Image97.Tweaking of your environment

Do you feel you took control of your system ? Now we are going to tweak the configuration of your workstation.

Basically, you can modify everything you want on the Debian GNU/Linux desktops and tailor your environment to make it fit your personal needs and tastes.

To achieve this, the right-click is the quasi-ultimate weapon !

7.1.User interface

326The GNU/Linux environments are known for their great flexibility in terms of configuration. However, some desktop are more flexible than others, because of their main interface.

Grossly speaking, they all work the same way: a "Control Center" to handle them all in the same place, and the right-click for the settings of individual elements.

Most of the functionalities have been addressed during the presentation of the desktops (chap.4.2). But let's return to the two Debian main desktops: Gnome and KDE .

7.1.1.The Gnome-Shell interface

Gnome is the default desktop for the Debian installations. This desktop features an "all-in-one" interface which makes it a fluid and intuitive environment.

Gnome-Shell88) provides a "uniform" interface: this is what brings this great fluidity. This means also that you will not be able to modify everything you want, like on the other desktops built with a modular design. But instead of talking about the few things you cannot make, let's talk about all the settings available to you 327.

Let's take the direction Gnome Activity menu > "Tweak Tool".


The opening window includes all the elements of your Gnome-Shell desktop. The changes are applied and visible immediately.

Gnome -Shell : configuring the interface

After few "clicks" on the various categories, you will easily understand how to install, in the top bar, the Application menu, the Places menu or the weather forecast.

Gnome -Shell : Gnome desktop configured with theses extensions Gnome-Shell extensions

You can add extensions to Gnome -Shell directly from the on-line Gnome catalog 89 . In the configuration window, and the "Extensions" section, click on the "Get more extensions" link at the bottom right.

Gnome -Shell : adding extensions

You will be redirected to an Internet page which displays a list of the available and directly installable extensions. Start by allowing the "Gnome Shell Integration"

Gnome -Shell : authorize the on-line service

Then enjoy all the Gnome-Shell extensions:

Gnome -Shell : activation of the "Window List Display" from the on-line catalog

The site takes into account the modules already installed on your system and let you also configure them by using the appropriate icon tool: 334. keyboard shortcuts

In order to be more efficient, and even if Debian is "mouse-click-oriented", we suggest you use the keyboard shortcuts: pressing the "Windows" key, for example, switch between the Activities overview and desktop. The overview displays the open activities, the dock and the virtual workspaces.



Alt + F1 or ⊞ Win

Switch between the Activities overview and desktop

Ctrl + Alt + Tab ⇆

Give keyboard focus to the top bar: the Activities overview.


Display the Activities search field

Alt + F2

Pop up command window (for quickly running commands)

Alt + Tab ⇆

Quickly switch between windows.

Alt + Shift ⇧ + Tab ⇆

Idem, but in reverse order

Alt + `

Switch between windows from the same group

Ctrl + Alt + PgUp ↑ / PgDn ↓

Switch between workspaces

Ctrl + Alt + Shift ⇧ +  ↑ /

Move the current window to a different workspace.

Ctrl + Del

Delete file Settings panel of the Gnome Desktop

Your desktop "All Settings" panel is available from the Parameter launcher and gives you access to all the settings of your environment.


Gnome -Shell : All Settings Panel Gnome Classic interface

If you want to use a more "classical" interface, you can take this option during your session sign in: click on the little gearwheel to select the "Gnome Classic" option before pressing the "Sign In" button:

Gnome classique: Environment selection during Sign In


Your session then opens with a more conventional version of Gnome, but you keep your main settings and your tools.

The "Classical" interface is lighter, but offers less visual effects (usefull or useless, depending on the view point)

Gnome Classic desktop on Debian 8 Jessie

In order to come back to the default Gnome-Shell interface, select the "Gnome" option of the gearwheel menu, next time you Sign In.

