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Linux Format Newsletter -- #37, June 2008

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:35 am    Post subject: Linux Format Newsletter -- #37, June 2008 Reply with quote





1. Welcome!

2. LXF 107 on sale

3. In the news...

4. This month on the forum

5. Tutorial: Extracting binary packages

6. Coming up next issue

7. Receiving this Newsletter

8. Contact details

1. Welcome!

If you haven't already seen it, we have a new (well, new-ish)
subscriber-only area on the LXF website. You can log in with your
surname and subscriber number, and then get access to PDFs from
previous issues of the magazine. Even if you checked out this
feature a couple of months ago, when we launched it, you may not
have seen a more recent update, which lets you download complete
issues as .zip files. Head over to:

Also, we've launched a new area of the LXF Wiki with content from
the magazine. There are loads of articles we'd love to put online in
wiki format, but unfortunately we're too busy making the magazine!
So forum regulars have offered to chip in, taking PDFs from LXF
articles and converting them into wiki-formatted text. If you'd like
to help out, see:

Meanwhile, read on for a look at LXF 107, roundups of the latest
news stories and forum posts, plus a mini tutorial on extracting
files from .deb and RPM packages. As always, if you have any
questions or suggestions for the Newsletter, just drop me a line!

Mike Saunders
Newsletter Editor

2. LXF 107 on sale...

Linux Format issue 107 is available in UK newsagents right now, and
should follow in other countries over the next few weeks. In our
main feature this month we asked Graham Morrison, LXF Towers's
inveterate GUI tinkerer, to teach us the magic behind getting the
perfect desktop. Covering Gnome, KDE, Xfce and Compiz, Graham's
guides show you how to make your desktop prettier, slicker and more
powerful, detailing various add-on tools and utilities you can grab
to make your workflow smoother.

And once you have your desktop pixel-perfect, check out our list of
20 indispensable programs for your Linux box. From multimedia and
graphics through to development tools and games, our choice picks
will make your Linux box(es) even mightier.

On our 4GB DVD we have an exclusive, LXF-only version of Ubuntu
8.04, enhanced with extra packages galore. Forget about Ubuntu,
Kubuntu and Xubuntu -- get the whole kaboodle in one megadistro from
our disc. It also includes extra apps and development tools! If
you're more of a Mandriva fan, or looking for a super-easy route to
Linux freedom, we also have Mandriva One 2008 Spring.

Visit the LXF website and click the issue picture on the right to
find out more about LXF 107. Here's a taster of this issue's
HotPicks, our regular roundup of the best new open source

# PictureFlow 0.1.0 --

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that any geek must match
or exceed the shiny gadgetry and eye candy of his friends. Look at
last year's proliferation of rotating cubes, transparent terminals
and wobbly windows. Now everyone wants an iPhone, or at least
doesn't want to miss out on the flashy GUI goodness that Apple has
brought to its expensive toy.

PictureFlow is a cover viewer for the Qt toolkit, that displays
images with an animated transition effect, much like Apple's Cover
Flow, as used in iTunes. It's optimised to run on your Linux
mobile device, but the lack of an appropriate portable device
shouldn't stop you from trying it out on your desktop.

To build PictureFlow, you'll need Qmake. On Kubuntu (and most
other distros) it's in qt3-dev-tools. Untar and build with:

tar xfvz pictureflow-0.1.0.tar.gz
cd pictureflow-0.1.0
sudo qmake-qt3
sudo make

There's no documentation in this first release, but all you do to
run it is point it at a directory of cover art, like so:

./pictureflow ~/photo/fosdem2008/

You can search YouTube for videos of the animated effects in
action (and download them with last month's YouTube-dl tool).
PictureFlow works on the Trolltech Greenphone and the Chumby Wi-Fi
widget. It will work with Qt on other platforms, but its
lightweight requirements (it doesn't need 3D acceleration or even
the OpenGL libraries for its transition effects) means it can look
flashy on any ancient device you're reviving with a Linux install.
As it doesn't even need floating point operation, it will compile
on some very low-powered CPUs.

At the moment it's just a bit of fun, but as it's developed it
will be integrated into all sorts of multimedia apps, slideshows
and portable devices. You can also try PhotoFlow, although it's
only available through SVN for landscape format pics.

Zip to your newsie's and get LXF 107 for more HotPicks gems!

