LXF Website Newsletter -- #7, December 2005

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LXF Website Newsletter -- #7, December 2005

Postby M-Saunders » Tue Jan 10, 2006 10:07 am






1. Welcome!

2. Sneak preview of LXF 75

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. New archive PDFs

6. Special newsletter feature

7. Coming up next issue

8. Receiving this Newsletter

9. Contact details

1. Welcome!

Christmas approaches, and we've already got some great presents to
play with such as KDE 3.5 -- although I doubt many of us are waiting
until the 25th to compile it :-) Surprisingly, a lot gets done in
the open source world over Christmas. Even though many developers
have other matters to attend to, those who have a week-or-so of
holiday find it an ideal time to dive into some code. (Especially
with the bitter weather outside.) Keep an eye on the LXF website
front page for announcements as and when they happen!

We've added a new feature to the website this month: the LXF
Archives. For a while we've had a list of previous issues and their
contents, but now we're starting to include PDFs of actual articles
for you to download and read as you please. Currently, we have a
selection of articles from issue 69 and earlier -- more will be
added, and as a Newsletter subscriber you can get early links to
PDFs before they're added to the page. See section 5 of this
Newsletter for new articles, and www.linuxformat.co.uk/archives/
for the page.


Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Sneak preview of LXF 75

In issue 75 of Linux Format, on sale in newsagents today, we look
into the future and see what lies ahead for Linux. But we don't just
talk about it -- we show you how to run the software that's going to
make the headlines in 2006. On the desktop side, we see what's in
the pipeline for KDE, Gnome, X.org, Autopackage and more, while in
server land we explain the upcoming features in Samba and MySQL.

We also have a special feature on Women in Linux. LXF Operations
Editor Rebecca Smalley investigates the reasons why computing, and
particularly Linux, is male-dominated. With mini interviews and
quotes from a range of open source luminaries, we analyse the
aspects of Linux that can keep women away, and see how things can
change in the future.

Fancy a personal TV recorder and media box, without splashing out
any cash? Graham Morrison shows you how to run MythTV and make the
most of your media. This issue also sees the start of the Linux
Format Awards 2006 -- we're waiting for your nominations! We also
have a roundup of virus checkers, tutorials on OpenOffice.org and
Squid, along with much more. Our DVD is bulging with two major
distro releases: Mandriva 2006 and Ubuntu 5.10, along with all the
new office software releases (OOo, AbiWord, Gnumeric etc).

Eccentric Perl king Larry Wall talks to us about the long-awaited
Perl 6 and life at O'Reilly. Here are a few of the questions we
asked, the answers to which will appear on the site shortly...

# Did you leave O'Reilly after the dotcom boom had ended, when
people stopped buying books so much?

# What do you find particularly excites you about Perl 6?
Apart from the idea of finishing it!

# You might leave a lot of people behind on Perl 5.8...?

Grab a copy of LXF 75 for the full interview. We also have another
brain-teasing crossword courtesy of the mysterious Degville, and,
er, a look at this newsletter author's desk. Hrm. In HotPicks,
our regular look at the best new open source apps, we feature
Little Wizard, a programming environment aimed at children. Here's
the review:

# Little Wizard -- Children's IDE

Is geekiness in the blood? Considering the ability of some child
programmers, who could knock out games in assembler before they'd
even reached two-digits, there may be some truth to that. However,
most kids could do with a gentler introduction to programming, and
Little Wizard is designed to make coding fun and simple by using
graphics rather than keywords. It sounds a little strange at first
- just think of it as more of a RAD IDE rather than an Emacs
window and GCC...

To build Little Wizard from source, all you'll need is Gtk and its
associated development package, which are usually installed by
default on most distros. Enter ./configure, make and 'make
install' (as root) and you can run 'lw' to fire it up. Usefully, a
version for Windows is also available, which may help when your
child is hogging the Linux machine and you've got some work (or
gaming) to do...

As you'd expect, Little Wizard's main screen is a cheerful and
bright, although it's not immediately accessible to kids in the
same way GCompris is, for example. An adult will need to explain
how the toolbar buttons and menus function. By dragging icons from
the tabbed panel at the top, a child can create simple programs
with variables, calculations, conditions and loops.

