Linux Format Newsletter -- #12, May 2006

Past issues of the LXF Online Newsletter

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #12, May 2006

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Jun 01, 2006 9:39 am





1. Welcome!

2. Preview of LXF 80

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 12th LXF Online Newsletter. It's been a
hectic few weeks for desktop Linux: first we had the Ubuntu 6.04
released pushed back a couple of months for extra stability work,
then the Desktop Linux Summit came along, and now Linspire has
announced a free spin-off version of its distro. It's all go! And
it's great to see positive news in Linuxland after the recent
troubles with Mandriva. We're not ones to make the age-old claim
that THIS will be the year of Linux on the desktop, but there's
certainly a lot to look forward to...

Meanwhile, in this month's Newsletter we have a roundup of recent
events and interesting threads on the forum, plus a quick look at
LXF80 (on sale now) and a special feature on strange and rarely
heard-of uses of Linux.


Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Preview of LXF 80

Today, Linux Format 80 arrives on the newsstands, featuring a
whopping 8GB double-sided DVD, packed to near-bursting with distros
and software. On Side 1 you'll find the full version of Fedora Core
5, while Side 2 contains six Live distros (four of which can be
booted directly from the disc). These Live distros are SUSE, Ubuntu,
Morphix, Games Knoppix, Damn Small Linux and Looking Glass 3D.
Whether you're looking to upgrade your distro or just fancy playing
with some Linux flavours you've never seen before, there's plenty to
sink your teeth into here.

Meanwhile, in the magazine we have an in-depth report from the Libre
Graphics Meeting in France. This event showed just how much graphics
software under Linux is on the up -- in some cases, starting to pose
a real challenge to professional (and proprietary tools). Nick
Veitch spoke developers from Scribus, Inkscape and The Gimp, and
analyses the future for these increasingly popular tools.

Also in the mag: an interview with Brian Behlendorf, one of the
original Apache coders and now at CollabNet. We also speak to
Novell's Greg Mancusi-Ungaro about competition with Red Hat and
whether any company can become the 'Microsoft of Linux'. If you've
been hearing a lot about XGL but are still unsure about the tech,
our What on Earth will guide you through, while a detailed look at
GPL v3 unravels the tricky issues surrounding the licence.

Here's a few of the questions we asked in this month's interviews;
keep an eye on the website's front page for the answers. First up is
Brian Behlendorf:

# How did Apache start?

# How did you see the potential of open source so young?

# Do you think proprietary web products like Flash are acceptable?

And then Novell's Greg Mancusi-Ungaro:

# Can any company become the Linux equivalent of Microsoft?

# SUSE has traditionally been KDE-centric. How does including and
supporting Gnome in the distro affect that?

# Is the internal Novell migration to Linux working out?

Grab a copy of LXF 80 for the full interviews. On the reviews front,
we have AmaroK 1.4, KOffice 1.5, Damn Small Linux 2.3, Gaim 2.0,
Seapine Surround SCM 4.1, books and a bunch of Live distros. Our
tutorials section includes guides to home movie soundtracks, Basic, regular expressions, PHP translation,
encrypted filesystems and faster booting. Also this month, our
regular HotPicks section looks at the latest open source app
releases, and one of the highlights is Gnash:

# Gnash CVS 20-03-2006 --

Shockwave Flash and Linux don't always make for happy bedfellows.
Although Macromedia has been pleasingly proactive in supporting
its media format on Linux, its player is still proprietary and
Free Software supporters have felt left in the cold. Gnash is a
new project aiming to bring high-quality Flash v7 playback to
Linux - going beyond the scattering of rudimentary open source
efforts that have barely reached Flash v5 compatibility.

Currently, Gnash is only available through CVS, with no official
releases for download. On our coverdisc you'll find a snapshot of
the source code from the 20th of March 2006; it will build with
the usual ./configure, make and 'make install' (as root)
procedure. Gnash depends on the OpenGL, SVGALib and SDL libraries
to provide its GUI, along with the Firefox development files to
build a browser plugin.

However, the developers recommend against using the Firefox plugin
for day-to-day web browsing at present, instead suggesting you try
the standalone player which can be started with 'gnash
filename.swf'. This pops up a single window containing the
animation, although how well it performs depends on the complexity
of the Flash file. Gnash is based on GameSWF and supports a large
amount of the Flash v7 specification - as demonstrated in the
supplied test suite - although in real-world Flash movies it's
prone to glitches.

We tested Gnash with a variety of Flash formats in v5, v6 and v7
with varying results. Some played perfectly, with full sound,
animation and interactivity, whereas others were missing audio and
had problems with handling the mouse. A few started off well but
gradually displayed visual flaws as the animations progressed.
This is acceptable for an early-in-development tool, and hundreds
of changes and fixes are being made to the codebase every month.

