Linux Format Newsletter -- #32, January 2008

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #32, January 2008

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Feb 08, 2008 2:52 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 102 on sale

3. Coding special coming up

4. LXF 103: KDE vs Gnome?

5. In the news...

6. This month on the forum

7. Special newsletter feature

8. Coming up next issue

9. Receiving this Newsletter

10. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Happy 2008 everyone! We're only a few days into the new year, but
already we've got plenty to talk about with the launch of KDE 4.
Even though this is more geared towards developers, and we'll sample
the tastiest new features in subsequent 4.x releases, it's still a
great time to be involved in the open source world. We'll be looking
at KDE 4 more in future LXF issues -- scroll down for a message from
Graham about a forthcoming feature.

Meanwhile, in this Newsletter we have our usual assortment of news
updates and forum posts, plus a look at LXF issue 102 and a Special
magazine in the pipeline. Oh, and don't miss our Newsletter feature
on the next Ubuntu release (Hardy Heron).

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 102 on sale...

Got an old PC sitting unused in a cupboard? Want to give it a new
lease of life? Our main feature this month is an exhaustive guide to
resurrecting old PCs, turning those lonely beige boxes into useful
Linux desktops and servers. If it has 700MHz and 128MB RAM, it's
perfect for setting up a child's PC, mail server, web proxy and much
more. We've included VectorLinux on our DVD -- it's a fine distro
for reviving old systems.

But the main feature of our DVD is Mandriva 2008 Free, one of the
most user-friendly distros, yet still a favourite of many long-time
Linuxers. Mandriva 2008 boasts 2,000 up-to-date packages, 3D desktop
effects, a new Windows migration tool and the famous Mandriva
Control Center. There's more on our disc too: 30 interviews from
previous issues of LXF, Damn Small and Puppy Linux, Gimp 2.4, Flash
Player 9, games, 150 Linux problems solved and much more.

Speaking of Windows migration, we have a feature on weaning
Microsoft addicts off their habit -- showing how you can replace
familiar programs such as Internet Explorer and Outlook with
top-quality open source alternatives. We also have tutorials on
photography, RSS feeds, Python coding and virtual servers, plus our
regular HotPicks section where Graham pores over the internet for
sparkling new open source gems. One of which is a brain-training
type game called Gbrainy...

# Gbrainy 0.41 --

Brain training games seem to be all the rage. They allow those of
you with good short-term memory and handy reflexes to gloat over
those of us with frazzled neurons and a shaking demeanour. Gbrainy
is one such game, although it's not quite so demanding on the
reflexes as some other kinds of games. It consists of three broad
groups of training games. Logic puzzles to challenge your
reasoning, mental calculations to improve your numeracy, and
memory trainers that try to coax some activity from those battered

The first thing you notice about this game is that everything
looks fantastic. Questions are rendered onto a squared paper
texture exactly like those we had at school, and thanks to the
Cairo rendering engine, all the lines, shapes and images used look
beautiful. The logic games are like those you find in an IQ test,
where you typically need to visualise the problem before finding a
solution. The only problem is that the developers' use of English
isn't quite up to scratch, especially in the context of problem
solving. "A group of people evenly separated is sat in a round
table. How many people are if the 4th person is in front of the
12th?" is one of the better examples. The memory and calculation
tests don't have the same difficulty, as the English language is
replaced with numbers, colours and matrices.

There's plenty of variety in the questions, as you find yourself
looking at a nine- coloured numeral one moment followed by a cube
of squares the next. Regardless of the type of question, you type
your answer into a small field at the bottom of the window and
click `Next' to move on to the next task. You can mix and match
the questions in any way you like, using the toolbar to switch
between the different types, or just take each one as it comes.

When you've had enough, click on the Finish button to find out how
you did. Gbrainy takes into consideration your accuracy, the time
you took to solve each problem, and whether you used any of the
pop-up hints. Unlike some other games in this genre, you don't get
a patronising appraisal of your ability, which makes you more
inclined to give it another go.

Get hold of LXF 102 for 9 more Free Software delights!

3. Coding special coming up

Just a quick in-advance note: the next Linux Format Special is
coming up, and this one is about... programming! Yes, whether you're
a regular code dabbler or completely new to the subject, we'll show
you how to make cool apps like a web browser, media player and

If you've tried programming before, but have been put off by too
much waffle and theory, you'll love this magazine -- it's all
step-by-step, hands-on and fun! (Some of the projects are Windows
based, but much of the code and concepts are applicable to other
operating systems as well.)

