Linux Format Newsletter -- #48, May 2009

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #48, May 2009

Postby M-Saunders » Fri May 29, 2009 2:31 pm





1. Welcome

2. LXF 119 on sale

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

We were all Linux newbies once, and getting to grips with a
completely new operating system is a pretty daunting job. Here at
Linux Format we've been working on a special guide for those taking
their first steps with the OS: Switch to Linux. This 128-page
tutorial-fest, written from scratch and chock full of screenshots
and walkthroughs, is supplied with a full DVD version of OpenSUSE 11.1.

Of course, as a Newsletter reader you're no doubt already pretty
familiar with Linux, but if you're still finding the going tough or
want to help others make the switch, you can buy a copy online in a
couple of days -- see on Thursday
for the link. It'll also be available in all good newsagents!

Meanwhile, read on for a look at the brand-spanking-new issue of
Linux Format, a roundup of the biggest news and forum topics, plus a
special feature on improving your productivity by 3,000%* at the
command line. Enjoy!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

*Number may not represent actuality. Your mileage may vary.
Do not use under water.

2. LXF 119 on sale

Linux Format issue 119 has hit the newsstands, ready to help you
work smarter and faster with the power of free software. We've
collected together 26 tips and tricks explaining how to be more
efficient on your Linux desktop, from the coolest KDE Plasmoids to
the magic of Gnome Do. Even if you've got your desktop environment
in tip-top shape, you'll discover a gem here to make it even better.

Slackware has been around since just after the Big Bang, but what
keeps it going? We look at the longest-running Linux distro and
discover why it's still loved my many Unix-heads. Also, we examine
how 'free' the new wave of free web services really are, and show
you how to keep track of your finances in these economically
worrying times with HomeBank.

This issue's DVD is a triple-booting beast: try PCLinuxOS 2009,
Mepis 8 and Zenwalk 6 from a single disc. PCLinuxOS expands upon its
Mandriva roots with an ultra-slick desktop, while Mepis continues
its tradition of user-friendliness and Zenwalk zips along on old

In this month's HotPicks section, one of Andy's top choices is

# MindRaider 7.6 beta 1 --

Capturing a train of thought can be somewhat of a challenge, which
is why mind maps are so popular these days. Creating a mind map is
a way to capture how you're thinking and representing it
graphically. Pictures spring to mind of sheets of sheets of A1
paper peppered with scribbles and arrows, such as you might get
from a strategy meeting.

Good software solutions for mind mapping can be difficult to find,
which is why we were interested to discover MindRader - a pretty
mature Java-based application. If you've got Java installed then
it's straightforward to run: just issue the command 'java -jar
run.jar' when you're in the MindRaider directory and it'll load
with no fuss.

The interface can be a little busy to begin with, but once you
start to move around you'll soon become accustomed to the
different areas. Smack in the middle is the mind map that's
generated on the fly as you start to add nodes to your outline,
with child nodes being added as you go deeper into detail. For
every note, the title is displayed in the mind map, with any
additional notes being displayed in the text area on the
right-hand side.

By default, MindRaider is set to Viewer mode, but the row of
buttons below the viewer window enable you to toggle between
viewing and editing. You can create links to other notes or
websites, and also include attachments for further research. The
four slider controls enable you to see more notes and change the
rotation or zoom level.

You're also able to navigate through the notes using the mind map
interface and use tags to organise your notes, plus the Tag Cloud
enables you to quickly find notes that share common tags. You can
even add bookmarks to your notes for jumping to specific points.
MindRaider will keep a log of recently addressed notes, thus
giving you a virtual paper trail if you need to retrace your
steps. We're big fans of mind mapping here at Linux Format, and
MindRaider is a great option.

Head over to the LXF website and click on the right-hand issue cover
picture for more information on Linux Format 119.

3. In the news

The biggest developments around the net...

# Ubuntu 9.04 released

Who could've missed this! Yes, the Jaunty Jackalope is here,
sporting the fastest boot time of any Ubuntu release, drastically
reduced memory usage from 8.10, a bunch of new features and fixes
aplenty. It's still early days, but it looks like this'll be the
best Ubuntu release of all time. Oh, and there's Kubuntu and Xubuntu
9.04 too. See the TuxRadar 'frankenreview' for our take:

# Mandriva 2009.1 arrives

But Ubuntu can't take all of the limelight in distroland: there's a
new release of newbie's favourite distro Mandriva too. This '2009
Spring' release includes KDE 4.2 and Gnome 2.26, along with 3.0 and the Nepomuk note-taking tool.

