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Linux Format Newsletter -- #14, June 2006

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 10:51 am    Post subject: Linux Format Newsletter -- #14, June 2006 Reply with quote





1. Welcome!

2. Preview of LXF 82

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Special newsletter feature

6. New archive PDFs

7. Coming up next issue

8. Receiving this Newsletter

9. Contact details

1. Welcome!

The extreme pace of Linux development is a joy to see. In the last
Newsletter we were raving about the new Ubuntu release, but only one
month later, development is underway on new versions of Mandriva,
SUSE and Ubuntu (see the news stories later in this Newsletter).
There's a constant push to incorporate great new technology, and
it's all free for us to try today!

If you want to get individual new app releases, though, without
upgrading your distro every few days, it's often hard to keep track
of all the new versions doing the rounds. In this month's Newsletter
we have a special feature on the best resources for finding apps --
whether you're Gnomer, a KDE fan or just looking for games. Plus we
have a look at LXF 82, summaries of the latest news and forum posts,
and a few other bits 'n bobs. Enjoy!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Preview of LXF 82

Linux Format issue 82 is on sale now, and this month we've been
looking at Vista here at LXF towers. A Windows OS, you ask? Yes, but
only to see how much of it is genuinely innovative, and how much you
can get in Linux today. We found that most of the hyped features of
Vista (the ones that have survived!) already have their Linux
equivalents, and our guide shows you how to set up XGL, Beagle,
SuperKaramba and more.

Have you ever fancied dipping a toe into the world of open source
development, but aren't sure where to start? We have a comprehensive
guide to hacking The GIMP -- not just coding, but getting involved
with the community. As The GIMP is a well-known, active and mature
program, it's the perfect way to join the rewarding world of free
software hacking.

Our 'Hidden Gems' feature takes a look at 10 superb but largely
unknown apps -- the kind of software you don't see in the usual
release listings, but that's well worth installing. Meanwhile,
Graham Morrison explains how to organise your home directory in
Subversion, and the OSDL's Stuart Cohen is our man in LXF's
interview chair. Here's a few of the questions we asked Stuart --
keep an eye on our website for the answers...

# A lot of people might say the OSDL favours large organisations.
Would you say that's fair?

# Where does the biggest chunk of your money go?

# A lot of your money comes from companies that hold quite a few
patents. Does OSDL have some conflict of interest there?

Grab the issue to read Stuart's other thoughts on Linux
standardisation, and the possibility of Microsoft joining the OSDL.

On the reviews front in LXF 82, highlights include Vim 7, FreeBSD
6.1 and SlickEdit 11, while we have tutorials on Inkscape, BASIC and PHP. By popular request, Paul Hudson has
kicked off a 3D game programming tutorial series -- just by
following the first four pages you'll have built a 3D world to
explore! We also have our regular six-page roundup of the best new
and updated open source apps, in HotPicks. Here's one of the
highlights, image format converter SVGpage:

# SVGpage 0.4 --

SVG, or Scalable Vector Graphics, is fast becoming the standard
format for non-bitmap images. Support under Linux is strong,
particularly thanks to the first-class editor Inkscape, and many
other apps are starting to include SVG import/export
functionality. However, one problem that often crops up is
converting images. Making acceptable vector images from bitmaps
isn't easy - not unless you convert every pixel to a vector, which
is pure overkill! SVGpage converts bitmaps into SVGs in a more
flexible way, by letting the user define just how much detail is
carried over.

SVGpage is written in Python with a GTK front-end, so you'll need
PyGTK if you're compiling from source. Helpfully, though, the
developers have made a static binary with no dependencies - just
extract the svgpage_bin-0.4.tar.bz2 file and run SVGpage in the
resulting directory. The app opens up with a sample image,
demonstrating how it converts a pixel-based image (on the left) to
its vector graphics equivalent (on the right).

Converting images is as simple as it gets: open a picture from the
File menu, and then click 'Render as an SVG' at the bottom of the
main window. The initial result may be less than impressive -
detail missing, parts of the picture over-emphasised, and a
generally scrappy representation. But this is where SVGpage's key
features come to the forefront: customisation. Via boxes on the
right of the main window, you can set various conversion
parameters, such as despeckling level, colour thresholds, filters
and more. It takes some experimentation, but as you tweak these
settings you'll find out what works best for your images.

A special mention must go to the documentation, which although
lacking in demonstration images, has detailed descriptions of the
various options. These help guides are taken from Autotrace (which
provides the underlying conversion engine for SVGpage), so they're
technical in places but anyone with a background in computer
graphics should have no problem fathoming it out. Overall, the
results you get from SVGpage will depend on the complexity of your
image and choice of conversion settings, but for making vector
renditions of logos and other pictures will well-defined shapes,
it works like a charm. A valuable addition to any graphics
artist's armoury.

There are five-and-a-half more pages of HotPicks in in LXF 82,
including a look at the amazing single-man OS project Visopsys...

3. In the news...

More SCO-related antics, and development distro releases...

