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Tutorial: Building A Linux Appliance

A locked-down Linux PC allows you to work online without getting worked over by malware. You can build it yourself -- we'll show you how, step by step.
Installing Fonts

Web pages and printed documents are generally more readable if they are seen in the same fonts in which they were created. That usually means the ones installed by default with Windows. You can get the Microsoft standard fonts and installation instructions by performing the following steps:

  1. Open the Mozilla Web browser (the globe icon next to the Start Menu).

  2. Go to this Mauriat Miranda page.

  3. Download the rpm file (right-click, Save Target).

  4. Open a terminal (Start > System Tools > Terminal).

  5. Log in as root:

    su - rootpw: [enter root password WITHOUT 
    BRACKETS]

  6. Enter the first
    rpm
    command. Then hit Enter.

  7. Enter the second command from the page, starting with
    /etc
    as above.

Below is the Control Panel you will find across the bottom of your screen with indicator lines pointing to the program icons you'll need immediately. The Control Panel here is the equivalent of the Windows Taskbar:


You can copy and paste commands from a Web page to a terminal window by clicking-and-dragging over the command to highlight it. Then put the cursor in the terminal window next to the > prompt, right-click, and select Paste from the menu.

Printer Setup

Here's how to set up a CUPS-supported printer.

  1. Open Start > Preferences > Control Center > Peripherals > Printer
  2. Click Administrator, then enter the root password.
  3. Select Add Printer to open the printer wizard.
  4. Select the printer from the menu.
  5. When the test page comes off the printer, save configuration.


If the above doesn't work, learn what to do next from this LinuxPrinting.org page.

Scanner setup

Here's how to set up a scanner under SANE:

  1. With a listed scanner plugged in, boot.
  2. Unplug and replug in the scanner.
  3. Open a terminal window.
  4. As user, type xsane (xsane is a GUI front-end for SANE). You should be looking at a GUI window with controls.
  5. Open the Preview window.
  6. Once your're satisfied with the size, hit the Scan button on the main window. You'll see a window with a high- resolution image you can save in various formats.
  7. Create the Desktop GUI icon for xsane. For a walkthrough for icon setup,see my earlier Recipe, Painless Multimedia For Linux.

Once this is set up, any other graphics application with a scan function should work normally with this, too.

Once you've got a software configuration you like together, burn it to DVD and supply a copy with the appliance. If you are planning to build multiple Linux appliance systems, simply clone the hard drive, then stick the cloned drive in each new identical system.


This is the first of a two-part TechBuilder Recipe. Part Two will show how to expand the Linux appliance to beef up security and back up if a CD/DVD recorder is installed. It will also show how to let users watch movies and videos, listen to music online, and use cameras and Instant Messenger software.

A. LIZARD is an Internet consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has been writing for technology magazines and Web sites since 1987.

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