For adult programmers, seeing instructions represented as twee
images is bizarre at first - but thankfully there's a bunch of
examples which show how it all fits together. Program execution
takes place in a separate window, with a small character dancing
around the screen. For instance, in one program a house is created
by means of direction and image-placing instructions.

The only major let-down for Little Wizard is the lack of
documentation. With a bit of experimentation, adults can fathom
out how the example programs work, but it'd be good to have an
elementary guide. Similarly, some of the error messages ('Wrong
number of arguments') could do with translation into childspeak
too. Otherwise, Little Wizard is a very promising project, so it
gets a gold star and smiley face.

As usual, there're five and a half more pages of HotPicks in 75,
including a review of the top-notch Klik package manager, and
a look at Oolite, a clone of the classic Elite.

3. In the news...

Major new releases, and a big win for Linux in eastern Europe...

# Xen 3.0 released
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... le&sid=178

Xen, an open source virtualisation system that allows you to run
many 'virtual' OSes on one machine, has just hit version 3.0. New
features include 32-way SMP guest support, x86/64 guests on both
AMD64 and EM64T, and PAE support. (Our feature in LXF 67 covered Xen
in-depth.) See http://www.xensource.com for more info.

# Macedonia deploys 5,000 Ubuntu desktops
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... le&sid=176

The latest GNOME journal has a feature detailing a large deployment
of Linux desktops in schools. The Macedonian Education Development
Center, in eastern Europe, decided to install Ubuntu Linux in all of
the 468 schools and some 182 computer labs across the country. See

# KDE 3.5.0 is here
http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/modules.ph ... le&sid=173

The KDE project has announced the full 3.5.0 release of the popular
desktop environment. New features include Konqueror adblocking,
SuperKaramba included in the main packages, Kopete webcam support
and much more. Get the sources to build with Konstruct (or keep an
eye out for a future LXF coverdisc). See http://www.kde.org

4. This month on the forum

MP3 creation and playback under Linux is a thorny issue. Due to
legal issues, many distros don't include any MP3 players (instead
sticking to open formats such as Ogg), which can cause problems for
newcomers to the OS. Lancer was having trouble getting Grip to
generate MP3s, and a useful discussion followed in which other MP3
encoders such as Lame were explained. Check it out if you've just
installed Linux and are struggling to get MP3s working. [1]

Digital Rights Management, or Digital 'Restrictions' Management as
many have renamed it, doesn't sit all that comfortably with the
ideas and freedoms of Free Software. 'jdtate101' posted a link to
a story about Sony's DRM antics, and when it transpired that the
DRM software might contain an open source program, Nelz summed it
up it up perfectly: 'You have to hand it to Sony, when they shoot
themselves in the foot, they really empty the clip'. [2]

Lastly, a mild flamewar in the forum. 'woodsideguy' linked to
a scathing attack on Gnome by (supposedly) one of its former
developers. This turned into a heated debate about the overall
validity of Linux on the desktop, with 'woodsideguy' claiming that
the OS would never succeed without a single, standard GUI toolkit.
Despite the strong opinions, though, it's a good read... [3]

[1] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... pic&t=1699

[2] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... pic&t=1549

[3] http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/index.php? ... pic&t=1785

5. New archive PDFs

We've added some more PDFs of past articles to the LXF Archives,
and Newsletter readers can see them a week early, before they're
added to the page:

* Future of X: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/pdfs/LXF68.feat_x.pdf

* LXF 69 HotPicks: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/pdfs/LXF69.hot.pdf

* Audio guide: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/pdfs/LXF63.tut_audio.pdf

* WM roundup: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/pdfs/LXF65.round.pdf

* Backup rules: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/pdfs/LXF69.backup.pdf

* Damian Conway: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/pdfs/LXF62.iview.pdf

* KDE coding: http://www.linuxformat.co.uk/pdfs/LXF64.tut_kde.pdf

These PDFs are copyright Future Publishing and may not be
redistributed. Stay tuned for more updates!

