LXF Website Newsletter -- #1, June 2005

Past issues of the LXF Online Newsletter

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LXF Website Newsletter -- #1, June 2005

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Jul 14, 2005 9:08 am


(Sent out: 27th June 2005)




1. Welcome!

2. Sneak preview of LXF 69

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Special newsletter feature

6. Coming up next issue

7. Future of this newsletter!

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

We're back! After a long break, the newsletters will once again
become a regular feature of LXF Online -- the site for the UK's
biggest-selling Linux magazine. Everyone signed up to the site
will receive this issue, and you can opt-in for future issues by
reading below (section 7). Each month we'll take a look at what's
due in the next mag (with some tasters from the mag itself!),
catch up on the news, pick out the most
informative/flameful/obscure forum threads, and have some
newsletter-only articles too.

To kick things off this month, we've got a few snippets from the
upcoming issue 69. Kernel coding guru Alan Cox took some time out
from writing his Welsh Linux diary [1] to give us an interview --
we've included a few of the questions here, and have the answers
on our site shortly. Similarly, we squeezed the HotPicks section
until one of the reviews popped into this newsletter, and we have
a special look at bloat-free apps just for this issue.


[1] http://zenii.linux.org.uk/diary/

2. Sneak preview of LXF 69

Issue 69 of LXF will hit the shelves tomorrow, but to cure the
unbearable anticipation, here's a sneak preview of what's inside.
In 69 we have an exclusive interview with Alan Cox, the famous
beardtastic kernel hacker and, for a long time, second-in-command
to Linus Torvalds. Today Alan works for Red Hat, and we've probed
him for answers to all things Linux-related -- here's a few
questions we posed the Solihull-born guru:

# Which technologies in computing are exciting to you?

# You say you've got a fairly free rein to work on what you
want. Do you find it difficult to keep yourself disciplined
to finish certain projects?

# Do you think great programmers are born great?

Keep an eye on our website for Alan's answers, in the next couple
of days. And grab a copy of the mag for the full interview, in
which the Fedora Core fan discusses Xen virtualisation,
intellectual property issues, life on the kernel mailing list and
much more. Also in 69 is our ever-popular HotPicks section, where
we rummage through every nook and cranny of the web to find the
best new Open Source apps. One of the highlights this month is
Smb4K -- a useful KDE addition for browsing Windows networks.
Here's our look at it...

# SMB4K 0.5.2 -- SMB share browser (http://smb4k.berlios.de)

SMB, the Server Message Block protocol used for sharing files
and printers on Windows boxes, is catered for in Linux (and
other Unixalikes) thanks to the ever popular Samba project.
Smb4K brings a snazzy KDE front-end to the Samba suite - its
goals include a wide range of features and ease-of-use. You'll
need versions 3.2.x of both KDE and Qt to compile Smb4K from
source; once extracted, the normal ./configure, make and make
install (as root) procedure should build it without any
difficulties. Smb4K drops an icon into the system tray on
startup for easy access.

With a resizeable three-pane layout, Smb4K's interface fits
snugly into lower resolutions and novices shouldn't have any
trouble navigating their way around. A collapsible tree widget
down the left lists networks, hosts and shares found via
scanning or by-hand mounting - there's also a tabbed info
panel which provides at-a-glance details. Smb4K doesn't act as
a file browser itself, because Konqueror does this job more
than admirably, so the program offers a quick preview feature
to see which files are available. It's all sanely laid out and
swift to boot.

Featurewise, Smb4K boasts a bookmarks system for quick access to
regularly used shares, WINS server support, a search facility
and the option to specify a default user/password combo (a
useful time-saver). Similarly, it's pleasingly configurable,
with stacks of low-level SMB/CIFS options available for tuning
along with general interface settings. There's little in the way
of documentation though - still, most of the options are
self-explanatory, and anyone familiar with Windows networking
shouldn't be too perplexed.

So, what about the crucial areas of stability and speed? Smb4K
held up well in our testing, showing no signs of flakiness or
sluggish behaviour. It's clear that much effort for clarity and
user-friendliness has been put into the app. It could certainly
do with some polish in places, and a proper help guide -
otherwise it's a solid little app and deserves investigating if
you have KDE boxes on a Windows network.

