Linux Format Newsletter -- #36, May 2008

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #36, May 2008

Postby M-Saunders » Mon Jun 09, 2008 1:26 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 106 on sale

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. The Hans Reiser story

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this Newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Have you tried the new Ubuntu yet? For my main machine, I'm erring
on the side of caution and sticking with Xubuntu 7.10, but initial
reports are that Hardy is a pretty solid release. Perhaps when the
sunshine disappears here in Bath, UK I'll knuckle down and give my
machine some Herony goodness.

In this month's Newsletter we look at the bizarre situation
surrounding Hans Reiser, the Linux filesystem programmer recently
found guilty of murder. But there's lots of lighter stuff too: a
look at the new issue of LXF, the biggest news stories over the last
few weeks, and some of the most interesting forum threads. Enjoy!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 106 on sale...

Linux Format issue 106 is on sale in the UK (it'll be available
overseas in a week or two), and this month our big story is about
the Asus Eee PC. When it launched, the miniature laptop was
something of a gamble for Asus - did anyone really want a notebook
with a 7" display? Would users be happy with the default Xandros
Linux OS?

Well, over six months since it launched, the Eee has been a storming
success, bring hundreds of thousands of new users to the world of
Linux. We examine how the machine came about, what makes it so
important for the mass perception of desktop Linux, and what's in
the pipeline from Asus. Plus we have tips on sprucing up your Eee's
interface with extra features.

Meanwhile, the environmentally friendly Paul Hudson takes a look at
green computing - particularly, how Linux is helping in the fight
to keep nature happy. Then there's our Linux quiz, where you can
discover your geekocity level, plus a tour of the command-line for
those who panic when the words 'shell prompt' are mentioned.

On our software-laden 4GB we have Foresight Linux, a unique,
cutting-edge distro with the new Gnome 2.22 desktop. There's also
PC-BSD 1.5, 2.4 and heaps of extra utilities,
internet tools and games - something for everyone!

In our tutorials section this month, we show you how to use Google
Maps and Earth, stream music online, explore Gimp 2.4's new
features, connect securely with VPN, hack up a drum machine using
Arduino, and use LTSP effectively. Oh, and as a taster of HotPicks,
our regular look at the best new/updated open source software,
here's our thoughts on Mario Kart playalike SuperTuxKart...

# SuperTuxKart 0.4 --

In SuperTuxKart (hereafter abbreviated as STK) the aim is fun, not
physics. It's a 3D kart racing game with an old-school arcade feel
featuring Tux and his friends as colourful characters in wacky
race karts. As well as a choice of driver and vehicle, there are
many tracks with interesting features in the scenery, such as
pyramids and volcanoes, and many island tracks.

STK is available in most major distros, so you should have no
worries about compiling it - though if you do need to, all its
libraries are fairly common, and you may already have them for
other games. It needs relatively little memory (for a modern game,
that is - you'll still need 256MB if you want breathing room as
well as space for your OS to fit in), but if you don't have a
fancy graphics card it will eat CPU cycles, so a dual-core is
helpful if your machine has to carry on with something else in the

Aside from rewritten AI for the single-player mode, this release
sees incremental improvements to the tracks, physics, input
handling and music. You can play in single-player mode - watching
the AI players storming ahead of you - but multiplayer with up to
three more friends is far more enjoyable, taking you back to the
joy of 8-bit console games.

Multiplayer splits up the screen, and shares buttons on the
keyboard. It works well with two players, but can lead to
competitive jostling in three- or four-player games. Thankfully,
STK defaults to three-lap races, in keeping with the
fun-before-realism ethos, so you should get to the end of the
track without two many elbows in the face.

Starting from the CLI allows you to pass options such as screen
size (or full-screen mode) and choose a kart and track to race on.
Some parameters, including keys used by players, can be found in
~/.supertuxkart/config. There's nothing complicated here though:
as we said, it's not that kind of game.

Snap up a copy of issue 106 for more HotPicking goodness!

3. In the news...

Ubuntu 8.04 is here, and Red Hat outlines its desktop plans...

# Hands on with Ubuntu 8.04 ... le&sid=682

Ubuntu 8.04, the Hardy Heron, took flight at the end of April. On
the LXF website we have a special report on the distro, looking at
its new features and seeing how it will fare as a long-term release.
Visit the URL above to get reading!

# Hans Reiser found guilty of murder ... le&sid=683

ReiserFS filesystem creator Hans Reiser has been found guilty of the
murder of Nina Reiser, his estranged wife. Nina disappeared in
September 2006 - but a body was never found, leading to speculation
that she had moved back to Russia.

