Linux Format Newsletter -- #13, June 2006

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Linux Format Newsletter -- #13, June 2006

Postby M-Saunders » Fri Jun 30, 2006 1:10 pm





1. Welcome!

2. Preview of LXF 81

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 sun is out, the sky is blue, and as I type this a new release of
Ubuntu has just arrived. In fact, you can almost smell the smoke as
mirror servers are melted in the huge rush to grab 'Dapper'. It's
quite astounding to consider that two years ago, Ubuntu was some
barely-known project that seemed to be YADD (Yet Another Debian
Derivative). Now it's the most popular distro on
With Dapper having five years of security-fix support on servers, it
looks like we're going to see more widespread business use of the
distro over the next few months.

Meanwhile, in this month's Newsletter we have a glance at the latest
issue, including a gem from HotPicks, plus the latest news and forum
discussions from the website and a special feature on upcoming app
releases. As always, if you have any suggestions about what you'd
like to see covered in the Newsletter, just drop me a line!


Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. Preview of LXF 81

Linux Format issue 81 has just hit the newsagent shelves, with a
special focus this month: hands-on projects. We have 26 pages of
guides, tutorials and things to try, for beginners, intermediate
Linuxers and gurus -- there's something for everyone! Highlights
include a detailed guide to setting up Open-Xchange (a great
replacement for Microsoft's collaboration server), running your own
blog server, using DansGuardian proxy filters and browsing securely
with Firefox.

On the reviews front, Ubuntu 6.06 (the famously delayed Dapper Drake
release) is under the spotlight, while we also check out Oracle's
new 10g Express Edition database -- how does it stack up against the
open source equivalents? Meanwhile, Graham Morrison delves into the
bizarre world of Second Life, and Paul Hudson investigates the new
1.2 release of the Ogre 3D engine.

How is Linux faring in education? We have a special feature
analysing the growth of Free Software in primary schools, secondary
schools and universities. It's surprising to see just how much Linux
and open source is being used, albeit without any big publicity. We
also look at Creative Commons, the sharing-friendly licences used by
a rapidly growing number of online artists, musicians and writers.

In the interview chair this issue is kernel hacker Greg
Kroah-Hartman, known for his work on the USB, PCI and VFS
subsystems. Here's a few of the questions we asked Greg -- keep
watching the website for his responses:

# If people don't like writing drivers, is that because it's
so hard to do? Hard to debug?

# Kernel changelogs are getting pretty big -- for 2.4.10 it
was 1.5MB. That's huge, no?

# How do you think the SCO lawsuit has affected kernel
development, if at all?

Grab a copy of the mag for the full interview. As always, we have
our regular HotPicks section where we examine the best new open
source software releases -- here's one of the highlights,
presentation frillifier KeyJnote...

# KeyJnote 0.8.1 --

In presentation software there's always one feature that everyone
pays attention to: the slide-transition effects. If you're in a
meeting at work and some guy is explaining the 'negative growth'
figures in recent months, using 3D rotational transition effects
to get his 'point across', you know some focus has been lost
within the company. Still, transition effects can be useful if
used sparingly, making a presentation slightly easier on the eye
(and stopping some employees from nodding off). KeyJnote is a
presentation renderer - that is, you don't create presentations in
it, just display them.

Written in Python, KeyJNote uses PyGame, PyOpenGL and PIL for its
rendering work, so you'll need recent versions of those libraries
to run it. Python 2.3 or 2.4 is recommended; 2.2 is marked as
untested by the developers. To run the program, extract the
tarball, go into the resulting directory and enter './
demo.pdf'. This displays a sample presentation, and you can move
through the slides by left-clicking. (By default it's in
full-screen mode; you can change to windowed with the '-f' flag.

So, what's a PDF doing here? As mentioned, KeyJnote isn't a
presentation creation tool, but instead uses pre-made
presentations to which it adds effects. So you can fire up, create your presentation and then export the
slides to a PDF file, before running it through KeyJnote. If you
use another presentation maker which doesn't have a PDF export
facility, you can alternatively save the slides as separate images
and put them in a folder for KeyJnote to step through.

To set the transition effects that KeyJnote uses between slides,
you can create an .info file as described in the docs - otherwise
it'll use random effects. These include wipes from all sides of
the screen, page peeling, spirals, crossfading and zooming. As the
program is written in Python rather than a compiled language, some
of the effects can be heavy on the CPU, so on older machines it's
worth testing them all out to avoid jerkiness in a presentation.

As well as the transition effects, KeyJnote includes a bunch of
handy in-slide features such as the ability to darken and blur the
screen, then bring up a virtual spotlight to focus on specific
areas of the slide. Pressing the tab key switches into a
fantastically smooth Expose-like thumbnail display of the slides.
These are genuinely useful features - not just eye-candy - so if
you don't get on with OOo Impress this is worth investigating.

There are five-and-a-half more pages of HotPicks in in LXF 81,
including a look at two highly addictive puzzlers...

3. In the news...

At last we get to see the $100 Linux laptop!

# Ubuntu 6.06 'Dapper Drake' released! ... le&sid=340

It took an extra two months of stability work, but Ubuntu, currently
the most popular distro on DistroWatch, has released version 6.06
('Dapper Drake'). This is the first version designed for widespread
enterprise use -- it will be supported for three years on the
desktop and five years on the server. The Edubuntu, Kubuntu and
Xubuntu spin-offs have also been released. See

# A first glimpse of the $100 Linux laptop ... le&sid=336

The Reg has a report ( of the unveiling of
the funky coloured $100 Linux laptop. OLPC, or One Laptop Per Child,
aims to bring widespread computing to third-world countries with a
cheap and durable laptop. The machine, which runs a modified version
of Fedora Core, has a 500 MHz processor, 128 MB of RAM and 500 MB of
flash memory (in place of a hard disk).

