Linux Format Newsletter -- #18, October 2006

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #18, October 2006

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Nov 17, 2006 4:12 pm





1. Welcome!

2. Preview of LXF 86

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!

It's been a strange few weeks for the Linux community, with major
legal developments taking place. On the plus side, it looks like the
SCO vs IBM battle could be coming to a head with new revelations of
possible Microsoft-directed funding, but less pleasant news is that
a prominent filesystem developer has been arrested on suspicion of
murder. See our news roundup below for more details.

On the distro front, Fedora 6's release has slipped, which means
it'll have to fight Ubuntu 6.10 for media attention in the coming
weeks. Still, we'll have plenty of goodies to play with - and if you
don't want to install these distros on your main machine, you can
still try them via QEMU. See our special Newsletter feature for the
lowdown on using that PC emulator.

Enjoy the Newsletter, and if you have any comments or suggestions,
just drop me a line!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Preview of LXF 86

Issue 86 of Linux Format is now on the shop shelves, and this month
we've been celebrating the 15th birthday of Linux. That's right -
the Linux kernel has been in development for 15 years, and how it
has grown! Our special feature analyses key moments in Linux's
history, covering the early years of bedroom-based hacking through
to support from megacorps like IBM. We also speak to many leading
Linux players and ask their opinions on the next 15 years -
including Jeff Waugh, Gael Duval and Jon 'Maddog' Hall.

Firefox 2 is just around the corner; we caught up with Mitchell
Baker of the Mozilla Foundation to find out where the ever-popular
browser is heading. In our main interview we sit down with Perl
Foundation board member Nat Torkington, to discuss the current
status of Perl development and what's in store for Perl 6.

Fancy something a bit more hands-on? We show you how to use UndoDB,
the cool reverse debugging software that lets you step backwards
through a program's execution. Sounds odd, doesn't it? However, it
works surprisingly well - not needing a virtual machine or kernel
changes. On the reviews front, we test and rate new releases of
Glade, Freespire, Slackware and Xara Xtreme, while in the tutorials
section you'll find guides for running Windows apps on Linux via
WINE, learning Xara Xtreme, boosting your system's security, coding
3D games and running the BBC-originated Kamaelia software.

In LXF 86's Roundup we look at file managers - those tools that
nigh-on everybody uses, but which don't normally get much attention.
Using a special LXF Testing Scheme (that is, timing our Art Editor
achieving certain tasks) we can sort out the easy-going wheat from
the unapproachable chaff. Here's what we made of Gentoo:

# Gentoo 0.11.46 --

No, this has nothing to do with the Gentoo Linux distribution - in
fact, the only thing they can claim in common is a need for speed.
The Gentoo file manager apes the old Norton Commander design,
splitting the main window into a dual-pane view with filesystem
browsers on the left and right. The idea is to make it easy to see
where you're transferring files: for instance, you can select a
bunch of files in the left pane, select a directory on the right,
and then click the Copy button.

However, it's this need to manually select individual files that
flummoxed our tester. There's no drag-and-drop; instead you have
to click each file on which you want an operation performed.
Fortunately, though, the constantly present buttons along the
bottom provide very quick access to all common file management
functions, most of which have intelligible names ('ChMod' may
confuse those not familiar with the shell).

Because Gentoo is built with Gtk 1, it lacks anti-aliasing and
other effects that would make it fit in well with a modern Gnome
or Xfce desktop. Still, the interface is well thought-out for
advanced users, with coloured filenames indicating their contents,
statistics aplenty and a huge range of keybindings.

By far the most impressive aspect of Gentoo - and where it beats
all others in this roundup - is its configurability. Hit the
Configure button and you'll find a whole universe of options, from
exact window positioning and button layout to custom commands and
file listing columns. The 'file recognition' options is so
humongously in-depth it has to be seen to be believed. Basically,
if there's any aspect of Gentoo you're not quite comfortable with,
chances are you'll be able to change it here.

Gentoo's traditional two-pane design and outrageous level of
customisation make it hard to recommend to everyone, but if you've
been using Linux for a while and find Konq or Nautilus too
limiting, this will make your day. If only there was a Gtk 2

RATING: Vastly, astonishingly configurable. If you miss Norton
Commander or Directory Opus, this is what you need. 8/10

Seven other file managers are put under the spotlight in LXF 86,
including the mighty Nautilus and Konqueror, but which one wins?
Grab a copy and find out! Our 4GB DVD features the new Gentoo 2006.1
release - a top-notch distro for power users who need speed and
customisation - along with a whopper collection of magazine PDFs.
Over 250 pages including a massive stack of What on Earths,
explaining all manner of Linux technologies.

3. In the news...

Lots of legal goings on in the Linux world this month...

# Hans Reiser arrested ... le&sid=416

Hans Reiser, the developer of the Linux ReiserFS filesystem, has
been arrested on suspicion of murder following the disappearance of
his wife. Nina Reiser, who has been missing since September 3rd, was
granted a temporary restraining order against Hans in December 2004
over claims of abuse. See

# Microsoft's SCO involvement revealed? ... le&sid=415

A big development in the long-running SCO vs IBM saga. According to
this article - - BayStar managing member
Larry Goldfarb claims that Microsoft would "guarantee" BayStar's
part of a $50 million investment in SCO. This has led to plenty of
discussion in the open source community; no doubt more will be
revealed in the near future...

