Linux Format Newsletter -- #23, March 2007

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #23, March 2007

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Apr 05, 2007 1:40 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 91 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!

There's been some talk on the LXF website forums recently about
readers teaming together and writing some software. It sounds great
in theory, but will it work in practise? A bunch of regular LXF
readers hatched a plan to create a new Linux distribution, hosted on
the magazine's website and supported by the mag-reading community. A
grand idea -- but it requires a huge amount of effort and

Perhaps we'd do better with a small project, eg a game or email
client. For many people, it would be a superb learning experience,
and pull in all sorts of talent (coders, documentation writers, GUI
designers etc). What do you reckon? If you have any ideas or
suggestions, pop over to our forums and let everyone know.

Meanwhile, in this month's Newsletter we have a glimpse of the new
LXF issue, a roundup of the biggest news stories and forum threads,
plus a special feature explaining the Linux filesystem layout.
Enjoy, and if you have any questions or comments, drop me a line!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 91 on sale

Linux Format issue 91 is now on the shop shelves, crammed with
information on everyone's favourite free graphics tool: the Gimp. We
look at the cool new features in the pipeline for Gimp 2.4, show
some fascinating artwork created by Gimp users, and speak to the
program's lead maintainer. The Gimp has always been one of Linux's
flagship apps, and until Adobe ports Photoshop it will be the
standard bearer for graphics software on the OS.

Meanwhile, we catch up with Eric Allman, creator of the massively
used Sendmail program that props up communication around the net.
Eric explains why spam isn't likely to disappear any time soon, and
gives some hope to fans of the classic text-based Trek game.

Do you know how secure your system is? Although Linux isn't prone to
vulnerabilities, it's not invincible either and we all need to make
sure we're not making our machines tempting to crackers. Graham
Morrison offers 15 tips for making your machine impenetrable,
including firewalls, permissions and wireless networking.

There's a bit of a hardware flavour to our reviews section this
month, with the Nokia N800 internet tablet, HP's disc-labelling 940e
DVD writer and Trolltech's Greenphone thoroughly examined. On the
tutorials front we show you how to manage users, create XSLT
stylesheets, customise SugarCRM, write GTK apps with Mono and
build your own .deb packages.

LXF Towers's resident bookworms rate a handful of the best new
tomes, including this hefty JavaScript guide:

# JavaScript: The Definitive Guide
O'Reilly, ISBN 0-596-10199-6, $49.99, 994 pages

Back in 1995, when the newly baked JavaScript pie was slowly
cooling on the web windowsill, many developers were confused by
the language: what does it have to do with Java? Is it just a fad,
or will it last? Well, over a decade on, JavaScript is massively
widespread, and books on the language abound. In its fifth
edition, JavaScript The Definitive Guide lives up to its name -
it's as exhaustive as you can imagine.

Over 994 pages, David Flanagan describes JavaScript's syntax,
features and usage with exceptional clarity, creating a friendly
rapport with the reader and demonstrating concepts with code
listings galore. The first 230 pages explain the fundamentals of
the language, followed by the bulk of the book: client side
JavaScript. This covers the use of browser-based JavaScript in
tremendous depth, from navigating the Document Object Model to
manipulating XML.

Other topics explained include working with CSS, using forms,
adding event handlers, managing cookies and using client-side
graphics (via the <canvas> tag). The final 350 pages serve as a
reference guide to JavaScript functions. It's extremely dense: no
space is wasted, screenshots are rare and every paragraph contains
useful explanations. You're almost afraid to hold the book
horizontally in case the immensely concentrated information leaks
out, covering your carpet with facts.

Only one thing prevents this book from receiving an 10/10 score,
and that's the scant coverage of Ajax. Limited to nine pages, the
Ajax section, although as marvellously detailed as the rest of the
text, feels desperately short. Still, this book has the thumbs-up
from Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript, and has sold 300,000
copies in previous editions - you can't ask for better accolades
than that.

RATING: 9/10 -- Weightier than a class 4 anvil, yet easy to read
and work through (if you have the time). Finish this book and you
will be a JavaScript guru.

Grab a copy of LXF 91 for more from the hard-copy Linux world!

3. In the news...

Something to cheer about for those of us in Blighty...

# UK govt: no software patents (for now) ... le&sid=502

In response to a petition on, the UK government has
issued a response outlining its views on software patents. And it's
good news for us Linuxers: there will be no software patents in the
UK, at least for the time being. "No patents should exist for
inventions which make advances lying solely in the field of
software", it says.

