Arch Linux Newsletter

August, 2008

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Welcome to another issue of the Arch Linux Newsletter. This month KDE4 made it into the extra repository. KDE3 has been replaced completely by it, causing a wide variety of user reactions. Some like the new KDE, some not so much. We interviewed Pierre Schmitz about the KDE4 move before it occured, giving us all useful insight into why he chose this move.

The pacman package manager has seen an upgrade as well. Version 3.2 is still in testing but will soon make it to the core repository where we can all enjoy and take advantage of the new features.

We are featuring a new humor column that will (hopefully) be published every month, called bounced. Branko Vukelic takes a look at other Linux Distributions and compare them with Arch Linux, in the end giving us an entertaining glimpse into why he was bounced back to Arch Linux. We really hope you enjoy this edition of the Arch Linux Newsletter.

Eduardo "kensai" Romero

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News

Welcome, New Developers

You all may have noticed that we had a job opening posted here on the front page news. It took some time, but we got a grand total 42 applicants (wow). After we sifted through things, and counted (I had to use my fingers), we decided to bring on 7 new developers.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Aaron Griffin)

On The Road to KDE 4.1

On July 29th the KDE team will announce the final release of KDE 4.1, the first usable version of the fourth generation.

To make it possible for Arch users to join the release party in time, there are packages for 4.1 in our [testing] repository. Please take this chance to test those and report any packaging bugs using the bug tracker.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Pierre Schmitz)

Arch Linux in the Media

Linux guru? then switch to Arch Linux!

"Oh, as a side-note, Arch always (I believe) packages stuff with no (or minimal) patches. This means you get the official gnome release, without the changed logo's, and without anything else changed. (just the mandatory included wallpapers). The benefit of this? There's less chance to screw something up. Ubuntu and Debian devs have made a few disastrous mistakes by making changes to the source code (the obvious openssl problem). I mean, seriously, the developer of the app knows his own app better than some random ubuntu dev."

Read the Rest

Arch Linux for the DIY Linux user

"Arch Linux is a distro designed for users who like to be in control of what apps are installed on their systems. Unlike other distros with similar objectives, Arch doesn't sacrifice ease of use completely. It uses BSD-style init scripts, which eases configuration tasks, and a dependency-resolving package manager that helps keep the system updated. All in all, Arch is a nice distro for users who wish to learn about Linux and mold their Linux systems without breaking into a sweat"

Read the Rest

General Linux News

Linux 2.6.26 Kernel Benchmarks

"The test system consisted of an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 processor, ASRock ConRoe1333-DVI/H motherboard, Intel 945G integrated graphics, 2GB of DDR2 memory, and Seagate 200GB SATA hard drive. On the software side we were running Fedora 9 with X Server, GCC 4.3.0, and the other stock packages. Due to issues with this test system, we were only able to benchmark the Linux 2.6.25 and Linux 2.6.26 kernels from source. As a result, this isn't one of our in-depth articles, but we are simply providing these limited test results for those that are interested or comparing their system's performance using the Phoronix Test Suite."

Read the Rest

Torvalds attacks IT industry 'security circus'

"Torvalds wrote that disclosing the bug itself was enough, without having to label each individual security flaw. He added that taking the bugs to the "security circus" level only glorified the wrong kind of behavior. "It makes heroes out of security people, as if the people who...fix normal bugs aren't as important," wrote Torvalds."

Read the Rest

Linus Torvalds, Geek of the Week

"Linus is the son of the journalists Anna and Nils Torvalds, He was attracted to computers from an early age and attended the University of Helsinki from 1988 to study Computer Science. In 1991, he purchased a PC. As the computers at the university were Unix-based, he bought a copy of Andrew Tanenbaum's MINIX operating system. He was dissatisfied with it, and set about writing his own Unix clone from scratch, unaware of the enormity of the task.. After four months work, in his bedroom in his mother's apartment, he announced, in the MINIX newsgroup comp.os.minix"

Read the Rest

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips


Between June 15, 2008 and July 15, 2008, we sold total of 30 products on the Arch Linux Schwag shop hosted by Zazzle. Our total royalties and referrals came to $44.55

New Products

Since the last report, we have added thirteen new products! Four of these are based on a new three dimensional Arch Linux logo created by Jonas Mueller (Secagy) at my request.

I'm particularly fond of the mug. The three dimensional shape of the logo won't show up very well when the mug is black, but will come out in full form agaisnt a white background when you add a hot drink. Thanks for the great logo Jonas!

In addition, Branko was so thrilled with having his own product line that he completely overwhelmed my inbox one day this month with new and quirky logos. This guy is a one-man logo powerhouse! Some of these have already started to sell, and I expect them to be quite popular. Thanks again, Branko!

