Linux Format Newsletter -- #11, April 2006

Past issues of the LXF Online Newsletter

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #11, April 2006

Postby M-Saunders » Thu May 04, 2006 1:43 pm





1. Welcome!

2. Preview of LXF 79

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Special newsletter feature

6. New archive PDFs

7. Coming up next issue

8. Receiving this Newsletter

9. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Hello and welcome to the 11th LXF Online Newsletter. It's been a
busy month with Fedora Core 5 released and development versions of
SUSE and Ubuntu doing the rounds, plus a spot of soap opera in the
Mandriva community as Gael Duval is dismissed. Fortunately, April
1st was on a Saturday so most of us have (hopefully!) been able to
escape any work-based practical jokes, but Slashdot gave many
regular readers a fright by switching to a bright pink colour scheme
and posting stories about Barbie Linux. Nice.

Alongside the usual regulars in the Newsletter - a look at the
latest issue, news roundup and forum tidbits - we go back to history
class and examine how distros have changed over the past decade. Pay
attention, as there may be a test! As always, if you have any
comments or suggestions, I'll be happy to hear from you.


Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Preview of LXF 79

Linux Format issue 79 hits the shelves today, with more features and
tutorials than you can shake a very large Linux-powered stick at.
For those just getting started with Linux, or regular readers who
fancy a change of distro, we have a full guide to installing and
using the rather snazzy SimplyMepis distro. We also chat to the
distro's creator, Warren Woodford, and naturally you can find all
the software on our coverdiscs.

Meanwhile, regular Linuxers looking for a hands-on project can try
building their own Linux kiosk with the help of Graham Morrison's
extensive guide. We look at the hardware, software and skills needed
to make a locked-down Linux machine - whether it's for a museum,
internet cafe or exhibition. If you feel like exploring the wider
world of open source Unix, check out our exploration of OpenSolaris,
Sun's recently freed enterprise operating system. With Belenix on
the cover DVD, you can run OpenSolaris and try out some of the
high-end features.

Also in the mag: a chatty and detailed examination of how software
licenses work - essential reading if you're deploying Linux in a
business or starting your own open source project. Bruce Perens,
founder of the OSI and LSB (and well-liked spokesman for the open
source world in general) chats to us about Debian, UserLinux and
software patents. Here's a few of the questions we asked - keep an
eye on the website in the next few days for the answers:

# You announced UserLinux two years ago - what's the situation?

# Ubuntu has come along and seems to play the same role, right?

# What's your view on industry bodies like the OSDL?

# Some people have said that figureheads like Richard Stallman
are no longer needed because open source promotes itself. How
do you feel about that?

Grab a copy of LXF 79 for the full interview. On the reviews front,
we have Fedora Core 5, Gnome 2.14, MythTV 0.19 and the Devolo
MicroLink ethernet-over-power devices. Our tutorials section
includes guides to recording and cleaning up audio, generating
effects in Inkscape, mastering desktop scripting with DCOP, making
the most of the command line, and exploring key features due to be
included in PHP 6.

Also this month, our regular HotPicks section looks at the latest
open source app releases, including coding editor OpenLDev:

# OpenLDev 0.5.4 --

Andrew Krause, the programmer behind OpenLDev, believes that most
integrated development environments (IDEs) are too cumbersome and
confusing to use. With OpenLDev he's set out to write a clean and
productive IDE focused on C and C++ development, making use of the
GNU toolchain for all the heavy lifting. The app is built around
GTK and Gnome - you'll need at least GTK 2.6, along with recent
versions of libglade, libgnome, GtkSourceView and VTE.

OpenLDev's main window adopts the regular layout used by most
programming editors today: a list down the left to speedily switch
between files; an editing pane on the right; and a tabbed extras
box along the bottom, in this case comprising compiler output and
a handy built-in terminal. The editing component is a bit bare,
supporting syntax highlighting, line numbers and very little else,
so it doesn't compare to those IDEs using the excellent Scintilla.

