Linux Format Newsletter -- #51, July 2009

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #51, July 2009

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Aug 20, 2009 11:45 am





1. Welcome

2. LXF 122 on sale

3. Special subscription offer

4. In the news...

5. This month on the forum

6. Special Newsletter feature

7. Coming up next issue

8. Receiving this Newsletter

9. Contact details

1. Welcome

Hello! If you haven't already seen it, we've relaunched the Linux
Format website since the last Newsletter. The underlying engine has
been completely replaced, making the site much cleaner and faster,
while still retaining the popular forums, archives and blog. Please
let us know what you think!

Also, while we're here: I'd like to give a quick mention of the
TuxRadar podcasts for those who've not heard of them. Every two
weeks, Team LXF gathers round a microphone to talk through the hot
Linux topics of the moment. We also share our recent software
discoveries and bring in your opinions from the comments. Head over
to to find out more.

In this month's Newsletter we have a special feature on Unix
flavours, plus a Newsletter-only subscription offer. If you've
been umming-and-ahhing about subscribing to the world's best Linux
magazine (we love to be modest), there's never been a better time!

Mike Saunders

Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 122 on sale

Windows 7: it's hard to escape the hype surrounding Microsoft's next
operating system. But while the Windows world coos over how
wonderful and Vista-beating it will (supposedly) be, we in the Linux
camp take a different approach. It turns out that most of the new
features in Windows 7 already exist in Linux incarnations, and our
cover feature shows you how to get them. Turn your desktop box into
a Windows 7-beating powerhouse, and laugh in the face of those
preparing to spend money on the Home Premium Ultimate Turbo
Championship edition of Microsoft's attempt!

Also in LXF122 we have a roundup of the best video players, a look
at the industrial-strength OpenSolaris operating system, a guide to
running the super-anonymous Incognito Live CD and tutorials on Gimp,
Python and NTFS fixing. Our 4GB DVD is crammed to the gills with
Fedora 11 goodness and Apress guides, while in our HotPicks section
we pluck out the best new releases from around the net. Here's one
of them:

# Songbird 1.2.0 --

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so
Apple must be the most flattered company in the world right now -
everyone seems to want to ape their style. Just look at Songbird.
It may build on Mozilla's XUL system, but it's quite blatantly
been made in iTunes' mould. What's different about the program is
that it embeds a web browser within the interface and also has
support for a number of plugins that you'll never find in its
stable mates.

If you've ever used iTunes before then the Songbird interface will
feel like an old friend. In addition to the standard library and
playlist entries along the left-hand side, you'll also find the
list of radio entries and bookmarks. Another neat touch is the
content Songbird delivers as you play a track. It's similar to
Apple's Genius function, but instead of providing a list of
complimentary tracks, it seeks out information about the current
artist pulled from different sources such as Last.FM and
MusicBrainz and provides it in the lower pane. It's a great mashup
and one that will help you get to know more about the artists or
the albums you play through Songbird.

That's not the only way Songbird makes use of its web ties,
though; if you select something that requires a browser, Songbird
opens a new tab and displays it for you. It's not Firefox, but it
should be sufficient for any quick browsing you need to do.

However, for all its new functionality, Songbird keeps the best of
iTunes. The music playing interface is pretty simple, with the
main playback controls appearing in the bottom of the interface.
In typical web 2.0 fashion, you get the option to mark the current
track as a favourite or bury it, and you can assign each track a
rating out of five stars. The ability to create smart playlists is
lifted almost exactly out of iTunes - you can add multiple
conditions and limit the number of tracks that are added.

Ultimately, it's a good substitute for some of the traditional
Linux music players, such as Amarok, RhythmBox and Banshee, and
the iTunes-esque window decorations mean it'll slot into KDE or
Gnome with minimal fuss.

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 122.

3. Special subscription offer

By subscribing to Linux Format magazine, not only do you save heaps
of money compared to buying it at the newsstand, but you also get
access to over 50 back issues (in PDF format) online: that's over a
thousand articles! See:

If you're in the USA, go to and
enter code 'e004' to save 45% and pay just $30.62 every 3 months or
$122.47 for the year.

For those in the UK, EU and rest of the world, visit:

UK readers save 35% off the newsstand price (based on 13 issues),
paying 13.75 UKP quaterly by direct debit. In the EU, you get 13
issues for 93.70 UKP (that's a whopping saving of 50%), while in the
rest of the world you can save 10% - it's 97.50 UKP.

So, save time and money, and get access to a huge wealth of previous
Linux Format content - subscribe today!

4. In the news

A bit of a Microsoft theme this month...

# Google unveils its Chrome operating system

In a move widely regarded as a direct assault on Microsoft's market
dominance, Google has announced Chrome OS. Based on the Linux kernel
with a home-brewed graphical layer, Chrome OS will focus on the
browser and cloud computing, especially Google's ever-expanding
range of Ajax applications.

# Microsoft contributes to the Linux kernel ... nux-kernel

Some would say this has been a long time in coming, but others are
probably looking around to see if they can spot Babe the pig taking
off: Microsoft has announced it is submitting 20,000 lines of source
code to the Linux kernel under the GPL2 licence. Even Microsoft
seems to be aware how strange this situation is, describing the move
as "a break from the ordinary". The code essentially provides device
drivers for Linux that help it detect when it is running on
Microsoft's proprietary Hyper-V virtualisation system so that
performance is improved.

