...making Linux just a little more fun!

January 2007 (#134):


This month's answers created by:

[ Amit Saha, Ben Okopnik, Brian Bilbrey, Faber Fedor, Kapil Hari Paranjape, Karl-Heinz Herrmann, Neil Youngman, Raj Shekhar, Ramon van Alteren, Rick Moen, Suramya Tomar, Mike Orr (Sluggo), Steve Brown, Thomas Adam, Vignesh M ]
...and you, our readers!

Gazette Matters

Still no Woomert Foonly?

Benjamin A. Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]
Thu, 21 Dec 2006 18:55:17 -0600

On Wed, Nov 22, 2006 at 08:17:28PM +0000, Bradley Chapman wrote:

> I just went back and reread all of the adventures of Woomert Foonly
> again, and found myself still lamenting the lack of new stories about
> this Hard-Nosed Detective and his sidekick Frank Ooblick.
> Are there really no more fantastically mundane Linux problems that can
> be solved with a bit of obfuscated Perl?

Well, OK then. Since you guys aren't going to stop bugging me, fine - I'll write it already!

[grin] Bradley, thanks to your prodding, as well as reminders from other folks, I've just written a Woomert&Frink story - all but the ending, which is coming apace (I just sorta ran down, after typing 400+ lines all in one go.) Might even go out this month; handy, that, since we're a bit short on content.

And so it did... http://linuxgazette.net/134/okopnik.html - Kat

* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *

Still Searching

opening VA FullON 2230

Tyler Spivey [tspivey at pcdesk.net]
Fri, 15 Dec 2006 02:31:25 -0800

Hi. I'm looking for a quick solution to getting at the hds of this beast, and am asking wherever I can. Being blind, this precludes looking at photos, or I probably would have had it. I succeeded in removing the large back panel with the thumbscrews, but according to an article I read somewhere, I have to remove the cd-rom/floppy and the front grill. Any tips for doing that? I can't figure out how it goes in, let alone how to get it out.



reverse SQUID inquiry

Genner R. Cerna [genner at adzu.edu.ph]
Wed, 13 Dec 2006 14:49:07 +0800

can you help me? this my reverse squid configuration, can you help me tweak my squid.conf to optimal performance...

squid.conf below:

# ========== Logs ==========
cache_access_log /var/log/squid/access.log
cache_log /var/log/squid/cache.log
log_icp_queries off
cache_store_log none
cache_effective_user squid
cache_effective_group squid
client_db off
# ========== Accelerated Virtual Host and Port ==========
http_port localhost:80 vhost vport
icp_port 0
# ========== Cache Peer IP ==========
cache_peer localhost parent 81 0 no-digest originserver default
# ========== Caching ==========
cache_mem 128 MB
cache_replacement_policy heap GDSF
memory_replacement_policy heap GDSF
#========Cache object size======
maximum_object_size 1 MB
minimum_object_size 0 KB
maximum_object_size_in_memory 512 KB
#=======Cache directory size=======
cache_dir ufs /var/spool/squid 20480 256 256
#=======Other settings==========
pipeline_prefetch on
vary_ignore_expire on
# ========== ACL ==========
acl all src
acl manager proto cache_object
acl localhost src
acl accel_hosts dst localhost
http_access allow accel_hosts
http_access allow manager localhost
http_access deny manager
http_access deny all
#=========Refresh Pattern ==========
refresh_pattern ^http://.*\.gif$ 1440 50% 20160 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern ^http://.*\.asis$ 1440 50% 20160
refresh_pattern -i \.html$ 10080 60% 40320
refresh_pattern -i \.png$ 10080 100% 40320 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.jpg$ 10080 100% 40320 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.jpeg$ 10080 100% 43200 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.bmp$ 10080 100% 40320 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.gif$ 10080 100% 40320 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.ico$ 10080 100% 40320 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.swf$ 10080 100% 40320 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.flv$ 10080 100% 40320 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern -i \.txt$ 1440 100% 20160 reload-into-ims
refresh_pattern ^http:// 1 100% 20160 reload-into-ims ignore-reload
refresh_pattern -i \.css$ 1440 60% 20160
refresh_pattern ^ftp:// 240 50% 20160
refresh_pattern ^gopher:// 240 40% 20160
refresh_pattern . 0 100% 20160 reload-into-ims
This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

egroupware address-book with ldap ?

J.Bakshi [j.bakshi at icmail.net]
Wed, 29 Nov 2006 20:27:18 +0530

Could any one suggest how to run egroupware address-book with ldap ? thanks

Issue with NFS mount

Britto I [brittocan at gmail.com]
Wed, 6 Dec 2006 12:03:42 +0530

Hi Folks:

In machine A

  /dev/sda6           /workarea
  /dev/sdb5          /workarea/module1/mydata/projectdata
ls /workarea
 module1 module2 module3
ls /workarea/module1/mydata
  mails  reports  projectdata
So other than projectdata everything is on /dev/sda6

Now in machine B

I want the same directory stucture ,entire /workarea to be seen including "projectdata"

Since "/workarea/module1/mydata/projectdata" is a separate hardisk I need to export it separately.

I couldnt mount it on the same place as A in B

Thanks & regards, Britto

Linux on AMD sempron

Amit Saha [amitsaha.in at gmail.com]
Sun, 17 Dec 2006 11:29:38 +0530

Hi all!

I recently installed FC5 and FC6 on a newly acquired AMD 2800+ Sempron processor(64-bit). There are a few things i would like to get cleared

1. While the packages were being copied, I noticed the i386 extension packages being copied. Isnt i386 supposed to mean intel 80386?

2. The FC5 and FC6 that i installed on my 64-bit AMD was also installed on my 32-bit celeron. That means i am using 32bit OS on my 64-bit machine right? Will i gain performance by using FC5 for 64-bit?

Which is the best distro to use on AMD sempron 2800+ ?

Amit Kumar Saha
GSM :+91 9903140286
**Linux is user-friendly. It's just very selective about who its friends

Our Mailbag

Samba Question

Martin Hooper [martinjh at blueyonder.co.uk]
Thu, 30 Nov 2006 07:37:09 +0000

Is it possible to connect from Windows to a Samba share without requiring a password and user?

It's getting on my nerves having to input a password all the time!

Configuration file at http://martinjh.myby.co.uk/smb.conf

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/1.48kB) ]

sudo in nis

baskar baskar [baskarkpm at yahoo.co.in]
Tue, 28 Nov 2006 16:22:25 +0000 (GMT)

i have configured nis with solaris and linux boxes

i have done automount with sudo

it works in all solaris boxes in linux boxes it displays cannot execute binary file

is there any other way to do sudo in nis

send any documents with sudo in nis.

thanks in advance



[ Thread continues here (5 messages/4.60kB) ]

Is "PING" the right tool to measure packet losses in WAN interface ?

Ramanathan Muthaiah [rus.cahimb at gmail.com]
Fri, 22 Dec 2006 06:09:23 +0530


Recently, there were some discussions at my workplace regd packet losses in WAN interface. And then, one folk in IT dept came up with output of "ping" command to highlight that there are no packet losses.

Am sure, this is not the correct way to measure packet losses.

I feel, they should be monitored over a period of time at the gateway router and the traffic in this router should be analysed for dropped packets / timeouts.

Is this true ?

NOTE: Am not working in the IT dept but one of the affected parties.


[ Thread continues here (8 messages/23.04kB) ]


Neil Youngman [ny at youngman.org.uk]
Sun, 26 Nov 2006 20:55:39 +0000

I've got some video recorded on DVD-RAM and I've spent much of today trying to figure out how to get from DVD-RAM to a regular DVD, playable in a DVD player. I started out thinking this was going to be simple. Just a case of copying from one DVD to another.

It's become clear that it's far from simple. The format used for recording to DVD-RAM is not the same as the format used for regular DVDs. I could shell out $100+ for Windows software that might (or might not) do what I need, but I'm not happy with that concept.

I have spent a lot of the afternoon on Google and come up with next to nothing of use. Do the gang have any pointers to information, software (preferably Linux software) and other resources that will help me get video from DVD -RAM to DVD.

Neil Youngman

[ Thread continues here (6 messages/7.30kB) ]


Suzanne Pilon [suzanne_pilon2002 at yahoo.com]
Tue, 12 Dec 2006 10:35:46 -0800 (PST)

I've taken the liberty of giving this thread a proper subject, rather than "(no subject)". Anyone reading this who doesn't know already, it really is better to have an informative subject line! - Kat

I'm doing an article on 'Hubs vs repeaters' and 'Hubs vs Routers'. Could you send me some articles or where I can get this information? I will greatly appreciate it.

Suzanne Pilon


[ Thread continues here (5 messages/5.30kB) ]

recursively touching files...

Amos Elberg [amos.elberg at gmail.com]
Wed, 29 Nov 2006 21:39:02 -0500

Hi. I attempted to run your script at http://linuxgazette.net/issue66/tag/2.html on a directory on a USB drive, ext3 partition, on a gentoo box with a 2.4 kernel. The result (it seems to be from your script, but maybe I'm wrong) is that many of the subdirectories linux now thinks are not, in fact, directories, and for many others, it gives an "Input/Output Error" on ls. Any suggestions?

[ Thread continues here (3 messages/2.93kB) ]

can connect to ssh from with in intranet, but not via internet

raj [raj at technofina.com]
Wed, 29 Nov 2006 15:20:39 -0500


My Name is Raj and i work as a technical recruiter in a software consulting firm.

At our office we have a Red hat Linux based system at our office which we use to train students on java/j2ee, the problem is that students are able to access the linux server(using ssh) from within the office intranet, but not via internet from their homes. They get a pop up from the ssh client saying that "the host x.x.x.x is unreachable. the host may be down, or there may be a problem with the network connection. some times the problem is caused by a misconfigured firewall"

The students are able to ping the server(we have a static IP assigned to us by the ISP) from their homes. I need your help in resolving the above problem.BTW the server is behind two switches, the first witch is connected to the DSL modem provided by the ISP ,and i have set the required port forwarding settings

Thanks in advance



Technical Recruiter

[ Thread continues here (7 messages/8.64kB) ]

[elinks-users] elinks friendly wiki

Thomas Adam [thomas.adam22 at gmail.com]
Tue, 5 Dec 2006 23:30:09 +0000

[Bcc'ed tag@lists.linuxgazette.net for inclusion into LG at some point.]

On Tue, Dec 05, 2006 at 11:21:52PM +0100, Jonas Fonseca wrote:

> On 12/4/06, Michael Thompson <miket@ilm.com> wrote:
> >does such a thing exist?
> I've never personally used ELinks to edit a wiki, however
> I have heard about various problems related to the poor
> caching and encoding support of ELinks. Maybe you can
> share a bit more about any problems you have encountered?

I am assuming more that Michael meant one that displays properly in ELinks. Of course, this is related to the limited CSS capabilities that ELinks currently has, but it's not all doom and gloom depending on the wiki engine ELinks is looking at.

In my experience, Wikipedia, and other sites which use Wikimedia are the worst if only because they're very CSS-intensive -- and don't really give much, if any, consideration for people who use text-based browers or even screen-readers. If you look at the preferences page for, say, wikipedia, the best skin to choose I have found is "Classic". This reduces the rather long list of options at the end of the document (the "sidebar that wikipedia has which displays to the left-hand side in Firefox). Of course, the default theme wikipedia has displays fine -- it's just that ELinks renders the CSS part without positioning at the end of the document.

Moinmoin, OTOH, is perhaps the better wiki engine that's ELinks friendly. If you look here:


You'll note that the main options are at the top of the page instead (because ordinarily they'd appear horizontally across the page in some other browser). Since MoinMoin hides any user preferences in a separate page, and doesn't list all sorts of weirder options for you to choose from in some sort of sidebar like wikimedia does, visually, it's much nicer, IMO.

Again, along similar lines is the all-perl wiki engine "UseMod" which is very Elinks friendly, since it's a very simple wiki engine:


... is such an example.

Now, you're probably going to ask what you can do in order to try and improve the look of wikipedia, aren't you? ;) The truth is there isn't a lot you can do unless you decide to script replacement operations via either Lua, Guile, Perl or Ruby. Since I've done a tiny bit of work in ELinks with Ruby that'd be my first choice. Not that it matters, of course.

Perhaps the biggest thing which annoys me about wikimedia with ELinks is how wikimedia decides to link images. If you look at this, for instance:


[ ... ]

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/4.59kB) ]

Headless redirect?

Cheri Roberdes [reneesummers2004 at yahoo.com]
Thu, 30 Nov 2006 19:07:49 -0800 (PST)

I've taken the liberty of renaming this thread to something informative. (The original was entitled, "Hi!".) -- Kat

I'd like to find out if someone used a headless redirect during the installation of the operating software...how would I go about finding that out?

Thank you for any and all help! take care!


Thank You, and Have A Great Day!!



[ Thread continues here (2 messages/1.83kB) ]

get HW and SW inventary

Ramon van Alteren [ramon at vanalteren.nl]
Wed, 29 Nov 2006 10:06:21 +0100

This message is a followup to http://linuxgazette.net/133/misc/lg/Get_HW_and_SW_inventary.html - Kat

ada * wrote:

> thank you all for your answers, everyone of them have been pretty useful.
You're welcome.

> I feel there's one item i did not ask properly. It's the following:
> "Another question I'd like to ask is the best linux distribution to
> work with. I´ll work with virtual machines so high requiriments do not
> represent huge problems."
> what I meant was that which distribution has the easiest way to access
> packages,  or which has packages?
I don't think the question wasn't asked properly. It's a question that none of us can answer. What is easy for you ???

I personally use gentoo. It has several tools to query installed software. Others will use redhat or redhat derivates, they have several tools to query installed packages as well. Again others will use $Distro which has several tools to query installed packages. And then there are a lot of people who use Debian which....... you get my drift.

Important to note is that both redhat and debian have a large group of so-called derivate distributions:

Redhat -> Fedora, Mandrake, Suse, Centos, and more are all based on the
RPM-package system
Debian -> Ubuntu, Knoppix, Freespire/Linspire (or whatever their latest
marketing name is) and more are all based on the apt-package system
You need to think about criteria which make it easy or not easy for you. Other criteria may also be of interest f.e. the amount of people using a given distro and/or it's derivates. Maybe you could design that part of the software to be easily plugable so new package-database query engines could be written fast and easy ?

I believe distro-watch keeps a list of the top-10 most-used distributions. You may want to take a look at those ten and decide based on that.

Depending on your decisions on the above matter you may choose one over the other, from a technical/functional perspective I cannot think of a single distribution that would make sense to recommend you.

Best Regards,

Ramon van Alteren

From Linux to Mac, and back

Mike Orr [sluggoster at gmail.com]
Sat, 2 Dec 2006 23:17:57 -0800

[Please cc me on replies coz I'm not subscribed to TAG.]

In November I said I'd gotten a Mac laptop and switched from Linux. http://linuxgazette.net/132/misc/lg/Nokia_tablet_article.html Well, a funny thing happened on the way to MacWorld. After being pleased as punch that I had a working webcam and could see my buddies in Europe on yahoo messenger, and could plug in multimedia devices and CDs and printers and have them just work immediately, and not have all these "plugin not available" messages in my web browser, other things started getting to me. My non-programmer friend who went from Windows to Mac and just raves about it does not understand any of this, but I miss being able to ...

- right-click windows and make them go to the back - hide the maximize button or make it maximize only vertically - change the window decorations or have the entire window border be a resize control - cut & paste by drag-move-click instead of drag, cmd-X, move, click, cmd-V - install the Gimp by just clicking an entry in the system package manager - find cool free software, which used to exist by the ton for the Mac but now all the worthwhile programs seem to be written for Unix, and you have to use third-party package managers (Fink or DarwinPorts) to install them -- which may or may not work. - compile a program that depends on Tk, even though I have Tk installed. (./configure doesn't recognize it even though it's in the default Mac location) - switch to a second desktop. (Multiple desktops are coming to the next version of Mac OS X, with much fanfare.) - have X apps that are first-class citizens. (Mac X11 is an application, and X apps are subapplications. Focus-follows-mouse works between X applications, but you have to click on an X window to raise it before using it if you're coming from a Mac application.)

Finally I thought, why am I knocking myself out trying to accommodate myself to the Mac when it's so easy on Linux. So I switched to my desktop computer again and installed Kubuntu (from Gentoo). Ahh, nice look-and-feel comes back! Configurability again! Thousands of software titles can be downloaded and installed and removed in a few easy steps!

As I've explored more of KDE as it's preconfigured on Kubuntu, I found that this version it does automatically start a player when you put a CD on, and opens a image directory when you plug a camera in. (Actually, you get a choice of several programs to open these in.) The new Yahoo Messenger for Linux has webcam options, so maybe if I get a USB webcam it will actually work on Linux now (I have a bunch of friends in Europe that I see only every 2-3 years. Hi bro's!) You can even drag n drop from one application (GQview image browser) to another (Firefox upload file dialog) and it pastes the absolute path of the file. That pretty much covers everything I wanted from the Mac.

[ ... ]

[ Thread continues here (10 messages/18.78kB) ]

Grub Disk Error

clarjon1 [clarjon1 at gmail.com]
Mon, 27 Nov 2006 08:43:45 -0500

This is a continuation of a discussion begun last month http://linuxgazette.net/133/misc/lg/Grub_Disk_Error.html - Kat

On 11/24/06, Benjamin A. Okopnik <ben@linuxgazette.net> wrote:

> Yep. The first thing to look at - and, of course, the first thing that
> Jonathan should have sent in - is the content of his GRUB configuration
> and the output of 'displaymem' and 'geometry' GRUB commands. However, at
> this point, the advice that he got from Neil should be sufficient to fix
> the problem. If it's not, then it'll be time to come back here, to
> checkpoint #1, and try again.

