LXF Website Newsletter -- #3, August 2005

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LXF Website Newsletter -- #3, August 2005

Postby M-Saunders » Tue Sep 20, 2005 10:51 am






1. Welcome!

2. Sneak preview of LXF 71

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Special newsletter feature

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Hello and welcome to the third LXF Online Newsletter -- a roundup of
this month's website activity, plus a taster of upcoming magazine
content and some new goodies too. Excuse us for a bit of self
promotion: since the last Newsletter we've started our own Team
Blog, where the LXF staff post their musings (and/or ramblings) for
the world to see. Yes, Linux Format has finally entered the
blogosphere, after several years of it being chic.

And the blog started well, with Paul Hudson's mini show reports from
the USA accompanied by plenty of snaps. You can also be enthralled
by: Operation Ed Rebecca's diary of life at LXF HQ; Nick's attempts
to understand the Greek version of LXF; and, er, my new haircut.
Yes, it really is THAT exciting!

But don't despair -- sit back in your chair and enjoy this month's
Newsletter. We've got a few snippets from the upcoming issue,
highlights from the news and forums, a special feature on the BSDs,
and more.


2. Sneak preview of LXF 71

This time tomorrow, issue 71 of LXF will be sitting proudly on shop
shelves, ready to make your systems more secure with our exhaustive
security feature. We identify common weak-points on Linux machines,
examine the tools and procedures you can use to harden your
installation, and speak to some key figures in the world of security
(such as Mark Cox of the Red Hat Security Response Team). And our
disc is a complete toolbox for locking out crackers, with the
Trustix and Smoothwall distros accompanying all the apps mentioned
in the feature. Enterprise-level distro CentOS makes a DVD
appearance too.

Paul Hudson ponders the question on everyone's lips: when will Linux
truly be ready for the mass-market desktop? What are the current
problems, what's being done to solve them, and where will it end up?
This is followed by the Linux Diaries -- our predictions for the
next 15 years of Linux development. Will The HURD ever be released?
Who'll sue whom? When will there be more distros than people on the
planet? Is Grey Goo going to happen?

Also this month: our What on Earth investigates Cairo, a vector
graphics library poised to revolutionise desktop software on Linux.
We put a bunch of file managers head-to-head in the Roundup, while
Andy Channelle's beginner's tutorial on file compression steps
through usage of Ark and File Roller.

In our interview, we chat with space tourist, multi-millionaire and
Ubuntu project leader Mark Shuttleworth. He's seen the Earth from
space, he's made oodles of cash in the dot-com boom, and now he's
battling accusations that Ubuntu is harming the Debian project.
Phew. We asked the lively South African all about his project's
future and much more -- here are a few samples, the answers to which
will be on our website in a few days.

# There are many Linux distros already. Might it not have made more
sense to steer one of those towards your vision, rather than
create Ubuntu?

# Who would you say is the intended user of Ubuntu?

# Do you think Linux must conquer the desktop to be considered
an achievement?

To read the full interview, grab a copy of LXF71. Mark discusses
cooperation with Debian, online collaboration tools, and open source
software bounties.

As always, we have our regular HotPicks section in issue 71, where
we poke through every nook and cranny of the Net for the best new
and updated apps, giving them some well-deserved coverage. One of
the most promising this month is the Gnome Power Manager -- a
friendly front-end to the complex Linux power management scripts...

# Gnome Power Manager 0.0.5 -- Power management control

Power management is an essential OS component for laptops (and
increasingly desktops), but Linux's support has been flaky at best
over the years. The crumbly old APM system from 90s boxes is
slowly being phased out in favour of ACPI - a more capable and
complex system that's posed its own set of problems. Kernel
support for ACPI varies from machine to machine, and in most cases
works acceptably, but there's still a dearth of good GUI
configuration software. GNOME Power Manager hopes to address this,
making use of HAL and D-BUS for desktop integration.

To build from source you'll need GNOME 2 and its associated
development packages, along with HAL 0.5.00 and D-BUS 0.3.0.
Follow the usual './configure', 'make' and 'make install'
procedure (the last step as root) and confirm that your kernel
supports ACPI (check the output of 'dmesg' or 'lsmod' to see).
Once installed and you're running a GNOME session, starting up
'gnome-power-manager' launches the background daemon, after which
you can call 'gnome-power-preferences' afterwards for the GUI
configuration tool.

