November 2001, Issue 72       Published by Linux Journal

Front Page  |  Back Issues  |  FAQ  |  Mirrors  |  Search

Visit Our Sponsors:

Penguin Computing

Table of Contents:


Linux Gazette Staff and The Answer Gang

Editor: Michael Orr
Technical Editor: Heather Stern
Senior Contributing Editor: Jim Dennis
Contributing Editors: Ben Okopnik, Dan Wilder, Don Marti

TWDT 1 (gzipped text file)
TWDT 2 (HTML file)
are files containing the entire issue: one in text format, one in HTML. They are provided strictly as a way to save the contents as one file for later printing in the format of your choice; there is no guarantee of working links in the HTML version.
Linux Gazette[tm],
This page maintained by the Editor of Linux Gazette,

Copyright © 1996-2001 Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc.

The Mailbag

HELP WANTED : Article Ideas

Send tech-support questions, Tips, answers and article ideas to The Answer Gang <>. Other mail (including questions or comments about the Gazette itself) should go to <>. All material sent to either of these addresses will be considered for publication in the next issue. Please send answers to the original querent too, so that s/he can get the answer without waiting for the next issue.

Unanswered questions might appear here. Questions with answers--or answers only--appear in The Answer Gang, 2-Cent Tips, or here, depending on their content. There is no guarantee that questions will ever be answered, especially if not related to Linux.

Before asking a question, please check the Linux Gazette FAQ to see if it has been answered there.

LWN links

Thu, 11 Oct 2001 12:00:51 -0700
Mike Orr (LG Editor)

Linux Weekly News needs fresh sponsorship soon. See our News Bytes for details (there's a mailing list).

Your Editor would be greatly saddened to see LWN disappear. -Mike

Many of the Gang use it; Jim and I would sorely miss it... We do have a 2c Tip this month pointing at LWN, too. - Heather

Linux support call handling

Wed, 03 Oct 2001 14:55:14 -0400
(darlenefield from


I have been searching through the Linux Gazette website for anyting on the industry average of call handling times for Linux support. So far I have not found anything.

I was wondering if you had done an article or come across this. I was wondering if there were any industry documents that measured the average time it would take a customer to call in for support till the time that their problem was resolved.

Any information that you may have would be very helpful.

Thanks, Darlene

I don't think we've ever covered that topic. -- Mike
If anyone has enough information that isn't under some sort of NDA, to write such an article, it'd be interesting to see. Unfortunately statistics about how long an Answer Gang member takes to answer a querent are a bit fuzzy; we don't get docked for answering late, nor promise we'll answer at all; some "answers" are really requests for more data and touched with tidbits in the hopes it will help somehow -- and we may or may not ever learn if our reader got the answer they needed. (Well, that last part's no different from phone support, anyway.) -- Heather

BTW.. I tried sending this message to (documented on your website) and my mail was returned.

That address was changed because of the large number of off-topic questions we received. The address was posted widely on web pages with no explanation that it was for Linux questions or that querents are supposed to do their own research first. The current address is linux-questions-only at Where did you see documented? We changed the home page and the current issue, although we haven't changed the back issues. -- Mike

...but our readers are helpful souls. Thanks, Darlene! ...

I found refrenced twice on the FAQ page under # 4 Guidelines for answering questions.

OK, thanks. We used to have a mailback running after we turned the tag address off. Then the mailback got into a mail loop with one address and we turned it off, but didn't think about updating the FAQ. -- Mike

DSL Drivers

Fri, 5 Oct 2001 17:37:48 -0400
Douglas M (douglas from

Hello eveyone at the gazette I've been all over the net trying to find out the answer about problem im having I have an Efficient Networks 4060 USB Modem . I want to run Mandrake 8.1 but dont know if there any drivers or if they even exist.maybe you guys can help me with any info

Lots of people have been caught with DSL USB modems without Linux drivers. So there may be a driver, but it's not too likely. Your best bet may be to return it for an external modem that connects to an Ethernet card. These are much more Linux-friendly.
TAG members, are there any USB and/or internal DSL modems that do have Linux drivers? -- Mike
Apparently not enough of TAG use USB for serial gadgetry, so perhaps you can help us out, dear readers! -- Heather

university engineering team

Thu, 11 Oct 2001 09:52:11 -0700
Yogesh Raut (yogesh.raut from
This request originally arrived as a letter to "our HR department." We advised them we aren't a company. They hope that our readership at large will have a good idea or two about something specific they can contribute to.
By the way, before you start groaning about Visual Basic not being Linux, check out GNOME Basic at ... -- Heather

Thank you sir, as per your directions we are sending you same letter addressed to linux users . so please publish it in your mailbag. Also if you are having mail ids of some more organisations having projects related to drivers, we request you to send them to us, so that we can cntact them also.

We don't have a list of projects related to drivers. But there are thousands of them.
Answer Gang, is there a list somewhere of Linux driver projects these people can contribute to, or nonexistent drivers that need to be written? -- Mike

To, Linux Users,

Subject: about getting sponsorship (technical guidance)

Respected sir,

We are students from 'College of Engineering, Pandharpur'(India),studing in class B.E.Computer Science & Engineering.As we are entering into last year of our curriculum, we are looking for Challenging and innovative projects.Our project group is consisting of enthusiastic and motivated students with good academic record,listed below

  1. Mr. Yogesh Raut
  2. Mr. Ajinkya Chavan
  3. Ms. Sujata Silam
  4. Ms. Varsha Sartape
  5. Mr. Sachin Joshi

Sir, all of us have participated in different Paper Presentation and

software contests. We have completed following projects-

  1. 'Design,Analysis,Simulation:Slider Crank Mechanism And Inversions'- got 'FIRST PRIZE' at 'TECHNOGLIMPSE 2001' a state level software project contest.Also presented at 'DIPEX 2001' a state level project exhibition. written in C++.
  2. 'OTHELLO'- a computer game presented at 'Insearch 2000', state level software contest. Written in C language,involves 'artificial intelligence'.
  3. A 'fighter game' which can be simultaneously played on two computers by two different users and uses it's own protocol for networking. Written in C++.
  4. A multimedia application created in Visual Basic.
  5. A bankig software project.
  6. Some system software projects- assemblers, editors, lexical analyzers & parsers. Some graphical s/w as computer games, small images processing s/w.

We have also participated in paper presentation Contests and presented following papers

  1. 'Web Technology'- presented at 'Technomillenium 2000'
  2. 'Data mining and Data-warehousing'- at 'Threshold 2001'
  3. 'Network Security' presented at National Level
  4. 'E-commerce' presented at Shree Vision 2001 a National level Paper Presentation contest.

As we the Computer Engineering students we are interested in system level projects like

  • Device Drivers
  • Operating system internals

As Linux is emerging as new leading Operating System of this era, we are mostly interested in 'Device Driver' projects in Linux (or Unix).We are looking for any such project which we are eager to do.

Sir, if you can sponsor us for any such project we will be grateful to you. If you are not having any project, you can just sponsor project decided by us. We don't expect any financial help from you, but just technical support. We assure you that if you give us a single chance, we shall work with our full strength and complete it within given period of time with quality assurance.

We are eagerly waiting for your positive response. If you are affirmative to our request, please tell us about further procedure to complete remaining formalities. We are ready to personally come to your Company for further procedure.

our E-mail address is

our postal address is:

Mr. Sachin Suresh Joshi,
College of Engineering
Gopalpur-Ranjani Road,
Dist- Solapur.
State- Maharashtra.
Pin - 413304

Your's faithfully,

sachin S. Joshi
[B.E. C.S.E. College of Engg. pandharpur]

Deleting items in KDE 2.1.1 "Run Command"

Thu, 27 Sep 2001 23:50:31 -0400
Andre Dubuc (aajdubuc from

The number of items listed in KDE's 2.1.1 "Run Command" is getting ridiculous.

I'd like to edit this list. I've tried "Clear" but it merely clears the item in the box, but retains the list. I've also tried editing "History= . . ." in /home/username/.kde(2)/share/config/kdesktoprc file. Unfortunately, the list remains intact whether I restart kde or not.

Will this list eventually seize control of my hd? :^gt;

TIA, Andre

GUI and CMOS clock (2 Questions)

Sun, 28 Oct 2001 16:43:11 -0000
James Rutter (james.rutter from

I am new to Linux and am desperate to solve 2 problems. I run a new Evesham PC with a 1.4GHz Athlon chip, NVIDIA GeForce 2MX graphics card with a Taxan crystal vision 680 TCO99-S monitor.

When I boot my SuSE 7.1 installation from the floppy, the boot process hangs at 'setting up CMOS clock'. I have to hit the restet button, boot Windows, shut down Windows and restart Linux. I other words, I cannot get Linux to boot sucessfully twice in a row. I have to boot WIndows in between.

My second problem is with XFree86 ver4.0.2. The windowing system seems to have a mind of its own. Usually when I arrive at the graphical login, the scree is offset about 2 inches to the right. If I go into Sax2 to configure using Xfine the screen display will 'snap' into place when I stick with the 600x800 setting. When I come out of Sax2 sometimes the setting will be saved. Sometimes the virtual desktop space is larger that the actual resolution setting. If I try to configure for 1024x768, this does not work at all. On the limited occasion I have got an 800x600 screen set up successfully, if I shut down and reboot, the same problem reappears even thought I have apparantly saved the settings.


James Rutter


Fri, 19 Oct 2001 22:40:26 +0200
Rams Grzegorz (grzegram from

I'm a teacher of the computer study and I take care of the school laboratory in the Special Secondery School. The real name of my school is - Szkoła Zawodowa Specjalna nr 4 w Nowym Sączu.

My pupils are different than the healthy children so I have to do everything what is the best for them. Because for some years I have been using Linux (Rh 5.0) in my private computer I thought about my pupils. So lately I have started to learn them the Linux system at school. Now we've got only Linux in our laboratory.

At the moment I'm looking for some posters or calendars or advertisements or others informations about Linux. I want put them on the walls in my classroom. I hope that my pupils'll be more interested in Linux this way. So if you can help me please write how can I get these things which I wrote before or how can I buy them. Thanks a lot for helping me.

Rams Grzegorz
33-300 Nowy Sacz
ul.Kunegundy 68
[Mike Martin] Off the top of my head Publicity departments of the following Linux cos

Red Hat
Caldera? (sorry - a bit of bias)
and Linux friendly cos

IBM (with their linux promo budget they must have posters to give away)
and of course it would be worth checkong on debian and
[Frank] Hi there!
I don't have any posters right now, but I've learned that most companies are very willing to help with material like that, especially if they feel they might gain future customers that way.
I had some very good experiences with SuSE, which sent me tons of materials when I explained that I was active in some user groups and was always out of folders. They still send me a professional version of every new distibution for free, even though I mostly use Mandrake now.
Given that you're in Europe, just like me, SuSE might be your best choice for this anyhow - although Red Hat, for instance, might like a chance to get a bigger market too G
Just check company's websites for a contact e-mail (I happen to know the SuSE-addy:
Hope this helps you!
We can send you the covers from several Linux Journal magazines over the past year. Would you like that?
You can preview the images at , and click on the links for issues 76-91, and tell us which covers you'd like. Also, is your mailing address correct?
We are also looking for other organizations who may have other posters.
There is also something called the Linux Image Montage Project. I don't have the URL offhand, but they are collecting linux-related images and putting them together into a huge penguin image. -- Mike
Penguin Computing has some very amusing posters.
And there's always some potential to find cool things at -- Heather

How to configure AutoFS to automount NFS exported volumes

Fri, 12 Oct 2001 14:04:37 -0600
Aaron Bloomfield (abloom from

I need to set up a RH Linux 7.1 system to automatically mount exported NFS filesystems on the fly. I realize the security implications inherint in such a request, but require the functionality despite the dangers right now. On my Unix boxes I could simply add a line in the auto_master file "/net -hosts -soft,noac" and set a couple of flags in the nfsconf file (AUTOFS=3D1, NFS_CLIENT=3D1, NFS_SERVER=3D1) and everything works fine. I've tried this on the Linux box without success. Is there something I'm missing?

Thanks in advance, Aaron

Net bios code

Fri, 28 Sep 2001 22:50:14 +0530
karunakar Reddy BV (bvkreddy from

Hai ,

Can you send the netbios code for interction b/n linux and windows

systems .Through this code I want windows system properties(like user name, IP,memory like) display on linux system.

waiting for reply.

Karunakar Reddy B.V

A little hard to read, but I think he's asking a different question than Samba answers. Does anyone know how to ask a linux server about the peers out there which are connected to its shares? If he knew an application that does this, then he could read its source...
Note well, that all MSwin style shares involving a Linux box are going to be over TCP/IP, not NETBIOS. Even Microsoft doesn't recommend NETBIOS anymore - it's a noisy protocol, so it scales horribly. -- Heather

does anyone know how one can set quotas in linux for a directory rather than home

Tue, 23 Oct 2001 13:06:36 +0630
gazette (,,,)

Hi! Does anyone know how we can set quota to some directory for eg /info/software to limit say 50mb.I went through the man pages but was unsuccessfull in setting the same.

Pls help

Thanks Franco.F

Quotas are usually by userid, aren't they? The only thing that I can think of is creating a filesystem image of ext2 type, and loopback mounting it at that directory. But using quotas effectively would make a great article... especially if you have some real world examples that get solved. Making enterprise Linux a little more fun? :D -- Heather


suggestion for "A need for Documentation" article

Mon, 15 Oct 2001 11:09:25 +0200
Eran Levy (eranle from

Dear LinuxGazette,

I have been reading your article "A need for Documentation". Very interesting article.

I have made a Linux documentation website project. Why I hear people say we need documentation, there no lots of good documents, etc.? Im trying to advertise my Linux documentation project for lots of time, but no one reply me. I think that I made a really good work in this documentation website. Im trying to tell websites like you, LinuxGazette, to get my documents and give them to the Linux community, but I get no reply from that sites. Maybe the need of documents isnt so urgent.

Please, check my website. I think there are good guides for variety of Linux subjects. I think they can help the Linux community in the search for good documentation in the net. I will really appreciate your interest in my project. Thank you very much.

-- Best Regards, Eran Levy.

"This is Linux country. If you listen carefully, you can hear Windows reboot..."


I think that you and Matthias [the article's author] are talking about two different things, although you both support the cause of documentation. You are trying to provide a documentation portal for various types of Linux questions. Matthias is trying to get program developers to document their own projects better. If they do that, it will mean more content to put on your site. -- Mike

Hi Mike, I really appreciate your reply for my E-mail. All the websites that I sent E-mail to them about my Linux project website didnt reply me. I hope that all the Linux sites will read the E-mails as you read. Keep up with your excellent work! I hope for you and for Linux Gazette the best.

Whiptail vs Dialog

Wed, 17 Oct 2001 00:44:48 -0500
Kent West (westk from

In Issue 69 of the LinuxGazette ( Heather Stern recommends using Dialog over Whiptail, implying that Whiptail is brain-damaged. Having just started to play with Whiptail (and having never done much scripting, and none with Dialog), I was just wondering if she might expound on this a bit more. I did a google search and a dogpile search for "whiptail versus dialog", and this article was about the only relevant hit I found, so as of now Heather's recommendation is all I have to go on.



Hi Kent!
There are at this point a large handful of variants which branched off from Dialog 0.60 or so. The one in the Debian version (0.9a) is actively maintained; it had at some time been in the hands of a different linux flavor, which I wouldn't know except it was mentioned in the examples. I consider whiptail wimpy because its features are not nearly as complete. With dialog, I can actually do some very cool things with the --and-widget feature, and the progress-bar gadget can be convinced to work. Essentially I see whiptail as having made a pot shot at being dialog-compatible, but working from an old revision, and at the time I wrote that article, I was fuming about it because it was being strange about screen sizing. my annoyance was made greater by the fact I couldn't get rid of the stupid package since the debian base expected it for something, even though I had dialog installed. I think that's fixed, these days. Anyway, there's a decent amount of history at: -- Heather

Linux in Africa

Mon, 22 Oct 2001 14:17:05 +0300 (EAT)
gatheru (gatheru from

I saw about the above article on linux gazette and I feel that it is worthy. Though I'am not experienced in projects of that kind, I'am sure I can help in the training. Please if you have any comments or suggestions e-mail me.

Kamau Gatheru

Good luck, Kamau. Let us know if you find anything.

The article Kamau is referring to is a Mailbag letter at

See also GLUE (Groups of Linux Users Everywhere) at . -- Mike

Sklyarov case mischaracterized

Wed, 17 Oct 2001 15:54:04 -0700
Bryan Henderson (bryanh from )

There is a bit of common misinformation about the Dmitry Sklyarov DMCA case in the October News Bytes.

It says, "Companies are using [DMCA] to ... jail a foreign programmer for writing (in his home country) a program that is legal in his home country."

Sklyarov was arrested on suspicion of distributing that program in the United States, not for writing it.

The most strenuous supporters of DMCA do not claim it should outlaw writing of software when done outside the US.

-- Bryan Henderson

[Mike] According to the EFF FAQ at the charges are both that he "trafficked" in the device and "aided and abetted" his company in doing so. We don't know how the prosecutor will word his case, but he could claim that writing code is "aiding and abetting".

He could. But since he hasn't yet, it's really putting words in his mouth to say that Sklyarov was arrested for writing a program. -Bryan

[Mike] No more misleading than to say, as you did, "Sklyarov was arrested on suspicion of distributing that program in the United States." When did he distribute it?

Better to say he was arrested for trafficking. But even if he argues that writing the program alone was aiding and abetting its importation into the US, it's misleading to say he was jailed for writing a program. That's like saying that a person who shot someone to death was jailed for discharging a firearm.

[Mike] So we agree that he was not arrested for selling/soliciting/giving away the program during this trip. So when did he distribute it? The US jurisdictional claim rests on the web site, so they would have to show he was somehow involved with it, or that by his association with the company he was indirectly involved. His only role seems to be writing the program. Thus, why I say he was arrested "for" writing it. I just don't like the overemphasis on distribution/trafficking in some accounts, because it suggests Dmitry had more involvement in that end of things than we have reason to believe.
Dmitry was in the US to give a talk at a conference, not to sell a program.

Right. The other common misconception of the case is that Sklyarov was arrested for something he did on his trip to the US. Again, the authorities have made no such claim.

[Heather] I can read this two different ways. Either you are being sarcastic when you say "Right" and you are declaring the statement that he was here to speak at a conference, to be a misconception... which if so, has at least some fallacy to it, as he was definitely here to present at a conference.
Or, you are agreeing that he was arrested for something he didn't do in the US, which means that your disagreement with our point of view is merely that you believe they had the right (perhaps the duty) to snap him up like that, and we don't.
By the way the analogy would be closer to saying that the designer of a certain variety of bullet shells was being held on charges that bullets are used to murder people, never minding that they are also used to hunt dangerous vermin and for food gathering in rural areas, including the rural areas of other countries where one really does have to hunt for food, and in areas where gun-toting is legally mandated.
Dmitry didn't "murder" anyone's eBook. (Hmm, he might have dissected several, but it is likely provable that he had Rights to the copies in question.) It's still as illegal as ever to clone a readable book, e- or otherwise, without having been granted the right-to-copy. It's legal to own hammers but not to smash unconsenting people's windows with them. I recommend that you read the Copyright act in better detail: There are a number of rights explicitly granted to libraries, which may not be implementable if the DMCA is allowed its broadest scope. That, I'd say, is a bug.
[Mike] The DMCA's supporters would like to see it applied worldwide in any way they can. This can be by claiming US jurisdiction or by getting it written into international treaties and other countries' laws. California has a "long-arm" law under which it claims jurisdiction for any web site which is accessible to a Californian, whether or not the site is located in California. This concept will continue to be pushed and pushed.
Granted, the Department of Justice did not go that far in the Sklyarov case. It merely claimed that because ElcomSoft had a web site in the US selling the product, that was enough for US jurisdiction. Of course ElcomSoft had already shut down the site voluntarily at Adobe's "request" before this brou-ha-ha happened, and there's no allegation that Dmitry was personally involved in that site or that he is an officer or marketing directory for ElcomSoft rather than just a programmer.
So, the DMCA supporters may reluctantly accept that it cannot be applied outside the US, but that doesn't make them stop trying to extend its reach.

I haven't seen this. Statements I've seen by supporters indicate they want it applied the same way a country's laws traditionally are applied vis a vis other countries. I don't see anything new or anything unique to the US. But maybe I haven't been reading radical enough web pages.

Sure, Adobe would like there to be an international law applying to every human being. But that wish is a long way from an actual present claim against Sklyarov, and such a claim reported in LG is the basis of my original letter.

[Heather] I don't know whether to apply quite that level of slippery slope ... a law to every human being ... to Adobe themselves. But I don't feel any qualms about applying it to the people who wrote and voted for the DMCA itself. I believe that what the DMCA supporters want is to be able to sell and restrict every piece of data that might flow past them, until they are more wealthy than the Ferengi clan who has the exclusive concession on Q-tips(tm) cotton swabs.
The present claim may be unfounded; I personally believe it to be worse than that since I think Adobe is biting the hand that would feed them Russian customers. But I think the precedent that speakers can be picked up and singled out for their corporate entities' infractions, to be a quite terrifying one. You see, I don't honestly believe that someone has a plane-bomb with my photograph taped to its nose, or that I am any more likely to be in a building that gets toasted by terrorism, than I am to merely get run over by a car when walking to the supermarket, or struck by lightning the next time I go hiking, or win the local Lotto. But I do expect to speak at events, and someday for those events to be in other countries, who may have even weirder laws, be more abitrary about making them, or have worse treatment of accused people. If I end up in a situation where such a country has half a case, I no longer expect the US to be able to protect me much ... because they've already burned us in that regard. Alan Cox won't be at ALS -- because he's refusing to travel here while this sort of nonsense is considered or even claimed to be the law of our land. This has been called the "chilling effect" in literature that follows censorship cases.
I'm not a lawyer, I'm a frightened human being, and I wrote my own opinion. If you don't like it, tough. It's my free speech and our free press... and I'd very much like to keep it that way. If that means speaking up for the freedom to speak as well as the freedom to say particular things - I'll do it.

Actually, ElcomSoft hired a company located in the US to collect the money. I think the web site in question was that company's. However, the company also has offices, employees, etc. on US soil. That's not insignificant.

[Heather] It makes it even worse. If EIcomSoft's US partner is the offender, it's their top brass that should be standing in court. If EIcomSoft themselves are the offenders, it's their export agents who should be standing there -- but in no case the programmer, because the code's legal and even REQUIRED elsewhere, and reverse engineering itself, by fair means but not foul, is (for the moment at least) legal here.
There's also precedent that "Code is Speech, and to be protected as such." As for whether sanity will prevail, only time will tell.
[Mike] I guess we're just going around in circles now, and the thing to do is wait until the case is presented and see what the lawyers say then...

What we're really down to is the issue of what Sklyarov did vs what he is accused of. I don't even pretend to know the detailed facts of the case, so I won't argue whether he distributed, trafficked, aided, or abetted. I don't know. And you know what? The FBI and US attorney don't either. It takes a trial to answer questions like that.

I just think when one says "was jailed for..." in this pre-sentence context, one is talking about what the person's accused of, not what he did. I don't think Sklyarov is accused of writing a program. But I think there are people, including LG readers, who believe that the FBI would also arrest a person who wrote a copyright-busting program even if it never entered the US. And that isn't true.

[Heather] 'Tis a fact he wrote a program. 'Tis unknown if it entered here; or if it did, that it did anything they can claim as directly damaging; but probable that it was published in the proceedings of his conference. I think that if he is accused of something they manage to make stick, it will be quite a slippery slope, the top point being, he wrote the program, because they know he won't wriggle out of that one. As for what the FBI would or would not do, I don't think am ad hominem argument on their behalf is any more appropriate here than "I have kids and a wife, can I go home now?" would be a good defense for Dmitry in court, and I don't believe that you know what the FBI would or would not do, anyway. I do believe that you trust them with your rights, further than I trust them with mine.
The damage has already been done. I think it will take some very brave judges.


PDA user request

Sun, 30 Sep 2001 09:05:01 -0700
Pat Parson (rndgui57 from


I know this my be a little much, but seeing as how palmtops are so abundant these days. I was thinking how great it would be ig Linux Gazzette newest issue was available at the same web page monthly so it could be synched as as Avantgo ( channel.

There is a link that points to the current issue. This was originally requested by somebody with a palmtop, because he said it made it easier to download the latest issue to his palmtop. Does this do what you want?
You can also go to and get the same thing. -- Mike

Yes, thank you.

I don't want to favor one brand of palmtops or one commercial channel site over another. (Is Avantgo commercial?) -- Mike

Also, not trying to be bothersome but if everything but the links to the articles was removed it would better. But if that is too much could you please at least remove this section from the bottom:

TWDT 1 (gzipped text file)
TWDT 2 (HTML file)

are files containing the entire issue: one in text format, one in HTML. They are provided strictly as a way to save the contents as one file for later printing in the format of your choice; there is no guarantee of working links in the HTML version. It would remove about 1Mb from the size or my download when I download the page everything 1 link deep (I only have 16 Mb RAM) also if you were to do that it would make a good Avantgo channel if they will carry it and possibly get some other readers. Thanks.

We get many requests from readers to offer LG in different formats, make the TWDT files better, remove the TWDT files, etc. We can't please everybody. What we have is a compromise that has evolved over the years. I'm not happy with the TWDT files either--it means any time I make a correction I have to change the same thing in three files--but there is so much reader demand for them that we cannot drop them.
Perhaps you can arrange with a mirror to offer a customized version of LG optimized for palmtop reading. The mirror could make a script that downloads the files and removes the TWDT versions, or replaces them with small files that explain that the larger files are available only on normal mirrors. -- Mike

Some of the mirrors seem not to be functioning.

The mirrors page is way out of date. We're moving the entries into a database to make updating easier ... but the project isn't done quite yet. [Update 31-Oct-2001: But it is done now. See the next message.] -- Mike

I just thought it would be nice to be able to keep up a little better (information overload you know).

Thanks for all your suggestions. When readers show enough interest in the Gazette to suggest improvements, it makes us feel like our work is worthwhile. -- Mike

Yes I forgot avantgo is commercial. It is free to use personally, but they charge for providing content (I think). They used to allow users to share custom channels but not currently. Plus they support mainly WindowsCE.

Would you like to be our palmtop researcher? We could put a section on the Mirrors page about LG resources for PDA users. That way it wouldn't matter if they were commercial, because the Mirrors page is supposed to list everything. What we'd need would be solutions for a variety of palmtops.
Are there any articles you might like to write about Linux and palmtops? Or any 2-Cent Tips you can provide on reading LG on your palmtop?
What exactly are these "channels"? Are they just a set of links to the articles in the current issue?
LG has an RSS file now. This was originally created at Linux Focus' request so we can share current article links. (We put LF's links in News Bytes.) Any site may parse this file and use it to generate links to the current LG articles on their web page. -- Mike

Are there any linux apps that keep you up to date on html content (ie channel subscriptions).

There are programs that moniter a list of webpages and let you know whether any have changed. I haven't used any of them. Look in your distribution. You can also write a program in Python to do this, using the urllib module. -- Mike
[Faber] You mean like plucker ( ?
I think you'll want to take a look at Sitescooper ( - while it's rather Palm specific, I think it uses Plucker under the hood. Of course it's source available and already knows a whole bunch of PDA formats so it can almost certainly be tweaked to other handhelds and PDA-doc formats. Linux Gazette is there already, item 135 in their list last I looked :) -- Heather

One last thought on the original matter, if the html file TWDT 2 (HTML file) provided at the bottom of the page was named that would work also.