The real strength of OpenLDev lies in its project functionality,
which is competently crafted around the GNU style of development.
For instance, you can create command-line or GTK C/C++ projects,
and OpenLDev will generate a main.c file, skeleton README and
AUTHORS files, and use autotools to create the build scripts. So,
it leaves you you ready to code without any dull administrative
tasks, and if you distribute your work it'll look more polished.

For an IDE geared towards GTK app development, it's strange that
the whole thing comes to a grinding halt when you run your GTK
program from OpenLDev itself. It springs back to life when you
close your app, but it's a bit annoying when you want to browse
code while your program is running. Similarly, we'd like to see
some debugging facilities integrated here - rather than just

Nevertheless, OpenLDev does a solid job for a 0.5 release. All of
the essential functionality is here, and there's enough
feature-wise to make it a good lightweight IDE. To keep the main
codebase small, Andrew Krause plans to integrate a plugin system,
letting users add extra features such as CVS and Glade support.
Definitely one to watch...

As usual, there're five and a half more pages of HotPicks in LXF 79,
including a look at the abstract blaster Enemy Lines 3...

3. In the news...

New releases aplenty, but difficult times for Mandriva...

# Fedora Core 5 released ... le&sid=283

The new release of Fedora Core has been announced. Major features
include Gnome 2.14, 2.0.2, KDE 3.5.1, Mono and Xen.
Check out this page for initial impressions of the release, and here
for screenshots aplenty. You can download the distro as a set of CD
images, or a DVD ISO from

# Mandriva founder laid off ... le&sid=279

Shaky times for Mandriva: the popular desktop distro vendor has laid
off its founder, Gael Duval, along with a number of other employees.
Mandriva CEO Francois Bancilhon explained to NewsForge that Gael has
left "as part of a cost reduction plan". Despite Mandriva Linux's
popularity amongst new users, the company's previous financial
troubles and this shake-up are leading many to question the distro's
future. See for more info.

# Ubuntu Dapper Drake draws closer ... le&sid=290

On the road to Drapper Drake, the Ubuntu team have released flight
6, a test-release of the Debian-based distro. Updates include Gnome
2.14, Evolution 2.6.0, Deskbar and interface improvements. Ubuntu
fans are encouraged to test out the release and report bugs, so that
the final version is as solid as possible. See

4. This month on the forum

How did you get into Linux? 'ggsinclair' brought some nostalgia to
the forums by looking back on his first distro and difficulties he
faced installing it. This in turn led to other forum regulars
posting their anecdotes of early Linuxing - some had only moved to
the OS in the last few years, but others like Nobber had been using
it since 1996! Extra geek points for 'jdtate101' who mentioned cool
stuff like RS6000s and AIX. [1]

'lennhol' put a spanner in the works of the World Jump Day plan,
which aimed to shift the earth's orbit by getting everyone to jump
at the same time. 'nelz', 'towy71' and 'shifty_ben' then engaged in
some highly scientific reasoning, trying to fathom out ways it could
work without creating waves across the planet's crust. Have any
better ideas? Join in the thread... [2]

Meanwhile, 'Rhakios' stumbled across an entertaining Flash game
involving yetis and penguins - surely a recipe for top-notch
tomfoolery. Forum regulars tried their hand at it, achieving similar
scores, although it was embarrassment all the way for 'duff' when he
was beaten by his six year old daughter... [3]

[1] ... pic&t=2843

[2] ... pic&t=2715

[3] ... pic&t=2801

5. Special newsletter feature


We all take it for granted that there are thousands of Linux
distributions doing the rounds -- but where did it all start, and
how did Linux go from a one-man project to having so many different
incarnations? Grab a cuppa as we step through the events that led us
to where we are today...


When Linus Torvalds announced his tiny kernel project in August 1991
(when it was still known as 'Freax'), the only way to run it was by
awkwardly assembling bits and pieces of other software to make a
complete - albeit very limited - OS. Many of these additional
components came from the GNU project; others were written specially
to suit the new kernel.

