Linux Format Newsletter -- #27, July 2007

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #27, July 2007

Postby M-Saunders » Mon Aug 27, 2007 5:23 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 95 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!

Everyone has been complaining about the rain, and how June has been
abnormally wet this year. But at LXF Towers we always try to look on
the bright side of things: when the weather is bad, you don't feel
guilty about staying indoors and Linuxing the evenings away! The
heavy rain will continue for a while yet, so it's the perfect
opportunity to accomplish that long-put-off task -- cleaning out
your misc/ folder, upgrading your distro or learning C++. Me, I'm
determined to get the next release of MikeOS prepared, which will
feature a stunning new graphics engine. In black and white.

As always, this month's Newsletter catches up on the latest forum
posts and Linux goings-on, plus we have an introduction to Vi (for
those who've been terrified by its terseness) and some info on the
latest issue. If you have any comments or suggestions about the
Newsletter, or you've discovered a way to turn base metals into
gold, do drop me a line!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 95 on sale

Linux Format issue 95 is on the newsstands, ready to help you with
your hardware purchasing decisions. We all know that Linux's
hardware support, while getting better by the month, still has some
sore spots -- and it's a pain when you end up buying a dud. We
gathered together all the hardware we could find, and threw it at
Linux, finding out what works, what needs attention, and what you
should avoid at all costs. Check out our Hardware Guide before
splashing out your cash, to make sure you get decent kit.

Meanwhile, we look at the state of enterprise support on Linux. If
you're in charge of 5,000 PCs, you need a responsive support team
when something goes all hairy. So who do you choose? The big players
in this field are currently Red Hat, Novell and Canonical -- we went
undercover to find out how quickly and correctly they solved our
Linux problems.

Paul Hudson speaks to several key Linux figures including Richard
Stallman and Bruce Perens, in his goal to determine why the GPL 3
has received so much flak. Over in filesystemland, Dr Chris Brown
takes you on a whistlestop tour of the Linux directory structure,
explaining how Hal drove into /media/cdrom and why you should avoid
the weirdo at /dev/null.

We have tutorials on online photo publishing, home automation with
Cron, PHP on Rails (Akelos), Mono database handling and funky DCOP
hacking in KDE. Our reviews section covers the Yoggie portable
security device, Studio To Go 2, Gentoo 2007.0 and Ballistics. On
our jam-packed DVD you'll find the full version of Fedora 7 --
complete with over 1,6000 cutting-edge packages -- plus PCLinuxOS
2007, magazine PDFs and over 70 great new open source programs.

Our book reviews section this month focuses on Ruby guides, but we
also managed to squeeze in a look at Clear Blogging, which describes
how bloggers are "changing the world":

# Clear Blogging -- Apress -- ISBN 1-59059-691-9
351 pages, 17.99 GBP

We're not anti-weblog here at LXF Towers, but we do get miffed by
the octillion pointless blogs that clog up the internet. Just try
searching for information on a new product: before finding any
useful and informative reviews, you have to wade through irksome
anecdotes and self-indulgent "look what I got today"-type
blatherings which make up the so-called "blogosphere". This book
is loaded with buzzwords like that - "attention economies",
"citizen journalism" and "linkbait", plus endless talk of
"redefining" everything.

This doesn't actually help anyone. Blogs are essentially
oft-updated opinion columns, and no matter how many buzzwords you
use, it won't help you to write anything interesting.
Content-wise, the book handles technical topics such as blog
engines and search tools very well, but this information is broken
up by incredibly boring twaddle. Who wants to read bland
interviews with bloggers discussing other bloggers?

Outside of the technical aspects, there's simply very little you
can teach about blogging - you can't magically force someone to
write interesting text. So the sections about writing give stupid
advice such as "Put a picture on your blog!", "Spell-check your
posts" and "Use bold and italics for emphasis". It should say "If
you can't even figure out the basic nuts-and-bolts of writing,
don't engulf the internet with tedious rubbish."

Apress could transform this into a decent book by cutting out all
the waffle, silly writing tips and interviews. It should focus on
the technical side - how to set up a blog, how to get it linked
and add new features - instead of tripe about being an armchair
e-revolutionary. Let's take the advice about using the "simplest
possible word and sentence structure": This book sucks.

RATING: 4/10

Snag a copy of LXF 95 for more cynical tomfoolery!

3. In the news...

A new Slack, word from The Shut and Reiser court dealings...

# Slackware 12 released ... le&sid=570

And it's the first release to use the 2.6 kernel by default! Slack
12 continues the distro's famed simplicity and stability, and
includes KDE 3.5.7, Xfce 4.4.1, HAL support for improved hardware
detection, and 7.2.0. GCC 4.1.2 is the default compiler. The
new release can be downloaded or ordered from the Slackware store.