Starting with this issue, I have made TWDT.html a symlink to issue##.html. Give yourself a bookmark of -- Mike
If anyone wants to do a mirror of LG that is dedicated to keeping it in formats friendly for handhelds -- provide the results on a publicly accessible site, and we'll gladly add you to the mirrors database.
The license that the Linux Gazette is under certainly allows for this sort of transformation. Other sites might give you more of a complaint, but we sure won't! -- Heather

LG Mirrors page renovation

Wed Oct 31 23:24:13 PST 2001
Mike Orr (LG Editor)

The LG mirrors page has been revamped. 25 new sites have been added, and the HTML has been regularized. All the entries are now in a database, making Your Editor's task easier.

This project originally started in February, with me cutting-and-pasting the data into a text file in mail-header format. This was taking forever, so I got Dan Wilder to write me an awk script. This saved 90% of the typing, although I still had to make lots of manual changes due to the irregularities in the original HTML document (created many moons ago, and added to over time). I wrote a small Python program to load the mail-header file into MySQL, then used mysqldump/mysql to make further changes.

The HTML is generated by a Python script and a Cheetah ( template.

I plan to write an article about all this, but first I want to write a routine to verify the links and delete the ones that are persistently down. In the meantime, the program listing and template are on my web site (temporary link).

Thanks to all the mirrors for their patience, especially those like (Russian translation),, etc. that submitted their links several times during the transition.

All mirrors, please check your entry and let me know if it's incorrect.

This page edited and maintained by the Editors of Linux Gazette Copyright © 2001
Published in issue 72 of Linux Gazette November 2001
HTML script maintained by Heather Stern of Starshine Technical Services,

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

News Bytes


Selected and formatted by Michael Conry

Submitters, send your News Bytes items in PLAIN TEXT format. Other formats may be rejected without reading. You have been warned! A one- or two-paragraph summary plus URL gets you a better announcement than an entire press release.

 November 2001 Linux Journal

The November issue of Linux Journal is on newsstands now. This issue focuses on Linux Enterprise and presents the results from the annual Readers' Choice Awards. Click here to view the table of contents, or here to subscribe.

All articles through December 1999 are available for public reading at Recent articles are available on-line for subscribers only at

 November/December 2001 Embedded Linux Journal

Issue #6 of Embedded Linux Journal has articles about choosing an embedded distribution, building a minimal glibc, Linux single-board computers, and more. Plus a cool chicks-on-a-motherboard cover.

Click here for the table of contents.

Embedded Linux Journal is available free to qualified subscribers in the USA, Canada and Mexico. Click here to subscribe.

Legislation and More Legislation

 Alan Cox Censors Kernel Changelog In Response To DMCA

In Linux 2.2.20-pre10's changelog, Alan Cox refuses to list the details for some "security fixes", writing, "Details censored in accordance with the US DMCA". Apparently file ownership and permissions might be used to protect a copyright, and highlighting the fixes in a changelog could thus be seen as publishing information on copyright circumvention. There was a thread of discussion leading from this decision on linux-kernel, with some list-members feeling that Alan was overreacting. Others made the very fair point that it was up to Alan whether or not he wanted to take the risk of potentially violating the DMCA. Alan's position is that he has taken legal advice, and that this is the most prudent course of action.

LWN's coverage of this story highlighted the fact that although the changelog is censored, the actual code and patches are not. This was also noted on linux-kernel. Rik van Riel posted a link (on Slashdot and linux-kernel) to where you can get the changelog, along with other information/tools not allowed in the US (this is for non-US visitors). Further comments can be found on Slashdot, where the story popped up, and here on The Register.

 An Irish Perspective

With the current confusion and controversy regarding US law relating to software and technology (reported last month in News Bytes), it might be of interest to take a glance at how these issues play out elsewhere, such as Ireland. The IT sector has been a big contributor to Ireland's recent economic upturn. However, there have been relatively few policy developments in the area. One of the more significant government initiatives has been the Electronic Commerce Act(2000)(PDF). A more readable commentary on the act is available. One important, and encouraging, inclusion is the recognition of the right to strong cryptography. As is pointed out in the commentary,
"...the Act provides for a court order to be issued requiring a person to disclose the encrypted evidence in a plain-text form. However, section 27 of the Act specifically provides that nothing in the Act shall have the effect of requiring the disclosure of unique data such as codes, passwords, algorithms, private cryptographic keys..."
There is also a rejection of the concept of key escrow, which is reiterated in the Government Policy on Cryptography and Electronic Signatures, which also asserts the right to free choice of cryptographic method. Partly, these policies were adopted because they were seen as pro-business: technology companies are more important to the Irish economy than media companies. Another factor that may have influenced this decision is the fact that Ireland's communications are vulnerable to monitoring by other states for conventional or industrial espionage. Such allegations were made against the UK regarding Capenhurst Tower. On a European wide level, similar concerns have been raised regarding UK and USA involvement in Echelon.

The UK has taken a less liberal approach, in particular in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. The Irish Government was keen to follow a different route, in the hope that this would encourage inward investment in the electronic commerce and software sectors. The electronic signing by Bill Clinton and Bertie Ahern of a communique on electronic commerce in September 1998 was a high profile publicity stunt to reinforce this image. This, and other pro-business policies, were successful, moving Ireland to the position of second largest exporter of software in the world.

Another significant influence on Irish policy is the European Union. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as some good policies have come from the EU. The Echelon document mentioned earlier states "...e-mails can and should be encrypted by everyone", and is a valuable wake-up call to the importance of security. Bruce Schneier has lauded the EU for taking on board security professionals concerns regarding the new EU Cybercrime Treaty. Additionally, the European Patent office does not grant software patents. A much more disturbing development is the The EU Copyright Directive. Like the DMCA, this is inspired by the World Intellectual Property Organization, and it has some similar provisions. However, European directives are guidelines for national laws, and certainly do not override national constitutions, so there should be a longer road before the EU is fully subject to DMCA style rigour.

On the broader theme of civil liberties and misuse of power, there are valuable lessons to be learned from Ireland's experiences. Ireland's troubled political history has in the past led to some very harsh laws such as the anti-terrorist Offences Against the State Act, repeatedly condemned by Amnesty International. Also, there was significant abuse of 'phone tapping, with both journalists and politicians the victims. Phone tapping has valid security uses, as might some of the measures which has just been enacted enacted in the United States, but it is very easy to misuse. Although the current Taoiseach (Prime Minister) has apologised for the abuse, much harm has already been done. Indeed this controversy has flared up again, as one of the ex-ministers responsible for the wiretaps (and opposed to apologies) is now chairing a government telecoms enquiry.

 Anti-Terrorism Bills Compared

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have prepared a chart showing the differences wiretapping/surveillance provisions between current law and various Anti Terrorism bills: The originally proposed Bush Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), the House Judiciary compromise Patriot Act, the Senat-Passed USA Act, and the House Passed USA Act. There are also ACLU comments on each.

At Security Focus, Richard Forno has written on these issues, and on the danger of too-readily sacrificing freedoms. Richard Stallman has also commented on the dangers of erosion of civil liberties, in particular under the USA Act.

On Wednesday 24th October, the USA Patriot Act (HR 3162) was passed by the house of representatives 357-66, and the following day by the Senate, 98-1, with Russ Feingold the only dissenter.

 James Love on Lobbying and Hague Conventions

Slashdot had a recent interview with consumer advocate James Love. He has some ideas on getting decision makers' attention which may be of special interest to Linux advocates. In particular, he recommends writing to congressional staffers that are working on the specific issue, rather than just to congress members. Also, he mentions that it is worth writing letters to well-read newspapers (or local newspapers of a Congress member you want to reach).

This tactic could be surprisingly effective. I know for a fact that in government departments in my own country, Ireland, that civil servants are assigned to read the major newspapers and cut out articles that are relevant to their department. Particular attention is given to the letters page, and these clippings are seen by the head civil servants and ministers (i.e. decision/policy makers) in each department.

One other issue, raised by Love, which might be of particular relevance here, is the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgements. This is a subject on which James has commented extensively. The convention in question is a treaty that would implement, among other things, cross-border patent enforcement. "Everyone would be liable for infringement of foreign patents, and the Hague Convention would give exclusive jurisdiction for both validity and infringement in the county of registration." There is an an online introduction to this subject, by James Love. The official website is at:

 RIAA mischief

Slashdot quotes Wired's allegation that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) tried (and failed) to get inserted into the Anti-Terrorism bill a provision that would allow it to hack into your computer to see if you had any unauthorized MP3s and delete them. It seems they think they had this right all along (!) but are afraid they might get branded as Cyber-Terrorists if they tried it under the new USA-Act! Of course, the biggest concern is collateral damage to your computer, which RIAA wants to shirk responsibility for. This story was also picked up by ArsTechnica. The RIAA later published a rebuttal, which doesn't really contradict much of what was written, but spins differently.

In a similar vein, though perhaps inaccurately, The Register reported on a secret meeting between Senators Fritz Hollings, Ted Stevens, and representatives of RIAA and the big media companies. Interesting reading, but now comes the caveat: "Our source may not be all he or she claimed to be, and serious doubts have been cast on the veracity of the comments attributed to the RIAA's Rosen and co."

 But Didn't the Hijackers Already Present Valid ID?

Slashdot ran a story on how both Oracle and Sun are pressing for a national ID card, powered by their own systems. Nice business trick, cashing in on current hunger for any available and visible security measure. This was also covered by The Mercury News here. For a rational assessment of current security concerns take a look at Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram special issue devoted to the September 11 terrorist attacks and their aftermath. It is also an excellent source of links. A fine point he makes is that many new "security" measures are aimed at making people think they are more secure, rather than actually improving real security. If you then throw into the mix the interests of powerful lobbies opposed to free communication, you get an unpleasant mix.

 SSSCA update

ZDNet report that some tech heavyweights (Intel, IBM, Microsoft, etc.,) have objections to the proposed SSSCA bill. Indeed Slashdot later highlighted reports that the Senate Commerce Committee's hearings on the Bill have been postponed due to mounting opposition. It's not dead yet, but this should be positive.

Linux Links

Linux Focus
The following articles are in the November-December issue of the E-zine LinuxFocus:

Some links found recently on Slashdot

The Duke of URL have

CNET have reported that significantly reduced its IT budget by migrating to Linux.

Details, at, on the "Beale Screamer" anti-DMCA MS Digital Rights Management circumvention. Further information.

Linux Weekly News reported that the W3C is eager to adopt patented technology in standards. More details on LWN and summary here.

Opera (among others) had a bit of a tussle with Microsoft over MSN not allowing connections from non MS browsers. MS backed down.

What good is a Linux client? IBM's Mark Chapman give you the benefit of his own experience as a Linux newbie changing over from Windows.

Virus writers are industrial terrorists says Microsoft, as reported by The Register. have an introduction to using the Snort Intrusion Detection System. Further reading here, courtesy ILUG.

In LWN, Michael Hammel, who used to write LG's _The Graphics Muse_ column, surveys Linux's repitoire of games, both old and new, free and commercial. This is a very quick overview of the kinds of games Linux has, and its support for gaming technology.

IBM is working with Citizen Watch to develop a Linux watch. There's a photo of a prototype showing Tux on the screen.

Upcoming conferences and events

Listings courtesy Linux Journal. See LJ's Events page for the latest goings-on.

5th Annual Linux Showcase & Conference
November 6-10, 2001
Oakland, CA

Strictly e-Business Solutions Expo
November 7-8, 2001
Houston, TX

LINUX Business Expo
Co-located with COMDEX
November 12-16, 2001
Las Vegas, NV

15th Systems Administration Conference/LISA 2001
December 2-7, 2001
San Diego, CA

News in General

 W3C and Patents

Linux Weekly News recently reported that W3C has a draft policy which would allow patented technology to be included in web standards. LWN has a good commentary on the issues, which could ultimately endanger the future of free software on the internet. The "Scalable Vector Graphics" (SVG) standard, already adopted by the W3C, includes patented technology from Apple. The W3C is already behaving as if the new policy were in force.

What most disturbed many observers was the under hand way in which the change was apparently being sneaked through. The "consultation period" came to most peoples attention thanks largely to LWN's Adam Warner who posted this message. Following this comments in W3C's comment thread turned sharply against the idea once it became generally known. Included are comments by Linux bigwigs. Many of the most important posts are linked from LWN. Some predict that this could lead to a situation similar to the one following the patent rows surrounding GIF's, and the subsequent development of PNG's. LWN suggests the possibility that in the future, the free software community may have to form another web standards committee to compete with W3C if W3C starts destroying the web with non-open technology that threatens the web's universal viewability.

 LWN in Difficulties

Unhappy news, Linux Weekly News is facing the budget shortfalls common to free web news sites. In particular, Tucows is no longer able to continue providing support. As a result, Michael Hammel, LWN "On the Desktop" columnist (and former LG "The Graphics Muse" columnist) is leaving LWN. We wish Michael well.

More disturbing is LWN's prediction that, "Unless we can come up with a way of paying salaries soon, LWN risks dropping off the net entirely." There is a mailing list to discuss LWN's future at (now needs registration). This news was also discussed on Slashdot.

 Kernel Vulnerability

Slashdot reported on a recently spotted kernel vulnerability. Details are available in a mail from Rafal Wojtczuk. Briefly, There are two bugs present in Linux kernels 2.2.19 and below, and 2.4.9 and below (2.4.10 may be vulnerable too). The first vulnerability results in local DoS (based on deeply nested symlinks. The second one, involving ptrace, can be used to gain root privileges locally (in case of default install of most popular distributions). Linux 2.0.x is not vulnerable to the ptrace bug mentioned. Kernel patch is included at the end of the mail and here. Red Hat have updated kernel packages available for 2.4 and 2.2 kernel series.
Details of updated Debian source packages (i386) are available in this post, updated kernel images are also available. Check your own distro's web-page for updates.

 Linux Making Inroads

Three separate stories pointing towards possibly more widespread adoption of Linux in the near future. First, in what one might call the birthplace of Linux (and certainly Linus!), The Register reports That Finnish local government is leaning away from Windows and towards Linux. The city of Turku, population around 200,000, has reacted to Microsoft's latest licensing changes by kicking off a study of Linux alternatives.

Also in Europe, have reported that Germany's lower parliament (the Bundestag) is considering switching from Windows to Linux for its 5000 computers. The main reasons are for security, stability and (again) to save money in the face of MS's new upgrade terms. The parliamentary committee will decide late this year or early next year which OS will replace its current version of Windows NT.

Finally, have run a Thai story: that Thailand's government will back the idea of using free, Thai-language 'open source' software as a way of reducing spending and software piracy. An official is quoted: "To be independent from foreign software, the country needs to build a knowledge base along with developing human resources and work based on open source software."

 Linux NetworX Cluster Aids BioCryst in Medical Development

Linux NetworX, have announced that BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, is now using a Linux NetworX Evolocity cluster to aid in creating pharmaceuticals for the treatment of human disease and illness such as influenza and hepatitis C. Implementing an innovative drug discovery approach, scientists at BioCryst create synthetic small-molecule inhibitors, atom by atom, to bind with specific disease-causing proteins or targets.

BioCryst's new Evolocity cluster includes 32 Pentium III 933 MHz processors, with 16 GB of memory and a 10/100 Ethernet network. Linux NetworX configured the cluster to handle complex computer modelling applications, such as X-ray crystallography and combinatorial chemistry. BioCryst utilizes the Linux NetworX ClusterWorX management software and signed an on-going service agreement as well.

 ALS for free: Oakland November 5th-10th

In response to an uncertain political climate and the recent economic downturn, the USENIX Association and the Atlanta Linux Showcase, Inc. jointly announced today that they will offer free registration to everyone wishing to attend technical sessions at next month's Annual Linux Showcase & Conference in Oakland, California. USENIX and ALS are making this unprecedented offer because they believe the networking opportunities and high-calibre technical content at this conference provide an important service to their membership and the general open source community.

"We recognize this may only be a temporary readjustment until the 'brick and mortar' companies start using open source products to a greater degree. Therefore, we feel that it is crucial to provide current technical information to the community at this time," said Jon "maddog" Hall, USENIX Director and ALS Invited Talks Program Chair. "There are also several political issues facing the open source community right now such as DMCA, SSSCA, copyrights, and software patents. The ALS invited talks track reflects this and we felt that we could not put off these important discussions to a later time."

 SAIR Linux and GNU

"For the third consecutive show, SAIR Linux and GNU's partnership with IDG was a huge success. As the leading developer of vendor neutral training curriculum and certification materials for open source software, SAIR Linux and GNU offered free Linux review sessions and free certification testing at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo event which took place at San Francisco's Moscone Center. SAIR Linux and GNU served as the official Certification Sponsor for the August 27 thru August 30 event which welcomed more than 18,000 attendees and 180 exhibitors."

For more information on the success of the LinuxWorld Expo, visit or . You can also access additional information about SAIR Linux and GNU Certification or locate a training center, by visiting Additional information about testing can be found at or

Distro News


The Debian HURD iso images are now available from your local mirror. There are 3 iso's available, but you only need the first one to get a system going, so get downloading now!"

The position of Debian Security Secretary has been filled, with the appointment of Matt Zimmerman and Noah Meyerhans to the role.

Details of an updated webalizer package were posted on Debian Changes. It fixes a bug whereby Webalizer stopped working on Oct 5th, 2001.

 Red Hat

Red Hat have released Red Hat Linux 7.2. Naturally, there is a press release, with details of the new features (includes Gnome 1.4, Nautilus, and ext3).


SuSE Linux, have announced SuSE Linux 7.3, in both Professional and Personal editions. Recognising security concerns SuSE Linux 7.3 offers Features include KDE 2.2.1, Linux Kernel 2.4.10 with glibc 2.2.4, an extended range of drivers and improved USB support, with better automatic hardware detection.

SuSE Linux presented the third generation of its e-mail solution at the IT expo SYSTEMS, held in October in Munich. SuSE Linux eMail Server III is a solution for small and medium-size enterprises, dedicated workgroups and government administrations. A new feature is Skyrix which provides calendar and scheduling functionalities for booking appointments, rooms, or other resources.

Software and Product News


Gnect is a theme-able "four in a row" game for GNOME. Similar to Tetris, but the object is to get four marbles/tiles in a row in any direction within a 7x7 grid. The tiles do not automatically descend, so there's no time limit. You choose the column and the tile drops from the top. License GPL, including the Velena strategy engine.


Courtesy of Slashdot, comes the news of Loki's upcoming game: Postal Plus. Loki have a press release with more information.

 MOSIXVIEW Cluster Management Software

Matthias Rechenburg, in co-operation with the Technical University of Jerusalem, has developed a new Cluster-management software for Linux: MOSIXVIEW. This software is based on the MOSIX-Cluster technology, and contains some helpful, MOSIX-specific applications for cluster-management. MOSIXVIEW was developed to simplify management activities and provide a graphical user-interface. You could manage a nearly infinite number of hosts with it.

MOSIXVIEW is free for download and is based on the GPL-licence model. For more information, consult or Also, Linux Focus have taken a look at this package.

 webMathematica Brings Computation to the Web

Wolfram Research, maker of Mathematica technical computing software, have announced the release of webMathematica. webMathematica is built on Java servlets, making it compatible with any web server, servlet engine, or application server that supports the Servlet 2.0 API or higher. webMathematica is initially available for Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000 and Intel-based Linux platforms. webMathematica enables users to:

 PHP Black Book, new from Coriolis

Coriolis will soon be releasing their first book in the PHP field: the PHP Black Book is a reference to the PHP open source scripting language version 4, written by Peter Moulding. The book is oriented toward creating business applications, written by an experienced author and developed as a problem-solving reference rather than a tutorial. The author has contributed to

 Micro Sharp Technology and Astaro Firewall Partnership

Micro Sharp Technology have announced an agreement with Astaro to market their Firewall software product as part of the Netule line of products. Netule is a robust, thin server appliance solution. The OEM version will allow hardware systems builders to supply a low cost, robust server appliance solution for small and medium sized business.

 IMA Internet Exchange Messaging Server 5.1

International Messaging Associates has just released the latest in its top Messaging Solution - Internet Exchange Messaging Server (IEMS) 5.1. Among other features, IEMS 5.1 has enhanced virus and spam detection control and adds an Attachment Removal Filter Module. In an introductory offer, IMA is giving away 15-user licenses for free. IEMS5.1 is interoperable in Linux and Windows and will add support for Solaris and HP-UX by late-October. Government and enterprises planning to shift their messaging platform from Windows to Linux will be able to simply auto-migrate their MS Exchange mailboxes to IEMS. IEMS 5.1 can be downloaded from

Copyright © 2001, Michael Conry and the Editors of Linux Gazette.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

(?) The Answer Gang (!)

By Jim Dennis, Ben Okopnik, Dan Wilder, Breen, Chris, and the Gang, the Editors of Linux Gazette... and You!
Send questions (or interesting answers) to

There is no guarantee that your questions here will ever be answered. Readers at confidential sites must provide permission to publish. However, you can be published anonymously - just let us know!

TAG member bios


¶: Greetings From Heather Stern
(?)pppd problem
(?)getting volume label for CD
(?)clock problem
(?)Please need help !!! ext2 problem !!!
(?)determining screen resolution
(?)question on IP forwarding.
(?)Hi Gazette
(?)RH7.1 onThinkPad 560X cannot find ttyS00

(¶) Greetings from Heather Stern

Hello everyone and welcome once more to The Answer Gang. Last month I was quite stressed out about some overly broad attempts to curtail our freedoms, in case "bad guys" might try to use those freedoms wickedly. There's a thread on the topic in the Mailbag (one reader didn't like how I described Dmitry's case) and the News Bytes section has more legal details to cringe about.

In the mail processing space, my pet peeve of the month goes back to those darn Quoted Printables and HTML attachments. We've gotten some Spanish and Italian letters and those really do need to be that way. (Thanks, we can barely recognize things in those languages, but it's so much easier to give to the translators when it hasn't been mangled.) But all of you english speakers need to tell your web browser to stop doing the double mail thing. It's three or four times the bits, and the HTML is utterly useless to my processing efforts. So do yourself a favor, and spend those recycling electrons on something else.

In the real world space, well, that's it. Space, the final frontier. Do you know that the United Nations had a holiday of their very own declared a few years ago, called "World Space Week" ? You probably didn't. And that would be because the television media loves to beat on one exciting story until it's gone past "exciting" and all the way down to "wouldn't rent the video from the cheapies rack". The paper press likes the AP wires because they don't have to go chase stories, just reformat them a little. Where's the real News out there? Obviously Space isn't news... since there hasn't been another pair of feetprint on the moon since I was too young to know what a TV was.

I asked the Gang, since we're a well scattered bunch, what we do to get real news when we know we're being spoonfed "human interest" timeslices. Believe me, this doesn't just happen to US news - editors in other countries "slant" the stories to satisfy some invisible "market segment" instead of actually serve up the news itself. Mike grumbled that if we got even a few articles translated straight instead of "cleaned up to please western ideas" it would be worth a lot more. The answers were pretty solid: we get enough buzzwords to search on a little, then if possible, we hit the internet for a news site in the country of origin. And we read news sites from more than one country regularly anyway. I say "if possible" because, well, it helps if the site offers its data in a language we can read... Here's some of the favorites:

Breen adds the valuable comment that we must apply approrpriate filters as we read - consider the source, and what things they will prefer to bias towards. People will express their preferences; the corporate entity in charge of the paper will have its say in peer pressure and even just the headlines they choose. Still, "the problem with too much of the American press is that they apply the filter '> /dev/null' to nearly all foreign news. If I never see the news at all it doesn't matter what the perspective of the publisher is."

So now I'll turn away from the social ill of talking about newsmen instead of coming up with some news, or failing that, something to talk about and get people thinking.

I started getting interested in CAD a while back. Maybe I'll design my own little space capsule, plan that back patio we're going to put some changes in... someday ... or speculate on where the new "Enterprise" keeps the bathroom. Unfortunately for me, CAD tools for Linux come in four categories:

  1. Cirvuitboard design. Must be everybody's first project in the second year of college. There are lots of these.
  2. Poor excuses for MSwin paintbrush. Obviously started in a jolt cola moment but not finished in a weekend and therefore never finished.
  3. Think I'm already a masters degree in drafting, so I understand all their widgets and dots without docs.
  4. support tools for 3d modelers, mostly experienced ones.

Now sadly, this means I can't give it the fun "unusability test" romp that I did to word processors a while back. While I'm not an utter babe in the woods* in this space, I'd have to say my skills are... well, rustier than my Spanish, at least I see that once in a while. But circuitry is not even in my scope, if they are trying to be paintbrush I can do better with The Gimp, and for the other two, yes darnit, I'm going to need those docs translated down a notch or two, or find where they stashed the glossary. Category 3 looks like it will suit me best, and by the time I can use it, the 3d stuff will be fun. But for right now, all I wanted was some ways to stick to a grid and drop little "tree" "wall" and "door" icons among my distance marks. Dia is starting to look good; as soon as I can grok its XML symbol language (anybody have a Gimp plugin for these things? xfig conversions? anything?) maybe I'll feed it some really weird stuff and start layout out D&D wizards' halls again.

If you're working on a CAD project out there, I have a hint for you: if it remains easier to do all this on ten-to-the-inch grid paper, I'm not going to be using your stuff. Also, I've not a fear about buying software that does things well, but I'm not an aircraft design shop, you can't be charging me omegabucks** to see if I can plot out my garden better before springtime, and you're not going to get me to pay you to discover I can't figure you out. So for you commercial types, I recommend making the quickstart guides available for taste testing. In fact you should have*** quickstart guides, that put you through putting some sample item or place together. For you free-world coders, get some first year drafting students to try and make sense of that gibberish; anytime they say "huh?" treat it as a bug just as serious as broken menu items. We can only draft when our mechanical pencil actually has lead in it...

Hmm, there's a fellow who mentioned he's got a new documentation site up (mentioned in the mailbag this month); time for me to see what he has lying around in the category!

*I used to help my Dad design scoutships for our Traveller games.
**omegabucks: I just made that up. Lots of dollars including my last one.
*** to be fair some do... so if you don't your competitors are already ahead by one.

(?) pppd problem

From pclouds

Answered By Mike "Iron" Orr, Mike Ellis

Hi people

I try to connect to my isp using pppd:

pppd /dev/ttyS4 connect "chat -V " ATZ OK ATM0 OK ATDT1260 CONNECT" modem
defaultroute crtscts -detach

It saids:

CONNECTSerial connection established.
Using interface ppp0
Connect: ppp0 <--> /dev/ttyS4
Serial line is looped back.
Connection terminated.

I use modem Motorola SM56. /dev/ttyS4 is a symbolic link to /dev/sm56 (created by the modem). I can connect to that isp using rp3 with no problem. What is "Serial line is looped back"? Help me!

Thanks very much.

(!) [Iron] It means it tried to contact the remote server, but ended up contacting itself instead. I haven't used ppp for years, so I don't remember the solution. Either there's a line crossed in your serial cable (unlikely), or there's some option you add or remove in the config fie. Check the docs for "looped back", "server" and "master".
Maybe one of the other Answer Gang members can reply better.
(!) [Mike E] Good morning!
My guess is that you're seeing the login sequence of your ISP, some of which echo your username back to you. When the PPP daemon starts, it sends some strange characters to your ISP, which dutifully echos them back to you confusing pppd into thinking that it's talking to itself.
The command you quoted will get 'chat' to do the actual dialing, but as soon as your modem has connected to the remote modem, 'chat' will exit and the pppd will expect a PPP connection to be in place. What you need to do is get chat to do a little more work to log you in to your ISP: I'd suggest you try starting pppd using a modified command line, for example:
pppd /dev/ttyS4 connect "chat -V " ATZ OK ATM0 OK ATDT1260 CONNECT ogin
<yourlogin> assword <yourpassword>" modem defaultroute crtscts -detach
(I probably don't need to say this, but just in case, substitute your ISP account name for <yourlogin> and your password for <yourpassword>...)
Notice that I've deliberately used "ogin" and "assword" since it's not certain whether you will see "login" or "Login" and 'chat' is case-sensitive.
It is definitely worth checking with your ISP for their exact login sequence: the one I've shown is a very general one and may well not work exactly as given. I use Demon in the UK and they have an excellent on-line helpdesk - have a look at for an excellent example of how their login sequence works - Demon support protocols other than PPP, so have to query the protocol to use too. Although Demon don't give detailed help for Linux setup, they do provide all the information you need and several newsgroups to help users too. Hopefully your ISP will be similarly helpful...
Incidentally, more and more ISPs are now moving away from "scripted clear text password login" to CHAP or PAP based login sequences. These don't send your password in cleartext, and also re-validate your credentials periodically. However, I have no first-hand experience of these, so over to another Gang member...