Gnash is hugely important in the creation a fully open source
internet stack. Millions of sites use Flash, and if Gnash's
developers continue at the same pace, we'll be able to enjoy a
broad range of internet content (and annoying adverts!) while
sticking true to the spirit of Free Software. It's rough around
the edges, but has great potential.

As usual, there're five and a half more pages of HotPicks in LXF 80,
including a look at the puzzling platformer BlinkenSisters...

3. In the news...

A hive of activity on the desktop front this month...

# Linspire announces Freespire ... le&sid=311

At the Desktop Linux Summit, Linspire President and CEO Kevin
Carmony has announced Freespire, a community version of Linspire.
The goal is to have a 100% open source version of the distro, along
with a release which includes various proprietary additions (such as
Flash and video drivers). Will this bring new convertees to Linux,
or are there too many desktop distros already? More info at

# Report from the Desktop Linux Summit ... le&sid=313

The Desktop Linux Summit kicked off on Monday in San Diego, and
NewsForge has an early report from the event
( Highlights include the announcement of
Freespire and a HP presentation on the future of Linux printing.
Meanwhile, Novell's Nat Friedman's demonstrated the funky new
features in SUSE 10.1 such as Xgl.

# Next Ubuntu release outlined ... le&sid=307

Although Ubuntu Dapper Drake has been delayed by two months for
additional bugfixing and polish, the development team has already
started planning the followup release, 'The Edgy Eft'. In this post
to the development mailing list, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth
explains his plans -- including making Edgy a hotbed of the latest
technology. See

4. This month on the forum

How many people actually need the likes of Adobe Photoshop and MS
Office? wyliecoyoteuk argued that the people who claimed they
really needed them simply weren't willing to change. But Nigel
responded stating that it wasn't always down to need -- just what
you prefer. This sparked off a debate about the quality of The
Gimp's interface, and then deeper issues like DRM. [1]

Diagmato was finding it hard to demonstrate the power of Linux to
Windows users, without them thinking "there's no such thing as a
free lunch". shifty_ben came up with a crafty solution: buying a
round at the pub with the money saved by choosing Linux over
Windows, and watching everyone's response. [2]

Anyone who's spent more than a few minutes browsing Slashdot will
have come across the infamous 'Grammar Nazis' -- posters who like to
do nothing more than correct common mistakes. towy71 posted
something he'd seen in a .sig, which inevitably led to endless
back-and-forth debates about English. Should we maintain standards,
or is the language simply too fluid? [3]

[1] ... pic&t=2936

[2] ... pic&t=3001

[3] ... pic&t=2975

5. Special newsletter feature


Most of us run Linux on our home desktop PCs and servers, and some
of us are lucky enough to use it in the workplace too. These are all
regular, established roles for Linux -- nothing out of the blue. But
with an OS so open and flexible, it's not surprising that Linux
finds itself in all manner of bizarre situations. We've heard many
fascinating tales over the years, and here we'll collect together
a few of the best...

1) MooBella -- the Linux ice-cream maker

Take an ice cream vending machine, add some Tuxy goodness, and what
do you get? A truly strange use of Linux, that's for sure. MooBella
has a vending machine running Red Hat, with a 15 inch LCD screen,
which can make 96 different varieties of ice cream. It's powered by
an AMD 1.3GHz CPU with 512MB RAM. Ever had a Mint-Choc-Chip served
up by your favourite distro?

2) Linux in space

Computer hardware and software has to be ultra-reliable when
involved with space missions. When you're spending millions on
getting into space, the last thing you want is for an unreliable
component to break down. Here's a story about Debian GNU/Linux being
used on a hydroponics mission (growing plants in space, without
soil). Also see the second link for more info on Tuxonauts.

3) Autonomous military ground vehicles

The debate whether or not Free Software should be used for military
purposes rages on, but one thing's certain: in warfare it's
essential to have reliable software. iRobot has used embedded Linux
to power an un-manned autonomous ground vehicle, which is tailored
towards guarding and hauling work. It runs LynuxWorks' BlueCat
Linux and can navigate around using GPS.

Have you seen any more strange or rarely heard-of uses of Linux? If
so, email and we'll have an update in
next month's Newsletter!

6. New archive PDFs

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

* Security with Tripwire:

* 64-bit computing contenders:

* MainActor 5.2 review:

* CentOS 3.2 review:

* InfoSec Europe 2005 show report:

* TouchStream LP keyboard review:

* Free Software for business:

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

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 81, on sale Thursday 1st June

# -- Can open source cut costs in schools, colleges and
universities? Yes it can -- find out how!

# The LXF Interview: Kernel hacker Greg Kroah-Hartman

# Ubuntu 6.06 -- Has the delayed release made it better than ever?

# Open-Xchange tutorial -- How to replace MS Exchange forever!

(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 reading
a Mr Men book:

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 sad) 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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