Arch Linux Newsletter

June 04, 2008

Eduardo "kensai" Romero - "Newsletter Author" - Web Log


Welcome to another Arch Linux Newsletter. This month Dusty Phillips provides us with the schawg report and another interesting lecture on the ways of Arch Linux. If you are a gamer there is something for you too, I wrote an article/tutorial on how to enjoy tremulous at its best. And last but not least, Ronald Van Haren provides a great tips and tricks section, all your hard work is greatly appreciated Ronald.

The newsletter is always an ever evolving project. You will find new sections or new ways in which and old sections is being used. For example, Devland now features a mini interview with Aaron Griffin reporting on the state of Arch Linux's development and Dan McGee reporting on the state of Pacman's development. I hope these changes contribute to your enjoyment of the Arch Linux Newsletter. Thanks for reading and your constant support.

Eduardo "kensai" Romero

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News

AUR Cleanup

From the TUs: The AUR has a large number of obsolete packages which could use cleaning up. Examples of packages that may be cleaned up are:

This is where you can help. Post suggestions of packages in the AUR Cleanup wiki page ( TUs will get together and go though the list in a couple of weeks and confirm which packages should be removed. Please do not remove suggestions from the wiki page but add a comment on why it should be kept instead. TUs will take great care not to delete any useful package.

Linux 2.6.25 moves to core

It took much longer than usual, I'm sorry for that, but kernel26 has now been moved to core. Here are the changes:


I advise all affected users to keep a copy of the old kernel26 and module packages or not to update at all.

Some of the configuration changes made the kernel more modular, therefore you may need to load some modules manually or via rc.conf, examples are the 'loop' and 'autofs4' modules.

Website Update

Greetings Archers.

For those of you who didn't notice, the website went through a major 'under the hood' update on the evening of May 23rd.

Things in the update:

Sorry for the delay in posting the news.

One more thing. Cerebral wanted me to mention his awesomeness. Done. :)

General Linux News

Flash 10 goes beta

"GPU hardware acceleration is high on my list. There seem to be too much Flash content around that consumes a huge proportion of the available CPU cycles to carry out what appears to be fairly simple animations. This probably means they are badly written, but with any luck offloading some of the work to the GPU will free up my CPU for more useful work."

Newsletter Author's note: Also worth noticing is the fact that Adobe seems to be opening itself a bit more. This site goes into details as to Adobe launching the "Open Screen Project". In hope for an open flash player.

Asus to embed Linux into all motherboards

"On Wednesday, DeviceVM, the company behind the distribution, said the hardware manufacturer would be putting Splashtop — which Asus calls "Express Gate" — into a million motherboards a month. Splashtop includes a Firefox-derived browser and the Skype internet-telephony application."

The Origins of Linux [Video]

"Linus Torvalds tells the story of how he went from writing code as a graduate student in Helsinki in the early 1990s to becoming an icon for open source software by the end of the decade."

"This video was put together by the folks at the Computer History Museum who kindly gave us permission to share this video with Linux Journal readers."

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips


Between Apr 15, 2008 and May 15, 2008, we sold a total of 43 products on the Arch Linux Schwag shop on Zazzle. Our total royalties and referrals came to $58.41 for this period. Once again I am delighted with both the popularity of the Schwag shop and with the percentage of sales that we receive.

New Products

Since the last report we have added 5 new products. Two aprons are inspired by the well known corny "Kiss the Cook" Aprons available on the market, but with a geeky twist:

Two others are inspired by the new and very popular script proclaiming Arch's superiority:

Finally, Foxbunny has provided us with the definitive Arch Taco t-shirt:*/product/235024190562039585

Who Buys Arch Schwag?

(Inspired by the 'Sidney Crosby drinks gatorade' and similar advertisements)

Some big names are buying Arch merchandise these days:

<false advertising>If you buy Arch Schwag you'll be a big name too!</false advertising>

Contributing Ideas

If you have an idea for a design to be added to the Arch Schwag Shop, feel free to contact me at with your ideas. You can send me images to put on T-shirts, texts to put on mugs and other products, or even links to customized merchandise you've created yourself on Zazzle.