Thanks guys. Neil's suggestion worked (with a little tweaking). Here's what I did to fix it:

grub> root (hd0,0)
grub> find /boot/grub/stage1
grub> setup (hd0)
Now it works.

Ben, you are right, I should have brought in the config files, I'll remember that for next time. Thanks for your help! And to clarify, the error from grub, upon boot, was: Grub Hard Disk Error Not much help. I was able to boot because the LiveCD, which I installed from, has an option to boot hda1. Very useful. Once again, thanks for the help.

[ Thread continues here (15 messages/26.60kB) ]

ip forwarding/ ip masquerading???

CDT IS Administrator Cpl Room [jroom.hq at defenceacademy.mod.uk]
Wed, 13 Dec 2006 13:28:11 -0000


I'm totally new to Linux and IT fullstop, so please teach me to suck eggs!! I have been asked to build a Linux (server) firewall it is to sit between a small part of our LAN and the rest of the LAN. The small part of the network is called GB and is on192.*.*.2, it goes straight into the firewall eth0 192.*.*2. Eth1 is 10.*.*.1, now whatever I do I cannot get the GB to see the rest of the network, I have enabled ip forwarding. I've tried a couple of things, 'iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -i eth1 -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE' this came back saying POSTROUTING and -i couldn't be used togeather! When i took -i out I got an error saying 'invalid argument'.



Email: jroom.hq@da.mod.uk

[ Thread continues here (4 messages/6.96kB) ]


Peter Knaggs [peter.knaggs at gmail.com]
Wed, 6 Dec 2006 01:30:25 -0800


I guess Emacs users (and all non-vim users) can cheerfully skip this question.

Have you ever noticed when you're typing quickly in "vim" that things sometimes go haywire? I only recently got around to figuring out how to reproduce this "vim" glitch, I guess because I was so used to "vi" that I didn't consciously remember the names of the keys I was pressing.

So anyways, if you open a file with some text in it, then pick a line of reasonable length, and use shift A to append, then press the Esc key to leave append mode, then immediately press shift O to insert a new line above and start typing immediately, bad things happen. It seems that occasionally after pressing shift O that it takes vim almost half a second to catch up, during which I guess it's not yet in insert mode.

Does the same thing happen for you?

And why only for shift O, not for any of the other ways of getting into insert mode?

I didn't find the answer in the vim FAQ. I guess I might have to go to the source code, any hints on where to start looking?

Cheers, Peter.

[ Thread continues here (19 messages/56.73kB) ]

"Best" Linux for AMD 2800++ ( Semptron) and ASUS Motherboard (VIA chipset)

Amit Saha [amitsaha.in at gmail.com]
Tue, 19 Dec 2006 11:26:58 +0530

Hi list! Which distro has best performance on an AMD 2800++ ?I would like to have the sound system working. Currently i have got FC5 and the sound system doesnt seem to work though the card is detected!

Thoughts/ suggestions are required!

Amit Kumar Saha
GSM :+91 9903140286
**Linux is user-friendly. It's just very selective about who its friends are.**

[ Thread continues here (9 messages/9.81kB) ]

Introducing Belltown Media

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Sun, 17 Dec 2006 13:34:17 -0800

[Microsoft-specific character-encoding has been corrected, throughout.]


About to Belltown Media

A privately held company, Belltown Media is the leading Linux authority, publishing the original magazine of the international Linux community: Linux Journal.


Belltown Media Acquires Linux Journal

Houston, TX -- Dec. 4, 2006 -- Belltown Media, Inc., a privately held Houston, TX-based media corporation today announced the acquisition of the premier Linux publication, Linux Journal. Since its first issue was published in April of 1994 Linux Journal has established a strong position in the industry by catering to the loyal base of the Linux audience.

Well-known as the original magazine of the Linux community, Linux Journal has grown significantly in readership and editorial reputation since its first issue and has come to be recognized worldwide as the premier source for information, news and opinion on issues affecting the Linux community. The 153rd issue of Linux Journal goes on sale December 5, 2006.

Belltown Media was founded by Carlie Fairchild who has worked closely with Linux Journal founder and Linux luminary Phil Hughes for more than ten years. "As Linux Journal grew over the years," said Hughes, "Carlie took on many publisher-related tasks and became increasingly active in the Linux community. I promoted her to associate publisher a few years back where she naturally excelled. That pretty much only left one more possibility for her and that was to run the place. So, she has been. And, well, now it is official." In addition to Fairchild, the majority of the Linux Journal team will continue in their current roles for Linux Journal under Belltown Media.

"This is a great opportunity for Linux Journal and for the industry as a whole," said Fairchild. "We intend to take a hands-on approach, working very closely with community leaders and our base of loyal constituents to ensure that the magazine's content will be relevant and useful, and that Linux Journal will be an enduring resource. We're looking forward to taking LJ to the next level by focusing on this core capability - delivering a highly specialized source of information for Linux enthusiasts."

About Linux Journal

Linux Journal is the premier Linux magazine, dedicated to serving the Linux community and promoting the use of Linux worldwide. A monthly periodical, Linux Journal is entering its thirteenth year of publication. Linux Journal may be purchased at all major bookstores and newsstands and may also be ordered by calling 1-888-66-LINUX or visiting www.LinuxJournal.com.

About Belltown Media

Belltown Media, Inc. is the leading provider of integrated information and media in the open source marketplace. Media offerings span print and online, custom publishing, e-newsletters, and other web-based services. Belltown Media is based in Houston, TX, with offices throughout the United States.

staff - December 4, 2006 - 12:00pm.

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/3.92kB) ]

please recommend books about Linux

JOHN INGRESS [ingress at sbcglobal.net]
Thu, 14 Dec 2006 22:54:53 -0800 (PST)

I'd be interested in reading the best, most BASIC book about Linux and the joys of migrating from Windows XP. Mine is a stand-alone eMachines T1120, about 5 years old, used just for personal idiotics, not for business. XP crashes regularly and often, usually when I click on Minimize, maximize or close. I'll need a stable system if I'm goin' to whup the IRS's butt, which I know can be done. I'll need a quick, easy, and reliable installation. Is that too much to tax...I mean ask?

[ Thread continues here (5 messages/6.46kB) ]

Accessing the Linux Server from Home

raj [raj at technofina.com]
Wed, 29 Nov 2006 14:53:27 -0500

Hi James, My Name is raj and i work as a technical recruiter at technofina Inc, we are a NewYork based Software consulting firm. I work as a unix admin too some times(i suck at it tough). Well comming to the problem, i have a Red hat Linux based system at our office which we use to train students on java/j2ee, the problem is that students are able to access the linux server(using ssh) from the office intranet, but not via internet from their homes. The students are able to ping the server(we have a static IP assigned to us by the ISP). I need your help in resolving the above problem.

Thanks in advance


Technical Recruiter
Technofina Inc.
45 West, 34 street.
New York 10001, NY.
E-Mail: raj@technofina.com
Phone : 212-629-7483.
Fax : 646-219-2466

[ Thread continues here (7 messages/13.70kB) ]

USB Drive Bad Sectors

Thomas Adam [thomas.adam22 at gmail.com]
Sun, 26 Nov 2006 09:56:40 +0000

This is a continuation of a discussion from last month: http://linuxgazette.net/133/misc/lg/USB_Drive_Bad_Sectors.html - Kat

On Fri, Oct 27, 2006 at 05:04:01PM -0400, Brandon M. Reynolds wrote:

> My problem is that I get file system corruption and "bad sectors" some
> times, presumably due to an unclean shut down.  I am using an ext2

That depends, based on the error you're getting. If they're actually bad sectors that's typically indicative of a much more serious hardware issue. If, however, running fsck on it repeatedly doesn't help, then it really is screwed.

> filesystem with the thinking that a journal would just wear out the
> drive in a certain spot.  Maybe that's not correct -- I am not sure if
> the drive has a wear-leveling algorithm implemented or not.

Of course not -- software cannot determine that. Every piece of hardware has a finite life-span.

> Questions:
> 1. Is ext2 the right choice?  Or would reiserfs be better? Vfat??

How long's a piece of string, and by-the-by what type of fish is that? VFAT would be good for cross-platform. Ext2 is good for read-only mount points. Ext3 is somewhat better thanks to the fact that it's ext2 with a journal bolted on to it. Reiserfs' killer feature is its developer (:P) and works well with lots of smaller, sporadic files.

> 2. Is their a quick way to detect bad sectors?  I tried running e2fsck
> -c but it has been 45 minutes so far!

man badblocks

> sd 5:0:0:0: SCSI error: return code = 0x08000002
> sdb: Current: sense key=0x3
>     ASC=0x11 ASCQ=0x0
> end_request: I/O error, dev sdb, sector 598730

It's screwed, Backup whatever you can from it, and bin it. -- Thomas Adam

"Wanting to feel; to know what is real.  Living is a lie." -- Purpoise
Song, by The Monkees.

[ Thread continues here (4 messages/4.99kB) ]

Monitoring IP usage

Bob van der Poel [bob at mellowood.ca]
Sat, 16 Dec 2006 09:48:41 -0700

A fellow asked me the other day "what is your total IP (up and down) per month)?" I figured that since I was using Linux it'd be an easy answer ... well, really I have no idea :)

I do have a little "net-applet" on my desktop which shows the total since the last login (to the desktop, not the computer). Is there a log file tracking this or a daemon I can install?

If it makes a difference I'm running Mandriva 2007.


Bob van der Poel ** Wynndel, British Columbia, CANADA **
EMAIL: bob@mellowood.ca
WWW:   http://www.mellowood.ca

[ Thread continues here (8 messages/8.58kB) ]

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

Mailbag, Part II

Rick Moen has been forwarding messages from various other Linux venues ([ILUG], the [conspire] list, the comp.os.linux.setup newsgroup, etc.) for quite some time. These discussions have been sitting patiently waiting for me; the end of the year roundup seemed like the right time to dust them off with care and send them out to the world. Enjoy! - Kat

Linux malware, yet again

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Mon, 14 Aug 2006 12:03:41 -0700

From: Michael Soibelman <not-here@there.net>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
Subject: How do we know when we're there yet ?
Newsgroups: alt.os.linux.suse
User-Agent: KNode/0.10.4
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2006 03:08:51 GMT
This is not flame bait. Just an observation. As many of you know, I am a regular here. I try to help as many posters as I can. Though I am not a guru, I do have some knowledge and often get a "Thanks very much" from OPs. I've been using Linux since 1999 for 99.5% of my computer needs, and have finally made the transition to 100% after I got my scanner working. Though it did work for a while, the change to the 2.6.x kernel broke something needed for my scanner to work. So I kept a copy of W2K around just for the occasional image scan.

One of the programs I found while still a Windows user was a virus scanner from Trend Micro called PCcillin. Probably the best virus scanner for Windows users available. I say that because I had tried a few others and then, when I tried PCcillin it found several viruses the others had missed. Take it from someone who had actually had a hacker break into my box and physically fry my hard drive...this was a lesson well learned. Since the time I switched to Linux, I still have friends who use Windows. And I always recommend that if they are going to continue using Windows that they should buy PCcillin... I don't recommend using Windows, but if they must, at least they should get the best protection possible. I've convinced several people of the wisdom of using this anti-virus software and all have thanked me several times over. All have been saved by this program...

So, going back to my original question in the title of this article, how do we know when we're there? I have several anti-virus and anti-spam applications that are all free as in cost and free as in freedom installed. Also, a couple of rootkit detectors as well as port scan detectors, etc... So I think I'm pretty safe. Never have had any problems since I switched OS. But I'm sure the day will come when some clever hacker will (finally) produce a Linux virus... Mark my word, the day will come! But, as I said, I'm ready, as I'm sure most Linux users are. I just wanted to point out the fact that my favorite Windows anti-virus company has realized that the Linux users are a substantial market force. And, after all the wait, there free as in cost, online virus detection service is available for Linux! It's called 'House Call' and it works.... Free... Just like in Windows... You'll need to use Firefox or, well I forget the other Linux browser that works, but it does work.

I'm NOT saying anyone should spend there money on this product.. Just pointing out that there is one more commercial company to recognize the Linux community and offer their services/products. In the meantime, I'll just keep using the other free products available to Linux users. F-Prot is free for personal use. Of course ClamAV (with KlamAV front end) is a must. Spam Assasin, Bogofilter, etc... are all great programs that I highly recommend.

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Making your own distribution

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Tue, 18 Jul 2006 13:53:02 -0700

-- forwarded message --

From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
Subject: Re: Making your own distribution
Newsgroups: alt.os.linux.suse
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2006 16:17:58 -0400
bowman <bowman at montana.com> wrote:

> houghi wrote:
>> Don't like ?the distribution you are working with? Make your own. Not
>> that hard with some dedication to base it on SUSE.
> http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1982942,00.asp?kc=ewnws062806dtx1k0000599
> The gist of the article is providing the source can be a hassle.

But it really isn't. E.g., you can cut source CDs for the few people who receive copies of your GPLed binaries and request source within three years, charging them in advance for the cost of producing and mailing them. If that's a "hassle", outsource it to one of the cut-rate CD-burning houses such as Cheapbytes; I'm sure they'd appreciate the business, and you'd bear neither expense nor hassle yourself.

> We got into this with Cygwin. We install Cygwin on some customer sites
> solely for some of the popular Unix CLI utilities our support people
> prefer. Other than that, we do not modify, compile with, or otherwise
> touch a thing.  Referencing the current Cygwin source is not
> sufficient; the reasoning is the source may change and no longer match
> the packages we distributed. 

Cygwin is a mixture of GNU GPL and MIT X11 licensing. For the GPLed packages, if your distribution of it was non-commercial, you can meet your source-access obligation by referring people to where you got the software from. Otherwise, you have the above-referenced three-year obligation, for which you may pass along all costs to those requesting source.

Going by experience, the number of people actually willing to order a source CD once you've clarifed that it's not on your dime is almost nil. (I used to take care of this issue at a large Linux hardware firm that maintained and distributed its own full version of Red Hat Linux. Care to guess how many people requested source CD sets? One, over three years. We sent them free, with our compliments.)

The eWeek article? Oh, right. It's mostly notorious whiner Warren Woodford of MEPIS Linux complaining because he didn't bother to read the GNU GPL, massively violated the copyrights of programmers whose terms he failed to obey, and got his hand slapped.

Reporter Steven Vaughan-Nichols, who's usually really good, said:

Woodford recently ran afoul of the GNU GPL (General Public License) requirement that downstream distributors of GPL code are obligated to provide source code to users in an easily accessible format.

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[ILUG] Porting drivers from Windows (rant)

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Wed, 6 Sep 2006 11:20:17 -0700

[ boggle ]

----- Forwarded message from ronan at iaa.es -----

Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2006 19:07:10 +0200
To: ilug at linux.ie
From: ronan@iaa.es
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
Subject: [ILUG] Porting drivers from Windows (rant)

Hi all, I'm currently writing Linux support for a piece of custom hardware - I have Windows source code for hardware drivers and data conversion algorithms, and I'm porting/re-writing that to Linux and I am beyond unhappy at some of the intrinsically stupid things I am seeing.

Today's little bundle of joy regards writing to device registers. It's not actually so complicated - the I/O regions are set up automagically during boot, your driver basically just has to tell the kernel (a) that it now owns the appropriate region, and (b) how it wants the region to be made visible to it. Then you go and poke the registers that live there, and the hardware goes and does what you said to. Drive carefully.

Now, in the Windows driver, there is a little snippet of code like the following. It's part of the wake-up sequence for the hardware:

    #define CTR_REG 0x4000
How obvious - it writes the value 0 to a 32-bit register located at 0x4000. This is kindergarten stuff. If you don't believe me, read this page: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/Kernel_r/hh/Kernel_r/k103_af58a3ec-4102-4a89-9c58-e56f99d793d0.xml.asp

which says (the very first line): The WRITE_REGISTER_ULONG macro writes a ULONG value to the specified address.

So, yea, we nod wisely, and write the equivalent under Linux, which happens to be

And yea, we would make many attempts to get a response. We would poke and prod. We would reboot into Windows and check that the hardware still worked. Was the hardware sulking because we missed some vanishingly obscure initialisation step? We would examine our documentation again and again - was it possible? We would try and trick the damn thing. We would sacrifice goats. Nada. Not a whisper of response.

Because, of course, the register isn't at 0x4000 at all.

It is (where else?) at 0x10000 (i.e. 0x4000 * 4).

Think about it...... and let the nausea sink in.

For those it hasn't hit yet, some genius in Redmond decided that, when talking about 32-bit quantities, they were going to count 32-bits at a time, like C array notation. ("Hey Bill! I know this really cool way of implementing WRITE_REGISTER_ULONG!"). Of course, they're still going to call them "addresses".

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[conspire] Compromise of a Debian Project host

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Mon, 17 Jul 2006 08:28:39 -0700

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Mon, 17 Jul 2006 02:50:25 -0700
To: conspire at linuxmafia.com
From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
Subject: [conspire] Compromise of a Debian Project host
Early in the morning (European time) of last Wednesday, July 12, the Debian Project figured out that one of its shared Internet hosts, "gluck.debian.org", had been security compromised, and immediately took it down to be studied, rebuilt from trusted program files, and back within a day. It look like, as with last time this sort of thing happened, they detected the compromise pretty much immediately -- probably courtesy of monitoring from the intrusion detetion software "AIDE". As before, the package archives weren't penetrated. ("gluck" currently fills these roles via DNS aliases: "cvs", "ddtp", "lintian", "people", "popcon", "planet", "ports", and "release". The machines where packages are created and cryptographically signed are much more heavily restricted.)

Their quick detection and correction are worth noting. So is the avenue of compromise (detailed below).

