Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users?

Comments, suggestions and questions about Linux Format magazine and the coverdiscs

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Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users?

Postby Hudzilla » Fri Jun 03, 2005 9:49 pm

'lo,

As most of you reg'lars know, I work full time at LXF Towers along with Nick and the gang, and I'd like to get your opinions if possible.

You may have noticed that we are evolving the magazine in a slow but steady fashion. Some of the changes are artistic, some editorial, and some just to keep you on your toes, but I'm really just canvassing opinions to see what matters to you.

So, if you could take the time to look over a few questions and weigh in with your views, I would really appreciate it. Feel free to rant if you must, but concise answers make for easy reading :)

Don't feel you need to answer all the questions.

================

1) The LXF Interview. We've interviewed Damian Conway, Nat Friedman, Miguel De Icaza, Stephen Tweedie, Michael Robertson, Matthias Ettrich, and others - what do you think? Do you care what the community leaders think? Are we asking the right kinds of questions? Are there people you think we've missed?

2) The Versus features. These are really just a bit of fun to get people thinking about why /they/ prefer KDE to Gnome (or vice versa), etc. Do you see them as fun, or just page filler you don't care about? Do you find yourself usually agreeing with one person in the argument, or is it a mix? Are there other topics you'd like to see covered?

3) What on Earth. We try to keep the WoE articles covering new topics that we hope will inspire or otherwise interest you, backing the text up with off-the-wall illustration. What do you think of our previous topics? Are we going into enough depth? Should we go back over some of the older WoEs to cater for people who didn't buy the old issues?

4) Cover features. It's always our goal to make a punchy cover feature that will grab you and make you want to read, varying between practical ("Network Everything"), hardware ("64-bit or Bust"), and theoretical ("Xen"). Are we hitting that goal? Are our cover features the right length/too long/too short? What kind of feature do you prefer? Are our choices of topics just plain dull?

5) Tutorials. These are one of the core parts of the magazine, and ultimately we feel that the tutorials are a primary purchase decision maker for readers. What do you think about our current crop of tutorials? Do you prefer long series, like PHP and Gimp, or shorter series, like Perl and Emacs? Should we expand the size of our coverage, or is it about right? Are there particular topics that we're missing?

5) Art. It's the job of the LXF art team to produce high-impact designs that make the magazine pleasing to read, entertaining, and also more informative than it would have been with plain text. What do you think of the layout in LXF? Are our cover designs attractive and interesting? Do the stock photos annoy rather than help? How much do you love/hate the colour purple used in our tutorials?

6) Production. We have two full-time people working to correct errors in the magazine, both technical and grammatical. Would you agree that the number of mistakes in the magazine has declined drastically? Do you notice all the effort they put in to italicize program names, to bold commands, etc? Do you appreciate our attempts to add humour in places? (you're welcome to respond with "what humour?", but it'll make us cry)

7) Cover discs. For us, the cover discs are the absolute core of the magazine - the embodiment of our push to promote free software. Do you use your discs, or put them away in a cupboard? Do you like getting a new distro each month to try, or would you prefer programs for your existing distro?

8) Mag involvement. Recently we've been working hard to add ways for you to voice your opinions in the magazine - "Over to you" in the Roundup verdicts, email addresses at the bottom of each column, etc. Do you care about these opportunities, or would you rather we just stuck with what we were doing?

9) Reviews. In the very latest issues we've been adding more elements to our reviews - walkthrough boxes, annotations, and in the very latest issue (LXF68) new "Graham says" and "Nick says" boxes. Do you feel these add extra value to the reviews? Should we run more reviews? Would you like to see more hardware reviews?

=================

Okay, so I only planned there to be a few questions, but I think there's about thirty in there ;) Again, answer only the bits that interest you if you want to. No pressure. None at all. Nope. We're not watching this thread like hawks at all.

If you have any other suggestions for improvements, we'd be happy to hear them.

Thanks for taking the time to read this far, if nothing else! ;)


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RE: Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users?

Postby nordle » Fri Jun 03, 2005 11:01 pm

ello Hudzilla

1. Absolutely, these interviews are a must, interesting, revealing a great insight. I was going to say Alan Cox, but doh! then I trurned to the whats on next month bit.