# Red Hat reveals desktop strategy ... le&sid=681

In 2003, Red Hat halted its regular Linux distro in favour of RHEL
and Fedora. To some users, this was a sign that Red Hat had given up
on the desktop market. But now the company has announced Red Hat
Global Desktop, a distro "designed exclusively for small, reseller
supplied, deployments in emerging markets (e.g. primarily the BRIC

4. This month on the forum

Dark kicked off an interesting thread: even though Linux is making
some major strides on the desktop - eg with the Eee PC - are users
actually aware that they're running Linux? Given the tendency for
vendors to ship Windows-like themes on their Linux machines, will
buyers be aware that they're using an amazing, free and shareable
system, or just assume it's some sort of Windows knock-off? [1]

Epsilon bemoaned the current state of commercial games on Linux,
pointing out that some titles from Linux Game Publishing are vastly
more expensive than their Windows counterparts. He also noted that
few commercial games available for Linux tend to be quite old. Does
Linux need more games to be a success on the home desktop, or can it
still make good progress without them? [2]

[1] ... pic&t=7903

[2] ... pic&t=7944

5. Special Newsletter feature


If you've been keeping an eye on the Linux news recently, you'll
have seen that ReiserFS filesystem coder Hans Reiser has been found
guilty of murder in the USA. If you haven't followed events in this
bizarre case for the last few years, though, you may be wondering
what's going on - so here's a recap.


Born in 1963, Reiser attended the University of California at
Berkeley, which was famous in the computing world for BSD Unix. He
received a degree in 'systematizing', moving on to hold various
positions at companies such as IBM, before creating his own company,
Namesys, to focus on filesystem design.

ReiserFS was the first journaling filesystem to be included in
Linux; it appeared in kernel 2.4.1, although it had detractors as
well as fans. Reiser's prickly personality on the Linux kernel
mailing list dissuaded some users from running the filesystem;
conversely, Novell was a strong proponent of ReiserFS, making it the
default filesystem in SUSE Linux Enterprise releases (until 2006).

To help out with development, Reiser hired Russian programmers,
regularly travelling to the country to oversee his staff. He also
made use of a Russian bride service to find a wife; in one arranged
meetup, Reiser fell in love with the woman who had come along to
translate, Nina Sharanova.

Reiser and Sharanova married in 1999 and had two children. By 2004,
though, the relationship was falling apart, and the couple
separated, with Nina obtaining a temporary restraining order against
Hans due to an alleged pushing incident.

On 5 September 2006, Nina Reiser was reported by police as missing,
having last been seen dropping off her children two days earlier.
Her car, containing groceries, was found on 9 September. Police
searched Hans' properties and took DNA samples, but it wasn't until
10 October that they arrested him and charged him for murder. A body
had still not been found.

The trial

Reiser was represented in court by William Du Bois, and the pair had
some high profile courtroom disagreements. Frequently Reiser would
not follow the recommendations of his attorney, talking too much on
the stand and delivering muddled-up or implausible evidence. His
overall theory was that Nina had returned to Russia, where the
couple's children were now living with their maternal grandmother.

From the prosecution's side, this was the evidence that Reiser
killed Nina:

* Reiser's car was found with the passenger seat missing, and an
inch of water on the floor

* Also in the car were two books on murder investigations and a
sleeping back with traces of Nina's blod

* Reiser acted strangely and suspiciously when being monitored
by police

These points, among others, were enough to convince the jury that
Reiser was guilty. He has yet to receive his sentence - it looks
likely to be 25 years to life, however. In the post-trial press
conference, when asked how Reiser could be convicted without finding
Nina's body, the prosecution said "There is a body. We just haven't
found it yet."

The future

After Hans was arrested and before the case started, Sean Sturgeon,
a long-time friend of Hans and alleged ex-lover of Nina, spoke to
the press. He claimed to have killed eight people - but not Nina.
Hans stated that Sturgeon had drugged Nina and seduced her, taking
money away from Namesys in the process. The police didn't follow up
on Sturgeon's claims, but who knows what impact the man may have on
Hans's fate if he talks more.

For the Linux community, the future of ReiserFS is uncertain.
Reiser4, which is a total rewrite of the previous versions, has not
been merged into the official Linux kernel tree - and may never
be. In October 2006, shortly after Hans's arrest, Novell moved
away from ReiserFS to ext3.

Unless Nina turns up alive (in the USA or Russia), or Sean Sturgeon
reveals some critical information, Hans will likely spend the
remainder of his life in prison. Naturally, we'll post news of any
more developments on the LXF website.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 107, on sale Thursday 29 May...

# Desktop revolution! Don't stick with the boring old defaults -
get Gnome and KDE exactly the way you want

# Ubuntu 8.04 reviewed: is it worth the upgrade? Should you
switch to it if you're running a different distro?

# Special LXF DVD, with our exclusive, enhanced version of
Ubuntu 8.04 (Ubuntu, Kubuntu and Xubuntu rolled into one!)

# 20 unmissable apps - the very best bits of software you
can get for your Linux box

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change. It's a
funny old world.)

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
reading a Meg and Mog book:

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 cry) 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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