# Does the Wii run Linux? ... le&sid=414

Finally, something a bit lighter. Nintendo's Wii console is only a
couple of months away from release, but still relatively little is
known about it's internal workings. This An Technica piece hints
that the innovative console may run Linux, based on a blog by an
Nintendo 'insider'. Just imagine... a Ninty machine running Emacs!

4. This month on the forum

Online banking and Linux don't always make for happy bedfellows.
TonyLB pointed out that his building society has created a new
system that only works with Internet Explorer, thereby locking out
the small but growing number of Linux users. Many forum regulars
chipped in with suggestions for alternative banks and building
societies that place more emphasis on open standards. [1]

The LXF Forum isn't just a resource for Linux help - you can always
rely on the regulars to help out with other problems. ScottyDave was
setting up a band and looking for possible names, based around an
alcohol theme. towy71 offered the delightful "Technicolour Yawn",
and ehawk thought up the excellently bizarre "Gretchen's Amphibious
Assault Vehicle". Have you got any non-Linux questions for the
forum? Maybe you're trying to find the right breed of dog to own, or
perhaps you want opinion on cutting your toenails. The LXF Off Topic
forum is ready and waiting... [2]

[1] ... pic&t=4272

[2] ... pic&t=4239

5. Special newsletter feature


Say you're happily running a Linux distro, have your hard drive
neatly partitioned and everything's hunky-dory. Yet you're really
tempted to see the new features in Fedora Core 6, Ubuntu 6.10 or any
other upcoming release. What can you do? Thanks to QEMU, there's a
simple solution: emulate a PC. You don't need to repartition your
hard drive, nor do you need to ditch your current distro. Instead
you can try new distro releases in a virtual PC window that looks
and works like the real thing.

QEMU is a CPU and PC emulator, meaning that it gives you a virtual
computer onto which you can install Linux distros (and indeed, other
operating systems such as Syllable and ReactOS). Because it's
emulated, it's not as fast as your real PC, but on a decent machine
(2GHz+) you'll find it more than acceptable in use. Here's how to
get started.

1. Download QEMU

Go to and download
the qemu-0.8.2-i386.tar.gz file to your home directory. In a
terminal window, switch to the root user with 'su' or 'sudo bash',
then change to the root directory with 'cd /'. Now you can extract
QEMU by entering 'tar xfvz ~/qemu-0.8.2-i386.tar.gz'. This will
install QEMU into your current Linux installation.

2. Get your OS

Say, for example, you want to install Ubuntu Dapper Drake in an
emulated PC. You'll need to grab the .iso disc image file from
Ubuntu's website. Alternatively, you could grab a Fedora or SUSE DVD
image: the most important thing is that you have a disc image.

3. Create a virtual hard drive

Before you can install an OS, you'll need to create an emulated hard
drive. You can make a disk image with the 'qemu-img' tool. For
instance, 'qemu-img create test.img 10G' creates a virtual hard
drive disk image called 'test.img' with a size of 10GB.

4. And go!

Now you're ready to install your distro in the QEMU virtual PC.
You'll need to tell QEMU where the CD/DVD disc image is, and where
the hard drive image is. Take this command:

qemu -cdrom ubuntu.iso -hda test.img -boot d -m 256

This tells QEMU to use the 'ubuntu.iso' CD/DVD image for the virtual
optical drive, and 'test.img' as the emulated hard drive. We tell it
to boot from CD/DVD rather than the hard drive with the 'boot -d'
option, and lastly ask it to emulate a PC with 256MB of RAM with the
'-m' flag. You can change these options to point at different disk

If all goes well, a window will pop up showing an emulated PC, and
it'll start booting from your CD/DVD ISO image. You can then
continue installing as per normal! After installation, you'll want
QEMU to boot from the hard drive rather than CD/DVD, so use this
command instead:

qemu -hda test.img -m 256

5. Some tips

For a speed boost, you can download and install the 'accelerator'
module which changes QEMU from just an emulator to a virtualisation
tool, a la VMware. See this page for more info (note it's not freely

Also note that you can use a real CD/DVD disc to install an OS by
changing the location of the disc image:

qemu -cdrom /dev/cdrom -boot d -hda test.img -m 256

This tells QEMU to use your real PC's CD/DVD device when booting. If
you have any questions, check out our website forums, and happy

-- Mike Saunders

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 87, on sale Thursday 16th November

# Fedora Core 6 -- Everything you need to know about the
technologies, goals, people and communities that make
Fedora what it is

# Jeff Waugh -- What's next after Canonical for the
Gnomic Aussie?

# Mandriva 2007 -- It's back, it's full of 3D desktop
goodness, and it's on the LXF disc!

(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
beating Galsia:

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 sad) 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
LXF regular
Posts: 2893
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:14 pm

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