Arch Linux Case Badges

There seemed to be a lot of interest in Arch Linux case badges. I have been investigating some options to get these printed and posted a survey to find out what types of badges people would be interested in.

The net result is that in the next newsletter you'll be finding out just how you can order your own Arch Linux case badges! These won't be shipped via Zazzle; rather, you will be ordering direct from me or one of the other Arch Linux developers. I am hoping to set up a Google Checkout to make payment options simpler.

Featured Interview

Daniel Isenmann

Daniel Isenmann is the developer who has been investigating the possibilities of setting up an Arch Linux European Schwag Store. In this interview, we discover what else he is doing to aid Arch Linux development.

  1. Why did you choose Arch Linux in the first place?

    I tried several distributions out there before I came to the German Mandriva community where I've been a packager for some time. There I met Andreas (andyrtr) and we built packages for the German Mandriva community. After some time I get annoyed by the rpm package manager and Andreas asked me (he had left the community already), if I want to help out building packages for Arch64 project. That was the first time I heard about Arch Linux. After some testing of the distribution I realized that it has great potential and that it is the greatest distribution I have tested so far.

  2. Can you describe your work on Arch Linux?

    At the moment I'm just a package maintainer, but maybe there will be some update on this in the near future. :)

  3. Is there anything you would like to change in your area of work?

    If I have a little bit more free time I would like to contribute to pacman development. I really hope I can support the pacman developers in the near future, because it just rocks!

  4. What is your meaning for "The Arch Way"?

    I haven't much to say to this topic. In my opinion we should provide a stable, up to date and KISS distribution.

  5. Do you feel working for Arch Linux is more fun than it is a responsibility?

    For me it's more fun than responsibility. If it's ever get more responsibility I will give up my Arch Linux developer status and give it to new developers.

  6. Any future technology you are looking up to, in the Linux camp or the general world camp?

    At the moment I'm very happy with my eeePC. I love those little devices which are running with Linux. :) Maybe there can be better 64bit support from the closed source applications and there should be more Linux acceptance all over, sometimes it's horrible.

  7. Are you addicted to tacos?

    No, not really. :)

  8. Do you think Aaron Griffin can lift a car over his head?

    Sure he can. I have heard even more than one car. ;)


Section I: Pierre Schmitz's Report, KDE4

  1. How are your efforts in packaging KDE4 for Arch Linux?

    I am working on PKGBUILDs since the first beta version of the upcoming 4.1 release. From a packager's point of view the work is almost finished. All dependencies like phonon or akondai are already in our repositories waiting for the final release of the long awaited KDE 4.

  2. Do you think KDE 4.1 will completely replace KDE3 in Arch Linux?

    I was undecided about this for some time and still am not 100% sure. Even though we are a so called bleeding edge distribution I don't want to force people to use software which I would not use myself; just to provide the latest version at any cost.

    At the time of writing I am using version 4.0.99 (4.1 RC1+) and I would consider it to be of the first really usable releases. Of course there are still many small bugs and regressions compared to KDE 3.5. But so far I have not noticed any big showstopper.

    There is still some time till the final release but for now I would say we'll see KDE 4.1 in [testing] soon. In that case version 4.1 will completely replace current KDE 3.5 setups. But there are still a lot of application which haven't released a KDE4 version yet; such as kaffeine or k3b. Similar to the qt3 package there will be a kdelibs3 in order to support such programs.

    But let's not forget: Even KDE 4.1 will not have all features of 3.5.9 and will be less stable. But I am sure this will improve quite soon after the release. The more people using the new KDE, the more feedback the developers get.

    Of course there are still use cases where people still need KDE 3.5. For example the great kprinter filters have not been ported yet. Users may want to check the KDE3 packages provided by KDEmod which should still be available after the release of 4.1.

  3. Is there anything interesting about KDE 4.1 you would like to share with us?

    The first versions of KDE 4 won't have that many new features visible to the end users. A lot of things like using QT-4, phonon, solid etc. are mostly backend changes and will show their strength in future releases.

    More interesting for users might be the new kwin which supports compositing via OpenGL. This means you'll have those fancy desktop effects like compiz provides. Some of them are really improving usability; like a transparent yakuake console or darkening inactive windows.

    One of my favorites is the krunner applet (available through ALT+F2) which makes access to programs or other functions quite easy and fast.

Section II: Arch Linux Development News

Community Highlights

Expand your Knowledge

For those "oops" moments: ext3undel

"Files on the ext3 filesystem have two parts. The file's metadata -- that is, the file name, size, and creation and access dates -- is stored in a Unix data structure called an inode. The actual file data is stored in blocks on the hard drive. Deleting a file destroys the link between the metadata and the filesystem blocks, eliminating the association between the file's information and content. Both the inodes and the data blocks are marked as free, and the operating system will use them to write new data when it needs to. But because the inodes and blocks are merely marked free and aren't overwritten, users can rescue data as long as new data hasn't been written there. That's why it is important to recover data to a new partition: any changes to the filesystem risk overwriting data users wish to recover. Until then, an application can "save" deleted data by marking the blocks as in use, and reconnecting the inodes and the blocks symbolically."