2. The versus thing is slight page filler, BUT it is a good read, funny and also interesting to see your views on the stuff you actually use.
Perhaps one twist might be to do some OSS vs Proprietary, not in a mine is better than yours way, but for example PHP vs ASP, PostgreSQL vs SQL Server, kolab vs Exchange etc Maybe get some experienced users to slug it out.

3. WOE are great intro's to projects people might not be aware of, Im not sure if its possible within the scope, but to have perhaps a longer article with perhaps a reasonably detailed tutorial and perhaps an interview with someone/organisation who are actually using the app. The XDMCP for example, great article.

The tricky thing is, a year ago you asked a similar thing, and at the time I thought that LXF could not really get any better, how wrong I was! I purchased LXF68 yesterday, and thought "I can't believe how totally great the last 5 issues have been, I mean REALLY BLOODY GOOD!"

Which doesn't really help does it, but the ONLY areas I would like to see expanded, are perhaps more technical tutorials, more sysadmin stuff (more of us are running home networks, and more of us are running our own businesses as well as working in large organisations). Maybe a short day in the life of a sysadmin blog, you get similar sort of long term tests in other mags.
More interviews with organisations actually using OSS, including oganisations around the world too!
Perhaps a little more on the politics of OSS, patents and how/what/who is blocking OS proliferation.
Perhaps a little more on hardware.

Again, I realise on the technical side that a lot of LXF is for non-techies, highlighted by a letter saying that LXF was too techy in places and they did not understand basic commands etc. I remember startiing with Linux answers and thinking the same, WTF is an rpm, deb etc what is a tarball, ls, df, startx, cups, samba, grep, ps, etc etc ALL jibberish. So there needs more techy and more basic, a tough call to get the balance right.

The coverdiscs always have projects I've not heard of/used, the distros are a vital source for those without bb, and are a great instinct buy in the shops, persons scanning the shelf and mmmm think I'll try that, and that gets em hooked ;)

The look is quality, keep the book reviews coming, and hotpicks!

One thing from LXF68, the glue, no no no no, bad LXF! Nick, stop crushing bones, or add more water, another front cover bites the dust. :)
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RE: Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users?

Postby optimaloptimussupreme » Sat Jun 04, 2005 1:26 pm

First look at Amiga format as template then youll have a great way to go. Second , nick what the heck in the mag saying now programmers will have to think and program to a mulititasking enviroment. Amiga did it for years. No matter what you have with a x86 it will be single tasking. The same goes with linux. Nick you and the gang should know better. Intel does they are making Hombre clones as well as sony and sgi. Look closely at he psp and the ps3 .Its there. SO in the future please dont print any non factual sayings. The mag is great tough . Need to get fedora core4 on DvD next issue and suse pro 3 too .Suse just gets 10% of the royalties for each mag sold. granted thats not 75 us dollars ,but tehy get more that way becasue more people will buy the magzine.
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RE: Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users?

Postby Gordon » Sat Jun 04, 2005 8:11 pm

I think the mag could do with more hardware reviews. What new hardware works flawlessly with Linux and what doesn't. And also include info on how to get the hardware to work with Linux. I'm always amazed that most hardware vendors do not support Linux, they have access to the source code for almost everything on a Linux system, including the GUI, no hidden API's as in microsoft products, and this alone should enable hardware and software vendors to create better drivers and utility software than they can for windows. Just look at nVidia, they are going the right way, if you have the nVidia drivers installed try running the program 'nvidia-settings', you'll see what I mean.

The only other thing I would like to see is more tutorials, especially on programming.
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RE: Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users?

Postby Gordon » Sat Jun 04, 2005 8:13 pm

Sell binders for the mag. It's an essential reference work in it's own right.
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Postby 1slipperyfish » Sat Jun 04, 2005 9:06 pm

