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Customizing Easy Mode in the Asus Eee PC

This chapter covers how to customize the Eee PC's Easy Mode and how to liberate the underlying window manager and use it to its full potential.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Easy Mode is one of the attractive features of the Eee PC. I've watched a three-year-old child master it in little time. For casual users and non-geeks, Easy Mode is a wonderful thing. It's amazingly simple and intuitive, and runs nicely in the limited space of the Eee PC's onboard screen.

Easy Mode is a well-thought-out adaptation of a window manager that was optimized for the Eee screen and the default applications. Frankly, if you're not interested in the capabilities of the Eee PC beyond the set of applications exposed through Easy Mode, you can do all of your day-to-day tasks with it.

This chapter covers how to customize Easy Mode and how to liberate the underlying window manager and use it to its full potential. You can completely change the look and feel of Easy Mode, making it a much more advanced interface to the Eee PC.

What Is a Window Manager?

Microsoft Windows provides a single windows manager, which is the interface the defines the look and operation of windows, the location and contents of menus, and even the "physics" of how you interact with windows via the mouse. Linux provides many, many windows managers to choose from. By the time you finish this book, you will have encountered most of the major Linux Windows managers and some of the more interesting minor ones.

In the Linux world, window managers interact with the underlying windowing system called "X-Windows." X-Windows provides the basic framework for drawing windows, interacting with input devices (such as the mouse and keyboard), and everything else required to construct the user interface.

Easy Mode is actually based on the Ice Window Manager (IceWM), and is customized for the Eee PC. IceWM is actually not one of the two most popular Windows managers in the Linux world, and holds a position as a "minor player." The irony is that customizing Easy Mode is much harder than customizing the Full Desktop (as covered in Chapter 5), which is based on the KDE window manager. The Easy Mode desktop provides the tools for only very minor customizations Therefore, to customize Easy Mode requires customizing the Easy Mode configuration files.

Because Easy Mode is a specific implementation of a user interface for the Eee PC, applications do not provide ready-made icons for Easy Mode. Perhaps this will change over time as the Eee PC gains in popularity. Unfortunately, this currently means that adding icons for new applications onto specific tabs is not trivial. In fact, it requires more than a little skill with a high-end graphic package as well as modifying configuration files.

Given the difficulty of making modifications to Easy Mode, why do it at all? There are several reasons:

  • You intend to use your Eee PC without an attached monitor most of the time. Easy Mode works especially well with the limited real estate on the default display.
  • The primary user of the Eee PC is a young person, and you want to set it up with additional software.
  • Your school, library, or other group has purchased a number of Eee PC machines for your students, and you want to customize them for your group. One of the primary goals for the Eee PC is to provide a simple and inexpensive computer for students. Therefore, you may need to make customizations to Easy Mode for a large number of machines. To do so, customize one as outlined in this chapter and copy the icons and configuration files to the other computers.

Beyond merely customizing the tabbed interface, you can augment or even abandon the tabbed interface of Easy Mode and rely instead on the IceWM window manager without the Eee PC customizations. In fact, you can customize IceWM until its capabilities rival that of the KDE desktop in Full Desktop mode. The latter portion of this chapter covers how to do this.

Even if you don't decide to do anything with Easy Mode, consider this an introduction to the fun of Linux as well. Microsoft Windows is pretty much about doing your day-to-day tasks and that's all. Linux is about exploring, pushing the limits, and seeing what happens when you "do this." It is not always necessarily about the end result, but what you learn in the journey to reach that result. That's why Linux provides so many possibilities and choices for doing practically anything.

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