Linux Format Newsletter -- #67, October 2010

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #67, October 2010

Postby M-Saunders » Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:15 am





1. Welcome

2. LXF 138 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

Thinking of buying a tablet computer? It's pretty clear that this
industry is going to grow considerably in the next few years, and
I'm hoping that Linux can get a decent bite of the pie. We know that
Android and Chrome OS have the potential to be major players in the
tablet market - what I'd like to see, however, is more mainstream
distros being customised for these devices. Bring on Ubuntu Tablet
Edition, or Fedora Tablet Edition, for instance, with the powerful
Linux goodness we love deep inside, carefully overlaid with a
touch-based interface.

Anyway, while we all wait for that to happen, enjoy this month's
newsletter. We have a look at the shiny new issue of Linux Format,
138, plus regular roundups of news stories and forum threads. Then
there's our special feature on that perennial debate: the command
line versus the GUI. Flame-tastic!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 138 on sale

Ubuntu 10.10 is here. Fedora 14 is just around the corner. But which
distro is really making the big push for Linux on the desktop? In
this month's cover feature we pitch the two distro heavyweights
head-to-head and compare the progress they're making on
installation, boot-up speed, desktop refinements and more. Who's
better? Who's best? You'll have to read the mag to find out!

Meanwhile, we gather together the top 20 reasons to use Linux (good
for converting your friends and family), help you to fix package
manager problems, and get your to-do list into shape with the rather
awesome Getting Things Gnome. We have reviews of Inkscape 0.48 and
Tiny Core Linux 3.1, plus tutorials on Shotwell, Scribus, CakePHP
and more.

And then... get ready for a whopper of a DVD. It's 8GB, featuring 10
operating systems to explore. Sample the latest from Ubuntu, Fedora
and OpenSUSE, and go further into Unix territory with FreeBSD and
Nexenta. There's something for everyone on this double-sided disc.

Here's a taster of LXF138 from the HotPicks section:

# Photorec 6.12 --

This simple little command-line tool is worth adding to your
virtual toolbox if you ever mess around with digital cameras.
Taking pictures the digital way is great - you can fill up many
gigabytes of space with images, then just transfer them to your
computer and upload them to the web to astound your enemies and
embarrass your friends.

But accidents do happen; it's not surprising given the way that
memory cards get treated - they are, after all, trying to hold 4GB
of data or more in an area smaller than a postage stamp. Of
course, there are also the unintentional accidents, when you think
you've downloaded your images and wipe several days' worth of
shots from your camera. Don't worry, it happens to the best of us.

Photorec combats this by implementing a read-only search for
damaged or deleted files. Working on the principle that there's
practically no fragmentation in flash storage, it scans the
available blocks - largely ignoring the filesystem - and extracts
the image headers from disk.

These let it know how many blocks of data the associated image
should take up; it is subsequently read and written elsewhere in
its original glory. Of course, it isn't going to work all the
time, but you probably have nothing to lose by giving it a go.

Photorec currently recognises all of the major image formats,
including camera-specific ones such as Nikon's NEF. In fact, it
recognises a whole bunch of other file types as well, so you can
use it to recover documents, too. Also, while it works best on
flash storage, there's nothing to stop you using it on other media
types - it can be pretty effective with CD and DVD.

This is a command line tool, but it uses a sensible curses-based
menu system, so it still isn't particularly tricky to use. You'll
need to have mounted the card and be running as root to be able to
access the required devices, though.

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 138.

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...

# Ubuntu 10.10 is here ... 00139.html

Yes, on the 10th day of the 10th month of 2010, Ubuntu 10.10
arrived. There's more focus on Ubuntu One, cloud computing and the
Ubuntu Software Centre, while the Netbook Edition sports a swanky
new Unity user interface. Hit the link above for an entertainingly
bizarre release announcement.