I would especially like ideas for new product lines. Currently we support an Official Arch Linux product line, a line based on Larry Ewing's famous Tux logo, and a line of contributed ideas. (I may have to split an official foxbunny line off the contributed ideas if his brilliant contributions keep up).

We do not have any control over the products that Zazzle offers. If you have ideas for products that you do not seen in Zazzle's available product list, contact them with your ideas.

Contributed Article

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips

Arch Is Not a Democracy

Every once in a while someone says that there should be a public vote on the way Arch Linux is run. A common response is "Arch is not a democracy" In a democratic society, the majority opinion rules. This is not the case in Arch. There has been a lot of majority opinion bouncing around in recent times that is not ever going into the Arch Linux core as defined by the developers.

Arch is really a "Cooperative Anarchy". Anyone is free to do anything they like with Arch Linux, excepting the few copyleft restrictions enforced by the GPL. This means that anyone who doesn't like the current direction the Arch Linux development team is taking the distro can start their own development team and run their version exactly the way they want to. Neither team would be "more official" or "more legitimate" than the other. Ideally, this would occur with a certain level of cooperation between the two (or multiple) teams, with no hard feelings, but this is not a requirement. Thus, everyone can be satisfied and no vote excluding some users' opinions is required.

The Arch development team itself is a "Voluntary Oligarchy". The Arch developers have chosen to develop this distro in a way that suits them. Nobody but the developers has input into what goes on in official Arch development. This is their linux distribution and they have been kind enough to share it with the rest of the world in case someone else likes it. The great thing for users, however, is that they get to choose whether or not they are governed by this group of people.

Users that don't like the way Arch Linux is developed have two simple choices:

  1. Use a different Linux distribution or operating system.
  2. Develop Arch into what they want it to be.

As I mentioned last month, the second option does not require forking Arch. You can create custom repositories of community contributed tools based on, but independent of the Arch Linux core. So next time you think your voice should be heard in a democratic fashion, remember that you are already your own personal Arch Overlord and are free to do with this distribution exactly what you wish.

Gaming Arena

By: Eduardo Romero

Enjoy Tremulous

Cited from the Tremulous website, “Tremulous is a free, open source game that blends a team based FPS with elements of an RTS.” Sounds good? Yeah, and in my opinion, it is good. I have been addicted to this game since I started using Arch Linux full time, the fact that I have no other Operating System installed on my system makes me rely on Linux for everyday tasks and even for gaming. Tremulous is the game I have enjoyed the most so far in my Linux gaming experience, so I took on the challenge of trying to enjoy it to the maximum. Here is what I came of with:

First, install Tremulous. Its a simple command you can probably guess:

# pacman -S tremulous

Second, update your Tremulous executable file to the latest version:

This site provides an updated version of the tremulous.x86 file which on an Arch Linux system, after the installation of Tremulous is placed in /opt/tremulous/tremulous.x86. This file is the one that executes Tremulous. When you go to this site, click on the linux/ folder so that you start downloading the updated tremulous.x86 file. After successfully downloading it, change to the folder where you downloaded the file and as root (or using sudo):

# mv tremulous.x86 /opt/tremulous/tremulous.x86
followed by:
# chmod a+x /opt/tremulous/tremulous.x86

Now, try to execute the game and see if it starts, if it doesn't then don't blame me. (just kidding). But it is always better to backup the original file first, with:

# mv /opt/tremulous/tremulous.x86 /opt/tremulous/tremulous.x86.bckup

What does this update provide? Well, along with other things it provides support for http downloads, and cl_guid support, which uniquely identifies you in game. I know, it does not provide ground breaking features, but it does help to better enjoy Tremulous.

Third, find useful sites which provide content for the game:

MercenariesGuild is one of those sites that you should bookmark, they provide a server for the testing of the tremulous 1.2 technology. Using their server you can help in the balancing of the release of Tremulous 1.2. Their site also has a downloads link which includes maps, mods and other goodies for you to make the best out of your Tremulous experience.

