Linux Format Newsletter -- #29, September 2007

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #29, September 2007

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Nov 16, 2007 4:48 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 98 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

9. A quick note on a CTO show...

1. Welcome!

At long, long, long last, it looks like we're finally seeing an end
to the SCO saga. The company has been dealt some terrific blows in
court, and is now having to reveal its woeful financial status.
Entertainingly, Darl McBride is still spouting on about Unix
copyrights and the company's product line - also blaming the rise of
Linux for the decline in use of UnixWare!

However, I'm not so sure about the cheers and hurrahs around the
net. Discussions on Slashdot and co. have been filled with "See, the
court system worked!". Well, if you call several years of slothful
progress a success, that's not a good sign. The fact is, these
absurd claims should never even have made it to the courtroom; SCO's
'evidence' has been tremendously flimsy from the start.

So yes, we're all glad that it's coming to an end, but who knows
what the next challenge is going to be like - especially if
Microsoft starts to assert its patent portfolio. Anyway, enjoy this
month's newsletter, with a roundup of the latest website activity
and a special feature on the new MythTV release from Graham!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 98 on sale

Yes, issue 98 is on the newsstands now, and this month we've pooled
the knowledge of Team LXF to bring you 48 top Linux tricks. No, not
pulling-a-rabbit-out-of-an xterm type magic tricks - but little
hints, tips and snippets of information that will make your life
easier. We cover KDE, Gnome, the command-line, Firefox,, MySQL and more - plus sections on system
administration and performance. Grab a copy of the issue to work
smarter and faster!

Also this month we look at the long road leading up to KDE 4. Now
that the next release is just round the corner, we've analysed its
progress, seeing how the various components such as Phonon and
Plasma are coming along, and noting the bits that developers have
had to drop en route.

We have news and interviews from LinuxWorld 2007, hardware reviews,
tutorials on network diagnostics and VirtualBox, plus much more. On
our 4GB DVD you'll find the top media production suite 64 Studio,
plus polished Ubuntu spin-off Linux Mint and super newbie-friendly
distro Ark Linux. Click the issue image on our website for the full

To whet your appetite for the tips-fest on offer this issue, here's
a useful snippet to clean up your KDE or Gnome program menus:


Running Ubuntu is great until you try to install the Kubuntu
packages (or vice versa), because your previously neatly menu
system goes into overload meltdown with dozens of products from
both desktops fighting for your priority.

But there's a fix: you can force individual shortcuts to appear
only in Gnome or only in KDE, as opposed to being in both. To do
this, switch to root and browse to /usr/share/applications (for
Gnome apps) opr /usr/share/applications/kde (for KDE apps).

Then open a shortcut file in your text editor, and add one of
these two lines to the bottom:


for KDE-only applications; or


for Gnome-only applications.

Buy LXF 98 pronto for 47 more helpful nanoguides!

3. In the news...

More bad news for SCO and Microsoft. Our collective hearts bleed...

# SCO files Chapter 11; Microsoft loses EC appeal ... le&sid=597

The SCO group has filed for Chapter 11 to "protect its assets" as it
faces major financial difficulties. "The SCO Group intends to
maintain all normal business operations throughout the bankruptcy
proceedings" says the press release, and CEO Darl McBride says the
company will be "focusing on building our future plans". Meanwhile,
Microsoft has lost its appeal against the European Commission's
fine, and will have to pay 497m euro for "abusing its dominant

# 2.3 and Gnome 2.20 released ... le&sid=598

Two big announcements in the free software world: first up, 2.3 is now available, rolling in major improvements
to the charting module, and adding MediaWiki export to Writer.
Meanwhile, Gnome 2.20 has been released with better right-to-left
language support and various Evolution enhancements.

# Palm shelves Foleo handheld PC ... le&sid=589

Not long after we enjoyed playing with the device at LinuxWorld
2007, Palm has announced that it is shelving the Foleo handheld PC,
so that the company can focus on a "next-generation platform". Palm
hasn't ruled out a 'Foleo II' at some point, but for those of us
looking forward to dinky Linux-powered laptops, it's a bit of a
disappointment. Still, with the Asus Eee PC nearby - and at a very
low price point - perhaps it was a sensible move from Palm.