# Microsoft makes Mono tastier ... no-tastier

Here's some news to pacify (perhaps) the anti-Mono crowd: Microsoft
will apply its Community Promise to the C# language and CLI
execution framework. Essentially, this means that anyone can
implement a C# compiler and the CLI without the threat of Microsoft
jumping in and throwing patent claims around.

5. This month on the forum

MummerX was on the lookout for a tool to help with his writing. He
envisaged a program along the lines of TuxCards, albeit with a tag
cloud along the bottom. johnhudson recommended LyX, but towy71 noted
that with all of its dependencies, it's almost half a gigabyte in
size. MummerX continued looking at suggestions of Notecase and
Celtx. [1]

If you were a supervillain, what would you do? That's the question
LeeNukes posted (appropriately in the Off Topic forum, of course).
External_Floppy added a political slant to the proceedings with:
"using vast amounts of black ink on my expense claim forms". Very
swiftly the conversation shifted onto the meaning of minions and
pinions, as you'd expect... [2]



6. Special Newsletter feature


Linux is great - it combines the power of Unix with an ever-growing
development community and a focus on the home desktop. But it's not
the only free (as in speech) operating system in the game. Here
we'll look at some of the other Unix flavours doing the rounds,
what's special about them and why you should try them.

But before that, let's clarify what we mean by Unix. Developed in
the 1970s, Unix started as a multi-user operating system written in
C and portable across numerous machines. Because it was created as a
research project, over the next couple of decades a plethora of
Unix-like operating systems cropped up - some based on the original
Unix code, some written from scratch.

1) FreeBSD -

Widely regarded as the closest cousin of Linux, FreeBSD was based on
386BSD, a small project to take the BSD Unix code (from the
University of Berkeley in California) and get it running on
common-or-garden x86 PCs. After the project slowed down, a bunch of
developers took the code, added a stack of patches, and released it
as FreeBSD 1.0 in 1993.

FreeBSD is the most like Linux in that it has a wide range of
hardware support for x86 PCs, runs pretty much any Linux program you
can name (whether compiled from source or via a binary compatibility
layer) and has a team of developers focused on a good desktop
experience. It doesn't have a graphical installer, but a couple of
spin-off projects, PC-BSD and Desktop BSD, aim to make things
simpler for new users.

We recommend FreeBSD as the best starting point for Unix
exploration. If you're an intermediate Linux user, not afraid of the
command line or editing config files, you'll find it very to install
and use - especially given its top-class documentation.

2) NetBSD -

Like FreeBSD, NetBSD is based on the BSD Unix code, but whereas
FreeBSD focuses on server and desktop performance, NetBSD goes
all-out for portability. Now, you've probably seen Linux ports for
all kinds of devices such as the iPhone and Nintendo Wii. That's
cool, but they're usually separate projects and code trees, whereas
in the NetBSD project everything is built from the same codebase.

Whether you're running NetBSD on a modern x86-64 PC or a classic
Acorn A7000 box, the source code is the same. This means that NetBSD
is sometimes behind the curve in terms of amazing new features and
drivers, because everything has to be thoroughly tested before
inclusion. On the upside, NetBSD's codebase is famed for being very
clean and well structured, and therefore a wise choice if you want
to understand the inner workings of Unix.

3) OpenBSD -

Originally a fork of NetBSD due to developer disagreements, OpenBSD
puts security as its number one priority. Like NetBSD, it can appear
a bit dated in places due to a relatively small number of developers
and code correctness rather than whizz-bang features, but it's
arguably the most secure general-purpose operating system on the

OpenBSD is used by some fans on the desktop, but it's really at home
on firewalls and servers. The project spawned many technologies that
we take for granted in the Linux world today such as OpenSSH. Still,
it's not for the faint-hearted - the installer is totally text based
and assumes that you know exactly what you're doing.

4) OpenSolaris --

Sun's high-end Solaris operating system has been around since the
early '90s. Targeted at big-iron servers and databases, Solaris
rarely strayed outside of the corporate environment until the last
few years, when Sun started to target the hobbyist open source crowd
with OpenSolaris.

Right now there are several OpenSolaris distros doing the rounds;
some focus on the desktop, others focus on servers. Arguably,
OpenSolaris hasn't become the major Linux challenger that Sun had
perhaps hoped for, but it's still worth exploring. The range of
hardware support isn't brilliant but on a standard x86 PC you should
be able to get up and running with the usual tools - Gnome/KDE,
Firefox, etc.

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 123, on sale Thursday 20 August...

# Make it with Linux -- Got some time to kill and want to
have fun? Try one of our cool Linux projects and learn
something new!

# Get the most from VoIP -- Ekiga lets you make phone calls
around the world for nothing, but there's more to it than
meets the eye (or should that be ear?)

# Recoll explained -- Find documents, wherever they may be
on your filesystem, by searching inside them!

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

8. 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 cutting
through particularly soft butter:
ª Network Virtualization with Crossbow

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...'

9. 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:

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