As a side note I would like to add that we, Arch Linux users, are trying to identify ourselves in game. With that goal we are adding the {Archer} tag to our names. Example, my name in game is Kensai {Archer}. I encourage all of you Arch Linux Tremulous gamers to do the same. If you would like to play where I play... well, I often play on the Dretch Storm, Dretch Tsunami and PureTrem servers, in that order, from the most I play to the least.

Update: [vEX] from the forums pointed out: "it should have been made clear that Tremuluos is only available for i686 and you need to enable the Community repository (I think it's enabled by default now, but I bet some people have it disabled)."

Update II: weseven from the forums pointed out: "Tremulous is for x86_64 too. The backport client you linked is only for i686, but if you search a bit on google, you can find svn client versions for 64 too. Playing tremulous on an arch64 laptop. :)

Featured Interview

Andreas Radke

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

    I've been a packager for the German Mandriva community. But static releases and the rpm package manager more and more showed me limits of that kind of distributions. I didn't need configuration wizards anymore and liked the rolling release Arch promised. So I installed Arch in September 2005, it was easy to setup and worked well for some weeks.

    In that days ArchLinux offered only i686 binary packages. I saw a nice gap where I could spend time on. So I decided to join the poorly running Arch64 project.

  2. Can you describe your work on Arch Linux?

    It took me and some helpful community members almost half a year to port most essential packages to x86_64 architecture. Being present almost every free minute it made me suddenly becoming their leader. Once we had a working installation cd some developers honored our work and made Arch64 the 2nd officially supported architecture of ArchLinux. Today x86_64 is nothing special anymore and many developers build packages for both architectures.

    Now I'm just a usual packager being responsible for 135 packages, e.g together with Jan(jgc) for our toolchain packages. I'm also pimping my workstation from time to time to fight with :)

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

    Nothing special these days. Our technical and organizational infrastructure is working quiet well but could always be improved. Maybe some day I will find time to learn to better read/write code to help fixing upstream bugs. Yes, to code and me is a no go :X

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

    In the past Arch gave me the feeling that developers were allowed to simply commit any change whenever they thought it would be the right way - "Just do it". We were very quick but sometimes also wrong.

    Now Arch has grown and we want to ensure best stability that is possible in a rolling release distribution. We gave us some limitations to control ourselves. They work quiet well but slow us down sometimes.

    I still like our own KISS philosophy - our definition of providing a clean mostly vanilla distribution metakit to give a the community a nice base for everything you may want to make out of it.

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

    Coming from spec files I still think it is real fun to package with pacman/makepkg. It gives you the possibility to concentrate on the funny part: to fight the package - not the package manager!

    Responsibility? Do we really have a bugtracker? I really dislike to fix bugs in old packages. But it sometimes has to be done. I prefer the Arch way "use ABS, fix it yourself and report it upstream..." :D

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

    I like energy efficient hardware that's coming up more and more. Another topic I want to see: HDTV broadcasting with Linux applications.

  7. Are you addicted to tacos?

    No. German beer rulez. And it's sometimes the reason for a flyspray entry.

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

    Does Aaron read our newsletters? Well, äääähhhmmmm. Natürlich kann er das.

  9. Newsletter Author's Note:But of course he does read the newsletter, he wouldn't know half the things that go around Arch Linux if he didn't read it. :D


Section I : Aaron Griffin's Report

Where is Arch Linux heading right now?

This is a difficult question to answer because it's asking me to predict the far future. The way I see it now, Archlinux is becoming more streamlined, and opening itself up to larger contributions from the community in the vein of kdemod, larch, and things of that nature.

Any future plans that will benefit Arch Linux in general?.

Beyond the impending ISO release, future plans are a little rough around the edges. We are going to improve some of the process for packagers (both TUs and developers), but mostly we are going to continue improving things as we've been doing in the past - little bit here, little bit there.

How is our KISS philosophy doing?

There is always room for improvement. I think the induction of the core repo made things much more sensible, but there are always things that can be fixed.

Section II : Dan McGee's Report

Where is pacman development going?