GPM itself doesn't probe for any hardware information; it acquires
these details from HAL, and the aim is to support other power
management standards (such as APM) via this abstraction. For
tweaking the settings, GPM's dual-tabbed GUI offers an array of
sliders with which you can set the timeouts - eg how long before
the disk spins down, or the machine suspends. The other tab
contains additional options for events, such as the reaction when
the power is connected, or the laptop's lid is closed. To top it
all off there's a systray icon from which you can suspend or
hibernate with a single right-click. It's all satisfyingly
no-nonsense and approachable.

We'd love to see GPM adopted by the GNOME team as a core component
-- it adheres to the simplicity that GNOME's been heading towards,
but provides an infinitely more elegant solution than fiddling
around with the command-line. There's certainly more to be done
(on both the kernel and GUI sides) but with plans for CPU
frequency scaling support and suchlike, GPM should evolve into a
fully-fledged setup tool.

# SCREENSHOT -- http://msa.section.me.uk/gpm.png
Two views of the prefs box - all general power management
settings can be tuned.

As usual, there're five and a half more pages of HotPicks in 71,
including a look at cross-platform software packaging solution
OpenPKG, and a game in which you obliterate sheep. No, really.

3. In the news...

The Firefox frenzy continues unabated, while Linux makes further
inroads in schools and developing countries. Here're the highlights:

# Huge Linux push in French schools
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=75

In an initiative jointly coordinated by a French local government
agency and a Linux User group, the Auvergne region of France will
see a massive Linux push in secondary schools. 64,000 CD packs --
each containing two discs -- will be distributed to students from 15
to 19 years. The first disc includes Free Software for Windows and
OS X, including Firefox and OpenOffice.org, while the second
features Kaella, a French version of Knoppix. The goal is to
introduce students to Open Source on their current platform, so that
(hopefully) they'll switch to a fully Free system later on. See
http://tinyurl.com/dxn6x for the full report.

# Firefox reaches 80,000,000 downloads
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=76

The revolution continues. On Sunday, the download counter over at
SpreadFirefox.com touched the eighty million mark, highlighting its
outrageous success. Users downloading FF from FF itself aren't
counted -- nor are upgrades -- so this is a good indication of how
many 'switchers' are seeing the benefits. So place your bets now:
when will it reach the 1 billion download mark? Before the next
Debian release...?

# Linux powers low-cost PC for India
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... icle&sid70

Aiming to make PCs more affordable for the average Indian, HCL
Infosystems Ltd has announced its HCL PC for India at the
astoundingly low price of Rs 9,900 (equivalent of 128 pounds
according to Xe.com). The machines feature a decent mid-spec set of
components including a 1GHz CPU, 128 MB RAM, 40 GB hard drive and a
15" monitor. See http://www.hclstore.com/ezbpride/template.html for
HCL's page on the 'Ezeebee Pride'. Is this the most
bang-for-your-buck computer ever launched?

4. This month on the forum

KDE or Gnome? Andy Channelle donned his asbestos overalls and asked
the most controversial question in the history of the universe (or
at least it seems like it, from the amount of debate it always
generates.) This thread started in May, but continued right up until
August -- and a new thread had to be started when the poll expired!
Thankfully, the discussion remained civil, with users putting
forward plus-points and negatives for both desktops. The result of
the poll put KDE well in the lead; this didn't reflect the many
pro-Gnome comments though. [1]

Speeding up broadband: 'Dark_Willow' had found web browsing on
Mandriva much slower than his Windows setup, and asked the forum for
any pointers. 'jer1ch0' posted an informative little tiplet
explaining how to disable ipv6 support; others then noted that it
produced a noticeable performance improvement. [2]

'Debianbofh' suggested a magazine tutorial series on making your own
distros, a la Linux From Scratch and similar projects. This
discussion later moved onto an LXF Community distro -- ie a Linux
distro built by LXF readers, with potential for some related
articles in the mag. Nothing has been decided at the time of
writing, although a few IRC meetings had been held and there was a
great deal of interest. [3]

[1] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... opic&t=334

[2] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... opic&t=937

[3] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... opic&t=870

5. Special newsletter feature

Each month we have a special mini-article just for the newsletter: a
review, interview or feature, or maybe something else entirely. This
month: a brief look at the BSD OS projects -- what they are, why
they're important and where they're going.

