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Orthogonal space-time block codes (OSTBC) from orthogonal designs have both advantages of complex symbol-wise maximum-likelihood (ML) decoding and full diversity. However, their symbol rates are upper bounded by 3/4 for more than two antennas for complex symbols. To increase the symbol rates, they have been generalized to quasi-orthogonal space-time block codes (QOSTBC) in the literature but the diversity order is reduced by half and the complex symbol-wise ML decoding is significantly increased to complex symbol pair-wise (pair of complex symbols) ML decoding. The QOSTBC has been modified by rotating half of the complex symbols for achieving the full diversity while maintaining the complex symbol pair-wise ML decoding. The optimal rotation angles for any signal constellation of any finite symbols located on both square lattices and equal-literal triangular lattices have been found by Su-Xia, where the optimality means the optimal diversity product (or product distance). QOSTBC has also been modified by Yuen-Guan-Tjhung by rotating information symbols in another way such that it has full diversity and in the meantime it has real symbol pair-wise ML decoding (the same complexity as complex symbol-wise decoding) and the optimal rotation angle for square and rectangular QAM constellations has been found. In this paper, we systematically study general linear transformations of information symbols for QOSTBC to have both full diversity and real symbol pair-wise ML decoding. We present the optimal transformation matrices (among all possible linear transformations not necessarily symbol rotations) of information symbols for QOSTBC with real symbol pair-wise ML decoding such that the optimal diversity product is achieved for both general square QAM and general rectangular QAM signal constellations. Furthermore, our newly proposed optimal linear transformations for QOSTBC also work for general QAM constellations in the sense that QOSTBC have full diversity with good diversit- - y product property and real symbol pair-wise ML decoding. Interestingly, the optimal diversity products for square QAM constellations from the optimal linear transformations of information symbols found in this paper coincide with the ones presented by Yuen-Guan-Tjhung by using their optimal rotations. However, the optimal diversity products for (nonsquare) rectangular QAM constellations from the optimal linear transformations of information symbols found in this paper are better than the ones presented by Yuen-Guan-Tjhung by using their optimal rotations. In this paper, we also present the optimal transformations for the co-ordinate interleaved orthogonal designs (CIOD) proposed by Khan-Rajan for rectangular QAM constellations.