LXF Website Newsletter -- #4, September 2005

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LXF Website Newsletter -- #4, September 2005

Postby M-Saunders » Mon Oct 17, 2005 3:12 pm






1. Welcome!

2. Sneak preview of LXF 72

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!

Welcome to the September LXF Online newsletter -- our monthly
roundup of activity on the website, along with a sample of the
upcoming issue and some extra features too. Development on the
website continues unabated: following the addition of these
Newsletters, the LXF Team Blog, previews of upcoming issues and
various other new goodies, we're about to launch the LXF Wiki. Those
of you who visited our website many moons ago may remember the
original Wiki, where readers collaborated on Linux-related info (and
completely off-topic musings).

That content has been transferred across to a new Wiki system that's
almost ready to go. What can you use it for? Well, just about
anything, as long as it has some relation to Linux, open source,
computing or geekdom in general. Even Pot Noodles -- after all,
they're a staple geek food. After registering a username (takes 10
seconds) you can edit and create pages at your will, so hopefully
we'll build up a good resource of Linuxish information.

The LXF Wiki will go live in a few days -- but as loyal newsletter
readers, you can check it out in advance here:


Also in this newsletter: a peek at what's to come in LXF72; the
latest news in nutshellised format; a guide to getting involved in
an open source project; and much more.


2. Sneak preview of LXF 72

Linux Format issue 72 hits the shop shelves tomorrow -- you'll be
able to identify it by the trailing vortexes coming off the corners.
Yes, LXF72 is all about speed, and how to make your Linux box
faster. We have a whopping 72 Speedup Tips feature covering all
aspects of Linux (desktop, server, booting etc.) along with Gentoo
on the coverdiscs. No matter what you use Linux for, you'll find
something in the feature that'll give your system extra pace.

Also in the mag: we speak to Michael Meeks, a Gnome and
OpenOffice.org coder currently working for Novell. Michael explains
how a squabble with God led him to ditch his pirated Windows
versions and adopt the cleaner Linux life. The new Podcasting fad is
explained in our regular What on Earth feature, while PDF readers
are put under the spotlight in our Roundup. Also, Graham Morrison
describes the highs and lows of running an open source project in
our special mini-feature.

Reviews include the Doom 3 Resurrection of Evil expansion pack,
MainActor 5.5, Qt 4 and a bunch of books. In our tutorials, we
examine blending and embossing techniques in The GIMP, setting up a
printer, and customising the gargantuanly powerful Emacs editor.
Here's a sample of the questions we asked Michael Meeks in the
interview; the answers will appear on the site in a few days...

# How did you first get involved with Gnome?

# Can anything be done to speed up OpenOffice.org startup time?

# Let's look to the future: can Cairo live up to the hype?

Grab a copy of LXF72 for the full interview. As always, we have our
regular HotPicks section in issue 72, where we search the Net for
the best new and updated apps, giving them some well-deserved
coverage. One of the games this month takes the venerable Pong to a
whole new level -- yes, it's Pong2 (Pong squared):

# Pong2 -- Dimensionally enhanced bat 'n ball game

If LXF suddenly assumed Grand Control of the Universe, our first
edict would be to outlaw rehashes of worn-out classics. There's
pushing an old formula to the limits, and then there's beating a
dead horse for hours and hours until passers-by call the police.
Lest we not speak of the atrocities committed by software houses
when Sellotaping rubbish concepts-du-jour onto near-perfect games
(hello again, Tetrisphere), but with Pong2, where perhaps the most
simplistic game has been jazzed up with polygonal trimmings, we'll
have to let them off.

Pong2 is a 'fast quadratic Pong action' game. Try not to barf: it
actually makes sense. Sort of. To compile, you'll need the SDL and
SDL_net libraries, along with OpenGL - it should go without a
hitch on most distros. Pong2 expects two players competing over
the network, although you can opt for a single player training
mode against the enigmatic 'Mr Wand' who cannot be beaten. Still,
it gives you the opportunity to familiarise yourself with the
camera angles and ball control.

