Linux Format Newsletter -- #41, October 2008

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #41, October 2008

Postby M-Saunders » Mon Oct 27, 2008 10:54 am





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 111 on sale

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Special Newsletter feature

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this Newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

If you're in the market for a Linux netbook, now is the time to buy:
the competition is fierce, Asus, Acer, Dell and others are jostling
to push prices down, and the community is working hard to get more
distros working on the machines. Our special Newsletter feature this
month looks at the current state of play for netbooks -- who's doing
what, and which one is worth buying? Find out below.

Also, Stay tuned next month when we'll have a special Newsletter-only
subscription offer for the printed magazine. If you've been
umming-and-ahhing about about subscribing, don't miss it!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 111 on sale

Is Linux ready for your living room? That's the question we answer
in Linux Format issue 111's cover feature -- and it's a resounding
yes. Thanks to MythTV, and its user-friendly Mythbuntu incarnation,
you can make a fantastic a Linux-powered home media centre for
watching films, streaming media off the internet and even playing
games. And you can do it straight away by booting Mythbuntu from the
magazine's DVD!

Other highlights from LXF111: lean how to compile software and
handle dependencies with our complete guide. If you've ever found
yourself bamboozled at the command line, trying to work out how to
change a zillion .c files into a runnable program, you'll love this.
Also, a freelance scientist puts Linux's usability under the
spotlight in the 'girlfriend test'. Will Erin find fun or
frustration in Fedora? Grab a copy of the mag to find out.

On our DVD, along with Mythbuntu 8.04, you'll also find a special
distro preview kit with snapshot releases of Fedora, Mandriva and
OpenSUSE. Try tomorrow's Linux tech today -- and you don't even have
to install them natively, thanks to VirtualBox, also included on the
disc. Oh, and you'll find a complete version of the Axigen mail
server worth £150!

In our regular HotPicks section, we pluck out the best strands of
open source software from the internet. One gem for clearing up your
hard drive is KleanSweep:

# KleanSweep 0.2.9 --

Is your desktop a mess? Is it filled with empty crisp packets,
long-forgotten reminders, pens that stopped working on the way
back from the stationary cupboard? Do new life forms emerge from
the dust and finger-goo of your keyboard, evolve (barely) and go
on to become disc editors of Linux magazines? Well, this software
will do nothing for you. However, it will take a fair stab at
cleaning up the desktop on your computer. Windows has a utility
like this built in to the OS (Disk Clean), and although it pains
us to say it, it can sometimes be handy. This is the KDE take on
that application - it roots out forgotten files (are yours all
called 'plop' too?), orphaned symlinks and cached objects and then
deletes them if that's what you want.

It is a brave person indeed who will casually delete whole groups
of files without checking them out, so you can browse through the
list first and deselect any of the rubbish that you might actually
want to keep. KleanSweep will either run as a normal user (in
which case you are effectively restricted to your home folder) or
as root, although obvious precautions should be taken with the
latter case. Mind you, this is often the only way to get rid of a
load of cruft that clogs up various temporary folders, so do it,
but cross your fingers and be extra specially careful.

Files suggested for deletion appear in a tabbed view so you can
easily switch between them. For us, the most useful was the unused
thumbnails section. Select this and you will find countless
thumbnails for downloaded images or photos from your camera that
easily consume more disk space than they are worth. Chuck them out
mercilessly: they can easily be generated again next time you
browse the folder!

KleanSweep runs on KDE 3.3 libraries, so it should compile easily
for most distros, and there may even be a package available for
your favourite. It is not complicated to use, and it can make a
real difference to the smooth running of your desktop, if only
because you won't have to sift through so many files to find the
one you need any more. Give it a go...

See the LXF website ( and click on the
right-hand issue pic for a full lowdown on 111's contents.

3. In the news

New releases ahoy in September...

# Gimp 2.6 out, GEGL still unfinished ... rticle=745 <>

Roll up, roll up, and read the release notes. Along with some
interface changes, Gimp 2.6 also includes a better free select tool
and brush dynamics. If you've been waiting patiently for GEGL since
the start of this decade, however, you'll be a tad miffed that
there's only "tentative integration" of 16-bit colour support.

# Gnome 2.24 released ... rticle=742 <>

Following its usual six-month-release schedule, version 2.24 has
arrived for our desktoping pleasure. New features include the
Empathy Instant Messenger, a time-tracking panel applet, Ekiga 3.0,
tabs in Nautilus and better keyboard navigation. Expect to see it in
the upcoming Ubuntu and Fedora releases.