Also worth noting is that, if you use your security token on a compromised machine anywhere, it's equally prone to be stolen regardless of whether it's a strong or weak password, or a public SSH keypair, etc.

Debian believes in transparency on security matters, which is why the earlier (2003) compromise of "klecker", "gluck", "master", and "murphy" was immediately and extensively analysed in public, on a set of pages maintained by Wichert Akkerman: http://www.wiggy.net/debian/explanation/

...which I then wrote about, here: http://linuxgazette.net/issue98/moen.html I'm looking forward to a similar disclosure about the 2006 compromise.

Meanwhile, there's this Debian News article: http://www.debian.org/News/2006/20060713

At least one developer account has been compromised a while ago and has been used by an attacker to gain access to the Debian server. A recently discovered local root vulnerability in the Linux kernel has then been used to gain root access to the machine.

At 02:43 UTC on July 12th suspicious mails were received and alarmed the Debian admins. The following investigation turned out that a developer account was compromised and that a local kernel vulnerability has been exploited to gain root access.

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Domain report for linuxgazette.net

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Mon, 15 May 2006 19:17:25 -0700

Just so you know, this few nits for a domain is utterly outstanding.

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State of the anti-spam regime, July 2006 edition

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Thu, 20 Jul 2006 18:41:22 -0700

Ben recently called my attention to incoming mail being rejected at my SMTP server because the system SPF daemon could not be reached. More recently, about an hour ago, a flurry of spam snuck through the system because the SpamAssassin daemon had died. And Exim4 (the SMTP daemon) has occasionally entered a fault mode where a queued-up message is processed repeatedly.

All of these epiphenomena turn out to have the same underlying cause: Baby needs new shoes.

Just as a frog put in a pot of cold water and brought slowly to a boil will not jump out and save himself, mail servers reach the brink of failure by... um... degrees. In this case, what's been happening is that my server's meagre 256MB of RAM is being badly overstressed.

The repeat-sending syndrome was an early clue: The queue-handling Exim4 instance would send the queued mail out, and then call a different routine to process final steps including deletion that just happened to require more RAM, which was not available so the Exim4 instance died before cleanup could occur.

At the same time, I've sung the praises of GNU screen so effectively that several other shell users (Hi, Karsten! Hi, Ben! Hi, Thomas![1]) have joined me in leaving it running 24x7 running (sometimes) large jobs -- more RAM gone. And last, the volume of incoming spam continues to increase and find new tricks, while my primary SMTP-layer defence of Exim4 rulesets isn't being updated because the host is a lame-duck installation intended to be retired.

Right behind the primary defence, intended to backstop spam that gets past Exim4's rules, is -- guess what? SpamAssassin, a rather large, slow, and RAM-grabbing Perl script, running in daemon mode and spawning more instances as needed. The busier and slower it gets, the more RAM-grabbing instances.

So, we've been getting weird MTA repeated-mailing behaviour, and mysteriously dying processes: The kernel OOM-killer gets set loose, and starts shooting large and/or busy processes in the head. If I'm lucky, it's one of my mutt instances running under screen and reading one of my carelessly overlarge mbox files. Or screen itself. If I'm unlucky, it's spfd. Or SpamAssassin. Or Exim4. Or Apache httpd. Or BIND9. All of those have happened.

The pattern was obvious, but I've been reluctant to see it, in part because it's a pain to deal with.

The only fix is to debug my problems with the intended replacement box (needs a kernel with ability to load the root FS from software RAID1), configure its daemons for the needed services, sync up all data files, and do a flag day. The new box is better in every way, including its 1.5 GB of system RAM.

I need to do that. You guys really can't. I just need to find the time.

In the meantime, I'm using screen less. (Karsten, if you can help in that area, too, that would be appreciated.)

[1] Latter two names being a guess -- and it's not like there's anything wrong with using screen. It's great stuff.

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Barry O'Donovan is being removed

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Thu, 6 Jul 2006 17:56:55 -0700

I used to wonder what "unroutable address" meant in SMTP Delivery Status Notification messages, as it has always seemed more than a bit vague. It turns out, it is vague. ;-> It's the default Exim return value if a message gets evaluated against all the Exim "router" handling routines to see if it meets any of their criteria for acceptance. If not, it falls through and generates return value text "unrouteable address" by default (http://www.exim.org/exim-html-4.40/doc/html/spec_3.html#SECT3.10). The question then becomes why, in each case. For TAG subscriber Barry O'Donovan <gazette at barryodonovan.com), only a little checking was required to find out:

  $ dig -t mx barryodonovan.com +short
  ;; connection timed out; no servers could be reached
  $ dig -t a barryodonovan.com +short
  ;; connection timed out; no servers could be reached
  $ whois barrydonovan.com | more
  Whois Server Version 2.0
  Domain names in the .com and .net domains can now be registered
  with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
  for detailed information.
  No match for "BARRYDONOVAN.COM".
  >>> Last update of whois database: Thu, 06 Jul 2006 20:35:56 EDT <<<
Because Barry's domain no longer exists, I've been getting one of the below-cited nastygrams every time anyone posts to TAG. So, I'm setting his subscription to "nomail" in case he fixes his domain. ('Course, he might never figure out why he's ceased to receive TAG mail, but that's the breaks.)

----- Forwarded message from Mail Delivery System <Mailer-Daemon at linuxmafia.com> -----
Return-path: <>
Envelope-to: rick at linuxmafia.com
Delivery-date: Thu, 06 Jul 2006 16:58:46 -0700
Received: from Debian-exim   by linuxmafia.com with local   (Exim 4.61 #1 (EximConfig 2.0))
	 id 1Fydk5-0000uS-5f   ; Thu, 06 Jul 2006 16:58:45 -0700
X-Failed-Recipients: gazette at barryodonovan.com
Auto-Submitted: auto-replied
From: Mail Delivery System <Mailer-Daemon@linuxmafia.com>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
To: tag-bounces at lists.linuxgazette.net
Subject: Mail delivery failed: returning message to sender
Message-Id: <E1Fydk5-0000uS-5f at linuxmafia.com>
Date: Thu, 06 Jul 2006 16:58:45 -0700
X-SA-Do-Not-Run: Ja X-SA-Exim-Connect-IP: <locally generated> X-SA-Exim-Mail-From: X-SA-Exim-Scanned: No (on linuxmafia.com); SAEximRunCond expanded to false This message was created automatically by mail delivery software. A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. The following address(es) failed: gazette at barryodonovan.com Unrouteable address ------ This is a copy of the message, including all the headers. ------ [ ... ] ----- End forwarded message -----

[ Thread continues here (4 messages/7.53kB) ]

[conspire] Safe NTFS read/write driver for Linux

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Tue, 18 Jul 2006 15:03:09 -0700

----- Forwarded message from Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> -----

Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2006 14:34:02 -0700
To: conspire at linuxmafia.com
From: Rick Moen <rick@linuxmafia.com>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
Subject: [conspire] Safe NTFS read/write driver for Linux

(I'm posting that URL for future reference, since I expect to keep hearing people say for years into the future that Linux NTFS support is unsafe.)

The author is the same gentleman who wrote ntfsresize, and helped me extensively with my knowledgebase's article on NTFS resizing.

From: Szakacsits Szabolcs <szaka at sienet.hu> [announcement] ntfs-3g: open source read-write driver 2006-07-14 10:39

As part of the Linux-NTFS project, I'm happy to announce my contribution to ntfsmount and libntfs which resulted ntfs-3g, a read-write ntfs driver, capable for unlimited file creation and deletion. The driver was successfully tested very exhaustively for a longer period of time by many ways and methods, creating and destroying millions of files and directories on newly created images, and on over 40 real, very diverse NTFS images collected over the last four years. The README file is copied below which includes more general, performance and quality information with answers and future plans. Please make a backup of your NTFS volume by ntfsclone and try to reproducible break ntfs-3g, if you can. If you are able to do so then please let us know, preferable providing your NTFS metadata image, if it couln't be reproduced by other ways. The driver can be downloaded from http://mlf.linux.rulez.org/mlf/ezaz/ntfs-3g-20070714-BETA.tgz Please note that I'm leaving for an over 5,000 km long Far North and Arctic Ocean advanture on Sunday morning (European time) and won't be able to read and answer emails for almost a month (no, I'm not escaping, I plan to come back alive ;). Originally I planned to fix all the minor issues listed below but no more time left for me and I think it's better to release now, in case I would get lost somewhere on the road ;) Well, actually I hope that most issues will be resolved when I'm back! Happy testing, problem reporting and coding, -- Szaka


I expect I'll be needing to Google-search this post quite a lot, in the future, to refute the inevitable claims to the contrary.

----- End forwarded message -----

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A thread about nobody

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Fri, 23 Jun 2006 12:42:04 -0700

Being submitted as grist for the TAG-publication mill. Attached.

Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2006 11:14:32 -0700
From: Bill Kendrick <nbs@sonic.net>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
To: LUGOD Tech <vox-tech at lists.lugod.org>
Subject: Re: [vox-tech] Purpose of "nobody" user?
Yesterday, I was helping Melissa add a user account to her laptop. I decided to just point her at KDE's "Kuser" (K->System->"User Manager") GUI tool, mostly because I wanted to see it. ;) ("adduser" is not hard to use, but I figured most non-Unix-types would go hunting a GUI tool, so wanted to familiarize myself with it.)

One thing she noticed was the user "nobody", which sounded supsicious. And it had quite an insane UID (65534), compared to other user accounts. Her first thought was to Google for 'nobody 65534', and found many, many posts where people had obviously dumped their /etc/passwd to a mailing list for help with this-or-that. Based on this, she seemed happy enough to know it's just some "thing" that Linux does/has.

For the life of me, I couldn't really explain what "nobody" is used for. I'm familiar with it in terms of NCSA httpd and Apache, but beyond that... A little help, here? :^D


-bill! (PS - Google for '"nobody user" OR "user nobody" purpose linux' wasn't as helpful as I had hoped. :^/ I also tried throwing 'FAQ' in there ;^) )

From: Rod Roark <rod@sunsetsystems.com>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
To: LUGOD Tech <vox-tech at lists.lugod.org>
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2006 11:50:20 -0700
Subject: Re: [vox-tech] Purpose of "nobody" user?
On Friday 23 June 2006 11:14, Bill Kendrick wrote:

> For the life of me, I couldn't really explain what "nobody" is used for.
> I'm familiar with it in terms of NCSA httpd and Apache, but beyond that...
> A little help, here?  :^D
I'll take a stab at this.

The way I would explain it is that a *nix system has a variety of users that are non-human.

They are users in the sense that they run processes that do not require privileges to other parts of the system, and they maintain resources (e.g. files and directories) to which other parts of the system do not need access. Therefore it is convenient and sensible to isolate them from human users and from each other in the same way that human users are isolated from each other.

The general idea is that your system is more secure if access is not granted where it is not needed. A non-human user may be a security risk if, for example, it runs a program containing a flaw that lets someone break in and run tasks with the privileges of that user.

I suppose someone chose the name "nobody" for one of these users simply to emphasize that it's not human. But there are many other examples of such users, like apache, bind, daemon, mail, mysql and news.

I hope this is not too condescending... I wrote it this way so that newbies may also find it useful.


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SRS development

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Wed, 30 Aug 2006 19:22:58 -0700

Ben suggested I forward this mailing list post here, as it's relevant to my recent article submission. [http://linuxgazette.net/131/moen.html]

----- Forwarded message from rick -----

Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006 19:00:21 -0700
To: luv-main at luv.asn.au
Cc: ben at linuxgazette.net
Subject: Re: SRS development
Quoting Daniel Pittman (daniel at rimspace.net):

> I wish you wouldn't.  SPF is great, in theory, but not really so hot in
> practice.  Using it will only encourage others to adopt it.

There's a lot of confusion about this. Let's dissect it into parts:

o  SPF reference records within a domain's DNS:  These allow the domain
   administrator to specify which IPs are those of the domain's 
   (and optionally, various subdomains') sole intended MX hosts -- 
   along with suggestions as to the degree of confidence that the 
   admin feels receiving SMTP hosts should grant to that data.
o  SPF-checking routines executed by a receiving SMTP host's MTA 
   during the incoming SMTP session, prior to saying yes or no to
   the delivery attempt.  (It's also possible to check SPF RRs at later
   points, such as during MDA execution, but less useful.)
Speaking from a domain administrator's perspective, one has _no downside_ from publishing SPF RRs for one's domain. It's good and useful data, providing the public with a definitive means of detecting and rejecting mail forged to dishonestly claim your domain as its origin, even mail competently forging the 'envelope From' and Return-Path headers (Joe Jobs). It's categorically useful even to domain admins who favour alternate approaches. I.e., is you think Hadmut Danisch's Reverse-MX (RMX) proposal was better designed, or Yahoo's DomainKeys, or SPF plus Meng/Microsoft's Purported Responsible Address (PRA) header, or S/MIME, or Email Postmarks, or a full gpg web-of-trust architecture, or BATV, or Jim Fenton's Identified Internet Mail -- then nothing stops you from participating in all of them, if you wish.

It would be a Good Thing even if nothing like SRS (Sender Rewriting Scheme) had even been attempted, and every forwarding mechanism on the globe other than mailing lists (which have rewritten 'envelope From' and Return-Path all along) were to instantly and permanently break.

Why? _Because I own domains._ I'm therefore tired of spammers and malware authors being able to Joe Job them believably. Why would I not spend five minutes writing a TXT RR that makes crystal clear that mx4.pinkmeatproducts.com isn't a legitimate source for my domains' mail?

'No so hot', you say? OK, compared to what? The relevant comparison for a domain owner is: extant SPF record versus none. Do you honestly assert that my domains would be better off without them? If so, please do explain.

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Kernel 2.6 installation support for fakeraid HBAs

Rick Moen [rick at linuxmafia.com]
Tue, 18 Jul 2006 16:15:16 -0700

From: "magnate" <chrisc@dbass.demon.co.uk>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.setup
Subject: Debian installer does not recognise ataraid array
Date: 18 Jul 2006 03:14:30 -0700
I have two SATA HDs on a Silicon Simage 3112 RAID controller. This is known as "fakeraid" or "ataraid" because it's not a proper hardware RAID controller, it just buggers about with on-the-fly address translations in the controller's BIOS. So it's a bit like software RAID - and indeed inferior to Linux software RAID - but this is a dual-boot box, which is why I'm using it. (Honestly, it makes Windows a lot faster, like 50%+.)

So, I want to install Debian on it. I managed it under 2.4 by manually coaxing the medley.o module into place, to recognise the array and let me install on it. On the way I found and reported several bugs: a conflict between siimage.o and via82cxxx.o (which is still unsolved in kernel-source-2.4.27), the fact that ataraid modules were not loaded by the installer, and the fact that medley.o was missing from the mkinitrd script, which meant that I couldn't boot after the install!

I'm not sure if that second one is solved yet, but it doesn't matter because this time I'm trying to install 2.6 (I am reinstalling rather than upgrading because I made a ton of changes to the partition structure). I know that 2.6 doesn't use the medley module, and that all the fakeraid stuff is dealt with by something called the device mapper, and a user-space tool called dmraid.

Unfortunately I don't know any more than that, like how they work. When I use the latest Debian installer CD, it boots 2.6 and finds all my hardware and offers me sda and sdb as my HDs - it completely fails to notice the fakeraid array.

Yes I have brought this to Debian's attention, but I'm asking here because I really need to just know a few more basics about ataraid handling in 2.6.x and the device mapper - can anyone point me towards a HOWTO or idiot's guide for that?

Grateful also for any other advice on how to diagnose this problem. I presume that the low-level hardware driver (sata_sil.o in this case) is still needed - this is what's finding sda and sdb. But I don't know what to do once that's loaded to find the ataraid array, and therefore I don't know how to find out where the Debian installer is going astray.

Rgds, CC

From: Michael Heiming <michael+USENET@www.heiming.de>
To: TAG <tag@lists.linuxgazette.net>
Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.setup
Subject: Re: Debian installer does not recognise ataraid array
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2006 22:13:55 +0200
User-Agent: tin/1.9.1-20060409 ("Benmore") (UNIX) (Linux/2.6.17-mh (i686)) tinews.pl/1.1.7
In comp.os.linux.setup magnate <chrisc at dbass.demon.co.uk>:

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[ Thread continues here (2 messages/11.51kB) ]

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007



[ In reference to "Build a Six-headed, Six-user Linux System" in LG#124 ]

Thiago [mascc2 at gmail.com]
Wed, 6 Dec 2006 15:09:19 -0200

Good afternoon

I've been trying to get multihead to work for 2 months now. I saw several different solutions for the problem but no that meet my needs. I'm trying to run a two seat gaming station. I proved that it is actually possible since i could run a dual head with xinerama and one game in each screen ( but only one keyboard controlling both screens ). I'm running on two nvidia video cards, with nvidia drivers :

00:09.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation NV18 [GeForce4 MX 4000 AGP 8x] (rev c1)
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation NV34 [GeForce FX 5200] (rev a1)
Thanks to the at nvclock i could do some tweaking to get reasonable speed. My problem is altough i could run it with xinerama, when i try to separate the seats- put one keyboard, one mouse, one video card for each seat - the system does not show the second screen. I tried with both gdm and kdm to get the thing to work. When i try to start each head individually i can, but i cannot separate each mouse and keyboard: they work as if they were the same.

That problem has keep me up several nights. My xorg.conf follows so you would point up were i screwd up or if i didn't :

[ ... ]

[ Thread continues here (1 message/5.64kB) ]


[ In reference to "Boosting Apache Performance by using Reverse Proxies" in LG#132 ]

René Pfeiffer [lynx at luchs.at]
Sat, 2 Dec 2006 14:28:12 +0100

Hello, Clement!

