Linux Format Newsletter -- #64, July 2010

Past issues of the LXF Online Newsletter

Moderators: ChriThor, LXF moderators

Linux Format Newsletter -- #64, July 2010

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Aug 20, 2010 10:38 am





1. Welcome

2. LXF 135 on sale

3. Special subscription offer

4. In the news...

5. This month on the forum

6. Special Newsletter feature
6b. Special Newsletter Tip

7. Coming up next issue

8. Receiving this Newsletter

9. Contact details

1. Welcome

We've just arrived back from sunny Oregon where O'Reilly's 2010
open source convention was being held, and it's been a busy week
of mingling, arguing and general geekery as we hooked ourselves up
to the open source electricity mains.

But the rest of the world didn't stand still, and LXF135 has already
hit the newsstands - read on for a sneak peek of what's inside, plus
quick roundups of the best news stories and forum threads, and a
special feature on working smarter on the command line.

And if you're looking to save money in these financially uncertain
times, check out our latest subscription offers.

Paul Hudson
Newsletter Editor While Mike Is Away

2. LXF 135 on sale

For a few years now Firefox has been the darling of the open source
community, even garnering enough cash to run adverts in newspapers
to spread the word. But some might say the project has rested on its
laurels for too long, and upcoming browser alternatives such as
Google Chrome are starting to nibble away at Firefox's marketshare.
As our cover feature shows, it's a tight battle indeed, and in terms
of resource usage Chrome is quite a long way ahead. Can Firefox stay
relevant? Read the full feature for the answer!

Meanwhile, Launchpad continues to win converts as it seamlessly blends
version control with bug tracking and community relations, and the
Open University comes to the end of its first course in Linux - did we
pass, and would we recommend it?

On your free 4GB DVD you'll find three top distros: Ubuntu Netbook
Edition, Slackware 13.1 and Linux Gamers, plus KOffice 2.2, the latest
build of Firefox 4, all the BitTorrent clients from our Roundup,
plus podcasts, tutorial PDFs and more!

Here's a taster of LXF135 from the HotPicks section:

# Dfeta 1.0 -

Being able to see into the future would be quite handy. Apart
from clearing your gambling debts and predicting the scripts for
Doctor Who, you'd know when the optimum time to expand your RAID
array would be. This delightful little command line
tool can't help you with the 11.30 at Kempston, or whether that
ginger girl will make it to the Christmas special, but it can
tell you when your hard drive is going to be full. OK, it might
not change your life, but it could be useful before you embark
on a major photo scanning exercise or decide to download every
single Linux distro. The concept is simple. Dfeta samples the
fullness of your drive at regular intervals, does a few sums and
then tells you the specific date on which your disk will tell
you there's no more room. It's like one of those ‘predict the
date of your own death' websites, but not as scary. Even if
you're not an IT person responsible for providing storage,
this handy little tool is a nice nagging aid to remind you to
empty the trash and recycle more often.

Obviously, for this to work, you need to sample regularly. The
more samples you take, the more accurate it becomes, since
temporary blips are ironed out of the ongoing averages. How
often you decide to run it is up to you, but the stored data
file is pretty small, although it does keep backups (which leads
to some self-fulfilling prophesising over time). But because it's
pretty fast and painless, you don't even know it's happening. The
best idea is to install it in your path (/usr/local/bin/ or wherever
is appropriate on your system) and execute a Cron job. Once a day
is probably enough, but you make up your own mind as to how many bitty
data files you want in ~/.dfeta. The only remaining conundrum is
how to pronounce it. DeeEffEeeTeeAy? Def-Eatah? Dee-Fetah? Hmmm…

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 135.

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...

# Wine 1.2 is here!

Got a 64-bit CPU? Make use of it by running 64-bit Windows applications!
But there's much more: new icons based on the Tango set mean that Wine's
built-in apps look more Linux-native than ever, and even support for
animated cursors is on the horizon. Plus, better support for HTTP,
sub-pixel font rendering for smoother text on LCDs and even better
compatibility with Direct3D.

# OpenSUSE 11.3 is out

Are you bored of ext4 already? Sure you are! Fortunately, OpenSUSE 11.3
already ships with support for the Btrfs filesystem, which includes several
innovations introduced with ReiserFS4 and is set to replace ext4 in
the coming years. Plus you'll find that touchscreen support has been
extended, netbook compatibility has been improved, and you get the
latest Gnome and KDE versions - 2.30 (with a preview of 3!) and KDE 4.4.4.