(?) Thanks for your help. I have resolved this problem. Because i missed user & remotename options, so the PAP authentication was not completed. I guess that ppp on the isp was terminated then, and all messages sent by my pppd was sent back.

(?) getting volume label for CD

From Richard A. Bray

Answered By Karl-Heinz Herrmann, John Karns, Jim Dennis

I'm still trying to figure out how I would find the volume name for a CD. I want to catalog a large collection of CDs, but I need to get the name for my database records.

I created the CDs with the command mkisofs -r -J -D -V "cd-name" -o /data/cd.iso -pad /data/data_dir

I can see the volume name in Mickeysoft Windoze. How do I get it in Linux? I've looked in /proc, tried hdparm and others.


-- Richard A. Bray

(!) [K.-H.] So the volume label is burned ok. Linux just doesn't care what the CD is named. Why should it? You tell it where to make the cd content available in the directory structure by giving it the mount point.
If you want to know how it is named you can try using cdrecord -v 127 -toc or something like that. This will work for audio (look in the XYZ.inf files) but I don't know for data CD's.
(!) [John] I believe that many of the Linux audio cd player apps display this info. Workbone is one, IIRC.
(!) [Jim Dennis] Karl's suggestion should work, but if the CD device is IDE, you'll have to load the generic SCSI support first.

(?) clock problem

From tony

Answered By Thomas Adam, Ben Okopnik, Mike Orr, Mike Ellis

I cant't seem to work this one out!!!! On my RedHat 6.1 Linux box, my system time is set to local time and hardware clock is set to UTC. These times appear to be OK.

(!) [Ben] Why not set both to local time? This is one of the things that I idly fiddle with occasionally, and have not seen any bad effects from either method. Yes, the One True Unix Way is for the hardware clock to be set to UTC... but I don't pay it much mind, especially when it gets in my way. :) Besides, if you've got a dual-boot system, poor lil' Windows gets all confused about UTC anyway.

(?) Whenever I save a file, then do an ls -l, the file time shows UTC.

Everything else, logs, etc. show local time. I am running ntpd, and this keeps the hardware clock OK.

(!) [Ben] Just remember to run
hwclock --adjust
once in a while. That way, after a couple of months, you can even turn off "ntpd" - and your system will keep perfect time (I think that a max deviation of one second in two or three months can be considered "perfect".) See the discussion in the "hwclock" manpage, and read about "/etc/adjtime".

(?) I have a link from /etc/localtime to /usr/share/zoneinfo.

I have looked up numerous web sites about the clock system, but none have helped me. Any pointers in the right direction would be appreciated.

Thanks, Tony Ellem

(!) [Thomas]
Have you tried reading the clock-howto from the LDP <>???
What happens if you type in the following (as root):
hwclock -W
(!) [Ben] Baldur:~# hwclock -W unrecognized option `-W'
The short options for "hwclock" are "-[rwsavuD]", and the odd "-[AJSF]" for DEC Alphas. What is it that you were trying to do? "hwclock -D" (debug), maybe? I'm afraid that wouldn't be of much use: what the querent needs is a usage methodology rather than a fix for something that's broken.

(?) [Chris G.] Hi Ben, This is not a challenge, but an observation that I have made. I used to set my real time clock to local time, but for some reason, the daylight savings time adjustment did not automatically occur.

I had to set my real time clock to UTC for things to work properly. I use the SuSE 6.4 distribution (2.2.14 kernel), and maybe there exists some sort of constraint with my distribution -- I don't know. Did you ever hear this crazy story before?

Regards, Chris Gianakopoulos

(!) [Ben] Actually, I'm not sure by what mechanism that _is_ supposed to happen automatically - it never did for me whether I was using UTC or local. I just gave up and put it in 'cron'. :)

(?) [Chris] Hmmm. That makes sense (the cron job).

(!) [Mike Orr] It's supposed to be encoded in the timezone entry. It seems to be a hit or miss thing whether it actually adjusts on the right day-- sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.
BTW, daylight savings time does not apply to UTC. UTC is always sun time. But the Pacific time zone is always the same distance behind UK time, because UK time does move with daylight savings time.
When I was in Russia in 95 or 96, it was right when Russia was changing from the Soviet schedule for daylight savings to the western schedule. The Soviet schedule was a few weeks earlier, because it was early October when it happened.
Let's take a poll Monday and see how many clocks went back and how many didn't...


(!) [Mike] My computer did all right.
(!) [Faber] Interestingly, my main tower (running RH7.1) did, but my laptop (also running RH7.1) didn't. :-?
(!) [Chris] OK, OK. My Linux system advanced to daylight savings time. However... first I thought it retarded back to nondaylight... but paying closer attention, I appeared to have advanced an additional hour. I'm trying another timezone setting (US/Central), and I'll see what happens next time.
P.S. My FreeBSD machine did work all right.
(!) [Frank] As did my Mandrake 7.2 machine - with hardware clock set to UTC.
My other machine, running Mandrake 8.0 - with hardware clock set to local time - did not adjust though... Oh well, just meant I had to help the computer a bit... ;)
(!) [Ben] Mine was set to do it at midnight tonight; I've just set it back a day and did a manual adjustment. If it wasn't for youse guys, I wouldn't have had to do all that work... I'm suffering. No, really. :)
(!) [Mike Ellis] Mine four did OK too...
RH7.1 24x7 RH7.1 dual-boot RH7.0 24x7 RH7.2 laptop
(my Solaris 8 box did OK as well, but somehow that seems less relevant...)
(!) [Heather] We weren't paying close attention here to the Linux boxen, we have SuSE 7.1 and Debian, they all seemed fine. What we did notice is that the cable box and cellphone couldn't manage to agree, and I think the Token Windows Laptop flipped over early. Of course, we had to tweak the coffeepot on our own.

(?) [Breen] My clock rolled forward correctly. A side effect was that a few jobs that run out of my crontab ran twice - I had them scheduled to run at 0100 on Sundays. I should probably change that before next October...

(!) [Mike Ellis] I'd fix it by March, or they might not run at all!
P.S. 01:00 doesn't exist on March 31st 2002 as the clocks roll from 00:59:59 to 02:00:00 when "summer time" begins again - roll on March 31st!
(!) [Breen] Erm -- right you are! Maybe I should just do it right now?

(?) [Thomas] My clock is shafted. For some reason, my laptop thinks that it is 29 February 1909 !?! 1909 wasn't even a leap year!!

:-) Don't you just love technology???

(!) [Ben] Especially when it comes from... <cue the music>
<Rod Serling voice> The Twilight Zone. </RSv>
Is that what your 'top _switched_ to as a result of Daylight Wasting Time, or is that just what your date happens to be set to randomly? And what does your "hwclock" say? All sorts of odd things can happen with clock settings... pardon me, will happen with clock settings if "/etc/adjtime" is messed up. Read the "hwclock" man page (this usually leads, in one easy step, to deleting "/etc/adjtime" and re-running "hwclock --set ...", etc.)

(?) [Thomas] I am always setting my hardware clock, thus:

hwclock --set --date="/12/12/year 12:12:12"

(changing the appropriate values).

(!) [Ben] Did you read up on the "--badyear" switch in "hwclock"?
Hmm. That might contribute to the problem. The only time you want to actually use "hwclock" to set the time is a) initially, and b) when you figure it's been long enough that the correction factor (1 second per <interval> ;) is sufficiently exact for your purposes. The second time is also when you want to run "hwclock --adjust", right after you set it. The problem is that running "hwclock --set" twiddles "/etc/adjtime" - and all you really want in there is a correction factor for your drift rate. Otherwise, it's best to use "date -s" - I do it all the time, since I'm constantly shifting time zones; this does not mess with "/etc/adjtime".
In fact, here's a nifty little script that does this for me:

See attached

(?) [Thomas] However the rate of drift on my laptop clock is enormous. I think my BIOS clock needs fixing. The poor things been living in Victorian times for the last year now.....

(!) [Ben] The usual reason for the drift rate zooming out of sight is a CMOS battery that's going bad. I've probably seen that happen two dozen times or more over the years.


(?) Please need help !!! ext2 problem !!!

From Angel Lacal

Answered By Thomas Adam, Mike Orr, John Karns, Heather Stern

Please, please, help me... I'm desperated !!!!!!!!!
(!) [Thomas] Have some coffee, that always helps :-)

(?) I was shutting down our officce server this evening when I realised that samba daemon didn't stopped fine... I boot up again when I saw the problem... A Windows 2000 PC of my offcie was still ON and connected to the server !!!!!!

(!) [Thomas] It would be if the samba daemon (smbd) did not "shut down" as you say

(?) We have three IDE disk

hda: It's the boot disk
hdc: It's the disk where we work
hdd: It's a disk where we make the backups.

Problem: The backup was unfinshed... so it was completely unusable.

(!) [Mike] You'll have to delete the backup and run it again.
To protect against problems like this in the future, consider a journalling filesystem. In a journalling filesystem like ext3 and ReiserFS, there's a separate file where the filesystem logs every action before it does it. Then, if the computer gets shut down or crashes between steps or in the middle of a step, on the next boot, it can use the journal to continue where it left off. See the article for more information. Ext3 claims to be backwards compatible with ext2, and is more mature now than when the article was written. Nevertheless, you may want to experiment with a journalling filesystem on a test machine first to get used to it before putting it on your production server.
(!) [Heather] You might also consider forms of backups which are not complete copies of the filesystem... since the point is about recovery. Sure it makes things speedier if you can just drop a fresh drive into place, but it all depends. A copy of a well-configured kickstart floppy or 'dpkg --get-selections' list, and backups of the couple of dozen textfiles you had to tweak as a sysadmin before things were ready to start filling with data, can reduce the size of your regular backup tapes or cdrw media-packs to something much easier to cart around.

(?) Problem2: After advising I had unconsistency problems, I logged as root and run e2fsck:

e2fsck /dev/hdd

GOD !!! It was full of bad Inodes, references, duplicates... etc...

(!) [Thomas] Umm, definate data corruption. A pity that you did not post us a sample of "ls -al" command. I would have been interested in it.

(?) Problem3: I began to run e2fsck over /dev/hdc .... AND THE SAME THING !!! I CTRL-C ... just when it started... What do I do now ?????? Continue with e2fsck ??? Or try other thing ???

(!) [Mike]

********** !!! WAIT !!! WAIT !!! WAIT !!! ******************
*********** MAYDAY, MAYDAY!!!!! ****************************
You do NOT run fsck on entire drives (/dev/hdc, /dev/hdd). YOu run it on PARTITIONS (/dev/hdc1, /dev/hdd5, etc). Unless you've set up the entire drive as a single partition without a partition table, which is not normally done.
Of course, with floppies the partition and the drive are the same thing, since floppies don't have partition tables, but we're talking about hard disks.
(!) [Thomas] ERrr... Mmmm... yeah... I discovered that later... but, well... at last I noticed my fault and could save the partition with the superblocks-secret-position gently given by mke2fs... heheehehe--
(!) [John] man fsck>
In actuality, fsck is simply a front-end for the various file system checkers (fsck.fstype) available under Linux. The file system-specific checker is searched for in /sbin first, then in /etc/fs and /etc, and finally in the direc- tories listed in the PATH environment variable. Please see the file system-specific checker manual pages for fur- ther details.
So it wouldn't give any different results than e2fsck, since it would be running e2fsck.

(?) It seems the partition is broken... The disk can't be mounted obviouesly... What can I do ??????

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.... I'm desperated !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HELP ME !!!!!!!!!

(!) [Mike] Continue with fsck. That will get the partitions in a consistent state so that you can determine what is intact and what has been lost. Most of the time, fsck can fully repair things.
(!) [Heather] I can vouch for that. One time Jim Dennis, who wasn't yet the famous Answer Guy at the time, really mangled a drive by, ummm, telling X to use the drive controllers memory as video controller memory. Darn typos.
(!) [Mike] Like when Linus told his terminal emulator to dial his hard drive... that's what motivated him to implement file permissions in Linux.
(!) [Heather] Anyways, he fsck'd it over and over because it was still fixing things. In 6 passes - the system was actually, to our shock, almost usable. Please don't try to repeat that at home, kids... unless you enjoy breaking things horribly.
(!) [Mike] Sometimes it will put recovered files in /MOUNT_POINT/lost+found with filenames like "#12345" (since the original path/filename has been lost). If you get files like that, you'll have to determine whether they are worth keeping (they may be temporary files you don't care about), whether they are complete, and what their proper paths/filenames are.
Fortunately, another part of fsck gives a clue as to what the original filenames are. For every recovered file, there's an orphaned directory entry somewhere that's no longer attached to any file. Fsck will report these as "link count is wrong for file FILENAME, is 1, should be 0" or something like that, and will adjust the link count and/or delete the filename. Write down the filenames-without-files it reports, and use that list as you go through the lost+found files. Reconstruct the original files as best you can, and move them back to their original places.
Normally, you don't have to deal with lost+found files at all, and it's even less common for them to contain important data. In your case, I can't tell whether the errors you describe are an ordinary fsck or something especially severe. It really depends on the quantity of errors. Here's a rundown of the most common errors (from memory):
"Deleted inode has zero dtime." -> unimportant.
"link count wrong for file FILENAME" -> may or may not be important. The filesystem has to modify the file itself (the inode) and the filename (a directory entry) separately, so the crash happened between the two steps. Fsck prefers to preserve data, so it usually does the right thing. You'll probably find that your file still exists under one of its names at least (or as a lost+found file), and then it'll just be a matter of redoing links to it that you already created or deleted.
"block bitmap differences." -> a few of these are common. If you get hundreds of them, I would be concerned. However, often it will correct those hundreds and you'll never have trouble with them again. It all depends on what caused the differences, which is something fsck doesn't know.
There are other common errors, but I can't remember them offhand.
After fsck successfully completes, run it again to look for more errors. Continue running it until you get the "clean" message, then run "fsck -f" once more. (The "-f" option forces fsck to run, even if it doesn't think it needs to.) Repeat for your other ext2 partitions.
(!) [John] If it were me in that situation and the data was very critical, I would use dd to do a raw copy of the partitions to another media, either tape or another disk with sufficient capacity to hold the data. Then run the e2fsck, but perhaps specifying an alternate superblock with the -b option. See man e2fsck for more details.
Then if e2fsck fails to fix the problem satisfactorily, you would at least have the option of restoring from the dd dump and trying other options.

... our reader replies ...

(?) Thanks a lot for your VERY helpfull information,

(!) [Mike] And thank YOU for telling us what succeeded. It would make an excellent 2-Cent Tip if it weren't already being formatted as an Answer Gang thread.

(?) We're planning to switch to ext3, because we have a lot of theese errors because win2K + linux-samba is a risky situation.

(!) [Mike] I just saw yesterday afternoon that Red Hat 7.2 is out, and its default filesystem is ext3. That may encourage other distributions to switch too.

(?) Ah... at last I could repair my damaged filesystem... Want to know how... At the deepest state of my desperation I "mke2fs" the backup disk... And then I saw the light. Both damaged disk were very likely each other, and when I formatted the backup disk, mke2fs gave me the clue: THE POSITION OF THE [SECRET REBEL BASE] BACKUP SUPERBLOCKS !!!!

They weren't at 8193 as docs said, nor 32 as Linux Unleashed claims. They were at 32XXX, 9XXXX, 12XXXX (I don't remmember the exact numbers) and so on...

So I tried directly to "fsck -b [One of those superblock positions] -n /dev/hdc1" ... I checked out that most of the Inode messages dissapeared. So I decide to run fsck without -n and pray. GOD !!! IT WORKED !!!

But I had a little problem... Those Inode tables presumebly "repaired" by fsck in the first and stopped round where lost. But it was a minor problem. The very rest of the disk was recovered.

So a little moral for this fary tale: NEVER run fsck when the system ask you to.

(!) [Mike] Normally, running fsck is what people want to do. Your case was unusual.
(!) [Heather] fsck was wanted, but you needed the "secret rebel base" parameters to use a superblock that hadn't yet been afflicted by the reformatting side of The Force.

(?) FIRST ask the people who knows something about filesystems.

(!) [Mike] Or at least, people who have run fsck many times and know what the typical errors are like, and what is a typical quantity of errors.

(?) SECOND find all the information about your HD and run fsck with -n option

THREE weigh up the consequences.

FOUR back your disk up with "dd" and mount the back up as loop

(!) [Mike] I sometimes suggest people back up their disk with dd (dd if=/dev/hda of=/some/file/on/another/partition) but people usually say they don't have enough disk space for it.
(!) [Heather] Which question really comes down to, how important is that data to you, really? One customer I had was very desperate - and there sure wasn't room to spare - we sent it up an ssh pipe to another system, while booted off of a mini-distro. Besides, if you can't trust the local hard disk... you're going to put the bits on the local hard disk? Maybe not!

(?) FIVE... GO FOR IT !

Thanks for your attention. A happy user.

(?) determining screen resolution

From Bob Krovetz

Answered By Thomas Adams, Karl-Heinz Herrmann, Dominik Vogt (from the FVWM list)

I'm using RedHat 6.2 and the fvwm2 window manager.

(!) [Thomas] Hello,
I have CC'ed this e-mail to the FVWM2 Mailing List (of which I am a member). They might also be able to help --

(?) In my fvwm2rc file I tell the system where to put my calendar, browser, and other windows on my desktop. I specify the locations and the size of the windows.

(!) [Thomas] What you mean is, you use specify the geometry. I would recommend putting these in your $HOME/.Xdefaults file (often symlinked to $HOME/.Xresources).

(?) If I switch to a different display with a lower screen resolution then these values will be inappropriate. Is there a way to get the screen resolution so that I can scale the values appropriately?

Thanks, Bob

(!) [Thomas] Yes, there is, but you'll have to do it manually if you are switching to a higher/lower resolution.
(!) If you do this switching by using the Alt-Ctrl-Keypad + or - he resolution will change but not the screen size. You will get a virtual screen size (visual in XF86Config) of your maximum resolutin (i.e. if you run your max resolution everything will be visible at once, on lower resolutions you will have to scroll around on the screen).
In this case the placement and size of windows can stay the same.
I switched screen several times in the past and in that case I changed the max. resolution and therefore the actual virtual screen sizes. I had to change the settings in .fvwm2rc and/or .Xdefaults to get a good placement of the initial startup windows again. I don't know of a way to automatize this, something like "one xterm half screen width at the left screen edge" would sure be nice -- unless that would be too small.
(!) [from Fvwm List -- Dominik Vogt]
In 2.4.x, you can use $[vp.width] and $[vp.height] to get the screen's (viewport's) dimensions.
Dominik ^_^ ^_^

(?) I was thinking in particular about a switch between a desktop machine and a laptop. I can use a different .fvwm2rc and .Xdefaults file for the two machines, but it would be nice to have one set of files for both. It would also be nice to have the display reconfigured when I use Alt-ctrl + or -. Even if the screen initially doesn't look right, if the fvwm2rc file is based on using the screen resolution then I can just restart the window-manager.

(?) question on IP forwarding.

From Jessie Kom

Answered By Mike Orr

I have a RedHat Linux 6.2 machine. One of the network card (Eth0 eg. is connected to my private network (consisting of a FTP server and 2 pc). Another network card (Eth1 eg. 203.173.161.*) is connected to the internet. How do I make my FTP server accessible from other pcs in the internet and make pcs in my private network access the internet?

(!) [Mike] Are you using kernel 2.2 or 2.4? 2.2 uses ipchains, 2.4 uses iptables.

(?) Hi,

I'm not sure, according to the RedHat site, it says 6.2 uses kernel 2.2.*, so I assumed mine is 2.2.*.

So how do I make use of ipchain?

With Best Regards, Jessie Kom

(?) Hi,

I've figured it out already! Thanks for helping anyway!

With Best Regards, Jessie Kom

... but for those of you loyal readers following along ...
(!) [Mike]
(Hint: you need both IP Masquerading and IP forwarding configured, and the kernel options for those enabled.)

(?) Hi Gazette

From Internet

Answered By Mike Orr, Breen Mullins, Heather Stern

Hi maybe you can help me I need to create a group with some users inside, and with the name of this group send to only one address mail, and the mail

come to the users that I registered in the group. The majordomo-1.94. is not the solution for me.



atte.: César Dí@z M.

(!) [Mike] Why is majordomo-1.94 not the solution? What is it doing wrong?
There are other mailing-list managers such as Mailman ( However, without knowing why you don't like Majordomo, we don't know whether Mailman would be any better for you.
(!) [star] There are about a gazillion mailing list managers, all aimed at different special requirements...
For example, some which are aimed to be administered at a web interface only. Not that I think that's terribly secure, but...
Anyways if you type "mailing list" into the search index gadget at the top of Freshmeat ( you'll find more than you have any idea what to do with.
(!) [Mike] The easiest way to maintain a small mailing list is to add an alias in /etc/aliases:
Then you don't need a mailing-list manager at all. Just send mail to listname, and it will go to all the members. Of course, you'll have to edit the aliases file manually to add or delete addresses.
Remember that certain main transport agents require you to run a program after modifying /etc/aliases. With Postfix, the command is "postalias /etc/aliases". Exim doesn't have a command to run. Sendmail has a command whose name I don't know.
(!) [Breen] /usr/bin/newaliases
(!) [star] (It's also worth noting that with Postfix, "newaliases" also does the right thing, to be friendly for sendmail users.)
You can mention aliases inside each other:
wendy_in_hr: miz_wendy,
john_vp_eng: john,
jobs: wendy_in_hr, john_vp_eng
As long as you don't care that when Wendy and John reply to the email, the addresses they are replying from get revealed, this works fine, and might even be prefereable to "full flavored" mailing list software.
When it gets large and you need to convert up to list software, consider Smartlist; that's its specialty.

... César went and banged on it for a little while...

Hi again Gazette: I have attemp that you wrote in the last mail, and was successful. Thanks.... but now I have another trouble..How can I restrict that address mail??? I want to give permissions to send to that address only by some users the "Adminsitrator" for example, and other users can´t send or reply or forward mails to that address, only who I decide. Thanks for your answers .

César Díaz.

(!) [Mike] You attempted what? Adding an alias in /etc/aliases?
Using the alias strategy, you cannot restrict who sends the message. Aliases are for convenience, not control.
You could try to do some trickery with your mail transfer agent or procmail, but for restricted lists, you're better off using a mailing-list program.
Why didn't majordomo work for you? You still haven't said.
If you want us to help, we need to know all the requirements. Who may post, who may subscribe, whether the list is announcement-only or for discussions, etc.

(?) Thanks for your help: In acord with your answer I think so we have to use a list manger like majordomo or mailman but really i`m beginner with redhat and appear some messages when i try to install .....ok no exactly when I install .....for example I use the "manager package" when select the majordomo and begin the installation but send a message "Error" so the instalation isn`t seccesfull .

I attempted with a secodn option The Mailman..but was the error and try with text mode ( console) and the installation run well but I can`t see an icon or signal to configure it.....

Iwas checking in red hat`s site and attemp this 3 instructions.... but I can to do it work

Summary: Mailing list manager with built in web access.
Description: Mailman is software to help manage email discussion
lists, much like
Majordomo and Smartmail. Unlike most similar products, Mailman gives
each mailing list a web page, and allows users to subscribe,
unsubscribe, etc. over the web. Even the list manager can administer
his or her list entirely from the web. Mailman also integrates most
things people want to do with mailing lists, including archiving, mail
<-> news gateways, and so on.

When the mailman package has finished installing, you will need to:
1.-* run /var/mailman/bin/mmsitepass
to create the mailman administrator password
2.-* edit /var/mailman/Mailman/
to customize mailman's configuration for your site
3.-* add these lines:
ScriptAlias /mailman/ /var/mailman/cgi-bin/
Alias /pipermail/ /var/mailman/archives/public/
Options +FollowSymlinks
to /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf to configure your web server.
Users upgrading from previous releases of this package will need to
move their data or adjust the configuration files to point to the
locations where their data is.

.....really I would like to work with majordomo but when I open the majordomo section appear a message like this...

Your majordomo version is not supported by Webmin. Only versions 1.94 and above are supported.

I don´t know why appear this message if i install majordomo-1.94.4-7.i386.rpm after I find 1.94.5-2.i386 and try to install but send a message that find a conflict with th mailman.

What can I do.?????????? Cesar Diaz

Thanks for your time to answer me.

(!) [Mike] I'm having difficulty understanding what the error is. I'm Cc'ing our Spanish translators:
Felipe Barousse <> Rory Krause <>
Can you explain the problem to them in Spanish? Then they can translate it for us.
Send all follow-ups to

(?) Ok.....(in spanish) Gracias por su tiempo al tratar de ayudarme... He tenido problemas al instalar un manejador de listas de correo basicamente es el majordomo-1.94

el cual se intaló pero el webmin no lo puede activar y manda el siguiente mensage:

Your majordomo version is not supported by Webmin. Only versions 1.94.4-7 and above are supported.

como ya no pude hacer más se instal ocaute; en Mailman que tampoco pude activar , despues regrese a intentar instalar una version más reciente del majordomo la cual fué majordomo-1.94.5-2 pero detectó conflictos con el mailman y de ese paso no he podido salir.

p.d. tenia el webmin 0.85 y lo actualizé al 0.88 y se actualizó correctamente, este fue hecho antes de tratar de instalar los dos manejadores de listas de correo.

César Díaz

(!) [Mike] For those joining us just now, César wants to run a restricted mailing list, where only the administrator is allowed to post. He tried Majordomo and Mailman, but got different installation errors in both cases.
(!) [Heather] Hmmm, what is his distro.
I know that Majordomo can do that easily (I think I have a template for that style) but, some distros seem to feel that you should have only one list manager software installed, and perhaps he is getting that.
The explicit error message given by his packaging system would probably be useful.
It is possible, but clunky, to remove all of the package-manager packages, then build the chosen package from source; then you know it will run locally, but the documentation is often messier or missing that way.
There is a majordomo version 2 out, which claims some interesting features, and to have shot an uncountably high number of bugs. However it is in that weird internet-based-project state of "it may be finished someday". I mention it because, as far as I can tell, some educational institutions decided to go ahead and use it anyway.
If you type "mailing list" into the search gadget at you get so many projects you have to spend all day looking at them. "web mailing list" narrows it down a little, though there are still some false hits.
I mentioned Smartlist before, but if he wants to use a web interface, it's probably not what he needs, at least not without some booster packages. OTOH it only needs procmail, which he might already have installed "for free" because it's extremely popular as the local-deliver agent for mail.

