Linux Format Newsletter -- #54, October 2009

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #54, October 2009

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:17 pm





1. Welcome

2. LXF 125 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

I don't know about you, but whenever I see an article in the
mainstream press talking about the latest Windows virus catastrophe,
and the writer refers to it as a 'computer virus', I rage. Countless
times I've read an article describing all manner of impending doom
because of malicious code, yet there wasn't a single mention that
users of Linux, Mac OS X, BSD, RISC OS, Visopsys or anything else
non-Windows are immune. This gives the impression that all computers
are equally vulnerable, which is very frustrating.

So it was wonderful to see the Washington Post blog entry (in the
News section below) recommending users to run Linux Live CDs for
their online banking. With straight talk and facts to back up his
advice, the author delivers a clear message - some operating systems
are more reliable and less prone to security problems than others.
Here's hoping we'll see more and more like this in the future.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this month's Newsletter. We've got a
look at the brand-spanking-new issue of Linux Format, roundups of
the most notable news stories and forum threads, plus a special
feature on converting your friends and family to free software.

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 125 on sale

The words "make your own Linux distro" might strike fear in the
hearts of many users, but it's not as hard as you think. In fact,
thanks to SUSE Studio and the Ubuntu Customisation Kit, it's easy
and a lot of fun - you get to make the exact flavour of Linux
that you want. Choose your software, create a new theme, and
personalise it all the way: we show you how. If you're looking for
something more hard-core, we also explain how to build distros from
the ground up with Arch Linux and Linux From Scratch.

Also in LXF 125 we talk to the Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin, give a
speed boost to your web server with Lighttpd, make automatic music
using Chuck, and explain how to set up a top-notch virtualisation
system with KVM and Qemu. On the 4GB DVD you'll find Slackware 13.0,
the world's longest-running distro, along with Zenwalk 4.2, the
first alpha release of Haiku OS, and much more.

Here's a taster of LXF 125 from our HotPicks section:

# Choqok 0.6.6 -

We make no secret of the fact that we're steadfast fans of
Twitter, the microblogging platform that enables millions of
people to share the minutiae of their lives. That's why we love
Choqok - a KDE 4 application that helps you hook into Twitter and, keep track of your timeline and manage incoming and
outgoing messages.

The interface is tabbed, which is in keeping with some of the
other popular clients available for Linux, and the default tabs
are set to help you flick between the main timeline, replies,
private messages and your outbound microblogs. There's no obvious
search facility, but look under the File menu and you'll see that
there's provision for carrying out searches based on keywords,
users and hash tags.

Annoyingly, however, there's no simple way to follow a user.
Instead, you have to click the username, select the Whois option
and then click the Add button to start following them. It's a
minor UI niggle, but one that could've been solved with a little
more thought. Having said that, you can easily reply, retweet, or
mark favourite tweets that you have come across by simply hovering
over the user's avatar and then selecting the appropriate icon.

The search box also enables you to switch between a custom
keyword-based search and tweets coming from or to that user, along
with tweets including the username and any associated hashtags.
This more than makes up for the few clicks needed to follow
someone, and the search function is pretty nippy. One of the key
things with a Twitter search is that it's never truly live, but
Choqok gets around the need to click Load New Posts with an
auto-update option, which is particularly useful when you're
following a breaking news story.

Our only other gripe is the integration with Amarok that spams
your feed with what you're currently listening to - a tactic
surely designed to get all your followers to leave you post-haste.
With ever more social network sites being aggregated into one
application, it's refreshing to see one that does Twittering well.
We'd heartily recommend it if you use KDE.

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 125.

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...

# London Stock Exchange ditches Windows for Linux ... _for_linux

Remember when Microsoft touted how great Windows was for running a
major stock exchange? Well, those glory days are over now - after
major problems with the service, the London Stock Exchange has
dropped its Windows-based 'solution' in favour of Linux.

# Washington Post blog recommends Linux Live CDs ... nk_on.html

Linux normally only gets passing mentions in the popular press, but
this story is something big. A security journo has recommended that
users avoid Windows for online banking, and instead run Linux Live
CDs to deal with their finances. "Don't use Microsoft Windows when
accessing your bank account online" says the author, and the piece
is packed with examples of companies losing money due to
Windows-related security problems.