6. Special newsletter feature


Writing your own software requires patience and the will to learn,
but it's incredibly rewarding. One of the biggest initial challenges
is choosing a programming language to get started with -- there are
so many, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. If you're
interested in dabbling with some code, or want to try something
else, this mini guide will highlight some of the programming
languages available for Linux and what they can do.


This is pretty much the de facto standard language for Linux and
other UNIX-like systems. The kernel is written primarily in C, and
major apps such as GNOME, KDE, OpenOffice.org and Firefox are
written in C or C++. Fortunately, there's a wealth of quality
development tools for these languages, most notably GCC -- the GNU
Compiler Collection. C is described as a 'mid-level' language, in
that it's not as simple to learn as, say, Python, but it lets you
work closer to the hardware.

And the gigantic range of open source libraries available means you
don't have to write everything yourself; you can pick-'n-mix from
other code to build your apps. C++ adds object oriented features
onto C, and is well supported by the 'g++' component of GCC. Both
languages are very challenging at times, but if you want to do any
system-level programming they're the way to go -- and amply


A relatively new language, Python has a very clear syntax (command
order) making it easy to read and develop with, particularly when
you're looking through someone else's code. It's usually
interpreted, which adds a slight performance hit, but for most
graphical apps this isn't a big concern. A huge number of libraries
(known as 'modules') are available for Python; you can even code
them yourself in C/C++ if you need raw performance. Additionally,
Python has bindings to Gtk, Qt, SDL and many other toolkits -- so
you can write all manner of software in a single language. Python is
highly recommended for newcomers, with full info at www.python.org


If you've never written a line of code in your life, and have
stumbled across some Perl, you may still be trying to wipe the
terrifying image from your mind. Perl code often looks like
unintelligible gobbledygook, but it's designed for brevity rather
than performance; you can knock up powerful scripts and small apps
in very few lines of code. Although there are GUI bindings for the
language, Perl is still used mostly for text processing scripts and
server-side (CGI) operations on webservers. For many websites,
though, it's starting to lose out to the next language...


A recursive initialism meaning 'PHP Hypertext Preprocessor', PHP
started off as a bunch of scripts for personal websites. Since then
it has evolved into a fully fledged language that's extremely easy
to learn but still contains plenty of power to write fully-fledged
applications. Like Perl, PHP can be used to create standalone CLI
and GUI apps, but the vast majority of its usage is on websites. The
Linux Format site, for instance, is driven by PHP (PostNuke). You
can find an excellent introductory tutorial at www.php.net


Yes, BASIC is frowned upon by many experienced programmers, as it
rarely enforces good coding practices. However, there _are_ good
BASIC flavours out there, and many of us started programming in this
friendly language, so it's still worth investigating. Perhaps the
best way to get programming with BASIC under Linux is with Gambas,
on which we've been doing tutorials in the magazine. Gambas is a
full development environment with many similarities to Visual BASIC,
so it's a wise choice if you're familiar with that side of Windows
coding. See http://gambas.sourceforge.net


Java is well supported under Linux, and Pascal, the teaching
language of choice, has an implementation in the form of Free Pascal
(www.freepascal.org). If you're feeling particularly ambitious, you
can go the assembler (machine code) route with 'as', included as
part of the GNU toolchain in most Linux distros. However, most
assembler hackers prefer NASM, which can be found at
http://nasm.sf.net. Be warned though: if you're used to coding for
680x0 or ARM processors, you'll find the x86 instruction set to be
hideously baroque...

So, these are just a handful of the programming language options
available for Linux, but there are many, many more. If your
favourite hasn't been mentioned here, drop me a line explaining why
you like it, and I'll include it in the next Newsletter!

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 76 -- on sale Tuesday 10th January

# Hardware harmony -- Problematic printers, dastardly displays
and silent sound cards. We know Linux can be hard sometimes,
so we've written the ultimate guide to getting it all working!

# The LXF Interview: Jeremy Allison on Samba 4

# Discover Drupal -- Open source content management done right

# Quake 4 -- Darker than Doom 3, but much more fun!

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change.)

8. 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 finding
Russia on a world map:

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'll make the internet sad) you can opt-out by removing
yourself from the Newsletter group as above.

9. 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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