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Linux Desktop Hacks
By Nicholas Petreley, Jono Bacon
March 2005
More Info

How do these hacks stand up? Comment on a hack from the book by choosing the associated "Discuss" link below. You can also view the code from any of the hacks by clicking on the "Listing" or "Code" links. A number of hacks have been selected to be featured online in their entirety; you may view those hacks by clicking on the hack titles that are linked.

Jump to: Booting Linux  | Console  | Login Managers  | Related to X  | KDE Desktop  | GNOME Desktop Hacks  | Terminal Empowerment  | Desktop Programs  | Administration and Automation  | Kernel  | Hardware

Booting Linux

HACK
#1

Give Your Computer the Boot

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#2

Kill and Resurrect the Master Boot Record
How to (carefully) back up and restore the Master Boot Record (MBR)
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#3

Bypass the Boot Manager
Save your system from a broken or missing kernel
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#4

Set a Bitmap Boot Screen for LILO
You can have a splash screen for just about everything these days, including your bootloader
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#5

Create Your Own LILO Boot Splash
Create or modify any picture for use as a LILO boot splash background
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#6

Display a GRUB Boot Splash Background
Add a graphical background to your GRUB bootloader
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#7

Create a GRUB Boot Splash Background
Create your own personalized boot splash backgrounds for GRUB
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#8

Jazz Up Your Debian System Boot
Boot Debian with an optional graphics screen and progress bar, and spiff up your text consoles by running them in graphics mode
[Discuss (2) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#9

Graphics on the Console

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Console

HACK
#10

Redefine Keyboard Actions

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#11

Energize Your Console with Macro Music Magic
Redefine keys to issue commands at the command line
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#12

Take a Screenshot from the Command Line
Who needs a graphical tool to grab a screenshot? The command line has everything you need
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#13

Put Your Command Prompt on a Diet
Change your bash prompt to show extra information without cluttering the area around your command prompt
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#14

Simplify Changing Directories
This hack makes it ridiculously easy to jump right to your favorite directories from the command line
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#15

Colorize Files in Your Pager

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Login Managers

HACK
#16

Switch Users Fast

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#17

Double Your KDM (KDE) Login Screens
Set up the graphical login manager KDM to run on two different screens when you boot the computer
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#18

Double Your GDM (GNOME) Login Screens
Set up the graphical login manager GDM to run on two different screens when you boot the computer
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#19

Get Multiple Desktops the Macho Way
Power users don't need no stinkin' graphical login managers, so here's the command-line way
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#20

Scrap X11 for Fancy Login Consoles
Qingy is an attractive replacement for X Windows-based graphical login managers such as XDM, GDM, and KDM
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#21

Personalize Your Qingy Theme

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Related to X

HACK
#22

Take Your Screens Black

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#23

Spice Up Your Desktop with Creative Mouse Cursors
Replace the boring default mouse pointer, resize cursor, wait cursor, and the rest with colorful custom animated cursors
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#24

Convert CursorXP Themes for Use with Linux
Convert custom cursor themes meant for Windows for use with Linux
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#25

Use Windows and Mac Fonts
Spruce up your desktop with your favorite fonts from other operating systems
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#26

Never Miss Another Reminder
Flash your reminders on your desktop on top of any applications you are running
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#27

Make Applications Trigger On-Screen Alerts
Many applications can run a program when an event occurs. Use XOSD to make these alerts really grab your attention
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#28

Heat Up Your Keyboard with Hotkeys
Activate those special Internet and multimedia keys on your keyboard
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#29

Get Hotter Hotkeys with LinEAK
LinEAK turbo charges the whole concept of customizing how your Internet/multimedia keyboard works
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#30

Access Windows and Mac OS X from Linux
No need to move to another computer; just sit put and access them all
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#31

Run Your Desktop over the Internet
You can access your desktop system and run graphics applications from remote systems at close to full speed, even over dial-up connections
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#32

Access Your Programs Remotely
The full power of your desktop and its applications never need to be more than a network connection away
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#33

Add Depth to Your Desktop
Drop shadows add a dimension of depth to every window and pop up on your desktop. The 3D effect is truly mesmerizing
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#34

Give Your Desktop X-Ray Vision

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

KDE Desktop

HACK
#35

Make Konqueror a Window into Remote Spaces
Use the KDE Konqueror file manager to access remote files as easily as local ones
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#36

Konquer Remote Systems Without Passwords
Use some of Konqueror's powerful protocol connections without being bothered by password requests
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#37

Ai Karamba! Flashy KDE Gadgets!
Spiff up your KDE desktop with various information panels and interactive gadgets
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#38

Start Applications in Weird and Wonderful Ways
Start your applications in customized ways to make your programs run exactly how you want them to
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#39

Script Hacks with DCOP
Use the KDE scripting tool of choice to tweak your desktop for maximum flexibility
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#40

Create Your Own KDE Right-Click Menu Actions
Create custom menu actions for when you right-click a file, directory, or group of files and/or directories
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#41

Make KDE Even Easier to Use
Beautify and enhance the usability of KDE by patching it with experiment code
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#42

Give Depth to Your KDE Windows
Create a 3D effect with drop shadows for all open KDE Windows
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#43

Lock Down KDE with Kiosk Mode
Control exactly what your users can tinker with, and what they can't change at all
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#44

