Sane-itizing the RHEL 6 Desktop

Sane-itizing, as in making more sane. Right out of the box there as so many things that drive me nuts about the new RHEL 6 (a/k/a Fedora 12) desktop. Here are some tweaks I’ve done to make things right.

My main peeve is yet another attempt to banish the terminal icon from the context menu (in Fedora 15 they abolish the context menu — ugh! What is it with those user interface guys, anyway? This is freaking Unix, not Windows!). Another is that even with the latest proprietary nvidia drivers, my Firefox window smears badly when some other item is dragged over it. Obviously there was a battle between form and function here, and it looks like form won.

Fixing the context menu required installation of the nautilus-open-terminal package and some tweaking of gnome.

The gnome config was actually pretty easy.

Here’s the command line version (if you prefer doing this with a gui just follow the path given in gconf-editor):

Make terminal open in the root of the user’s home directory

gconftool-2 --set --type=bool /apps/nautilus-open-terminal/desktop_opens_home_dir true

(in gconf-editor you’d just check the appropriate box)

Reveal the terminal icon next to “Open in Terminal”

gconftool-2 --set --type=bool /desktop/gnome/interface/menus_have_icons true

Understand that these changes will only apply to the user they’re run as, and not any other users on the system.

The juvenile and not-very-secure listing of all user account in the login dialogue was a really bad idea when it first appeared many years ago, and it still is — especially for an enterprise workstation or server. Here’s how to correct that and return to the traditional login:

Do away with the user account list at login

sudo -u gdm gconftool-2 --set --type=bool /apps/gdm/simple-greeter/disable_user_list true

This command needs to be executed as gdm for it to work, thus the “sudo”.

Changing the login screen background

I recently changed over to Scientific Linux 6 on my personal workstation at home. Although I like a lot of things about the distribution, I’m not t a fan of the default back background with giant atom logo. Here’s neat trick to change the login screen (and default desktop) background I found on the Ubuntu Forum, many thanks to Christian Cantoro:

You can also start gnome-appearance-properties when GDM starts:

sudo ln -s /usr/share/applications/gnome-appearance-properties.desktop /usr/share/gdm/autostart/LoginWindow/

You are now creating a symbolic link to the gnome-appearance-properties application in the autostart folder of gdm, which contains a list of programs which are automatically launched by gdm at startup (here included the login window itself).

Log out, you will see, other than the usual login window the “appearance” window, so make the changes in the background tab, close the window, log in as usual and remove it form GDM’s autostart, with the folliwing code:

sudo unlink /usr/share/gdm/autostart/LoginWindow/gnome-appearance-properties.desktop

In my case I used this trick to change my login screen background to “Gulp” (a/k/a Fedora Gulp from Gnome-Look), a nice blue background found down in /usr/share/backgrounds/abstract. I also took the liberty of setting this as the “default” background, so that any other users on my machine who had not yet customized their desktops would get it automatically.

Of course it’s not all bad. Installing SL led me to find my favorite desktop background image ever, labelled “Tranquillity Base“, by Luis Argerich:


P.S. I’m also not a fan of the “Music”, “Videos”, “Templates”, “Public”, “Downloads” and “Documents” directories (I can see the purpose for “Documents”) automagically created when a user logs in to the desktop for the first time. Really? On a server or high performance workstation? But then I’m probably leaning towards Luddite in that reaction.