7.1.2.The KDE Plasma interface

KDE is one historical desktop for the GNU/Linux environments, and did always put the emphasis on its extreme customization. The transition to the Plasma 90 rendering engine did not change a bit on that point: everything on KDE is modular, movable, configurable, and accessible from a very detailed System Setting Center . System Settings panel

This is where you are going to tweak all your computer and Debian system settings.

Network, audio, video, window appearances, default language, and also the way you sign in, and a lot more … Virtually everything is configurable from this panel. Even some desktop special effects integrated in KDE, in Compiz style, can be managed from here.

KDE : Debian System Settings on KDE Plasma

To obtain a lighter KDE 4 you can uncheck the Strigi file indexer as well as the Nepomuk semantic desktop in the Desktop Search tab of the Workspace Appearance and Behavior section. You can also uncheck some desktop effects ( windows transparency, for example).

If you wish a more "out-of-the-box" like environment, and if your computer configuration allows it, you should prefer Gnome or Cinnamon which offer less detailed (and less complex) interfaces."Desktop layout" on KDE

KDE allows a pre-configured layout of your workspace. Start with a right-click on the desktop > "Default Desktop Settings"


In the window which opens, besides the wallpaper settings, you can access to different desktops from the appropriate drop-down menu:

KDE : configuration of the "desktop layout"


The default desktop can be replaced by the "Search and Launch" desktop:

KDE : "Search and Launch" desktop

With KDE, the possibilities are very numerous and I invite you to visit the detailed external documentation or be adventurous and play with your mouse to snoop all over the system interface.

For more detailed information, visit the summary page91 of the KDE4 Plasma functionalities.

7.2.System Preferences

345The configuration of your system directly impact you user experience. Instead of writing a complete chapter about the different ethical and technical concepts which led to the Debian software organization, we are going to examine their consequences on your daily usage.

In the rest of this chapter, you might be asked to activate the "contrib" and/or "non-free" sections of the Debian repositories , in order to access some "less-free" software . In that case, follow the method documented in the chapter 8.1.3 .

7.2.1.Root-User / su-sudo

During the installation, Debian ask you to enter the password for the "root" administrator account. TYHis account is common to all the GNU/Linux systems and allows to execute administrative tasks on the system.

However, this account is not mandatory. During the installation process, you can pass over the the "root" account configuration (leave empty the root password fields), and doing so, avoid its creation.

In this case, this is the first user registered during the installation who will assume the "root" role.

OK …. and then ?

Then, this changes the way you launch commands to administrate the system: in this manual, every time we ask you to execute a command in "root" mode, we use the " su " command. But if the "root" account was not created, you must use instead the " sudo " command, which switch you and "root", and give your own password .

In a nutshell to launch an administrative command:

If the "root" account was created , use "su" + administrator password + command launch:

If the "root" account was NOT created , use " sudo + command" + your user password :

7.2.2.Read a commercial DVD

The DVDs sold commercially are "copy protected" and usually are not readable by default on free systems.

The Entertaining Companies consider that we do not have the right, on a free system, to make a private copy of the DVDs we bought 346.

To remedy that, if you really need this functionality, you must install the libdvdcss2 package. This package is not present by default in the Debian repositories , but you can find it in the repositories of Videolan (the site of VLC, the well known multimedia player).

The principle consists in adding the Videolan repositories to your system, adding the signature keys to secure the communication with these repositories and finally installing libdvdcss2.

In practice: 3 commands and that's it !

  1. Open a terminal in administrator mode ( see chap.3.8.3 ) with su , then launch this command to add the Videolan repositories in a separate file:

  1. Add the repositories signature key:

  1. Reload the repositories and install libdvdcss2:

You can realize these modifications in graphical mode only, by using the Synaptic package manager, but it takes a lot of time to click with the mouse all over the places …

Your Debian GNU/Linux system is now able to read the "protected" commercial DVDs, and to make private copies of them.

7.2.3.Using FlashPlayer

Adobe Flash Player is a non-free platform used to add animation, video , and interactivity to Web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements and games.

