Linux Format Newsletter -- #17, September 2006

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #17, September 2006

Postby M-Saunders » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:52 am





1. Welcome!

2. Preview of LXF 85

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Special newsletter feature

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this Newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

I'd just like to thank all of those who took our online survey,
following the redesign issue of LXF (84). Your feedback has been
very valuable, and will help us to keep LXF the best mag possible!
Now issue 85 is on sale -- see below for more info on the contents.

Meanwhile, we're heading towards 'new distro season', with loads of
tempting releases just around the corner. New versions of Ubuntu,
Slackware, Mandriva and Fedora are due within a month, so it's time
to get those CD-Rs ready! Naturally, we'll cram them all onto LXF
DVDs, giving them some multi-boot love wherever possible.

Anyway, enjoy this month's Newsletter. We've got some info on the
current LXF issue, a roundup of the biggest news and forum
discussions, plus a special feature on the Linux boot sequence.

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Preview of LXF 85

LXF issue 85 has just hit the shop shelves: with Novell's new range
of enterprise Linux products now available, we've been looking at
how the company can challenge Red Hat for corporate supremacy in our
main feature. Just what are SLED and SLES? How did Novell get into
Linux? What does the road ahead look like? Find out all in our
eight-page analysis.

Meanwhile, we met up with Kristian Van Der Vliet, the lead developer
of Syllable. 'Vanders' tells us why he's heading up an alternative
open source OS -- what he sees are problems with Linux, and how a
fresh new start can overcome them. In a separate article, our very
own Paul Hudson also asks why Linux still hasn't made a massive
impact on the desktop market, pinpointing certain programs that just
can't seem to 'get' ease-of-use.

We've got the ultimate lowdown on Ulteo, the new project from the
mind of Gael Duval, Mandriva founder. Just what is it? Surely not
'yet another distro'? No, there's a lot more to it than that -- read
our feature for all the juicy details.

On the reviews front, we look at Xandros Desktop 4, Cairo 1.2,
Blender 2.42a, Gnome 2.16, VMware Server 1.0, and a big roundup of
Java IDEs. Our tutorials section explains how to lock-down your
machine, hack Compiz for ubercool graphic effects, create Base forms
in, master Inkscape 0.44's new features, and program
3D games. Our regular HotPicks section, which looks at the latest
new releases, includes a review of top-notch puzzle game Pengupop:

# Pengupop --

Quick show of hands please: who here has played Frozen Bubble? If
you've been using Linux for a while, chances are you'll have come
across it - it's one of the most popular and celebrated open
source games, combining slick professional presentation with a
classic gameplay idea. Frozen Bubble is a respin of the classic
Puzzle Bobble (and Bust-a-Move), and Pengupop takes the same game
mechanics and adds a few twists of its own.

Nutshellised, Pengupop is a puzzle game in which you have to fire
spheres to the top of the screen, and match them with similarly
coloured spheres. Join three together and they disappear -
possibly bringing down any 'hangers on' underneath. It's a bit
tricky to explain in text, but look at the screenshot and you'll
get an idea how it works if you've never played this type of game
before. Pengupop is an online multiplayer game - you battle
against other players around the world, adding spheres to their
playing area when you clear yours.

Thumbs-up to the developers for avoiding dependency hassles and
installation trickiness; Pengupop is supplied as a single
executable file which contains all relevant code and data. The
only thing you'll need is SDL (included as standard in almost
every distro), so you can just run the pengupop-linux-ia32.bin
file and get started.

Even better, Pengupop doesn't faff around with game servers or IP
addresses - you just start a game, and Pengupop finds a waiting
player to join you. It's absolutely seamless and a whole lungful
of fresh air if you're used to messy connection hassles. Even
though the game isn't widely known yet, we never failed to find an
online opponent at various times of the day, never having to wait
more than a few seconds.

In play, Pengupop is much as you'd expect: the game mechanics and
collision detection are well coded, it looks very smart, and
sphere-shooting is accompanied by appropriate sound effects. Like
Tetris, you can't really go wrong with a solid formula unless you
try to add pointless frills, so we're glad that Pengupop's coders
have focused on the trusty game concept. If you like Puzzle Bobble
games and fancy challenging other players on the net, this is just
about perfect.

