In this course we will be using computers running the Linux operating system with a graphical user interface based on X Windows. This project consists of a number of tasks which will help familiarize you with these computers.
We assume in the following that you have never logged into this type of computer. Fortunately, the Linux graphical user interface is intuitive. Therefore, rather than explaining how to do each task in gory detail, we will simply give you the tasks together with some optional explanations you can refer to if you find the tasks obscure or otherwise difficult. However, we encourage you to try to figure out how to do the tasks on your own. When that doesn't work, don't be shy: ask for help!
There is a printer in the small room adjoining the classroom/lab.
Its name is
mcslab, so if you need to select a printer to
print to, that is the one you should use when in the third-floor Olin
Your computer account (username and password) for these computers is the same as for normal campus computers, email, etc. It does not matter which workstation you log into; you will have access to all your files on all computers, since they are stored on a central file server.
You'll use Firefox to access information such as the web page for this course.
You will see a bar across the bottom of the screen, which is your toolbar. On the left side there is a button with a red hat on it. . That is your "Red Hat menu", similar to the "start menu" on Microsoft Windows operating systems. Click on the red hat to bring up a list of sub-menus. At the top of the list you will find an item titled "Firefox Web Browser". (If this item is not present, click on the "APPS" sub-menu to access the Firefox icon.) Click on the Firefox icon to start Firefox. You may need to wait for several seconds before the program starts.
Locate the Gustavus Adolphus College homepage by
in the Location box and pressing Enter. Since you may want Firefox to
remember this address for next time, select "Bookmark This Page" under
the Bookmarks menu. Next time you want to find the Gustavus homepage,
select "Gustavus Adolphus College" under the Bookmark menu.
The course homepage (which you should also bookmark) is located at:
The campus computers (including these Linux workstations) share a tree-structured file system. This means that the files on the computers are located in directories (also known as folders), which may themselves include files and subdirectories, which may contain files and other subdirectories, ....
Following are some tasks which will help you learn how to view and manipulate the directory structure using the windowing system on the Linux computers.
There are many ways to open a file browser to your home directory. The easiest is to click on the picture of a house and folder: . You can access this icon for your home directory by clicking on the RedHat menu in the lower left corner of your screen. You may have to wait several seconds for the directory window to open.
Rather than storing all the files you create directly in your home directory, it is much better to organize the files in subdirectories. For example, you can create a subdirectory called "MCS-170" for this course by clicking on the Edit menu, then selecting Create New, and then clicking on Folder from the sub-menu. You will then be asked to give the new directory a name, which should be MCS-170.
The text editor we will be using for this course
is called "KWrite". To open this editor, click on the Red Hat
menu (lower left corner), then click the Accessories menu, and then
click the KWrite
editor is a nice environment to work in, as it highlights HTML code, so
that we can better edit and debug web pages.
We will now create a simple web page. When KWrite has finished starting up, type in the following lines of HTML code:
<title> My Web Page </title>
When you are done, save this file to your new MCS-170 directory by choosing Save under the File menu. Call this file "Hello.html". Once the file is saved, you will see that KWrite has changed appearance. Now, HTML key words are in bold type. KWrite knows that the file is now an HTML file by looking at the ".html" file extension that appears in the file name "Hello.html." It is also smart enough to automatically highlight keywords in this HTML file. This editing feature will be very useful as we create more complex web pages.
To view your new web page, return to the Firefox browser window
(or re-start Firefox if you have closed it). Click on the File menu and
select the "Open File.." sub-menu. You can now move through the
directory structure and find your "Hello.html" file. Once you
have found this file, click "Okay" in the file window and your page
should appear in the browser. Note that all of the special characters
in brackets do not appear in the browser. These are formatting commands
for how text should appear when viewed. HTML is a "mark-up"
language -- that is what the "M" stands for in HTML. HTML is a descriptive language, one designs
web pages by describing how the page will appear. This is quite
different from other computer languages, which focus on computations using various types of
To logout click on the logout icon near the right-hand side of
the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. It looks like this: . If
this icon does not appear on the right side of the toolbar, you can
also access it through the Red Hat menu.
One problem you will encounter is how to make yourself aware of all of the applications available to you. This is a rather daunting task, and one which we will not directly address in this course. Instead, we suggest that you make use of the main source of useful computer arcana and trivia we have found, namely your fellow computer users. We are always learning new things from our students. So don't be shy!