A free reader exist: Gnash92. It is an alternative to the Adobe reader but does not allow to have access to all the Flash functionalities. You can find it in the "backports" repositories of Debian-8 Jessie.

Be aware that the current trend for site developers is to move away from flash in favor of HTML5 93 , thus it is more and more easy to survive on the Internet without the proprietary flash player.

This manual being intended for beginners, we are not going to ask you to remove all the bookmarks pointing to sites still using the flash reader (although that could help making a faster transition), so we will detail below how to install the flash player by default, because yes, on top of that, there is several of them … the generic Flash Player

In order to install the non supported default version of the Flash Player for Linux, you should modify your repository sources to add the "contrib" section.

More detailed information about the other available plugins on Debian dedicated page94

7.2.4.Installing a graphic card driver

The Debian GNU/Linux system includes free drivers and some firmware in order to operate the integrated graphical functions (chipsets) of the motherboard or the external graphical card.

347 … I need a driver to manage the card of my mother ??

Your computer is designed around its "motherboard", a plastic board on which the various elements of the processor (the central compute unit) are fixed, as well as the chipsets, the graphical component being part of them (the graphical display computer, to make a long story short).
In order to send the right instructions to these elements the GNU/Linux kernel (the program managing the interactions of the hardware with the system) uses pieces of code, called drivers (and sometimes "firmware" to be loaded on smart devices during the initialization phase). The Linux kernel includes by default a set of free drivers. These drivers are usually sufficient to manage the screen display. But it may happen that proprietary drivers are needed to optimize the screen resolution.

You can try to install these proprietary drivers if, during a live session or once your system is installed, you find out that:

Please note that installing proprietary driver s is a non-free alternative, and as such, not followed by the Debian developers. If your computer is very recent, don't hesitate to ask the support of the community before tinkering with your system 348 ( see chap.1.5 ). your hardware

The first thing to do is to identify your graphic device (or graphic card). Open a terminal as simple user, and enter the following command:

lspci | egrep "3D|Display|VGA"

which will display this kind of result for a nVidia controller:

01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: NVIDIA Corporation G96GLM [Quadro FX 770M] (rev a1)

or this kind of result for an ATI controller:

01:00.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. [AMD/ATI] Barts PRO [Radeon HD 6850] [1002:6739]

("lspci" lists the devices connected to the PCI bus, and "egrep" selects only the information we are interested in, rather than displaying everything. Here we are looking only at graphical components).

As you can see the identification is rather easy … we got the manufacturer and the model on the same line. Should you have the slightest doubt concerning the installation of additional driver s, don't hesitate to ask the Free Community for help (chap.1.5). the generic firmware

In all cases, and before the installation of any proprietary driver , you should add the non-free firmware delivered by Debian. (More information on firmware here: )
To add the Debian non-free
firmware to your system, start with modifying your repositories (chap.8.1.3) by adding the contrib and non-free sections to your sources.

If no real improvement is noticed, continue with the following sections … The sources.list file is already set for the next steps. card configuration

ATI driver

This is the "generic" driver to install if your card is not listed in the specific sections (Radeon, Catalyst).

To install it from an administrator terminal ( voir chap.3.8.3 ):

apt install libgl1-mesa-dri xserver-xorg-video-ati

Restart your computer to load the microcode (firmware) of the graphic peripheral.

Radeon driver

the Radeon driver of Debian 8 "Jessie", supports the graphic processors from R100 to Hawaii (Radeon 7000 - Radeon R9 290). See the Radeon package page95 to verify your card.

To install it from an administrator terminal ( see chap.3.8.3 ):

apt install libgl1-mesa-dri xserver-xorg-video-radeon

Restart your computer to load the microcode (firmware) of the graphic peripheral.

AMD Catalyst driver

The proprietary "AMD Catalyst Linux Graphics Driver " (alias fglrx ) delivers a hardware acceleration optimized for the OpenGL applications. It is suitable for the graphic processor s of the Radeon R9 200, Radeon R7 200, Radeon HD 8000, Radeon HD 7000, Radeon HD 6000 and Radeon HD 5000 series (see the complete list 96 )

349This driver is not compatible97 with the Gnome desktop, because it does not support the EGL interface. It is advised to to use instead the Radeon free driver.

