Linux Format Newsletter -- #26, June 2007

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #26, June 2007

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Jul 06, 2007 4:19 pm





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 94 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!

Welcome to June, and welcome to the new LXF Newsletter. As I write
this, Fedora fans the world over are scrambling to get the new 7
release, keeping the mirrors at full load. All just to see the new
hot air balloon wallpaper! Only kidding - it looks like a good
release, and we'll have it on LXF 95's DVD if downloading it is
hasslesome for you.

Next week I'm going to undertake a little experiment: using a
computer with my left hand only. My poor old right hand (and right
arm (and right shoulder)) is starting to feel the pressure from
YouTube browsing and assembly coding, so I'm going to give it a
week's rest and hopefully prevent major RSI injuries until I'm 40.
What will it do to me? Will it enhance the left-hand side of my
brain, thereby making me good at algebra and the like?

Answers on an email please -- I'll post any funny or actually useful
responses in the next Newsletter. In the meantime, enjoy this
edition, with roundups of the latest news and forum posts, plus a
look at some teensy Linux devices.

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 94 on sale

If you're a subscriber you'll already have the new issue of LXF, but
if not, you'll want to head shopwards pronto in case it sells out!
You'll notice that LXF 94 is in a bag -- it was the only way we
could contain the sheer Linuxness of this month's DVD. It's 8GB,
double-sided and crammed with distros: Ubuntu 7.04 (a special
enhanced version with extra packages), Mandriva 2007 Spring Free,
Debian 4.0 (ISO image) and SimplyMepis 6.5. If you're in the mood to
try a new distro or just need to update your existing one, our disc
will keep you busy for aeons.

As will our cover feature -- a massive distro test fest, where we
look at eight of the most popular Linux flavours and rate them on
performance, hardware support, security, software selection and
community. With stats, charts and analysis galore, this hugely
thorough distro roundup will help you make the right decisions when
choosing a Linux variant. How does your favourite distro fare?
There's only one way to find out...

Also in LXF 94: features on running Windows apps on Linux, and open
source apps on Windows/Mac OS X, plus a look at Google's online
office tools and whether they'll usurp traditional desktop apps. In
our reviews section we look at Mandriva 2007 Spring Free, Dofus and
a HP laserjet printer, while over in the tutorials section we show
you how to share files, scan your network data, program with
JavaScript and Mono, and create macros.

Run to the newsagent right now and grab a copy! Unless you're reading
this at, like, 4am or something.

3. In the news...

Software patents rear their ugly heads again...

# The Microsoft patent story unfolds ... le&sid=541

Microsoft has revealed more information on the alleged patent
violations in open source software. The company claims that the
Linux kernel breaches 42 of its patents, with and
email tools stepping on 45 and 15 patents respectively. Linus
Torvalds has spoken out about the developments, explaining that if
Microsoft's source code was subjected to the same level of scrutiny
as Linux, patent violations may be found there. Another source
reports that Microsoft will not sue Linux developers or users, and
Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz has some words for Microsoft.

# Is Firefox becoming bloated? ... le&sid=544

Some Wired columnists think so, accusing Firefox's developers of
ditching the browser's original light-and-fast design philosophy.
The article discusses extensions and how new features are being
rolled into the core codebase, instead of being left as add-ons for
those who want them. Is Firefox really getting slower and heavier,
or are we just using more demanding (eg AJAX-laden) websites?

# Gnome roadmap unfurled ... le&sid=548

The Gnome team has pieced together a detailed roadmap of features
and changes for the next few releases. Highlights include: wider
lockdown support in Sabayon (, Evolution and Gaim);
clutter removal in the Control Center; and the removal of
Scrollkeeper to make way for a multi-desktop library.

4. This month on the forum

Ever since Dell announced its new line of Linux PCs in the USA,
there has been a great deal of discussion about prices. How much
'Microsoft tax' do Windows users pay? One article put it at $50,
which stirred up plenty of chat on the forum; 'coolclassic'
wondered if it was an acceptable price to pay to ensure that
everything works out of the box. Some regulars pointed out that
Windows has problems maintaining compatibility between releases,
and also noted the cost of maintaining a Windows box (eg firewall
and anti-spyware tools). [1]

Are beards cool? A great, big bushy beard has historically been
an essential accessory for old-school Unix hackers. 'Pootman'
asked if needs to grow one for a future maths-teaching job, and
forumers chipped in to describe their current facial hair
situations. Best line of the thread was from Nordle, who can't
grow a beard due to intense itching: "I'm starting to really
doubt my Slacker credentials, I'm going to have to go recompile
something with --without-arts just to feel better." [2]

[1] ... pic&t=6098

[2] ... pic&t=6045

5. Special newsletter feature


Back in Newsletter #12, over a year ago, we looked at some weird
and wacky uses of Linux, such as making ice cream and controlling
spacecraft components. This month we're checking out some
ultra-tiny Linux incarnations -- not in the distro sense, like
Damn Small Linux, but actual hardware doobries that run the OS.

1 - Nuvation camera -

First off is an impressively minuscule video camera that packs in a
300MHz CPU despite being only 3.25 x 1.7 x 1.8 inches. Designed for
surveillance work, the camera runs Linux so that it can compress the
video footage and perform tasks like motion detection on the fly (no
need for a separate box).

Even more impressively, the device doesn't need an external power
supply, instead drawing all its juice via an Ethernet cable. Even
with all the components and circuit boards crammed so closely
together, the unit needs no active cooling. Remember, The Man is
watching you - and he's running Linux!

2 - Gumstix -

A cheesy name, but a fascinating device. Yes, these computers are
just a tad larger than a pack of chewing gum, yet are decently
powerful Linux machines running at 200 or 400MHz. Some of the
devices are equipped with Ethernet ports and SD card slots for
expandability, along with standard serial ports for controlling
external devices. The machines include a basic Linux setup with
various command-line tools and the Boa web server if you want a
portable file serving unit.

Gumstix devices have found their way into various applications, the
most bizarre being miniature Linux-powered helicopters. The goal is
to build a cluster (or 'swarm') of Gumstix-powered choppers which
calculate data and send it out as web pages. Eventually, the team
behind the helicopters wants to make them autonomous, bringing us
ever closer to a Skynet-style machines taking over scenario.

3 - Space Cube - ... ce-cube-pc

Measuring 2 x 2 x 2.2 inches and coated in an industrial warning
shade of yellow, this femto PC crams in a 300MHz chip and 64MB RAM.
Astoundingly, given the tiny surface area of the device, it still
sports USB, Ethernet and serial ports.

Of course, the big question is: what can you actually do with these
things? They're naturally geared towards embedded applications, but
if you're looking for a hardware project, you could try building one
into a case with an LCD display and making some sort of portable
Linux console. Or perhaps attach it to a radio controlled car, hook
up a cheap webcam and record on-the-ground footage! The
possibilities are endless. Well, providing you're willing to stump
up the cash, that is.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 95, on sale Thursday 28 June

# Hardware mega test! Printers, scanners and dozens of USB
devices -- how well do they work in Linux?

# The GPL 3 dissenters -- Find out why some open source
projects aren't chuffed with the new license

# Enterprise support compared: Red Hat vs SUSE vs Ubuntu --
who takes care of you best?

# Interview: Jim McQuillan explains the Linux Terminal
Server Project

(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 even easier than
printing "Hello, world" in Python:

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 confused) you can opt-out by removing
yourself from the Newsletter group as above.

8. Contact details

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 subs page:

(C) 2007 Future Publishing Limited
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