i'm new to linux and i find the magazine a really good read :D i have programmed before and am interested in scripting i haven't tried your php tutorials as usually articles on php don't mention the whole $_POST stuff that i found difficult when learning php(as in no-one seems to mention when to use it, you're just supposed to know :roll: )
i think the tutorials are interesting and aren't so techie that if you don't know/aren't confident with programming you would be put off by them.plus the tutorials are practical, i was a reader of pcplus but the tutorials in there(even of languages i was learning/interested in) were i felt pointless.last month i read the gimp tutorial and found it very informative as i've toyed with gimp before and didn't find it that functional.
as for layout i think the balance is just right in my opinion,having come form pcplus where the content is mainly adverts and business articles, it is refreshing for a weekend warrior like me :D
i'm sorry but the cover doesn't really sway me into buying a magazine.
i think the coverdiscs have some useful things(well to me anyway) as i'm new i like to have things that i can use and play with
please excuse my spelling and lack of punctuation( i write quite a bit at work and flatly refuse to do it in my own time :D )
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Re: RE: Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users

Postby optimaloptimussupreme » Sun Jun 05, 2005 12:04 am

Gordon wrote:I think the mag could do with more hardware reviews. What new hardware works flawlessly with Linux and what doesn't. And also include info on how to get the hardware to work with Linux. I'm always amazed that most hardware vendors do not support Linux, they have access to the source code for almost everything on a Linux system, including the GUI, no hidden API's as in microsoft products, and this alone should enable hardware and software vendors to create better drivers and utility software than they can for windows. Just look at nVidia, they are going the right way, if you have the nVidia drivers installed try running the program 'nvidia-settings', you'll see what I mean.

The only other thing I would like to see is more tutorials, especially on programming.


thats why i said use amiga format as a template becasue they did tutorials is programming on a monthly basis among other things. Well true its not "hidden" ,but if you want right in your face and perfection then we are talking amiga os and the amiga hardware plus what I said before. true linux any linux is better then windos. The question is why does linux format start from scratch when they have amiga format as a template . If they had used this as a template they would be far ahead by now. 8)
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Re: Linux Format: The Essential Read for All Linux Users?

Postby Nigel » Sun Jun 05, 2005 12:21 pm

Hmm, lots of questions... OK, I'll bite. Feel free to ignore anything you don't like :wink:

Hudzilla wrote:1) The LXF Interview. We've interviewed Damian Conway, Nat Friedman, Miguel De Icaza, Stephen Tweedie, Michael Robertson, Matthias Ettrich, and others - what do you think? Do you care what the community leaders think? Are we asking the right kinds of questions? Are there people you think we've missed?

The interviews are interesting. The questions seem about right - not too sycophantic, and sufficiently technical without making the article boring to those who are not deeply involved in the interviewee's specialisation. Suggestions for future interviews : Bruce Perens, Jon 'maddog' Hall, Linus himself, and maybe even RMS. And if you want some comic relief in there, how about Darl McBride (ask him specifically which bits of Linux are covered by the SCOsource license he wants us all to buy) :lol:

Hudzilla wrote:2) The Versus features. These are really just a bit of fun to get people thinking about why /they/ prefer KDE to Gnome (or vice versa), etc. Do you see them as fun, or just page filler you don't care about? Do you find yourself usually agreeing with one person in the argument, or is it a mix? Are there other topics you'd like to see covered?

It's fun to see people arguing polar opposites. I suspect that most people, like myself, are more pragmatic and will use whatever is best for the job in hand. But by having the extremes argued you often get an appreciation of why some tools are better than others for a particular job.

Hudzilla wrote:3) What on Earth. We try to keep the WoE articles covering new topics that we hope will inspire or otherwise interest you, backing the text up with off-the-wall illustration. What do you think of our previous topics? Are we going into enough depth? Should we go back over some of the older WoEs to cater for people who didn't buy the old issues?

I find these interesting when they cover things I haven't used before. Rather than going back over some of the old ones, why not turn them into a section on the web site (say a couple of months after they appear in the mag) ? Or maybe even produce a special publication - "Linux Format : What on Earth ?" - although you might want to wait until you get a few more to make it worth doing.

Hudzilla wrote:4) Cover features. It's always our goal to make a punchy cover feature that will grab you and make you want to read, varying between practical ("Network Everything"), hardware ("64-bit or Bust"), and theoretical ("Xen"). Are we hitting that goal? Are our cover features the right length/too long/too short? What kind of feature do you prefer? Are our choices of topics just plain dull?