(?) SCSI

From 32009318

Answered By Mike Orr, John Karns

what are the benefits of SCSI over IDE and what types of SCSI are there eg LVD68,ultra wide,wide etc.

what are the general specs of ech SCSI type

i want to buy a 73gb 15,000rpm LVD68 seagate cheetah and want to know is this the fastest drive i can get and the best for performance in a machine thats role is Games/server/lan/burning/movie theatre/jukebox/music editor, producer/3d animator or you can call it a jack of all trades computer

thanks a million form elliot

(!) [John] I would place the least importance on the rotational speed - it would be the factor least likely to be noticeable in the overall system performance. On the negative side, it would contribute considerably to the amount of heat to dissipate inside the box. Many of these types of drives require extra cooling - added fans bringing air into the case; naturally this also contributes to the noise factor - from the fans and the drive(s). I myself prefer a bit slower rotational speed (5k or 7.5k) to avoid the noise and extra heat.
Is your CD burner SCSI as well? This could make a difference. My desktop system uses SCSI for the system drive and I use a Yamaha 4x4x16 CD re-writer. I can't speak for the currently available devices which are capable of burning at speeds of up to 20x, but my 4x works well, allowing me to do other things while the burning a CD.
(!) [Mike] SCSI handles parallel operations better. Thus, two SCSI devices can perform I/O independently at the same time. To achieve this with IDE, each device has to be on a separate controller. If you try to access two devices on the same IDE controller simultaneously, one will wait until the other is finished.
(!) [John] SCSI disk controllers offload the system board, as they have instruction queues which buffer several instructions at a time to send to the disk as it is ready to accept them. In other words, it's a more intelligent type of controller.
(!) [Mike] SCSI drives have traditionally been faster (and bigger) than IDE drives, but advances in IDE technology has narrowed the gap. The current EIDE (Enhanced Integrated Drive Electronics) technology and the Linux IDE driver have actually borrowed ideas from SCSI.
(!) [John] I recently bought a 40GB Quantum ATA-100 drive. I wasn't so much interested in the data band width (bw) as much as the large capacity. In perusing the Quantum Internet site for the specs on the drive, I discovered that although the drive electronics has the ATA-100 interface, the physical design of the platter and spindle mechanism doesn't provide 100 MB/s bw anyway. I suspect that there many drives out there with similar aspects. IOW, just because the drive has an ATA-100 interface doesn't guarantee that the drive fully supports the spec.
(!) [Mike] SCSI is also more expandable since that you can connect several devices (6-15) on one controller, where as IDE is limited to two.
(!) [John] Additionally, SCSI devices port nicely between different machines. For example, my CD burner is an external device. I also have a tape drive, and Iomega Jaz and Zip drives all of which are external SCSI devices. I can connect these to a desktop machine as well as a laptop, in various combinations. Although they are now offering USB versions of the Iomega devices, USB is slower, and requires a driver for each device, which in many cases are not available for Linux. With SCSI, the commands are more or less standard; one only needs the driver loaded for the controller. With Linux, the pkg which provides the set of commands for tape drives works for IDE as well as SCSI tape devices, AFAIK.
(!) [Mike] Most people building high-demand servers still insist on SCSI. However,
(!) [John] SCSI multi-tasks much better than IDE, and in a server environment, this can make a big difference, and in many cases is mandatory because the difference can be critical.
(!) [Mike] for general use, IDE is plenty adequate. I use only IDE. Performance is acceptable if I put each hard drive on a separate controller (and put infrequently-used devices such as CD-ROMs as a slave on either controller). IDE drives and controllers are cheaper than their SCSI counterparts. SCSI is anal about its configuration: if you don't terminate the SCSI chain properly or the controller doesn't like your cables' electrical properties for some reason, it goes into fits.
(!) [John] Agreed - for many single user situations IDE is adequate, especially with the faster interfaces such as ATA-66 and ATA-100.
(!) [Mike] There are several SCSI technologies with buzzwords like "fast", "wide", etc. I'll let somebody else say which currently has the best performance (and how much you'd pay for the drive + controller + cables compared with an ordinary IDE drive).
(!) [John] "Fast" doesn't really mean much, as it's been used in a couple of different SCSI implementations - there was Fast SCSI I, and FAST SCSI-II.
"Wide" means 16-bit bus, which translates to 68 pins or more. AFAIK, the 50 pin interfaces are 8 bit bus devices. It really isn't important except in hdd devices. For CD's and tapes, and slower devices such as Zip drives, the 8 bit is adequate, as the bw exceeds that of the device. Other things being equal, it doubles the i/o bw.
"Ultra" doubles the clock speed of the SCSI bus.
A general rule of thumb would be something like this:
Fast SCSI-II: 10 MB/s
Wide SCSI: 20 MB/s
Ultra SCSI: 20 MB/s
Ultra-wide SCSI: 40 MB/s
68 / 80 pin LVD SCSI: 160 MB/s. AFAIK, 320 MB/s devices are now becoming available.
It is important to note though, that the PCI bus (most mobo's run them at 33 MHz) maxes out at around 40 MB/s -
Allow me to correct myself; although the original PCI bus spec (and AFAIK most machines still adhere to this, and most PCI cards are designed for 33Mhz operation) called for a 33Mhz clock, PCI is a 32 bit bus. Thus it can handle up to 4 bytes per cycle, making theoretical maximum bw 33M/s x 4B = 132MB/s. But the reality remains that actual performance is far below this.
There is a way to test this on a Linux system:
hdparm -t /dev/diskdev
where diskdev is hda, sda, hdb, sdb depending on your systems disk cfg. For most people it would be hda, assuming a single IDE hdd.
On my Asus P5A 500Mhz mobo with a Tekram ultra-wide SCSI controller (40 MB/s), the above test shows 15MB/s which is 37% (about 1/3) of the rated 40MB/s. This type of situation seems to be very common - i.e., actual performance specs are only a fraction of the rated spec.
So the devices which deliver a bw exceeding the local system, are really only advantageous in RAID configurations, where the data is transferred between the drives (or other devices) which are directly connected to the controller at higher speeds. Any data bound for the mobo is still limited. This means that for anything but RAID, the LVD drives really don't offer an advantage, and you are wasting your $$. So one can buy a 40 MB/s controller (I've been using the TekRAM 390U with good results - can be bought for < $100 ) and drive Ultra-Wide drive which will make maximal use of the PCI bus, giving essentially the same performance as a much more expensive LVD system, in a non-RAID configuration.
(!) [Mike] By "LAN" do you mean just being a client on the LAN? Or is it a high-demand server too? If you plan to do intensive network serving, CD burning and game playing simultaneously, I would consider separate computers, especially since network serving affects others on the network and not just you. (After all, if your CD burning slows down you game, too bad. But if it slows down other people too, they may resent it.)

(?) RH7.1 onThinkPad 560X cannot find ttyS00

From Shawn Koons

Answered By John Karns, Heather Stern

I have installed the prepackaged laptop version of RH7.1 on an IBM 560X P233 w/48Meg Ram. dmesg lists ttyS00 as the serial device but when I try to find the modem on that port the "K Add New Internet Connection" wizard says it cannot locate a modem.( I read in a search of the Linux Gazette that ttyS00 indicates that multiple ports are present or enabled.)

/dev lists all tty(x) [or at least I think all are listed]

I have also checked under KDE's Control Module and it does not list any Interrupts on 4, which is what dmesg lists as the IRQ for ttyS00.

The modem does work and the computer serial port worked under win98 (no longer on the HD - I have RH using the whole HD)

Can you help me get the modem (and later my palm pilot sync) working? Feel free to ask for further information. Be fairly specific on any commands you want me to run as I am not familiar with much beyond doing standard installs and rudimentary Linux commands.

Thank you.


(!) [John] A good starting point might be to check the "Linux on Laptops" web site. There was recently a thread on it here.
(!) [Heather]
Please note that is singular. The plural version goes to some opportunistic laptop vendor, who as far as I can tell, doesn't actually know nor care much about Linux specifically.
There's also Werner Heuser's Mobilix,
wvdialconf is good at spotting modems. It won't tell you what kind, but it will tell you the far more important detail, which is, does it work when I try to ask it about doing dialup? And in the case of softmodems, yes, if your softmodem driver is properly loaded, then it will also properly respond to wvdialconf's tickling.
(!) [John] Unfortunately, most laptops these days use a form of the dreaded winmodems. Which one your particular machine has will determine your chances of success, so checking the laptop site will probably save you some time.
Also the command "lspci" might give you specific info about which modem your particular machine has installed.
(!) [Heather]
From that you may be able to visit the search engines and see if it is a known real modem or if it needs "linmodem" support. will tell you what is currently supported. It seems like every time I turn around something that was previously an absolutely lost cause is barely supported, or the vendor is now on the bandwagon. If yours isn't on the good-boys list I wouldn't hold my breath though. The things tend to stay in the "barely" phase for way too long.

This page edited and maintained by the Editors of Linux Gazette Copyright © 2001
Published in issue 72 of Linux Gazette November 2001
HTML script maintained by Heather Stern of Starshine Technical Services,

More 2¢ Tips!

Send Linux Tips and Tricks to

EZ Email Security With Stunnel

Fri, 12 Oct 2001 19:43:28 -0500
Pat Parson (rndgui57 from

This is a little crash course in how to setup email over SSL painlessly using Stunnel. With Stunnel you can keep your email passwords from being sent as plain text and possibly intercepted by others. Stunnel is a program that you can use to encrypt TCP connections in SSL. First you need to have installed a mail transfer agent such as Exim, Sendmail, or Qmail to handle the SMTP portion of the mail. Then you need to have installed either an IMAP server or a POP3 server such as the Cyrus package or Cuci-pop. Many distributions come with Stunnel, if yours does not you can get it from

After obtaining and installing Stunnel you need to make a SSL certificate for use with Stunnel. A SSL certificate is a kind of unique "key" that is used to encrypt the data. OpenSSL provides a makefile to do just that. In my distribution it is located in /usr/share/ssl/certs . CD to that directory and type make stunnel.pem to create the certificate that is named stunnel.pem. Now you need to a few lines to your rc.local file to start Stunnel at bootup (assuming you ever reboot that is) these lines are:

  /usr/sbin/stunnel -d 995 -r 110
  /usr/sbin/stunnel -d 465 -r 25

This will start stunnel listening on port 995 for POP3 and 465 for SMTP. Now all you need to do is edit the options for your mail client and there you go. No need to worry about cleartext email passwords. If you are too impatient to wait for the next reboot you can type the commands given previously to start Stunnel right away.

There may be some problems with certificate validation for some email clients. Make sure when asked by the makefile you get the server name correct. If your email client will not let you add certificates you may need to change clients or obtain a certificate from a certification authority. If you cannot get the certificate vaidation worked out there is no way to ensure that you are connecting to the correct machine. Have a nice day.

users permissions

Sun, 30 Sep 2001 22:41:22 -0400
Carlos G Kruger (carlos195 from

Hi, I have gone thru your entire library since the begining but I could find an answer to the following questions. First after some time I have been able to setup a small network, one server and 2 linux boxes and a windows box. Using samba, the "clients can see the share". All the clients can read and write to this share. I have created a share with one of the user's names and add the others to this in the smb.conf file. I have change the owner and group for the share to be "today--name of the group--and add all the users to this group. The problem is the user A creates a file in the share, saves and closes, then user B opens the file, edits and can't save unless it saves with another name.

I have used all the combinations for the users, even using the "SETUID, SETGUI" but nothing works.

At server level I can see that the main directory, sub directories and files, with the format .rwxwrxwrx root (or user A) today etc.etc

User B, C, D are under the smb.conf share [A] and under group.conf A::500:B,C,D or A:x:500:B,C.D

If B creates a file all the rights are changed to B, ditto for A,C or D. I can't even change the ownership from B to A, C, or D.

I've spent hours and hours of reading and searching on the web but still can't find an answer?

is there one?

please let me know.


[Mike Martin] One or two things to check
Do the permissions on the share when accessed through samba and directly eg: share a on mount /mnt/a Do you get the same output from ls -l (You may want them to differ, but as a troubleshooting technique it may be an idea) So you could check by accessing the share from your linux box , do an:

ls -l
and if you get:

...then there is your problem.
[Heather] You might check if the users are all of the same group in /etc/passwd; when you create new files, the files can only be in one group, and that's where it generally comes from.

Re: Problem faced while defining permissions for read & wirte access

Thu, 11 Oct 2001 10:20:06 -0500 (COT)
John Karns (The Answer Gang)

Hi! I have got a requirement of defining a share,where one user should have reader rights & other should be having write rights.The definition is as below

comment = Testing Permissions
path = /usr/local/support
valid users = ibm, god
read list = ibm
write list = god
read only = No

when i define this the user=GOD gets permissions properly i.e=write But the user=IBM also gets write permissions instead of read. I have relaxed the permissions on unix by giving 0777 to the path

i.e drwxrwxrwx 3 root root 4096 Oct 9 11:53 support

This happens to every share which i create & my smb.conf file is tested from the diagnosis.txt

Is there any thing which I am missing Please revert to me asap

Thanks in advance Franco.F

Sorry about the delay in answering, but I've been pretty busy ...

There are several parameters which affect this. Usually I just try juggling them until I get what I'm looking for.

One such parameter is

   security = user

I put this in the global section.

Then for a user's smb share, I have found the following to usually limit access. The dir is made read only be default, and overridden by the "write list" parameter:

   comment = Joes smb share directory
   path = /usr/smbShares/jblow
   browseable = yes
   read only = yes
   create mode = 0770
   valid users = jblow
   write list = jblow
   public = no

Hope this helps.

Informacion sobre PHP

Tue, 23 Oct 2001 15:49:47 -0500
Iván Overlín Sánchez Rodríguez (intermail from

Buenas Tardes:

El motivo de este mail es para pedirle de la mejor manera información

acerca de algun manejador de PHP con el cual pueda modificar los archivos de páginas de internet bajo Linux Red Hat 7.1, he bajado algunos editores de PHP pero aun no logro modificar los archivos.

Espero su recomendación y agradezco su atención.


ATTE: Ing. Iván Overlín Sánchez Rodríguez

Translation: "Good afternoon. The purpose of this e-mail is to ask you about the best editor for PHP scripts ("archives of Internet pages") on Red Hat 7.1 I have downloaded several PHP editors but have been unable to edit the files. I await your recommendation and am grateful for your attention."

We need more information. Which editors have you tried and why did they not work? I normally use an ordinary text editor (vim) for editing PHP files. If you cannot describe it in English, send a Spanish message to Rory Krause ( and he will translate it for us.
Necesitamos más de información. Qué editores Vd probó, y por qué no rindieron? Suelo usar un típico editor de texto (vim) por modificar PHP-archivos. Se Vd no puede describir la situación en inglés, mande un mail a Rory Krause ( en español, y él nos lo traducirá. -- Mike
Tip: if something doesn't work as you expect, try to also describe what it was you expected, in more detail rather than less. -- Heather

Sendmail backup ?

Wed, 10 Oct 2001 16:46:05 +0200
Robert Kemp (robertk from

My LINUX (Redhat 6.1) box was compromised , I want to reinstall but I have a hell of a lot mail users (sendmail) that I need to backup and restore on the new (reinstalled) system.

PLease could someone help me out on this one !!!!


Robert Kemp

[Thomas Adam] Of course :-) Since I don't know how your file-system is laid out, or where the $USER's mailboxes are stored, and how might be limited.
Assuming that not many of the user's have had graphical attachments to their inbox, it should just be routine enough to:
1. Backup (tar/gz??) files in "/var/spool/mail/*" and dump them to a tape drive.
2. Or you move it to a separate drive that won't be affected by this installation.
3. Seeing as you have a lot of users, is the $USER's mailbox on a separate partition??? You see, if you upgrade you can intruct Linux not to touch that particular partition.
You might also want to backup "key" configuration files:
/etc/sendmail.conf /etc/aliases
Other than that, I don't know what else you can do.
Kind Regards
[Guy Milliron]
and /etc/ I'd also back-up /etc/mail/*

tests on the net for linux

Wed, 03 Oct 2001 20:03:38 +1000
A Student (32009318 from

i am currently working on introduction to linux at university and was wondering wether there are any tests or quizez on basic linux that i could do to learn more and to test my knowledge

SAIR Linux and GNU Certification has quizzes on their web site, , "On-Line Quizzes" link.
Several organizations including SAIR and the Linux Professional Institute ( offer paid examinations similar to A+ and MCSE. You may find some information and ideas on their web sites, even if you're not interested in the exams. SAIR's FAQ mentions some comparisions they have with other certification programs.
Linux Gazette has published an 11-part series about the founding and development of the LPI, titled "Creating a Linux Certification Program", and has published several News Bytes pieces about SAIR. Search for "certification" and "SAIR" in the LG search engine.
Some other Linux web sites may have quizzes somewhere. Poke around,, and other Linux portals, and search for "quiz". -- Mike

Need Help on X

Mon, 8 Oct 2001 10:15:36 -0700 (PDT)
Joyer Jude (joyerjude from

Hi there,

I'm running Linux 2.2.4-2 kernel Redhat Version 7.1

on a Celeron 500MHz Intel Chipset MB with 64 MB RAM.

Even after a fresh installation Gnome seems to crash

(I mean to say Gnome comes up but without Sawfish the Window mamnager running and with an error message saying urnot running a GNOME compilant window manager) with no options to close any windows running well it looks like its got one single window for every icon on the desktop and out of the 4 desktops only one can be used ..... usually I worked around this problem by running Sawfish manager from the RUN option, now even that doesn't seem to start this Sawfish Can u please help me out with this

waitin for ur reply


[Mike Martin] Try this
When gnome loads up type gnomecc as a command (either in a terminal or as a command) then go to window manager section, change to other wm click ok then change back to sawfish - should work
Let us know if you need any more help!

Modules Drivers

Tue, 23 Oct 2001 13:59:21 -0600
William Laing (wmlaing from

Hi Can someone show me how to install a networking card driver on a 31/2 disk into redhat 6.2 text only

Thanking you Bill

[Mike Orr] If it's a binary module (*.o file) on a DOS-formatted floppy:
# mcopy a:MODULE.o /lib/modules/VERSION/SUBDIRECTORIES.../net
# modprobe MODULE               : Any error messages?
# cat /proc/modules             : Is it listed?
# ifconfig eth0        : Any error messages?
# ping -c 1            : Success?
# vi /etc/modules.conf          : Distribution-dependant, see below.
# vi /etc/modules               : If you want it always loaded.
# mcopy a:MODULE.o ~/Backups    : In case you need to reinstall it someday.
If it's a source module (*.c), you'll have to compile it according to its README.
In /etc/modules.conf, you may want an "alias eth0 MODULE" line and/or a "options MODULE io=0x330 irq=0xA" line or something like that, depending on the module. But Debian has a front end, /etc/modutils/aliases, where you put your customizations, then run 'update-modules' to calculate and write /etc/modules.conf. Check your Red Hat docs to see what to do. Also see "man 5 modules.conf".
Your network setup script then has to load the module, unless the kernel is loading it automatically on demand, or unless /etc/modules takes care of it. "modprobe MODULE", or "modprobe eth0" if you've set up the alias.


Tue, 23 Oct 2001 12:10:50 +0300 (EAT)
gatheru (gatheru from

Hi, I have heard this rumour that linux can be used to create

routers instead of going for commercial ones. I would like to know if it is true and hints on how to do it ( Actually any information is welcome).

regards Kamau Gatheru

[K.-H.] Yes, it is possible to use a Linux box as router. You would need some hardware (486 would probably do), >= 1 network card(s) (ethernet probably).
For starters look at: and search for "routers"
Another place to look is:
I you would tell us what exactly you would expect that router to do we[1] could maybe even tell you if Linux can handle that and how difficult it would be to setup.
[1] not necessarily me -- so reply to the list <>
Also see the Linux Router Project, . -- Mike

LWN links

Fri, 12 Oct 2001 11:51:05 -0700 (PDT)
Heather (KG Technical Editor)

Linux Weekly News has sprouted a seperate page for the now very long Distributions list:

Don't count 'em dead yet, folks. But I'd love to hear them get the sponsorship they need to go on. See our News Bytes for more.

2-cent Tip: "De-enhancing" enhanced text

Fri, 26 Oct 2001 18:37:06 +0000
Ben Okopnik (fuzzybear from
The Answer Gang (

One of life's little problems that comes up once in a while is dealing with enhanced text. You know, that stuff you get when you try to dump a man page as text, or just in reading a file that somebody has "enhanced" - a few minutes ago, I got an e-mail from someone using an NT box (!) that had the stuff in it. If you still don't know what I'm talking about, here's a sample from the "thttpd" man page:

       thttpd - tiny/turbo/throttling HTTP server


So, how do we turn this mess into readable text? If you're using the "vi" editor, it's a fairly simple task:


Note that to enter the actual "Control-H" sequence rather than a caret followed by an "H" (which will not work), the key sequence is "Ctrl-v" ("Enter raw character") followed by a "Ctrl-h".

The above says

:	Enter command mode
.,%	Apply to every line from the current one to the end of the file
s/.^H	Grab all "Control-H"s and the character that precedes them...
//g	...and delete no matter how many times they occur on a line.

In case you've been wondering, the above text "translates" into this:

       thttpd - tiny/turbo/throttling HTTP server


Deleting the preceding rather than the following character makes this trick work with "enhanced-underlined" text (not shown here) as well as "enhanced-bold".

I always call that "nroff format". -- Mike
[Dan Wilder] Actually it's impact printer format. Works nicely for 9-pin printers, as it did for daisywheel and type ball printers, or for that matter, for chain printers.
The use of character-backspace-character to produce bold originated with the impact printer, and was used long before nroff was written. Nroff merely made use of what was already common existing practice. Calling it "nroff format" would be a little like calling the rising sun "rooster-crow format".
"col -b" is an easy way to filter out the backspaces and duplicate characters.

Interestingly enough, it's not really nroff format... (discussion between Mike and Ben about output formats versus input formats, and other truly odd things that can be done inside man pages, trimmed for clarity.)

- "nroff" has its own weird way of doing things:

The \fIlwp-download\fR program will download the document specified...

What this stuff is is a hold-over from the Elder Days, when mighty heroes wrestled giants and monitors were fancy things that only the richest of the rich could afford; the rest of us scrounged wide-carriage printers and bought greenbar by the metric assload (nobody was offering discounts on the Imperial assloads (arseloads?)). "Control-H" is a backspace; in order to print in bold, you printed a character, backed up over it, then printed it again.


Underlining was done by much the same method, except that instead of double-printing the character, you printed an underscore, backed up over it, and printed the character:


(You could do it in reverse, too, but this has become the standard format.)

Underscore/bold combos were, of course, a horror to behold. As you can imagine, all sorts of utilities to automate this were widely available.

_^HG^HG_^Ho^Ho_^Ho^Ho_^Hd^Hd _^HG^HG_^Hr^Hr_^Hi^Hi_^He^He_^Hf^Hf!^H!

Until I started using Linux, I had not realized that someone had kept the creature alive - which, in Unixland, it very much is. Most text utils - including "more", "less", and "*cat*", fer Gossake - support it. Midnight Commander even displays the stuff in nicely distinct reds and yellows.

2 Euro-Cent tip: Sophisticated excluding backup

Sun, 28 Oct 2001 21:44:37 +0100
Matthias Posseldt (matthi from

Hi all @ Linuxgazette,

I just wrote a small backup script (mpbackup), which has the option to exclude files from the backup, and those files are read from =2Eexclude_from_backup files in each subdirectory. So you create a file /home/matthias/.exclude_from_backup and write


in it. The script will read all .exclude_from_backup files in the directories to backup and create a list of it. It then creates a tar.bz2 file.

You can even write wildcards into the exclude files. All files mentioned are relative to the .exclude_from_backup file's directory.

You need the included in PATH (or have to edit the script).

Hope that it helps someone. My 500+ megs home directory is now backed up in about 100 megs, because I left out build trees and cvs trees. And every user can configure which files go into the backup.

Ciao, Matthias

See attached

See attached

This is a good shell script. I rememeber I wrote a bash script called "keyfiles" when I was at school, that ran on your proxy servers.
(also activated via my "loop4mail" bash shell-script daemon.....I think I might include it sometime in LWM).
What would happen was that a file "/etc/keyfiles.conf" would contain a list of files (with their respective paths).
Then tar would read the file line by line, add the files to the archive, and dump the archive to a backup partition.
This is more or less what your script does.
All in all well done!!!
--Thomas Adam, the Linux Weekend Mechanic
[Ben] <laugh> Great minds think alike, Matthias. I wrote a backup script - slightly different idea from yours, though - and have been evaluating it for the past couple of months (a backup script is one of those things you want to beat to death under various conditions; think of where it leaves you if it fails silently...)
The idea behind mine is that there are a lot of files that you need to transport between your desktop and your laptop if you travel a lot (as I do) - things like your bookmark files, document directories, etc. This script has two config files, both of them accessible from the script itself: a permanent backup list, where you put the files and directories that are to be backed up every time, and a temporary list of files that will only be added to the current backup. It then restores the backed-up files onto the target machine, saving the previous versions in a .tgz file in case something has gone screwy.
I've had no problems with this thing for quite a while now - it has a fair number of tests built in - and, heck, since you're putting yours up, I might as well add mine to the list.

See attached backpack.bash.txt

Re: [LG 71] help wanted #4

Tue, 2 Oct 2001 04:56:03 +0200
guran (guran from

This is in response to the Asound ethernet card question last issue.


One of my sons called me the other day, when he could not find that driver on a RedHat 7.1. I adviced him to look for rtl-8139, where he found it, if I remember right the same goes for Debian.

regards guran

Additional Answer for a 2Cent Tip.

Mon, 01 Oct 2001 12:32:02 +0200
Matthias Egger (cannon from
linux-questions-only (

Hi Answer Gang

I was just reading the 'August 2001 - Nr.69' Issue. In your 2 Cent Tip's there was a Question called ' Cannot Format Network Drive '.

If i understood it right (english isn't my mother language) the person wanted to wipe off every Partition and bevome a new clean and crispy Harddisk?

Well, in this case i have another little Tip for him (or others with the same problem).

I sometimes have the same or similar Problem, especially when the System hosts Linux and Win200 or WinME. In this cases i use a Bootstrap Killer Programm called zap wich comes from IBM.

Unfortunately it's only avaiable for DOS, but it's a nice litte utillity. You can get it from the IBM Storage Homepage or from this URL "" and it has approx. 18 KB.

I know it's definitely not a LINUX Answer, but maybe it's a useful Hint.


Matthias Egger

Re: [LG 71] 2c Tips #9

Mon, 01 Oct 2001 15:30:18 -0400
martin leisner (mleisner from
linux-questions-only (

I found the gnu make documentation to be excellent reading. Part of it is tutorial.

-- Marty Leisner

Re: [LG 71] 2c Tips #10-signwriting

Fri, 26 Oct 2001 12:26:01 -0700
LBrown (starwings from
linux-questions-only (

This is in response to the Re: signwriting question last issue.


I was wondering if by signwriting application, Steve Gosden meant signwiritng as in the written form of Signed Languages including American Sign Language?

[Ben] Hmm. It could be, I suppose; the question was pretty ambiguous.

Here is a site that is dedicated to it:

Im hoping to write a signwriting program as soon as both my signwriting and my programming are up to it.

Here is the part of the site that provides source code, applications and programming information for writing software utilizing signwriting:

[Ben] Very interesting site, Lisa! I'm afraid that I know very little about implementing sign languages on a computer - despite knowing a little bit of ASL (learned from the docents at the Renaissance Fair while working there.) It would actually be an interesting challenge... Linux, along with the Unix community in general, has supported access for people with disabilities from its very early days - there is accessibility stuff built right into X, there's lots of support for Braille output devices, and the Emacs "Audio Desktop" is billed as "the first zero-cost Internet access solution for blind and visually impaired users." A signwriting program would fit in well, and (I would think) would be well received.
Hmm. I can visualize a sign "editor" that would let you build each symbol in the "sign group", one piece at a time, then let you jump to the next position using a set of keys for direction... yeah, definitely a bit of a challenge. :) Best of luck, and please let us know if and when you have something usable; I'm sure that there are a number of folks in the Linux community who would be interested in the results.

thank you and gentle day, Lisa Brown

[Ben] <smile> I like that. The same to you, Lisa, in double measure.

Tech Tips from Linux Journal

Subscribe to LJ's Tech Tips:

How to lie about your uptime

Bogus uptime, anyone?

The longer the uptime of your Linux box, the cooler you are, right? To be cool without leaving your machine on, go to /usr/src/linux/kernel/timer.c and change the line:

unsigned long volatile jiffies;

to get a bigger uptime at boot. Example:

unsigned long volatile jiffies = 0x00010000;

will start with a 655.36 second (more than 10 min.) uptime. Bigger values are left as an exercise for the reader.