# Court limits SCO's claims

Another episode in the SCO vs IBM soap opera. Of the 294 allegations
made by SCO in the ongoing court case, 185 have been dismissed by
the court. It looks like the long-running legal battles are coming
to a head, and for Linux supporters, the news that most of SCO's
claims have been dismissed has brought much cheer. However, there
are still 107 SCO claims remaining, so it's not over just yet.
Groklaw has the full details:

# Mandriva 2007 development started

Mandriva The first alpha release of Mandriva Linux 2007 is now
available for download -- see
There's a comprehensive list of changes and new features since the
2006 release at, and OSDir has been swift
to grab screenshots:

# Planning the next Ubuntu release

More than 60 Ubuntu developers have met up in Paris to discuss the
next release of the distro: Edgy Eft. Unlike Dapper, the last
release, Edgy will not focus on long-term support but will instead
look to integrate bleeding-edge features. These include Xen-enabled
kernels, stack-smashing support in GCC and the SMART package
manager. See for more info.

4. This month on the forum

Say 'Linux audio players', and most people think of the big duo:
Amarok and Rhythmbox. donoreo asked what else there was in the wide
world of open source, explaining that he'd tried the Gnome and KDE
apps. M0PHP pointed in the direction of XMMS and its GTK 2 sibling,
BMP, while Flea recommended Quod Libet. In general, though, most
forum regulars were in favour of Amarok, which had won a previous
LXF website poll with 40% of the votes. [1]

Is Windows Vista a new 'paradigm' in computing? There's certainly a
lot of buzzwords being thrown around, but as we found in the LXF 82
cover feature, there's not a whole lot that's completely new. That
said, Rhakios made a good point that sums up some of the problems
Microsoft faces: "If they put anything genuinely knew in there, then
yer standard windows user would just moan about not knowing how to
use it." [2]



5. Special newsletter feature


Readers often ask me how I go about finding programs to cover in the
HotPicks section of LXF. With thousands of projects in various
stages of development, it's not easy to sort the wheat from the
chaff, but by looking in the right places you can make the task
simpler. In this mini-feature we'll look at some of the best sites
to go app huntin', and what they cover.

1. Freshmeat (

This is THE index for open source software. Nigh on every release of
every app in existence is announced here, with short descriptions of
what the program does and what has changed since the last version.
If you look at the front page, you'll see a long list of apps, which
isn't very useful as it's a hotch-potch of server tools, desktop
programs, games and others. Fortunately, though, with a free account
you can log in and narrow down the categories, even sorting them by
popularity and rating. Freshmeat is an industrial-strength release
resource, then -- massively exhaustive, but not as focused as some
of these sites...

2. KDE-Apps (

If you're a KDE user, this is the place to go to catch up on new
releases. The site makes heavy use of screenshot thumbnails, and
allows users to rate and comment on individual apps. As with
Freshmeat, you can narrow down categories (see the list on the
left), which helps to avoid the bajillion 'KDE improvement' and
'Kommander script' entries that clutter up the listings.

3. GnomeFiles (

From the OSNews crew is GnomeFiles, the Gnome equivalent to
KDE-Apps. Except it's not purely Gnome software -- you'll find
standalone GTK programs listed too, so if you're running a different
desktop or window manager it's a great site to watch. At the bottom
of the front page, GnomeFiles has a list of the most recent updates
on the Gnome FTP server, so you can keep an eye on the latest
releases of core Gnome components.

4. HappyPenguin (

Another good resource, useful for finding HotPicks games! This site,
the Linux Game Tome as it's also known, lists new versions of open
source and proprietary entertainment software for Linux. Handily,
the individual game pages list requirements, so you can see
at-a-glance whether it's some sanely buildable SDL-only app, or a
horrific monster that requires OCaml-FLTK bindings (or equally weird

So there we have four of the best resources for locating the best
new Linux releases. If you've come across any other sites worth
visiting, let me know and I'll mention them in the next Newsletter!

6. New archive PDFs

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

* LXF 70 - HotPicks

* LXF 70 - Installing Beagle guide

* LXF 70 - Gimp tutorial

* LXF 71 - File manager roundup

* LXF 71 - What on Earth is Cairo?

* LXF 71 - Gambas tutorial

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

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 83, on sale Thursday 27th July

# Ubuntu Forever -- Desktop Linux is here, now: we call it Ubuntu.
Read our exclusive guide to getting the most from the best
desktop distro ever!

# SpikeSource -- Open source stacks for business

# Linux on Rails -- Is it time to switch to Ruby?

# Compiler shoot-out -- the best code-munchers rated

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

8. Receiving this Newsletter

If you've been forwarded this Newsletter from someone else, and want
to sign up for future issues, just follow the steps below. Each
month you'll receive a sparkling new LXF Newsletter straight in your
Inbox, and the 30-second sign-up process is even easier than getting
into a 6502 vs Z80 debate:

1. Go to the website forums and log in (or sign up first):

2. At the top of the main forum page, click on 'Usergroups'

3. Join the 'Newsletter' group, and you're done!

If for some reason you no longer wish to receive this newsletter
(which'll make the internet cry) you can opt-out by removing
yourself from the Newsletter group as above.

9. Contact details

Any questions or suggestions, please send them to the Newsletter
Editor at the address below:

Newsletter Editor: Mike Saunders --

Letters for the magazine:

LXF website:

Subscriptions: 0870 837 4722 (overseas +44 1858 438794)
Website subs page:

(C) 2006 Future
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