You'll find five-and-a-half more pages of HotPicky goodness in
LXF 85, including a look at promising finance manager Eqonomize.

3. In the news...

Forking, benchmarking and debating aplenty this month...

# Compiz forked ... le&sid=404

Compiz, part of the slick XGL 3D desktop effects system, has been
forked with the name Beryl. Following on from the compiz-quinnstorm
branch, as used by many Ubuntu users, this fork has come about
because of communication issues with the main Compiz developers. See
more in this OSNews discussion:

# Desktop Environment benchmarks ... le&sid=401

Many people claim Gnome and KDE are too resource heavy, but are
they? Someone has finally done some benchmarking on them plus Xfce
and Window Maker for comparison. Lubos Lunak, who is a KDE developer
for OpenSUSE, has done some testing. He has found some interesting
results too. Gnome applications that may use less resources when
running on KDE? Yes. There are many more interesting findings:

# Shuttleworth: Ubuntu needs Debian ... le&sid=397

There's a lot of commotion and discussion about Ubuntu's
relationship with the Debian project. On his blog, Mark Shuttleworth
has posted an explanation of his views on the subject, stating that
"Ubuntu could not exist without Debian". He also hopes that the
Debian developers continue to build on the strengths of the distro,
rather than becoming divided through in-fighting. See:

4. This month on the forum

Getting certain media formats to play back on Linux machines can be
a chore, due to legal issues when distributing some codecs. baasivan
asked the forum how to go about getting MP3 playback working on SUSE
10.1, and there followed various suggestions and discussions about
the issue. Well worth a read if you've struggled with media playback
on your Linux machine and want to read more about the issue. [1]

What did readers make of the LXF redesign? A big thread started up
when issue 84 went out to subscribers -- the feedback was largely
very positive (thankfully! :-) ). If you're an overseas reader and
have just got your copy, please do chip in with your thoughts in
the thread. [2]

[1] ... pic&t=4151

[2] ... pic&t=4014

5. Special newsletter feature


If you've been running Linux for several years, you'll recall the
masses of text that scrolls by when the OS boots up. Today, most
desktop distros shield this information from the user with graphical
boot splash screens -- great in terms of presentation, but can leave
you befuddled as to what's going on. Here I'll give an overview of
the various phases of the Linux boot sequence.

1. Boot loader

Normally GRUB on most systems, or occasionally LILO, this small
program is the first step in the process, loading the Linux kernel
or letting you start other operating systems. It also lets you set
kernel options for booting.

2. Kernel

The boot loader copies the kernel image file into RAM, and begins
executing it. Then the kernel gets the OS foundations set up: it
detects essential hardware such as keyboard and text-mode video,
organises memory for applications, and launches 'init'.

3. Init

'init', which normally lives in /sbin, is the single most important
program in the boot sequence. It always has the process ID (PID) 1,
and spawns everything else. Usually, init looks for boot scripts and
begins executing them, although if there's a major problem (eg
certain boot files missing), it can drop you to a shell prompt.

4. Boot scripts

These vary from distro to distro, but are typically stored in
/etc/init.d. One of the most important files here is /etc/init.d/rc,
which determines which programs to start on boot, depending on your
runlevel (basically a bootup profile). Some boot scripts, such as
those in InitNG, operate in parallel, so you get lots more done and
a quicker boot than running them all one-at-a-time.

5. Login manager

Unless you're running purely in text mode, one of the boot scripts
will start a login manager -- typically GDM for Gnome-based distros,
and KDM for KDE. (There's also XDM, a very bare and vanilla display
manager that's rarely used thesedays.) Some distros are making the
login manager start up early in the boot scripts, which means other
scripts are running as you log in, thereby making for a slightly
faster boot.

So that's an overview of how modern Linux distros boot up. Here's
some links with further info:


6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 86, on sale Thursday 19th October

# 15 years and counting -- yes, Linux really is that old.
Join us for the ultimate nostalgia trip into the past of
the OS that changed the world

# Nat Torkington -- O'Reilly editor, OSCon organiser and
Perl 6 project manager takes 5

# Bonus coverdisc -- over 250 pages from the magazine in
PDF format for your perusal!

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

7. Receiving this Newsletter

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

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

8. Contact details

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

Newsletter Editor: Mike Saunders --

Letters for the magazine:

LXF website:

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

(C) 2006 Future
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