Linux Format Newsletter -- #55, November 2009

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #55, November 2009

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Dec 11, 2009 3:34 pm





1. Welcome

2. LXF 126 on sale

3. Special subscription offer

4. In the news...

5. This month on the forum

6. Special Newsletter feature

7. Coming up next issue

8. Receiving this Newsletter

9. Contact details

1. Welcome

Unless you've had your head in the sand (in a cave (on Mars)) for
the last few weeks, you won't have missed the releases of Ubuntu
9.10, Mandriva 2010 and OpenSUSE 11.2. Three major distros with only
a few weeks between them -- it's certainly a great time for us Linux
fans, but are the releases a bit too close together?

Maybe we'd be better off spreading the Linux love over the year. It
takes a big distro release to get Linux coverage in the mainstream
computing press, so perhaps it's not the best idea to have so much
Linux awesomeness compressed into a short timeframe. What do you
reckon? Join us on the forums and let us know your opinion.

Meanwhile, we have our regular sections in this month's Newsletter:
a look at the just-on-sale issue of Linux Format, quick roundups of
the big news stories and forums posts, and of course a special
feature. This month we're looking at what we can expect in Gnome
3.0, which will include some pretty sweeping changes for the desktop.

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 126 on sale

Linux is awesome. There's no denying that. But it doesn't always
look awesome -- sure, aesthetics are a matter of personal taste, but
some distros tend to err on the side of caution and tone down the
eye candy. Well, in Linux Format 126's cover feature we show you how
to unleash the gorgeous desktop technology we'll be using throughout
2010: the Emerald theme manager, KDE 4.3's window switching effects,
the outrageously cool Cairo Dock, and much more. Note that these
features aren't just about pleasing the eyes -- they can help you to
work faster and smarter too.

Also in this issue: KDE-oriented distros fight it out to determine
which does the Kool Desktop Environment the most justice. We explain
how to automate common tasks with shell scripts, keep your network
secure with Wireshark, and hook Python code up with geodata maps to
find out everything you want to know about your neighbourhood. On
the 4GB DVD you'll find Live versions of KDE 4.3 and Gnome 2.28, so
you can try the brand-new Linux desktops in minutes, along with
Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Moblin 2.

Here's a taster of LXF 126 from our HotPicks section:

# Fluidity 0.1.1 --

We've recently been bitten by the getting-things-done bug. Nothing
feels better than working your way through a task list, crossing
off each item, so we were delighted to see the release of
Fluidity, billed as a Black Belt GDT client to help you take
control of your life.

It's a small 91k download that's easy to install once you've got
the necessary dependencies. Be careful here, because you'll need
the Python Kiwi libraries, along with Python YAWL and Python GTK
bindings. Python Kiwi isn't actually documented as far as we can
see, so ensure you have it installed prior to running the
precompiled binary. All you have to do is launch the shell script,
which carries out the necessary commands, and before you know it,
you'll be organising yourself with ease.

Offering a workflow solution, Fluidity gives you three ways to
view your tasks. Still in heavy development, the Clarify pane
isn't quite working as it should, but the Review and Engage panes
show some serious promise for this fledgling app. In Review, you
can create multiple projects and assign tasks to each, which are
known as Next Actions, with categories given a Web 2.0-esque
label, with the @context naming convention.

With each project and action, you can provide a mine of
information, and link files to specify projects to work on. It's
very early days, but we're eager to see further development of

Head over to the LXF website and click on the issue cover picture
for more information on Linux Format 126.

3. Special subscription offer

By subscribing to Linux Format magazine, not only do you save heaps
of money compared to buying it at the newsstand, but you also get
access to over 50 back issues (in PDF format) online: that's over a
thousand articles! See:

If you're in the USA, go to and
enter code 'e004' to save 45% and pay just $30.62 every 3 months or
$122.47 for the year.

For those in the UK, EU and rest of the world, visit:

UK readers save 35% off the newsstand price (based on 13 issues),
paying 13.75 UKP quarterly by direct debit. In the EU, you get 13
issues for 93.70 UKP (that's a whopping saving of 50%), while in the
rest of the world you can save 10% - it's 97.50 UKP.

So, save time and money, and get access to a huge wealth of previous
Linux Format content - subscribe today!

4. In the news

The biggest developments from around the net...

# Ubuntu 9.10 released ... comparison

Bang on target, the Karmic Koala is here, sporting a faster and
cleaner boot sequence amongst various other changes and updates. At
TuxRadar HQ we pitted the new release against Ubuntu 9.04 and the
last two versions of Windows in a boot-speed competition -- click
the link above to watch a video of the action.

