Arch Linux Newsletter

Jan 21, 2008
Jason Chu
Eduardo "kensai" Romero


Welcome to the first 2008 issue of the Arch Linux newsletter. First and foremost I would like to apologize for the lack of Arch Linux newsletters for so long. I delayed it for reasons concerning university studies, but after doing that I found it so hard to start making the newsletter again and kept delaying it more and more. I used to have an organized way of doing the newsletters, but missing the first newsletter made me lose the habit, and it made it hard for me to get back on track. But, here we are presenting the first newsletter of 2008, which I'm really proud of.

As you may have noticed, this newsletter has a new design that matches the main site's style. A lot of thanks go to Simo (neotuli) for the great re-theme of the newsletter. Arch Linux has not only undergone a re-theme and logo change, pacman 3.1.0 was released and pacman 3.1.1 is almost ready to be released to address the issues that couldn't be worked out in time for the 3.1.0 release. As well, we have an interview with the creator of Arch Linux and former Arch overlord, Judd Vinet. All this and much more adds up to a great Arch Linux newsletter. Enjoy!

- Eduardo "kensai" Romero

Table Of Contents

Front Page News

Website theme update

Greetings Archers,

After some hard work from some very dedicated folks, we have re-themed much of the Arch website.

Special thanks to a few key contributions so far: To Thayer for his logo and re-theme css work, and to Simo for his hard work on bringing the new look to the other Arch sites. Awesome work guys.

Thanks also to the Arch community, for waiting patiently for the updates to roll out.


QT-4 and QT3 moved to [extra]

As announced last year* and after a longer period of testing, QT versions 3 and 4 have now been moved to [extra].

At least until the final release of KDE4 there are plenty of packages which still use version 3 of QT. Therefore a new package called qt3 was introduced. The dependencies of all packages are updated according to this change. The update should be quite smooth. Pacman only notifies about replacing qt by qt3 and qt4 by qt.

If you don't want to have QT version 4 installed just remove it with "pacman -Rc qt" after the update. If you are using any third party repositories like KDEmod please wait until they have updated their packages, too. Do not force any updates! If there are still any issues, please report them at

Community packages may not be updated with the new versioning scheme of QT, so give your TUs some time to make the required changes.


Arch in the Media

A stable Arch branch?

"Don’t look now, but it could become a reality. A thread here describes the rationale for a snapshot of Arch at periodic intervals, allowing users to bounce between stable points, rather than use Arch in the rolling fashion it has now. A wiki page is up and running now too."

General Linux News

talking bluntly

"Now that [KDE] 4.0.0 is tagged and out and that bit of worry and concern is behind me for the moment, I wanted to take a moment to talk really bluntly about 4.0. In particular, I'm going to address some of the common memes in fairly random order that i see about kde 3.5 and 4.0. I'm going to speak bluntly (though not rudely =) so prepare yourself ;)"

2.6.24-rc8, "A Final Shakedown"

"I do hate doing -rc's for so long, but I hate releasing when not feeling it's simmered enough even more. And the changes since -rc7 are bigger than the changes between -rc6 and -rc7 were (partly probably because people were still on vacation between -rc6 and -rc7, so we had something of a small trickle come in afterwards),"

Driver-Free Car Runs Ubuntu Linux

While not as sexy as the BMW Z4M or some of the other automobiles on display during CES, we had learned an interesting fact about the driver-less Carnegie Mellon vehicle: it runs Ubuntu. This Carnegie Mellon vehicle with sponsors such as Google, NetApp, and Intel, had won this year's DARPA challenge.

Featured Interview

Judd Vinet: Creator of Arch Linux.

Judd Vinet, born in 1980 and from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He is the person responsible for the creation of Arch Linux, altough for lack of time reasons he recently resigned as the Arch Overlord and left Aaron Griffin to this responsibility. Because he is the creator and founder of Arch Linux (the distribution most of us love) we thought it might be interesting to interview him. But, this is a very special kind of interview, the questions that are asked were posted first on the forums by various Arch Linux users, then Judd picked the ones he wanted to answer. I want to thank everyone that in one way or another contributed to make this interview possible by posting questions to be asked, not all of them could make it to the final interview but most of them did. Now, without further ado, Judd's interview.

  1. Do you see ArchLinux eventually taking over the user base of distributions that share similar ideals such as Slackware/Gentoo/Crux etc?
  2. Given the rate of adoption so far, and the number of "accidental" Arch-related hits I get from my many Linux-related searches on Google, I'm confident that Arch hasn't met its peak yet. Looking through DistroWatch, it's readily apparent that the number of specialized distros is growing every day. The dominant trend seems to be in this area, where a project starts with a general purpose distribution (such as Arch) and molds it to a specific purpose, re-branding it along the way. I think that Arch Linux will become an increasingly popular choice for specialized distributions, as it provides a very flexible and easy-to-understand base.