Adding many users at once

It's back to school time and that means adding many users at once. No need to do it manually; add many users and set their passwords from a single file with the newusers program.

It's included with Debian; if your distribution doesn't have it, get the source from the Debian web site:

Speeding up Debian APT using Squid

If you have several Debian boxes, speed up software updates and be kind to the Debian mirrors. Install Squid on one of them and configure APT to use it with:

    Proxy "";

(If your distribution has automatic upgrades but won't use an HTTP proxy, file a bug report.)

Blocking the Nimda worm

The Linux Journal web site, like others, is getting a lot of traffic from the Windows worm du jour. Here's the cron job our sysadmin team is using to block them from our Apache-based site.

See attached

Making Caps Lock work like Control (in X)

To make your Caps Lock key think it's a Control key, put this in the Keyboard section of /etc/X11/XF86Config:

   XkbOptions "ctrl:nocaps"

This page edited and maintained by the Editors of Linux Gazette Copyright © 2001
Published in issue 72 of Linux Gazette November 2001
HTML script maintained by Heather Stern of Starshine Technical Services,

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Linux User Caricatures

By Franck Alcidi

Freehand art and images constructed in the GIMP.

Comments on the images

Debian Geek: Debian is seen as the real hackers distro. The character I drew is based on the hard core hacker. He is poor and wears daggy clothes because thats all he can afford. He tends to have long hair thats tied back and usually has that tough distinctive goaty or unshaven look.

Redhat Geek:This chap is the businessman, corporate geek and usually tends to be in the older generation. Of course as you get older you lose hair, put on weight and tend to need glasses. :)

Suse Geek: I see the suse geek as a young guy, usually from germany who might have blond or red hair and with plenty of freckles. Not quite the hacker yet and not old enough to be taken too serious yet in the corporate arena.

Mandrake Geek: Ok... this one is good. This chap (baby) is the new distro on the market(compared to the others anyway). He is always seen as a new lunix user hence the baby look, and the distro is regarded as one best for beginners to learn who might be migrating from windows to linux.

You can view my other artwork and sketches on my projects page.

Franck Alcidi

Franck is an artist in Australia. His home page ("Ausmosis") is

Copyright © 2001, Franck Alcidi.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

PDF Service with Samba

By John Bright


PDF documents provide a great way to pass around documents on the Internet. They have many uses, such as sending quotes and invoices to business clients. Two of the main reasons the PDF format is so popular is that it preserves all of the document's formatting exactly and it is easily viewable on almost all platforms. For many computer users stuck in the Windows paradigm, creating PDF documents means forking over precious cash to the folks at Adobe. However, this article will show you how to use Linux, Samba, and Ghostscript to provide a PDF creation service to both Windows and Linux users. Of course, all of this can be obtained for free.

First, let's take a look at the overall scheme of operation. We will use Samba to provide a "pseudo-printer" service (it will look like a standard printer to clients) that will use Ghostscript to create a PDF document out of any Postscript printer job that is queued onto it. We will then configure the Windows machines to use this shared printer and send jobs to it in Postscript form.


Samba is a great piece of software that runs on Linux/UNIX and allows you to share files and printers with Windows machines. Samba provides services that are compatible with the standard "Windows Networking" services provided by Windows 95/98/NT/etc computers. Before we get into configuring Samba for our purposes, you'll need to make sure that the Samba server is installed on your Linux system. As always, you can download the Samba source from, but generally the easiest way to install it on your system is by installing the "samba" package provided by Debian, Red Hat, or whoever.

If this is your first time installing Samba, you will want to review/edit some of the basic configuration options in the smb.conf (look in /etc or /etc/samba) configuration file. The main things to watch in order to get your services up and running are the security policy (security=share or security=user) and the "guest account" setting. For details of configuring Samba, refer to the Samba documentation at or the SMB HOWTO. A complete sample (low-security) configuration file will be shown later.

It is probably advisable to test your connection and authentication method (if any) by creating a simple file share for your clients. In any event, once your clients are able to connect to your Samba server, we are ready to create the PDF "pseudo-printer". First, though, let's make sure we have the right utilities to actually produce the PDF documents.


Ghostscript is another great application that can be used on a Linux system. Ghostscript is often used to convert Postscript into the correct raw format for a printer, but it can also be used to convert between Postscript and PDF formats. Ghostscript comes installed on many distributions in order to provide printer support. If the "gs" command is available on your system, then Ghostscript is probably already installed. Otherwise, you can install your distribution's package (ghostscript on Red Hat, gs or gs-aladdin on Debian) or download the source from if you're feeling adventurous.

The Ghostscript package includes a script called ps2pdf that makes the conversion of Postscript to PDF quite easy. Now that we have this utility available, we can begin the creation of our PDF service on Samba.

Bringing It Together

First, let's review a typical bare-bones printer share in Samba (from the smb.conf file):

	path = /tmp
	printable = yes
	writeable = no
	create mask = 0700
	guest ok = yes
	printer name = lp

(Note the silent "e" in writeable. The configuration file has it even though the ordinary word doesn't. The same applies to browseable below. Actually, Samba accepts it either way, but Samba's manpages use writeable.)

Normally, when a print job is spooled to this share, a command such as lpr is run to transfer the job to the Linux printing system. Our method here is to use the excellent configurability of Samba to specify an alternate printing command in place of lpr. Specifically, the configuration variable is called "print command". The specified command is executed, and any occurrence of %f or %s in the "print command" variable will be replaced by the name of the printer spool file that was sent in by the windows client. For example, to simply discard any print jobs, this line could be placed in the above printer configuration:

	print command = /bin/rm %f
This brings up another important point: whatever print command is specified must delete the spool files, or else they will eventually pile up and fill your disk.

Print Script

Our print script will accept one command-line argument: the name of the print spool file, which is assumed to be in Postscript format. It will then convert this into the PDF document and place it in an accessible location. Clients will be able to retrieve the finished product by using the file sharing services of Samba. For example, if a directory named "/shr" is shared by Samba, we could place finished PDF documents in /shr/pdfdropbox/. Be sure to mkdir whatever directory you choose. Also, you must be sure that you give write permission to the Samba user (the nobody user in this example) or it will not be able to create any PDFs. In this example, you would want to:
chown nobody /shr/pdfdropbox
chmod u+rwx /shr/pdfdropbox
Here is the complete, yet simple print script, called printpdf, also available in text format. On our Linux system, we'll place the script at /usr/bin/printpdf


# Simple script to convert a specified postscript file into a PDF document
# and place it in a location that is shared by the Samba server.
# Arguments:
#   1st - The name of the spool file
# John Bright, 2001,

# We will create the pdf into a temporary file based upon the current date and time.
# After we are finished, we'll rename it to a file with the same date, but ending
# in .pdf.  We do this because if a user tries to open a PDF that is still being written,
# they will get a message that it is corrupt, when it is actually just not done yet.

DATE=`date +%b%d-%H%M%S`

# Directory in which to place the output
# Be sure this directory exists and is writable by the user that Samba
# is running as (for example, the nobody user)

ps2pdf $1 $OUTDIR/$DATE.temp
rm $1

I said it was simple, right? There's really not much to it once we have all of the tools together.

Finish the Samba Setup

Now that we have seen everything that goes into the PDF service on the Linux side, we can finish the Samba configuration file. Here is an example smb.conf file that gets the job done. It is a little low on security, but that keeps everything simple. You can download this file from here.

   guest account = nobody
   invalid users = root

   ; Tighten security just a little: only allow local access
   interfaces = eth0
   bind interfaces only = Yes
   ; This assumes you are on a local network with 192.168.x.x IP addresses
   hosts allow = 192.168.
   ; Share-level security is generally easier, although not as secure

; Set up a public share, this will be used to retrieve PDFs
; The name of the share will be seen as "shr" by Windows users
   path = /shr
   browseable = yes
   writeable = yes
   guest ok = yes
   force user = nobody

; Set up our PDF-creation print service
   path = /tmp
   printable = yes
   guest ok = yes
   print command = /usr/bin/printpdf %s
   ; There is no need to support listing or removing print jobs,
   ; since the server begins to process them as soon as they arrive.
   ; So, we set the lpq (list queued jobs) and lprm (remove jobs in queue)
   ; commands to be empty.
   lpq command =
   lprm command =

Of course, you will need to start/restart Samba after you have created/edited the smb.conf configuration file to your liking.

Setting Up a Windows Client

You should now be able to go ahead and install the shared PDF printer as a network printer on your Windows client machine. To do this, find the printer share under Network Neighborhood, right-click, and select Install. During installation, you will be asked to pick a printer driver. Just select some Postscript printer driver, for example, the HP LaserJet 5P/5MP PostScript.

To briefly explain how this is fitting together, the PDF service on your Linux machine is expecting to receive input in Postscript format. Since our printpdf script receives the print job exactly as it was sent by the Windows client, this means we need to have the Windows clients send print jobs in Postscript form. As described above, this is done by selecting a driver for any Postscript printer on the Windows client when the PDF network printer is installed. I generally select some variety of HP Laserjet PS printer from Windows' printer driver list (such as the HP LaserJet 5P/5MP PostScript, as noted above) although it doesn't matter a whole lot because all of the Microsoft-supplied Postscript drivers use the same core driver to generate the Postscript.

Once you have the PDF network printer installed on your Windows machine, simply print anything from any program to your new network printer, and you should have a PDF document waiting for you shortly.


If you have an office full of non-computer-savvy folks, it would probably be more trouble than it's worth to try to have them go through the installation process and select an appropriate printer driver. If you have ever installed a network printer from another Windows machine, you have probably noticed how the printer driver is automagically copied to your machine so that you are never even prompted for a driver. We can do the same thing with Samba. First, you should set up a file share on your Linux machine named "printer$" (without the quotes). We'll make the path for the printer$ share be /etc/samba/printdrivers/ (you'll have to mkdir the directory). The clients will simply use this share to obtain the printer driver files during installation.

Now we need to find out which driver files must be copied into the printer$ share directory. We also need to give Samba a printer definition so it can tell the client which driver files it needs. It turns out all this is taken care of in one step thanks to a Samba utility called make_printerdef. This utility requires you to have the Windows INF file that defines your printer and know the full title, such as "HP LaserJet 5P/5MP PostScript". You will need to find which INF file your printer is defined in. For example, this LaserJet is defined in C:\WINDOWS\INF\MSPRINT3.INF. Note that C:\WINDOWS\INF is a hidden directory. Copy this file onto your Linux machine and use the make_printerdef utility to create a local printer definition file that Samba will read. For example:

make_printerdef MSPRINT3.INF "HP LaserJet 5P/5MP PostScript" >> /etc/samba/printers.def

Here we redirected standard output to the printers.def file to create the printer configuration. The make_printerdef program also outputs some explanation on standard error which you will see. It should tell you which driver files you need. You can find these in C:\WINDOWS\SYSTEM or C:\WINDOWS and you should copy them into the path of your printer$ share on the Linux machine (in our case, /etc/samba/printerdrivers/). The printers.def file that we have created (or appended to) here does not need to be shared to the Windows machines, it is only read by Samba. Now we just have to tell Samba about the printers.def file and our driver files. This is done with the "printer driver file" setting in the global section and the "printer driver" and "printer driver location" settings in each printer section of smb.conf. The following revised smb.conf file shows how these settings are used, and also shows an example of a printer$ share. You can download this configuration file from here.

   guest account = nobody
   invalid users = root

   ; Tighten security just a little: only allow local access
   interfaces = eth0
   bind interfaces only = Yes
   ; This assumes you are on a local network with 192.168.x.x IP addresses
   hosts allow = 192.168.
   ; Share-level security is generally easier, although not as secure

   printer driver file = /etc/samba/printers.def
; Set up a public share, this will be used to retrieve PDFs
; The name of the share will be seen as "shr" by Windows users
   path = /shr
   browseable = yes
   writeable = yes
   guest ok = yes
   force user = nobody

; Set up our PDF-creation print service
   path = /tmp
   printable = yes
   guest ok = yes
   print command = /usr/bin/printpdf %s
   ; There is no need to support listing or removing print jobs,
   ; since the server begins to process them as soon as they arrive.
   ; So, we set the lpq (list queued jobs) and lprm (remove jobs in queue)
   ; commands to be empty.
   lpq command =
   lprm command =
   ; We already defined the printer driver definition file above.
   ; Here we need to specify the entry in that file that should be used
   ; for this printer.
   printer driver = HP LaserJet 5P/5MP PostScript
   printer driver location = \\%h\printer$

; File share to allow clients to download printer drivers
   path = /etc/samba/printdrivers
   guest ok = yes
   read only = yes

Setting Up a Linux Client

This section isn't necessary for providing a PDF service to Windows clients. This section describes the procedure for using the PDF service from Linux clients. The service probably isn't quite as useful for the Linux clients, since they can more easily install all the necessary tools on their own machines, but it still might be useful to have a centralized PDF creation service. (Side note: Ghostscript is available for the Windows platform, but most users would probably find it quite difficult compared to the printer service-based technique described here.) Also, the technique used to print to the PDF service can be used to print to any other printer service shared by Samba or Windows, so it is good information to cover.

There are numerous ways that you can print to a Windows printer share from Linux. Probably the best is to list the smbprint script (which uses smbclient) as a filter in an /etc/printcap entry. When this method is used, a Windows shared printer can be used with the standard lpr command that Linux users and applications are accustomed to. You will need to make sure you have both the smbprint and smbclient programs on your computer. The smbclient program is in the "smbclient" package on Debian systems and the "samba-client" package on Red Hat systems. On Red Hat, the smbprint script is included with the "samba-client" package. On Debian, it is included with the "samba-doc" package as well as a different version in the "printfilters-ppd" package and "lprngtool". There are so many different versions floating around that I thought it best to include a copy here. You can download it from here. In any event, I'll assume that you have a working smbprint at /usr/bin/smbprint and that it is executable (chmod +x /usr/bin/smbprint). Here is the smbprint script:

# This script is an input filter for printcap printing on a UNIX machine. It
# uses the smbclient program to print the file to the specified smb-based 
# server and service.
# For example you could have a printcap entry like this
# smb:lp=/dev/null:sd=/usr/spool/smb:sh:if=/usr/local/samba/smbprint
# which would create a UNIX printer called "smb" that will print via this 
# script. You will need to create the spool directory /usr/spool/smb with
# appropriate permissions and ownerships for your system.

# Set these to the server and service you wish to print to 
# In this example I have a Windows for Workgroups PC called "lapland" that has
# a printer exported called "printer" with no password.

# Script further altered by (Michael Hamilton)
# so that the server, service, and password can be read from 
# a /usr/var/spool/lpd/PRINTNAME/.config file.
# In order for this to work the /etc/printcap entry must include an 
# accounting file (af=...):
#   cdcolour:\
#	:cm=CD IBM Colorjet on 6th:\
#	:sd=/var/spool/lpd/cdcolour:\
#	:af=/var/spool/lpd/cdcolour/acct:\
#	:if=/usr/local/etc/smbprint:\
#	:mx=0:\
#	:lp=/dev/null:
# The /usr/var/spool/lpd/PRINTNAME/.config file should contain:
#   share=PC_SERVER
#   user="user"
#   password="password"
# Please, do not modify the order in the file.
# Example:
#   share=\\server\deskjet
#   user="fred"
#   password=""

# The last parameter to the filter is the accounting file name.
#   Extract the directory name from the file name.
#   Concatenate this with /.config to get the config file.
eval acct_file=\$$#
spool_dir=`dirname $acct_file` 

# Should read the following variables set in the config file:
#   share
#   hostip
#   user
#   password

eval `cat $config_file`

share=`echo $share | sed "s/[\]/\//g"`

if [ "$user" != "" ]; then

if [ "$workgroup" != "" ]; then

if [ "$translate" = "yes" ]; then
 command="translate ; print -"
 command="print -"
#echo $share $password $translate $x_command > /tmp/smbprint.log

cat | /usr/bin/smbclient "$share" "$password" -E ${hostip:+-I} \
     $hostip -N -P $usercmd "$user" $workgroupcmd "$workgroup" \
     -c "$command" 2>/dev/null

The next step is to add a new /etc/printcap entry and list the smbprint script as a filter. Here is an example printcap entry (or complete file), also available as a text file:

# PDF Service entry

lp|pdf|PDF Printer:\

You will need to create the spool directory /var/spool/lpd/pdf/ (or if you have LPRng, run checkpc -f). Be sure to keep the accounting file line in the printcap entry, and be sure the accounting file is located in the same directory as your .config file, as this is how the smbprint script finds the .config file. Also, it is standard procedure to have the system's default printer named "lp" as shown above. If you already have a /etc/printcap file and would like to retain your existing default printer, you should remove the leading "lp|" from the entry shown above. Next, you need to create a configuration file named ".config". You should create this at /var/spool/lpd/pdf/.config . The .config file defines which server the print job should be sent to. Here is an example:


Here, yourserver should be replaced by the name of the computer providing the PDF service. If you have any trouble with this, make sure that the smbprint script has permission to read the .config file, or you may be scratching your head for a while. Probably the safest way, at least at first, is to give read permission to all, for example: chmod a+r /var/spool/lpd/pdf/.config

Finally, to print to the PDF service from Linux, invoke the command:

lpr -Ppdf
on a Postscript file. This can also be used from within most applications. For example, listing "lpr -Ppdf" as the print command in Netscape will allow you to create a PDF document from a web page.

Viewing PDF Documents

The final topic to be covered deals with how to view PDF documents. Everybody knows the standard on Windows is Adobe Acrobat Reader, but there are many more options on Linux. Unfortunately, none of the current options on Linux seem to be quite as dependable as Reader on Windows, but they are still very workable. The main options are:

In my opinion, gnome-gv has the nicest user interface. It is based on GTK+, so things like the mouse scroll wheel work without any special consideration. Unfortunately, it will fail to read some PDF documents and display a nasty-looking error from ghostscript. From my experience, acroread is very good about being able to interpret documents. In the past I have had some trouble with it crashing, but I think it has gotten better since then. I have rarely used gv, but I imagine it has the same problem as gnome-gv since they are both based on ghostscript. Finally, xpdf is a very stable PDF reader. I don't recall every having it crash, and it usually has no problem interpreting documents. Still, there is an occasional problem, and the displayed quality of the document often isn't quite up to par. It doesn't have a full feature list, but it is a good viewer to keep around. All this may sound scary, but be assured that on average, PDF viewing on Linux is not a problem.

Have fun and good luck!

John Bright

John Bright is a partner in Winford Engineering and flawlessly performs his assigned programming and Linux administration duties :). He also administers several Linux/UNIX computers at a local university and always has several Linux-related projects to keep him busy.

Copyright © 2001, John Bright.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

SAGU, Free Software for Academic Administration

By Cesar Brod

Cesar Brod

Cesar Brod got first involved with Linux in 1993 when he needed a "Unix" that he could use in his computer in order to emulate problems he was having in a System V based machine. Cesar has been in the computer industry since 1980, working for companies such as NCR, BASF, Tandem/Compaq and ACI, most of the time providing software and hardware system support for these companies' customers and working with pre-sales. In 1998 Cesar decided he had got enough of big cities and moved with his wife and three daughters back to a very small city in the south of Brazil, Arroio do Meio, where he had spent the best of his childhood in the late 60s. In 1999 Cesar proposed his services to Univates, a University in the neighboring city of Lajeado, where he is now the IT Manager and coordinates software development. Cesar is also one of the coordinators of the Free Software Project of the State of Rio Grande do Sul.

In 1999 I was hired by Univates to head their IT department. The major problem they had at the time was their proprietary-software based academic/administrative/financial system, which clearly would not be able to handle the data of the new students that would be enrolled in the coming term. The easy alternative would be to buy a proprietary solution, but the amount of customization that would be required and the prohibitive cost of the software forced our community-owned University to search for alternatives. Being a Linux user since 1993, I was already thinking we could build a new system, totally based on free software. A PHP tutorial at the 1999 LinuxWorld Expo, and some conversations with people already using PHP were the necessary information I needed to produce a development plan that was approved by the rectors.

In the beginning of 2000 we started the writing of SAGU, using the same ER (Entity-Relationship) model used by the old system. From the beginning, SAGU was conceived to have a web-based (browser) user interface, so the user would be platform independent - we already had a plan to migrate the user desktop to Linux. We started the development using the MySQL database server, and as in that time, MySQL didn't have transaction support, we migrated the development to PostgreSQL. As we didn't have previous experience with MySQL or PostgreSQL we decided SAGU should also be database independent, so we created a structure (actually, a PHP program) called common.php, which would handle database connections - if we ever needed to change to another database, the only program we would change was common.php. Later, after a visit by Mr. Rasmus Lerdorf to our University, we decided we would stick to PostgreSQL and created a new transactional/presentation base for SAGU and all of our free software projects, called MIOLO, but this is another article...

SAGU stands for Sistema Aberto de Gestão Unificada, which translates into English to Open Unified Management System. In a nutshell, SAGU automates all the relationships between the students and their educational institution, from the moment the student enrolls for the entrance exam until after he/she graduates.

SAGU went live on July 2000. The first production version was developed in less than six months by a group of three developers. SAGU subsystems try to mimic the functions of the educational institution, so, it has modules that handle the entrance exam (optical reading of the student answers, classification, classroom assignment) the enrollment process (which courses the student may choose for a given term, prerequisites), the academic data (grades, academic history), financial and accounting data (payments, credits, scholarship, interface with the banks and other accounting/ERP systems) and reporting tools.

Now, SAGU is being rewritten using Object Orientation techniques, and all of the database transactions and presentation logic is going to be handled by MIOLO (MIOLO is the Portuguese word for the inside part of a bread).

More information on SAGU, along with the source code, can be obtained at . Unfortunately, for English readers (most of you, I believe) most of the information is in Portuguese. There is an effort on porting it to English, being coordinated by Kaziro in Sweden, in order to have SAGU working for some schools in South Africa - isn't it the true beauty of Free Software? Kaziro can be contacted at .  If you are in the educational area, you may also be interested in knowing our GNUTECA project, which is being alpha-tested in one of our libraries. GNUTECA is a free software for library administration, including materials catalog, loan and collaboration system. It is compatible with library standards (MARC) and provides a good migration path for users of the CDS/ISIS system to the free software world. GNUTECA info can be found at

Cesar will be giving a talk about SAGU at the Linux Showcase, 5 November 2001, at 1:30pm. At 8pm, he will be hosting a BoF session on Brazilian free software. See

Copyright © 2001, Cesar Brod.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Automated Logins Revisited

By Adrian J. Chung

As more users adopt GNU/Linux for use on their desktop PCs, machines with only one user are becoming increasingly common. Many new users have little use for the multi-user logins that Linux supports. A very common request among new desktop users is to configure their Linux systems to automatically boot up a graphical desktop environment (i.e. KDE or GNOME), for a single unprivileged user, without prompting for a login ID or password.

This question is asked so frequently I am surprised that a HOWTO has not been written up for it. (Well, none that I can find.) This article is in no way comprehensive enough to fulfill such a role, but hopefully it will point users in the right direction.

Prepackaged solutions

Solutions to automated logins have been proposed before and one answer appears in an earlier issue of Linux Gazette ( The particular solution requires patching the /sbin/mingetty program that is launched by init on bootup. (See for the patch and how to apply it.) Although automatic logins on virtual consoles are facilitated, this by itself will not initiate a graphical desktop. Read below for tips on how to set this up.

Alternatively one can install the autologin package ( This can handle the launching of graphical desktops on bootup also. Not many GNU/Linux distributions include this as standard.

Automatic login is a feature provided by recent versions of kdm (a KDE-style replacement for xdm -- the X11 login manager). Edit the /etc/kde2/kdmrc so that the following lines are uncommented:


This configures kdm to automatically login fred on startup, initiating fred's chosen graphical desktop environment without any user interaction. Mandrake provides a GUI component to enable this kdm feature, thus avoiding any messy text editing.

But maybe one does not want nor need to install kdm. (Perhaps there is not enough disk space, or kdm is too heavy weight for an older PC.) Fortunately there are ways to automatically login a user on one of the virtual consoles immediately after booting up, without resorting to patches or additional downloads. The process can be somewhat more involved, but it will work on a pretty minimal GNU/Linux box -- no need to have GNOME, KDE, or QT-heavy kdm. Even without X an automated login to a command prompt (or any other interactive console application) on bootup can be quite handy.

The nuts-n-bolts method

Using your favourite text editor create a file named autologinfred.c and type in this short C program:

int main() {
   execlp( "login", "login", "-f", "fred", 0);

The execlp system call invokes the command "login -f fred" and replaces the current processing context with this invocation. The man page for login describes the action of the -f argument. Compile this tiny C program using the GNU C-compiler:

$ gcc -o autologinfred autologinfred.c

Gain root privileges (using su) and copy the executable to a public directory:

# cp autologinfred /usr/local/sbin/

Now take a look at /etc/inittab. This is the configuration file is used by init, the very first process started when Linux initialises. You should observe lines similar to the following:

1:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty1
2:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty2
3:2345:respawn:/sbin/mingetty tty3

The exact contents of /etc/inittab differ from distribution to distribution. On Debian systems one sees:

1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty1
2:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty2
3:23:respawn:/sbin/getty 38400 tty3

Edit the line beginning with "1:2345" so that it reads as follows:

1:2345:respawn:/sbin/getty -n -l /usr/local/sbin/autologinfred 38400 tty1

The above will cause the user fred to be logged in automatically on the first virtual console. On some GNU/Linux distributions (like RedHat) /sbin/agetty must be used instead. The -l <alternative login> argument to getty substitutes the default /sbin/login program with the one we compiled earlier. The -n tells getty to not prompt for a user ID.

Initiating the desktop on login

If we reboot, the init process will automatically login the user fred on the first virtual console and a command shell will by started. User fred must still type in the startx command to initiate the graphical desktop. Can we automate this too?

If fred's login shell is /bin/bash, the first commands to be executed will always be listed in the file, ~fred/.bash_profile. We can add the startx command here but this causes problems, since the .bash_profile will be used in other situations such as when one is logging into a second virtual console or when opening an xterm. Instead we append the following lines:

if [ -z "$DISPLAY" ] && [ $(tty) == /dev/tty1 ]; then

Any new login shell started on the first virtual console will automatically initiate a graphical desktop. The surrounding if statement ensures that login shells launched from the desktop, or initiated in virtual consoles other than the first one, do not immediately start up a new GUI desktop. Users of /bin/sh should append the above to ~fred/.profile, and tcsh users need to convert the above to the equivalent csh script.

If there is already a GUI desktop running (via xdm, gdm or kdm, etc) then invoke startx -- :1 instead. This creates a second GUI desktop. If one need only have one desktop active, it would be better to disable any existing Xserver instance by reducing the run level (RedHat) or unlinking the /etc/rc?.d/S99?dm start up configuration files (Debian).


Now whenever the machine boots, user fred is automatically logged into the first virtual console, a bash login shell is initiated, his ~/.bash_profile is sourced, and startx is invoked -- all without any user interaction or prompting for passwords. Neat, huh?

We can go further by making use of the ~/.xinitrc file to initiate particular desktop applications. (man startx for details.) Place your favourite game here and a Linux box can be used like one of those arcade machines, minus the decorative case. Launch an Ogg Vorbis player with visualisations and you can have a dedicated music machine.

Unprompted logins can also be useful in a non-graphical context. One could arrange to login a special user who has /usr/bin/top as her shell. Now one virtual console will be devoted to an interactive listing of active processes. The possibilities are limitless.


GNU/Linux, the multi-user operating system, is steadily becoming more popular in single user settings. In these situations one often can dispense with the user login protocols. This article illustrates that its roots in the UNIX world do not detract from using Linux in these dedicated areas. With simple changes in configuration, and a small touch of programming, one can automate the login process on most GNU/Linux distributions and still preserve a significant measure of flexibility.