3. In the news...

Could we be seeing the early stages of distro consolidation?

# Shuttleworth calls for co-ordinated releases

Ubuntu Linux founder Mark Shuttleworth has blogged about the next
Ubuntu LTS release, 10.04. Most interestingly, he has called upon
Red Hat, Novell and Debian to collaborate on a co-ordinated release
date -- thereby giving the distros a very similar (or identical) set
of software. This would certainly help in terms of support and using
cross-distro packages, but would it also hinder innovation?

# Fedora 9 released...

...and as usual, it's chock full of the very latest apps and
features. Most notably: Gnome 2.22, KDE 4.0.3, the PackageKit
package manager, Upstart boot scripts, Ext4 filesystem and Firefox 3

# Microsoft's open source strategy

2015. That's the year by which Microsoft will have a clear and
comprehensible open source strategy, according to the company's head
of its Linux and open source team, Sam Ramji. "It'll be understood,
woven in to the fabric and in product-development cycles", he said.

4. This month on the forum

For all of Linux's strengths, it has, like any OS, a few downsides
too -- but we shouldn't shy away from them, and instead try to fix
them. Jolharg pointed out the problems with Linux and softmodems
(aka Winmodems), while AdamW from the Mandriva team gave a big
thumbs-down to the audio side, although he noted that many
improvements were being made in that area. Dutch_Master mused that
the lack of games on Linux was holding it back. [1]

Can installing Linux on a new PC void the warranty? Nelz pointed to
a story on The Register ( a Linux fan
bought a laptop from PC World, and shortly after the hinge broke.
Apparently, because the machine was no longer running Windows, its
warranty was void. For dealing with retailers who take this stance,
Paulm recommended: "Its amazing how fast they change their tune if
you invite them to explain the procedure to Trading Standards Smile"



5. Special Newsletter feature


If ever you've needed to get a single file from an RPM or .deb
package, you might've felt stuck -- they're not normal .gz or .bz2
archives, and the manual pages for dpkg and rpm take aeons to wade
through. So here's a quick guide to expanding the contents of these
packages, should you need to grab an individual file.

First up: .deb packages as used in Debian and Ubuntu. These are 'ar'
archives comprising two parts, so extracting them is a two-step job.
For instance, here we have the Bash package from Debian Etch,
bash_3.1dfsg-8_i386.deb. Copy the package into a new directory and

ar x bash_3.1dfsg-8_i386.deb

This extracts the .deb using the 'ar' tool. Now enter 'ls' and
you'll see three new files: control.tar.gz, data.tar.gz and
debian-binary. The first contains metadata for the package -- that
is, information describing what the package does, what it depends on
and so forth. debian-binary contains a version number for the type
of .deb. But data.tar.gz is what we need.

If you enter 'tar xfvz data.tar.gz', you'll see a list of files
whizz by, as the package is extracted into your current directory.
You'll see that the newly created directories match those in your
root filesystem -- eg with Bash, we get bin/, etc/, and usr/
directories. So, if we enter 'cd bin' we can get hold of the Debian
Etch binary for Bash. Simple!

Next up is RPMs. Here we'll use the Bash package from Mandriva
2008.1, bash-3.2-7mdv2008.1.i586.rpm. These packages use the CPIO
archive format, a competitor to the venerable tar utility but not
widely used thesedays. Copy the RPM into a new directory and enter:

rpm2cpio bash-3.2-7mdv2008.1.i586.rpm > bash.cpio

This converts the RPM package to a CPIO file, removing RPM headers
and related information. Now you can enter:

cpio -id < bash.cpio

As with extracting Debian packages above, this creates a set of
directories like bin/, usr/ and etc/, where you can find the
file(s) you need.

6. Coming up next issue

Linux Format 108, on sale Thursday 26 June...

# Get Linux everywhere -- bring penguin joy to your Xbox,
Nintendo DS, iPAQ handheld, wireless router...

# Ruby on Rails -- start coding Web 2.0-style with a brand
new series of tutorials

# RSS readouts -- who needs boring old text? Hack together
a spoken word RSS reader with the help of Festival

# And on our DVD... Fedora 9, a stonkingly powerful
cutting-edge distro

(Exact contents of future issues are subject to change. It's a
funny old world.)

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 making
a Pot Noodle:

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.

8. 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)
Website subs page:

(C) 2008 Future Publishing Limited
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