Sorry for the late reply, but our office got redecorated with Gigabit wiring and our backup mail servers ate some mails.

On Nov 17, 2006 at 2347 -0800, Clement Huang appeared and said:

> Nice article, Rene.

Thank you!

>     I also saw apache_mod_proxy can do the reverse-proxy function. How
>     is the performance  comparing  to squid proxy?  any  benchmarking
>     on  this proxy  performance between these two?

To be honest I didn't do any benchmarking in order to compare both proxies. I usually stick to Squid because I use it for many years now and it has a very rich configuration file with options that can do (almost) anything you want. In my personal opinion Squid does a better job handling memory and disk cache than Apache's mod_proxy. You can tune the amount of memory it uses, define maximum object sizes, configure fetching of aborted requests and the like. This is often more important than having an extra couple of hits per second.

Best regards, René.

  )\._.,--....,'``.      Let GNU/Linux work for you while you take a nap.
 /,   _.. \   _\  (`._ ,. R. Pfeiffer <lynx at luchs.at> + http://web.luchs.at/
`._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'  - System administration + Consulting + Teaching -
Got mail delivery problems?  http://web.luchs.at/information/blockedmail.php

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/3.61kB) ]


[ In reference to "The Monthly Troubleshooter: The USB Subsystem" in LG#133 ]

Mon, 4 Dec 2006 10:30:41 +0200


Is there any common way to communicate with USB devices which aren't mass storage - like Motorola mobile phones, some Canon photo cameras and so on?

thanks, Vitaly

[ Thread continues here (8 messages/12.10kB) ]


[ In reference to "Poor Man's Laptop" in LG#132 ]

Gerrit Renker [grrtrr at yahoo.co.uk]
Tue, 19 Dec 2006 09:07:08 +0000 (GMT)

Sorry the initial question never got copied to me, I realised that after reading the talkback some time later. I hope that the below clarifies.

> Any particular reason for not just using a tool, which already exists
> - such as Unison (http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~bcpierce/unison/) which is
> cross platform/OS ?

Unison synchronises between directories - this means if you intend to use it in combination with a USB stick then your USB stick carries an identical copy of all the directories which you intend to synchronise.

But this is not what the article is about.

If you intend to have an identical copy of some of the computer's directories then there are two other alternatives:

(a) mount the USB stick (or USB hard drive) underneath such working directories as you intend to use at home and at work (bind/rbind/move options to mount) In this case you neither need the solution in the article, nor unison.

(b) carry a synchronised version of some work directories on your USB stick. ==> Again you don't need the solution in the article. And you don't even need unison. For this purpose, rsync is useful, has been tested by thousands and is much better than plain cp since it only copies the updates: rsync -a --delete source destination

The solution in the article works and is designed for when you have neither (a) or (b): the former is expensive in terms of hardware, the latter is expensive in terms of space.

Unison or rsync are not sufficient for this purpose.

With regard to solution (b), it may be interesting to see whether there is anything which unison can do that rsync can not.


[ Thread continues here (6 messages/7.89kB) ]


[ In reference to "Apache2, WebDAV, SSL and MySQL: Life In The Fast Lane" in LG#131 ]

Jan Büren [jan.bueren at bvl.bund.de]
Tue, 05 Dec 2006 13:06:30 +0100

> One thing to bear in mind is that I had to use Apache 2 instead of 
> Apache 1.3.x as there is no WebDAV patch for Apache 1.3.x

WebDAV does exists for Apache 1.3.x Perhaps the quota patch is missing?

Talkback:133/tag.html (2)

[ In reference to "The Monthly Troubleshooter: The USB Subsystem" in LG#133 ]

Stephane Chauveau [stephane at chauveau-central.net]
Mon, 4 Dec 2006 15:35:50 +0100 (CET)

I was reading the article about the USB subsystem yesterday and the posts at the end reminded me that I wanted to change the label on my USB key.

Unless I mistaken, the proposed commands (mkdosfs and mke2fs) are also going to reformat the partition. I wonder how many users are going to wipe out their partition while trying to change their label.

Stephane Chauveau

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/1.43kB) ]


[ In reference to "Easy Shell Scripting" in LG#133 ]

s. keeling [keeling at spots.ab.ca]
Sat, 2 Dec 2006 16:18:43 -0700

Having suffered through Ben's many yammerings in TAG about nonportable shell features, hey Ben, I found another! :-)

Comments in a Shell
In shell scripting, all lines beginning with # are comments.
# This is a comment line.
# This is another comment line.
You can also have comments that span multiple lines by using a colon and single quotes:
:' This is a comment line.
Again, this is a comment line.
My God, this is yet another comment line.'
:' Good grief.  After all this time, I learn that a colon
   followed by a single tick produces a block comment in
   *nix shel.
   That even includes blank lines!
# usage:
#   calc '2 + 7'
function calc ()
    awk 'BEGIN { OFMT="%f"; print '"$*"'; exit}'
# not necessary.
# export -f calc
# from linuxgazette.net Dec2006
function putargs () {
    echo "$*";
(0) heretic /home/keeling/procmail/ocelot_ source ~/.funcs
/home/keeling/.funcs:9: command not found: : Good grief.  \
     After all this time, I learn that a colon\n   followed \
     by a single tick produces a block comment in\n   *nix \
     shel.\n\n   That even includes blank lines!\n
[long line manually broken]

Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
(*)               http://www.spots.ab.ca/~keeling 
- -

[ Thread continues here (8 messages/11.48kB) ]

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

2-Cent Tips

Brings back swapped out pages

Mulyadi Santosa [mulyadi.santosa at gmail.com]
Sat, 16 Dec 2006 21:12:28 +0700

After you start a memory-hogger application such as manipulating a large bitmap graphic file, some portions of RAM are likely pushed away to swap. This is normal especially if you have not so big RAM (256MB or less). The problem is, after you finish with this application, whatever you do will be creepingly slow since those pages must be brought back to RAM.

One way you can try is to do these:

# swapoff -a
(wait for some seconds... continue after hard disk's LED stops blinking)
# swapon -a
Swapoff will push everything back to RAM and eventuall disables the swap spaces. Simply execute swapon to enable them again. If you want to play safe, check free output first:
# free -m
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:           249        170         79          0         12         45
-/+ buffers/cache:        111        137
Swap:          376          0        376
There you can find out that the free RAM (free+buffers+cached) exceeds the size of used swap space (in this case, since nothing is there, it is zero). Knowing this, swapoff will sucessfully push things back to RAM

Another way you can try, is to use swap prefetch feature included in Con Kolivas patchset (-ck). You can find it in kernel.kolivas.org and it's also included in -mm (Andrew Morton) patchset.

I hope this tip is useful for all of LG readers.


Mulyadi Santosa, RHCE

[ Thread continues here (2 messages/2.60kB) ]

The danger of too many related config variables

Benjamin A. Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]
Tue, 31 Oct 2006 15:06:37 -0500

Well, I've just learned something important.

In rewriting the mini-MTA I've been working on, "bssmtp", I've stayed with the original code and procedure where I thought they were OK; at least where I assumed they were OK. I just got bitten, hard, by that assumption - with the result that I could send mail to anyone but TAG and Lgang for the past X hours.

Here's the relevant part of my 'bssmtprc':

# Information about the local host
# domain=linuxgazette.net
# Information about the mail relay
# preconnect=/usr/bin/ssh -f rick 'sleep 10'
preconnect=/usr/bin/ssh -f lg 'sleep 10'
# port=2525
In order to switch hosts, I have to flip the 'domain', the 'preconnect', and the 'port' options - and I fat-fingered the first one, so Rick's MTA has been rejecting my mail left and right.

The very next code tweak to go into "bssmtp" is to have a "domain:hostname:port:preconnect" line per *bloody* host. I spent enough hours battling this problem this morning that I never want to do that kind of crap again - or expose anyone else to it.

* Ben Okopnik * Editor-in-Chief, Linux Gazette * http://LinuxGazette.NET *

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007


By Aditya Nag and Howard Dyckoff



Please submit your News Bytes items in plain text; other formats may be rejected. A one- or two-paragraph summary plus a URL has a much higher chance of being published than an entire press release. Submit items to bytes@linuxgazette.net.

News in General

thunderboltOpenSUSE Opens Up to Questions About the Microsoft Deal

OpenSUSE project developers held a public IRC meeting to discuss the recently announced and highly controversial Microsoft/Novell agreements. Nat Friedman, chief technical and strategy officer for open source at Novell, fielded most of the questions, with assistance from Andreas Jaeger, OpenSUSE project manager, and others.

As expected, the one-hour long session generated a lot of discussion. There were almost 200 participants, and the questions touched on all aspects of the deal, the validity of GPLv2 and the upcoming GPLv3, Mark Shuttleworth's controversial letter to the community, Microsoft's covenant not to sue, and so on. Novell talked about how Microsoft does make legal mistakes, such as in the Lindows fiasco, and, tongue firmly in cheek, how they would "make fun of them in public" if Microsoft did not keep its promises.

The whole GPLv2 vs. GPLv3 issue was also mentioned by the Novell representatives, saying that they are "interested" in seeing the wording used in GPLv3 that will invalidate such deals.

The complete log is available, while a lightly edited version can be found on linux.com. More information is available at the OpenSUSE site.

thunderboltRichard Stallman says that the Novell/Microsoft Deal Does Not Violate GPLv2

Richard Stallman, the leader of the FSF (Free Software Foundation), said at the fifth international GPLv3 conference in Tokyo on Nov. 21 that the Novell/Microsoft patent agreement is not in violation of GPL version 2. According to a transcript published by the FSFE (FSF Europe), Stallman stated that "what has happened is, Microsoft has not given Novell a patent license, and thus, section 7 of GPL version 2 does not come into play. Instead, Microsoft offered a patent license that is rather limited to Novell's customers alone."

Stallman points out that this is a good thing for several reasons, since the new version of the GPL had not taken such an eventualty into consideration. However, GPLv3 is now being re-written in light of the Novell/Microsoft deal, "It turns out that perhaps it's a good thing that Microsoft did this now, because we discovered that the text we had written for GPL version 3 would not have blocked this, but it's not too late and we're going to make sure that when GPL version 3 really comes out it will block such deals. We were already concerned about possibilities like this, namely, the possibility that a distributor might receive a patent license which did not explicitly impose limits on downstream recipients but simply failed to protect them."

Stallman said that the GPLv3 will block the kind of language used in the Novell/Microsoft agreement. Stallman explained, "We're going to say not just that if you receive the patent license, but if you have arranged any sort of patent licensing that is prejudicial among the downstream recipients, that that's not allowed. That you have to make sure that the downstream recipients fully get the freedoms that they're supposed to have. The precise words, we have not figured out yet. That's what Eben Moglen [FSF's general counsel] is working on now."

This statement from the original author of the GPL should remove any lingering doubts about the validity of the Novell/Microsoft deal.

thunderboltNovell Axes Support for the Hula Project

Novell has abandoned a much-hyped open source project slated to challenge Microsoft Outlook and Exchange by becoming the "Apache" of e-mail and collaboration software. Engineers are "moving to other roles", according to the Hula mailing list.

Novell had announced Hula at LinuxWorld, Boston, in February 2005 by donating 200,000 lines of code from its NetMail collaboration server to the community. Novell wanted Hula to "become for collaboration what Apache is to servers". This move was greeted with strong support from the Mozilla Foundation, Open Source Applications Foundation, Open Source Development Labs, and O'Reilly Media's father of Web 2.0 Tim O'Reilly.

The Hula server featured SMTP, IMAP, and support for the CalDAV calendar access protocol. The future of the project is as yet uncertain, with some developers fearing the worst, while others are confident that it will survive the loss of Novell engineers. More information on the Hula Project is available on the project Web site.

thunderboltThailand Delivers a Double Whammy: Cancels Open Source Policy and OLPC Project Participation

Thailand's newly appointed Information and Communications Technology Minister slammed open source software as useless and full of bugs, "With open source, there is no intellectual property. Anyone can use it and all your ideas become public domain. If nobody can make money from it, there will be no development and open source software quickly becomes outdated." This marks a shift from the previous government's stance on open source. Critics have pointed out that the Minister seems to have based his decision on an incomplete understanding of the open source movement.

This was quickly followed by Thailand's new junta-appointed Education Minister cancelling Thailand's participation in the One Laptop Per Child project and scrapping a plan to give a 2B1 laptop to every primary school student. He also cancelled plans to roll out computers and a broadband connection to every school in Thailand. He cited the lack of readiness of teachers, and the need to focus on basic education standards, "We will not focus too much on technology and materials. We will focus on substance." The previous government was deposed in a bloodless coup earlier this year.

More on this at The Inquirer

thunderboltFrance Announces Plan to Switch Members of Parliament from Windows to Linux

In June 2007, PCs in French deputies' offices will be equipped with a Linux operating system and open source productivity software. The project, backed by MPs Richard Cazenav and Bernard Carayon of the UMP party, will see 1,154 French parliamentary workstations running on an open source OS, with OpenOffice.org, Firefox and an open source e-mail client.

This is the first time a French public institution has switched its OS to an open source solution. The French government had previously tried open source solutions, but they were either limited to servers or involved using open source software (e.g., Firefox and OpenOffice.org) on Microsoft Windows.

There is no news on the exact distribution or e-mail client they will use. Mandriva Linux might be a strong contender, given its French roots, but this is mere speculation. The French Parliament considered the results of a study conducted by Atos Origin, an international IT services company, and stated that, "The study showed that open source software will from now on offer functionality adapted to the needs of MPs, and will allow us to make substantial savings despite the associated migration and training costs."

Supporters of open source have welcomed this decision, especially following the news of the Thai government dropping its support for open source solutions.

Conferences and Events

==> All LinuxWorld Expos <==

January 24th, Brussels (http://www.eupaco.org/eupaco1/)

USENIX Conference on File and Storage Technologies (FAST '07)
February 13-16, 2007, San Jose, CA (http://www.usenix.org/events/fast07/)

LinuxWorld OpenSolutions Summit
February 14-15, 2007, New York, NY(http://www.linuxworldexpo.com/live/14/)

EclipseCon 2007
March 5-8, 2007, Santa Clara, CA (http://www.eclipsecon.org/2007/index.php?page=registration/)

USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation (NSDI '07)
April 11-13, 2007, Cambridge, MA (http://www.usenix.org/events/nsdi07/)

MySQL Conference
April 23-26, 2007, Santa Clara, CA (http://mysqlconf.com/)

Distro News

thunderboltLinux 2.6.19 Released

After 2 months, 2.6.19 has been released. "It's one of those rare 'perfect' kernels," Linus joked, "so if it doesn't happen to compile with your config (or it does compile, but then does unspeakable acts of perversion with your pet dachshund), you can rest easy knowing that it's all your own damn fault, and you should just fix your evil ways." He went on to add, "you could send me and the kernel mailing list a note about it anyway, of course. (And perhaps pictures, if your dachshund is involved. Not that we'd be interested, of course. No. Just so that we'd know to avoid it next time)." Besides these essential technical details, this release includes the clustering GFS2 filesystem, Ecryptfs , the first experimental version of EXT4 (aimed at developers), support for the Atmel AVR32 architecture, sleepable RCU, improvements for NUMA-based systems, and much more.

The kernel can be downloaded from your closest kernel mirror.

thunderboltNovell Inc. Announces Novell Open Enterprise Server 2 (OES 2)

Due to be released early in the second quarter of 2007, OES 2 has already received support commitments from Novell's software partners. The list currently includes backup solution vendors CA, Commvault, Symantec, and Syncsort, along with anti-virus software vendors McAfee and Trend Micro.

OES will be based on Novell's SLES 10 (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server). It is designed to be a drop-in replacement for Novell NetWare servers, and it will be a direct competitor to Microsoft's Server 2003. This next version will complete the shift to workgroup services running completely on the Linux platform. The optional NetWare kernel included in previous versions will be removed. OES 2 hopes to make traditional NetWare workgroup services run on Linux as well or better than they do on NetWare and Windows, and will simplify the migration of those services to Linux. Xen virtualization capabilities in SLES will be leveraged to offer extended hardware support for traditional NetWare applications. Novell's ZENworks Virtual Machine Management will provide capabilities for managing Xen virtualized environments in OES.

Novell's recent technology partnership with Microsoft should lead to improved interoperability with Windows.

Earlier versions of OES have been well-received both by testers and by Novell's channel partners. In this year's VARBusiness survey, OES ranked number one in server operating systems, ahead of Novell's own SLED and Microsoft's Server 2003.

More information is available at Novell's Web site.

thunderboltOpenSUSE 10.2 Released

OpenSUSE 10.2 has been released. Quoting the OpenSUSE News/10.2-Release site, "After a lot of work, we proudly announce the availability of OpenSUSE 10.2, formerly known as SUSE Linux 10.x . As usual, we ship all the latest open source packages available at the time. But we want to give a special mention to the redesigned GNOME and KDE desktop, Firefox 2.0, ext3 as the new default file system, support for internal SD card readers, new power management and, last but not least, our improved package management. We'd like to thank you all for testing heavily, reporting bugs, giving feedback on mailing lists. Have a lot of fun!"

OpenSUSE 10.2 features numerous improvements to the package manager stack, including a new update notification applet (opensuse-updater) and a console application called zypper, which are both non-ZMD based. It ships with Linux kernel, using only SMP kernels, glibc 2.5, X.Org 7.2rc2, autoconf 2.60, bison 2.3, and gcc 4.1.2. It will have a lifetime of 2 years.

