Linux Format Newsletter -- #65, August 2010

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #65, August 2010

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:15 am





1. Welcome

2. LXF 136 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've just come back from some japes in Austro-Bavaria (see so I'm catching up
on the last six weeks of Linux-related news. The biggest shock is
that Oracle is suing Google over the use of Java in Android, a move
that has evidently not been received well by the computing community
in general. We all know how crazy the situation around software
patents has become - perhaps we actually need an all-out patent war
in order to make it clear that they're not going to make things any

Still, there's lots of positive news in the free software world too,
and LXF is keeping track of it all. Read on for a peek at the new
issue, roundups of the hottest news stories and forum threads, along
with a special feature on keeping your Linux box safe and secure.

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 136 on sale

Networking - it's a complicated subject. Great when it's all going
like clockwork, but a right pain to fix when something is wrong. In
LXF 136, which is freshly available on UK newsstands now, we've
assembled together the best tips and tricks to perfect your network
setup. Get the best security, fastest performance and problem-free
WiFi with the help of our guides.

Meanwhile, the Ubuntu Community Manager explains how a release of
the world's most popular distro goes from a bunch of ideas to
pressed CDs, and we have a full report of the news and events from
Akademy 2010, the big KDE summit. On the tutorials front you'll find
guides for Thunderbird, Bash scripting, making podcasts in Jokosher,
FreeBSD and more.

The free 4GB DVD is a quad-booting monster, with both KDE and Gnome
versions of two top-tier distros: OpenSUSE 11.3 and Mandriva 2010
Spring. Then there's Tiny Core Linux, development tools, podcasts
and much more to explore.

Here's a taster of LXF136 from the HotPicks section:

# GiftedMotion 1.20 -

Whether you believe the web would be more wondrous without them or
not, it's a fact of modern life that at some point you'll have to
created an animated GIF file for some website or other. The
fundamentals of animating a GIF aren't tricky - the image data is
just stored as successive deltas with some timing information. But
putting one together can be a bit of a pain. You can do it, but
loading all those layers in is a bit of a pain and, if it doesn't
work quite how you thought, changing it is a pain.

This very simple Java application makes a simple and
straightforward job just that. Run it and load in the frames of
your image; you can easily rearrange them and see a preview of
what you have so far in the main panel. Shuffle them around,
change the timing and when you're happy, just press the big red
button to save out the animation.

It doesn't really need complicated controls - it's a simple
function that it performs and it does it pretty painlessly. If you
do need to bash out the occasional animation, it's well worth
downloading this teensy app to save you some time. This is a
straightforward Java app, supplied as a JAR file so there's no
need for compiling or any fancy installing tricks - you can just
run it from the command line with: 'java -jar giftedmotion-1.20.jar'.

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 136.

3. Special subscription offer

Subscribing to Linux Format not only has the benefit of fantastic
savings. Subscribers will also get exclusive, unlimited access to the
Linux Format subscriber-only area, featuring magazine PDFs, complete
issues and coverdisc downloads! That's access to over 60 issues of Linux
learning, free to subscribers to download! See our latest offers at: ... nuxformat/

4. In the news

The biggest developments from around the net...

# Multi-touch support coming to Ubuntu ... ch_Support

Yes, advanced finger tracking facilities, as championed on Apple
gizmos, is now coming to the land of the penguin. Mark Shuttleworth
said: "rather than single, magic gestures, we're making it possible
for basic gestures to be chained, or composed, into more
sophisticated 'sentences'. The basic gestures, or primitives, are
like individual verbs, and stringing them together allows for richer
interactions". Neat.

# Debian turns 17! ... g-history/

Wow. 17 years is a long time in the computing world, and it's a VERY
long time in the Linux world. Back in 1993, when Debian was started,
many computer users were still wrestling with DOS. The Amiga was
still popular. Windows 95 didn't exist. What a different world we
live in now, but it's great that Debian is still going strong and
providing the backbone for popular projects such as Ubuntu.