# SCREENSHOT -- http://msa.section.me.uk/smb4k.jpg
Options available for fine-tuning Smb4K's behaviour.

We have five and a half more pages of the latest apps in 69,
including a couple of games to while away those lunch hours, and
re-visits to some previously covered apps that're making superb
progress. Oh, and something that involves dragons and
explosions... Get a copy and see :-)

3. In the news...

Plenty of developments in the Linux world this month. Some of the highlights:

# KDE 3.5 revealed
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=45

Matt T Proud posted a selection of screengrabs highlighting the
current state of KDE development on his weblog. Though some
features mentioned are already present in some form in KDE 3.4, a
look at additions such as integrated ad blocking and some Qt
specific stuff is insightful for those unwilling to compile and
run such obviously 'early' code.

# Fedora Core 4 ready for download
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=41

Fedora Core, the community supported distro followup to Red Hat
Linux, brings a stack of goodies to the table with its 4th
release. GNOME 2.10 and KDE 3.4 join OpenOffice.org 2.0 (preview
release), Xen and SELinux improvements - and it's built with the
latest GCC 4.0 compiler. Check out the release notes for more
details, or grab it fresh from your nearest mirror. Early reports
suggest it's a solid release.

# Mandriva snaps up main Lycoris assets
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=44

Barely four months after Mandriva (nee MandrakeLinux) merged with
Conectiva, another acquisition is in the pipeline: Mandriva is to
buy the main assets of desktop distro vendor Lycoris. (See issue
62 for a recent review.) As part of the move, Lycoris' founder and
CEO Joseph Cheek is joining Mandriva. From the press release: "The
joint plan is now to develop a new product that will be the
convergence between our Mandriva Discovery product and Lycoris
Desktop/LX." But will there be another name change? Mancoris?
Lydriva? Mydriscornectidrake?

# Gentoo founder moves to Microsoft
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=40

Daniel Robbins, founder and former Chief Architect of the popular
source-based Gentoo distribution, has taken up a new position at
Microsoft. His work entails "helping Microsoft to understand Open
Source and community-based projects". In preparation for the move,
Robbins has organised the transfer of the distro's intellectual
property (eg copyrights and logos) to the non-profit Gentoo

4. This month on the forum

Trying to set up a dual-boot system with Linux and Windows XP?
User 'ggsinclair' was looking for help, and a thoroughly
informative thread developed with tips, things to consider and
links to useful resources. A big cheer goes out to 'jjmac' for his
fabulously in-depth explanation of boot-loaders and Linux
specifics. [1]

Is it right for a distro fork to use the original's resources?
That's the question that arose when 'palepaul5' mentioned
VidaLinux, a desktop-flavoured fork of Gentoo. Nelz pointed out
some discomfort in the Gentoo community that VidaLinux was
directing users to Gentoo's servers, rather than using their own
bandwidth. 'DFJA' suggested that Gentoo-provided files shouldn't
be guarded tightly by the community, and that Vida wasn't a true
fork per se; however, others pointed out that Vida's site doesn't
credit Gentoo on the front page. [2]

Meanwhile, mid-month saw the arrival of HotPicks scribe Mike
Saunders at LXF Towers -- and straight away he declared a War On
Spam. Space-wasting posts from poker-room merchants and Chinese
spammers were popping up on the forum in bouts; Mike started
tracking down the IP ranges from whence they came and put his
banning gloves on. At the end of the month, the spammers had
retreated and the forums were nonsense-free. Well, mostly.

[1] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... opic&t=119

[2] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... opic&t=519

5. Special newsletter feature

Each month we'll have a special mini-article just for the
newsletter -- a review, interview or feature, or maybe something
else entirely. This month, following on from the forum discussion
about light distros for older boxes, we're looking at slimline app

Choosing a mini-distro (eg one of the options featured in issue
68's Roundup) usually gives you a bunch of lightweight apps
straight away. But what if you want to stick with your current
distro, and just trim down some of the bloat? Mighty apps like
OpenOffice.org can make even mid-spec systems wheeze, and in many
cases they're overkill -- a speedier alternative can often do the
job in a fraction of the time.

Locating useful replacements is difficult, though; there are
squillions of programs claiming to be fat-reduced versions of the
major apps, but they usually fall far too short on features.
Here's our recommendations for some less hefty programs that still
do the essentials...