The full release announcement is available. The CD and DVD images for the i386, x86_64, and PowerPC architectures are available via BitTorrent protocol or directly from the OpenSUSE download mirrors. The DVD images are available directly from (MD5): openSUSE-10.2-GM-DVD-i386.iso (3,701MB) and openSUSE-10.2-GM-DVD-x86_64.iso (3,750MB).

thunderboltYellow Dog Linux 5 for the PS3 Released

Yellow Dog Linux v5.0 featuring E17 is now available for the Sony PlayStation 3. Derived from Fedora Core 5, YDL is a complete Linux distribution optimized for the PPC architecture. The YDL 5.0 release features a fairly simple installation routine and the Enlightenment e17 desktop environment. This is the second distribution compatible with PS3 and the first one specifically developed for it. The installation routine involves partitioning the PS3 HDD, and requires a keyboard and mouse to be attached.

YDL 5.0 comes with kernel 2.6.16, gcc 4.1.1, and glibc 2.4. It includes Cell SDK 1.1, OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, Firefox 1.5.0, and Thunderbird 1.5.0. The usual personal accessories, development tools, sound & video, Internet, and networking applications are also included.

More information on their website.

thunderboltSimplyMEPIS 64 beta Released

MEPIS LLC has released Beta1 of SimplyMEPIS-64 Version 6.0-4 with the same look, feel, and function as the 32 bit edition. This includes Firefox, Flashplayer 9, OpenOffice.org 2.0.2, a very stable 3.5.3 build of the KDE desktop, and a security-patched 2.6.15 Linux kernel. Beta1 of SimplyMEPIS-32 Version 6.0-4, aka SystemUpdate1(SU1) is also available.

Both versions are almost identical and are on a fast-track schedule with a targeted release date of approximately January 10, 2007.

Software and Product News

thunderboltApache Harmony Leaves 'Incubator' Status

Apache Harmony has left its "incubator" status. The Harmony project's mission is to create a compatible, independent implementation of J2SE 5 under the Apache License v2 and to "create a community-developed modular runtime (VM and class library) architecture to allow independent implementations to share runtime components, and allow independent innovation in runtime components."

They are actively looking for contributors. If you feel you can help visit http://harmony.apache.org/.

thunderboltKVM To Be Merged Into Linux Kernel 2.6.20

According Andrew Morton's merge plans for 2.6.20, the Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) for Linux will be merged into the Linux kernel. Besides VMware, Xen, qemu, etc., Linux users now have a full virtualization solution built in the kernel, which supports running unmodified Linux or Windows images. Details are sparse currently; head over to http://kvm.sourceforge.net/index.html, for the latest.

thunderboltNovell, LPI partner to release LPIC-3 Senior Certification

Linux Professional Institute (LPI), provider of vendor-neutral Linux certification, announced a series of initiatives to promote Linux professional credentials and the global adoption of open source software. In particular, LPI cited the cooperation of Novell on the development of LPI's upcoming enterprise-level certification program: LPIC-3.

LPIC-3 will be LPI's senior certification level for Linux professionals, requiring candidates to hold both LPIC-1 and LPIC-2 designations. LPI will launch the program in January 2007, holding the first North American exam lab at Novell's BrainShare event in March 2007. Mr. Lacey praised the involvement of Novell in the development of LPIC-3 and noted that they brought important enterprise-level perspective to the certification program. Mr. Lacey also noted the growing interest of LPI training partners in Novell's recent announcement of an innovative free online "Train the Teacher" program.

"Novell has always supported LPI's dedication to the development of Linux professionals," said Dan Veitkus, Vice-President, Novell Training Services, "We believe in offering our customers and partners the best set of choices for raising their Linux IQ, and we're in full support of LPIC-3 as the next step for Novell's Linux Certified professionals. LPIC-3 specifically targets the needs of large enterprise, IT professionals, and IT consultancies that require a broad architect level professional credential." Mr. Veitkus added that a number of Novell's technical trainers, engineers and developers have been engaged to assist LPI in the development of LPIC-3.

LPI separately announced that candidates who have earned LPIC certifications will have to re-certify every five years or alternatively earn a higher certification. Recertification was previously required only after ten years.

thunderboltsolidDB for MySQL Sets Performance Record

Solid Information Technology announced that solidDB for MySQL outperformed other MySQL transactional database engines in a public TM1 benchmark test. Benchmark results confirmed that solidDB for MySQL meets the performance requirements of high-throughput, mission-critical applications. Publication of the results also coincided with general availability of solidDB for MySQL, an open source relational database management system (RDBMS) developed in partnership with MySQL.

The TM1 Benchmark results shows that, on multi-CPU hardware, solidDB for MySQL offers customers shorter response time and higher levels of scalability than equivalent MySQL implementations that use Oracle's InnoDB. Results demonstrated that solidDB for MySQL processed more than twice the number of transactions than did Oracle InnoDB, and stayed constant with increasing database size, while InnoDB's performance significantly decreased as the database size increased beyond 100,000 rows.

solidDB for MySQL is designed for transactional applications, and supports full ACID compliance with configurable transaction isolation levels, both optimistic and pessimistic concurrency control, Multi-Version Concurrency Control (MVCC) with non-blocking reads and writes, row-level locking, and foreign keys and referential integrity. For more info, go to http://www.solidtech.com/.

thunderboltOpen Source BPM solution under MPL

Intalio has announced that Intalio|BPMS Community Edition will be released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL) amended with the Generic Attribution Provision (GAP) submitted to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) earlier this year. [1]

"There has been a need for Open Source BPM solutions in the market place, but we haven't seen any candidates that meet the market need to date," said Jim Sinur, vice president and analyst at Gartner. "That need is predicated on making BPM easy for lesser skilled process developers, and our hope is that this will evolve quickly enough to compete with the BPMS leaders."

Users of the Open Source Intalio|BPMS Community Edition can later upgrade to Intalio|BPMS Enterprise Edition through a yearly subscription plan.

[1] Please see Rick Moen's article about the current conflict/non-conformance of GAP with OSI licensing in this issue.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang


Aditya was bored one day in 1997 and decided to take a look at this "linux thing". After installing Red Hat 5, and looking at the blinking cursor, he promptly removed it and went back to Windows. And then reinstalled a few days later, determined to figure it out. So far, he's figured some stuff out, but he's still trying, and he's still having fun.

Bio picture Howard Dyckoff is a long term IT professional with primary experience at Fortune 100 and 200 firms. Before his IT career, he worked for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and before that used to edit SkyCom, a newsletter for astronomers and rocketeers. He hails from the Republic of Brooklyn [and Polytechnic Institute] and now, after several trips to Himalayan mountain tops, resides in the SF Bay Area with a large book collection and several pet rocks.

Copyright © 2007, Aditya Nag and Howard Dyckoff. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

Fun with FUSE

By Kumar Appaiah

Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE) is a very neat innovation in the Linux kernel which allows users to homogeneously mount almost anything as a directory with files, and opens up a new and fun way of handling various operations. For example, imagine being able to use your space in GMail as a disk, or mounting your Flickr photo page as a directory in your machine. Moving files to and from the service boils down to simple copying of files to and from the mounted directory. Sounds fun, right? So lets get our hands dirty with FUSE!

FUSE is available for the Linux kernel, as well as for FreeBSD and OpenSolaris. It acts as a layer between the service you wish to "mount" as a file system and the kernel, thus acting as a convenient means to access the service as an ordinary directory/file structure. There is an API which allows one to program the file system behaviour, so FUSE can be extended to any situation where it is useful to represent objects as files.

Getting FUSE

If you are running Linux kernel 2.6.14 or higher, in all likelihood, you already have FUSE in the kernel as a module. Otherwise, just get the sources from the FUSE home page and compile it for your kernel. Once you are done, you can test whether the module got loaded using:

sudo modprobe fuse
(Or modprobe fuse as root).

If you don't get errors, then we are ready to make FUSE dance. You might want to automate the process of loading the FUSE module every time you start your computer. This is usually accomplished by adding a line containing fuse to the /etc/modules file.

Also, ensure you have the userspace files as well, which come with the FUSE tarball, or get the fuse-utils package for your distribution. I would strongly recommend that you use FUSE using an ordinary user account and not as root. To do this, just adding yourself to the fuse group should be sufficient on most distributions. This is usually done with:

adduser <username> fuse

(Depending on your distribution, your "/dev/fuse" may belong to another group. Check with ls -l /dev/fuse. In that case, add yourself to group that you see when you run the latter command.)

I have used Debian GNU/Linux for trying things out, but I can assure you that things won't vary much in any other distribution.

Now, we'll look at two of the interesting FUSE file systems I use often.

Category: File systems
... imagine being able to use your space in GMail as a disk, or mounting your Flickr photo page as a directory in your machine. Moving files to and from the service boils down to simple copying of files to and from the mounted directory.


Flickrfs is available from the author's home page. It is written in Python and uses the FUSE API. As the name suggests, it provides a convenient interface to most of the things you can do on the Flickr service's website through a convenient file system interface.

To start using it, extract the flickrfs tarball, edit config.txt there to set the preferred resolution, browser and timeout values. Create a directory called .flickrfs in your home directory, and place the config.txt file there. Create a mount point for your Flickr account; I chose ~/Flickr, but you can choose any directory. If you use a proxy server to access internet, set your HTTP proxy by doing export http_proxy="http://proxyserver:port" with appropriate proxy server and port. Then, it is just a matter of doing

python flickrfs.py ~/Flickr

Now, your sets are automatically loaded. To see all your photos, create a directory called stream, and cd to it or load it in your file or photo manager (Konqueror, nautilus, gwenview, F-spot, to name a few). The directory will be populated with all your Flickr images. Similarly, there exist two subdirectories in the tags directory, namely public and personal. Now, to see all of your images which you tagged with tag1 and tag2 and tag3, merely create a directory called tag1:tag2:tag3 in personal, and cd to it or view it in a file manager. A similar subdirectory in public would show everyone's public images with those tags. Just copy photos from the directories to your hard disk folders. Nice?

Many more features, like uploading being a simply copy, editing metadata, changing date, time, permissions, license etc. are available. See http://manishrjain.googlepages.com/flickrfs for information.

To unmount when you are done using the Flickr account, just use fusermount like this:

fusermount -u ~/Flickr

Replace ~/Flickr with your mount point.

curlftpfs: Mount FTP servers

This is something that I really love! Accessing a FTP server as though it's contents were on directories on your own computer! Just get curlftpfs from the curlftpfs page, install it using the standard ./configure; make; make install, or install the package available for you distribution, and just do something like this:

[kumar@debian ~] mkdir IITM_Mirror
[kumar@debian ~] curlftpfs ftp.iitm.ac.in IITM_Mirror/
[kumar@debian ~] cd IITM_Mirror/
[kumar@debian ~/IITM_Mirror] ls
README          debian...

That's it! I have used IITM_Mirror as the mount point for the mirror. You can now mount FTP servers, even with password login, so that you can do uploads as well. Do curlftpfs -h for learning how to mount servers with login for write access and using proxies. To unmount, use fusermount -u ~/IITM_Mirror.

Also you can add

curlftpfs#ftp.iitm.ac.in /home/<youruser>/IITM_Mirror fuse rw,uid=1000,user,noauto      0   0
to your /etc/fstab and then use mount /home/<youruser>/IITM_Mirror to mount and umount /home/<youruser>/IITM_Mirror: to unmount the FTP directory

(Change uid of 1000 to the userid you get when you type id on your console).

Is that all?

So, do you think this is cool? Don't say no before you have seen the other possibilities at the FUSE file system list. There are some very useful file systems to be explored; do try them out. Also, FUSE is not restricted to just network based services; it acts as a layer for using various filesystems and external devices as well. For example, gphotofs mounts a GPhoto compatible camera as a file system. DVDfs allows a DVD video structure to be recreated on another disk. A filesystem for mounting iPods is also available. The possibilities with FUSE are endless!

A Tip

Before signing off, I'll give you one tip which might be useful. Sometimes, especially when you have an erratic network connection, the network based FUSE filesystems might not respond well, and cause a bit of trouble. Under those situations, you may not be able to do a clean unmount using fusermount -u. Under those situations, you can force a lazy unmount using fusermount -u -z and try mounting the file system again.

Although I know that I haven't written much in this article, I hope that it was sufficient to provide you with a glimpse of how powerful and convenient FUSE can be, with two sample file systems. Please try it out, and enjoy the benefits of mounting almost anything as a file system; be sure to try out other file systems, especially the popular gmailfs, smbnetfs and the like.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Bio picture

Kumar Appaiah is studying to earn a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering and M.Tech in Communication Engineering (Dual-degree) at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. He has been using GNU/Linux for the past five years, and believes that Free Software has helped him do work more neatly, quickly and efficiently.

He is a fan of Debian GNU/Linux. He loves using Mutt, GNU Emacs, XCircuit, GNU Octave, SciPy, Matplotlib and ConTeXt.

Copyright © 2007, Kumar Appaiah. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

Away Mission -- OracleWorld '06, San Francisco

By Howard Dyckoff

Oracle World: A Mega Conference. 40K attendees, 16K hotel rooms. Thousands of people crossing in 3 different directions at 4th and Howard Street, with the SFPD waving arms and blowing whistles frantically. A huge dining tent in the middle of the street. And very literally "tons of food" for after-sessions parties. Almost overwhelming.

This is Oracle's trophy event. It is a multiverse of user conferences from all of its assimilated purchased companies. It's J.D. Edwards World, the forum for the multitudes of PeopleSoft users, a DBA conference, a mini-Java conference, and now a major Linux conference.

Billed as the world's largest computer software conference with 42,000 attendees [but didn't COMDEX crack the 100 K mark back in its day?], it was a veritable city within the City of San Francisco. Streets were blocked off for Oracle events, and the conference sessions overflowed all three buildings of the Moscone Center and took over several local hotels for tracks such as those dedicated to CEOs and CIOs, and to the Life Sciences.

Partly because so many of the attendees were executives and business principals, the perks and party favors were often an order of magnitude better than the pizza and pretzels you would see at a strictly techie event. The OracleWorld conference bag, for example, was a well-tailored cross between an attache case and a laptop carrier, just perfect for my notebook and very smart, and included a folding umbrella for the unseasonably warm SF October weather. There were special events and separate receptions for developers, DBAs, business analysts, international guests, long-term J.D. Edwards users, and the now-annual Linux Install-a-thon where RHEL AS 4 was available to attendees willing to install it on their laptops. [This was the night before the Oracle Linux announcement.]

Category: Conferences
This is Oracle's trophy event: J.D. Edwards World, the forum for the multitudes of PeopleSoft users, a DBA conference, a mini-Java conference, and now a major Linux conference.

As for hardware, the star of the show wasn't one of the Oracle Clusters running on the Expo floor from Dell, HP, or IBM - it was the America's Cup yacht owned by Larry Ellison on display in the central corridor between Moscone Center's North and South Halls. Quite a lovely machine. [I could almost hear Larry Ellison saying, "I have bigger toys."] To show appreciation to their customers and conference attendees, Oracle and NetApp threw a finale party for over 20,000 attendees with 5 stages, mountains of food, an open tap, and headliners Joan Jett, Devo, and Sir Elton John. With an extended, anthemic version of "RocketMan", Sir John rocked the overflow crowd and kept everyone out very late.

Oracle Linux

The killer announcement at OracleWorld '06 was Oracle Linux, during Larry Ellison's keynote on the last day. As if digesting PeopleSoft and JD Edwards weren't enough, Oracle is now offering Linux operating system support in the form of an Oracle-tweaked version of Red Hat with the logos stripped out.

"Oracle Unbreakable Linux 2.0" provides enterprises with global support for Linux via Oracle's own support staff. This makes Oracle both a partner and a major competitor for Red Hat, whose stock plunged 24% the day following. Red Hat responded by sporting a new "Unfakeable Linux" banner on its Web site, and a Q/A page that notes that Oracle differences may constitute a fork in the Linux kernel [see below].

Red Hat has also just released its quarterly financials and - surprise! - they had a very good quarter. Profit and revenue were up approximately 45% each from the prior year and prior quarter respectively, so the universe of Linux sales and support may be big enough for two behemoths. It is true that their earnings per share dropped from $0.12 last year to $0.07 this time, but Red Hat is also expensing more to better position itself against both Oracle and arch-enemy Microsoft.

Prices for Oracle Linux Support start at $99 for patches and updates, but it's $399 for support, similar to RHEL ES 2-CPU support at $999; and Oracle's $1000 for multi CPU-support is similar to RHEL multi-CPU support, which is now $2500 per year.

To gild the lily a bit more, until January 31, 2007, it will be 50% off these low Oracle Linux support prices. This is available to everyone, even non-Oracle customers. Oracle customers can get free Premier support for Linux by using their existing CSI numbers to log Linux issues via MetaLink.

For years, Oracle has fixed P1 bugs for its Linux customers. Oracle also offered its Cluster File System, as part of the Linux kernel. This has helped make Oracle customers comfortable with Linux.

Yahoo! Vice-President of Engineering Laurie Mann joined Ellison on the keynote stage, and described Yahoo's infrastructure of 150,000 servers. Mann said they had scores of database appliances running Oracle on Linux, that they were supported internally, and that experience meant support of these configurations was better from Oracle than Red Hat. He noted that Oracle was providing free downloadable binaries in ISO images.

Oracle will publish their bug fixes immediately. It will frequently synch its distro with Red Hat, but also maintain the Oracle fixes going forward. Oracle will offer patches for older versions of Red Hat, something that Red Hat does not do consistently. Oracle will also offer legal indemnity from intellectual property actions like those launched by SCO.

Currently, Red Hat provides bug fixes for only the latest version of its software. This often requires customers to upgrade to a new version of the Linux software to get a bug fixed. Oracle's new Unbreakable Linux program will provide bug fixes to future, current, and back releases of Linux. In other words, Oracle will provide the same level of enterprise support for Linux as is available for other operating systems.

"We believe that better support and lower support prices will speed the adoption of Linux, and we are working closely with our partners to make that happen," said Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. "Intel is a development partner. Dell and HP are resellers and support partners. Many others are signed up to help us move Linux up to mission critical status in the data center."