  3. What window manager and desktop environment do you use?
  4. I've been using XFCE4 since it first came out and I've never looked back. It's the perfect blend of functionality and simplicity, a la Arch. Prior to XFCE4, I was a WindowMaker guy. Longtime Arch users will recall that WindowMaker was the default window manager in the very early days of Arch, simply because it was my choice and it meant one less configuration change I had to make when I installed Arch. ;)

  5. How do you like the idea of an OpenBSD-based ArchBSD or pacmaned-OpenBSD (of course only, if anyone would have the knowledge and would do it)? Is it against "the arch way" in your eyes or would you consider it as a good idea as a "stable, BSD-based" arch-branch?
  6. BSD is cool. To say otherwise would be a bit hypocritical, seeing as much of Arch's simplicity/elegance is borrowed from BSD. Our initscripts have a BSD flavour to them, ABS is like Ports, Pacman's filesystem-based backend is quite BSD-ish.

    I could certainly see Pacman on a BSD in the future, though I don't imagine any of the existing BSDs would make that adoption. BSD has a way of hanging to the "old way" if it continues to work, and I think they're pretty happy with their existing package tools.

  7. Are you He-Man?
  8. I think the answer is pretty obvious THAT I AM.

  9. Where do you see Linux being headed to, and do you feel the future desktop OS market will become more "pluralistic"? (I started with computers in the mid 80s when the home OS market was pluralistic, and it didn't only have upsides, though the situation isn't necessarily comparable.)
  10. Linux and Mac are both going to see a greater adoption because more and more, the world is realizing that not only does Microsoft suck, but now we have viable alternatives. With Vista's pitiful acceptance rate, and Mac and Linux taking bites out of the market share, we can already see Microsoft dwindling in this space. Their actions confirm this as they try to diversify their position, moving from a software-based role into more of a services-based role. I understand their motivation, but I think they're trying to battle on too many fronts, and as a result they tend to ignore their core competencies.

    That said, Microsoft is certainly not going anywhere. A giant that big takes a long time to fall, and don't think for a minute that they won't adapt as quickly as they can.

    This is all IMHO, of course. :)

  11. Are there any upcoming IT technologies that you are really anticipating?
  12. Nothing immediate springs to mind, but I am looking forward to the next evolution of user interfaces. I don't think we're quite at Minority Report yet, but some of the stuff being worked on today is pretty darn cool.

    Outside of IT, I'm interested to see what we settle on as a primary alternative fuel. This is becoming a big issue and I think more and more companies are throwing in their lot to try and find a solid solution.

  13. Do you plan on continuing to contribute code, ideas, packages (and interviews!) to Arch or are you planning to divorce yourself from it entirely in the future? Do you think you'll ever switch distros? Are you enjoying your newfound free time or are you bored already?
  14. I am a hacker at heart and always will be. There were two main (and related) reasons that I decided to step down. One was that I was just utterly swamped, time-wise. I've started a few businesses and I'm putting all my effort into them while still trying to pay the bills, and I realized that I can't serve Arch in a leadership role at the same time.

    The second reason was a bit of a revelation... one of those ones where you always know it in your heart, but it takes a lucid moment of introspection to actually admit it. I'm a serial hacker. I needed a new project, something I could start from scratch and build up, as I did with Arch.

    I never have a shortage of things I want to build, but I only have 24 hours in each day and I'm striving to maintain a well-rounded lifestyle so I cannot spend them all in front of the keyboard. With this in mind, I realized that to make room for even the possibility of a new project as rewarding as Arch was, I needed to let it go.

    So the (much) shorter answer is this... Yes, I hope to contribute to Arch in the future in whatever ways I can, but I doubt I will ever have the same investment in it that I once did.

    And no, I don't plan on switching distros. :)

  15. What has changed for you since you stepped down from the project leader position?
  16. I've felt less guilty, for one. It was a burden to know that the project was relying on me and that I wasn't coming through. It's been a huge weight off my shoulders to see that I could leave and that Aaron and the rest of the team could continue and make Arch even better.

  17. Are you happy with how Arch is run now (by Aaron and others)?
  18. Yes, quite. I've received nothing but "good choice" accolades from people when I appointed Aaron as new overlord. He's a wizard and he cares enough to make sure Arch reflects his (and the entire dev team's) passion and skill.