I think that overall you're getting it about right. I would have liked more info in the Xen article, especially on which distros it will & won't play nicely with. But some of the others seem a little long. You can't please all of the people all of the time. It's very rare that I skim over any of this section when reading the mag.

Hudzilla wrote:5) Tutorials. These are one of the core parts of the magazine, and ultimately we feel that the tutorials are a primary purchase decision maker for readers. What do you think about our current crop of tutorials? Do you prefer long series, like PHP and Gimp, or shorter series, like Perl and Emacs? Should we expand the size of our coverage, or is it about right? Are there particular topics that we're missing?

Again, whatever you do you won't please everybody. I really enjoyed "Troutwars", and was a little disappointed when it fizzled out - you seemed to get bored with it in the last part. I thought it had about 2 more articles left in it. The ongoing GIMP series still produces some interesting (to me) stuff from time to time, even though this is not a particular area of interest to me. PHP is not of any great interest to me at the moment, but who knows what might come up next week to cause me to reach for my LXF archive...
Overall, I think you've got it about right.
It might be nice if you could get someone to do a series on C++, starting right from the beginning and explaining objects & classes along the way. As a long-time Fortran & C programmer I'm still a bit hazy on this object-orientated stuff :)

Hudzilla wrote:5) Art. It's the job of the LXF art team to produce high-impact designs that make the magazine pleasing to read, entertaining, and also more informative than it would have been with plain text. What do you think of the layout in LXF? Are our cover designs attractive and interesting? Do the stock photos annoy rather than help? How much do you love/hate the colour purple used in our tutorials?

Another Question 5 ???
My favourite LXF covers are still from the very early days - Tux surfing on a wave of ethernet cables (LXF05) and Tux as Che Guevara (LXF01).
The recent designs are OK... I don't hate them, and I'm sure I couldn't do any better, but I'm more interested in what's inside the mag than what's on the cover (I know, the covers are important for getting non-subscriber sales, but that doesn't apply to me).
As to the purple, it's OK. At least it's better than the dreadful orange of the old website ;)

Hudzilla wrote:6) Production. We have two full-time people working to correct errors in the magazine, both technical and grammatical. Would you agree that the number of mistakes in the magazine has declined drastically? Do you notice all the effort they put in to italicize program names, to bold commands, etc? Do you appreciate our attempts to add humour in places? (you're welcome to respond with "what humour?", but it'll make us cry)

I didn't notice that many mistakes in the mag to start with...
The level of humour is about right for a technical mag. A bit lame in places, definitely corny, but unobtrusive. Just enough to keep you interested in the boring but essential bits. After all, you're not trying to publish the Beano...

Hudzilla wrote:7) Cover discs. For us, the cover discs are the absolute core of the magazine - the embodiment of our push to promote free software. Do you use your discs, or put them away in a cupboard? Do you like getting a new distro each month to try, or would you prefer programs for your existing distro?

I have my cover disks on a shelf at work. Most of them have never been out of their cases.
But that doesn't mean I want you to stop producing them. I've tried several distros - it was SuSE 7.0 from the coverdisks that finally persuaded me to use Linux for more than just a cheap Solaris/AIX/HPUX substitute for testing our UNIX programs and writing shell scripts. Thanks to that, I've bought box sets of SuSE 7.2, 8.2 & 9.2. I'm intending to try Gentoo on my AMD64 box later this summer, so I really appreciate the latest coverdisk. I have a Win2k box that dual boots with Fedora Core 3 thanks to the LXF coverdisks. And I always burn myself a new Knoppix CD when you include it - that's saved my bacon more than once !
Like with the PHP tutorials, the coverdisks are a useful resource. You never know when they might be useful. Even the old distros, which will often install on machines that are too limited for the latest bloatware.
Again, I think you've got the balance between distros and apps about right.

Hudzilla wrote:8) Mag involvement. Recently we've been working hard to add ways for you to voice your opinions in the magazine - "Over to you" in the Roundup verdicts, email addresses at the bottom of each column, etc. Do you care about these opportunities, or would you rather we just stuck with what we were doing?

I think the traditional ways of voicing opinions (letters page, Magazine section of the forums) are fine. Just plug them at the end of each article.