"The goal here is to make all versions of Linux better." said Ellison from the stage. "The better Linux gets, the better it is for us..." And later, "this is Capitalism, we're competing... we are offering a better product at a lower price." The bottom line for the Linux community, according to Ellison, "... is about increasing the status of Linux," and moving it deeper into the enterprise.

Ellison's Linux announcement is available.

Oracle Linux on MP3 highlights are, as well.

Red Hat's Q/A on Oracle's initiative is likewise available.

OracleWorld Keynotes, which were Net-broadcast in real time, are online, too.

Besides announcing its Oracle Linux offerings and half-price charter offer, Oracle also announced it was joining the FSG [Free Standards Group], which develops and maintains the LSB, the Linux Standard Base, to which all distros need certification. This seems to show that Oracle is indeed serious and also supportive of the larger Linux community. Said FSG's Executive Director, Jim Zemlin:

"As the largest enterprise software company, Oracle is one of the most influential and important Linux software vendors. By joining the FSG, they send a clear message that they support open standards. Their joining the FSG is a watershed moment for the Linux platform, showing that all major Linux software vendors have joined together to support the LSB and keep Linux from fragmenting. Their participation in our workgroup will help us meet the most pressing needs for Linux users and developers."

Oracle joined the FSG as a platinum member.

In addition to the usual partnering announcements and posturing about growth and market share, there were some interesting and newsworthy items. Michael Dell, in person, announced 2 new server platforms in a quick 1-2 shuffle with AMD and Intel. First out of the block was Dell's new Opteron server with 4 AMD "F" sockets. That means a future-ready server, as current dual-core Opterons can be easily replaced by forthcoming 4-core Opteron chips in early 2007. Then, just minutes latter, Dell announced the dual socketed, 1U-high SC1435, which is designed for distributed serving environments like Web farms and high-performance computing clusters. Dell's PowerEdge SC1435 will come with Intel 5300 quad-core CPU and 4 sockets, making it the least expensive production 8-way server.

Category: Linux business
"[T]his is Capitalism, we're competing... we are offering a better product at a lower price."
-- Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO, Oracle Corporation

Oracle keynote speakers described their Open Source initiatives, which include 3 Eclipse projects [BPEL, JSF, JPA] plus ongoing collaborations and support for Linux. [There had been rumors about an Oracle-Ubuntu effort; none were verified.] They also cited work on Zend Core for PHP. Mike Olson, former CEO of Sleepycat Systems, known for the famous Berkeley DB embedded database [now owned by Oracle] spoke about the ubiquity of Berkeley DB with 200 million open source installations, and cited its dual license provisions, which allow for free redistribution within open source applications. There were separate technical presentations on Berkeley DB and its integration with Oracle products.

Session Files

The presentations are available to members of the OTN [Oracle Technology Network, a free membership]. There is also a default ID and password offered when one tries to access the content - I'm providing that below. With this ID, about half of the presentations are available for download. It is probable, however, that many presenters did not post their materials:


Username: cboracle
Password: oraclec6

Yahoo gave a presentation on its use of Berkeley DB.

Dell presented on its Linux mega-grid.

Task-oriented, Contextual, Multi-Channel Interactions for Information Workers?

With significant fanfare, Oracle rolled out its WebCenter Suite as an interactive platform that applies Web 2.0 practices to enterprise content management and "business intelligence". It delivers enterprise search, structured and unstructured data access, business process oversight, and communication & collaboration services. It uses Java JSF and AJAX, supports "Enterprise Mashups", can synchronize information portlets and workflows, has instant messaging, has VoIP, discussion forums, and supports Wiki services and blogs - but the main selling point is that WebCenter "addresses the inefficiencies that force users to manually switch between tasks. Oracle WebCenter Suite attempts to fuse Web-based portals, enterprise applications, and AJAX technologies to enable context-sensitive work processes."

Of course, this is an enterprise-centric, everything-in-one-place, one-ring-to-rule-them-all approach. There are open source projects that offer pieces of a total solution, but here, in theory at least, everything is integrated, and there is only one vendor needed for technical support. All this for a price. Oracle WebCenter Suite is licensed as an option on top of Oracle Application Server Enterprise Edition at a cost of $50,000 per CPU. That's more than spare change. [I wonder how they will license the coming quad-core CPUs?]

Here are more details from the WebCenter Suite Press Release:


How does OracleWorld stack up? The reach and breadth of the Oracle product line means there are sessions for literally everyone, suit or techie.

[ While "suits" and "techies" make for amusing Dilbert-esque humor, the reality is that buying into this polarization closes off the best opportunities for advancement in today's business world. These days, one of the most desirable and best-paid categories of employee in the field is a technical manager - someone who knows both the technical and the management side of the business. -- Ben ]

The flip side of that is having many competing sessions of varying technical quality -- it's hard to set an agenda and even harder to keep to it, as sessions disappoint occasionally. Sometimes excellent sessions on similar topics appear at the same time on different tracks [and that might mean the sessions are in different buildings]. This is true of all large conferences, but, since OracleWorld is one of the largest computer conferences, this does happen a lot.

There are so many sessions, in fact, that getting to the Expo floor is difficult to squeeze into the agenda. Because of the hundreds of sessions available, I would recommend a team approach, with alternating days at the Expo.

The OracleWorld Expo Pass, which included entry to one conference session, also was a great deal. Free Expo Pass coupons appeared in the Business section of the SF Chronicle, the Sunday before OracleWorld. So, if your company is a little tight for cash, consider getting Expo passes for half of your team, and have them switch off on different days and hours.

Here are the aggregate ratings [0-10]:

Venue: 8
It's busting out of the Moscone Center, though.
Keynotes: 6
The music is a little loud, but you did get to see CEOs from AMD, Cisco, HP, Intel, and Sun. And stylish Larry!
Food: 8
Plenty, and with veggie and kosher options, special meals if needed. Bravo!
Conference Bag: 9
Not a backpack, but very useful. Included a folding umbrella and a leather-covered journal for notes.
Session Quality: 6
There were gems, but it was hard finding them, and also hard to get from one building to another. Not having presentations viewable on CD or online before the conference is a slight demerit.
Overall rating: 7.4
[Your mileage may vary]

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Bio picture Howard Dyckoff is a long term IT professional with primary experience at Fortune 100 and 200 firms. Before his IT career, he worked for Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine and before that used to edit SkyCom, a newsletter for astronomers and rocketeers. He hails from the Republic of Brooklyn [and Polytechnic Institute] and now, after several trips to Himalayan mountain tops, resides in the SF Bay Area with a large book collection and several pet rocks.

Copyright © 2007, Howard Dyckoff. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

Installing Mandriva

By Edgar Howell

A couple of years ago, I thought one GNU/Linux distribution was very close to being ready for the desktop, since the people who usually do the installations aren't bothered by all the questions that come up during the process. On the other hand, though, the installation process was still a bit too "complicated" for someone who had never done anything with Linux, and there are many new users who don't have a savvy Linuxer in their circle of friends.

Given that, the latest version of Mandriva (Mandriva One 2007) had my eyes glassy and my pulse racing - particularly after I had read an article about it, and a non-programmer colleague described having played with the live CD. Could this be The Answer?

I have since installed it, like it a lot, and will be using it more and more over time... but, sadly, it has a couple of show-stoppers. Not quite ready for newbie prime-time, in my opinion. Mandriva is very user-friendly and now sports a completely-3D desktop - but that's not quite enough to make it "automatic" enough for the average grandmother.

Mandriva 2007 comes in several flavours :

The Live CD


Booting the live CD involves answering many questions (almost enough to turn me off from using it as a live CD!) The answers, however, remain available should you later choose to install from the system already booted.

Initially you are told that 'F1' provides more options and the 'Enter' key starts the boot process. Pressing 'F1' does provide a comment that one can enter "live" and kernel options (much like, e.g., "knoppix lang=de") but I'm not sure where the list of kernel options is. And if you wait too long -- not very long -- booting begins anyhow.

Then the questions begin:

At this point booting continued and after a while there was the usual KDE (3.5) screen with the symbols activating as various features were brought into service, soon followed by the Mandriva "greeting" window. After closing it, there remained on the desktop a column of 5 icons on the left and the task-bar on the bottom.

As is typical for KDE, clicking on the button on the extreme left of the task-bar opens the root of a hierarchy of programs. Here is a very brief excerpt of what is available, under these headings:

I will miss Image Magick, although it may turn out that Kuickshow is adequate for my purposes. But where, oh where, is Midnight Commander? It's also nice that there are 2 browsers.

By and large, everything I need on a day-to-day basis was there - or at least the functionality was present, even if it required using a different program. One very interesting item was the ability to play music right away: mount a partition with a few tracks, start Amarok, add a couple of tunes to a playlist and then turn the volume down. No looking for codecs or software to get this working. Well, these tracks were OGG Vorbis, after all.


Category: User interfaces
[The Mandriva One 2007] installation process was still a bit too "complicated" for someone who had never done anything with Linux.

Installation was easy enough, if you know what you are doing. I had already decided on a partition, backed up the MBR in case anything went seriously wrong, and by now get along with Grub rather well. All that was needed was to click on the middle icon on the left of the desktop.

Then began another series of questions:

After rebooting, it was necessary to cancel a window with questions about notebook and Internet connection, enter a root password and create a user. Finito - I was done!


By and large, this is a very straight-forward installation procedure. The number of questions has been reduced to a minimum. A newbie might have trouble with partitioning - but that will be the case no matter what OS he is installing, and Mandriva does have a partioning tool. I just prefer to do it myself.

Category: User interfaces
Double-clicking with the live CD almost drove me crazy! [...] How is one supposed to know when to double-click, single-click or right-click? And why?!

Many or most windows during installation include a button to show additional questions or allow more detailed responses. Unfortunately "cancel" does not mean to go back to the previous question but terminates installation. It would seem there is no way to correct an error - which seems like poor interface design and not very polite.

The Installation DVD

In spite of the occasional problem, I was very impressed. Enough so that when I discovered a brief publication on Mandriva by the development team that included 3 DVDs for about 11 Euro (ca. $15 US currently), I picked it up, since I wanted to see what a "real" installation on a PC is like.


This was quite different from the Live CD:

Partitioning reminded me a bit of using Partition Magic long ago under Windows. There is a graphic that shows partitions relative to their size. As you assign mount points, they are used to label the partitions. A very nice touch.

Category: User interfaces
By and large, this is a very straight-forward installation procedure. The number of questions has been reduced to a minimum. A newbie might have trouble with partitioning - but that will be the case no matter what OS he is installing ...

In this case, installation began with questions about software. I accepted the defaults, but this was far too much stuff for the size of the partition selected. Fortunately, it was pretty easy to switch (via Ctrl-Alt-F2) to a root command line and use fdisk to remedy that problem - which, however, required rebooting to take effect. Note, however, that it wasn't necessary to first boot into something else to adjust partitioning before rebooting - that was very pleasant.

Once I got back to where I'd left off, it was time to assign a root password and create a user. On my first attempt, I had created two users and things hung before the boot loader could be specified. On the next one, with only one user, the installation process continued on to the summary prior to actual installation.

Among other minor items the boot loader again showed Lilo rather than Grub, which I corrected. But, again, there was no sign of the boot information previously used - just 'linux', 'linux-nonfb', and 'failsafe'.

After responding "no" to updates and rebooting, there was Mandriva -- all alone in the Grub menu. In spite of the fact that I had pointed the installation procedure at an existing /home -- or maybe due to that fact? -- the prompt was "bash-3.1" rather than the hostname, the selected keyboard was 'US', and the task-bar (or panel) was essentially empty.

Having by now lost count of the attempts, I installed yet again and left /home out. There were no surprises during that process, but the summary at the end, just before installation, needed to have keyboard, country, and bootloader corrected.

I rebooted into Knoppix to fix the Grub file, then booted Mandriva from a now-populated Grub menu. Task-bar, etc. were finally in a reasonable state.


As much as Mandriva impresses me, there were several problems. For example, there were far too many questions just to get a live CD functional. I much prefer the approach used by Knoppix where one can override known defaults as needed and the available parameters are made known at boot time (at least the major ones). Apparently Mandriva can do this as well, but this facility is not well advertised.

Double-clicking with the live CD almost drove me crazy! I detest this carry-over from Windows - not only with Mandriva, I wish OpenOffice would grow up as well. How is one supposed to know when to double-click, single-click or right-click? And why?!

As I've already mentioned, while installing from the live CD, the "Cancel" button terminates installation. That would be OK -- if there were a button "Back". Unfortunately, there is no way to correct a mistake.

Both versions are dangerous in the way they deal with formating. I am used to and expect the chance to review everything before anything happens that can't be reversed; this is good UI design. But formating here happens immediately, and without an obvious preceding clue. It was quite surprising in both cases.

Lilo is the default boot loader for both. There is nothing wrong with Lilo - I've used it for years - and Grub may be a bit intimidating if you consider its power, the size of its man, er, info page, and its ability to do things on the fly. But the installation would be greatly improved if it looked at some of the Linux partitions to check for a Grub configuration, incorporate it in the boot configuration if it exists. To ignore existing Linux configurations is as impolite as the standard "destroy everything else" Windows procedure. Mandriva does automatically recognize the Windows system, though.

When configuring the boot loader with the Installation DVD after selecting Grub, there is an option to add entries - but this doesn't show any that might have been used anywhere else. It just asks for Label, Image and Root - the stuff that Grub needs and nobody can provide without having seen something that works. That's close to good, but this isn't horseshoes.

(And while I'm on a rant about bad stuff - does anybody know how to turn off that infernal noise at boot and shutdown? Knoppix does this too and it irritates the hell out of me. I do a lot of stuff early, when my wife is still sleeping. The last thing anyone needs is irrelevant noise, er, music.)

[ That's KDE noisy introduction! In the "Control Center", go to the "Sound and multimedia" panel and delete the "KDE is starting up" sound. -- Francois ]

When installing from the DVD, Mandriva offered to upgrade Fedora Core; instead, I pointed it at the partition I had decided on. It seems odd that the SuSE partitions weren't mentioned - but the oddest part was that even this recognized partition was left out of the boot menu.

User IDs here begin with 500. Yeah, I know, Fedora Core does this too - But SuSE doesn't. Not for a number of years, anyhow. Anyway, according to LSB, this behavior is alright - it just seems strange and unnecessary.

I wasn't able to do anything useful with the version I had installed, since I couldn't point /home to a partition on which I normally have my /home content. Presumably, that ID number attribution was part of the problem. For Linux the user *is* the ID - so even with the same name, it was 'no go'.

[ Perhaps in the future, Edgar will consider emailing a group of knowledgeable Linux people called The Linux Gazette Answer Gang for help. It seems likely that he has heard of this fine publication. :) -- Ben ]

So it only makes sense to do that if both distributions assign user IDs from the same starting point. This is not something a newbie should be confronted with. Probably it is just a bad idea in the first place. I began doing it to make it easy to go from one release of SuSE to the next.


In spite of a few complaints, I was very impressed with what Mandriva can do; installation from the live CD is fairly straight-forward. Problems with partitioning and dual-boot are not easy to resolve and inherent in any attempt at peaceful co-existence between two OSes.

For what it's worth, it was quite literally a piece of cake to upgrade the live CD installation with the DVD. That may actually be the best way to go. Grab 4GB or so (drives today are huge anyhow), install off the live CD and then go for it! Mandriva's software manager also reminds me of SuSE's YaST, which works quite well. And the DVD is full of interesting stuff.

The folks at Mandriva have made a magnificent product: everything I described above took place in not much more than 24 hours! And I'm already upgrading from DVD? Color me impressed.

Even Mandriva just isn't quite ready to be turned loose on the newbie (to be fair, neither is any other OS.) But someone cursing and screaming about Windows often enough and loud enough would certainly appreciate the help of a Linux-savvy friend in setting up Mandriva in a dual-boot environment - and that friend would not be in for a very difficult time.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Bio picture Edgar is a consultant in the Cologne/Bonn area in Germany. His day job involves helping a customer with payroll, maintaining ancient IBM Assembler programs, some occasional COBOL, and otherwise using QMF, PL/1 and DB/2 under MVS.

(Note: mail that does not contain "linuxgazette" in the subject will be rejected.)

Copyright © 2007, Edgar Howell. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

OSI, GAP, and "Exhibit B" licences

By Rick Moen

Years ago, at the very beginning of the dot-com era, I attended a series of workshops, hosted by OpenSales, Inc., on open-source licensing issues. Discussions were wide-ranging, but covered all of the major software-licensing issues that have hit Linux and open source over the past decade: licence combinatorics, the threat of software patents, trademark encumbrances, court challenges on various copyright grounds, the implications of future Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) measures in the hands of Hollywood and the recorded music cartels, and the much-discussed "ASP loophole".

The last of these was a new way firms can (from one point of view) subvert the intent of "copyleft" licences -- those that require people distributing modified versions and offshoots ("derivative works") to make their source code available: Application Service Providers (ASPs) run their applications behind closed doors, i.e., never distribute them, instead letting remote customers reach those applications remotely across the Internet. In that usage model, the ASP can fully exploit other people's copylefted code without needing to make their changes available to others. (Essentially, copylefted code's authors assumed that anyone would have to distribute their derivative works, to make use of the borrowed code, but this turns out not to be true.)

Years passed, and for a long time the ASP model had only very limited success. The "network computer", which has no independent local computing power of its own and just images remotely running apps, came and went, victim of performance and network-bandwidth problems and the relative low price of conventional PCs. (Sun Microsystems is still trying to sell the idea, as the SunRay product line.) Hosted Web applications were always said to be just around the corner, but never got anywhere until recently, with the rise of AJAX Web apps, a Javascript-based form of dynamic HTML that has made possible a large number of hosted "Web 2.0" services, and (mostly) aspiring young companies backing them.