# Chrome lands on Linux (thanks to Wine) ... rticle=739 <>

You've no doubt heard the news that Google has entered the browser
game with Chrome. It's currently only available for Windows, but the
busy bees at CodeWeavers have got a Wine-based port running
(reportedly, it only took them 11 days). Google plans to release a
native Linux version of the browser sometime in the future, but for
now you can download the port for free. We want to know: will Chrome
be in perpetual beta status like certain other Google products?

4. This month on the forum

The age-old proprietary driver and codec issue came up again in the
Discussion forum. Heiowge argued that distro vendors should make it
easier for users to access non-free or patent-encumbered software,
eg by placing an icon on the desktop. This kicked off the usual free
download vs paid-for box set comparison, and Ethernet noted that
Windows XP doesn't play DVDs after a fresh install either. [1]

What's the best way to organise your home directory? That was the
question posed by Tjelle, who had just picked up a "very cool" Asus
Eee PC. Ollie is clearly an uber-organised chap, doing regular
clean-ups of his files and using version numbering on his documents.
Guy, meanwhile, adopts the old-style office approach of having
incoming and outgoing folders. If you've come up with a magic system
for organising your files, let us know in the thread!

[1] ... topic=8635 <>

[2] ... topic=8669 <>

5. Special Newsletter feature


Back in Newsletter #34 we looked at the booming netbook (aka
sub-notebook) market, with the Eee PC wooing Linux and Windows users
alike, and other companies such as MSI preparing competitors. A lot
has happened since then, so here's a mini buyer's guide for those
looking for a cheap and super-portable Linux box.

1) Asus

Having got off to a good start with the Eee PC 701 (and then
the 900), Asus has severely complicated its product lineup
with a bewildering array of machines. Do you need the 900,
900HA, 900HD, 901, 904HD, 1000 or 1000H? Arguably, Asus is just
trying to cater for a wide range of users, but we reckon it could do
a much better job of communicating its product strategy. And perhaps
simplify to three models: low-end, middle and high-end.

That said, The Eee PCs are still very good laptops. Linux support is
excellent thanks to the community -- you can get Ubuntu running on
them without major hassles. Asus will have to be a bit more
competitive on price though, due to...

2) Acer

The Acer Aspire One is currently the best value netbook, checking in
at under 200 UKP for the base model. It's a well-built machine,
although the mouse buttons mounted on the left and right sides of
the trackpad are a bit frustrating for some users. On the Linux
side, the Fedora-based distro is decent enough, but hardware support
in other distros is a bit problematic. For instance, see -- most hardware
features are working correctly on Ubuntu, but there are some

3) Dell

After a surprisingly long wait, Dell finally got into the netbook
game with the Inspiron Mini 9. And frankly, it's a bit of a
disappointment. The 269 UKP starting price point doesn't compare
favourably with the Acer Aspire One, but perhaps even more
problematic is the keyboard. No Fx keys. That's right -- no more
Alt+F4ing to close windows, Ctrl+Alt+Fxing to switch to text
terminals (well, not without pressing other buttons). Of course, if
you never use the Fx keys, you won't mind this and be glad that more
space is devoted to the other keys. But for us, this is a pretty big
limitation right now.

4) Lenovo

Known best for its rugged ThinkPad laptop range (acquired from IBM),
Lenovo, like Dell, has been hesitant to join the netbook party. But
the company plans to launch the IdeaPad S9 for a price point of 279
UKP, which isn't an amazing price but hopefully the machines will
incorporate the famed ThinkPad reliability.

SUMMARY: If you just want a netbook for a spot of browsing and light
office work on the move, go for the Aspire One. It's solidly made
and available for an excellent price. If you're looking to do more
Linuxy things with your machine, eg install extra software or
replace the distro, go with the Eee PC 901. It's pricier but well
supported by Ubuntu ( so you don't have to stick
with the standard distro.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 112, on sale Thursday 16 October...

# Get creative! Edit videos, write music, make a website
and more -- all with Free Software

# KDE 4 enhanced -- Fix niggling bugs in your desktop

# Switch distros without losing your data

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change. Especially
if the Large Hadron Collider has a few glitches between now and then.)

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
putting in a light bulb:

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 scream) 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:

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