Hudzilla wrote:9) Reviews. In the very latest issues we've been adding more elements to our reviews - walkthrough boxes, annotations, and in the very latest issue (LXF68) new "Graham says" and "Nick says" boxes. Do you feel these add extra value to the reviews? Should we run more reviews? Would you like to see more hardware reviews?

The reviews are usually pretty good. The second opinion (Graham/Nick says) could be valuable provided that they are relevant and succinct. More hardware reviews would always be welcome - why not take a different printer or scanner each month and review it in conjunction with whatever distro you have on the coverdisk, including a blow-by-blow account of how to get the two to work together.

Overall, I like the way the magazine is going. I renewed my subscription again earlier this year, and nothing I've seen recently will stop me doing the same next year (and that's what you really want to hear, isn't it :wink: )
Hope this helps,

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Postby optimaloptimussupreme » Sun Jun 05, 2005 5:46 pm

no it doesnt help nigel -you avoided some of my ? . Nick and you can do better I know.
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RE: nigel

Postby guy » Sun Jun 05, 2005 7:20 pm

The thing I wonder about most is how LXF should treat the Windows runaways who are frightened off by all that geeky stuff.

Where a Windows HowTo tends to be "click this wizard, drag that icon...", Linux HowTos tend to be "SU to root, in wibblecgf set the blarglinit to your oggbog value..."

While the existing Linux enthusiast must be the bread-and-butter of LXF, how can it also attract newcomers to the scene?

Too often in Linux magazines I have seen "Beginners start here" sections with articels like,
"Oggbog Made Easy.
Oggbog is one of the powerful things that all newbs need to know about." (implying that without a working knowledge of it you are stuffed).
"The great thing about oggbog is that all you need to do is set the blarglinit to your oggbog value (we'll be looking at wibblecfg and blargleinit in a future article)..."

What I'm saying is that newbs need a whole different mindest behind the author's fingers. I don't often see that mindest in LXF. Is that deliberate, to make more room for the enthusiast's toys, or is it something you could look at?

Would it be a good idea to have a Beginners Corner with topics like:
Firefox Extensions.
Finding your way on the desktop, Part 4 - Fedora (and next month, Part 5 will look at Ubuntu).
Getting the best from your printer.
Working with OpenOffice Part 2 - Fonts on Windows and Linux.

These are not the sort of things that one would need to keep for reference, but I think they would reassure people that even they could use Linux for familiar, everyday stuff.
It's not about dumbing down so much as respect for the other guy's ignorance and fear.

Oh, yeah, and those questions you asked...

To answer them all at once, IMHO the quality has shot up recently. Love the way it's gone. Just one minor quibble:
The Q-and-A style can get a bit heavy after a while. I'd like to see it kept for the interviews and just the occasional "different" article. Maybe the "vs." articles could vary the format - sometimes conversational, sometimes technical blow-by-blow, maybe a picture-mag style once in a blue moon - how long could you go without repeating a format?
Coverdiscs - please keep both aspects rolling. A new distro plus some generally nice stuff is a great formula. BTW, I notice that the CD and DVD editions are now the same price. Cool.
Reader involvement. Great. Just remember it won't tell you what the people who put it back on the shelf were looking for.

One final suggestion (think I've mentioned this before). Geeks buy gadgets. Some supplier tie-ins with review/HowTo, competition, advertisements, discounts if we mention LXF, etc. etc. on favourite toys would be great. Graphics cards, webcams, VoIP phones, whatever. More of that, "Hey, I've tinkered with this long enough, let's take it for a riiiiide!"
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Re: nigel

Postby Nigel » Sun Jun 05, 2005 11:45 pm

optimaloptimussupreme wrote:no it doesnt help nigel -you avoided some of my ? . Nick and you can do better I know.


OK, so maybe it's time to update/vary my sig :roll:

Actually, I was answering Hudzilla's questions rather than yours, and the only connection I have to LXF is as a subscriber, but as you insist...

