Linux Format Newsletter -- #35, April 2008

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #35, April 2008

Postby M-Saunders » Thu May 08, 2008 2:20 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 105 on sale

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Whatever happened to...?

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this Newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Welcome to the first Newsletter of spring 2008. This morning I
upgraded my laptop from 512MB of RAM to a whopping 1GB, and it feels
like I'm floating on air. I can run VirtualBox AND take screenshots
using Gimp, without the hard drive thrashing! As much as I like
super-fast PCs, I also like using a bread-and-butter machine as my
main system, so that I get a good feel of a distro's performance on
typical machines. And I'm loving Xubuntu right now.

Anyway, enough of my babble. In our Newsletter we've got a look at
the latest issue of Linux Format, roundups of the most interesting
news stories and forum posts, and a special feature on some
'Whatever happened to...?' projects in the Linux world. Enjoy!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 105 on sale...

If you're in the UK, your friendly local newsagent should now have
copies of Linux Format issue 105 (and if you're overseas, you should
see it in a few weeks). This month our cover feature focuses on
security: just because we run Linux, it doesn't mean we're immune to
crackers. Security holes do occur, so it's best to be prepared - we
show you how to create better passwords, tighten up your network,
scan for open ports, and trim down unused background processes
(daemons). Security is a moving target, but after you've read
through our feature and followed the guides, you can be sure that
your systems are as cracker-resistant as possible.

Meanwhile, on the hardware front we explain how to build a funky,
quiet and powerful Linux media server for just under 230 UKP. If
you're in the market for a new Linux laptop, we have four models on
test from Lenovo, Zareason, Asus and Dell. Oh, and internet radio is
truly coming of age with the Linux-powered Bush TR2015.

On our 4GB DVD you'll find Linux mint, a top quality Ubuntu spin-off
with a theme so pretty you'll end up licking your screen. Plus we
have a bumper collection of alternative OSes (including ReactOS,
Syllable, Haiku and AROS), the INSERT security toolkit distro,
games, development tools, docs and more. For more info on LXF 105,
visit and click the cover on the right.

As per usual, Richard 'I breathe FOSS' Smedley rounds up the best
new Linux software in HotPicks. Here's his view of PCMan - a small
and lightweight file manager...

# PCMan FM 3.5.23 --

Gnome's Nautilus file manager ­ just like KDE's Konqueror ­ is
crammed so full of features that it leaves nothing else to be
desired (except perhaps some nimbleness). Even on relatively
modern hardware, the two big desktop environments' built-in file
managers feel as sprightly as Christmas pudding after the Queen's
Speech. If you feel the need for speed in your day-to-day file
browsing, it's worth giving a trim replacement a try, such as

The developer, Hong Jen Yee (aka PCMan), says: "The goal is not to
make a powerful file manager, but a `good enough' one, and to keep
it as simple as possible." You can navigate your files via a
directory tree view or location pane in the left-hand panel, and
tabbed browsing and bookmarks give you two of Konqueror's best
features with none of the bloat. Support for drag and drop as well
as volume management means that PCMan FM does most of what people
want in a file manager. Files can even be dragged from one tab to
another within the same window.

The appearance can be configured to resemble Microsoft's old
Windows Explorer file manager (and you can use PCMan FM's icon set
on your desktop, too), making PCMan FM useful for easing Windows
users into the Free Software desktop gently. Overall there's a
snappy, responsive feel, in part thanks to multithreading and
PCMan FM's fairly low Gnome dependencies.

If you like what you see, and want Gnome to open PCMan FM by
default, open a terminal as root, and go to
/usr/share/applications/ then edit the files
nautilus-computer.desktop and nautilus-home.desktop, replacing the
lines beginning Exec= with


respectively. You should also change the TryExec= line in each
file to:


Note that in Fedora the files are called
gnome-nautilus-home.desktop and gnome-nautilus-computer.desktop.
Now bringing up a file manager (by clicking on the Home icon, or
on one of the options under Gnome's Places menu) will bring PCMan
FM flying up, rather than the usual tedious wait for Gnome to

Grab issue 105 for more Picks of Hotness!

3. In the news...

New releases in Unixland, and maybe a killer feature for Ubuntu...

# 2.4 released ... le&sid=672 (new website!) announces the official release of
version 2.4 with 9 new chart features, 5 PDF export enhancements,
text to columns in Calc, rectangular selection in Writer, bug fixes,
performance improvements, improvements supporting the growing
library of extensions such as 3D OpenGL transitions in Impress, and
much more.

# Gnome 2.22: "truly amazing" ... le&sid=666

So says a Softpedia article on the upcoming desktop release. It
looks at some of the new programs and utilities, such as the Cheese
webcam tool and remote desktop app.