You'll note that almost all of those -- Google Maps, GMail, Yahoo Mail, Google Calendar, YouTube, and so on -- all keep their program code entirely proprietary, although it's highly likely that they're building it on other people's open source (and probably, in many cases, copyleft) code.

A number of Web 2.0 firms, however, don't wish to cut loose from their open source roots, and (commendably) wish to have their offerings qualify as open source, but at the same time want to give themselves a business advantage over any commercial competitors reusing their published source code on competing sites. A couple of years ago, they found their chosen tool: An "Exhibit B"-clause modification to the Mozilla Public License v. 1.1 (penned originally by the SugarCRM company, then copied by an increasing number of others) -- dubbed by critic Bruce Perens a "badgeware" clause and by its proponents an "attribution" provision, requires any reuse or derivative work to sport the original sponsoring company's advertising logo on every single user interface screen. That was a couple of years ago.

One problem: SugarCRM and its imitators have been going around in public claiming to be open source, and in most cases strongly implying (or in some cases directly claiming) to be using a licence approved as open source by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), even though their licences fail a couple of the criteria that make a licence open source. Morever, they've been carefully avoiding submitting their modified-MPL licence to OSI's licence-approval process.

Aware of the potential for disastrous PR (from claiming to be open source when a firm really isn't), Web 2.0 company Socialtext employee Mitch Radcliffe wrote a somewhat more modest "Exhibit B" clause called the Generic Attribution Provision ("GAP"), and submitted it as a memo to the Open Source Initiative on November 13, 2006, asking that the OSI Board approve it as an addendum to "any [OSI-approved] 'modifiable' licence" as being compliant with the Open Source Definition. In doing so, Socialtext represents the interests of its own Web 2.0 hosted application under its own badgeware licence, and also by extension those of several other Web 2.0 businesses, all with "Exhibit B" licences: SugarCRM, Zimbra, Alfresco, Qlusters / OpenQRM, and Jitterbit.

So have (leaving aside newcomer Intalio) about a baker's dozen of other "Web 2.0" businesses seemingly not associated with the GAP initiative: Scalix, Terracotta, Cognizo Technologies / CATS, MuleSource, Communiva / Dimdim, Agnitas / OpenEMM, Openbravo, Emu Software / NetDirector, ValueCard / TenderSystem, Open Country / OCM Webmin Plus, 1BizCom, KnowledgeTree, and Sapienter Billing Software / Jbilling. The last of these, eyebrow-raisingly, is currently using the OSI Certified licence-certification program logo alongside its modified-MPL licence, a fact I've brought to the OSI Board's attention, on strong suspicion that corrective action is needed. [Late addendum: Just before press time, after receiving a complaint, Sapienter removed its unauthorised use of OSI's logo, but not its distortive claim to be using MPL 1.1, and to be open source.]

All of those firms are aware of having a potential perception problem, and have had private talks with OSI but have notably not submitted their licences for certification -- creating a situation where other firms have started to copy their arrangements without apparently being aware of the controversy.

That brings us to the present, with newcomer Intalio's press release (quoted by Linux Gazette author Howard Dyckoff in this issue's News Bytes column, claiming to be "open source" because they're in the middle of converting their Web 2.0 hosted Web application to MPL + GAP licensing. I began researching this article, which began as a footnote to Howard's news item, because the press release didn't seem right, and the further I looked, the more problems I saw.

By the way, I mean no disrespect towards Web 2.0 companies generally. In fact, Andrew C. Oliver of Buni.org has, to the great credit of himself and his firm, spoken eloquently against Socialtext et alii's GAP initiative, as clearly contrary to core notions of open source. (Oliver predicts that OSI will approve GAP or some similar mandatory-advertising proposal. I sincerely hope he is mistaken.) (As an aside, ZDnet columnist David Berlind has also written eloquently about the ethical questions surrounding "Exhibit B" firms, and the need to curb or at least resolve their misleading claims that their offerings are open source, when they are very much not.)

Socialtext's GAP clause is as follows:

Redistributions of the original code in binary form or source code form, must ensure that each time the resulting executable program, a display of the same size as found in the original code released by the original licensor (e.g., splash screen or banner text) of the original licensor's attribution information, which includes:

(a) Company Name
(b) Logo (if any) and
(c) URL

Yr. humble servant and others on the OSI's license-discuss mailing list found a couple of obstacles, one large and one small, with that proposal:

OSD #10 ("License Must Be Technology-Neutral") is the larger obstacle: "No provision of the license may be predicated on any individual technology or style of interface." GAP appears from its wording to permit creation only of derivative works having user interfaces, i.e., it prohibits reuse of covered code for daemons. Some online comments from some of the affected firms (though not necessarily Socialtext) indicate that this is the purport of that clause, and is a deliberate effect.

The lesser obstacle is that the OSI Certified approval process vets licences as OSD-compliant -- and Socialtext didn't actually submit one: As worded, Radcliffe's memo seems to say "Please examine all 58 OSI-approved licences to see which of them permit textual modifications, and then consider us to have asked approval for each of those that do, each one with our clause appended."

That procedural gaffe is not necessarily fatal to the merits of Socialtext's proposal per se, but does make it severely out of order as a licence proposal.

I should hasten to add that, as serious as GAP's problems are, all of the firms' in-use other badgeware clauses -- all but one listed on the same page as GAP -- have worse ones: Zimbra, Qlusters, SugarCRM, Socialtext itself, Alfresco, Jitterbit, Scalix, Terracotta, Coznito Technologies, MuleSource, Communiva, Agnitas, Openbravo, Emu Software, ValueCard, Open Country, 1BizCom, KnowledgeTree, and Sapienter Billing Software all require their company logos to appear on "each user interface screen" of derivative works, not just on some "splash screen or banner text". Further, each of those licences dictates an exact location and size where that logo much appear on "each user interface screen". Some of those requirements, rather comically for a would-be open source licence, make it physically impossible to comply if you have combined two codebases under the same licence: e.g., SugarCRM, Terracotta, MuleSource, 1BizCom, Sapienter Billing Software, and Socialtext specify "the very bottom center of each user interface screen", which obviously cannot be true of two logos at once. Moreover, through code reuse, derivative works risk starting to look like Nicholas Goodman's nightmare vision of "Exhibit B" logo requirements run amok.

In no way do I speak for Open Source Initiative, but I'd be extremely surprised if any of those licences as presently constituted, or the Generic Attribution Provision (as patched onto some subset of 58 extant licences) were ever approved by the OSI Board. Meanwhile, all 20 of the firms cited continue to claim in public to publish open source software despite having never submitted their licences to OSI for certification and the doubtfulness of their claim on its face.

(SugarCRM CEO John Roberts ignored my question of why, if his firm's licence is open source, the SPL FAQ claims its unlawful to sell works derived from it. Matt Asay, VP of Business Development for Alfresco -- and an OSI Board Member! -- similarly ignored my question of whether Alfresco would kindly suspend claims of being "open source" until its licence is evaluated, or at least commit to remove that claim if its application is declined.)

Socialtext even claimed last July that its wiki software, "Socialtext Open", was available under MPL v. 1.1, when in fact that is simply not the case. [Late addendum: Socialtext retroactively corrected that published claim just before press time, the second time I mentioned it on the OSI license-discuss mailing list.]

There may be a good-faith effort at dealing reasonably with the open source community somewhere in there, but it's late in coming and there's been recently not quite as much candour as one might hope. I would caution firms like Intalio from assuming they've truly gone open source, solely on account of Radcliffe's "submission" of GAP to OSI's Board, and never, ever trust that a licence is genuinely open source just because some Web 2.0 firm claims it is.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Bio picture Rick has run freely-redistributable Unixen since 1992, having been roped in by first 386BSD, then Linux. Having found that either one sucked less, he blew away his last non-Unix box (OS/2 Warp) in 1996. He specialises in clue acquisition and delivery (documentation & training), system administration, security, WAN/LAN design and administration, and support. He helped plan the LINC Expo (which evolved into the first LinuxWorld Conference and Expo, in San Jose), Windows Refund Day, and several other rabble-rousing Linux community events in the San Francisco Bay Area. He's written and edited for IDG/LinuxWorld, SSC, and the USENIX Association; and spoken at LinuxWorld Conference and Expo and numerous user groups.

His first computer was his dad's slide rule, followed by visitor access to a card-walloping IBM mainframe at Stanford (1969). A glutton for punishment, he then moved on (during high school, 1970s) to early HP timeshared systems, People's Computer Company's PDP8s, and various of those they'll-never-fly-Orville microcomputers at the storied Homebrew Computer Club -- then more Big Blue computing horrors at college alleviated by bits of primeval BSD during UC Berkeley summer sessions, and so on. He's thus better qualified than most, to know just how much better off we are now.

When not playing Silicon Valley dot-com roulette, he enjoys long-distance bicycling, helping run science fiction conventions, and concentrating on becoming an uncarved block.

Copyright © 2007, Rick Moen. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

Perl One-Liner of the Month: The Count of Corpus Christi (TX)

By Ben Okopnik

When I first published these notes, there seemed to be some small public interest in seeing them continue; later, I thought I perceived a waning of this interest, and abandoned the project. Since then, on regular occasions, I have received explosives in the mail   promises to extract my kidney through my nose several gentle reminders that restarting the process would not be taken amiss; therefore, I once again take up my weary pen in the hope that my small effort shall please our readers.

In order to acquaint those who are unfamiliar with the tale of The Great Internet Detective, I here reprint the notice that was posted at the top of the very first Woomert and Frink story that ever saw light. Some may see it as a cowardly version of "don't shoot me, I'm only the messenger!" - but I assure you that every word is as true as pseudology and logodaedaly can make it. And that's how the matters lie at the present.

(Reprinted from http://linuxgazette.net/issue84/okopnik.html)

A Reporter's Note

Recently, I became acquainted with a set of documents which journal the adventures and experiences of none other than Woomert Foonly, the world-famous but strangely reticent Hard-Nosed Computer Detective. To the best of my knowledge, the information they contain is authentic. My anonymous correspondent - whom I suspect to be Frink Ooblick, the great man's sidekick and confidant, although my sworn promise forbids me to investigate - had emailed me a short note which engaged my interest, then sent me an encrypted file which took several nights of concerted hacking effort to decrypt (he seems to think that this indicates a sense of humor on his part). This has become the pattern: once in a while, I'll receive a file from a sender whose name matches a complex regular expression (the procmail recipe for this has grown to several pages, and now seems to be mutating on its own). I then have to drop whatever I'm doing and begin hacking at high speed - the encryption method is, in some manner which I've been unable to puzzle out, time-dependent, and becomes much more difficult to break in a few short hours. In our early exchanges, I had been granted permission to publish this material. My correspondent has stated that he chooses to keep his identity private, and is satisfied to receive no credit for his work. I present it here, though I can't claim authorship, in the hope of casting some light on the work of that great detective whose exploits had until now been shrouded in deepest mystery.

I have little to add to the above, save a few words of caution: since the code used in these adventures often depends on "side effects" rather than the core features of Perl, it should not be used for production or be incorporated in working code. This kind of thing is referred to as Perl Golf - i.e., an entertaining game for Perl enthusiasts that abuses standard programming practice to demonstrate the power and flexibility of Perl at the cost of readability - a tradeoff that should never be made or accepted in code intended for use by other people. It is, however, fun to explore and useful for one-time tools - and the experience of parsing it can be instructive for those who are trying to read someone else's "code from hell".

Let the wise reader enjoy but beware.

Ben Okopnik
On board S/V "Ulysses", Dec 22 2006

When Woomert walked into the breakfast nook, he spotted Frink, stretched out in the big armchair and apparently completely at ease. Every once in a while, the young man would reach over to his laptop and type a few characters, examine the result, and lie back with a satisfied grin. Woomert tapped the 'start' button on the gleaming stove to heat some water for his tea, and glanced over at Frink's screen.

- "Good morning, Frink. Homework?"

- "Good morning, Woomert! Yeah, it's our last school assignment before the holidays. I decided to come over to your place to do it, since I figured I'd use Perl for a lot of the repetitive stuff, and didn't have all the modules installed over at my place. It's going pretty well, though; so far, I've just been using the core functions, and haven't needed any modules at all."

- "Hmm. Let me have your laptop a moment, please." Woomert rapidly typed several lines in the console, hit 'Enter', and passed the laptop back to Frink. "There. Not that I don't want you around, partner, but you should have all these modules installed on your machine as well; when you get back home, just check your email and follow the instructions."

Frink glanced at the console, then scrolled up past the long list of module names to see what Woomert had typed.

su -c 'perl -MCPAN -weautobundle; cp /root/.cpan/Bundle/Snapshot*pm ~frink' &&
name=`echo Snapshot*pm`; mail -a $name -s "Modules" frink@frink.com <<!
Dear Frink -

Just run 

perl -MCPAN -e 'install Bundle::${name%.pm}'

as root wherever you save the attached file, and all the modules will be


- "Thanks, Woomert! I've used the CPAN module for installing modules from the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network, but I'd obviously missed a bit of its functionality. I guess the 'autobundle' function writes a list of the modules installed on the system, and allows installing an identical list elsewhere?"

- "Bingo." Woomert spooned some pearls of top-grade Taiwanese tea into his cup, warmed it with a quick rinse of the steaming-hot spring water from the tea-kettle, and poured in water until the cup was nearly full. "Clearly, you already realize that anything following the '-e' option in Perl is treated as a command, so I didn't need to use the single quotes around the function name; after that, I simply copied the name of the file into a variable, and sent you an email with the instructions, using the shell's "heredoc" mechanism. Would you like some tea?"

Frink sat up, his eyes gleaming.

- "Woomert, where are we going? Clearly, you have something lined up. You don't usually drink that Ti Kuan Yin unless you're getting ready for action - it's pretty stimulating stuff! - and I noticed that your favorite typing gloves aren't on their rack, which means they're in your travel case and ready for action." He held up a hand to forestall any arguments. "Before you say anything - I'm almost done with my homework. In fact, here..." He bent down to the laptop, clicked a window running a "Vim" session, and issued a few rapid-fire Perl commands. "There, now I'm all done."

Woomert laughed and nodded, acknowledging Frink's point, then turned the laptop a bit so he could see what was going on and typed 'q:' so he could see the recent command history in Vim. The last couple of lines looked like this:

:'<,'>!perl -lane'my$s;$s+=$_ for@F;$t+=$s;$c+=@F;printf"$_: \%.2f\n",$s/@F}{printf"Avg: \%.2f\n",$t/$c'
:'<,'>!perl -walpe'/\$(\d+\.\d+)\s*$/;$s+=$1 if$1;END{printf"\%s\n\%-22s\$\%.2f\n","-"x32,"Total:",$s}'

- "Well, well. That looks quite appropriate for today, considering what we're about to do. Before I get into that, partner, do you want to explain what you've done here? I just want to see if you're ready for the road; we've got quite a challenge ahead of us."

Frink smiled. "Sure, Woomert. I've been slacking off a bit this morning, since I knew I could get this stuff completed in jig time with Perl; as you can see it worked out fine. We were given a problem involving a traveling salesman... no, no - it's not the classic Traveling Salesman Problem!" He laughed. "If I could solve NP-hard problems... well, never mind. Anyway, what we have are the records of a salesman who has been visiting a list of cities, a score for each of his appointments, and the costs associated with the trip. We were supposed to get an average for each city - he made 10 appointments in each one, but some of them didn't happen for various reasons, which resulted in an empty space for that entry - and the overall average; we were also supposed to total up his overall costs. Pretty basic stuff, but, as I'd said, it was the last one before the holidays - the teacher was willing to let us off easy. Here's the first bunch of data:"

  5 1 2   3 1 5   4
5 1 4 2 1 4 1 3 2 5
  1 2   5 2 1 4 1 3
3 4 4 2 3   5 4 4 3
1 3 5   5 2 5   3  
5   4 2 3 1 1 2 1 3
3 1 2 3 3 2 4 5 2 5
1 3 2   1 2 5   3 5
2 3 1 2 3 1 3 2 5  
4 2     1 1 2 4 5 1
4 2   1 2 4 5 2   5
  4 5 4       1 1 2
2 1 3 2 1 3 3   5 5
2 4 5 4 1 4 2   2 5
  3 2 1 3       3 2
  4 2 1 2 1 3 1 2 2
  4 4 2 4 4 2 2 2  
  2 5 5 1     2 5 2
1 2 2 3 5 3 3 5   1
  1 3 1 1 5   5 1 1
4   5 1 5     2 1 1
2 2 3 2 2 3 3 1 5 1
5 2 4   3 2 2 2    
4 2     2 3     4  
4 1 4     5 5 2    
2 2   5     5   1  
5 3   3 5 3 3 1   5
5 2 3   2 5 2 4 1 5
5 2 1 2 1 5 3 1 5 5
2 3 5 5 3 4 1 1 4 4

"Doing the totals by hand would be pretty gruelling, but with Perl, it was a snap - once I did the right thing in Vim, that is. I used 'Shift-V' to select all those lines, then "filtered" them through Perl. That's rather easy in Vim: once you type ':', it will bring up the command line with the markers indicating the visually-selected area ('<,'>). At that point, I type '!', which - given a selection - means 'filter the text', and supply it with the filter - which, in this case, is Perl."

- "Sounds pretty good so far. And what did you do in the script itself?"

