Linux Format Newsletter -- #60, April 2010

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #60, April 2010

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:57 am





1. Welcome

2. LXF 131 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 April! We've had some good news in the last few days: the
SCO vs everyone legal battles now appear to be well and truly over.
Harking back to 2003, when SCO decided to take on the mighty IBM,
many pundits thought that it would all be over in a flash. After
all, IBM's terrifying team of "Nazgul" lawyers would just leave SCO
as nothing more than a smouldering crater, right?

Unfortunately it took way, way longer than hoped, with more
companies getting involved and Darl McBride's team performing
some astounding bouncebacks in the face of legal defeats. We can
only hope that, in the end, very little damage was done to the
reputation of Linux and we've come out of the other side stronger.

Read on for your usual dose of LXF-new-issue goodness, news stories,
hot forum topics and more - and don't miss our guide to 'screen',
the bestest time-savingest tool on the command line!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 131 on sale

We all know what makes Linux great: it's reliable, fast and free.
But how exactly does it work under the hood? What makes it all tick?
Linux Format 131, which hits UK newsstands today, delves deep into
Linux's internals to show you how all the components fit together.
You'll learn about virtual filesystems, the client-server nature of
X, how kernel features are exposed to the system and much more. In
all, it's your one-stop guide to becoming well-versed in the
internals of your operating system.

Meanwhile, we explore Cygwin to (finally) give Windows some of the
Unixy power-features that it sorely lacks, and show you how to set
up ClamAV to secure all machines on your network. Then we venture
into the more-powerful-than-you-might-think Nano text editor, and
expand your skills in our tutorials section: parental controls,
project management in TaskJuggler, the Boxee TV service, Python
coding and more.

For Linux newbies we have Ubuntu 9.10 and a special 121-page guide
on our 4GB DVD, while experienced users can try KDE 4.4 Live, Linux
From Scratch 6.6 and NetBSD 5. There's also 3.2,
Xubuntu 9.10, video drivers, games, podcasts and much more.

Here's a taster of the magazine from the HotPicks section:

# Jailkit 2.11 -

You can never invest too much time in securing your Linux box and
systems. The standard practice is to construct a chroot jail for
applications that could be manipulated to give a remote user the
power of root.

This makes use of the 'chroot' command, enabling the system
administrator to set up an environment that only provides the
tools required by the process. Common things that are chrooted are
web and FTP servers, and other things that use system logins and
give users access to the filesystem.

While it isn't difficult to set up a chroot directory, Jailkit is
a system of scripts that makes it quicker and easier to set up
chroot environments, and perhaps more importantly, doesn't forget
to set permissions and do the other things necessary to make the
chroot jail secure.

There's even a script to check the environment you have made and
report problems. A word of warning though: a poorly configured
jail is worse than no jail at all. If the user can get write
access to the root of the jail directory or crucial ones
underneath it, such as /etc/, they could gain root privileges.

Jailkit comes with a collection of scripts, and each is
accompanied in this version by a comprehensive man page. On the
downside, you'll need to read them, and make changes to the config
files if you want to use this software successfully. If you create
a lot of chroot jails, it's worth the effort.

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 131.

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...

# Gnome 2.30 released

Yes, a new version of the desktop environment is now available,
sporting improvements to the Nautilus file manager, Empathy instant
messaging client, Tomboy note-taker and Gnome System Tools. Hit the
link above for a the gory details.

# Jury reaches decision in SCO vs Novell case ... _Go_to_SCO

At last... At long last. It's all over. A jury has ruled that Novell
owned the Unix copyrights and not Novell, wrapping up a messy legal
battle that started with SCO's attack on IBM eight years ago. SCO
has a habit of miraculously bouncing back from courtroom defeats,
but this time we'd wager that it's all over for good.

# Sony ditches other OS support on PS3 ... 21-update/

While the new PS3 Slim couldn't run Linux, older versions of the
console were still able to be penguinified. Not any longer though:
the next firmware update will remove the 'Install other OS' feature
so loved by geeks, and thereby lock down the console totally. Some
cunning hackers have said they'll be able to crack the machine to
get Linux running, but it's not the same as having official support.

5. This month on the forum

The Ubuntu team has announced that they'll be adopting base 10 units
for storage space rather than base 2: in other words, a kilobyte
will be 1000 bytes rather than 1024 (the real term for that is a
'kibibyte'). The OS and applications will be updated for this before
Ubuntu 10.10, and the decision is already spurring plenty of debate
on the internet, with users setting out their stalls on both sides
of the argument: whether it's a sensible move, or silly to change it
after all this time. [1]

What's preventing the mainstream adoption of Linux? That's the
question Kfcrosby put to the forum. He had used Red Hat 12 years ago
and pointed out the areas where he feels Linux still needs to be
improved. Johnhudson pointed to 'catastrophe theory', noting that
smooth transitions from one situation to another are rare, and Ollie
brought up the problem of support, with few companies having the
knowledge to officially support users running Linux. Join in the
thread and let us know what you think.



6. Special Newsletter feature


Once upon a time there were Unix terminals - screens and keyboards
connected to hulking great mainframes. These were text-mode affairs
and users didn't have the luxury of multiple Xterms or virtual
terminals ala Linux. So a program called 'screen' was developed
which allowed users to switch between virtual displays and run
multiple programs without having to physically jump around different
between seats.

'screen' is included with all Linux distributions, and you can start
it by firing up a terminal and entering it at the command line:


You'll see various bits of information text; hit enter after reading
them. Then you'll be back at the prompt, just as before. However,
this time you're wrapped inside a screen session: screen is running
in the background and keeping track of the display.

To demonstrate this, start an interactive program - eg 'nano'. Now
press Ctrl+a, then d (the d on its own). You'll go back to the
command prompt and see the word [detached]: this is the original
command prompt that you saw when you started the terminal. You have
detached yourself from the screen process, which now exists on its
own on the system - you don't have to worry about it. screen is
still running, with the shell prompt it spawned, and instance of
Nano inside it.

Now try this. Close your terminal and open a new one. Then enter:

screen -r

This reattaches you to your screen session. Voila: you're right back
at the Nano editor, exactly as you left it before. You can detach
from the screen session and rejoin as much as you want.

As we mentioned earlier, this was extremely handy in the days before
we all had lots of X terminals running. On today's desktops it
doesn't seem like such a big deal. But in fact, for remote command
line sessions, screen has become an indispensable tool again.

Consider this: you're logged in to a remote machine via SSH, and you
want to run a program, such as the 'rtorrent' BitTorrent tracker. If
you run it normally, but then disconnect from the remote server, it
will stop that program too. All remotely-running programs are
spawned by the shell started when you connect to the remote machine,
so as soon as you disconnect, they all halt too.

With screen this is no longer a problem: simply log in to the remote
machine, run screen and do your work. When you need to disconnect,
simply detach from the screen session and then log out - screen will
continue doing its work on the remote machine. You can then travel
to the other side of the planet, SSH back in and run 'screen -r' to
get back to your program.

There are many other features in screen (see 'man screen' for the
manual page), but the detach and reattach system is a total godsend
when you're working on remote servers - it's well worth getting
familiar with!

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 132, on sale Thursday 29 April...

# Switch distros -- We show off four awesome alternative
distros, and show you how to try them all risk-free!

# If you want ultimate computer security, a firewall
distro is as good as it gets, but which one to use?

# Google Calendar hacks -- Got a Gmail account? Get
notices sent to your phone for free!

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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