Adrian J Chung

When not teaching undergraduate computing at the University of the West Indies, Trinidad, Adrian is writing system level scripts to manage a network of Linux boxes, and conducts experiments with interfacing various scripting environments with home-brew computer graphics renderers and data visualization libraries.

Copyright © 2001, Adrian J. Chung.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Battle for the Desktop: Why Linux Isn't Winning

By Dennis Field

Linux has several advantages over Windows; it's more stable, cheaper (free, if you're able to download it), comes with tons of free software and will happily run on systems too small for Windows. So why isn't Linux being used on most of the PCs in the world?

Some would say that the problem is that Linux is too clunky and difficult to use. While command-line Linux is certainly not for everyone, modern distributions include self-mounting CDs, drag & drop functionality and other modern conveniences. There are still some rough edges to be smoothed out, but for the average web surfer or office worker a Gnome or KDE desktop is little different than Windows. So, again, why aren't more people using Linux? Perhaps my experiences will help to explain. The story you are about to read is true; only the names have been changed to protect the inept.

I work in a medium-sized bookstore (20 employees, 2.5+ million a year). We are currently using an old DOS based Point of Sale system, but there will be a web-based system out next year. Since this new system is calling for Windows XP capable PC's for every cash register, this is a considerable investment for us. However, I would estimate that we could save $300-$400 per terminal in both licenses and reduced hardware costs by using Linux instead. It also happens that I needed a portable workstation for my desk (I'm trying to develop an email newsletter for our store). So I decided to get a laptop to install Linux into, thinking that this would give an opportunity to both learn more Linux myself and show off Linux to everyone at work - trying to sell my manager on a non-Windows OS. Then, when our new POS system gets up to the sales demonstration stage (i.ei; beta test), I'd already have a Linux workstation ready to hook up to it. Since it's supposed to be web-based, hopefully one or more of the web browsers common to Linux should be able to interface with it correctly. Whether our office server would work using the Apache web server is an entirely different question, but the individual terminals throughout our store are supposed to be, basically, web browsers.

I began by researching different Linux distributions, quickly narrowing it down to one of the best known names in Linux, because they promised secure server/credit card processing support (which we would eventually need for our web-based cash registers) and were actively pushing a monthly service and support contract. Our POS system literally runs our whole store, so we can't afford to just lock the doors and send everybody home whenever we have a technical problem. I'll call this distribution "Commercial Linux", because that's the market they were clearly aiming for.

Since I couldn't afford a new laptop, I started looking on eBay and finally found an old IBM Thinkpad for under $200 (the low price largely due to the lack of a CD-ROM drive). A quick search on Google revealed lots of people happily using various flavors of Linux on the exact model I was getting. I already knew that Linux can commonly be installed in half a dozen different ways - indeed, you can almost tie a wet string between two monitors and install it over that - but before bidding I checked with "Commercial Linux" and verified that a CD-ROM wasn't listed as a system requirement. I also purchased a PCMCIA Ethernet card, again after checking with "Commercial Linux's" Hardware Compatibility List and finding it listed as both "supported and easily installed".

I installed "Commercial Linux" on my home desktop PC and was very impressed with the software. Plug & Play nearly on a par with Microsoft, a definitely improved desktop, etc. The printer setup would have gone more smoothly with better instructions, but after a few tries I has able to get Linux to print. I set up an ftp sever, copied the install files to it and confidently tried to install "Commercial Linux" into my newly acquired laptop.

Plan A: I hooked both desktop & laptop into an Ethernet cable and inserted the PCMCIA boot disk into my laptop. I soon found out that my 3com PCMCIA card is supported by the Linux kernel, but not by the PCMCIA boot disk - not much use with a blank hard disk in my laptop. Neither the "Commercial Linux" web site nor their beautifully laid out and well illustrated installation manual contains a list of which network cards actually are supported by the PCMCIA boot disk.

Plan B: The "Commercial Linux" on my desktop contains a PLIP server and their boot disk contains a PLIP driver. So I hooked up a parallel port, ie; laplink cable and tried to do a network install. Guess what? "Commercial Linux" doesn't provide any instructions on how to do a network install. Their web site doesn't show it, their printed installation guide doesn't explain it, and if you email them the question, you'll be told that your two months of customer support (for which I paid $80) doesn't cover network installs. So I spent a week trying every possible option and configuration I could think and never got any connection at all. It occurred to me early on that the "Commercial Linux" firewall, which their installation software set up by default, was probably cutting off the connection. Guess what? The "Commercial Linux" firewall program doesn't contain any detailed instructions on how to configure the firewall. I searched for "firewall" on "Commercial Linux's" web site. The most current listing they had was generic information from three software versions earlier. After wasting several more days trying to configure a firewall without instructions, I gave up and simply reinstalled my desktop Linux without a firewall. I again tried every possible option and configuration I could think of on the PLIP server (which - big surprise - also had no instructions) and still never got any network connection at all. In searching the Internet, I finally found a third party web site that mentioned that "Commercial Linux" no longer supports PLIP installs (a fact which I confirmed by phoning them, but have never found listed anywhere on "Commercial Linux's" own web site).

Plan C: I could use my trusty Laplink cable to copy the installation files into my laptop and simply do a hard drive install. Sounds fairly straightforward, right? However, when I tried that, I found out several things: While most Linux distributions let you simply copy the directory structure onto the target hard drive, "Commercial Linux" makes you copy an ISO9660 image file of their entire installation CD onto the hard drive. To make matters worse, "Commercial Linux" put some of the required packages on their second CD. So you have to copy almost 1.4GB of installation files! (Windows 98SE requires less than 400MB, other Linux distributions require less than 100MB of installation files for a complete desktop system). In my case, my laptop, which exceeds the published system requirements, doesn't have enough room for both the "Commercial Linux" installation files and the Linux OS both at the same time. At the risk of being truly redundant, neither the necessary procedure, nor the list of required files, nor the actual disk space requirements were explained on "Commercial Linux's" web site or in their installation manual. And when I telephoned to ask them about it, their Customer Service people gave me the wrong information. Seeking to get some OS on my laptop, I tried Windows instead. I had never done a hard drive install of Windows, either, but I simply copied the cab files over, clicked "install" and Windows installed itself with nary a hiccup.

Meanwhile, I played with "Commercial Linux" on my desktop. The factory CDs contained three different versions of StarOffice: not one of them installed correctly. There was no information on their web site as to any problem with StarOffice, much less how to fix the problem. A quick web search revealed several other irate "Commercial Linux" users who had already concluded that StarOffice simply wasn't compatible with the latest release of "Commercial Linux". I tried another word processor (again from the factory CD). This one installed correctly, but as soon as I launched it, it totally locked up my computer - keyboard and all. Warm booting my PC destroyed the file system so badly that Linux wouldn't even boot! By this point I was beginning to suspect that "Commercial Linux" never bothered to test the 3rd party software they ship to see if it even works on their own OS!

All told, I have asked "Commercial Linux" five installation questions. I have received a total of three wrong answers, one flat refusal to even discuss my problem and one failure to return an email. And it's not just "Commercial Linux", either. I e-mailed four other Linux distributions, asking each of them if they supported a hard drive install. Two of them never responded at all, the third one emailed me back the next day saying that they categorically refused to answer any questions unless I first gave them my product registration number. Only one Linux distribution actually took the time to answer my question. (guess which distribution I'm going to buy next time?).

In stark contrast, IBM has done a wonderful job of supporting their Thinkpad laptops. My 760E was built during the transition between Windows 3.x & 95. IBM's web site has a complete set of device drivers for both OS's (including software patches for 98), exhaustive documentation, installation notes, troubleshooting guides and a search engine that actually finds what you're looking for - all freely available for public search & download.

In some respects, Linux already has better documentation than Windows ever thought about providing. There is an internal manual ("man pages") built into Linux. There are lots of external instructions ("HOWTOs") written by experienced users, explaining "how to" do all kinds things with Linux. Any distribution that cared to could build upon these resources and provide expanded and customized help files (specific to their own distribution) to answer common questions regarding program operation, server set-up, etc. Apparently this idea has never occurred to anyone.

Perhaps it is because Linux has traditionally been sold to, well, basically computer geeks. People who either enjoy tinkering with computers as a hobby, or who were already experienced UNIX administers. Consequently, I believe that many of the people who make Linux distributions have fallen into the practice of thinking: "Okay, we put the software on the CD for you. It's not our concern if the software actually works or whether you have the information you need to use it. We did our part. Now send us the money". These same people then wonder why they are unsuccessful at selling Linux to either the general public or to the small business market.

Earth calling Software Vendors! It doesn't do any good to distribute your software if it doesn't work or if your customers don't have the basic details needed to operate it. Here's a couple of really Wild & Radical ideas for Linux vendors: first, test the cotton-pickin' software before you release it! It may not be possible to test every video driver, but it certainly is possible to test if the software you're shipping installs into the correct directory and doesn't have any obvious incompatibly with the OS. I'm sure many venders try to do this, and are no doubt caught between the conflicting demands of constant testing for reliability and trying to hurry out the latest and greatest software. But as a business user, I would far rather wait a few weeks longer for the software to be released and have everything work. If smaller venders don't have the resources needed for comprehensive testing, then please A) note what software hasn't been tested, and B) maybe include general installation procedures, directory paths, etc. so users have some chance of fixing packages that don't install correctly.

Secondly, provide adequate documentation! Let me challenge the vendors to a simple test: Take a laptop down to your local community college. Go into the Computer Science building and select three or four students at random who do NOT know Linux. Offer to buy them all pizza if they will attempt to install and/or operate some software for you (based only on whatever documentation you provide to your users). If they can't at least begin to get a handle on it by the time the pizza is cooked, then YOU are not providing enough information! No, I am NOT talking about another "Guide to Linux". Linux itself is well documented. The individual distributions, however, provide barely enough information to let you install them - after that, you're on your own. And most Linux applications include a header file saying what the program is intended to do, but giving few, if any, clues as to how to get the program to do it. Almost all modern software templates include places for both general help files and context sensitive help. Few programmers use them. If several of the largest Linux vendors made it a policy to not accept 3rd party software unless it includes basic built-in documentation, then they could raise the bar for the whole Linux community.

Oh, and my laptop? I downloaded a small distribution off the Internet, I'll call it "Mom&Pop Linux", which did know what a hard drive install is. Instead of an Installation Manual laid out by a graphic designer, they had a typical Linux "HOWTO";i.e., four text pages of friendly notes. Following the directions installed Linux flawlessly into my laptop. Well, almost flawlessly. It turns out the boot loader in "Mom&Pop Linux" doesn't work. It also turns out that they were apparently switching over from tarballs to RPMs and, perhaps as a result, I can't load any new programs into the laptop. Sigh. Being able to both boot the computer and install programs were two things I was really hoping for in an operating system. But I did at least prove that Linux can operate on my Thinkpad.

By this time, I was now two months behind in my project at work. Searching through IBM's web site, I learned that the addition of a docking station would allow my laptop to have a (non-bootable) CD-ROM drive and a (bootable) floppy at the same time. A little more shopping at eBay and I found the necessary hardware. This put me 50% over budget, but at last I would have a functional Linux laptop!! I happily installed "Commercial Linux" from their CDs, already knowing the correct settings for the X window setup from my earlier install of "Mom&Pop" Linux. Guess what?? "Commercial Linux's" X server doesn't work in my laptop. They list the video chip as supported. I double checked all the settings, but all I get when I type "startx" is a page and a half of error listings. Based on my experience with "Commercial Linux" to date, I have little hope of finding the information needed to fix the problem on their web site. And their tech support won't even talk to me, because my 60 days of installation support has expired.

As far as our bookstore is concerned, I do not currently believe Linux to be a viable alternative for any small business. Even if I did, I doubt I could ever convince my manager that "Commercial Linux" is capable of supporting our office network, since they have already demonstrated that they are not capable of supporting an installation into an IBM Thinkpad!

Oddly enough, I still believe that Linux is a good Operating System, and I am continuing my search for a functional distribution. But so far, the only OS that will actually operate in my Thinkpad is Windows. I would rather be running Linux (Indeed, once Windows XP becomes dominant, I will have to either run Linux in my laptop or else throw it away). I believe there are a lot of other business people who would like to run Linux as well. But it's not going to happen until some of the Linux vendors get their act together.

Let me offer an analogy: Suppose you were looking for a car, and you heard about this great new sports car that got 50MPG and only cost $5000! But when you went to buy one, you were told it didn't have any tires, and there was no alternator (so you had to figure out some other way to keep the battery charged) and, oh also, don't drive it too fast because the brakes don't work. And if this car ever breaks, then you'll need to find your own spare parts and try to fix it yourself, because the dealer that sells the cars refuses to work on them. Would you buy that car? More importantly, would you recommend that car to somebody that needs reliable transportation to get to work tomorrow? Does this sound far-fetched? Well, that's exactly what many Linux vendors are telling the people who buy their software. Getting back to my automotive analogy, these same vendors will then loudly complain that Chevrolet is being unfair because they put radios in their cars as standard equipment. Well, maybe people aren't buying Chevys because they have built-in radios. Maybe people are buying Chevys because they have tires and the dealers are willing to fix the cars if they don't work! Likewise, maybe people are also buying Windows because it works out of the box (well, mostly works, anyway), and Microsoft at least tries to offer support when it doesn't work.

Dennis Field

My first encounter with a computer was when my high school got an old IBM 1130 (which had a whopping 8k of main memory!), and I've been playing with computers off and on since then. My first home computer was as Amstrad, which ran C/PM and came complete with a revolutionary 3" floppy disk drive (yes, you read that right<g>). Although I've had one college course each in both C and Linux, I still consider myself a Linux newbie. However, I am a fan of Linux, and would be delighted to see Linux start providing some mainstream competition to Microsoft. But doing so will require more than just technical achievement or even a user-friendly interface. It will require somebody providing some real customer service and support.

Copyright © 2001, Dennis Field.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Installing Linux on a Sun SPARC Ultra 5

By Bruce Forsberg

Click here for a screenshot of Linux on a Solaris desktop

Being an open-source software developer, I naturally perform all my work on the Linux operating system. Anyone who does development knows the advantage of having ALL the source code available. As an example, I work on a project called the (Open Source Audio Library Project). It is a C++ class library that contains audio functionality. While doing development on my Linux laptop I was having problems with some audio sample rates. At some sample rates the audio would sound like Donald Duck and at others it would be normal. The same test would work fine on my desktop Linux machine. After extensive investigation it was determined that when I exited another operating system and booted into Linux without powering down the laptop a register on the audio chip would not get reset and would cause this problem. I found the driver in the audio code and inserted the fix into the driver and it worked. I sent the patch to Alan Cox who put it into the very next kernel release (2.2.17). If this was a problem with a proprietary OS the likelihood of this ever being fixed would be slim.

As part of my testing for my library I saw the need for three things, 1) to be able to support more OS's, 2) to be able to support big-endian CPU's, 3) and to support 64 bit computing platforms. After looking at other computers available, I determined that a computer from Sun Microsystems would be a good addition. Sun makes the most popular commercial UNIX computers and their new models use the UltraSPARC CPU's which are big-endian and 64 bits.

Sun has an entry-level computer available called the Ultra 5. A new computer would cost $2000 - $3000. This was more than I wanted to pay. So I searched Ebay and found a used Ultra 5. Used Ultra 5's now sell on Ebay for about $500 - $700. A good deal for another workstation. I bought the Ultra 5 containing a 270 Mhz UltraSPARC II processor, 64MB of memory and a 4.3 GB hard drive. If you are undecided about what kind of Sun workstation to get, then check out the SPARC-HOWTO at I also purchased Solaris 8 for $75 from Sun ( and installed it. Installation went perfectly. I was able to port my software to Solaris. But knowing that some people run Linux on SPARC's meant that I needed to install Linux on the Ultra 5 as well, preferably in a dual boot configuration with Solaris 8 and Linux. The following is my experience with installing Linux on my Ultra 5.

Step 1 - Selecting the distribution

The first step was to determine which distribution to use. Having used Linux for several years on Intel processors, I have used SuSE many times and liked it. When I found that SuSE had a SPARC distribution I decided on this. So I headed over to CheapBytes, and 3 days later I had my CD's. If you are undecided about what distribution to use then check out the web site. They have a list of currently supported Linux distributions for Sun workstations.

Step 2 - Planning the installation

The next step was to determine where to put the Linux distribution. I only had a 4.3GB hard drive installed, hardly enough to contain both Solaris and Linux. First I decided that since I had never installed Linux on SPARC I would remove the existing 4.3 GB IDE hard drive and install an old 3GB IDE hard drive to use as a test install drive. This drive came from an old Linux on Intel system. When I did this I ran into nothing but problems. Using SuSE's installer called YaST2, I was unable to partition this hard drive no matter what I did. YaST2 gives you two options, an automatic option, and a custom manual option. When using the automatic option and telling it to use the whole hard drive just returned errors that it was unable to partition the drive. Everything that I tried with the manual mode did not work either. Finally after a couple of days of trying, I decided to install Solaris on the drive first thinking that maybe the drive needs to be formatted in some way. This seemed to work. When I ran YaST2 after this and using the custom manual partitioning menu I left the SunOS Swap partition and then created a 16MB /boot partition, a 2GB / partition, and a 200MB Linux swap partition. After this the installation of the files went smooth. I found out later by surfing the Internet that when one uses a non-Solaris disk one needs to run the fdisk utility and create a Solaris disk label on the disk. It also went on to say that this label is stored in the first partition on that hard drive so the first partition can't be a Linux swap partition since it will not reserve space for this label.

Now I was ready to install the real thing. I decided to start over completely. So I purchased a new 20 GB hard drive and installed it into the Ultra 5. Next I powered up the Ultra 5 and during initialization pressed the Stop-A key sequence. This takes you to the boot PROM on the Ultra 5. I placed the install Solaris 8 CD in the CD-ROM drive and entered "boot cdrom" and away went the Solaris installation. When the install looked for the hard disk it could not find any space. Since this is not the Solaris Gazette, suffice it to say that it put me at a command prompt and I had to enter format and create a backup label on the third partition (#2) and zero out all the others and label this to the hard drive. After this I restarted the Solaris 8 install and it went fine.

For the Solaris install I created a root partition of 5GB with a 512 MB Solaris swap partition and a 2GB /export/home partition. Now I started the Linux install. I installed the first SuSE CD and rebooted the computer. When the boot started I did the Stop-A thing and typed "boot cdrom". I let YaST2 run and selected manual partition editing. I created a 512MB Linux swap partition, a 16 MB /boot partition, and the rest of the drive as the Linux / partition.

Step 3 - Installing the Linux software

The next step is to actually install the linux software. I selected the packages I wanted and then was presented with the SILO configuration. I selected the custom SILO configuration and verified that Install SILO on partition /boot was selected. I did this rather the the MBR (Master Boot Record) since I will use OpenBoot in the PROM to select whether to boot Linux or Solaris. More on this later. By installing SILO in /boot I will be able to test different Linux kernels and boot to them. I then created a user account and entered a password for the root user. Then off went the installer installing the software, a total of 1624 packages. Everything went fine with the install.

After the install finished, I used YaST to setup the rest of the stuff one does after a Linux install. I selected the Sun Happy Meal 10/100base T interface for the network. The rest of the network sets up just like a Linux on Intel system. I then configured audio for the Ultra 5 by following the steps in the manual on the first CD-ROM. I added the following two lines to the file in /etc/init.d/boot.local:

modprobe audio
modprobe cs4231

The only problem here is that the manual said the file was in /sbin not /etc. For an experienced Linux installer this was an obvious mistake in the manual but a novice might have some problem with this. I reported this to SuSE and they responded promptly, thanking me for the correction.

When I tried to run my audio application, the open call on the audio device /dev/audio just hung and never returned. After some investigation I found that KDE had an audio server running that was using the device. I went to the KDE control panel and turned off this audio server and restarted KDE, and now I have working audio on my Ultra 5.

Next I mounted the Solaris 8 disk partitions on Linux so that I could see them. The partition type that Solaris uses is called ufs. I read notes also that write capability is experimental. So I mounted both / and /home partitions from Solaris in Linux by performing the following. I performed "fdisk /dev/hda" to list the partitions that I have on my first hard drive. It turns out that I have /dev/hda1 as / and /dev/hda8 as /home. First I created mount points. I like points under /, so I did:

cd /
mkdir sun_root
mkdir sun_home
Next I added to /etc/fstab the following lines:
/dev/hda1  /sun_root  ufs  defaults,ro,ufstype=sun  1  0
/dev/hda8  /sun_home  ufs  defaults,ro,ufstype=sun  1  0

Now I mounted the mount points "mount /sun_root" and "mount /sun_home". Now I can see my Solaris partitions from Linux.

Step 4 - Configuring Dual Boot

The next step is to set up booting between the two operating systems on the Ultra 5. Most of you are familiar with LILO on your Linux on Intel machine. For Linux on Solaris you will find SILO. I use SILO to boot different Linux kernels, but to boot between Solaris and Linux I use the boot PROM on the Ultra 5 called OpenBoot. The following instructions will apply to the 3.x version of OpenBoot, which should exist on all Ultra 5's. To get to the OpenBoot prompt you need to press the Stop-A key sequence. Once you are at this prompt you can type devalias, this will list all of the aliases that are defined. You should see several disk entries like:

disk		/pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/disk@0,0
disk3		/pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/disk@3,0
disk2		/pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/disk@2,0
disk1		/pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/disk@1,0
disk0		/pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/disk@0,0

All of the stuff on the right is a device entry. You can now create several aliases of your own. I created two, linux and solaris:

linux		/pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/disk@0,0:d
solaris		/pci@1f,0/pci@1,1/ide@3/disk@0,0:a

These are the device entries for disk0 which would be hard drive /dev/hda in a Linux on Intel box. The :letter at the right of the device entry points to the partition on that hard drive. So to boot the first partition it would be :a. To boot the forth partition you would use :d at the end. To store these entries in non-volatile ram you need to create the above entries with the nvalias command in OpenBoot. Note that if there is an alias with the entry on the right it will be replaced with the new alias.

There is another parameter that you can set in OpenBoot and it is:

setenv auto-boot? = false

This will make the computer stop at the ok prompt when powered on. This allows one to then select which OS to boot, solaris or linux. All one has to type is either "boot solaris" or "boot linux".

Step 5 - Miscellaneous Notes

The following are some miscellaneous notes I discovered dealing with Linux on SPARC.

1. If you see the following messages "Unimplemented SPARC system call 69/44" from your kernel while booting then ignore them. System call 44 and system call 69 are getuid32()/geteuid32() both are not necessary on UltraSPARC.

2. Apparently, from what I have read, for Linux on UltraSPARC, the kernel is 64 bits but userland is still at 32 bits. I am not to sure what this means, but I think it means that I will not be able to compile my application as a 64 bit application.

3. The Stop-A key sequence is disabled on SuSE 7.1 and some others distributions. In SuSE it can be enabled in YaST2 by going to the misc section. I tried to enable it and when I did Stop-A the computer hung and I saw no boot prompt. So, it is probably a good idea to leave it disabled when in Linux.


Except for the initial problem of partitioning the disk everything went very smooth. The disk problem was frustrating though. SuSE is to be commended on a fine Linux on SPARC distribution. It is good to see this. I have seen messages in their mail list that they are working on a SuSE 7.3 version as well. I would also like to thank all the open source Linux programmers who have worked on Linux on SPARC software. You have done a great job! Thank you for your efforts. For now I have a workable solution for running both Solaris 8 and SuSE Linux 7.1 on my Sun Microsystems Ultra 5. It is not a fast machine, being only 64MB with a 270 Mhz processor, but it does the job it was intended for, porting software.

Bruce Forsberg

Bruce is just an average guy having fun with Linux. He is the founder of the Open Source Audio Library Project. He got his start programming freeware on windows 3.1. When he realized that all one had to do was to not return from a message and it would hang the entire operating system, he knew there had to be a better way. Linux was the answer.

Copyright © 2001, Bruce Forsberg.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

The Godfather of Computing - Charles Babbage

By G James Jones
Reprinted from System Toolbox's History section with permission
Original URL:

In the beginning...

Some of the most often used cliches about writing and telling stories turn out to be good advice as well. A writer is told to "write what she knows" and a storyteller is to "begin at the beginning." And so, I hope to focus on "our" beginnings and the things that "we" know; the beginnings of network and hardware engineers, computer scientists, system administrators and others among a host of geeks, hackers, and phreaks that exist in our world.

The original idea came out of an interchange between Chris Campbell and I about an articled titled Adventures in Babysitting that he had written for Binary Freedom. The article described Chris' foray among our would-be next generation at a local 2600 meeting and featured his utter disbelief at their lack of interest or understanding of their technology history. Names like Admiral Grace Hopper and Ken Thompson didn't come close to ringing a bell. You can tell how disheartening an experience it was for him. These people were his heroes after all (mine as well) and they should be looked up to and seen as the mentors that they are. In order to showcase and explore them, I proposed this column.

So, to begin somewhere near the beginning, let's investigate the Godfather of Computing, Charles Babbage.

A Beginning of Another Sort...

Charles Babbage is variously called the Father, Grandfather and Patron Saint of Computing. To many that care, he began it all. I prefer to think of him as the Godfather of Computing and to see why is all part of his story.

Babbage was born into a wealthy, but undistinguished, family in Devonshire, England, in 1791. While still a young boy, Babbage was concerned with questions of "how" over those of "why." The expression of this concern saw the boy dismantling his fair share of toys and mechanical objects around his family's home.

A "Personality Disorder" Explored...

My father-in-law, an engineer, likes to say that engineering is the expression of a personality disorder. The way he sees it, all engineers think and see the world such an odd, but similar, way that it can only be attributed to some sort of mental disorder. When they see something new, they want to pull it apart. When they hear of a problem, whether in their realm of control or not, they will offer "the most efficient" solution. In general, the world is seen as a broken puzzle that only some good solid, and sustained, engineering will fix. I can see his point. Besides, breaking Aunt Edna's antique clock just to see how it works can be considered rude at the very least. On top of which, "normal" social graces are generally thrown out the window, placing the final nail in the coffin of diagnosis.

The funny thing is that the expression of this "disorder" can be fingered early in life. One can watch for the early warning signs. Children that take apart watches or have a penchant for building elaborate structures from blocks may just be engineers in their pupae stage. By all accounts, Babbage definitely was afflicted by the time of his boyhood. His tinkering with things, his dismantling of gadgets, and his inquisitiveness as to how things worked are all sure signs. While the draw of engineering can be sublimated if caught early and treated with care, Charles had no such luck. His fate was sealed when he stumbled upon a copy of the Young Mathematician's Guide in the school library. From that point on, Babbage devoted himself to the pursuit of rational thought and scientific knowledge.

After boarding school, Babbage headed to Cambridge to attend Trinity College. While at Trinity, the precocious student tended to test the patience and abilities of his instructors, a manner that may be familiar to a few among our readers. One rebellious episode saw Babbage and his Analytical Society taking on the very way math was done in England.

At the time, most of England preferred to do complex mathematics using Sir Isaac Newton's "dot notation." The choice of notation was more out of civic pride than actual utilitarianism. Babbage considered this an affront to the way things should be. It went against efficiency and clarity and was a general affront to Babbage's rational senses. He favored instead the scientific notation perfected by Leibniz and used throughout Europe. The Analytical Society, which Babbage helped found, championed the fight to switch to scientific calculation by translating Lacroix's Examples to the Differential and Analytical Calculus from its original French. This achievement is considered one of the main events that helped bring modern mathematics to England.

The Beginnings of an Idea...

Though stories about the first notion of Babbage's calculating machine vary, they all seem to focus on Babbage's unwillingness to suffer inefficiency and undue complexity. It seems that Babbage was reviewing some of the many "look-up" tables that were used to aid in calculating complex equations in his day. The number of errors that were contained therein quickly exasperated him and his partners. Since the tables were generally copied by hand or transcribed to plates for printing, it was inevitable that errors would get introduced into the tables during the process. Those errors then just percolated through all the calculations that they were used to perform. One error made hundreds of years ago could potentially misroute ships or hurt financial projections.