Studies have shown that single-cell life forms know how to play
Pong, so we'll skip the details. In essence, Pong2 inflates the
playing area into 3D; you have to keep track of left-and-right
movements as well as up-and-down. Moving your bat around with the
mouse in the psychedelic arena, you can opt between various
display modes which keep the screen still or follow with the
mouse. As with some third-person driving games, it's a tad fiddly
when both your orientation and the object you control are in
movement at the same time.

Pleasingly, you can apply spin to the ball by sweeping your bat
across it, but the lack of any sound effects or background ditties
is something of a shame. Nevertheless, even though it's only Pong
with an extra dimension dropped in, it's sufficiently demanding of
mouse control and response to make victory all the more
satisfying. Another play on an ancient game, then, but not worthy
of five years solitary just yet. But please, no more.

# SCREENSHOT -- http://msa.section.me.uk/pong2.png
Colour overload -- feast your eyes on the ball reflection
on the bottom and right sides.

As usual, there're five and a half more pages of HotPicks in 72,
including a look at the revolutionary bootup script replacement
InitNG, and video disc authoring suite Tovid.

3. In the news...

A good month for international Linux adoption, and a few new
software releases too. Here're the highlights...

# Indonesia chooses Linux as standard desktop
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=97

International Linux adoption continues to grow. On the 15th,
Indonesia's Ministry of Research and Technology announced that it
will use Sun's Java Desktop System as it's national standard OS. The
Ministry will enhance and rebrand JDS, with support from Sun. This
is another big gain for JDS -- in the last few years Sun has
announced major deals with the Chinese, Japanese and UK governments.
Read more at: http://www.desktoplinux.com/news/NS3370503002.html

# GNOME 2.12.0 released
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=92

Right on time, GNOME 2.12.0 hit the download mirrors, bringing about
new features, bugfixes and performance tweaks. See the announcement
here. Clearlooks is now the default theme, and a major new addition
is the Evince document viewer. Check out the release notes for the
full details at: http://www.gnome.org/start/2.12/notes/en/

# Major distro releases approaching
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... cle&sid=93

Mandriva and SUSE have made available release candidates for their
upcoming distros. Mandriva 2006 RC1 could be the only RC before the
distro goes gold; meanwhile SUSE 10.0 RC1, based on the OpenSUSE
project, is making good progress too. And with Ubuntu Breezy due
shortly, it's going to be a lively couple of months for new distros
to try out!

4. This month on the forum

Linux vs Mac OS X -- a controversial issue. Many would agree that
Apple's work on snazzifying the Mac OS GUI has brought it plenty of
new fans, but at the same time, it's still a mostly proprietary OS
on a single-vendor platform. 'phil_m' asked if anyone else had made
the switch from Linux to Mac OS; there followed an intriguing
discussion with points from both sides put forward. LXF writer Andy
Channelle wasn't chuffed that Mac OS users have to buy entire OS
upgrades just to get some new software (such as Safari). [1]

Boot woes explained. A special mention should go out this month to
forum regular 'bigjohn' for his extensive description of Linux
bootloaders. A reader was having trouble working out the boot
process and mounting drives -- 'bigjohn' provided a huge stack of
information which is well worth reading if you're new to Linux. [2]

In the Programming forum, 'chris_debian' asked if there was a
central place for people to get started in open source software
development. Andy Hudson and 'RD' pointed to pages on Sourceforge
and the Fedora project, and Chris said he'd take a look. Which leads
us to our feature this month... [3]

[1] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... pic&t=1031

[2] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... pic&t=1121

[3] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... pic&t=1157

5. Special newsletter feature


One of the questions we're most frequently asked at LXF is: "How do
I get involved in or start an open source project?". Even if you've
got all the coding talent in the world, it's often hard to find an
entry point with so many people and projects doing the rounds.
Fortunately, once you're familiar with some of the conventions of
open source, it's quite easy to get started. Here's a quick guide:

1. Find the right project

If you're interested in working on, say, an email client, browse
freshmeat.net and search for emailers. You'll bring up a list of
potential projects -- when you've found something that suits you,
visit its home page and see how development is progressing. Some
apps haven't been updated in years; others are booming and may not
have room for extra developers.