Read the Rest

Improve system performance by moving your log files to RAM

"The Ramlog project lets you keep your system logs in RAM while your machine is running and copies them to disk when you shut down. If you are running a laptop or mobile device with syslog enabled, Ramlog might help you increase your battery life or the life of the flash drive on your mobile device. As a side effect of using Ramlog, you will be less likely to be caught out by a daemon that suddenly starts sending a message to syslog every 30 seconds and saps your battery keeping the hard disk spinning."

Read the Rest

Use xfs_fsr to keep your XFS filesystem optimal

"The XFS filesystem is known to give good performance when storing and accessing large files. The design of XFS is extent-based, meaning that the bytes that comprise a file's contents are stored in one or more contiguous regions called extents. Depending on your usage patterns, some of the files contained in an XFS filesystem can become fragmented. You can use the xfs_fsr utility to defragment these files, thus improving system performance when it accesses them."

Read the Rest

Lazy Linux: 10 essential tricks for admins

"The best systems administrators are set apart by their efficiency. And if an efficient systems administrator can do a task in 10 minutes that would take another mortal two hours to complete, then the efficient systems administrator should be rewarded (paid more) because the company is saving time, and time is money, right?"

Read the Rest

Tips and Tricks

by: Ronald van Haren

Tip 1: Change Filesystem and Check Frequency on ext2/3 Partitions with Tune2fs

One of the things you can do with tune2fs is change the maximum mount count, the count after which a filesystem check is performed. Be careful though, only increase the mount count when your harddisk is stable. Kernel bugs as well as bad hardware may harm your filesystem, so don't postpone the filesystem checks too long.

So now we are past the initial warnings, here is how we can tune the maximum mount count. First, make sure your filesystem is UNmounted before using tune2fs. Then, as root, issue a command similar to

tune2fs -c [mount count] -i [interval between checks] [device] 

in which for 'mount count' you substitute the number of mounts after which a check should be performed, for 'interval between checks' you substitute a number of days, weeks or months (for example 2m for 2 months), and for 'device' you substitute your partition. This command will issue a filesystem check after the mount count has passed, or after the interval between checks has passed, whichever comes first.

You want to fiddle more with your filesystem after reading this? Tune2fs comes with the e2fsprogs package. Make sure you read the manual before using it.

Tip 2: Securely delete your data with shred

As most of you probably know (especially if you read the ext3undel article linked above!), using the rm utility doesn't actually completely remove your data. All it basically does is make the blocks the data is on freely available to be overwritten at some time in the future. Therefore, as long as the data is not overwritten, it is pretty easy to restore it. No problem for day2day files, but what if we want to prevent the data from being accessed in the future? This is where shred, (part of coreutils), comes into play.

Shred, as the manual page states it, is a utility to overwrite the specified FILE(s) repeatedly, in order to make it harder for even very expensive hardware probing to recover the data. Shred can also, although it does not by default, delete the data.

The basic shred command syntax is:

shred [OPTIONS] FILE [...] 

where the most common options are -n (followed by a number, the number of iterations shred should use) and -u (remove the file).

Instead of just shredding one or a couple of files, it is also possible to shred a whole disc or partition. Just substitute the device file (for example /dev/sda3) for FILE in the above command. Make sure the disc or partition is not mounted. Also make sure you don't use the remove option (you usually don't want to delete the device file).

As always, for more information consult the manpage.

The Humor Section

Section I: Random Fun

Section II: A Contributed Article

Newsletter Author's Note: The following article is a satire and should be taken from a humorous point of view. The Arch Linux team has a lot of respect for the Ubuntu team and all their efforts.

Contributed by: Branko Vukelic


Hi, and welcome to our brand new monthly column. It's all about Linux, and more specifically Arch. It's not just because this is the Arch Newsletter, no. It's also about what's been haunting me for more than a year now, and it's the sensation that I'm locked to Arch Linux. This inability to switch to another distro has become a real problem for me.

Many a distro has tried to do what Arch has been doing for ages: be perfect. But times have changed, and it's not unthinkable that some have at least come very close.

So, I have made it my mission to try a new distro every month, and see if I can make the switch. Hopefully, I will succeed in the end, and then I'll post in that famous good bye thread on Arch BBS.

Ubuntu: I'm just a human, damnit!

As most of you probably suspect, I'm just a human being, like the rest of you. So, when I saw that famous slogan 'Linux for human beings', I thought it would be an ideal candidate for this month.