- "Oh, that wasn't too tough. Here, I'll walk through it:"

perl -lane'my$s;$s+=$_ for@F;$t+=$s;$c+=@F;printf"$_: \%.2f\n",$s/@F}{printf"Avg: \%.2f\n",$t/$c'
-l	Enable line-end processing - i.e., strip off newlines as they're read, add them when printing
-a	Autosplit each line of input into @F (since "-F" isn't specified, use whitespace as a delimiter)
-n	Loop over the input, one line at a time (non-printing mode)
-e	Execute the list of commands as a script

"By the way, even though it's usually the right thing to do, I didn't use the '-w' switch to avoid warnings about the blank spots (the missed appointments) in the score list. Heck, I know they're not numbers, but I don't need all the noise as output!"

"Now, the script itself: I'm saving the sum of all the numbers in the line in $s, but I don't want the value of $s to persist between lines - otherwise, it'll just keep growing - so I declare it as a private (lexical) variable with the 'my' operator, which will reset its value to 'undef' between iterations. Next, I loop over the result of the 'autosplit' - this is saved in the @F variable - and increment the value in $s for each of the elements. Last, since I need a total score for the overall average, I increment the value in $t by $s for each line, and add the number of elements in @F - remember that blanks are going to be ignored for that purpose, since we're splitting on whitespace - to $c."

- "Wait a minute, Frink. Are you sure? You appear to be adding a array, '@F', to a scalar, $c. Isn't that wrong?"

Frink laughed.

- "Woomert, you're not going to catch me out on anything that basic. Perl is context-sensitive; if I use an array in scalar context - that is, in an operation that requires a scalar, such as addition - then that array will be treated as a scalar, which in the case of arrays returns the count of elements. You taught me that yourself."

Woomert made a gesture indicating both 'Touché!' and an invitation to go on.

"Fine, then. Next, I defined a template for 'printf' and included some simple things that I didn't need to format: the $_ variable, which represents the current line - I needed to print that back out, since '-n' is a non-printing loop - followed by a template marker. Oh, one note here: since I was doing this in Vim, the '%' sign on the command line could cause a bit of conflict (it means 'current filename' in Vim and vi), so I had to escape it by preceding it with a backslash. It doesn't actually matter to Perl, since any escaped character in a double-quoted string is exactly equal to itself, but Vim will now ignore it. The important part was this: the template defined the output - which I wanted to be the ratio of the sum and the count - as a floating-point number with a 2-digit mantissa, which is how we're supposed to present the line averages."

"After that, though, I used a trick that I learned while reading the comp.lang.perl.misc newsgroup, ages ago - since '-n' assumes a while(){} loop around the code, adding a '}' to it just terminates the opening brace at that point. Of course, you now have to "pair" the other brace to avoid a syntax error, but anything after that '{' is executed in the same way that a an empty block following a while loop would be - that is, after all the lines have been read and the loop has terminated."

- "Excellent, Frink! So what do you do at that point?"

- "Oh, that's easy. After all the looping, I just print a separate line showing the average - which I compute as a ratio of $t and $c. Here, I'll run it over the data I just showed you..." Frink quickly ran 'undo' in Vim, reselected the lines of data, pulled up the command from history, and executed it.

  5 1 2   3 1 5   4: 3.00
5 1 4 2 1 4 1 3 2 5: 2.80
  1 2   5 2 1 4 1 3: 2.38
3 4 4 2 3   5 4 4 3: 3.56
1 3 5   5 2 5   3  : 3.43
5   4 2 3 1 1 2 1 3: 2.44
3 1 2 3 3 2 4 5 2 5: 3.00
1 3 2   1 2 5   3 5: 2.75
2 3 1 2 3 1 3 2 5  : 2.44
4 2     1 1 2 4 5 1: 2.50
4 2   1 2 4 5 2   5: 3.12
  4 5 4       1 1 2: 2.83
2 1 3 2 1 3 3   5 5: 2.78
2 4 5 4 1 4 2   2 5: 3.22
  3 2 1 3       3 2: 2.33
  4 2 1 2 1 3 1 2 2: 2.00
  4 4 2 4 4 2 2 2  : 3.00
  2 5 5 1     2 5 2: 3.14
1 2 2 3 5 3 3 5   1: 2.78
  1 3 1 1 5   5 1 1: 2.25
4   5 1 5     2 1 1: 2.71
2 2 3 2 2 3 3 1 5 1: 2.40
5 2 4   3 2 2 2    : 2.86
4 2     2 3     4  : 3.00
4 1 4     5 5 2    : 3.50
2 2   5     5   1  : 3.00
5 3   3 5 3 3 1   5: 3.50
5 2 3   2 5 2 4 1 5: 3.22
5 2 1 2 1 5 3 1 5 5: 3.00
2 3 5 5 3 4 1 1 4 4: 3.20
Avg: 2.86

Woomert applauded quietly.

- "Very, very good! Mr. Ooblick, I do believe you're getting to be quite the adept; your Perl-Fu is growing. What was that next line, then?"

- "Well, this time, I just needed to add up the totals - all the dollar amounts. However, this included a little extra challenge: some of the descriptions of the expenses actually included dollar amounts, but I didn't want to count those, only the actual totals at the end of the lines. Also, not every line ended with a total, some of them had varying amounts of whitespace on the end, and some were completely empty. So, this is what I started with:"

	Flights            $6419.20
	Travel agent's fee  $430.00

	Corpus Christi, TX  $134.81
	Little Rock, AR     $106.48
	Escondido, CA        $63.14
	Santa Rosa, CA      $115.65
	Torrington, CT       $90.84
	Daytona Beach, FL    $99.71
	Fort Myers, FL       $68.03
	Savannah, GA        $130.70
	Des Moines, IA      $127.44
	Northbrook, IL       $98.43
	Summit, IL           $77.73
	Highland, IN         $88.71
	Bowling Green, KY    $60.55
	Lexington, KY       $148.78
	Framingham, MA       $79.33
	Gardner, MA         $147.02
	Belle Mead, NJ      $115.94
	Toms River, NJ       $70.04
	Binghamton, NY      $132.74
	Pendleton, NY       $138.87
	Wickliffe, OH        $70.08
	Bethlehem, PA       $128.59
	Collegeville, PA     $69.75
	San Antonio, TX      $87.77
	Charlottesville, VA $146.58
	Roanoke, VA         $128.79
	Stephens City, VA    $70.40
	Renton, WA          $149.88
	Oconomowoc, WI      $125.79
	Huntington, WV       $74.96

	Rental             $3247.34
	Gas/parking         $640.63

Per diem:
	$44.50 x 30        $1335.00

Travel bonus:

"The options to Perl were a little different this time:"

perl -walpe'/\$(\d+\.\d+)\s*$/;$s+=$1 if$1;END{printf"\%s\n\%-22s\$\%.2f\n","-"x32,"Total:",$s}'
-w	Enable warnings
-a	Autosplit each line of input into @F (since "-F" isn't specified, use whitespace as a delimiter)
-l	Enable line-end processing - i.e., strip off newlines as they're read, add them when printing
-p	Loop over the input, one line at a time (printing mode)
-e	Execute the list of commands as a script

"All I did in the main body of the code is use a regular expression that matched a literal dollar sign which was followed by one or more digits, which were followed by a literal period and two more digits. Since the dollar amounts could have been followed by whitespace, I matched zero or more occurrences of it with '\s*' - and that brought me to the end of the line, which 'nailed down' the location of the string I was looking for."

By this point, Frink had clearly warmed up to his teaching role; he was gesturing at the screen in grand style, flushed and smiling with confidence in his ability.

"The important part of that regex, though, is the set of parentheses. They're often used simply for grouping characters into a string, but the interesting part of their behavior is what call "capturing" or "memory parentheses"; anything that is matched within them is "remembered" by Perl in sequentially-named variables starting with $1. In this case, $1 is the only variable we have - but it holds everything necessary, the actual amount following the literal dollar sign. So, in the next statement - '$s+=1 if $1' - I check to see if $1 exists for a given line, and increment the sum variable, $s, by that amount if it does. When I'm finished reading all the lines, I execute the END{} clause - that is, the last thing that the script will do before exiting. In it, I print a line of dashes" - here, Frink smiled bashfully - "I decided to get just a little fancy, Woomert - followed by a newline, a string that said "Total:", and the value of $s preceded by a literal dollar sign. Oh, and I formatted everything with a 'printf' template, much like before. How's that?"

Woomert stood up and slapped Frink on the back, at the same time guiding him toward the door.

- "All I can say, Frink, is that you've come a long, long way since the early days - and I'm proud to have been there for it. I'm glad to have you as a partner.

Now, as to the upcoming case: this is absolutely top secret, "for your eyes only" stuff... oh, and before I forget - "

Correspondent's Note: I'm afraid that my record of this exchange between the Great Internet Detective and his partner cuts off at this point. Perhaps this case, like those of The Mysterious Incident at the Palace or The Networked Diadem, are slated to remain forever hidden from public scrutiny - or, as occasionally happens, it may come to light in some future recount of their adventures.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang


Ben is the Editor-in-Chief for Linux Gazette and a member of The Answer Gang.

Ben was born in Moscow, Russia in 1962. He became interested in electricity at the tender age of six, promptly demonstrated it by sticking a fork into a socket and starting a fire, and has been falling down technological mineshafts ever since. He has been working with computers since the Elder Days, when they had to be built by soldering parts onto printed circuit boards and programs had to fit into 4k of memory. He would gladly pay good money to any psychologist who can cure him of the recurrent nightmares.

His subsequent experiences include creating software in nearly a dozen languages, network and database maintenance during the approach of a hurricane, and writing articles for publications ranging from sailing magazines to technological journals. After a seven-year Atlantic/Caribbean cruise under sail and passages up and down the East coast of the US, he is currently anchored in St. Augustine, Florida. He works as a technical instructor for Sun Microsystems and a private Open Source consultant/Web developer. His current set of hobbies includes flying, yoga, martial arts, motorcycles, writing, and Roman history; his Palm Pilot is crammed full of alarms, many of which contain exclamation points.

He has been working with Linux since 1997, and credits it with his complete loss of interest in waging nuclear warfare on parts of the Pacific Northwest.

Copyright © 2007, Ben Okopnik. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

Freedom from Laptop Lugging or Thin Client with No Server

By Dr. Richard Sevenich

The solution proposed by Dr. Sevenich in this article is an important part of what I see as the future of computer hardware. At the present time, we lump several separate hardware resources under the generic label of "Computer" - but considering them as distinct units that serve a common purpose can be critical in determining the direction of development.

Imagine an entire system based on the modular approach in this article: say, a roll-up screen and keyboard, a tiny CPU module (perhaps as a removable part of the keyboard or display, or as a part of a modern PDA with appropriate connectors), a touchpad (or a tiny optical fingertip mouse) and a 60GB USB drive configured as described below. There's very little volume (and thus, essentially no problem at the airport), very little weight, the issue of fragility effectively disappears, and - given components designed to fit the system - there's no problem in device recognition or configuration.

The benefits and rewards of producing such an easily configurable, user-serviceable, fully-mobile computer system are large and obvious - both for the vendor and the users; the hardware to do this already exists. We can only hope that some company with the appropriate resources will pick up the challenge and help bring that future a little closer.
-- Ben Okopnik

The Problem

Picture the security line at a major airport. It's long, maybe slow, and many of the queued people are lugging laptops. Some of the luggers will use the laptop on the plane; some will stow it overhead or underfoot. Its virtue is that it provides a portable way to transport your work environment with you, including Internet access. The problem is that the laptop is an expensive, relatively heavy, relatively bulky, and vulnerable piece of technology - with limited battery life. There are various solutions to this problem, but none have so far been viable/convenient enough to persuade the laptop luggers to change their ways.

The Solution is at Hand

We'll advance a solution here that uses pieces of existing technology, but pieces that are not yet deployed together with this problem in mind. The solution would seem to present an entrepreneurial opportunity and have other follow-on benefits. The elements of the solution are:

Let's discuss each of these elements assuming that the operating system is Linux. It could also be done with other operating systems, but for something like Microsoft Windows it might require the proprietary software vendor to change, or at least rethink, their licensing and business models. In contrast, the fluid, adjustable, and unconstrained Linux business model allows an entrepreneur to be more agile.

Bootable USB Device

We can easily find examples on the Internet where a USB device has been configured to:

In short, it works just like a typical hard drive. Some liveCD implementations can install a bootable Linux to a USB device (e.g. the Ubuntu family.)

These devices are quite small - i.e., the average flash device or microdrive can easily fit in the palm of your hand - but possess significant storage capacity. For example, at this writing I can go to the local shopping mall and purchase an 8GB USB micro-drive for a cost of about 100USD. Lastly, they do not require their own power supplies, because they can be powered directly from a USB port.

Clearly, this is what we want the laptop luggers to lug instead of their laptops. Note as well that it is relatively easy to back up the contents of the whole USB device onto a second inexpensive USB device or other external backup media.

The Computer

The computer needs to have reasonably standard devices for which Linux device drivers exist. The entrepreneur implementing this solution would be wise to choose devices whose source code is in the kernel tree, avoiding binary-only drivers. This would satisfy the needs of all users and constitute a less brittle and more easily maintained product.

The computer needs a BIOS, or equivalent bootloader, that is configured to boot from our USB device. It does not need its own hard drive - it's essentially a Thin Client with No Server (TCNS). On the other hand, if it is an existing desktop or laptop system with an internal hard drive, that's not a fundamental problem, as long as it can boot the USB device. However, as a new installation in an airport or in an airplane, the TCNS approach yields a product which is less expensive and more durable.

Boot up Software System on the USB Device

The boot up software system on a liveCD is close to being the sort of software we need, with its major drawback being that the read-only nature of the storage medium. A liveCD is capable, on a good day, of recognizing and properly deploying device drivers and configuration files for:

This process doesn't always go well, but the major hurdle would disappear if the target TCNS had reasonably standard devices for which Linux device drivers existed in the source tree. Backward compatibility problems may occur with randomly selected legacy desktop and laptop machines instead of the more standardized TCNS. These problems would disappear in most cases for 'mainstream' machines, as the needed device drivers enter the Linux source tree. [We are resisting the temptation to define a 'mainstream' machine as one for which the needed device drivers do enter the Linux source tree.]

Category: Mobility
The problem is that the laptop is an expensive, relatively heavy, relatively bulky, and vulnerable piece of technology - with limited battery life when left uncharged.


If we focus on the airplane traveller who currently carries a laptop, the suggested solution involves considerably less:

It lightens the load for security personnel, moves the security line more quickly, and allows the traveller more flexibility in choosing carry-on items.

The focus on portability for air travel was chosen to illustrate a general portability problem and its potential solution. The proposed solution would also benefit:

Further, the use of the TCNS approach could:

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang


Dr. Richard Sevenich, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science, retired from Eastern Washington University early in 2006. However, intending to remain active, he is currently teaching Computer Science on a part time basis at Malaspina University-College, in Nanaimo, BC, Canada. His teaching and research interests lie in the areas of Operating Systems, Compiler Design, and industrial control via state languages. He writes occasional articles on these and other topics. He has used Linux since the summer of 1994.

Copyright © 2007, Dr. Richard Sevenich. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007


By Shane Collinge

These images are scaled down to minimize horizontal scrolling.

Flash problems?

Click here to see the full-sized image

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All HelpDex cartoons are at Shane's web site, www.shanecollinge.com.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Bio picture Part computer programmer, part cartoonist, part Mars Bar. At night, he runs around in his brightly-coloured underwear fighting criminals. During the day... well, he just runs around in his brightly-coloured underwear. He eats when he's hungry and sleeps when he's sleepy.

Copyright © 2007, Shane Collinge. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007


By Javier Malonda

The Ecol comic strip is written for escomposlinux.org (ECOL), the web site that supports es.comp.os.linux, the Spanish USENET newsgroup for Linux. The strips are drawn in Spanish and then translated to English by the author.

These images are scaled down to minimize horizontal scrolling.


Click here to see the full-sized image


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All Ecol cartoons are at tira.escomposlinux.org (Spanish), comic.escomposlinux.org (English) and http://tira.puntbarra.com/ (Catalan). The Catalan version is translated by the people who run the site; only a few episodes are currently available.

These cartoons are copyright Javier Malonda. They may be copied, linked or distributed by any means. However, you may not distribute modifications. If you link to a cartoon, please notify Javier, who would appreciate hearing from you.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Copyright © 2007, Javier Malonda. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007

The Linux Launderette

By Jimmy O'Regan


Launderette extra:

"New" Windows Vista features vs. OS/X

Benjamin A. Okopnik [ben at linuxgazette.net]
Sun, 1 Oct 2006 13:21:10 -0400

Somebody took the audio from a Micr0s0ft Vista "we're so brilliant, we've invented all this new stuff" shill session and overlaid it on a video of themselves doing it all on their OS/X desktop - with a few additional twists. High amusement factor, including Bill G's 1977 "jailbird" photos.


[OT] Ultimate xmas present for the geek you love/admire :-)

[[[ Sorry, this is a bit late - but maybe it'll be useful for next year! Belated seasonal greetings! -- Jimmy ]]]


Predrag Ivanovic [predivan at ptt.yu]
Sun, 26 Nov 2006 21:26:07 +0100

Neuros OSD Linux Media Recorder

And yes, I want one, why do you ask? :-) And 'Hack the Duck' coffee mug...

/me goes to pressure^Wpersuade friends to buy one.


 If it weren't for computers we'd probably be in bed at a decent hour.

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Bio picture Jimmy is a single father of one, who enjoys long walks... Oh, right.

Jimmy has been using computers from the tender age of seven, when his father inherited an Amstrad PCW8256. After a few brief flirtations with an Atari ST and numerous versions of DOS and Windows, Jimmy was introduced to Linux in 1998 and hasn't looked back.

In his spare time, Jimmy likes to play guitar and read: not at the same time, but the picks make handy bookmarks.

Copyright © 2007, Jimmy O'Regan. Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 134 of Linux Gazette, January 2007