# Email

Thunderbird is lighter than running the entire Mozilla suite,
but it still munches through RAM. Similarly, KMail and Evolution
require whopping great desktop infrastructures loaded beforehand
-- even if run under another WM. Here, Sylpheed
(http://sylpheed.good-day.net) is a wise choice, cramming a
whole raft of features into a standalone client. And it only
requires GTK+ 1 to run -- saving more RAM. For the console, Pine
(http://www.washington.edu/pine/) blends Mutt-like versatility
with an optionally colourful, menu-driven interface. Its
aggregate commands feature is particularly slick.

# Web browsing

A difficult one, this -- you have to make certain trade-offs to
keep the program svelte. Dillo (http://www.dillo.org) squeezes a
fairly capable little browser into a minuscule binary, and
handles most sites acceptably. (Anything making extensive use of
JavaScript won't work so smoothly, though.) It's also
screamingly fast. ELinks (http://elinks.or.cz) works in text
mode, rendering frames and tables quite respectably and being a
superb help when you're just browsing for textual content.

# Office apps

Unless you've got a monstrously fast box, starting up
OpenOffice.org involves a tedious wait that rivals Alton Towers
ride queues. On a bank holiday, in Summer. For word processing,
AbiWord (http://www.abiword.com) is a decently capable app and
can be built to just require GTK+ 2 -- no specific desktop
needed. Siag Office (http://siag.nu) contains a word processor,
spreadsheet, graphics tools and file manager, so it's ideal for
fleshing out a lightweight WM with extras. The word processing
component isn't as pathetic as its name suggests; it handles RTF
and HTML files, and does a solid job with basic documents.

# Multimedia

XMMS (http://www.xmms.org) stuck around for many years as the
premier music playing app on Linux, although it's been displaced
recently by the desktop-specific apps such as Rhythmbox. Still,
XMMS doesn't break into a sweat on older machines -- it's still
GTK+ 1 based so the requirements are low there. Some of the
Gnome and KDE-based movie players are built on the wonderful
MPlayer (http://www.mplayerhq.hu), but that can run on its own
to save RAM and CPU. Lastly, MOC (http://moc.daper.net) is a
cheerful little console app that's capable of playing MP3s and
Oggs with minimal overheads.

These are just a few of the low-fat Linux apps doing the rounds,
most of which can slot-into the roles of larger programs without
losing too much functionality. Plenty more can be found on sites
like http://freshmeat.net -- try just searching for "light" and
see what turns up!

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 70 -- on sale Wednesday 27th July

# Where next for Debian? -- As Sarge finally hits the road, we ask
the people behind it why the release took so long, if the ports are
getting out of control and how Debian can reasserts itself over its

# The LXF Interview: Gael Duval -- He created Mandrakelinux and
co-founded Mandrakesoft, so we reckon he probably prefers Mandriva
to SUSE...

# BBC Backstage -- The Beeb is opening its door to coders, and Linux
users are in pole position to take advantage of it -- learn how!

# Beagle made easy -- Don't have SUSE 9.3? You'll need our exclusive
guide to installing and configuring this ultimate future search

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change.)

7. Future of this newsletter!

We plan to release a newsletter every month -- possibly more
frequently later on -- and any suggestions and comments are
welcome! From the next issue onwards, instead of emailing all
users we'll be more polite and do it on an opt-in basis. Bless us.
To make sure you get a copy of next month's newsletter, just take
30 seconds to sign up:

1. Go to the website forums and log in:
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... e=PNphpBB2

2. At the top of the main forum page, click on 'Usergroups'

3. Join the 'Newsletter' group, and you're done!

So, next month all members of the Newsletter group will receive a
fresh copy in their Inboxen -- and if at any time you want to opt
out, just change your membership of the group. Easier than putting
a searingly hot knife through the warmest of butters.

8. Contact details

Any questions or suggestions, please send them to me (Mike) at the
address below:

Newsletter Editor: Mike Saunders (mike.saunders@futurenet.co.uk)

Letters for the magazine: lxf.letters@futurenet.co.uk

LXF website: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk

Subscriptions: 0870 837 4722
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... le&artid=3

(C) 2005 Future
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Joined: Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:14 pm

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