To install it from an administrator terminal ( see chap.3.8.3 ):

apt install fglrx-modules-dkms fglrx-driver linux-headers-$(uname -r) fglrx-control

To configure the graphic server:

aticonfig --initial -f

To take the modifications into account, restart your computer.

To verify that the microcode/firmware was correctly loaded, enter in a terminal:

glxinfo | grep 'direct rendering'

Which should return a line like:

direct rendering: Yes

For more detailed information, visit the official Debian documentation98. card configuration

Debian uses a software tool to detect and indicate the driver to be installed: nvidia-detect . To install and use it, open a terminal in administrator mode ( see chap.3.8.3 ), then launch:

apt update && apt install nvidia-detect

To launch the detection, simply launch the command:


which will return this kind of result:

Detected NVIDIA GPUs:
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller [0300]: NVIDIA Corporation G96GLM [Quadro FX 770M] [10de:065c] (rev a1)
Your card is supported by the default drivers and legacy driver series 304.
It is recommended to install the

In this example, the card is natively supported by the default driver and by the "legacy series 304" driver; Depending on your machine, you can install two types of drivers: the 340.xx series (for the GeForce 8x and more) and the 304.xx series (for the GeForce 6x and 7x). Older models are supported natively by the free driver.

For a complete list of the supported cards , visit the dedicated documentation: 340.xx series page 99 - 304.xx series page 100

Installation of the 340 series driver : for the GeForce 8xx or newer model

Installation of the 304 series driver : for the GeForce 6xx or 7xx of the graphical session

If, following a driver installation, you are facing a black screen, you need to return to the previous configuration.

Boot in " recovery mode " : from the Grub loader menu, select the "Advanced options" entry and then the " recovery mode " entry.



The system launches a console and invite you to continue the startup sequence (by using the [Ctrl]+d short-cut to quit the console) or enter the administrator password, and this is what you do:


Removal of the xorg.conf configuration file : during the installation of the proprietary driver , you created a X configuration file located in /etc/X11/xorg.conf and/or /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/xxx.conf. It must be removed.
Always from the console and depending on the file created, remove it with the command: "
rm ":

rm /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nvidia.conf

Here this is the file corresponding to nVidia which was removed, to be adapted to your situation .

Uninstallation of the proprietary driver s : The same way you were able to install a driver , you can uninstall it, here an example with the nVidia driver , to be adapted to your situation :

apt remove nvidia-kernel-dkms nvidia-driver

Restart your computer with a simple " systemctl reboot "

7.3.Adding a new user

353 If you are not the only user of your computer , you can create new user accounts in order to preserve your data and preferences . By adding a new user , a new folder will be created in the system. This folder, named by the pseudo of the new user , will receive the default parameters delivered during the system installation.
It will be readable (you can consult the data of the other
user ) but not writable (you cannot create or modify its data).

Debian includes a simple graphical tool to execute this task, but you can also use the terminal and the "adduser" command (described in the next section).

From a menu or the application list, "System" category, select "Users and Groups":


The window which opens, displays the detailed information of your user account. You can then modify the parameters of your account, or create a new account. But you need first to "unlock" the application by clicking on the lock button at the top, and enter the administrator password .

To add a new account , click on "Add" (or the " + " button) at the bottom of the left pane:


You must enter the full name of this new user, as well as its username (the pseudo or login name used when connecting to a new session). On the Gnome system, you can let the user to define its password during the first connection, or enter it immediately:


The user account is created … and here you go:


Advanced settings allow you to define the rights and permissions for each user.

7.3.1.Adding a new user using the terminal

The user account creation process is started and you must enter the password twice (without any echo, its normal).


This new user will be able to login with its username and password at computer startup. It will be able to store and manage its data and configure its environment without any risks for your own data and preferences.