# Ubuntu 11.04 to be called... Natty Narwhal!?

Everyone's favourite one-time astronaut has come up with a name for
the one-after-next Ubuntu release, Natty Narwhal. For those who
aren't familiar with these names, the second word is always an
animal, and in this case it's like some sort of cross between a
whale and a unicorn. Hit the link above for the full explanation of
the name choice.

5. This month on the forum

Ollie pointed out a controversial article published by the British
Computer Society which questioned the security of open source in
a rather FUD-ish manner. He also linked to a very robust rebuttal
on Advogato. The discussion moved on to whether or not 'security
through obscurity' actually works - what do you think? Join in the
thread and have your say. [1]

Have you switched entirely to Linux, using no other operating
systems at all? That's what Khakilang asked the Off Topic forum,
and found a few full-time Linuxers, including Roseway who hasn't
run anything else for ten years. Kudos! As expected, a lot of
folks are still keeping a sly copy of Windows around for rare
occasions (or games), but the thread is yet more proof that
Linux is a hugely flexible, all-round desktop OS. [2]



6. Special Newsletter feature


Linux is a very secure operating system - there's no denying that.
But we live in an ever-changing world, and the threat of security
exploits always looms over, so there are some good practices to put
into place, to make sure that you're as well-guarded as possible
from evil-doers online. Let's look at a few here.

1) Regular updates

This might sound obvious, but keeping the patched packages flowing
is essential for good security. Some update managers, such as the
one in Ubuntu, can be extremely annoying when they pop up randomly
and try to leech all of your bandwidth. If you turn its automatic
in-your-face activities off, as we often do, at least remember to
run it every few days to get the latest package updates.

2) Strong passwords

This is a bit of a picky issue. Obviously, having a password that's
your wife/pet's name is going to be a very bad idea, but going
overboard and using something like 'h3jt@f2mjD!hr8F$£' is
problematic too. A password like that may appear to be extremely
secure, but you probably won't ever remember it and have to keep it
written down somewhere, thereby defying the point!

A good system is to choose something familiar to you, and then mix
up some of the letters. For instance, your pet dog might be called
Moss, in which case you could use 'mo55th3d0g256'. Chuck a few
numbers on the end for added security. Also look into the 'chage'
command for a way to remind users (and yourself) to choose a new
password every few months or so.

3) Firewall yourself up

On a standard desktop Linux installation, you won't have lots of
network ports open to the outside world. However, if you run a
network in your house, and have such services as SSH running for
internal communications, you may want to block them from the big,
bad internet. Linux has good firewall technology built-in, but it's
based around command line tools.

Fortunately, there's an excellent graphical program called
Firestarter that you can use to set up firewall rules, determining
which ports are available to which machines, along with other

4) Security through obscurity

A good way to block the progress of crackers (at least for a while)
is to switch things around from their default settings. For
instance, if you're running an internet-facing SSH server, you can
edit the settings in /etc/ssh/sshd_config to alter the port number
that it uses. It won't be so easy for nefarious types to discover
that you're running SSH, unless they want to go to the hassle of
running a full port scan!

5) Lock down locally

While these tips protect you against internet bad guys, if your PC
is accessible to many other people then you'll want local protection
too. Go into the BIOS settings, set a password and remove other boot
options, so that nobody can fire up a Live CD and steal your data.
Edit your GRUB or LILO options so that users can't bring up a boot
prompt and boot into single user mode.

So, just a few pointers there to make sure your Linux box is hard as
nails - if you have any other suggestions, please let us know on the

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 137, on sale Thursday 16 September...

# Upgrade your Linux life - Everyone can use free software
to have fun on their computer. We show you how!

# New tutorial: CakePHP. Want to make cool websites with
the minimum of work? Here's the perfect tool...

# FTP client group test - If you want to upload files to
the internet, you want to read our Roundup first.

Contents are subject to change - the mysteries of life, eh!

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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