I, too, remember Amiga Format. My wife was a subscriber for a few years - we still have the mags somewhere, probably in the loft with the A500+ which was her first serious computer. At the time I was heavily into VAX/VMS, with DOS/Win3.1 running at home because I had to - my company's software ran on DOS, VMS and SunOS at the time. The A500+ was used for games (of which there were plenty on the Amiga Format coverdisks), a bit of word processing (remember Scribble ?) and some computer art stuff. But mostly games.
We liked Amiga Format because of the games reviews, the hardware reviews and the Workbench tutorials. I don't recall a great deal of programming stuff - that would have put my better half off as she's very much a user (player) and not a programmer.
Actually, I think a lot of the spirit of Amiga Format has carried through to LXF. But to use Amiga Format as the basis for LXF is, IMHO, a mistake. Linux is not AmigaOS, and LXF is also trying to reach a more professional audience. You wouldn't want LXF to use MacFormat or PC Format as a template, would you ? But they are both very successful magazines in their own environment.

I DO think a few more programming tutorials would be nice. But until the Linux world expands sufficiently to enable LXF to fork into two magazines ("Linux Newbie Format" &" Linux Expert Format"), the magazine has to appeal to allcomers so there has to be a mix of stuff in there. Whilst I could probably find fault with the mix in any particular edition, overall I think they've got it about right.

Please explain how the Motorola 68000 series chips, on which the Amiga was based (IIRC), were multitasking in a way that x86 chips aren't ? Surely with a single processor machine, it's the operating system that determines whether you get multitasking or not ? I thought that Linux was conceived from the very beginning to be multitasking, like UNIX is. Hell, even Windoze claims to have (not very good) multitasking these days.

I'm sure Fedora Core 4 will turn up on the coverdisks soon - the other Fedora releases have. I don't understand what you are saying with regard to SuSE Pro 3 (do you mean SuSE 9.3 Pro ?) and royalties. Please explain...

---------------------------

If this doesn't help, I don't care :wink:

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RE: Re: nigel

Postby Nigel » Mon Jun 06, 2005 12:20 am

OK, optimaloptimussupreme, you got me curious, so I dug out an old Amiga Format... the first one to come to hand was issue 88, dated September 1996. Probably one of the last ones we bought, as I think my better half got a shiny new PC around that time.

The layout is actually very similar to LXF, with news at the front, coverdisk stuff at the back, and sections in between for reviews, articles and tutorials. One of the major differences is the number of advertisers - there were loads of companies advertising software & add-ons for the Amiga.
A total of 41 pages of ads, including those for AF subscriptions, in a 114 page mag (bet Nick would give his eye teeth for that volume of advertising now :) )

There's 4 tutorials in the "AF Creative" section - one on getting onto the Internet, one on OctaMed (music software), one on Real3D (3D modelling) and finally one on Blitz, covering writing an HTML display program (aka web browser). 2 pages of programming in total.

There is an interesting 3 page article on getting NetBSD running on an Amiga... and 12 pages of games reviews !

If I get time later in the week I'll pull out a few more at random and see if the programming content was any higher.
Hope this helps,

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RE: Re: nigel

Postby andychannelle » Mon Jun 06, 2005 8:21 am

Guy. As the writer of the Beginners/First Steps pages for the past couple of years, I should probably answer your question. I try to approach these tutorials from the perspective of a beginner who has maybe used Windows but is new to Linux, and this means avoiding the command line wherever possible. In terms of specifics, I covered Firefox extensions quite recently and have just completed a tutorial on using the RSS features in KDE 3.4 (as well as looking at some of the new features on that desktop). This will be in issue 69, and I'm doing a runthrough of GNOME 2.10 for issue 70.

Please let me know if there are any specific areas you think I should cover in the future. Fonts is a good idea that I've not done yet, so maybe I'll plan that in...

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Re: RE: Re: nigel

Postby evilnick » Mon Jun 06, 2005 9:36 am

Nigel wrote:OK, optimaloptimussupreme, you got me curious, so I dug out an old Amiga Format... the first one to come to hand was issue 88, dated September 1996.

The layout is actually very similar to LXF, with news at the front, coverdisk stuff at the back, and sections in between for reviews, articles and tutorials.


AAArgh! Don't do that! Everyone will find out I've only ever had one good idea for how a magazine should work...
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Re: RE: Re: nigel

Postby towy71 » Mon Jun 06, 2005 10:06 am

evilnick wrote:AAArgh! Don't do that! Everyone will find out I've only ever had one good idea for how a magazine should work...


and you're still milking it?? :roll: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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