# Mandriva 2010 is here

Clearly not ones to bother about such trifling matters as the year
we're actually in, the Mandriva team has delivered a shiny new
release. Codenamed "Adelie", Mandriva 2010 brings a bunch of
improvements as detailed in the announcement. The new "Smart
Desktop" technology lets you assign tags and notes to documents,
images and other files, while boot times have been reduced and the
latest desktop environments (KDE 4.3 and Gnome 2.28) are included.

# FatELF project closes ... e=19-08-04

FatELF, an executable binary format that can include code for
multiple processor architectures, has come to a sorry end. "It looks
like the Linux kernel maintainers are frowning on the FatELF
patches. Some got the idea and disagreed, some didn't seem to hear
what I was saying, and some showed up just to be rude." said Ryan
Gordon, the chief developer. Hit the link above for the gory

5. This month on the forum

Just how many buttons does a mouse need? Rhakios pointed out the
OOMouse, an unofficial rodent to support the suite.
It's plastered with buttons and features a strange analog stick on
the left hand side. LeeNukes positioned it as "a contender for worst
IT invention" of the year, while MartyBartfast looked at the price
and said: "If it was April I'd say this was a joke but it looks real
enough." If it does turn out to be real and you get one, let us know
what it's like in the thread! [1]

Over in the Off Topic subforum, meanwhile, our regulars have been
chewing over the topic of Ubuntu release names. With Karmic Koala
now out and Lucid Lynx lurking on the horizon, we're wondering how
far this naming scheme can go. Prepare to read such well-crafted
suggestions as Urgent Unicorn, Perverse Pachyderm and Xenophobic
Xenurine. Hang on, what is a Xenurine anyway? [2]



6. Special Newsletter feature


Originally planned to follow the just-released Gnome 2.28, version
3.0 of the desktop environment has been pushed back six months, with
an expected release date of September 2010. So we'll see one more
release from the 2.x series -- 2.30 in March. For the Gnome team,
it's important that 3.0 gets the right balance of new features to
play with and familiarity; they need to avoid the problems of KDE
4.0, which most followers would admit was released far too early.

So, what's in the pipeline for Gnome 3.0?

1) Rethinking the desktop

Right now the stock Gnome setup is this: two panels and some icons
on the desktop. With Gnome Shell (
the emphasis is on accessing documents and applications; Gnome Shell
will replace the panels and window manager and spruce up the whole
kaboodle with "rich visual effects". Some would argue that we have
enough eye candy thanks to Compiz, but still, the more the merrier. gives an indication of
what we can expect: an 'overview' mode which lets you see all
windows (Mac OS X Expose-style) along with quick access to commonly
used applications and documents. Using the Clutter interface
libraries and JavaScript, there'll be a "low barrier" to getting
involved in the design of the desktop, as the Gnome Shell
maintainer, Owen Taylor, put it.

2) Out with the old, in with the new

Although Gnome has been at the 2.x mark since 2002, so much has
changed over the years. Arguably, Gnome 2.28 is a much bigger leap
over 2.0 than 3.0 will be over 2.30, the last 2.x release. The
developers plan to completely remove deprecated libraries, so that
coders new to the platform won't end up using them by mistake, not
knowing exactly what is old and what is new.

Aside from just removing cruft, though, the Gnome team wants to open
the door to new and upcoming technologies. There's the Clutter
interface library mentioned before, and the GeoClue geoinformation
service is also a contender for inclusion:

3) Spreading the word

Gnome's website has looked largely the same for a few years now, so
one of the tasks lined up is a site relaunch in order to make the
project "communicate" more effectively. For 3.0 the developers want
to get users involved in the project who can improve this
communication -- tell people what Gnome is about, what things it
does differently to other desktops, and so forth.

Additionally, the team wants to push the message that Gnome isn't
just about the desktop as we see it. It's hard to get people excited
about window managers, libraries and language bindings. We can
expect to see more emphasis placed on the applications that make up
a whole "Gnome experience", such as Rhythmbox and Banshee. There's
certainly a wealth of great Gnome/GTK apps out there, just as there
are for KDE and Qt, so this marketing approach might help to spread
the free software message even further.

So in summary, 3.0 won't just be about changes to the front-end, but
also an opportunity to kick out the old fluff and send out a new
message about the desktop. Whether it'll work so smoothly or arrive
on time... well, we'll just have to wait and see. Good luck to the
team though.

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 127, on sale Thursday 10 December...

# Linux on the move -- How Moblin and Ubuntu Netbook Remix
are spearheading the portable computing conquest

# Remote control -- Take your machines in hand with our
guide to running admin scripts through a web browser

# LilyPond -- Handel's Water Music? Pfft! You can do
much better, and we show you how

Contents are subject to change, and may settle in transit.

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 writing
Hello World in BASIC:

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If for some reason you no longer wish to receive this newsletter
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9. Contact details

If you have 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)
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