian Davis - CC-BY-NC-SA


KDE is very windows like and very customizable. There is alot we can do to limit the visible options while it still feeling familiar.

To get root access to settings

kdesudo systemsettings

System Tray

Right click on the system tray (up arrow) and choose "system tray settings". Uncheck any items you don't need (battery, etc).

Right click on activity manager (three horizontal colored dots) and remove.

Remove application launcher, and Konqueror.

remove nepomuk, disable desktop search


right click on desktop and choose desktop settings. Change to folder view. Set location to /home/USER/Desktop (create if necessary).

remove the cashew:

cd /usr/share/kde4/services
sudo rm plasma-toolbox*

Add Launchers

Start the application, right click on app in task bar and choose show launcher when not running.


If GDM: System Settings->Login Screen->Convenience Tab->Auto login

Debian 7 Virtual Console

cp /lib/systemd/system/getty@.service \
ln -s /etc/systemd/system/autologin@.service \

Then edit ExecStart, Restart values, like this

ExecStart=-/sbin/mingetty --autologin USERNAME %I

Debian 6 Virtual Console

vim /etc/inittab


1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty1


1:2345:respawn:/bin/login -f USERNAME tty1 </dev/tty1 >/dev/tty1 2>&1

in .bash_profile

if [ -z "$DISPLAY" ] && [ $(tty) = /dev/tty1 ]; then
    while true
        sleep 10

Tiling WM (i3)

Windows and KDE offer what is called a compositing window manager. They allow the familiar metaphor of pages on a desktop that overlap while adding features for resizing. Tiling of the windows is sometimes supported but generally not very convenient and to really position your windows require use of the mouse.

Tiling window managers instead try to maximize window size in a simple grid pattern and tend to give you robust keyboard control. There are a variety of window managers of both types to choose from. I have settled on i3 as a tiling manager. I use it for my day to day work in Linux. If I could get similar features under Windows easily, I would use them in a heartbeat.

To install i3 on Debian/Ubuntu just run: aptitude install i3

On CentOS... good luck.

Once installed it should be automatically added to your display manager as a possible session. KDM gives you a cute little drop down to select which window manager to start and will remember what you chose last.

You configure i3 through it's simple text file usually stored in ~/.i3/config.
There are a few lines that I normally tweak.:: font pango:Monospace 10 The above line is useful for changing the text size and font of window titles and for i3 bar. I will also add a line for setting my wallpaper.:: exec --no-startup-id feh --bg-scale /home/brian/confs/mtn_light1.png

Except I will usually put the feh command into a shell script called setwallpaper, so the line looks like:: exec --no-startup-id /home/brian/bin/setwallpaper

That way it's easy to rerun if I want to change it.

The config is pretty easy to read to learn the hotkeys but here are a few useful ones:

Display Managers

Linux is starting to sound like a giant Fortune 500 company with managers coming out our ears! We've got window managers, boot managers, volume managers, and now display managers. A display manager is a piece of software that starts up your graphical display, usually handles graphical user logins, and then starts your chosen graphical environment. KDE won't start up until you have logged into KDM (KDE display manager) for example. But like so many things with Linux you have a wide array of choices when it comes to display managers.

Slim is a nice simple display manger. Gnome comes with GDM. You can also forgo the dislpay manager altogether. See the Autologin section above for ways to skip the display manager and go straight to the desktop environment.