Linux Format Newsletter -- #59, March 2010

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #59, March 2010

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Apr 01, 2010 1:55 pm





1. Welcome

2. LXF 130 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

Welcome to the March Newsletter. The days are getting brighter,
Ubuntu is getting a new theme (see the News section) and there's
much to look forward to in the free software world over the next few
months. Unless you're SCO, that is. If you've been following the
whole SCO vs IBM litigation antics over the last seven years, you
probably chuckled, as I did, if you saw the recent news that former
CEO Darl McBride is back to buy part of the company. Some things
just seem to go on forever - and get ever more bizarre.

A few days ago we were experimenting with our online Linux Format
Archives system, and wanted to see how the page would look with
everything put together. Well, you can see for yourself here:

It's a big page. Very big. But all that can be yours if you want it.

Meanwhile, read on for a look at LXF 130, the hottest news stories
and forum threads, plus a special feature on distro remastering
tools. Making your own Linux flavour is easier than you think!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 130 on sale

Switching to Linux as your home desktop OS is one thing, but moving
a whole office setup to the platform is a bigger job. Yet thanks to
the advancements being made in the Linux world, it's not hard, and
whether your office is a desk in the corner of your living room or a
30-storey skyscraper packed with cubicle-dwelling salarymen, Linux
can save you time and money. A lot of time and money. We look at the
alternatives to MS Office and Adobe's creative apps, showing how you
can get the same functionality for free.

Meanwhile, we explore the meanings of free, open and libre, and
delve into the depths of Linux audio to (finally!) understand how
PulseAudio really works. We look back at ten years of Linux Format,
and show you how to master the CLI, make snazzy labels, hack Clutter
with Python and run OpenVZ in our tutorials section. On the free DVD
you'll find eight super-fast distros to turbo-charge your Linux box,
along with Mythbuntu, retro-tastic Red Hat 6.0 and 700 Linux
problems solved in our new Answers Archive section.

Here's a taster of the magazine from HotPicks:

# Freeforth 1.2 --

Before object-oriented programming languages existed, computers
ran real ones such as Forth. If you ever happened upon a Jupiter
Ace in your youth, you may remember this strange dialect
masquerading as a high-level language. A Forth listing looks like
you've printed your shopping list with the wrong head on your
golfball printer. If you remember what one of those is.

Forth uses a stack-based dictionary-style structure, so code
routines can be defined, stored and executed by later statements.
It has rather confusing syntax and uses the eccentric Reverse
Polish Notation for operations. It's like a weird combination
between an interpreter and a compiler, or at least most versions

Freeforth is different, but if you really want to find out the
innovations, it's best to work your way through the good primer.
This is Forth in action:

0; 5 6 7 * + . ;
47 0;

You're probably wondering why you'd ever want to learn Forth.
Well, it's a very efficient language and not quite as low-level as
machine code. It's largely kept alive out of academic interest,
but there are some real-world applications for it. A lot of
microcontrollers can be programmed in it, and the resulting code
is often shorter and faster than a more complicated language such
as C. Freeforth has some neat features, sample code and useful

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 130.

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...

# Ubuntu 10.04 theme and branding announced ... u-branding

Yes, after six years of the Human theme and bouncy-roundy Ubuntu
logo, it's time for a change. Canonical has announced the new
artwork planned for Ubuntu 10.04, aka Lucid Lynx, and it's a major
departure. For starters, the word 'Ubuntu' now has sharp, clearly
defined points in the font, with the familiar three-folks-hugging
logo a mere blob in the corner. On the interface side, new GTK
themes accompany a curious arrangement of titlebar buttons - not
quite Windows, not quite Mac...

# Kernel 2.6.33 released ... d-nintendo

We don't normally make a big fuss about kernel releases - after all,
many of the changes are low-level and don't directly affect us mere
mortals - but 2.6.33 is an exception. First up, this release
includes Nouveau, a totally free, reverse-engineered driver for
Nvidia graphics cards. Not only does this driver support more cards
than the proprietary, closed one, but it can be updated and
maintained by the community indefinitely.

# Apple sues HTC for "patent infringement"

While this story isn't about Linux on the surface, digging deeper we
see how it might affect our favourite OS. Apple is bringing
litigation against mobile phone maker HTC, claiming patent
infringements on the UI and hardware. Now, the software side of many
of HTC's phones is Android, which is Linux at the core. So Apple's
moves could potentially impact Linux at some point.