Wherever developers take it. Currently our development staff is rather small, but our main focus has been on code cleanup, algorithm optimization and speedups, and correct behavior in niche cases during installs and upgrades. As of late, we have begun to undertake some large refactorings of certain parts of code.

I think our current focus for development is to make libalpm a lot easier to use by frontends besides pacman. In addition, we just recently found a workable solution to solving some of the database-loading slowness issues that many people complain about.

The point to take away here is that development is guided by developers, not users. We are volunteers, so we would much rather volunteer our time doing work we want to do rather than implement someone else's feature request. If you want to influence libalpm/pacman/makepkg development, by far the best way is to follow the mailing list and contribute small fixes for things that bug you.

Are there any future plans which might benefit the users to get more out of pacman?

The database-loading issue I mentioned above should be a great improvement from what we do now. Currently when a database is downloaded from the servers, we unpack the files inside the tar.gz into a flat file database. The changes we have planned will allow us to read directly from the tar.gz, which will give us a huge speedup on the first database read, and times will be about the same on subsequent reads when the files would normally be cached.

Two other issues that are intriguing are signed packages and lzma compression. Signed packages is something that a lot of users have asked for, but no one has presented a "here is exactly how we do this" solution. I have had some ideas, but no developer has really wanted to tackle this problem.

Packages compressed with lzma is also something we may want to take a look at down the road. This compression algorithm offers size benefits over gzip without the decompression time drawback of bz2. However, there are some licensing issues that will probably keep lzma (LGPL) from ever becoming an official part of libarchive (BSD).

Besides this, there are not many large plans. Pacman currently has a comfortable interface and there are not too many things we need to change to keep it that way. Adding features just for the sake of adding features is not in our best interest.

Is pacman ever going to be able to lift a car?

This feature was actually removed back in version 2.9.8 due to underuse. We have no current plans to re-add it. Users are welcome to submit a patch.

Proofreader's note: If your patch isn't accepted you can always maintain the patched version in a personal [carlift] repository.

Section III : Mailing List Report

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Forum Highlights

Mailing List Highlights

Expand your Knowledge

Phoronix Test Suite 0.8.0

"While not as large as last week's release, Phoronix Test Suite 0.8.0 has been released this morning with just over 30 items glazing its change-log. Much of the work done over the past week involved bug fixing, beginning to finalize several tests and suites, and other work in preparation around the forthcoming 1.0 release."

Scripting with Scheme Shell

"Last month, Daryl Lee gave us a taste of the language Scheme in the article It's time to learn Scheme with a C++ code generator. This time we will be looking at some practical examples written with Scheme Shell (SCSH): finding and replacing text in a bunch of files, sorting files in two different ways, and converting data from a CSV file to an HTML file."

Web Input - Securing Data, First Level of Defense

"This article focuses upon testing the reliability user input at the lowest level. The first line of defense is use of automated searches that might detect malicious inputs. Personally I wish there were a better option. Being realistic, we are confronting coders with superior skills that have added advantage of surprise, stealth and economic incentives. Whereas we are reactive to new or suspected threats as they arise or worse discovered later."

Tips and Tricks

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Section I : About packages that do not compile with current GCC versions

Lately there have been a number of threads on the forums asking for older versions of GCC, the GNU Compiler Collection. The particular users ask for these packages to downgrade their current GCC version because apparently a package they want to compile does not do so with their current GCC version.

Now there is a couple of things to keep in mind:

Now for the more advanced users, most packages that do not compile with current GCC versions are really easy to fix just by looking at the error you get on your screen and the porting guide supplied on the GCC homepage itself. Don't worry if you don't manage to create a patch all by yourself, you can always ask for help via the forums, IRC channels or other means.

Fixing a package is always better than ignoring the breakage and compiling it with older tools. As a last resort however (yes sometimes you need it) there are the gcc3 and gcc34 packages in the [extra] repository. These packages can be installed parallel to the current GCC version (which is splitted in the gcc and gcc-libs packages).