Let's get started.


To see if it's anything close to what I want, I first checked out their website. I typed in Wait. What's this?!

On the initiative of the World Forum of Civil Society Networks - UBUNTU, we the undersigned wish to express our deep concern and to voice our most forceful protest at having reached this long foreseen and extremely grave situation in such a critical affair as feeding the world's inhabitants.

So I guess the rumors that the latest release was a terrible mistake seems to check out... Oh! Oh, oh, oh! Wrong website. The correct site is that way. Okay, that's more like it.

Now, let's get that ISO. Hm... Not just yet! They have multiple editions?! So, you can't do everything with just one CD? There's this 'desktop' edition, and a 'server' edition. I have both on my home network, so what do I do... well, I'll start with desktop.

First boot

The fancy GRUB menu was the first bad experience I had with Ubuntu. Check this out: 'Safe graphics mode'. It's just an option, not the default setting. So,are these guys telling me I should start in 'Unsafe graphics mode'? Hell no!

And what's this? Try Ubuntu without changing my PC? So, if it's not gonna change anything in my PC, it probably doesn't load into RAM? Because I'm pretty sure it needs to modify the contetnts of my memory in order to run. Or it's some African voodoo magic?

"Ok, be brave, Fox, you can do it", I tell myself, and push on.

Sure enough, it boots just fine. But... it won't tell me what it is doing while booting. I pressed Esc a few times, but I couldn't escape the feeling that the system is hiding something. Then it crashed, and I couldn't see what was going on. So I rebooted hoping it would do better. It did, eventually.

It's a live environment, and I see a locked folder sitting there with 'Examples' written below. I don't touch locked stuff, though, so if someone is good with lockpicks, please tell me what's inside.

Now, let's install it.


The installer is, well, graphical. It tells me a lot about Ubuntu. It tells me I'd probably be using the rodent a lot. Not my sport, chasing icons on the screen. And I didn't get to edit any config files. I was starting to suspect something very strange was going on. You know that feeling you might discover a dead person's decayed body in a neighbour's backyard, but you're too afraid to look, and you're not really sure so you can't dial 911? Well, I don't, but I imagine it would feel something like what I felt when I was looking at that installer.

So, with the installation finished, I was ready to start using Ubuntu... and see if there's a dead man on the desktop.

After the reboot, I saw the dead man. Well, not really, but something like a half-dead crane... Ok, it's not half-dead, but it did feel a bit odd. Don't tell me I need to appreciate art in order to use Ubuntu!

Using Ubuntu

Ubuntu did come with vim, but pretty much everything else was just bloat in my eyes. Now my idea of customizing my Arch box is to add stuff I need, not remove bloat. But in Ubuntu, I actually had to remove something like 500M of packages to make things look more like home. (As of this writing, I'm still unaware of any bloat-free editions of Ubuntu.)

So, with GNOME and most of the preinstalled stuff gone, I was ready to start installing stuff. I still don't exactly know how many packages were preinstalled, but I hoped I had gotten rid of most of them. I installed the awesome window manager, and some other tools I needed, and started hacking on config files.

Most of the stuff I installed was prehistoric by my standards, but I can live with that. Remember we used to live without cell phones a decade or so ago?

Then I remembered I needed to see what daemons were running.

Well, space is limited, folks, so let's skip the next 12 hours... straight to the bounce.

The bounce

I got bounced, and am back on Arch... Well, I guess I'm not geek enough to use Ubuntu. It's too darn complicated, and most of the stuff I do in Arch were painful to do on this distro for humans. I guess humanity must be changing. One click too many, and rc.X stuff is like a jungle. The apt family of tools is something I wouldn't touch with a six-foot pole, and what's the deal with that installer? Won't let me get anywhere near my time zone unless I moved the mouse with surgical precision.

So, I'm still on Arch. And the bounce factor for Ubuntu? 8.5 out of 10. It can be used, but only if you're prepared for the ultimate pain during the initial setup period.


Foxbunny is neither sponsored by or affiliated with Ubuntu and/or Canonical. This is a satirical article for entertainment purposes only, and should not be read by people without a sense of humor. The 'bounce factor' is a fictional mark, and has nothing to do with how good or bad a distro is. They all suck except Arch.


We have come to the end of yet another Arch Linux newsletter. We sincerely hope you enjoyed it this month. We certainly enjoyed making it for your reading pleasure. Please, feel free to contact us, and let us know of any opinions and/or suggestions for improvement. Also, we accept contributions, so feel free to contribute.

The best for all of you, from the Arch Linux Newsletter Team (Dusty Phillips [dusty {at} archlinux . org], Ronald Van Haren [ronald {at} archlinux . org] and Eduardo Romero [eduardo {at} archlinux . org])