Ask SIPB - February 7, 2003

Athena is everywhere at MIT. When you stop to use an Athena station, why not configure it the way you want to use it? This week, we discuss configuring a few parts of the user interface.

How can I adjust the size of a window when I use athena? Sometimes windows pop up as a 4x6 rectangle when I have like 39485734 more inches on the screen to use.

To resize a window, move your mouse cursor to one of the window edges. The mouse cursor will turn into an arrow with a bar, and you can drag the edge outward to expand it. This is similar to the way resizing windows in Microsoft Windows works. You can also move the mouse to one of the corners and do the same thing to adjust the window size both horizontally and vertically simultaneously.

Why is the panel at the bottom of the screen called "Gnome"?

GNOME apparently stands for "GNU Object Model Environment." The "GNU" stands for "GNU's Not UNIX"; it refers to the GNU Project (, which develops free UNIX-based software.

My tasklist on the Gnome panel disappeared! How can I get it back?

Occasionally, the Gnome panel will randomly disappear, but it's easy to restore it. To do so, right-click an empty section of the panel, and choose Add to Panel->Applet->Utility->Tasklist.

Can you add menus to the main Gnome menu?

The main Gnome menu is shared by all Athena users, and is not tied to a specific user account. Therefore, you cannot change the main Gnome menu. There is a submenu named Favorites, however, to which you can add items. To do so, click Menu (footprint icon)->Settings->Edit Menus (Favorites). You can then click New Submenu or New Item to create items within the Favorites menu.

How do you change what the panel buttons do?

The buttons on the panel at the bottom of the screen are customizable. To customize a button, right click on it and select Properties. The action of the button (called a Launcher) is controlled by the Command field. If you change the command to be a program that runs in a terminal, you should check the "Run in Terminal" box. So, for example, to make the Mail button run the mail program mutt from the sipb locker, rather than Evolution, you would do the following:

  1. Right click on the Mail button, select Properties.
  2. Change Command to "athrun sipb mutt"
  3. Check the "Run in Terminal" checkbox.

The athrun command takes two arguments: the name of a locker and a program to run from that locker. It can be very helpful when customizing Launcher buttons.

How do you revert the Gnome panel to the default?

If you have greatly messed up your Gnome panel, you can restore it to the default. To do so, type the following:

athena% cd
athena% rm -r .gnome/panel.d

Then, log out and log back in, and your Gnome panel should be reset.

Can you change the resolution on Athena?

The X window system (at least the more stable versions running on Athena) does not support changing resolutions on the fly the way that Mac and Windows do. It is designed to be run at the ideal resolution for the video card and display, and left alone. Of course, it is possible to reconfigure X to run at a different resolution, but that is outside the scope of this column.

If your real problem is difficulty reading text on your screen, consider changing your font size. This can be through the preferences settings of many programs, such as Terminal and Mozilla, or on a context menu (control-right-click in xterm, or shift-left-click in Emacs). In certain cases, if you want to zoom in on a small portion of the screen, the program xmag can be helpful.

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