Babbage is said to have complained to his colleague that he wished these calculations could be carried out by steam. In that simple complaint lies the beginning of the first programmable mechanical calculator. It would later see life as the Difference Engine and still later as plans for the much more ambitious, and versatile, Analytical Engine. It was 1820.

Calculating Machines...

Babbage's first attempt at a calculating machine took the form of a small six-wheeled model that took advantage of number differences to aid in complex calculations. The machine, dubbed the Difference Engine, was powerful and elegant in its simplicity.

Babbage realized that any process that could be distilled into a repeatable algorithm probably could be mechanized. It's entirely likely that he was inspired to this line of reasoning through his fascination with automata at an early age. Automata were mechanical creations and figurines that imitated life in the form of animals, ballerinas and musicians and such. By following complex, but repeatable, mechanical tricks, some automata were able to seem extraordinarily lifelike. It was this controlled, and nearly invisible, complexity that interested Babbage.

Babbage's table problem was similar to that of the automata. While fixing the errors in copying tables was a complex problem, he realized that embracing the complexity and wrapping it in elegant mechanics was a likely solution. Babbage decided that by using the method of differences, he could create a calculating machine that would aid in these complex calculations. This is how it worked.

Method of Differences...

This is how the method of differences works. First one takes a set of consecutive numbers and then you perform a set function on each. For sake of ease, let's use the squares of the starting number's. Then you begin to successively look at the differences between the results until you arrive at a common number. It is then possible to work the process in reverse using only addition (something that machines can easily be engineered to do) to fill in the answer to the function for successive beginning numbers in the table. The only requirement is that you begin with a certain amount starting of "known" numbers that will, following the process, eventually come to a form of stasis.

For our example we will use 1, 2, 3, and 4 as our starting points. These numbers will form our x column. The function column, f(x), is then determined by applying the function chosen, squaring in this case, to each number of the x column. This gives 1, 4, 9, and 16 in order. For the next column, we find the differences between each f(x), giving us 3, the difference between 1 and 4, 5, the difference between 4 and 9, and 7, the difference between 9 and 16. We line these numbers in a column, delta 1, so that they are positioned vertically, for ease of calculation, about halfway between the two numbers in the preceding column. Next we calculate the differences between the numbers in delta 1. The answers, placed in a fourth column, delta 2, are 2, the difference between 3 and 5, and 2, the difference between 5 and 7. We have now reached a stasis point where the differences are the same. Once we have reached this point we can now work our way backwards and fill in the table. But first, the starting table looks something like this:

x f(x) delta 1 delta 2
1 1
2 4 2
3 9 2
4 16

Now we just work our way backwards on the table to fill in the values for the function of new values of x. First we can check our work. Starting at the top value in the delta 2 column (2), we can add it to the top value in the delta 1 column (3) and should get the next value in line in the delta 1 column. If you don't get 5, check your addition. If you do get the second value in delta 1, then you did your calculations for those two rows correctly and you can move on (see, it's self checking). Now take the value at the top of delta 1 and add it to the top of f(x). The result is the value for the function applied to the next value of x in the table. You can carry this for any value of x as long as you know the values of the function for a few numbers before x, and you only have to use addition to fill in the table after that point. Here is a table with the values for x = 5, to show you how it works for "new" table additions.

x f(x) delta 1 delta 2
1 1
2 4 2
3 9 2
4 16 2
5 25

As you can see, it becomes very easy to add new values to the table. Working backwards from delta 2, two (2) plus delta 1's value of seven (7) yields nine (9) for delta 1, which in turn yields twenty five (25) for the function of x, or f(x). Pretty straightforward. So much so, in fact, that it can be carried out mechanically. Herein was Babbage's genius. He understood, perhaps innately, before any objective proof existed, that complex calculations could be carried out by machine. In order to avoid transcription errors when users of the machine copied the results of the calculation, Babbage's goal was to create a printer of sorts that would copy out the results by itself. The methods that Babbage devised would successfully skirt the sources of table errors that so infuriated the inventive Babbage. It was this understanding, this internal realization of the "correctness" of his solution, that would drive him in the pursuit of the ultimate manifestation of his ideas until the day he died.

The Analytical Engine...

Babbage's early prototype of the Difference Engine was met with great public excitement. He became the hit of London's social circle and it was often the mark of a party's success or failure as to whether Babbage had accepted an invitation to attend. This prototype also brought him some initial funding, to the tune of 15,000 to 17,000 pounds (accounts vary), from the British government. This money was to be put into the development of a fully functional Difference Engine and, later, a more complex calculating machine dubbed the Analytical Engine.

Babbage had been able to prove his ideas and gained general acceptance of his theories. His major problem with creating a version beyond his proof-of-concept prototype for the Difference Engine was his constant learning and tinkering. As Babbage worked on the project he was constantly discovering more efficient ways to accomplish his goals and overcome the problems with precision machining that hampered his progress. It is said that as soon as new plans had left his shop for the machinists, he had already come up with a revision of the previous idea. This constant tinkering would be Babbage's undoing and would defeat the progress of nearly every project he undertook. It was as if his mind were so active, that it couldn't slow down long enough to take a snapshot of an idea from which he could work to physical completion.

Babbage never completed a full Difference or Analytical Engine. He died in his London home to a cacophony of street musicians (a group that Babbage sought to have abolished from the city's streets) who had come from across the country to serenade him on his way outside his window. Let's just say that he didn't make many friends among that group (lawsuits will do that). But we still remember him. Beyond the idea that complex calculations could be carried out mechanically, an idea that seems inevitable, what did he contribute?

The beauty of Babbage's ideas and their overall contribution to computer science lies in their completeness. Babbage envisioned a system that was programmable through punch card inputs. It could carry out many varied types of calculations and was as versatile as the instructions that it received; versatility through "software". With his printing ideas, Babbage had basically pioneered the idea of input/output (IO) via punch cards and printers. Taking it a step further, his conception of Analytical engine could store calculations (by punching cards) and continue them later or use the results of certain calculations to continue in different directions based on the outcome; the stored program and programmatic logic respectively.

Unfortunately, Babbage never saw his most dramatic ideas reach reality, though he maintained his vision going so far as to work with Ada, the Countess of Lovelace (and mathematical wunderkind) to work out the proper functioning and use of the machines. It is due to Ada's copious and annotated notes of some of Babbage's lectures, that his ideas weren't lost as a footnote in history and that the awesomeness of his, at least mental, achievement came to be appreciated. Her notes and Babbage's unearthed plans helped this vindication even further when a working and more complex Difference Engine No. 2, the precursor to the Analytical Engine, was constructed by Science Museum in London in 1991. He should be appreciated for his persistence and his ideas. The world could have been wildly different if only he had been moderately successful (read The Difference Engine by Gibson and Sterling for one possible outcome). Babbage is the godfather of computing because he beat everyone to the punch. Using the technology that was available to him, metalworking, engineering, and steam, he was able to approximate the early "computers" of the electrical age.

He was a visionary before his time. We should all hope to be as much.


© 2001 G. James Jones is a Microcomputer Network Analyst for a mid-sized public university in the midwest. He writes on topics ranging from Open Source Software to privacy to the history of technology and its social ramifications. Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium if this notice is preserved.

Copyright © 2001, The Binary Freedom Project, LLC.
Copying license as above
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Standard Database Setup with Perl and PostgreSQL: Part 3

By Mark Nielsen

  1. Introduction (way too long)
  2. Standard Database Setup (SDS)
  3. Perl script to setup my SDS environment with Perl and PostgreSQL
  4. How the perl script is setup to work
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


This article tries to accomplish the following:
  1. Given a database design, create all the tables, sequences, stored procedures, views, backup tables, timestamps, and unique ids.
  2. For the Perl language, create all the modules and sample perl scripts for a web server.
  3. The database and webpages will assume there is user authentication. The users table, which will have a username and password for accounts, will be called "users".
  4. Create all the "stuff" inbetween the database design and the sample webpages. Thus, it relieves you of creating the database information, perl modules, and even provides sample web script code about how to access the database using the perl modules. All you need to do is manipulate the perl scripts and customize them.
  5. Remove the threat of the database administrators and non-programming web administrators strangling the life out of the programmers. Also, to make it possible for a novice programmer to setup the entire database, perl modules, and sample perl scripts so that they can start to experiment and learn (this is going to be valuable at my advanced web/databases classes at
  6. To setup a Standard Database Setup, which I will use for all further projects regardless of which database server and programming languages I use.

I have worked for many companies and many projects. Every one of them have their own programming style and their own ways of doing things. Usually not thought out very well because of pressure to get things out fast and worry about the consequences later. Part 3 of Perl and PostgreSQL is dedicated to me so that I will use a standard way of doing things with Perl and PostgreSQL so that everything remains professional (a professional database structure, professional perl modules, and semi-professional sample perl scripts).

When everything is standardized with good code, everything becomes easy. Personally, I am not ever going to take on another project that doesn't use a database system with standard stored procedures with 100% unique ids in every table. I just won't take the job (I get enough job offers as it is). I don't want to walk into an unprofessional environment anymore (unless they agree to make it professional). It wastes my time and their time. Bottom line. I am more interested in business aspects of a company that requires programming skills than to do the actual programming. I like to setup things up and do research and development to improve things, but I want other people to do the dirty work after I have done the R&D.

One large company that I worked for had great database design, but the perl programmers were at the mercy of the database administrators. One unwieldy popular database server is a nightmare to handle. Although I respected the database administrators, I feel as though a true programmer should be in charge of the database and the database administrator should be a guide rather than a god. Programmers might not know how to handle the database properly, but that is where the database admin comes in, to approve things, but not to prevent things from getting done. I find it extremely frustrating to fight with database administrators when they are suppose to serve the programmers. Network admins serve the database admins, database admins serve the programmers, programmers serve their boss, their boss serves the secretaries, accountants, customers, salespeople, and other people inside and outside of the corporation. In other words, the only justification for the people at the bottom is if they are serving the people at the top to help them get their work done. Lord knows I have seen many computer geeks who just didn't have a clue about how to run a business. Computer people are only valuable if they accomplish goals that other people can use in the company.

Having said that rant about how I fight on a daily basis with database admins, part 3 of Perl and PostgreSQL is also suppose to remove or severely reduce the need of a database admin. My perl script deletes the tables, which if you have live data on a live server, can be a bad thing which you might need a database admin for. However, I backup all tables deleted and I want to add the ability to repopulate data from one table to another when columns get changed or added. With that, a database admin looses power to stranglehold a programmer from getting his work done, or more accurately, if we can provide a professional system that a professional overpaid database admin approves of, there will be less work for the overpaid database admin and thus they become cheaper. With that said, overpaid programmers can cause just as much problems as an overpaid database admin! I just deal in a world where I install my operating system from scratch, I install Perl, Apache, Zope, Python, PostgreSQL, MySQL from scratch, and my end result is a pretty and/or functional webpage that people can use. Anything below the webpage that causes me problems to achieve my goal, whether it is the network admin, database admin, etc. is an obstacle that needs to be removed. That is how I think. I have great respect for all sorts of admins, but they serve the programmers, and I can seen countless times how programmers get restricted and choked to know when a company or department is in trouble. When network and database admins make the programmers happy, everyone is happy (they also have to know how to prevent the programmers from running amok and put their foot down when needed!).

With standard exact stored procedures, views, sequences, unique ids, timestamps, active/inactive status for all tables, the database admin should feel happy to let programmers design database tables as long as they approve the final database result. Afterall, if my perl script sets up the entire database, and the Perl modules to access the stored procedures in the database, there is nothing for the database admin to do other than approve database designs and make changes to the database design (because the programmer probably doesn't know how to setup a good database). Also, the web administrator can be a stranglehold if they are not a programmer. If the web administrator limits the programmers to use the Perl modules in accessing the database, then a non-programming web administrator can feel comfortable to not strangle the life out of a programmer. If everything is standardized, then the immature novice programmer dot-com wannabe who doesn't know how to do good programming and who knows nothing about installing operating systems or setting up database and web servers, can at least have something to work with as a standard so that they don't go off wild creating lots of interesting uncommented archaic code just because there were "cool" ways of doing things.

Bottom line, everybody involved can cause problems to get that Perl script to work. This hopefully is a starting point to get things moving. There are a lot of things I want to add. I am happy with this being called "Version 1". I am aiming for PHP, Python, and possibly JAVA modules and webpages for Version 2, modifying tables (rather than deleting them and recreating them) for lives systems for Version 3, and a GUI for Version 4 (though a GUI can be developed at the same time).

Obviously, to get to get to version 4 is going to take a long time. It has taken me 4 months just to get this far. Most of my work is debating with myself about what to do rather than actually doing work. In development, you scrap lots of code because you figure out a better way of doing it, and you also wish you can scrap more code. For now, I am consistently getting rid of code I don't like and redoing it, which takes a little longer but yields greater rewards, which is a completely different and refreshing mentality compared to the dot-com boom where you had a non-programming manager over your shoulder who just wanted to get things done no matter how horrible the code and setup was.

Standard Database Setup (SDS)

SDS is my creation about how to handle database systems. I already know there are lots of things to add on and clarifications that I need to do, but I will call this version one. At some point, I will have a link to about further updates to my database system. In addition, I am going to call my Perl Script and related material MAPPS, which will be located at by October. I plan on letting people execute MAPPS to create their web application online at my website. Not that I want them to use the application on my website, just to create it, test it, and then download it. If just one person wants to join with me at creating a class act database system useable for all database needs, then I will put it in sourceforge, or wherever, so that people can collaborate. This system is really immature, and I haven't tried to read any documentation about anything else that is similar. My SDS system is based on all the mistakes and headaches I have witnessed over the years from myself and others. I am developing SDS to be used for any application and to create a consistent interface so that no matter what the project, if you know SDS, you can easily understand and add to the project. This greatly reduces the need for an overpaid programmer because you won't need to hire a programming god to figure out lots of messy code (hopefully).

The two options, using a table TABLENAME_diff and select stored procedures are not done in my scripts. The reason, I just downloaded the beta version of PostgreSQL 7.2, and I haven't messed around with stored procedures returning multiple variables (or cursors). I am still using stored procedures that can return only one variable. When PostgreSQL 7.2 is out, I will be able to make really cool stored procedures that return lots of information.

SDS version 1.0 is the following:

Standard Database Setup (SDS) version 1.0. 
Copyright by Mark Nielsen, 9/2001. 

1. All tables must contain the following:
   a. A primary key equal to TABLENAME_id.
   b. Timestamps for the date of creation and modification, date_created
      and date_updated. 
   c. There will be a backup table named TABLENAME_backup. 
   d. All fields are lower case.
   e. An active field whose status of 0 is inactive and 1 is active. 
   f. All foreign keys must have the extension "_fk" except for fieldnames
      ending in "_id".
   g. All fieldnames with "_id" in the table definition will automatically
      get a foreign keys constraint. A fieldname of "TABLENAME_id" will
      have a foreign constraint to the table "TABLENAME" with its primary key
   h. Views for active, inactive (deleted), and purged will be created. 
   i. Insert, Update, Delete, Copy, Change, Purge, Unpurge, PurgeOne, 
       and UnpurgeOne functions are too be used for all database 
       modifications where the functions will be 
       named "TABLENAME_FUNCTION_sql".     
   j. When stored procedures can return multiple variables, then all
      select statements will be executed through stored procedures as well. 
      All select stored procedures will end in "_select_sql".
      The two types of select stored procedures will be:
      1. Given a unique id number, the select statement will require
         all fields for that row. This stored procedures will be named
      2. All other select statements will be custom made. Select statements
         can get very complicated. It is mandatory that all custom select
         statements be created with custom stored procedures. 
   k. All modifications to any table will be recorded in "TABLENAME_backup".
      Modifications will occur through standard stored procedures and
      the stored procedures will handle recording of these modifications. 
      "backup_id" will the primary key of all backup tables.  
   l. All selects of tables will be recorded as an option using the table
      "TABLENAME_select" if it is desired when the table is created. 
      "TABLENAME_select" will have the fields select_id, date_created, 
      date_updated, TABLENAME_id, error_code, and misc.   
   m. An optional method for recording database inserts and changes
      with respect to differences may be used, but must follow the following
      standards. This will not be included by default in MAPPS. 
      1. The backup table must be named TABLENAME_diff.  
      2. "diff_id" will be the primary key for each table. 
      3. Each diff table will have exactly these fields.
         a. diff_id 
         b. date_updated : Timestamp the data was entered. 
         c. diff_data : This is the difference in data between this
            entry and the previous entry. 
         d. diff_method : This describes the difference method used.
             This is arbitrary and dependent upon the programmer. Here are
             a list of pre-defined methods:
            1. "diff" or "gnudiff" will correspond to GNU diff. The version
               must be supplied and recorded somewhere. 
            2. "subversion" in relation to subversion. 
            3. cvs will not be an option for a standard. "subversion" replaces
               cvs, and hence, by the time SDS is really solid, subversion
               from will be ready. 
         e. diff_prev : This is the previous diff_id which the data is 
            being compared to. This is done so that if a diff_id gets
            deleted, you can state there is an error. 
         f. fieldname : This is the field of the row which the data
            belongs to.  
         g. primary : This is the primary key of the row we are looking at. 
         h. error_code : "start" means there is no diff_id previous
            to this one. "diff" means there is a previous entry to
            be compared to. "stop" means the primary key has been deleted. 
            Other error codes are possible. 
   n. An entry of 0 into a foreign key means null. All rows with a primary
      key of 0 should have empty space for text and 0 for numeric values
      or the default value (if supplied). 

2. The unique names which cannot be used are:
   a. "error_code", "backup_id", "date_created", "date_updated",
      , "diff_id" and "active" are reserved fields. 

3. Standard practices with Perl Modules and other programming languages. 
   a. All Perl Modules (or other programming languages) will create
      objects whose methods correspond to each stored procedure. The naming
      convention of each method shall be exactly the sql function name minus
      the tablename and "_sql". Thus, "TABLENAME_FUNCTION_sql" becomes
      "FUNCTION" in the Perl Module. There will be an exact one to one
      correspondence between all sql functions and perl methods, minus
      custom made sql functions or perl methods. 
    b. All custom made perl methods must use stored procedures for all
       changing of data, and selecting data (when stored procedures
       can return multiple variables). 
4. Standard practices of custom stored procedures.
   a. All custom stored procedures may only change data using one of the
      predefined stored procedures. Custom stored procedures may not
      use custom made stored procedures for changing/inserting data. 
   b. All select statements must use select stored procedures (when the
      stored procedures can return multiple values). 

5. Standard practices of webpages/perl scripts.
   a. All perl scripts or other programming languages will always
      use perl modules for all interactivity with database. All changing,
      inserting, or viewing data will occur through a module. 

Perl script to setup my SDS environment with Perl and PostgreSQL

Here is a link to the perl script and generic files I use, Files.tgz. You may also access the uncompressed files by going to my Test directory. Download this file into an empty directory on your Linux system. Please have a running PostgreSQL 7.1 database running on your computer which you have access to. Then, follow the instructions below.
  1. Install PostgresSQL 7.1, the Apache webserver, setup the Apache webserver to use persistent databases connections, make the Apache webserver execute *.pl files as perl scripts, install the Perl modules DBI, DBD::Pg, and BlowFish. If you have trouble with this, please look at the references section located in this article.
  2. "cd" into the directory where you downloaded these two files and execute these commands.
    tar -zxvf Files.tgz
    mv misc/nielsen/Test /tmp/
    cd /tmp/Test/
    chmod 755
  3. Now in theory, you are ready to go. I have provided a sample database called "sample". You must change two Config.txt files. One located in the main directory, and another located in the directory "sample". I have setup certain web variables to point to /usr/local/apache which would be the standard installation of apache when you download and install it from scratch. If you are using apache that comes with your Linux distribution, please change the variables in those two files. In theory, all you have to do to get your database setup and use the webpages is to execute the one command
    /tmp/Test/ sample
    and then go to the webpage on your computer.

Just in case you can't get the perl script to execute, here is the output of the SQL commands, Perl modules, and web scripts.

  1. SQL commands
  2. Perl Modules
  3. HTML webpages

How the perl script is setup to work

Docs/SDS.txtThis explains how the Standard Database Setup is designed.
Config.txtThis has two variables used for the perl script.
These are the modules to be used for all databases.
These are the two files which are modified and then executed in the database. gets executed for each table.
These two webpages/perl scripts are used for every table.
These 4 files are for user authentication. is the main file that gets executed and needs to be renamed "".
These are the custom sql commands to be executed after the perl script creates the default database setup.
sample/Config.txtThis is the configuration for this database.
sample/Tables.txtThis is the text file that defines all the tables for our database.


At long last, I have finally achieved a system that uses all free software and does 90% of the work for me when I give it a list of database tables. Also, my entire system is as systematic and tries to reuse code, thus it is very easy for me to understand how to use the sql procedures, perl methods, and perl scripts since they all use the same code and all are used the same way. I find out that by taking a hard stance at making things systematic, things actually become very easy to do, easy to understand, easy to modify, and easy to add on to. The key is to find out what is being used more than once and then replicating that process.

I am very happy with my system. I can now pump out webpages like crazy. I no longer have to worry about what goes on in the middle, since it is all taken care of. I know of tons of things I would like to get done, change, add on, but I try to do the most important things first. Plus, it takes a while to think through problems because I often ask myself "do I really want to do that?" which takes up time.

I hope this lets you create webpages fast and relieves a lot of stress at developing your web/database system. My goals in the future are to have this Perl script create Php and Python code as well and to create a nice GUI interface (either web-based or Xwindows independent) to handle creating your database, checking for errors, generating reports, creating graphs, alter the database, etc. I see lots of systems out there that can do this, but I don't want a GNOME or KDE dependent interface. In my opinion, a nice Python/TK solution would be cool since you can compile Python and it will run under any XWindows environment. I want it to be useable by all, not just those who run GNOME or KDE. Plus, Python can output JAVA code, which may be useful. Also, I don't see other systems that try to force an implementation of standard ways of doing things. My (or our) gui interface will enforce the use of SDS or some other standard way of doing things. One thing I want to reiterate is: I want future versions to create PHP and Python modules and scripts. Why is this so important? It lets you change programming languages rapidly which can be really useful if you want to use one language for all needs (trust me, it is a headache to support multiple languages). If your programmer is an idiot, and the next guy who you want to hire uses a different programming language, guess what! No Problem! Again, my goal is to reduce the cost of having database administrators, network administrators, and programmers. Anything that is a bottleneck must go. If you don't advance your own skills to meet new challenges, you deserve to fall behind. I want my system to push the good guys forward and leave the bad guys in the dust.

The stuff I do here should be really easy to use with Mason, ASP, or other cool ways of making webpages. In ASP and Mason, you don't want to use the CGI module, so you can replace it with their own query handling methods. One thing I stress again, is the use of creating objects and concepts. Since I put all the good code into perl modules, they become useable to Mason, ASP, or whatever method you use to make webpages. By trying to create code that can be used under all circumstances, I hope to be able to use this stuff no matter where I go. I am thinking about my career and trying to reduce obstacles. I hope this makes sense! Enjoy!

P.S. I got heat for claiming the database administrators serve the programmers. I still claim it is true. The database administrator has no final product. The final product occurs with the programmer, who needs a web server (managed by the web admin), a database (managed by the database admin), and a network (managed by the network admin). In turn, that final product is given to the programmers boss, which is given to the customers or employees. Bottom line, there is a chain of support, and I view customers and employees at the top, and the computer geeks at the bottom. Anybody that you need to get your product done is a facilitator and is below you, even if they have more authority and they get paid more than you. Granted though, they must set reasonable guidelines and prevent the programmer from doing stupid things.


  1. Part 2: PostgreSQL: Perl procedures with PL/pgSQL
  2. Part 1: PostgreSQL: Perl procedures with PL/pgSQL.
  3. Branden Williams articles on PostgreSQL.
  6. Some links which have nothing to do with this article, but I am considering for future articles.
  7. If this article changes, it will be available here

Mark Nielsen

Mark works as an independent consultant donating time to causes like, writing articles, writing free software, and working as a volunteer at

Copyright © 2001, Mark Nielsen.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

The Foolish Things We Do With Our Computers

By Mike "Iron" Orr

Wow! Last month's Foolish Things article seems to have struck a chord. After reading about the foolish things various Answer Gang members did, six readers wrote in with their own anecdotes. Let's see what they have to say....

An Imsai story

By Kenneth Scharf

When I was in college, I worked for a small computer store in NYC. This had been a one-man shop (I was #2), and he built Imsai computers for customers who didn't want a kit. He also fixed broken memory boards. One day I came in to find the shop computer broken. He had been testing a memory board (the case of the computer was ALWAYS open with an extender card plugged in). He told me he had just fried the whole computer and it was hopeless.

He had reached for a pair of needle-nosed pliers, and the end of the pliers had become impaled in a steel wool pad that he used for cleaning the tip of his soldering iron. The steel wool pad became airborne and landed in the backplane of the Imsai, setting off a fireworks display.

I pushed him aside and grabbed his logic probe (I passed on the oscilloscope) and started probing the front panel and CPU board. After about an hour I found a dead 7400 on the front panel. Believe it or not, that was the ONLY part that had gotten fried! A $0.25 part replaced and the Imsai was back online.

The computer That Was Afraid of the Dark

Another story by Kenneth Scharf

A friend of mine used to work for one of the companies that made pinball machines (I think Balley). Their first computerized game used a z80 micro. The code was burned onto 2708's (1k x 8 EPROMs). Seems like they had gotten a good deal on these eproms, because they were a little slower than spec. Well the pin game logic checked out just fine in the lab but as soon as one of the machines was put together and buttoned up it wouldn't work. In fact none of the did. So they opened the game up (exposing the CPU board to the light) and it worked fine. Well, it seems they didn't cover the glass windows on the 2708's and when exposed to light those eproms got a little faster and decreased the access time to what the z80 wanted to see. So the fix was to put a light bulb inside the pin game. I wonder about those service calls when the bulb burned out.

The Little Computer Who Could

By Jeff Avallone

A year ago I was building a new system for myself, a PIII 450 (which was replacing my old P166). So, this is the first time I've dealt with a Slot type processor. Anyway, I put the system together, plug everything in, and while the thing is lying on it's side on the floor, I turn it on for the first time. It goes into BIOS POST and then starts booting short it works.

So, I power it down, put the cover on the case and set it upright in its final resting place, then turn it on to make sure everything works right...and nothing happens, no beeps, no video init, no BIOS POST, nothing.

So I figure I knocked something loose while I was putting the cover on. I pull it out, lie it on its side, remove the cover, check everything and then power it on (w/o the cover again) and it works. So now I'm confused. I figure now it's running, maybe the cover of the case is doing something, so I put the cover on...and it still runs. Then I set it upright and move it into place...and it locks up. I pull it down again, this time completely confounded, and remove the cover. It starts running again.

I later find out that I didn't seat the processor completely and by standing the case up the processor half fell out of the connector and did a fast system lobotomy. When it was lying on it's side, the processor was seated enough that it worked.


By Terry Porter

Hi :)

About a week before I had a stroke (that's my excuse anyway), I had to make up a power extension cord for a PC on our office network. The network consisted of about nine PCs connected via coaxial cable.

I was working as a Computer Service Engineer at the time, and one PC had to be moved to a location where the power cord was about two meters too short.

While making up the extension cord, I unwittingly transposed *active* and *earth*, <always triple check!> and then stupidly just plugged the PC into the new power extension cord!

There were cries of shock throughout the office, as the mains current raced around the coaxial cable, from one PC to the next resulting in melted NIC connectors and sparks. A co-worker later described as them as "an angle grinder throwing sparks behind my PC".

