From Red Hat to Debian

When you log in on a MathLAN computer for the first time after summer 2004, you will find that there have been a few changes in the graphical user interface, associated with a change from one distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system (Red Hat 9) to another (Debian sarge).

The new software includes a program that starts up automatically when you first log in and invites you to let it adjust the configuration files for the Gnome user interface to accommodate the changes. Because the Debian version of Gnome does not recognize many of the local customizations that we made under Red Hat Linux, this conversion will almost certainly fail, and it is probably better not to attempt it.

There is, however, a way to replace your current configuration files with plain-vanilla versions adapted to the new operating system -- the same ones that new MathLAN users are getting. It's a little tricky, because you can't be logged in and running Gnome when you replace its configuration files. There are two approaches:

  1. Without logging in, find the MathLAN administrator or a MathLAN user consultant who will do the job for you. The UCs have been briefed about how to do this.

  2. Do it yourself while working in a failsafe session that does not use the graphical user interface.

Here are the instructions for approach 2:

Starting at the greeting screen, move the mouse pointer onto the word Session in the upper left corner of the login window and click the left mouse button. On the menu that appears, move the mouse pointer onto the words Failsafe Terminal and click the left mouse button. Now log in normally by typing in your user name and then your password.

The login window will disappear, and the screen will blank momentarily. A pop-up box will ask you to confirm that you want a Failsafe Terminal session. Click on the OK button.

Instead of starting Gnome, the workstation will set up a little terminal window in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Move the mouse pointer into this window and type

/net/bin/configure-gnome spelvin

at the prompt, substituting your own user name for spelvin. If everything goes smoothly, you will see the names of some of the configuration directories being listed as configure-gnome moves them aside. When the prompt returns, a few seconds later, type

exit

to log out. As usual, the screen goes black and then brings up the login window.

At this point, move the mouse pointer again onto the word Session in the upper left corner and click the left mouse button. Select GNOME on the menu that appears. Now log in normally. A pop-up box will ask whether you want to make Gnome the default option; click on Make Default to accept this choice. Now the plain-vanilla Gnome desktop will come up. (It may take a few seconds longer than usual, because Gnome is building all of the configuration files that you will need.)

If you need your old configuration files for any reason, you'll find them in the directories ~/.gconf-red-hat-9, ~/.gconfd-red-hat-9, ~/.gnome-red-hat-9, ~/.gnome-desktop-red-hat-9, ~/.gnome_private-red-hat-9, ~/.gnome2-red-hat-9, and ~/.gnome2_private-red-hat-9.

This document is available on the World Wide Web as

http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/mathlan/to-debian.xhtml