# Mandriva moving ahead ... le&sid=332

Mandriva One, the combined Live and installation CD version of
Mandriva Linux, is now available for download: see Also, Mandriva
Kiosk, a web-based software catalogue, is now online and free for
Club members (or $29.90 a year for everyone else) at

4. This month on the forum

How many distros have you tried? That's the question 'tommohawk'
asked the forum, and included a poll: after 20 days, 41% of voters
said they'd tried more than 10, with 33% having given 6-10 a go.
'nordle' managed to think of 25 distros he'd run at some point,
while 'nelz' went one step further -- he's got 14 installed in
VMware virtual machines! Excellently, there were a few big-ups for
the venerable Slackware too.. [1]

Every now and then, that old favourite of Linux forum threads makes
an appearance: readers' desktop screenshots. 'GMorgan' kicked it off
with a splendid pic of Xgl in action, followed by 'moAlleyCat' whose
minimalist text-based app setup brought back memories of old
green-on-black terminals. Oh, and while you're reading the thread,
check out 'GMorgan's', er, uncluttered Windows desktop... [2]

An extra mention must go out this month to 'nordle's' entertaining
tale of wrong-clicks, bitten nails and the open source community
coming to the rescue. It goes to show, just when you think
everything's gone down the pan and you never want to see a computer
again, there could be a solution waiting... [3]

[1] ... pic&t=3133

[2] ... pic&t=3214

[3] ... pic&t=3271

5. Special newsletter feature


Doesn't time fly? We're almost half-way through 2006, but we've
still got a lot to look forward to in softwareland before the year
is out. Some of the most popular Linux apps have major new releases
in the pipeline -- so let's see what's to come.


The Gimp follows the kernel version numbering system; even middle
numbers represent stable releases, while odd middle numbers indicate
development versions. The current stable release is 2.2.11, while
the latest development snapshot is 2.3.8 -- on the road to 2.4.0.

One of the biggest new features to come in 2.4 is the foreground
selection tool, based on the SIOX (Simple Interactive Object
Extraction) algorithm. You draw a rough outline of the object you
wish to extract from an image, then mark the parts that represent
the object's colours, and it'll do all the hard work of cutting it
out. It's not flawless, but when it works it saves heaps of time.

The Gimp team is reorganising the interface to make it more Gnome
HIG compliant, and all plugins and filters now have live preview
panes so you can see the effects in advance. Also, Gimp 2.4 will be
the first stable release to support colour management and ICC
profiles -- a long-requested feature. You can see how it's
progressing by grabbing a 2.3.x release at the Gimp website.


Bon Echo, you ask? Well, it's the name the Mozilla project has given
to the preview releases of Firefox 2.0. (This avoids people
downloading it and mistakenly thinking it's a real 2.0 release,
finding bugs and then complaining about Firefox all over the net.)
It's currently at Alpha 3 -- the final release of 2.0 is expected to
be sometime in August.

Phishing scams abound on the net, so Bon Echo has introduced an
anti-phishing system which pops up an alert when you visit a known
fake site. Currently the list of sites is provided by Google, but
you can add your own to a blacklist as and when you come across
them. This is a hugely welcome addition, especially as many internet
newcomers are now running Firefox.

On the interface front, close (X) buttons have been added to
individual tabs -- something that had to be enabled by an extension
in previous releases. There's a better dialog for managing the
search bar engines, and if you're using Google or Yahoo you can get
suggested searches as you type. Spell checking has been added to
text-entry boxes, while crashed Firefox sessions can be restored, so
you can bring back the tabs you were viewing before it went down.


Built on AbiWord and Gnumeric, the Gnome Office suite is set for
some major improvements later on in the year. The first development
snapshot in the Gnumeric 1.7.x series is now available, and brings
about bagfuls of new goodies such as import of Microsoft Office 12
files, regression lines in graphs, and a much better OpenDocument
import facility. There are also plans to make AbiWord embed
Gnumeric spreadsheets directly into the word processor -- a major
boost for the integration of the suite! AbiWord should also see
customisable toolbars and better collaboration facilities. See the
Flash demo here for a detailed look:


Lastly, it's worth looking at the Google Summer of Code site, which
highlights some of the new features being hacked on throughout a
variety of open source projects. From Beagle and Blender to ReactOS
and even Irssi (!), there's lots to come:

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 - ICC compiler review

* LXF 70 - Getting the best from Gnome

* LXF 70 - What on Earth is PDTP?

* LXF 71 - The Linux Diaries

* LXF 71 - VariCAD 2005 review

* LXF 71 - Customising the Emacs interface

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

7. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 82, on sale Thursday 29th June

# How Linux beats Vista -- Snazzy 3D effects? Desktop searching?
Tight security? There's no need to wait for Vista -- we show
you how to get these features on Linux today!

# The LXF Interview: OSDL chief Stuart Cohen on patents

# Hidden gems -- Superb Linux software you may never have seen

# 3D games programming -- Get coding in a new tutorial series

(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
forgetting to mind the gap when boarding a train:

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 sad) 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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