# *BSD release fest
OpenBSD 4.5:
NetBSD 5:
DragonFlyBSD 2.2:

For those following the wider world of Unix-like operating systems,
the *BSD camp have come up with some new goodies to try out. OpenBSD
4.5 includes preliminary Gumstix and OpenMoko ports, while NetBSD's
SMP subsystem has had an overhaul for dramatic performance
improvements on multi-core machines.

4. This month on the forum

Why are you using your current desktop? Perhaps you've been using
Gnome for years and find KDE too busy; or maybe you're a hard-core
KDE fan who can't stand Gnome's lack of tweakable bits. James100
kickstarted a potentially flame-filled thread discussing the pros
and cons of the major Linux desktops, but it remained pleasingly
civil. Eventually the discussion moved on to Microsoft Office 2007's
new interface and the bother that it's causing users. [1]

Check out this start to a thread: "I thought I'd try out this distro
called Vista that I've heard about. It looks pretty enough - except
for ghastly font rendering - and their version of Compiz seems to be
limited for some reason. Transparency effects were nice, but for the
life of me I couldn't work out how to enable wobbly windows, desktop
raindrops or rotating cubes." No need to say more -- just read it! [2]

[1] ... ic&t=10044

[2] ... ic&t=10021

5. Special Newsletter feature


Those of you who turned into TuxRadar Podcast
( episode 6 will have heard Paul's
Discovery of the Week: a way to quickly retrieve the text that you
entered in a previous command. Here are some more shortcuts that you
may not have come across -- they'll save you heaps of time at the
shell prompt!

1) Aliases

An alias is a shorthand way of expressing a long command. For
example, say you often SSH into a remote server, using quite a long
command. You could enter:

alias s="ssh -P 1234"

Now you can just enter "s" at the command line, and the shell will
automatically expand it to the full SSH command above. But! That
will only work for the current shell session: when you close the
terminal window, that alias will be lost.

The trick is to add it to the file '.bashrc' in your home directory.
Open that file in a text editor and add the line above to the bottom
of the file, save it and then open a new shell session. "s" will
then always expand to the full command.

2) Tab completion

You're probably already aware of the basics here: hit tab as you're
entering a filename or command, and the shell will try to fill it
out for you.

However, there's more to tab completion. You can customise which
files the shell tries to auto-complete by editing
/etc/bash_completion -- this file contains the rules showing, for
instance, which filenames the shell will try to fill out when you
enter 'gunzip'. (After all, you're not likely to run 'gunzip' on a
.mp3 file!)

3) History

You know that you can use the Up and Down cursor keys to navigate
through your previously entered commands. You can also bring up a
complete list of your previous commands just by entering 'history'.
If you want to search for a specific command, you can use the pipe
(|) character and 'grep', eg:

history | grep ssh

That shows you all the recent commands you've entered containing
'ssh'. If you just want to look at a few of the most recent
commands, you can supplement 'history' with a number, eg:

history 10

Now, there might be a command in your history that you want to
remove, ie one which reveals the username and port number used to
connect to a remote machine. Enter 'history' as before to view the
list of commands alongside a list of numbers, then enter 'history -d
X' replacing X with the number of the command you want to remove.

Here's another history trick: you can re-run the previous command,
changing one word (or number) to another, very swiftly. For
instance, say the last command you entered was

ssh -P 1234

If you want to change 'user' to something else, do this:


Now the same command will be run, but 'user' will be changed to

4) Quick deletion

When you're editing a long command, you may want to remove large
chunks of it, and it's incredibly tedious to move around with the
cursor keys, hammering delete and backspace. If the cursor is in the
middle of a command and you want to remove all characters to the
right of it, hit Ctrl+k. To do the same but to the left -- ie delete
all characters before the cursor -- hit Ctrl+u.

5) Quick help

The Bash 3.2 manual page is 3,355 lines long. That's pretty heavy
reading if you just want to quickly check the syntax of a specific
command or option. Instead, you can use 'help' along with a shell
command to bring up a quick snippet of text -- eg 'help export',
'help if', 'help alias' etc. The information is brief and terse, but
very useful if you've come across a new command, eg in .bashrc, and
want to get the jist of how it works.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 120, on sale Thursday 28 May...

# Ubuntu unleashed -- Mark Shuttleworth joins us to
celebrate the tenth release of the world's most popular
distro with an Ubuntu extravaganza

# Google Chromium -- Web browsers the world over get a kick
in the pants, but what does it mean for Firefox?

# Coding: Python projects -- If you've missed our coding
projects the last few issues, they back!

Contents are subject to change, and may settle in transit.

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 buying
a loaf of bread:

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 like this:

1. Log into the LXF site and go to the forums
2. Click Usergroups at the top of the page
3. Select Newsletter and then View information
4. Click Unsubscribe next to 'You are a member...'

8. Contact details

If you have 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 subscription page:

(C) 2009 Future Publishing Limited
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