Linux Format Newsletter -- #22, February 2007

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #22, February 2007

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Mar 09, 2007 4:19 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 90 on sale

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!

If you're a regular LXF website visitor, you'll no doubt be familiar
with our Archives section - a big list of LXF issues and their
contents, with a selection of PDFs too. Well, we've given it a
complete overhaul, adding new search facilities and a lot more
information for each issue. Please do test it out; currently it has
the last six issues of LXF, but we'll be expanding it over the next
few weeks and adding more features: ... ewArchives

Meanwhile, in this month's newsletter we have a special feature on
programming languages. If you've never coded before and you're
looking to get started, or you're a regular hacker but want to
spread your wings beyond the languages you know, give it a look. We
also have a peek at the new LXF issue, plus a roundup of the hottest
news and forum topics. Enjoy!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 90 on sale

Linux Format issue 90 is now on the newsstands, and this month we've
gathered together the most common Linux problems and provided
in-depth solutions. Having trouble compiling some source code? Need
to keep your PC from overheating? Can't get internet connection
sharing to work? See our comprehensive set of walkthroughs covering
software, hardware, networking and administration.

Sony's PS3 is getting ever closer to a UK launch, and you can do
more with this powerhouse than just play games. We look at new new
release of Yellow Dog 5, featuring the dazzling Enlightenment window
manager, and show how it turns the PS3 into a usable desktop
machine. Over in serverland, Paul Hudson explores three essential
Apache modules that wring more from your web server - helping you to
limit bandwidth and keep URLs nice and snappy.

If you're a dab hand at programming and need a new challenge, check
out our feature on esoteric programming languages, including a look
at the horrendously complicated Spaghetti and Malbolge interpreters.
Also on the programming front, we catch up with Damian Conway, who
works alongside Larry Wall to design and maintain perl. Damian
reveals what's going on with Perl 6 development, including
enhancements to its object orientation features.

In the reviews section we rate OpenSUSE 10.2, SoftMaker Office 2006,
VMware Workstation 6 and WXWidgets 2.8, while our tutorials section
includes guides for installing RPMs, using SugarCRM, mixing MySQL
and PHP skills, Mono programming and hacking the GRUB bootloader.
Our regular HotPicks section brings together the best new open
source programs, including Amarok-wannabe Exaile:

# Exaile 0.2.7b2 --

Putting to an end to childish squabbles over whose desktop has the
best applications, Exaile is a music player that attempts to bring
all the great features of KDE's Amarok to Gnome.

These days, simply playing audio tracks just isn't enough. Of
course, Exaile provides a comfortable way of doing that and
handles various wave formats including Ogg Vorbis and MP3 and even
good, old- fashioned audio CDs. Beyond this, Exaile adds support
for Shoutcast internet radio sites (with the optional feature to
record streams to disk, provided you have the Streamripper tool
installed), the music social networking service, and even
your iPod. There are tools to automatically fetch and display
album artwork for a playing track, song lyrics and guitar
tablature, and it can show album and artist information from
Wikipedia in an embedded browser window.

All this candy is just a sweetener to enhance Exaile's core
functionality, though: the management of your music collection and
the creation of playlists. Music can be imported from various
sources, and browsed by artist or album. Exaile stores details of
your collection in an internal SQLite database, so access should
be speedy no matter how large your library grows. You can create a
custom playlist by simply dragging and dropping tracks from your
collection, but Exaile has more powerful tools than this.

For example, use it to automatically generate a playlist of 100
random tracks, or your 100 top-rated tunes. Smart playlists let
you build playlists of songs that match a set of user-defined
queries - you can query by artist, album title, genre, year of
release, or many more criteria. In short, finding the tracks you
want to listen to should never be a problem again; it's a huge
leap from hunting through a bookcase full of audio CDs.

Like many Gnome apps these days, Exaile has been written with
Python. You'll need Python bindings for GTK, Glade, GStreamer and
a bunch of other libraries, but most of these should already be
installed by a modern deployment of the Gnome desktop. Exaile also
requires ElementTree for XML support. This is included in Python
2.5, but you'll have to install it yourself if you use 2.4. Get it
at - and happy listening.

Snag a copy of LXF90 for nine other top-notch entrants to the world
of free software!

3. In the news...

Are we starting to see some consolidation in the distro world?

# Canonical and Linspire team up ... le&sid=493

Canonical, makers of the supremely popular Ubuntu Linux
distribution, has announced a partnership with desktop distro vendor
Linspire. The agreement sees Linspire transitioning from Debian to
Ubuntu as its base, with Freespire 2.0 due in the first quarter of
2007. See the link above for the full story.

# SCO blames Linux, admits legal woes ... le&sid=489

Last night on Hollyoaks - we mean, the IBM vs SCO drama: SCO has
admitted that IBM could win a summary judgement and that its case
may never be heard by a jury. Not only does SCO realise that its
legal efforts may be doomed, but the company is still blaming Linux
for the decline of its Unix product sales. At the same time,
Information Week describes how commercial Unix is actually on the
rise. See ... 6175332481

# Mandriva to get GUI facelift ... le&sid=484

The next release of Mandriva will incorporate Metisse, a flashy
window manager based around the venerable FVWM. Metisse includes 3D
window flipping effects, but there's more to it than 3D, including
fold-up windows and rotation. See

4. This month on the forum

Until Linux hits the mainstream, we'll hardly ever hear it mentioned
on TV or radio, or by people in the street. Many people only seen
words like Linux, GNU and SUSE written down - never heard them
spoken - which leads to lots of confusion about pronunciation.
Oweny33 set up a poll asking how forum regulars said the word
'Linux', with 'Linn-nux' getting the lion's share of votes. But
should that be 'GNU-slash-Linux?' [1]