If it looks like an active project that could do with some help,
drop the lead developer a line by email, or try to chat to him/her
on IM/IRC. Introduce yourself and how you could help with the
project's progress -- eg in programming, testing, docs etc.

If you don't find anything that floats your boat, you could always
start your own project. However, this is much more demanding, and
unless you're doing something highly innovative or striking, it's
often hard to get other developers on board. Still, it's always
worth a try -- set up a sourceforge.net page, make some
announcements to freshmeat.net and see what happens...

2. Choose a license

If you're joining an existing project, chances are you won't have
much say in the license -- it'll already have been decided.
Conversely, if you're setting up something on your own, you can
choose between a multitude of licenses. The GNU GPL (free to copy,
but source must remain open) is the most popular license for Linux
software, although BSD (do what you like except claim you wrote
it) is good for code which may be useful in proprietary apps.

3. Decide on a name

Again, this only really applies if you're starting your own
project. Don't be afraid to use a strange or unfamiliar name --
as long as it's catchy and easy to pronounce, people will like it.
Firefox is an example of an unusual but catchy name, whereas
OpenOffice.org is clumsy to type and say. Resist the urge to make
a pun on a commercial app's name, as you could get into legal
bothers later.

4. Work with other developers

Working as a team is vital in any open source project of
reasonable size. Make it clear what you're planning to do (to
avoid duplication of effort) and give constructive feedback to
other developers. Even if someone's personality gets on your wick,
try to resist flaming -- after all, it's not the Super Happy
Friends club. Even if someone is a pain in the neck socially, they
could still contribute valuable code to your project.

5. Promote your project

Without doubt, freshmeat.net is the best place to make
announcements about new releases of your software. This site is
tracked by many other places on the Web, and users can choose to
follow the progress of particular apps. If you're part of a large
team and the app is well known, you could try making an
announcement on Slashdot or OSNews -- a good way to get feedback
in the comments sections. And of course there's always LXF Online,
either on the front page (Submit News) or the Announcements forum.

6. Have fun!

Few open source projects achieve the ginormous popularity of
Firefox and co, and few programmers make squillions of pounds from
it, but nonetheless it's a rewarding experience. If your project
is used by a few hundred people, it's something you can put on
your CV. Getting involved with an open source project, or running
one, is a great way to get more experience of coding, people
management, marketing and much more.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 73 -- on sale Tuesday 18th October

# Crack the kernel -- Deep inside your distro is a powerhouse
waiting to get out. We show you what's coming up in next
year's kernel, and how you can start using it now...

# The LXF Interview: Eben Moglen -- Short, bearded and jolly:
you might think of Santa Claus, but Eben advocates free
software, not free presents, for all.

# SUSE 10 vs Mandriva 2006 -- Two top distros on test to find
out whether Mandriva really is 1996 versions better than SUSE.

# Free vs open source -- Is free software a real movement, a way
to get code written quickly, paradise for license lawyers, or
all of the above?

(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 so easy, even a
'Dangerous Streets' programmer could do it.

1. Go to the website forums and log in (or sign up first):
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... e=PNphpBB2

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 will make us 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 me (Mike) at the
address below:

Newsletter Editor: Mike Saunders -- mike.saunders@futurenet.co.uk

Letters for the magazine: lxf.letters@futurenet.co.uk

LXF website: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk

Subscriptions: 0870 837 4722 (overseas +44 1858 438794)
Website subs page: http://tinyurl.com/dv295

(C) 2005 Future
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