The BSDs don't receive a great deal of attention today. Linux is the
media darling, and rightly so with its growing application range and
broad hardware support. However, the BSD family of operating systems
can be found chugging away on servers worldwide, typically doing
crucial jobs in back-rooms and edge-of-network systems. In many
respects they're just as advanced as Linux (sometimes moreso), but
because of legal difficulties in BSD's early days, Linux became the
majority choice for coders.

Today, there are three main open source BSD operating systems:
FreeBSD, NetBSD and OpenBSD. (A number of small forks have appeared
in recent years too.) These are all UNIX-flavoured operating
systems, compatible with 90%+ of Linux software out there, and they
all have a particular focus on servers. Many people choose the BSDs
because of their development philosophy, which is regarded as more
organised and structured than Linux's, or because of the license,
which permits you to do nigh-on anything with the code (even put it
into a proprietary product).


This is the best-known of the trio, performing very strongly on x86
PCs and doing a spiffy job as both a workstation and server. The
installer is text-based, but the documentation is fabulous -- one
centralised handbook containing just about everything you need to
know. FreeBSD runs Gnome, KDE, OpenOffice.org, Apache, Samba and
almost all the popular Linux apps and servers, plus there's even a
binary compatibility layer to run closed-source Linux programs.
During the latter 4.x releases, FreeBSD was widely regarded as one
of the most stable OSes ever; unfortunately, the 5.x series was
very ambitious and some major bugs crept in.

The FreeBSD team hopes to revert to its former glory with the
upcoming 6.0 release. In the meantime, former FreeBSD ubercoder Matt
Dillon (of Amiga DICE fame, fact fans!) forked the 4.x series with
his own project, Dragonfly BSD. This aims to build on the rock-solid
stability of FreeBSD 4.x and take it in a new direction. Meanwhile,
FreeBSD development continues at pace, and the OS still has plenty
of fans. Site: http://www.freebsd.org


Portability is NetBSD's raison d'etre. It runs on a whopping 56
different platforms -- all built from the same source code tree.
This is in contrast to Linux, for which non-x86 platforms are
typically semi-separate projects. NetBSD is an excellent OS for
research thanks to its clean codebase, and while it's not the best
choice of UNIX-like OS on typical PCs, it can turn old Amigas and
VAX systems into useful servers and simple desktops. Site:


Led by outspoken hacker Theo de Raadt, OpenBSD forked from NetBSD
and now rules the security roost. A strong focus on code quality and
correctness, together with many innovations (OpenBSD spawned
OpenSSH) has given the OS a well-deserved reputation for security.
Releases are made every six months, with each release being
supported for a year. OpenBSD doesn't make a massively effective
desktop, but for small servers, routers and firewall boxes it's
perhaps the best choice. Site: http://www.openbsd.org

So that's a brief look at how the BSDs are progressing. If you've
never used a BSD variant before, find a spare hour and install one
or two -- they're great for learning a more 'traditional' UNIX, and
just a different way of doing things.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 72 -- on sale Wednesday 21st September

# Up the tempo -- Massive guide to performance-tuning your
Linux system. You never had it so fast!

# The LXF Interview: Michael Meeks -- He's got a beard. He's
a hacker on Mono and OpenOffice.org. What more could you want?

# Trolltech's Qt4 -- Read our special review of the next
generation graphics toolkit from Norway, now powered by

# What on Earth is podcasting? Webcasting goes portable: we
show you how to use Audacity and blogs to suit your tastes

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change.)

7. 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 easier than the first
level of Kirby's Dream Land.

1. Go to the website forums and log in (or sign up first):
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... e=PNphpBB2

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
(and it'd better be a good reason!) you can opt-out by removing
yourself from the Newsletter group as above.

8. Contact details

Any questions or suggestions, please send them to me (Mike) at the
address below:

Newsletter Editor: Mike Saunders -- mike.saunders@futurenet.co.uk

Letters for the magazine: lxf.letters@futurenet.co.uk

LXF website: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk

Subscriptions: 0870 837 4722 (overseas +44 1858 438794)
Website subs page: http://tinyurl.com/dv295

(C) 2005 Future
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Posts: 2893
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:14 pm

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