Note however that your PKGBUILD will not automagically choose the GCC version you want if you have multiple versions installed. You will need to export some variables inside the PKGBUILD so makepkg knows which GCC version it should use. I will not repeat how to do so, but you can read it here. Feel free to continue that thread if you still have questions or problems with it.

Section II : Splitting files

Tired of data that does not fit on one CD/DVD? Arch comes with some great tools which allow you to split your data where needed!

With the 'split' utility we can split one file into many. The 'split' utility takes options as


With the options we can control both the output size (in lines or bytes) and output suffix. The [INPUT] variable is of course the file you want to split, and the [PREFIX] variable controls the output name. The output name will be of the form [PREFIX][SUFFIX], where [SUFFIX] is the numbering of the splitted files.

So what if we want to split a whole directory into multiple archives? We can go the long way by first creating an archive of the directory after which we split the package, but this would require twice the disk space of the archive. So is there a more KISS way to do this?

Luckily there is. We can create an archive and split the archives on the fly using the pipeline operator:

tar cvz $(INPUT) | split [OPTION]  - [PREFIX]

where the tar options say we want to create a tar.gz archive in verbose mode (use the option cvj if you would rather create tar.bz2 archives). Split takes the same options as before, but note that the hyphen comes in place of the [INPUT].

To extract these archives if you ever need to, you can use, depending on the type of archive you created, a command similar to

cat ${PREFIX}* | tar xvzf -

As always, verify archives you have created so you won't come to unpleasant surprises when you need them.

There is one final tip I want to share with you. Although not completely related to the above, it comes to mind when talking about archives. Remember that time when you untarred a package, and its files where all over your working directory instead of in a single directory?

There is an easy way to remove all these files at once after which you can untar it again in a directory:

rm -rf $(tar ftz ${packagename}.tar.gz)

where in this case the ftz option to tar lists all files in the particular archive. The 'rm -rf' part of course removes these files. Don't forget the '$( ) part' or you will delete the archive itself!

The Humor Section

Section I : Dusty Phillips, censored?

For more than a week below Dusty's screenname appeared the word "Banned". This actually generated a bit of attention. What really happened? Well, I have the report on that for you to enjoy.

As you may have noticed some people got banned recently, and although it really is sad to see this happen some people just ask for it. The saddest part is not being able to write anything here about it since the motives are private (although forum users are well aware of the situation and they can guess what really happened). Anyways to make a long story short here is what happened (privately):

kensai : Dusty, can't you get banned? That I can make fun of.
dusty : Ask Simo, I'm sure he can manage it.
neotuli : Sure.

Turns out that Simo Leone changed Dusty's title to "Banned" but he never got banned for real. These were the reactions of the community in part:

dolby : Totally off topic but Dusty is
banned? WTF? I was about to say i love Dusty's contributions to the
dusty : I'm focusing on newsletter contributions and the Arch Schwag shop
now, leaving the forum moderation to newer and more interested members (who are
doing a terrific job). My new title was apparently set by Simo and Eduardo when
I asked to have my admin privileges revoked.

Even a thread on the Ubuntu forums was created to defend Dusty (you should feel proud they go a long way for you), here is the thread for you to read. Sorry miggys if the joke caused an inconvenience, but at least for me it caused laughter.

Moral of the story: "Never mess with a Zohan"... Oh, sorry, Never mess with Dusty.

Proofreader's Note: What is a Zohan? Feel free to mess with me, I'll probably just ignore it anyway, as I did the banned message. :-D

Newsletter Author's Note: That happens when you don't click on the links I provide. Click the link and wonderful things will happen. ;-)

Section II : Random Fun

varl : pidgin sucks.
Celettu : Pidgin's slow evolving too..
varl : hell all IM's seem to suck.
Celettu : chatting sucks
varl : true da... Wait a minute!
rson451 : psht you guys suck, get outta here
Celettu : people suck!
DigitalVista : lol
BluntBox : agreed, communication is way overrated


We have come to the end, but just for this month, we sincerely hope you enjoyed reading the newsletter. The Arch Linux Newsletter Team 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, Ronald Van Haren and Eduardo Romero)