# Damn Vulnerable Linux: a distro with a twist

Distros are supposed to come configured to be safe. They're supposed to have
updates that fix any security holes that are discovered later. But, as a
lesson for security students, Damn Vulnerable Linux takes the opposite
tack: the website states up front that it's "everything a good Linux
distribution isn't," which means packages are configured poorly and
there are dozens of exploits ready to be taken advantage of. Clearly it's
not something you want to be running on your main desktop, but if you want
to poke around and find some real vulnerabilities give it a try!

5. This month on the forum

If you're looking for an open-platform portable gaming device,
perhaps you should join in the discussion about Pandora: an
ARM-powered, OpenGL-enhanced, touchscreen-capable little box
that - gasp! - even manages to do Amiga emulation. So, if you
want to relive the glory days (or perhaps try your hand at a
little Pandora programming?) then check out the topic
and get involved! [1]

No matter how advanced Linux gets, apparently networking is going
to be an issue that crops up time and time again, as OnlyTheTony
found out on our forums recently - his network card was going
into a strange sleep mode that caused all sorts of problems,
and, after numerous suggestions from other forum regulars,
he eventually tracked the problem down and got it fixed. So,
if you have a similar problem, check out his fix! Or you could
always wait for LXF136, which, ahem, might well solve your problems
once and for all... </spoiler> [2]

[1] ... hp?t=12464

[2] ... hp?t=12436

6. Special Newsletter feature


We love the command line, us. And the nice thing about mastering it
is that your skills are instantly transferrable to any other OS where
Bash is available, not least Mac OS X and BSD. Believe it or not, even
the most advanced users discover new tricks all the time that help push
their skills even further, so below we humbly present some tips that
you might find useful - even if you're a 10-year Linux veteran!

Using !! is a Bash shortcut for "previous command", so if you ever type
a long command only to get met with "permission denied" because you didn't
run it as root, try this:

sudo !!

That will run the last command again, this time using sudo. Without this,
you would have to use "su" then re-type the command from scratch.

This !! syntax also extends to other parts of commands, for example if you
just typed a really cool command and you think you're going to want it
again in the future, why not save it to a script? Us this to do just that:

echo "!!" >

Now you can run whenever you need to.

Have you ever been faced with the problem of a program accessing a file,
thus stopping you from working with it? Sometimes it can be a nightmare
trying to find just what program is keeping you away, but if you need
access now and all other options have failed you, try this command - it
will automatically kill whichever process is holding access to a file:

fuser -k somefilenamehere

Now that you have your file just where you want it, let's take a backup
the smart way - by automagically appending .bak to a filename, like this:

cp somefile{,.bak}

Now we can blank the old file simply by using this beautifully simple

> somefile

That effectively sends nothing to the file, thus blanking it.

Finally, how about a bit of command completion help? There are two
shortcuts here that not many people know, so if you knew these already
you should find someone to pat you on the back for being so clever.

First, try pressing Alt + . (a full stop/period) to cycle through
previous command-line parameters. For example, if you had typed
"ls /foo/bar/baz" in the previous command, then typing "cd" and
pressing Alt + . will bring up "cd /foo/bar/baz".

Second, using Alt + * will expand Bash's filename completion now
rather than waiting for the command to be run. For example, if you
typed "ls foo." and pressed Alt + * (yes, that's Shift+8 - you might
find it easier to tap Escape then press Shift + 8 by itself), your
command will be changed to "ls foo.html foo.txt" etc.

These are only a handful of tips to help you take your command line
skills further - drop us a line if you have any more you want to share,
or post on our forums!

6b. Special Newsletter tip

Recently we had the joy of noodling around with someone else's PHP code,
and discovered to our horror that they were sending user input unchecked
into the database - which means that users could easily write evil code
to break the database if they wanted to. It also meant that text with
single quotes in, such as "I'm Paul", wouldn't work.

So, here's our special newsletter tip for all your PHP programmers out
there: if you're sending any data to a database, even from a trusted
source, you should always send it through the mysql_real_escape_string()
function first to make sure that it's safe for database entry.

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 13, on sale Thursday 19 August...

# Networking: fix your problems once and for all. We work you through
the most common problems and show you how to solve them yourself.

# Free completely insane gift! We were bored with giving away stickers
and posters, so here's something you've never seen before.

# Akademy 2010 show report: what was decided, and how will it affect
the future of KDE? Find out for yourself!

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:

(C) 2010 Future Publishing Limited
LXF regular
Posts: 2893
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:14 pm

Return to Newsletter Archives

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests