Linux Format Newsletter -- #39, August 2008

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #39, August 2008

Postby M-Saunders » Sun Aug 31, 2008 3:19 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 109 on sale

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Tutorial: Do more at the command line

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this Newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Hello, bonjour and willkommen to the August Linux Format Newsletter.
It's been an interesting last few weeks, what with Microsoft's cash
injection for the Apache project, the release of KDE 4.1, and new
developments on the Linux-powered mini hardware front. See the
website for more info -- oh, and don't forget to check out our LXF
guide to making your own version of Fedora!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this month's Newsletter. As per usual we
have a glimpse at the latest issue of the magazine, plus roundups of
the most interesting news stories and forum posts. Scroll down to
section 5 for a bunch of handy command line tips!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 109 on sale...

Yes, issue 109 has burst from its cage and is in the caring hands of
subscribers. If you haven't yet got a copy, head over to your
newsagent and grab one, otherwise you'll miss out on all the
delights contained within its glossy covers. This month we've taken
a long, deep look at the new OpenSUSE 11.0 release: is it ready to
take the #1 distro slot again? We've included the Live version of
11.0 on the magazine DVD - so you can try it without installing -
along with Linux Mint 5.0 Light, a rapidly rising star in the distro
galaxy, and 64 Studio 2.1.

Also in the mag: our exclusive full report from the Libre Graphics
2008 show, a look at the spangly new backup system TimeVault, plus
tutorials on switching your Eee PC's distro and writing an amazingly
cool Qt-based speech synthesiser. Oh, and the ever resourceful
Graham Morrison has a valuable guide to fixing common Linux errors
and problems - here's an example of an oft-seen error message, and
how you can deal with it...

ERROR: Out of range
ERROR: Fatal server error: no screens found

This occurs when the preconfigured screen mode is incompatible
with your monitor. Press Ctrl+Alt+F1 to switch to a console view,
and log in as root (or use sudo from your normal user account in
Ubuntu). Users of Debian-based distros can type:

dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg

to reconfigure the screen. Other users will have to fix their
settings manually as follows. First type 'cd /etc/X11' followed by
'cp xorg.conf xorg.lxf' to make a backup of your configuration
file. Now open this file with whichever command line editor you're
most comfortable with. Type 'nano xorg.conf' if you're not sure.

If you know your screen's specification, scroll down the
configuration file and look for 'Section Monitor'. You then need
to hand-edit the horizontal and vertical refresh rates. If you
don't know your screen's resolution, scroll even further down
until you find the 'Screen' section.

You need to delete all the high screen resolutions here, as we're
looking for the lowest common denominator (we'd suggest removing
any resolution larger than 1024x768). You'll be able to increase
the resolution from your desktop when you get your screen working.
If neither of these methods work, the last failsafe option is to
change the 'Device' driver to 'vesa', sidestepping your graphics
drivers entirely.

See the LXF website and click on the right-hand issue pic for a full
lowdown on 109's contents.

3. In the news...

Netbook news, and analysis from Free Software gurus...

# Mandriva joins the netbook party ... le&sid=716

Yes, there's another contender in the netbook (subnotebook in
oldspeak) market. The Gdium has a 10" screen, 900MHz CPU and 512MB
of RAM, plus the not-really-explained 'Gayaplex'. It'll run Mandriva
Linux via a USB flash drive known as a G-Key, which means you can
move between different Gdiums while keeping your OS settings and

# Perens analyses Microsoft's Apache support ... le&sid=720

Amiable Free Software spokesman Bruce Perens has penned an essay
looking at Microsoft's recent support of the Apache web server
project. Microsoft has joined the Apache project as a platinum
sponsor, committing $100,000 a year to the software that competes
against its own IIS product.

# Torvalds talks project management ... le&sid=724

How to you get the best work from a bunch of highly talented, but
prickly and bickering-prone kernel hackers? In this piece,
Linus Torvalds lists his five central tenets of kernel project
management, with his characteristic frankness. "I'd rather flame
people for doing stupid things and call them stupid, rather than try
to be too polite to the point where people didn't understand how
strongly I felt about something."

4. This month on the forum

What does Linux know about your hardware? Dutch Master created a
script that collects together various useful snippets of information
about your machine, such as the kernel version and list of installed
hardware devices. If you have a question to ask on the forum, it's
worth running the script and pasting the results so that potential
helpers have a good overview of your setup. [1]

In one of the strangest threads we've ever seen on the LXF website,
Keeef posted a link to a website containing allegations that the
megaportal Yahoo! is largely run by the Mafia. This link was
promptly deleted by the eagle-eyed LXF forum moderators, but Keeef
returned and reposted the link (which had also appeared on many
other forums around the internet). If you want to read a hugely
complicated (and seemingly very paranoid) tale of mobsters, sex
slaves and websites, see the thread... [2]

[1] ... pic&t=8332

[2] ... pic&t=8319

5. Special Newsletter feature


If you're a regular command line user, you'll already know about
command history, tab-completion, and other common-or-garden
shortcuts. But there's quite a bit more to Bash - here are a few
useful things you can do at the shell prompt.

1. Edit the previous command

Imagine you've just entered a very long, very complicated command.
It didn't quite work as expected, so you need to retrieve it and
edit it. Editing at the Bash prompt can be very fiddly, so enter
'fc' to open up a text editor in which you can modify your command.
Note that the choice of editor will be whatever's specified in your
$EDITOR environment variable.

2. Use loops

As a fully fledged scripting language, Bash supports various
programming constructs such as loops. For instance, this command
performs 'ls' on every file in the current directory:

for i in *; do ls $i; done

That's pretty easy to understand - it's not a very useful command,
though. But once you know how to set up a loop, you can do a lot
more. Here's a command that makes a backup (.bak extension) of every
.jpg file in the current directory:

for i in *.jpg; do cp $i $i.bak; done

Loops are great for performing batch operations, and can save you
heaps of time. Create a temporary directory, fill it with empty
files (eg 'touch a b c d e') and experiment!

3. Sort and remove duplicates

Say you've got a text file containing a list of something - be it IP
addresses from a log, or files in a directory. If there's a lot of
repeated material, it can be hard to find what you're looking for.
But two Unix utilities come to the rescue: sort and uniq. Look at

cat myfile.txt | sort | uniq > newfile.txt

Now, it's important that we run sort before piping the output to
uniq, because uniq only removes duplicate adjacent lines. By sorting
the file beforehand, all instances of repetition are lumped
together, and therefore uniq removes everything but the first line
in a series of repetitive lines.

4. Conditional expressions

Want to check that a file exists before performing a command? Easy:

if [ -e filename ]; then echo "Yay"; else echo "Nay"; fi

Note that 'fi' has to come at the end, as it terminates the 'if' bit
at the beginning. This construct is very useful when you're writing

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 110, on sale Thursday 21 August...

# The best of Free Software -- We pick 25 killer apps that
your Linux box should never be without!

# Skills to pay the bills -- Do Linux training courses really
extend your geekocity and land you a better job?

# Latex -- Forget and AbiWord. REAL geeks use
this insanely powerful typesetting language

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change. If we knew
everything for certain, we'd have won the lottery 2,521 times over
by now.)

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 folding
a piece 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 angry) you can opt-out by removing
yourself from the Newsletter group as above.

8. Contact details

If you have 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 subscription page:

(C) 2008 Future Publishing Limited
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