Run KDE on the Bleeding Edge

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

GNOME Desktop Hacks

HACK
#45

Randomize Your GNOME Wallpaper

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#46

Grow Your GNOME with gDesklets Steroids
Spiff up your GNOME desktop with various information panels and interactive gadgets
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#47

Create Your Own GNOME Right-Click Actions
Create custom menu actions in the Nautilus file manager
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#48

Compile a Bleeding-Edge GNOME Desktop

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Terminal Empowerment

HACK
#49

Share Applications and Monitors with screen

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#50

Stop Using Terminal Command-Line Switches
Power users switch window managers almost as often as "Alias" character Sydney Bristow changes hairstyles. Here's a way to deal with the fact that each window manager starts up X terminals differently
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#51

Ultimate Terminal Transparency
You want a lightweight terminal, but you want it to look cool
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#52

View Microsoft Word Documents in a Terminal
Avoid the load time of OpenOffice.org and view Microsoft Word documents in a terminal
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#53

Display PDF Documents in a Terminal
You can view PDF documents in a terminal or console; no graphical desktop is required
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#54

View Word and PDF Files from Within Mutt

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Desktop Programs

HACK
#55

Reduce OpenOffice.org Startup Time
seems
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#56

Read Yahoo! Mail from Any Email Client
Use your Yahoo! webmail account in a normal email client
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#57

Encrypt Your Email
Because you have a right to privacy
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#58

Reclaim Your Email with procmail
Manage your email automatically without depending on your email client
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#59

Convert Your Mailbox
Don't let your old email become stranded in a format that your new mail program can't read
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#60

Configure Firefox Under the Covers
To keep the Firefox GUI preferences simple, some of the more interesting but less common options were moved under the covers by the developers
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#61

Eliminate Annoying Browser Stalls
Here's a method to short-circuit the part of the web page that is stalling your browser
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#62

Get Browser Plug-ins Working
Liven up the Web with a plug-in or two
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#63

Create an Internet Phone
Talk to the world and save money while doing so
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#64

Motion Capture and Video Conferencing Fun
Keep an eye on the world with your webcam
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#65

Put Screenshots Automatically on the Web
Show off to the world what you're up to
The Code
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#66

Scan for Wireless Networks
Detect which networks are available in your area
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#67

Map Your Meatspace
A bird's-eye view of the world on your Linux desktop
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#68

Connect to a Microsoft PPTP VPN

[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#69

Play Restricted Media Formats
For licensing reasons, not all distributions come preconfigured to play several popular media formats
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Administration and Automation

HACK
#70

Automate Your Life with cron

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#71

Update Your Clock via the Internet
Staying in time is easier when you let someone else set your clocks
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#72

Start Desktop Applications Automatically
Start tools, utilities, and applications automatically as soon as you start your favorite desktop or window manager
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#73

Don't Let Elvis Leave the Building
Keep a program running in the background by automatically restarting it whenever it exits
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#74

Clone Your Linux Install
Deploy a single installation of Linux across many computers
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#75

Forward Ports over SSH
Keep network traffic to arbitrary ports secure with SSH port forwarding
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#76

Take Control of New User Setups
Customize how each new user account is configured by default
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#77

Send Email Alerts for System Events
Track log entries and send an email to yourself when something looks suspicious
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#78

Create a Passwordless Login
Forget about those passwords and make administering a remote server easier
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#79

Magically Empower Your Network Cable
Configure your Ethernet devices simply by plugging in or unplugging the cable
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#80

Protect Yourself from Windows Applications
Minimize the risk of viral infection in Windows emulators and Windows documents
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#81

Build a Custom Firewall Computer
Turn an old, underpowered computer into a lean, mean, firewall machine
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#82

Link Monitoring in Linux with Wavemon
Monitor radio parameters in real time using Wavemon, a curses-based tool for Linux
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#83

Make Network Backups

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#84

Recover from Debian Disaster
Restore your Debian system from even the most seemingly unrecoverable disaster
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#85

Prelink for Performance
Increase your application's performance by up to 50%
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#86

Grab the Latest Source Code

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#87

Speed Up Compiles
distccDistccdistccdistcc
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Kernel

HACK
#88

Compile a Kernel

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#89

Upgrade Your Kernel to 2.6
Hot rod your computer with a new kernel
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#90

Use CKO to Make Your Desktop Go to 11
Make your desktop quick and responsive, without making your music player skip, or your videos drop frames
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#91

Tweak Your Kernel Without Recompiling

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

Hardware

HACK
#92

Make an Internet Connection Using Bluetooth and a Mobile Phone

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#93

Perfect USB Devices with Project Utopia
Kick your desktop into the Plug and Play world with your USB devices
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#94

Optimize Your Refresh Rates
Reduce eyestrain by fine-tuning your monitor's refresh rates
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#95

Print to Unsupported Printers
Use a Windows machine as a print server, when you can't print from Linux
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#96

Control Your Power with ACPI
Extend the life of your laptop battery by limiting your computer's appetite for power
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#97

Use an iPod with Linux
You don't need a Windows PC or Mac to use an iPod
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#98

Sync Your iRiver with Linux
Use Linux to copy your songs and create the iRiver database
[Discuss (1) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#99

Boost Hard-Drive Performance
Get the best possible performance from your IDE hardware
[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]

HACK
#100

Accelerate Your Gaming

[Discuss (0) | Link to this hack]


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