# Norhtec Gecko -- a new Eee rival? ... le&sid=667

ASUS's Eee PC, a micro and cheap Linux notebook, has been a hit in
the world of open source. But is there a new challenger on the
horizon? The Norhtec Gecko laptop, with a 7" screen and 1GHz CPU,
could give the Eee a run for its money. Running Linpus Linux Lite,
the Gecko is expected at around the $300 USD price range, although
the Eee was originally announced at $199 so we'll have to wait and

4. This month on the forum

How stupid can one person be? Nordle asked this, but he wasn't
having a go at anyone -- he was talking about himself. During the
process of upgrading his father's PC, he had all manner of
nightmares with a BIOS update that left the machine in an almost
brick-like state. But he eventually prevailed, and more importantly,
his father got used to Linux much quicker than he had anticipated.
See the charts in the thread for an indication of how much
Microsoft's wares bump up the price of a PC. [1]

Nothing gets by the LXF Forum regulars, especially when it involves
gross invasions of personal privacy. tiddler pointed to a couple of
news reports about Phorm, a company which will gather browsing
habits from certain UK ISPs for advertising purposes. Currently
there is a petition on the UK government website, with over 10,000
signatures. [2]

[1] ... pic&t=7720

[2] ... pic&t=7587

5. Special Newsletter feature


For all the successes in the Linux world over the last decade, a few
projects haven't worked out quite as expected. Some died slow
deaths, others almost disappeared overnight. Here's three of the
most notable projects that didn't quite fulfil their potential, and
the reasons why they went under:

1) UserLinux

The dreamchild of popular Free Software spokesman Bruce Perens,
UserLinux was announced in 2003 as a Debian-based distro for
business customers. Although the distro itself would be free of
charge, corporations would pay for support and certification.
UserLinux got off to a good start, with high-profile articles on
Slashdot and similar websites, but as with many open source
projects, it was bogged down with endless discussions on the forums.

A beta release of UserLinux 1.0 arrived in September 2004 - by that
time, though, the community wasn't so enamoured by the distro. Too
many debates over whether to use Gnome or KDE etc. had hampered the
project, and a final 1.0 release was never made. Also, Ubuntu 4.10
appeared a month later, effectively replacing UserLinux as a
Debian-based distro with large community backing and plans for
business support contracts. Within months, UserLinux was dead.

2) United Linux

For years, businesses had been sceptical about the 'fragmented'
nature of Linux development. Long-time IT managers had seen the
proliferation of Unix flavours hinder progress, and they ended up
choosing Windows because it was a single software package from a
single company. In response to this, and to avoid duplicating
effort, in May 2002 four distro vendors teamed up to create
the User Linux consortium.

SUSE, Turbolinux, Conectiva and Caldera Systems worked together on a
single distro that would provide a common base for their own tweaked
versions. United Linux 1.0 was released in November 2002, built
largely from SUSE Linux and adhering to the Linux Standard Base.

Things weren't looking good for the consortium though. Caldera
Systems became The SCO Group and started its litigation frenzy
against IBM, causing concern amongst the group. SUSE was later
snapped up by Novell, and MandrakeSoft bought Conectiva - all
companies had lost interest in the project, and had enough in their
own back yards to sort out. We may see another project like United
Linux in future, but it'll have to come around in more settled

3) XFree86

Since 1992, XFree86 (enhanced from X386) had been the de facto
standard X (GUI) foundation layer for Unix-like OSes on PCs. It was
reliable and somewhat boring - new features took ages to arrive, and
many developers found the glacial pace of progress very frustrating.
By 2003, it was clear that something needed to change.

Keith Packard, one of the most senior and respected X developers,
was booted from the project when 'Core Team' members claimed he was
planning to fork X. Entertainingly, one of the XFree86 Core Team
members admitted that he only used Windows, thereby making the group
a laughing stock in the face of the community.

Then there was the licence incident. David Dawes, the president of
the project, altered the license of XFree86 to make it incompatible
with the GNU GPL. This generated uproar in the community: within
months, was founded as a separate project for X development,
and almost every developer switched over. Soon the distros followed,
and today, no major Linux distro uses XFree86. Development has
slowed to a crawl, while is pumping out new releases.

So that's the big three projects which haven't had much luck in
recent years (or in the case of XFree86, have made catastrophically
bad decisions). But this isn't a tale of doom and gloom - there's
always something better to replace failed efforts. User Linux gave
way to Ubuntu, the need for United Linux has lessened as distros
work together more, and XFree86's mess-ups have encouraged hackers
to start a new, fresh project.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 106, on sale Thursday 1 May...

# The Eee has landed -- ASUS's micro Linux-powered laptop is
poised to deliver Linux to millions

# Green Linux -- Love fluffy bunnies and pretty flowers? Learn
how environmentally friendly computing is saving the planet

# Return of the Gimp -- Michael J Hammel is back with more
image manipulation mastery

# Command-line tricks -- Don't be scared by the CLI!

(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
cutting through butter with a hot knife:

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 scared) 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:

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