We were all shocked at how easy this was to do, and fortunately for me I managed to repair 8/9 NIC cards, and no PCs were damaged due to the isolation at the NIC connector.

[And no animals were harmed in the testing of this cable. :) -Mike.]

Strange Things in Computers

By Tony Dearson

Many years ago--about 2years BIPC (Before IBM PC)--I bought a kit Z80 single board called Nascom.

As expected, on completion it didn't work. I traced everything on the board and found two tracks that "didn't make it". Scrape the varnish off the board, and two lengths of hair thin poly-coated wire , and the tracks were fixed.

I found that it only worked for about 30 seconds. The guess was the Z80 -- so I ran it for a week with a tobacco tin into which I popped an ice cube. I imagine that with today's processors, the ice cube would sublime instantly using the coefficient of fusion and the coefficient of vaporization in one go.

Sitting on the fence is not always a good strategy
Look what happened to Humpty Dumpty.

A warped story

By Harry Drummond

I wouldn't classify this as foolish - just warped but practical. In the very early days of home computing, the first machines on the British market to be cheap and (very basically) usable were produced by Sinclair. Initial models had about 16k of RAM. But you could buy an upgrade to 48k. One snag with the upgrade: the computer ran too hot and began misbehaving.

Someone realised that putting something cool on the right area of the case (I'm talking ice here, not music) would keep the temperature under control. The "something cool" he had to hand was a pint of milk in a cardboard carton straight out of the fridge. He must have written this up somewhere, because it soon became the standard fix for hot Sinclairs!

For economy, the carton went back into the fridge to cool down for the next session. It was a very good idea to mark which carton you were using, of course...!

Read carefully

By Wes Parish

My foolish thing was misreading the little book that came with my motherboard and inadvertently overclocking the CPU when I was putting the wretched thing together.

I wish I knew precisely what happened. Anyway, that CPU - and probably that motherboard - is headed for the rubbish bin as soon as I can afford a decent replacement for it.

My Youthful Stupidity

By Brett

One day I was trying to figure out what this strange scratching sound coming from my computer was, and I eventually narrowed it down to the hard drive (no-name brand Pentuim3 with too much stuff in it) So being the young know-it-all that I was I decided to see if I could fix it. I started by removing the top cover of the hard drive, and found inside that one of the read/write heads was slightly stuffed and the majority of screws were loose. (They just have to use those silly triangle shaped screws so no one can have an easy time, don't they!) From that point I decided to replace the read/write heads and tighten all the screws, and so i did. Eventually it looked sort of normal again, so i closed it up and took it for a test drive.

I was successful, and it is still working with Linux Mandrake today. From 2000 - 2001, only 3 crashes so far. Fingers crossed! I now know that HDDs are made in laboratory conditions but I also know you can fix em and still have them be just as reliable. p.s: Ice is a really good idea except for it melts! Try Gel packs for sports injuries. They are in super-strong double lined plastic. You put em in the freezer for a couple of hours and they stay cold for about six hours. Just throw it on yer motherboard and your heating problems are solved. Sold at chemists.


That's it for this month. The need for cooling seems to be a strong theme. Perhaps I should call this series "The Foolish Ways We Cool Our Computers".

If you would like to tell us about the most foolish thing you've done with your computer, maybe we'll publish it.

Mike Orr

Mike ("Iron") is the Editor of Linux Gazette. You can read what he has to say in the Back Page column in this issue. He has been a Linux enthusiast since 1991 and a Debian user since 1995. He is SSC's web technical coordinator, which means he gets to write a lot of Python scripts. Non-computer interests include Ska/Oi! music and the international language Esperanto. The nickname Iron was given to him in college--short for Iron Orr, hahaha.

Copyright © 2001, Mike "Iron" Orr.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"


By Jon "Sir Flakey" Harsem


Jon "SirFlakey" Harsem

Jon is the and creator of the Qubism cartoon strip and current Editor-in-Chief of the CORE News Site. Somewhere along the early stages of his life he picked up a pencil and started drawing on the wallpaper. Now his cartoons appear 5 days a week on-line, go figure. He confesses to owning a Mac but swears it is for "personal use".

Copyright © 2001, Jon "Sir Flakey" Harsem.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

A Quick and Easy Way to Set Up a Mailing List

By Lawrence Teo

1. Why do you need a mailing list?

Picture this:

You've just started working with your colleagues on a new project. After the first meeting, everyone agrees that sending e-mails about each other's progress to all the members in the group periodically is the way to go. Everybody leaves the table, and you send out your first message to your colleagues' e-mail addresses. Everything goes well for awhile... until somebody new joins the group. Now everybody has to update their long list of addresses in the "To:" field, some people forget, and the new person didn't receive all the e-mails and starts complaining. Gradually, things start turning into a mess.

As things become more haphazard, you say to yourself, "Now, if only I can send all my e-mails to a single address, and that e-mail will propagate out to everybody else." Well, that is possible. What you need is a mailing list.

Most of us aren't strangers to mailing lists, especially if you're an active or long-time participant in the Linux community. But trust me, there are people out there who aren't familiar with mailing lists and how convenient they can be.

Now, let's say you agree that you need a mailing list. But you don't have time to set up one. If you have been a participant in a public and busy mailing list such as Bugtraq, you'll notice that they run a mailing list management program such as Majordomo or ezmlm. If you want a simple mailing list, and you need it quick, you don't need to play around with those. Plus, you don't really need the more complex features they offer. A standard Linux system is sufficient for setting up a simple mailing list for a workgroup.

In this article, I'll discuss how to set up such a simple mailing list using the standard Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs) that come with a standard Linux distribution, such as sendmail, Postfix or exim. Remember, though, the keyword is simple. That means that our mailing list will not have the fancy features offered by the heavy duty mailing list management programs.

As an added bonus, I've written another article in this same Linux Gazette issue that discusses how to set up a simple web-based archive of this mailing list (it's entitled "Setting Up a Web-based Archive for a Mailing List"). But if a mailing list is all you need, and/or you don't have time, this article is all you need to read.

2. Setting up the mailing list

Setting up the mailing list is pretty straightforward. I'll first talk about what you need, and then proceed to the actual instructions on setting it up.

2.1 What you need

First, here's what you need to set up the mailing list:

  • A Linux system that is permanently connected to the Internet with a static IP address, or your office internal network. This is pretty obvious, but I'm putting it here just in case! ;-) Additionally, this system should be running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or at least during the times of the day when your workgroup will be mailing each other.
  • A Mail Transfer Agent such as sendmail, Postfix or exim. Most Linux distributions should come with one of these by default.

Once you've got all the requirements, the very first thing you need to do is to check that your MTA is actually running. I usually check this by running netstat as follows:

lteo@mybox:~$ netstat -a | grep smtp
tcp        0      0 *:smtp                  *:*                     LISTEN

If the system responds with that line, it usually means that your MTA is up and running. If it is not running, you need to activate it. The actual way to do that depends on the system. For example, on Debian run "/etc/init.d/sendmail start". On Red Hat, run "/etc/rc.d/init.d/sendmail start". (Your system may have the script in a different location.) To make it permanent, do a "chmod +x /etc/init.d/sendmail" (or wherever). On Slackware, you'll have to uncomment the lines that activate sendmail in /etc/rc.d/rc.M, and either restart the system, or run it manually for now using the command in that file.

2.2 Let's set it up!

The first thing you need to do is to think of a name for your mailing list. For example, if the Linux box you're using is called, you can call your mailing list address "". Any e-mails sent to will then be propagated to all e-mail addresses registered to it. For the purpose of this article, let's say we want the mails that reach that address to go out to,, and

The next thing you need to do is to set up the MTA's aliases file. The aliases file is usually stored as /etc/aliases or /etc/mail/aliases depending on your Linux distribution. Once you locate it, fire up your favorite text editor and edit it. You may see some default lines in that file, such as "webmaster: root", "postmaster:root", and so on. Just ignore those lines and scroll to the end of the file. Now add the following lines:

# The Project mailing list

You can now save and exit from your editor.

As you can see, we can just use the string "linus" for "" since our machine is and linus is a user on the machine. You can write comments by placing them after the # symbol. The # symbol must be the first character in the line.

Important! Now here comes the extremely important step! Depending on which MTA you are using, you may need to run a command for your changes to the aliases file for it to take effect. If you don't, the mailing list will not work! The following table shows what command you need to run after editing the aliases file.

Postfixpostaliases /etc/aliases
exim[No command needed.]

Congratulations! You should now have a working mailing list. To test it, just send an e-mail to, and see if,, and get it. Personally, I test my mailing lists using free webmail accounts just to see if it really works.

[Note:, and are domain names reserved for testing per RFC 2606, and will never be assigned to real sites. So watch the spambots harvest the addresses above and send spam to nonexistent sites. Whee!   -Iron]

Adding and removing e-mail addresses is straightforward. Just use your text editor and add or remove those e-mail addresses from the aliases file. Again, remember to run that all-important command after editing the aliases file to inform the MTA that you've made changes.

There is one thing you need to know about this mailing list, though. Unlike the full-blown mailing lists run by majordomo or ezmlm, a third party can send e-mails to our mailing list address and it'll still be sent to our registered recipients' e-mail addresses. Therefore, there may be a security issue here. That's why I stressed so much that this mailing list is meant to be simple. But if you're using it within a small trusted workgroup, it should be fine. Also, you may want to avoid revealing your mailing list address to the public, both for security and privacy reasons, and also to avoid getting spammed.

2.3 Summary

That's about it regarding setting up the mailing list. Simple, isn't it? Just to make sure you don't miss out anything, here's a short summary of our previous discussion on setting up a mailing list:

  1. Make sure that your MTA is up and running. You can use the command "netstat -a | grep smtp" to check this.
  2. Choose a name for your mailing list, e.g.
  3. Add the mailing list addresses and register the e-mail addresses in the aliases file (either /etc/mail/aliases or /etc/aliases depending on your distribution).
  4. If you're using sendmail or postfix, run "newaliases" or "postaliases /etc/aliases" respectively. If you're using exim, you don't need to run anything.
  5. Test your mailing list by sending a test mail to

3. Parting notes

That's it! I hope you find your brand new mailing list useful. I've used this method of setting up mailing lists many times for my workgroups, friends, and whenever there's a need for a simple mailing list. Of course, this is just one way of setting up such a mailing list. If you've found this method useful, or if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to write to me about them. I would really like to hear from you.

Remember, if you want to know how to set up a web-based archive of this list, you can read "Setting Up a Web-based Archive for a Mailing List", also in this issue of Linux Gazette.

Till then, have fun!

Lawrence Teo

Lawrence Teo is a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He researches on intrusion detection and critical infrastructure protection technologies with his research unit, the Laboratory of Information Integration, Security, and Privacy (LIISP). Lawrence has previously worked as a contract software engineer at Lycos, Singapore and as a research assistant at DSTC in Melbourne, Australia. He holds an Honors Degree in Bachelor of Computing from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. You can send him e-mail at lawrenceteo<SPAM>

Copyright © 2001, Lawrence Teo.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Setting Up a Web-based Archive for a Mailing List

By Lawrence Teo

1. Introduction

In this article, I'll describe how to set up a web-based archive for a mailing list. This article picks up from where I left off in my previous article, "A Quick and Easy Way to Set Up a Mailing List", also in this issue of Linux Gazette. If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend that you read that article first before reading this one. A lot of the context and content in here are derived from the methods described in that article.

1.1 The mailing list setup

First, I'll briefly describe the mailing list setup that we'll be using in this article. If you have read the previous article, this setup will be familiar to you.

Let's say that we have a mailing list called, running on a Linux system called The e-mail addresses subscribed to this list are,, and We set this up using our Mail Transfer Agent's aliases file (usually /etc/mail/aliases or /etc/aliases, depending on your distribution). Our mailing list has been set up like this in the aliases file:


So when e-mails are sent to, those e-mails will be automatically propagated to,, and

2. Setting up the web-based archive

Before we get started with the instructions for setting up the web-based archive, I'll first explain what we plan to achieve. What we want to do is allow your workgroup members to access a website that will host your mailing list archive. For example, you can host your mailing list archive on and make it accessible to all your workgroup members.

Having a web-based archive makes it easier and more convenient to check out what has been discussed. Also, it can act as a central location to store documents and other attachments. You can also use it as a backup in the unfortunate event that you lose your e-mails (which I hope will never happen!).

If you want to set up a web-based archive for your mailing list, you'll need:

  • The Apache webserver. Of course, you can use some other webserver. However, Apache is the most common webserver installed by default on almost all Linux distributions (to my knowledge), and it's also the one that I'm most familiar with. In this article, I'll use Apache 1.3.20 as the example.
  • Hypermail. Hypermail is a nifty program that you can use to generate web-based mail archives from a UNIX mailbox file. You can grab it from I'll use hypermail 2.1.2 for the purposes of this article.
  • cron. cron is a program that you can use to run tasks at scheduled times. It should be installed by default in all Linux distributions (I'll be shocked if I find a distribution that doesn't include cron!). In this article, we'll use cron to update our web-based archive periodically.

You'll first need to check if the webserver is running. Again, you can use the netstat command to do this:

lteo@mybox:~$ netstat -a | grep www
tcp        0      0 *:www                   *:*                     LISTEN

If the system responds with that line, it is likely that your webserver is already running. If it is not, you can start it by issuing the command "/etc/init.d/apache start" on Debian, the same or "/etc/rc.d/init.d/httpd start" on Red Hat, etc. In Slackware, issue the command "/etc/rc.d/rc.httpd start".

2.1 Installing hypermail

After you've downloaded hypermail, proceed to install it using the instructions in its README file. The installation steps should be pretty standard. If you're in a hurry, the following commands should work for you (they're meant for hypermail 2.1.2; substitute the version number for the hypermail version you downloaded):

root@mybox:~# tar zxf hypermail-2.1.2.tgz
root@mybox:~# cd hypermail-2.1.2
root@mybox:~/hypermail-2.1.2# ./configure
root@mybox:~/hypermail-2.1.2# make
root@mybox:~/hypermail-2.1.2# make install

2.2 Creating a dummy account

The next thing you need to do is to set up a dummy user account on your system. We will register this account on the mailing list, and use it exclusively for collecting all mails sent to the mailing list. We will then generate the mailing list archive using this dummy user account's mailbox.

Let's call our dummy account "projarc". You can create it in the same way you create a normal user account on your Linux distribution. I personally use the adduser command on my Debian GNU/Linux system:

root@mybox:~# adduser
Enter a username to add: projarc
Adding user projarc...
Adding new group projarc (1004).
Adding new user projarc (1004) with group projarc.
Creating home directory /home/projarc.
Copying files from /etc/skel
Enter new UNIX password: <password>
Retype new UNIX password: <password>
passwd: password updated successfully
Changing the user information for projarc
Enter the new value, or press return for the default
        Full Name []: Dummy user
        Room Number []:
        Work Phone []:
        Home Phone []:
        Other []:
Is the information correct? [y/n] y

You will need to add this user to your the aliases file (/etc/mail/aliases or /etc/aliases) to get it registered as a member of the mailing list. To do this, just edit the file and add the username to the list. The section that describes your mailing list members in the aliases file should look like this:

# The Project mailing list

Remember to run that command to inform your MTA about the changes after you've done this.

We will be using projarc's public webspace to host our mailing list archive. To do that, create a public_html directory in the projarc's home directory:

lteo@mybox:~$ su - projarc
Password: <password>
projarc@mybox:~$ mkdir public_html

Note that the user's public webspace may be represented by another name instead of public_html. It depends on your webserver setup. You also need to ensure that your webserver allows users to host public webspaces in this manner. I'll explain how to enable this in the next section.

2.3 Setting up Apache

The next step is to set up Apache so that it allows users on the machine to have their own public web directories. The Apache configuration file you need to edit is /etc/apache/httpd.conf. Again, this may differ depending on your distribution. If it's not there, issue the command "locate httpd.conf" or "find / -name httpd.conf" to find it. Once you've found it, open it up with your text editor and make sure that the following lines are uncommented (meaning they don't have the # symbol in front of them):

<IfModule mod_userdir.c>
    UserDir public_html

It is likely that your UserDir value is not public_html, and may be something else like www. You can use whatever directory name you wish to represent the user's webspace.

Now if you want your workgroup members to access your archive using an address such as you'll need to set up a symbolic link from your Apache's root webspace to point to projarc's webspace. To find out what your Apache's root webspace is, check out the DocumentRoot value in /etc/apache/httpd.conf:

root@mybox:~# grep ^DocumentRoot /etc/apache/httpd.conf
DocumentRoot /var/www

In the above example, Apache's root webspace is at /var/www. To create a symbolic link to point to projarc's public webspace, issue the following commands:

root@mybox:~# cd /var/www
root@mybox:/var/www# ln -s /home/projarc/public_html theproject

2.4 Testing hypermail

When a user receives e-mails, the e-mails will be stored in a file called /var/mail/username. So in the case of projarc, the file will be called /var/mail/projarc (Note: in some distributions, this would be /var/spool/mail/projarc).

We can use hypermail to read that mail file to generate the web-based archive. However, when the projarc account is newly created, that file won't exist yet. So you'll need to send an e-mail to first just to get that file created.

After sending out that test mail, run the following command as projarc:

projarc@mybox:~$ hypermail -m /var/mail/projarc -l "The Project" -d /home/projarc/public_html

Now open up in your web browser and you should see your mailing list archive there. It should look something like this:

The Project
By Thread

Most recent messages
1 messages sorted by: [ author ] [ date ] [ subject ] [ attachment ]

Starting: Sat Oct 20 2001 - 01:45:23 EDT
Ending: Sat Oct 20 2001 - 01:45:23 EDT

  • This is the first message Lawrence Teo (Sat Oct 20 2001 - 01:45:23 EDT)

Last message date: Sat Oct 20 2001 - 01:45:23 EDT
Archived on: Sun Oct 21 2001 - 01:50:56 EDT

1 messages sorted by: [ author ] [ date ] [ subject ] [ attachment ]

It would be more convenient to use a hypermail configuration file to run hypermail instead of typing in all those command-line parameters all the time. To do this, create a file called /home/projarc/projarc-hmrc and fill it with the following lines:

mbox = /var/mail/projarc
label = The Project
dir = /home/projarc/public_html

You can now generate the mailing archive by running the following command:

projarc@mybox:~$ hypermail -c /home/projarc/projarc-hmrc

2.5 Setting up cron

Now, we would definitely want our mailing list archive to be automatically updated whenever somebody sends mail to the mailing list. We will use cron to do this. It won't be updated in real time, but we can set cron to run hypermail every 5 minutes, which should be frequent enough for a simple mailing list. Of course, you can always use a shorter interval such as 2 minutes; it's entirely up to you. Just remember that the shorter the interval, the more load the machine will have to handle. That may not be good if you have mail files that are really big with a lot of attachments, and you're hosting several mailing lists on a slow machine.

So, let's set up cron. Issue the following command to edit your cron table:

projarc@mybox:~$ crontab -e

You should now be in an editor with your crontab file open. If you want hypermail to run every 5 minutes, enter the following lines:

# Update The Project mailing list archive every 5 minutes
*/5 * * * * /usr/bin/hypermail -c /home/projarc/projarc-hmrc

When you're done, just save and exit. To test it, just wait for five minutes and refresh the web page on your browser. You should see the updated "Archived on" timestamp after hypermail runs.

2.6 Summary

Here's a summary of the steps we used to set up our web-based mailing list archive:

  1. Make sure that your Apache webserver is up and running. You can use the command "netstat -a | grep www" to check this.
  2. Install hypermail on your system.
  3. Create a dummy account to host your mailing list archive, e.g. projarc.
  4. Add the dummy account's username to the aliases file (/etc/aliases or /etc/mail/aliases). Run the "newaliases" (for sendmail) or "postalias /etc/aliases" (for Postfix) command to inform the MTA about the changes. You don't need to run any command for exim.
  5. Make the public webspace directory for the projarc user, e.g. "mkdir public_html"
  6. Set up Apache to allow public webspaces for users in the /etc/apache/httpd.conf file.
  7. Set up a symbolic link to point to projarc's webspace, e.g. "ln -s /home/projarc/public_html theproject"
  8. Test hypermail by running a command such as 'hypermail -m /var/mail/projarc -l "The Project" -d /home/projarc/public_html'. Then check "" to see if your mailing list archive is there.
  9. Set up cron to run hypermail every 5 minutes (or at any interval you wish).

I hope that you'll find the web-based mailing list archive to be as useful as I have. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to drop me some e-mail.

Lawrence Teo

Lawrence Teo is a Ph.D. student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He researches on intrusion detection and critical infrastructure protection technologies with his research unit, the Laboratory of Information Integration, Security, and Privacy (LIISP). Lawrence has previously worked as a contract software engineer at Lycos, Singapore and as a research assistant at DSTC in Melbourne, Australia. He holds an Honors Degree in Bachelor of Computing from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. You can send him e-mail at lawrenceteo<SPAM>

Copyright © 2001, Lawrence Teo.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001

"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more SCARY!"

The Back Page

Not The Answer Gang

Cracking Slackware Linux

Answered By Iron

Sir, I have just read your articles. It is really interesting and that's why i dare to send you this email. Sir, can you tell me any way to enter(hack) into slackware linux (through any program or shellscript whatever). Sir, I am eagerly waiting for your reply. Please send me the reply as quick as possible.

(!) [Iron]

Choose your favorite reply.

  1. Push the 'Hack' button on your keyboard.

  2. Sir, are you stoned or were you always this way?

  3. Real hackers wouldn't have to ask.

  4. Start by cracking something simple, like DOS 3.0.

  5. The square pegs go into the square holes, and the round pegs go into the round holes.

  6. Hi, you've reached the Linux Gazette Answer Gang....
       Linux ::::::::: a modern operating system not much like any of:
                   --- DOS -- Windows -- Solaris -- MacOS -- alien starships ---
                   ... except occasionally, an ability to run on the same hardware.
       Gazette ::::::: published more regularly than "almanac."  In our case:
                   --- a monthly web-based magazine, home:
       Answer Gang ::: Not the "lazy college student's UNstudy group"
                   --- nor the "hey d00dz help me cRaK my neighBoorZ klub"

Small sharp tools vs Bloatware

Answered By John Karns, Iron, Ben Okopnik

(!) [John]

On several occasions I've read mention of the unix philosophy where each program concentrates on doing a few things and doing them well. Thus MTA's don't generally handle POP'ing, etc. The example given of Eudora, Netscape and Outlook are phenomena of a different OS. In the case of Netscape, its roots were closely tied to unix, but most of the development was targeted for users of the other OS - and its unfortunate that some of the ISP's are designing their configurations assuming that virtuall all subscribers will be using that platform.

(!) [Iron]

And don't forget how much Netscape Mail changed the landscape. Prior to Netscape, most Unix people read mail from shell accounts, and the local machine had its own sendmail. Windows users depended on mail gateways between Internet and their Novell/Windows/Vines/whatever network, so they as users never had to configure anything. Of course, there were a few POP users here and there, but relatively few. Then Netscape Mail appeared, and suddenly ISPs and LANs were faced with large numbers of e-mailing users on Windows boxen that didn't have their own mail transport agent, so they had to rely on an upstream POP/SMTP server. Nowadays, it's just assumed that most users will connect this way. (Well, *most* users use Hotmail or one of the other webmail services....)

There's a fascinating book Digitopia that talks about how computerization has changed our society a lot more than people realize, because of the human mind's tendency to adapt to new situations and forget how things used to be. The author points out that each time a new Playstation or software update comes out, people get excited and then bored, but they forget that the new version is causing the same about of excitement and boredom as the previous version did. We think about Netscape 2 now and wonder how people could have been excited about such a crappy application, but that's because we're forgetting what the situation was like then.

AOL knights

Answered By Iron, John Karns, Ben Okopnik

(!) [Iron]

AOL became the biggest [ISP in the US] through a massive marketing campaign, sending millions of "try me out" CDs.

(!) [John]

.. and before those, floppies. I used to receive at least one of those in the mail every week. I remember a humor piece circulating on the 'net along the lines of "Creative uses for AOL floppy disks", which was quite funny.

(!) [Ben]

Heh. A FoF has made a suit of armor out of the CDs. There's also some fascinating stuff you can do with them after microwaving... Very useful, that AOL. <grin>

The two sides of a VPN

Answered By Jim Dennis

Do both sides of a VPN [Virtual Private Network] need special hardware to make a secure connection or can one side have nothing but an internet connection and the other side handle all the VPN stuff?

(!) [Jim]

I know this is going to come across as a flame; but I have to observe that this question is so clueless that I'm truly befuddled as to what sort of muddled thought process could lead to this question.

The basic question, "do both sides of a VPN need special hardware?", is flawed. Neither side of a VPN needs special *hardware*. Both sides of a VPN connection need "special" (and interoperable) hardware *or* software.

The remainder of the question is the muddled part: "... can one side have nothing but an internet connection".

That's almost like asking, "Do both ends of a phone conversation need to have phones, or can one end do all the phone stuff and on the other end have nothing but a wire?"

Bad Boy

Answered By Thomas Adam, Iron, Ben Okopnik

(!) [Thomas]


This e-mail was sent as in-line HTML.

Hey Heather....don't look at me like that. There's no need to shoot the "message-forwarder/replier" :)

(!) [Iron]

Ben's the one who usually looks at people menanicingly. He's our honorary "bad boy" because he's a KGB spy.

[Note to US FBI: Hi there! I see you're monitoring our e-mail. That Carnivore program sure is something, hey? That comment about Ben being a spy was a joke. Later doodz.]

(!) [Thomas]

Surely "linux-questions-only" means just that? So where does psychology enter into it??

(!) [Iron]

Obviously the address was harvested by a program and no human ever saw it. The most outrageous pieces of spam, off-topic questions or homework questions we ridicule on linux-questions-only or tag-admin, and then I publish them anonymously in Not The Answer Gang on the Back Page.

(!) [Ben]

</me lowers KGB-issue shades>
<glares at Mike menacingly>

# Special Carnivore-disabling code. Does a DoS on the government's
# computers which expend all their cycles trying to break the code...



Answered By Iron, Ben Okopnik

Hi Ben!
P.S.: You don't happen to stream the courses you give, do you ? Would be really interesting... :) -Robos

(!) [Iron]

A stream-of-consciousness rendering of Ben's mind? Now, that's scary.

Maybe in a thousand years somebody will be channeling that Ben Okopnik wisdom....

(!) [Ben]

You have discovered my secret plan!

Damn. *Another* good idea down the drain. Back to the CAD program...


Answered By Ben Okopnik, Iron

(!) [Ben]

... head is still spinning from Heather's explanation of how DNS works (I think I've got it, though!) which she was gracious enough to give me while I was out there on the Left Coast,

(!) [Iron]

We've got quite the little network going. I met Heather and Jim last March. Now you've met Heather. When I get back to England next year, maybe I'll meet some other TAG ppl.

(!) [Ben]

Hey, what with me travelling all over the country for work (mostly California, lately, but I just got a class in Atlanta and one in North Carolina), I could be the LG ambassador. :)

Life on a boat

Answered By Ben Okopnik

(!) [Ben]

It didn't help that Ricochet went down, and that my boat was hauled out in an area of Maryland where the hoot owls trod the chickens and TCP/IP packet routing is done by snails in their spare time. I've got a Merlin PCMCIA card now (<gag> 19200bps, when Ricochet was up to 128k...), and this gives me at least some connectivity. Certainly e-mail access, which is what's needed.

Not News Bytes


(Or as Irving Welsh would say, "Fitba".)

The Register pokes fun at an article in the Washington Post, which tongue-in-cheekly says Baltimore Ravens' coach Brian Billick blames his team loss October 14 on "the Linux operating system".

Happy Linuxing!

Mike ("Iron") Orr
Editor, Linux Gazette,

Copyright © 2001, the Editors of Linux Gazette.
Copying license
Published in Issue 72 of Linux Gazette, November 2001