How do I set up a .emacs initialization file?

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http://unix.stackexchange.com – I am using Linux Fedora 13 (Constantine) and emacs 23.1.1. I am trying to set up a .emacs file for initialization, by using emacs itself to edit and save a file .emacs in my home directory. However, although the file is there, emacs does not seem to recognize it. What might I be doing wrong, and is there a simple text for .emacs that will show me if it is being used, one that will display a message on emacs start up? (HowTos)