# Dell customers: "We want Linux!" ... le&sid=500

PC giant Dell has set up a website called Dell IdeaStorm, where
customers (existing or potential) of the company's products can post
and vote for suggestions. Note seven of the top eight most-voted-for
ideas -- they all involve Linux, open source or OS-free machines. Is
this just a bit of advocacy from the Linux community, or will it
finally bring us mainstream pre-installed Linux boxes?

# Fedora delayed, given new lick of paint ... le&sid=499

The upcoming release of Fedora Core 7, originally scheduled for
April 26th, has been moved back to May 24th. Largely this was due to
the merging of Fedora Core and Fedora Extras, which requires a new
build system. On the upside, Fedora 7 will see some shiny new
artwork involving hot air balloons heading into space.

4. This month on the forum

Here's an instant recipe for a massive thread: throw two competing
programs into a post and ask which one people prefer. At least
Mpathan didn't ask about Vim vs Emacs -- instead choosing a less
flamefestful topic: KDE vs Gnome. Various thoughtful points were put
forward by the forum regulars, although in true LXF Forum style, the
discussion soon turned towards 1slipperyfish. If you have any strong
feelings on the KDE vs Gnome debate, and can work your way through
the 1sf-baiting, why not add your thoughts to the thread? [1]

You haven't lived until you've: had a spaghetti bolognaise fight
with a two year old child; driven down Porlock Hill on a two stroke
motorbike with no engine braking; got completely lost in an
abandoned, boarded-up school building at 2am, with only a few mobile
phones for lighting; or climbed an 80 foot vertical cliff in a
quarry with no ropes or other safety gear, according to the forum... [2]

[1] ... pic&t=5432

[2] ... pic&t=5427

5. Special newsletter feature


Most modern Linux distros insulate users from the complexities of
the Linux filesystem, but it's still worth understanding in case
anything goes wrong. Here's an overview of the different directories
that make up a typical Linux installation -- and note that they're
largely the same throughout most other Unix-like operating systems
such as FreeBSD. Portable knowledge!

/bin -- Base-system text-mode utilities that should always be
available (ie not dependent on another disk being mounted). Includes
the standard command line interpreter (/bin/sh or /bin/bash) along
with very common tools such as 'ls' (list files) and 'cp' (copy files)

/boot -- Files required to start Linux correctly. This usually
contains the OS kernel and files to initialise the bootloader.

/dev -- Hardware devices. One of the Unix philosophies is
'everything is a file', so in this directory, your peripherals are
accessible just like they were regular files (ie programs can read
from them quickly and easily).

/etc -- Configuration files, usually in text format, for various
system programs (eg the X Window System, background services,
networking etc). Note that personal user configuration files, eg for
your Firefox session, are stored in your home directory.

/home -- Users' personal directories. Every normal user on the
system has a subdirectory here for his/her personal files. For
instance, if you add a new user called Nate, his home directory will
be /home/nate.

/lib -- This holds essential system libraries, which are resources
used by the programs in /bin. libc, the library used by almost every
program for Linux, lives here. Also, in the subdirectory
/lib/modules you'll find add-in drivers used by the kernel.

/media and /mnt -- When you pop in a CD/DVD or USB flash key, their
contents are joined into the filesystem (mounted) in one of thee

/opt -- Optional software. This is often used for large add-on
packages, such as KDE or, as it's easier to keep them
all together than scatter them around the filesystem.

/sbin -- Superuser programs. These are utilities that only the
system administrator (root) should be able to run. Whereas all users
should be able to list files with 'ls', for instance, only the
administrator should be allowed to run the 'reboot' command.

/tmp -- Temporary files, used by any program. This directory is
usually cleaned out when the machine is rebooted.

/usr -- Non-essential programs that aren't required for booting.
This is where the vast majority of your day-to-day software lives,
making sure the essential system directories of /bin, /lib etc. stay

/var -- Variable data, or content which is not executable and
subject to frequent changes. For instance, it holds log files, mail
spools, databases (on servers) etc.

So, that's the Linux filesystem in summary. Some distros vary their
layout, but most of them stick to the Filesystem Hierarchy Standard
(FHS), which is worth reading at if you
want to learn more.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 92, on sale Thursday 5th April

# Upgrade to Ultimate! Quad-core CPU, 4GB RAM and 1,500GB of
disk space -- we show you how to build a super-fast box
that's 100% Linux compatible

# Wine: the missing manual. Discover the techniques that
experts use to run Windows apps and games smoothly

# SpamAssassin explained -- sick of emails pushing dodgy
stocks? Block them like a pro!

# Ian Murdock -- Debian founder speaks out

(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 hating

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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