4. This month on the forum

Is Ubuntu really the best 'Public Face of Linux'? That's what Deke
asked, noting that he completely supported Ubuntu's ideology, but
wasn't sure if it was the most ideal distro for newbies. In
particular, he noted that KDE looks more Windows-like, and therefore
more intuitive for Windows users. wyliecoyoteuk described how his
initial disgust at Gnome has turned into an admiration - he thinks
it's better for people who've never used a computer before. The
thread also has a poll, and at the time of writing, 66% of voters
believe that Ubuntu is up to the task. [1]

What's the best virtualisation software for Linux? A few years ago,
we only had QEMU and the proprietary VMware to choose from; today,
we can revel in a world of Xen, VirtualBox, Parallels and others.
wyliecoyoteuk asked which would be best for his consolidation job,
and forum regulars chipped in with their suggestions. It's a very
new thread - but please do chip in if you use any such tools! [2]

[1] ... pic&t=6637

[2] ... pic&t=6249

5. Special newsletter feature


We've not looked at a MythTV release in the magazine since May 2006.
This isn't because there hasn't been any development; MythTV is one
of the most active projects we've ever come across, it's just that
the developers seldom create an official update. As a result, most
MythTV users scramble all over point release and Subversion
repositories. In the last 12 months, this has meant one major
upgrade (0.20) and two minor updates (0.20.1 and 0.20.2). The latest
compilation of changes, released at the end of August, made the
headlines for one particular decision the developers have made,
giving us the perfect excuse to test the latest version.

MythTV isn't a project you typically associate with scandal. In
fact, the community goes to great lengths to distance itself from
anything that might be misconstrued as illegal - pushing suggestions
for BitTorrent integration into the MythTV underground, for example.
But the latest release has caused a storm. The main feature is the
addition of a paid-for commercial listings grabbing service for the
USA (currently $15 for 3 months). Of course, no once is criticising
the developers for adding a much needed alternative, but this
feature has supplanted the more flexible (and free) data scraping
system employed by previous versions.

You first notice this at install time while running the little
altered and hideously complex 'mythtv-setup' tool. XMLTV has been
replaced with Schedules Direct, the commercial listings service.
Schedules Direct is a non-profit organisation sprung up to provide
programme data to USA and Canadian MythTV users. It's an essential
service, and its integration means one less configuration headache.
But making it the only option is a mistake. You're left with either
manually creating a working XMLTV configuration behind the scenes,
or using the limited transmitted guide data.

To get our hands on the latest MythTV binaries without wasting a
weekend tracking down dependencies and compiling from source code,
we used an alpha release of Mythbuntu. Yes, another Ubuntu
derivative. But this one shows real promise and offers more than an
a simple exercise in re-branding. Mythbuntu is supplied as either a
DVD auto-installer, or two CD's worth of packages that can be
installed on top of a fresh Kubuntu installation.

It doesn't make installation that much easier though - you still
have to go through the arduous 'mythtv-setup' procedure, for
example. But Mythbuntu does bundle plenty of TV and graphics card
drivers, as well as its own Control Centre application and LIRC
configuration routine, making installation slightly less tedious for
the experienced MythTV user. The DVD will also work as a Live MythTV
frontend, which is a smart move if you've got a machine you want to
second for a short while.

Leaving installation and scheduling behind, the main MythTV
application still goes from strength to strength. But this brings an
unwelcome side effect - complexity on top of complexity. If Steve
Jobs, with his one-button mouse philosophy, was forced to use
MythTV, he'd likely evaporate in a puff of black smoke. MythTV is
the anti-matter of simple functionality. The new MythArchive plugin
is the perfect example. It's designed to let you burn any MythTV
content onto a DVD, complete with menu navigation and surround sound
music. It does this well, but the user-interface is abysmal: pages
of lists, menus and tick boxes. You select the media you want to
archive in one window and the media you want to ignore in another.

This complexity is a result of the plugin API forcing the plugin to
be independent of the main watching/recording/browsing application
(which is where an archive tool should really be). But that
shouldn't absolve the developers from any usability studies. We had
better success with the new UPnP streaming server support, dishing
up MythTV content to any UPnP devices connected to the MythTV
network. We streamed music to a Squeezebox and MPEG2 movies to a
PS3, and it's great to see MythTV integrating with other home media
devices. What's more, it didn't require any configuration.

We still love MythTV, but it's starting to feel little like a Tower
of Babel built on feature after feature. This approach isn't
sustainable, and the developers need do to a little soul-searching
before we see this featureful powerhouse taking on the world.


-- Graham Morrison

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 99, on sale Thursday 18 October

# Cool Linux projects -- a bumper compendium of great things
you can try on your Linux machine today

# Get involved! Want to start up your own user group, or spice
up an existing one? We give you all the tools you need...

# More from LinuxWorld: geekchat galore from the show

(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 the
First Steps Easy Guide to All Things Easy:

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:

9. A quick note on a CTO show...

One last thing: CTO has sent us some information on an upcoming
show, called 'Open Source in ICT 2007: Bridging the Digital Divide'.
It's to be held at the Holiday Inn, Regents Park, London, and will
have various speakers from OSS-using companies, research
institutions and the International Free and Open Source Foundation.

For more info, check out

(C) 2007 Future Publishing Limited
LXF regular
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