# Debian GNU/kFreeBSD goes all official ... -some-love

Netcraft hasn't confirmed it, but the upcoming release of Debian,
codenamed Squeeze, will be available in a juicy new FreeBSD flavour
alongside the regular Linux version. Well, Debian GNU/kFreeBSD has
been around for a while, but now it will be an official part of the
distro, combining the titanium-strength FreeBSD kernel with the GNU
C library and userland utilities that we all know and love.

5. This month on the forum

Kamrananvaar is a link-posting machine in the Discussion subforum,
and at the start of the month (s)he highlighted a story about the UK
government considering open source solutions. Johnhudson noted that
large-scale migrations can often take five years or more, whereas
governments normally consider plans in four-year chunks due to
elections. CJLL recalled the problem-ridden NHS computer projects,
and in general most posters were pretty sceptical of our dear
leaders. [1]

Another politically-charged debate cropped up in the Off Topic
forum, this time about the proposed Broadband Tax which ostensibly
aims to make broadband coverage better and more available across the
UK. Given the current economic climate and belt-tightening that's
going on, it wasn't well received by most posters in the thread,
with yet more cynicism creeping in. Joy!



6. Special Newsletter feature


We all love Linux and free software, and we all wish we could get it
in the hands of others. But how can we do that? Just giving someone
an Ubuntu CD isn't necessarily going to work - many people need to
be eased into what is, ultimately, a foreign environment. So here's
our step-by-step conversion guide.

1) Start light

Begin by demonstrating one particular software. If your target uses
Internet Explorer, for example, give them Firefox and show off some
of the cool features and extensions. Point out many of the articles
online that recommend using Firefox over IE for security reasons.

Or if they've splashed out money on MS Office, show them how much
money they could save with (Of course, if they've
only just paid hundreds of pounds/dollars/Euros for Office, it's
better to leave it a while, otherwise you might just frustrate

Gimp is a bit tougher as it's not quite a drop-in replacement for
Photoshop, but if your target user does mostly simple tasks, you can
show how it's more than up for the job.

2) Advocate positively

Avoid slating Windows too much. Leave the politics to Richard
Stallman. The user wants to hear what's good about Linux and free
software, not what's bad about everything else. Of course, the odd
mention of Microsoft's security woes isn't bad, but be careful not
to overdo it!

Also note that, ultimately, most users care more about price rather
than freedom. It's definitely worth highlighting the fact that these
programs are better because everyone can share and improve the
'recipe' behind them, but if they can't ever see themselves hacking
code it won't have a big impact. Put the dollar signs in their eyes
instead; later on you can show how important the GPL and freedom is.

3) Go Live

Once your user has a bunch of free software programs on his/her
machine, you can move on to a Linux Live CD. Be on hand to boot it
up and show how this complete collection of software works together
in unison, and how with Linux you get everything out of the box.
Point out the differences right from the start (desktop design,
where the 'Control Panel' equivalents are etc.) so that your user
gets to grips with it all very quickly.

Choose a Live CD that you're very familiar with - don't just go for
Ubuntu because it's the most popular (although it is, of course, a
great choice). Even if you're a huge fan of a niche distro, it's
best to resist the urge to go with that, as your user might find it
hard to get help later.

4) Stick around

If your user finally gets Linux installed (most likely with a
dual-boot setup), the best thing you can do is always be at the end
of the phone (or an IM session). We know that there are some
excellent Linux forums on the net, but for the first week or so be
prepared to act as a one-to-one support agency. After time, your
user will learn how to approach problems and actually understand
what IS a problem (rather than just the way Linux is) and they'll be
better prepared for online forums.

Let us know your Linux conversion stories on the LXF forums!

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 126, on sale Thursday 12 November...

# Make Linux look great - Bored with brown? Give your desktop
a makeover that will put OS X and Windows 7 to shame!

# Get the most from KDE - Version 4.3 is winning new users
every day, but which distro does it best?

# Home network security - Learn how Wireshark can help you
ensure that crackers give your home network a miss.

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 adding
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If for some reason you no longer wish to receive this newsletter
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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)
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