# forked -- say hello to LibreOffice!

You know Oracle? And you know they bought up Sun? Well, some OOo
coders aren't too happy with the situation, and want to free the
office suite from the shackles of a large company. LibreOffice is a
new fork of OOo, based on the Go-OO branch, although the current
version is still marked as beta and therefore not ready for
production use.

# Mandriva forked -- say hello to Mageia!

After many years of financial insecurity, Mandriva has been forked
into another distro: the hard-to-pronounce Mageia. It's early days,
and there's still a lot of work to be done, but the ultimate goal is
that Mageia will continue the strong newbie-friendly spirit of
Mandriva, but be supported by a community that won't be so prone to
financial woes.

5. This month on the forum

If you're anxious about installing a new Linux distro, there are two
things to do to put your mind at ease: read the review in Linux
Format, and see what our regulars are saying on the forums. Rhakios
kicked off a discussion about Ubuntu 10.10, saying it appeared to be
working OK on his HP laptop. Poor old heiowge was still suffering
from screen flickering problems though. If you've installed the
Meerkat, let us know how you've been getting on! [1]

What do you do for a living? And how much do computers play a role
in your life? The ever-inquisitive Bazza started a thread for
forumers to explain how they earn a buck and what programming
languages they use. Kudos to chrishall57 for having the job title
'adhesives engineer' - sounds like a sticky business? OK, sorry for
that. Really. [2]



6. Special Newsletter feature


It's a debate that has raged since the very first graphical
interfaces were dreamt up: is the GUI really better than the command
line? And this in turn leads to many other arguments as well -
should Linux distros try to avoid the CLI completely? Should all new
users be forced to learn the CLI in order to understand its power?

To get a handle on this, it's important to look at how CLIs are
integrated into the operating system. Unix, right from the
beginning, was a keyboard-driven, command line operating system. The
prompt was Unix in its purest form. Even today, with modern desktops
and window managers, they are still very clear layers (on top of the
X Window System), with the command line just a Ctrl+Alt+Fx keypress

Contrast this with, for example, AmigaOS or older Mac OS versions
(such as 9). There was no initial command line mode. Sure, you could
boot up Amiga OS into a plain Workbench environment and launch the
shell from there, but it wasn't a separate layer, a separate way of
running as in Unix.

This is one of the reasons why the CLI still pervades in Linux. It
is always there as a fallback measure when something doesn't work.
Whatever situation you're in, even if your graphics card isn't
detected properly, you can carry on working at the command line.

The other side, of course, is user experience. Long-time Linuxers
love the CLI, and rightly so - it's incredibly powerful, rich and
can perform tasks in seconds that would take hours in a file
manager. Think of the power of pipes, redirections, wildcards and
the awesome 'xargs' utility. Take away the command line and one of
the biggest plus-points of Linux (and Unix) disappears.

Now, there's an argument that the command line is terrifying for new
users. But really, it can be quite a good way to introduce a newbie
to a certain feature of the OS, or give them instructions. No doubt
you've been on the phone to a friend or relative, trying to fix a
computer problem by saying "Click the blue icon kinda near the top,
then there should be a menu, look at the option second or third from
the bottom" ad infinitum. Trying to describe how to use a GUI from a
distance is not easy.

With the CLI, in contrast, you can very clearly describe exactly
what needs to be done, key by key. If you're lucky, the command will
be clear and logical enough that the user can see it as a distinct
order for the computer to process, rather than a series of ambiguous
movements around menus and icons. A command is a firm, direct
statement of intent for the computer.

This debate will go on for as long as computers exist, but it's
always worth keeping these points in mind. See you in the next great
flamewar on USENET!

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 139, on sale Thursday 11 November...

# Beef up your security -- If you're worried about your
computer's safety, follow our hands-on guide

# Evolve your desktop! Moving icons around is one thing, but
some people want to go further... A lot further...

# Use Linux as a router -- Get ultimate control over your
internet access by switching to a Linux distro.

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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