Linux Format Newsletter -- #15, July 2006

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #15, July 2006

Postby M-Saunders » Tue Sep 05, 2006 9:18 am





1. Welcome!

2. Preview of LXF 83

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Special newsletter feature

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this Newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Apparently Britain is heading towards another mini heatwave next
week, which is the perfect excuse to stay indoors trying new Linux
apps and distros. Well, as if we needed an excuse! There's so much
coming up over the next few months, including Firefox 2.0, Fedora
Core 6 and the ultra bleeding-edge Ubuntu Edgy Eft -- but best of
all, we can try development versions right now. Even if you're not a
coder, it's still worth installing development snapshot releases and
submitting bug reports, to make sure the final thing is as good as
humanly possible.

Meanwhile, in this Newsletter we have a quick glance at LXF issue
83, a summary of the latest news snippets and forum discussions,
plus a special feature from on getting started with Mono, the open
source .NET implementation. If you have any suggestions for the
Newsletter, do drop me a line!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Preview of LXF 83

Linux Format issue 83 is on sale now, and this month we've been
focusing on the world's most popular distro: Ubuntu. Where did it
come from? Why's it so good? And what does the future hold for it?
On the coverdisc you'll find an Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) megapack
-- we've combined Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu into one single
distro, and added even more packages!

But even if Ubuntu doesn't float your boat, there's plenty more in
the issue to explore, including an extensive roundup (with
benchmarks galore) of C/C++ compilers, and the results of our LXF
Reader Awards 2006. Plus we have reviews of Kopete 0.12.0 and Picasa
2, tutorials on 3D game programming and LVM, and much more on the
cover DVD including Mandriva One. See the LXF website, right-hand
side, for a list of the magazine contents.

Every issue, our HotPicks section analyses the best new open source
software releases; one of the highlights in issue 83 is desktop
pager RIB:

# RIB 0.4 --

Back in the late '90s, before KDE and Gnome had established
themselves as the main desktop environment candidates (and long
before we'd even thought of anything like Xgl and Compiz), there
was only one real option for pure eye-candy on Linux:
Enlightenment. This window manager sported translucent moving, a
slick startup screen and - perhaps most notably - an excellent
pager which showed thumbnail versions of your minimised apps in a
box. This never failed to impress Linux newcomers, especially when
put alongside plain icons or taskbars.

RIB, Rob's Iconbox, brings this feature to almost every other
window manager that supports the EWMH specification (any popular
WM updated in the last few years). To build it, the only
dependencies you need are Imlib2 and the X development packages;
almost every distro has these available in their repositories. The
resulting binary is a teensy 31k in size, and it's supported by an
XML configuration file - copy ribrc.xml from the tarball into
~/.ribrc.xml before you start.

When you first fire up RIB, you may be scratching your head
wondering where the visual flair is - it just pops up a small
black and white box with a slider bar along the bottom. However,
start minimising apps and you'll see RIB come to life, with small
thumbnail representations of your programs appearing in the box.
You can then click these mini pictures to restore the apps to the
desktop; in effect, it works like a taskbar, albeit much more
graphical than the usual text-and-icon approach.

So far, so good - you've now got a cool Enlightenment feature
that's usable on almost every WM out there. But RIB has a few more
tricks up its sleeve, accessible through the ribrc.xml file
mentioned before. You can tweak the size and position of the icon
box, set whether or not it has a dedicated area of the screen (so
that maximised apps won't overlap it) and the time taken to
generate the thumbnails. Supposedly, increasing this time leads to
better quality mini images, but it had no effect in our testing.
RIB is an excellently small, fast and no-nonsense graphical pager,
and a great addition to any Linux box (especially if you're
running a lightweight WM).

There are five-and-a-half more pages of HotPicks in in LXF 83,
including a look at futuristic board game NeoDraughts. This issue's
interview is with Kim Polese and Muragan Pal of SpikeSource, a
company that's bringing open source to the enterprises by offering
"business-ready" solutions. Keep an eye on our website for some
snippets from the interview!

3. In the news...

Lots of distro-related news this month...

# Fedora: not just a RHEL beta ... le&sid=374

A new testing lead has been appointed for the Fedora Project. Will
Woods is keen to change the image of the distro, from being a
test-bed for Red Hat's enterprise products to a worthy distro in its
own right. In the NewsForge article at,
Woods describes the new QA procedures in place for the distro, and
how Fedora and RHEL will fit together.

# Next Debian release date planned ... le&sid=372

Marc Brockschmidt, from the Debian Release Team, has outlined the
steps towards getting Etch (Debian 4.0) out the door. There are a
number of remaining issues, but the Debian team hopes it can
finalise the release by the 4th of December. Still, given Debian's
strong focus on quality control and fixing bugs, it's possible that
the release could slip -- will they make it? See

# New SUSE Enterprise lineup available ... le&sid=369

SUSE SLED and SLES 10 are here - and downloadable from Novell at These products, the business
oriented versions of the SUSE distro, are free to download, although
you'll need to pay for future updates. OSNews had a preview of the
release candidate:

4. This month on the forum

Which distro is best placed to compete with Windows? That's the
question posed by david911 on the forum, who was optimistic that one
of the many up-and-coming distros would be able to take on Microsoft
effectively. This prompted the familiar debate whether or not 2006
will be the year of 'Linux on the desktop', with zarathustra feeling
that most distros work well out-of-the-box, but can become unstable
when more software is added. [1]

We love to talk Linux on the forums, but equally we love to natter
about completely off-topic issues too. wiz asked perhaps the
strangest question yet on the LXF site: how much does a cubic metre
of pebbles weigh? The ever resourceful forum regulars came to the
rescue though, before the thread headed off in, characteristically,
a completely random direction. [2]

[1] ... pic&t=3739

[2] ... pic&t=3637

5. Special newsletter feature


We've all laughed at Windows people stuck in DLL hell, but the truth
is that Linux can sometimes be just as bad. If you've ever received
a message similar to "Error: can't find" and cried
because you know you only have, you'll know what
we mean.

Microsoft solved its DLL hell problems through its .NET system. Now
we all know that Microsoft has a hard time innovating, so it's no
surprise that .NET is more than superficially similar to Java: they
both use virtual machines, hotspot code compilation, built in
libraries to handle internet access, XML and other common tasks, and
C# (the predominant language on the .NET platform) looks almost
identical to Java.

Microsoft's .NET implementation is, of course, completely closed
source, but through the Mono project we have full access to the full
range of .NET functionality. What's more, programs written on Linux
work without recompilation on Windows, and vice versa. When Mono
builds a binary, it uses the Windows-style .exe naming, and you can
literally copy that program to Windows and it will run just fine. To
maximise performance, .NET on Windows (and Mono on Unix) hotspot
compiles the binary to native machine code, meaning that .NET code
will execute almost as fast as native C.

There have been three releases of .NET to date, with a further big
release due soon. At this point, Mono fully supports .NET 1.0 and
1.1, and partially supports .NET 2.0 (the current standard). When
Vista launches next year, .NET gets upgraded to "WinFX", and work
will probably begin to upgrade Mono to the new standard.

It is tempting to think of .NET as a Microsoft solution to a
Microsoft problem, but it is unencumbered by patents, incredibly
powerful and completely free to use on Linux. Many Linux APIs have
been ported to .NET, including Gstreamer and Gtk, so you can make
Linux-specific programs. Some of the most popular new programs are
made using Mono, including Beagle, F-Spot and Tomboy, and Mono is
already being considered as the high-level language replacement for
C in Gnome.

If you're looking to get started with Mono, you may find it's
already in your package manager. If not, you can download a
pre-compiled installer from There's
already an excellent graphical IDE available, called MonoDevelop,
which allows you to draw out your GUI then add code by
double-clicking on widgets. If you find Mono to your liking, let us
know - if there's enough interest we'll run a tutorial series!

-- Paul Hudson

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 84, on sale Thursday 27th July, with a fresh new look!

# Virtual reality -- Hardware virtualisation lets you run Windows
on Linux at blazing speeds. We show you how!

# Open for all? How the OSDL helps free software

# Google Earth -- Love Picasa on Linux? Try this next!

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change.)

7. Receiving this Newsletter

If you've been forwarded this Newsletter from someone else, and want
to sign up for future issues, just follow the steps below. Each
month you'll receive a sparkling new LXF Newsletter straight in your
Inbox, and the 30-second sign-up process is even easier than writing
'Hello world' in BASIC:

1. Go to the website forums and log in (or sign up first):

2. At the top of the main forum page, click on 'Usergroups'

3. Join the 'Newsletter' group, and you're done!

If for some reason you no longer wish to receive this newsletter
(which'll make the internet depressed) you can opt-out by removing
yourself from the Newsletter group as above.

8. Contact details

Any questions or suggestions, please send them to the Newsletter
Editor at the address below:

Newsletter Editor: Mike Saunders --

Letters for the magazine:

LXF website:

Subscriptions: 0870 837 4722 (overseas +44 1858 438794)
Website subs page:

(C) 2006 Future
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