Linux Format Newsletter -- #53, September 2009

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #53, September 2009

Postby M-Saunders » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:54 am





1. Welcome

2. LXF 124 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

Much hoo-hah has been made about Linus Torvalds's remarks that the
Linux kernel is getting too bloated (see the 'In the news' section
below). While I hardly want to question the man's technical nous, is
it really that bad? Sure, there are zillions of drivers in there and
features that many of us will never use, but the great strength of
the Linux kernel is its modularity. If there's something you don't
need, don't build it - or build it as a module so it won't be loaded
unless you need it. Even today you can still compile a really tiny,
streamlined kernel for a specific hardware setup.

Anyway, enjoy this month's Newsletter - along with the regular look
at the latest LXF and a roundup of the big news stories and forum
posts, we have a special feature on the classic window managers of
yesteryear (some of which are still worth trying today!).

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 124 on sale

Most Linux distros are well equipped to handle everyday tasks - web
browsing, office work, games etc. But given the vast range of
hardware out there, and the countless scenarios in which Linux has
to work, there's always room for more optimisation and performance
tweaks. In issue 124 our cover feature is crammed with hints, tips
and shortcuts that make your desktop faster, sleeker and smoother
than ever before.

Meanwhile, if you're an Ubuntu user we explain how to install almost
anything via the PPA package system, and if you're planning to set
up a website we show you how to use the powerful and flexible Drupal
CMS. The 4GB DVD is an exclusive triple-booting disc with three
screamingly fast distros, along with FreeBSD 7.2, KDE 4.3, Emacs
23.1 and much more. If you're in the UK you can grab Linux Format
124 today - otherwise it should be on your newsstands very soon.

Here's a taster of LXF 124 from our HotPicks section:

# Celestia 1.6.0 -

Celestia is a true space simulator, intended to provide accurate
representations of planetary bodies and allow you to explore the
far reaches of space from the comfort of your desk. First and
foremost you'll need to make sure you have zlib installed and at
the ready, along with the latest OpenGL drivers for your graphics
card, as it's fairly heavy on the old graphical front.

Once you're over the initial hurdle of compilation, Celestia stuns
you with its beauty, particularly when you look back at Earth from
afar and pick out details of countries across the globe and the
many satellites orbiting us. It's not long before you start to
move across our solar system, making hops between each planet and
getting a feel for the distances involved.

The developers have insisted on using accurate measures between
stars and planets, giving it an altogether realistic feel as you
soar through the cosmos. With version 1.6.0 they've gone even
further to give your trip through the stars a much more lifelike
look, with planet shine making an appearance. This is when objects
are lit not only by the primary star of the solar system, but also
by the ambient light given off by other planets.

Where Celestia excels is in giving accurate scientific information
about the planets and stars; it's used by scientific and
educational establishments across the world. For sheer realism,
Celestia can't be beaten; if you haven't given it a try before
then you should definitely go exploring, as there are no limits to
where you can go with it.

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 124.

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 quarterly 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

The biggest developments from around the net...

# Torvalds says that Linux is getting "bloated" ... lds-quotes

Yes, the Linux kernel creator and benevolent dictator has had a jab
at his own project, claiming that it's getting "bloated and huge".
No longer is Linux the "small hyper efficient kernel" that he
envisioned 15 years ago.

# Haiku Alpha released ... a_Released

It's been a long time coming, but finally we have the first alpha
release of Haiku, a free software re-implementation of BeOS. For
those who never used it, BeOS was a fast, lightweight desktop OS
geared towards multimedia and gained a small slice of marketshare in
the late '90s. Microsoft's might meant it never had a chance to
really take off though... until now.

# First Linux botnet discovered ... h_malware/

Uh oh... a security researcher has found a bunch of Linux machines
on the net that are working in unison to deliver malware. It's a
relatively tiny botnet at the moment, with only 100 nodes, but it's
still a wake-up call to all of us in the Linux community that
nothing is invincible and we should always be patching our systems!

5. This month on the forum

BillFoster raised an interesting point - with web browser updates,
is it better to wait for your distro to release new packages, or
update from inside the browser itself (or using third-party
packages?) He noted that he was running recent versions of SUSE,
Mandriva and Fedora but didn't have the latest versions of Firefox
and SeaMonkey. Nelz noted that with third-party software versions,
you don't get the same update warnings as you get with in-distro
apps. [1]

The Off Topic forum has been particularly busy recently, and one of
the threads was the classic "post your desktop". Heiowge kicked it
off with a stunning artistic backdrop, whereas AndyBaxman had
something a lot more organic (and with a rather large clock too).
Post your desktop and share it with the world! [2]



6. Special Newsletter feature


Just about every modern Linux distro is supplied with one of the
three big desktop environments: KDE, Gnome or Xfce. A handful of
lightweight distros use standalone window managers such as IceWM.
But if you've been using Linux for a while you'll no doubt have heard
of many other window managers - so here we'll look back at some of
the classic WMs from the '80s and '90s that you can still find in
your package manager today.

1) TWM

Until recently, TWM could have been described as the 'Vi of window
managers' - it's always there. (Today, some distros don't install it
by default.) TWM wasn't the original X Window System window manager,
but it's the oldest one that you can still easily get hold of, and
its age shows. When you start it you get a grand total of nothing on
the screen; right and left-click to bring up menus. In the default
configuration there isn't even a window close button - instead you
have to open the menu, choose Delete, and then click the window.

TWM feels pretty strange at first: when you launch a program, you
draw a box on the screen to indicate the size and position that you
want. Also, by default TWM uses focus-follows-mouse - that is,
whichever window is under the mouse gets the focus. You don't have
to click on the window.

It looks ugly and clunky, but TWM is quite configurable. Hardly
anyone uses it - those who like some of its features run the much
more flexible CTWM and VTWM options, which are worth checking out.

2) MWM

The Motif Window Manager was designed to accompany the Motif widget
set and CDE desktop. Square and chunky, MWM looks awesomely retro
today, and there's even MWM themes for the Xfce and KDE window
managers. To get MWM in Ubuntu, install the 'motif-clients' package.

3) AfterStep

Here's one that's a lot more powerful than the previous duo.
AfterStep apes NeXTSTEP, the workstation OS developed in the late
'80s by a team led by Steve Jobs (after his departure from Apple).
Funnily enough, Apple bought NeXT many years later, and the OS
morphed into Mac OS X.

AfterStep looks refreshingly unusual: on the right is a dock into
which you can drag program icons for quick launch buttons. The title
bars include (by default) only window minimization and close
buttons, and to bring up the program menu you right-click anywhere
on the desktop.

AfterStep is a highly configurable window manager, but for those who
like the NeXT style but want something a bit simpler and easier to
configure via a GUI, Window Maker is the best choice.


And finally we come to the king of classic window managers. Back in
1993, at a time when users were fighting the constraints of TWM and
MWM, FVWM came along with a vast range of configurability. Unix
users at the time loved it, and many can't tear themselves away from
it today. Indeed, FVWM 2 has developed into a very modern, advanced
window manager, capable of appearing and behaving like almost any
other window manager or desktop.

There have been some off-shoots of the FVWM project. One of the best
is FVWM Crystal, which shows just how much eye candy you can integrate
into such an old-school window manager:

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 125, on sale Thursday 15 October...

# Hack your own Linux - How to use Arch Linux, Linux From
Scratch, SUSE Studio and more to get Linux as you want!

# Tux on your TV - Is there anything Linux can't do? We
don't think so either: follow our guide to get Linux in
your living room.

# Network security - Is your network secret? Is it safe?
Wireshark can answer those questions and more...

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 eating
a slice 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 cry) 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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