This situation continued for several months, with fascinated users
of this new 'Linux' system putting together bits and pieces,
creating OSes on their hard drives, until it was just too
complicated for anyone else to try it. The solution was the distro:
a readily-assembled bundle of the Linux kernel, GNU tools and extra
utilities needed to run a complete OS. No longer did users have to
stick it together in piecemeal fashion - that work had been done.


One of the earliest distros was MCC Interim Linux, from the
University of Manchester, which was released in February 1992.
Shortly after, there followed another bundle from academia: TAMU
from Texas A and M Uni. These were still very primitive though,
offering little more than the kernel, basic scripts and supporting
tools to get a bare-bones Linux system functioning.

The most important development in 1992 came in the form of Soft
Landing System (SLS), which took the distribution concept further
and added useful software such as the X Window System. SLS became
dominant for a short while as the Linux distro of choice, until the
lead developer decided to change the executable file format (a.out
to ELF). This move caused such upheaval, both technologically and
politically, that users started to fork.

By far the most notable fork was by Patrick Volkerding, who took
SLS, did some work on tidying the startup scripts, and released his
efforts under the name Slackware. Amazingly, Slackware is still
going strong today, favoured by long-time Linux users and those who
want a clean and frill-free system. And it's still primarily the
work of Patrick.


It was in 1993 and 1994 that the distro market really opened up. A
tiny Unix consulting group called S.u.S.E released a German
translation of Slackware in 1994, and then started to add its own
unique features. Today, there's no recognisable Slackwareness in
SUSE Linux, but it certainly has extensive historical roots.

Red Hat produced its first release (nicknamed 'Mothers Day') on
November the 3rd 1994, following it up with 2.0 almost a year later.
As the distro grew it was to form the basis of many derivatives,
such as Mandrake Linux in 1998, which started off as little more
than Red Hat with KDE as the default desktop.

Many other distros jumped onto the bandwagon, only to be thrown off
as the corporate market settled around Red Hat and SUSE (the latter
now in the ownership of Novell). But the home-user and hobbyist
distro market continued to blossom, and highly specialised distros
started appearing for embedded and security purposes.

Debian, which had been slowly but surely turning out highly robust
distros for most of the '90s, started to see more and more
derivatives, the most famous of which (in recent years) has been
Ubuntu. Today, Ubuntu regularly hits the top spot in popularity
terms on, and we're already seeing a growing range
of Ubuntu derivatives (Kubuntu, Edubuntu, TekWMbuntu - OK, we made
that last one up!).


We can expect the future to be very much like the past - new distros
growing out of existing ones, and in turn spawning derivatives. The
work involved in creating a good distro is so time-consuming that
it's a wise move to base your distro on a solid foundation, as
Ubuntu did with Debian. And it's this lifecycle and development that
makes Linux fascinating: today, Novell is basing a lot of its work
around SUSE, which was in turn based on Slackware, which was in turn
based on SLS...

6. New archive PDFs

We've added some more PDFs of past articles to the LXF Archives, and
Newsletter readers can see them a week early, before they're added
to the website page:

* Xen - the virtualisation breakthrough:

* HotPicks from issue 62:

* The GCC 4.0 compiler up close:

* Multiple monitors with X11: ... inview.pdf

* CrossOver Office 4.1 review:

* Porting to Qt Embedded:

* What on Earth is Fink:

* Reverse engineering and the law:

These PDFs are copyright Future Publishing and may not be
redistributed. Stay tuned for more updates!

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 80, on sale Thursday 4th May

# Graphics special -- In-depth report from the Libre Graphics Event
on the state of the art of Gimp, Inkscape, Xara and more!

# The LXF Interview: Apache developer Brian Behlendorf

# KOffice 1.5 -- Meet Kross, the KDE answer to VBA

# GPL v3 update -- Can committee-led licensing work?

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

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 a
losing your car keys:

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 angry) you can opt-out by removing
yourself from the Newsletter group as above.

9. Contact details

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 subs page:

(C) 2006 Future
LXF regular
Posts: 2893
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:14 pm

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