  19. Are you using Ubuntu now?
  20. Nah, Arch is where it's at. I know when I've found the best, so why keep looking? I've got plenty of other things to do with my time.

  21. Arch was a big project that took several years to stabilize. Given that fact, how did such project affect your life in general?
  22. It helped me cross the bridge from "I could do that" to "I DID that".

    Open source helped me make the transition from thinking to doing. What started as an interminable abyss of protocols, acronyms and code turned into a beautiful world of people, ideas, and collaboration, and it inspired me to join the fray. I realized that if the Daniel Robbins or Per Lidens of the world could start a distro, there was no reason I couldn't.

    It sounds a bit lovey-dovey, but it's really an important mental step to take, and one I hope to take in other fields as well.

  23. What do you think your life should have been if you did something else?
  24. I've often wondered where I'd be if computers were just a fad (as an old roommate would often say to chide me).

    I'd probably be doing something involved with astronomy or cosmology. I appreciate a field that inspires the imagination to grow. One of the sad parts of maturing into adulthood is that the imagination seems to whither. Spending your days wondering about the nature of the universe seems like a good way to combat that.

  25. Anything you wish you were able to implement on arch but were not able to do?
  26. Off the top of my head, no. I don't think there was anything we set out to do and failed.

  27. What do you think are the most valuable proponent of such a huge project that eventually propelled it to a success? (arch and pacman as an example)
  28. Open source is a meritocracy. If your software is crap, people will notice and call you on it. This is a huge and obvious factor.

    But because most of open source is people, and not well-funded corporations, we thrive on community and solidarity. In the early days of Arch, my fuel was provided by the emails of other individuals who were interested in my project and where I was going with it. They were intelligent, polite people who were genuinely interested and eager to help, and soon those few turned into a burgeoning community of thousands of Archers. I would have to say that this is one of the biggest foundations to a strong open source project. Peer support cannot be undervalued.

  29. Can you lift a car over your head? I heard all the cool devs are doing it.
  30. Yes, but I'm a stickler for well-defined requirements. As such, I will take the first loophole I see and raise this beautiful Hot Wheels car high above my head, using nothing but my giant muscles.

    For more proof of my muscles, see question 4.


Forum Highlights

Mailing List Highlights

Expand your Knowledge

GWT: A new way of doing Web development

"Are you dazzled by the way you can drag Google Maps around or move from one place to another without having to reload the screen? Or maybe you're a fan of Gmail and its look and feel? If you want to develop Web sites with Google's signature user-friendly features but are afraid of the work involved, take a look at the Google Web Toolkit (GWT)."

Build a faster desktop with RAID

"The evolution of computing is characterized by a vertiginous acceleration of speed and capacity. As we install sophisticated applications and make use of computers in more creative ways, storage needs are pushed even further. You can improve your disk performance by using a RAID-enabled desktop system running common OSS applications.

Application to Improve

This time I want to point out an AUR package, already accepted in community but at the moment an orphan, Shorewall-Perl. First let's talk about what Shorewall is and what it does. The name is Shoreline Firewall, and it is a tool which allows for configuration of Netfilter, much like iptables. What are the benefits over using iptables proper? Well, in my opinion, iptables configuration can be a pain to learn (In my case I haven't yet), Shorewall in the other hand uses a set of configuration files often found on the /etc/shorewall/ directory, editing some of these well documented configuration files will result in a simple stateful firewall. The Shorewall package in AUR is currently maintained by "dtw" but the Shorewall-Perl package although initially created by “dtw” was left as an orphan. Shorewall-Perl is the package that compiles/generates the firewall once shorewall is configured, if someone has the time and knowledge to take on this package please do so, this way we are contributing for a better Arch Linux in general.

Tips & Tricks

I at first was freaked out by the fact that pacman -Qe didn't show the real orphans, but later learned that the command has been changed. Here is how to find orphaned packages with pacman 3.1.0:

# pacman -Qdt

The Humor Section

varl: if this doesn't work I propose a game; everytime I get a piece of software working with help from this channel, I'll have a 6cl shot of whiskey
varl: who wants to play?
userek: varl, you confuse me
varl: wait, you aren't drunk?
userek: your a drunk :D
varl: well I'm drinking anyway, so why not get something out of it (working system)?
Daenyth: !q mikko777
phrik: Daenyth: * mikko777 you live you learn things, and then you live some more and forget it
mikko777: :P


We have come to the end, but just for this week, we sincerely hope you enjoyed reading the newsletter. I sincerely 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.

The best for all of you, from me (kensai) and the Arch Linux Team