"Code It!" will be on sale in UK WH Smith stores on 7 February 2008.

4. LXF 103: KDE vs Gnome?

We'd like to get in touch with any ardent KDE or GNOME users who
would be happy to answer a few questions about their experiences
with their favourite desktop environment. This isn't going to be a
flame war. We're after some objective opinions. So, if you can help,
please drop Graham Morrison a line at

5. In the news...

At long last, KDE 4.0 is here!

# KDE 4.0 released ... le&sid=648

Yes, it's finally here: KDE 4.0 is ready and now available to
download. The release announcement highlights major improvements
over 3.5, including the new Plasma-driven desktop and Dolphin file
manager. Many more feature additions are planned for 4.1, but if you
love life on the bleeding edge, you can get it from

# New Year news roundup ... le&sid=642

Some tidbits to kick off 2008: Netscape Navigator is to cease
development, while SCO has been delisted from the Nasdaq. Meanwhile,
Debian 4.0 has been updated, Ubuntu Hardy Heron Alpha 2 is
available, and 2.3.1 has been released.

# 113 amazing Fedora games ... le&sid=639

Who says Linux is no good for games? shows
you how to install 113 top games on Fedora (although many of them
exist in package repos for other distros). Best of all, the page
includes videos of the game in action -- so it might take quite a
while to load!

6. This month on the forum

Just how good is Fedora? And what does the future hold for the Red
Hat-sponsored distro? linuxglobe posted his thoughts on the project,
claiming that it should put more effort into supporting multimedia
and games. As you can imagine, this kicked off a conversation on the
merits and failings of Fedora, with the debate steering towards the
pros and cons of a distro being based in the USA. [1]

Astoundingly, we (and the forumers) managed to go until the 4th
January before bringing up the age-old question: will this be the
year of Linux on the desktop? ggsinclair started the discussion,
relating his difficulties with hardware installation on Linux.
pootman hoped that the growing number of companies supplying Linux
(Dell, Wal-Mart, ASUS...) will improve this situation, while nordle
bemoaned companies that change chipsets in their devices without
changing the model number.

[1] ... pic&t=7211

[2] ... pic&t=7239

7. Special newsletter feature


Development on the next version of Ubuntu, 8.04, is well under way.
This 'Hardy Heron' release will be an 'LTS' branch -- that is, it
will provide Long Term Support, with 3 years for desktop apps and 5
years for servers. If you're looking to run Ubuntu in a business
setting, this is the version to choose.

Alpha 3, the third development snapshot of Hardy Heron, has just
been released. Here are some of the new features planned for 8.04:

# 7.3 -- The vital GUI layer has improvements to its
configuration system, so that hand-hacking of xorg.conf should
(ideally) not be required in most cases!

# KDE 4 -- The rationale for this goal is: 'KDE 4 rocks, we
should support it'. Unless some major bloopers in KDE 4 are
discovered, it should be available in Kubuntu 8.04.

# PulseAudio -- A new sound server. Its coolest feature is the
ability to control the volume of individual programs from a
single panel. More in LXF 103's What on Earth article...

# PolicyKit -- One of the problems with the 'root' account on
Linux is that it provides complete control. Sometimes you need
to switch to root, eg to install a program, but it's risky to
have complete control of the system. One mis-spelled command
and you could wreck your Linux installation! PolicyKit lets
you set fine-grained permissions for programs -- eg, you can
assign certain admin rights to a package manager, but not
complete rights to change other aspects of the system.

# Installer bugfixes -- Here at LXF Towers, we've come across
various bugs when installing Ubuntu. Some of them even lock
up the installer, so clearly it still needs more work. One of
the tasks for the development team is to fix problems with
the partitioning and Windows migration phases.

# Reducing duplication -- Library bloat in Linux is an increasing
problem, and the Ubuntu team is sick of libdb4.2/3/4/5/6 etc.
cluttering up our systems. The goal is to find out what's
redundant and what needs to be kept.

These are the current plans, but there's more to come. Given that
Ubuntu 8.04 is striving for stability above all, we may not see any
world-quaking changes, but it looks set to be another good release.

8. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 103, on sale Thursday 7 February

# Distro heaven -- We sift through the world's top distros to
find the best one for you! Try the top 10 from our bumper
double-sided DVD

# Arduino hacking -- You asked for it, so here's more
hardware tinkering fun

# Green computing -- Save power, money and the planet!

# Window managers -- The lightest and fastest WMS on test

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

9. 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
folding a sheet of paper:

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

10. 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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