Shifty_ben's computer desk was getting a tad cluttered, and he
posted a photo to see if anyone could beat him in the messy stakes.
Lots of forumers posted their own pics, including a highly artistic
panorama from Jdtate101 and a four-box setup from M0PHP (complete
with a copy of LXF. Hurrah!) If you're reading this and believe your
desk puts chaos storage theory to the test, do post a photo! [2]

[1] ... pic&t=5206

[2] ... pic&t=5228

5. Special newsletter feature


Programming is great fun -- it's like having the world's biggest
Lego set at your disposal, and given enough time you can write
nigh-on anything possible. If you've never written any code before,
though, or you're only familiar with one or two languages, you may
be daunted by the vast range of programming languages on offer. Here
we'll go through the most popular languages doing the rounds,
explaining their strengths and (hopefully) making it easier for you
to choose what to learn.

1. C

C is the bread and butter of the programming world. It's vanilla,
it's beige, it's boring -- but it's everywhere. C was originally
designed to be a more portable form of assembly language, and
consequently it doesn't do much itself; you need supporting
libraries. All C implementation have a standard library of basic
string handling and maths routines; for anything more, though, you
need to add something else, such as Gtk for a GUI.

C is hard work, and for programming graphical apps you're better off
with C++, C# or Python, but its syntax has been adopted by many
other languages so it's worth learning (well, at least the basics).
Thesedays, C tends to be used for system-level programming (OS
kernels, GUI toolkits etc). You'll also find that many other
programming language compilers/interpreters are written in C.

2. C++

GCC, the GNU compiler suite used in Linux, has good C++ support.
This language adopts C's syntax and adds object orientation
facilities, making it a bit easier to write large projects. For
instance, KDE, Firefox and are all written in C++. As
a language it's a bit fiddly to learn, and retains some of C's
archaic design, so if you just want to learn object orientation
you're better off with Python or Ruby. Still, C++ is gigantically
popular, so like C it's worth having a basic grounding in it.

3. C#

Yes, yes, it's a Microsoft-developed technology, but C# is freely
usable (both in speech and beer) on Linux thanks to Mono. C# has a
C-like syntax but heaps of nice features and an extensive supporting
library. Additionally, new bindings are being written all the time
to make C# interact with various toolkits. We've been running a
series on C# in Linux Format for the past few issues -- dive in and
try it out! The main downside to C# is that it demands that people
have Mono installed on their Linux boxes, but that's becoming more
widely available (and installed by default in many cases).

4. Java

Java on the desktop never really took off. It flirted with fame in
the late 1990s with Java applets on websites, but the actual
software was fiddly to install and Java programs usually ran
excrutiatingly slowly. However, the fact that Java apps run in a
virtual machine mean that they're very secure and can't mess up the
operating system, so it's seeing large-scale use on servers in
enterprises. Don't learn if if you're playing around with desktop
apps, but do learn it if you want a career in programming.

5. Perl

Perl's syntax looks like random gibberish half of the time, but it
certainly packs in masses of capability into a few lines of code.
Perl used to be THE language for website server-side scripting; it
has since been overtaken by PHP. It's very good for text
processing, but we don't recommend beginning coders try it.

6. PHP

PHP is a lovely language for website development. It takes C's
syntax and mixes in much-improved string and array handling. Also,
it has a superb library of routines for interacting with MySQL
database servers. PHP has a few bindings for desktop toolkits, but
they can be hard to find -- so avoid it if you're writing desktop
apps. For web development, however, it can't be missed.

7. Python

Python is an all-round programming language suited to scripting and
desktop software, and is normally interpreted. So it's not the
fastest thing on the planet, but is definitely the easiest language
to learn out of the ones covered here, and has a wide range of
add-in modules you can use. Python's syntax is very clean and
readable -- plus it's a fine way to learn about object orientation.

8. Ruby

Like Python, Ruby is an interpreted object oriented language with a
clear syntax and approachable learning curve. However, it's nowhere
near as widespread as Python; consequently it's harder to find
add-in modules, especially for writing desktop software.
Nonetheless, the Ruby on Rails framework is seeing a popularity
explosion, so like PHP it's worth trying if you're interested in
website development.

9. Assembly

Unless you're hacking kernel device drivers or writing a compiler,
you won't want to dabble in assembly language. Even if you're a
masochist. Assembly is the raw CPU instructions written down as
words - so it's very difficult to learn and unusable for large
desktop or server apps. However, it does teach you a lot about the
inner workings of a computer, and if you're determined enough to try
it, you'll want the wonderful NASM assembler. (GCC includes the Gas
assembler, but its syntax is hideous.)


If you're completely new to programming and looking to write desktop
apps, go with Python or C#. There are jillions of tutorials around
the net for these languages - plus of course LXF's very own series
in the magazine on C#. If you're more leaning towards server-side
hacking, learn PHP, Ruby and/or Java. And if you love the thought of
controlling every little bit of data in your CPU, try assembly.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 91, on sale Thursday 8th March

# Waiting for Gimp -- The next major release of the graphics tool
is approaching, but why has it taken so long? Find out here...

# 15 steps to security -- Keep your Linux boxes safe at home,
in the server room and on the web

# Super skinning -- Make your desktop look like OS X, Windows
or even good old Amiga Workbench!

# Eric Allman -- Sendmail's creator explains why spam is,
unfortunately, here to stay

(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 even easier than popping
a balloon:

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

8. 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) 2007 Future Publishing Limited
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