5. This month on the forum

How do you get started in the Linux community? That's the question
MessedUpHare (great name) posed on the Discussion subforum, looking
to "give back to the community". Paulm noted that he maintains
packages for a couple of distros, while Bazza recommended filing bug
reports. Johnhudson said that helping out with documentation was a
good idea. [1]

Adobe Flash doesn't have many fans in the Linux world: after all,
it's a closed source, binary blob that many feel is responsible for
browser slowdowns and crashes. Nevertheless, it's essential for
viewing many websites properly, so it's worth knowing how to
install. Catgate was wrestling with the plugin and started a thread
which may be useful for those who've had problems getting it to work
on .deb-based distros. [2]

The Winter Olympics are over, and Donoreo, who just happens to come
from the country that won the most gold medals, started a lovely
thread about the closing ceremonies. Please feel free to join in the
thread and congratulate him... [3]




6. Special Newsletter feature


Back in the '90s and early 2000s, making your own distro was no easy
task. If you were to base your own flavour of Linux on someone
else's, you had to know the ins-and-outs of every part of the
distro. Bits would be undocumented, some parts wouldn't seem to make
any sense, and you were largely left to your own devices.

Today, the situation has completely changed. There are a variety of
tools available to help you remaster a distro with your own software
and customisations. Best of all, they don't require in-depth
knowledge of a distro's workings - if you've been using Linux for a
while you'll have all the skills required. Here we're going to look
at a few of the most notable programs...

1) SUSE Studio --

If you're a regular listener to the TuxRadar Podcast, you'll know
that we challenged ourselves to build a distro using this system.
SUSE Studio is hugely impressive: with a point-and-click interface
you can customise an OpenSUSE Live CD with the software, services
and graphical touches that you like. Excellently, you don't even
need a special program for it, or to be running SUSE - it's all done
through a web interface. You can even test your distro on Novell's
machines, viewing it remotely through VNC in a Java applet.

For SUSE spin-offs with custom software selections, it's great.
However, it doesn't offer a vast range of system configuration
options, so if you want to do anything deeper you'll have to use the
'file overlay' system which replaces a default SUSE config file with
one that you've created. Some of the package dependencies can go a
bit overboard too - if you want the GDM login manager, you have to
install the Gnome desktop. But otherwise it's highly recommended:
sign up and hopefully you'll get a free invite.

2) Remastersys -- ... stool.html

Here's a more advanced tool for creating custom versions of Debian
and Ubuntu. As opposed to SUSE Studio, where you create the distro
you want from the ground up, with Remastersys you turn an existing
installation of Debian/Ubuntu into a redistributable Live CD that
others can boot from and install. So, you install Ubuntu, install
and remove the apps you want, make changes to system scripts, edit
your theme etc. and then run Remastersys to bundle the whole lot
into your personal Live CD.

Well, in theory. Remastersys works like a charm for making custom
package selections, but it doesn't automate other processes. For
instance, on the Ubuntu CD a Live user called 'ubuntu' is generated
by the boot scripts, and these are stored inside an initrd. So while
you can make all the changes you want to the files stored in the
Ubuntu installation, to make visible changes to the Live mode user
requires a lot more poking around. Still, unless you want to totally
re-brand every aspect of Ubuntu, that shouldn't be an issue.

3) Revisor --

For Fedora users, Revisor is the application of choice. This is a
graphical program that lets you point-and-click your way through the
customisation process, letting you choose the default software
sources (repositories) and packages to be installed. You can also
add user accounts, configure network settings, set location
information and other options before building a Live CD. It's easier
to use than Remastersys and gives you a decent amount of

There are other tools and techniques for remastering distros on the
net -- Google "Linux remaster" and see what you can find!

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 131, on sale Thursday 31 March...

# How Linux works -- Satisfy your curiosity as we explain
once and for all how all the bits of Linux fit together

# MythTV distros tested -- The bluffer's guide to getting
Linux in your lounge without all that tedious hard work

# DOSBox hands on -- Relive the glory days using free
software and our kick-ass tutorial

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 writing
Hello World in BASIC:

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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