# Shuttleworth: No Microsoft negotiations ... le&sid=562

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has stated that his company,
Canonical, is in no negotiations with Microsoft over unspecified
patent infringements. He believes Microsoft's claim that Linux
violates the company's patents are without "any legal merit" and
"carry no weight whatsoever". However, he doesn't rule out future
collaborations with the Redmond giant providing they "further the
cause of free software".

# Hans Reiser trial delayed... ... le&sid=563

...until "fall". The ReiserFS programmer, under investigation
following the disappearance of his wife, will face murder charges
later in the year following jury selection in August. Nina Reiser's
body has not yet been found - some sources believe she is alive in
Russia. The scenario is further complicated by the news that Sean
Sturgeon, Nina's ex-lover and supposed manager of Hans' financies,
has confessed to killing eight people. has a very
detailed look at the situation at

4. This month on the forum

In which strange places have you seen Linux running? wyliecoyoteuk
spotted a Cornish pub's jukebox powered by Ubuntu, while
1slipperyfish spied SUSE at an apartment complex in Majorca.
Although he couldn't be sure, M0PHP thought he'd seen Linux powering
a bowling alley -- and ggsinclair stumbled upon a Planet Penguin
Racer arcade machine at Glasgow Airport! Have you come across Linux
in any weird or wacky places? Join in the thread... [1]

ggsinclair had an "I wish you'd told me that before" moment when, on
a recent Saturday, he headed round to his parents's house to fix
their scanner. Why wasn't it working? Well, the fact that the USB
cable wasn't plugged in came into play. Other forum regulars chipped
in with their anecdotes of incompetence, including MartyBartfast's
mysterious broken monitor (with the brightness turned down), and
Diagmato's painful fight against a seemingly undetected hard drive.
With no power cable attached. [2]

[1] ... pic&t=6122

[2] ... pic&t=6249

5. Special newsletter feature


Don't run away screaming -- this text editor isn't as horrid as it
first appears. Some of you may have plenty of experience with Vi,
but if you've never used it or have only come across it in extreme
emergencies, here's a quick guide to make it seem remotely sane.

Vi, the Visual editor, started its life in the late '70s. Designed
for extremely hardware-constrained machines, it doesn't sport pretty
menus or lashings of help text; it's exceedingly minimal and
initially unfathomable. However, it's EVERYWHERE. The main reason
you should learn the basics of Vi, even if you don't want to use it
full-time, is because it's always to hand.

Whatever flavour of Unix you're running, whatever position you're in
(eg stuck at the command-line with most of your programs broken),
you can rely on Vi. Its ubiquity makes it a last-resort for many --
but you'll be glad it's there. Fire up a terminal window and enter:

vi filename.txt

You'll be greeted with an absurdly minimalist screen: a cursor in
the top-left, a series of tilde (~) characters and the filename at
the bottom. The tildes indicate lines not actually present in the
file -- in other words, showing you where the file ends.

Vi is based around the concept of "editing modes", which bemuses
most first-time users. Although the cursor is sitting there happily,
ostensibly waiting for you to start typing, you have to enter
"insert" mode by pressing "i". This allows you to start entering
text into the file. If you didn't press "i", you'd be in command
mode, and any keys you press could do weird things.

Type in a few lines of text. Now, you want to switch back to command
mode -- just press Esc. Move the cursor over a line of text, and
then hit "d" twice. As you can see, that is the command to delete a
line. If you want to go back to text entry mode, hit "i"; to get
back to command mode, hit Esc. In command mode, you can press "x"
with the cursor over a character to delete that character.

So those are the basics, and if you've ever landed in Vi before,
completely stumped as to what's going on, this knowledge will help
you out. But what about saving files? In command mode, enter ":w" --
this tells Vi to write the file to disk. To exit, you can enter ":q"
in command mode. Note that Vi lets you string some commands
together, so you can enter ":wq" to write the file and then quit.

If you've modified a file and try to quit without saving the
changes, Vi will give you a stern warning. You can get around this
by adding an exclamation mark to the command: ":q!". This tells Vi
to quit without stopping you in your tracks.

So that's Vi. It's weird, it's archaic, but it's always there and
extremely fast too. If you take liking to Vi's keybindings, you
should check out Vim, a much-enhanced version of the editor with
cool features like syntax highlighting. It's one of the most popular
editors amongst programmers -- pop over to for more
information. To explore more Vi commands, see

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 96, on sale Thursday 26 July

# Reinstall Linux! System going slow? Things starting to break?
Learn how to safely back up your data and do a clean install
from scratch.

# DTP with Scribus: Linux Format may be made on Macs, but can
we switch to Linux for one article?

# The Ultimate Newbie Test: Three newbies, one Linux desktop.
Is Linux really ready for the masses?

(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
playing Snap:

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
LXF regular
Posts: 2893
Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:14 pm

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