Once you have installed your Linux distribution and booted your system, either you will be automatically logged in or you will see a login screen. The next section shows how to switch between these two startup methods and discusses the security implications of automatic login. For this section, we'll assume you are logging in. The three systems we consider in this tutorial implement login a little differently from each other, but all will prompt with the name of one or more users. Once a user is selected, you need to enter a password.
The appearance of the screen varies according to your Linux distribution, and it will probably come as no surprise that you can customize it further, although we won't cover that in this short tutorial. A typical login screen for an Ubuntu 10.10 system is shown in Figure 1, and a typical one for Fedora 14 is shown in Figure 2. These both illustrate the default GNOME desktop used on these systems.
Figure 1. Ubuntu 10.10 login screen
Figure 2. Fedora 14 login screen
A typical login screen for an OpenSUSE 11.3 system with the default KDE 4 desktop is shown in Figure 3 or
Figure 3. OpenSUSE Linux 11.3 login screen
When you enter or select an id and press Enter, you will be prompted for your password. If a password field is showing on the login screen, as in the OpenSUSE example here, you can tab to the password field and enter your password. If there is no entry field for an id showing and you need to enter an id that is not in the list of available ids, you will usually find an entry for something like "other..." as shown in Figure 2. Select that and you should see an entry field for the id. We'll talk more about this in the section Becoming superuser (or root).
Login screens may have other items on them, including a clock, perhaps the name of the system, and icons or named menus that allow you to shut down or restart the system.
On the GNOME desktops is a small icon that looks something like a figure of a person inside a circle. Click this and you will see a dialog for accessibility options such as an on-screen keyboard or larger font. An example from our Fedora system is shown in Figure 4. We used the option to make text larger and easier to read for the login screen shown in Figure 2.
Figure 4. Fedora login accessibility options
After you type in your password and press Enter again,
you should be logged in and see your desktop. Figure 5 shows what you might see as user
ian on an Ubuntu 10.10 system, with a
panel along the top and another along the bottom. To
explore the desktop, move your mouse over the icons or click on
Note: The next three images are intended to give you an impression of the way your desktop will look. Don't worry if you can't read the tiny print on them.
Figure 5. Sample initial window for Ubuntu 10 and GNOME desktop
Fedora 14 also uses a GNOME desktop. In Figure 6, we clicked the System icon on the left part of the top panel and then selected Preferences. As we hover over the Desktop Effects choice in the subsidiary menu, the hover help shows Select desktop effects. This is where you select desktop effects such as having your window edges wobble as you move them around the desktop. Note that this requires 3-D graphics capabilities and possibly a graphics driver that is not open source.
Figure 6. Sample initial window for Fedora 14 and GNOME desktop
Figure 7 shows what you might see with OpenSUSE and a KDE 4 desktop.
Figure 7. Sample initial window for SUSE Linux and KDE desktop
The relatively new KDE 4 desktop uses a different navigation metaphor, which we'll discuss more in the section Navigation and settings. Note that the window menu for Desktop Folder slides out to the left or right of the window, rather than being fixed at the top.