Arch Linux Newsletter

May 05, 2008

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


Well, the newsletter hasn't migrated to German? Oh, right, that was the April Fools' joke for the Arch Linux community this year. If you missed it, then I feel sorry for you. :D Some users reacted like the joke was for real and were making forum threads and mailing list posts asking for suggestions on other Arch-blessed distributions which they could make their new home! Let me tell you, that was fun for some but a real frustration for others. We take a deeper look at the effects of this joke on the humor section.

This month we interview Simo Leone. We caught him between other tasks working on the Arch Linux installer images. We also have a report about sales on the new Arch Linux shwag shop, thanks to Dusty Phillips. Dusty also contributed with other original articles which are of general interest, like for example, Who is Skoal? Yeah Skoal you can laugh now. All this and much more amounts to an awesome newsletter publication, please enjoy every bit of it.

- Eduardo "kensai" Romero

Table Of Contents

Front Page News

Archlinux 2008.04-RC

A new batch of install images is currently syncing to mirrors. FTP images have been made available tonight, while CORE images will be pushed tomorrow night in order to distribute the load.

This marks the first release (well ok... release candidate) based on a true live Arch system. That is, what's on the images is just a plain old base installation which just happens to boot off of a CD or USB stick.

Whoah... did you just say USB stick? Why yes I did! That's right, from here on out we'll be offering bootable USB disk images that can act as a live system or installer.

The installer script itself is roughly the same as it's always been. The most noticable change is the use of UUIDs instead of sdX/hdX entries by default. A more detailed changelog should be visible on soon-ish.

If you get the chance, please give the images a spin. You can find them on our mirrors, in the iso directory. Please file bugs if you encounter any problems.

By the way, the "RC" status of these images should not be a turn-off if you're looking to install Arch, there's a very good chance they'll work just fine for you.

ABS 2.0 In Core

With version 2, ABS has moved to an rsync method for pulling the ABS tree, as part of the changes that needed to be made for our internal move from CVS to SVN as our source control mechanism. This means a few things:

  1. cvsup/csup are no longer required, rsync is used instead
  2. Configuration moved from /etc/abs/abs.conf to /etc/abs.conf -
  3. /etc/abs/* are no longer required

Also, since category information (ie. base, devel, editors) is no longer stored in the repo, makeworld has been updated - check makeworld -h for more info.

gpm 1.20.3-1 in Core

When attempting to update to gpm 1.20.3-1, you will most likely get the following error message:

error: could not prepare transaction
error: failed to commit transaction (conflicting files)
gpm: /usr/lib/ exists in filesystem
Errors occurred, no packages were upgraded.

This error arises because the /usr/lib/ symlink became disassociated from the package (FS#9949). This is fixed in gpm 1.20.3-1 but its upgrade needs to be forced:

# pacman -Syf gpm
# pacman -Syu

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips


Between Mar 9, 2008 and Apr 15, 2008, we sold a total of 29 products on the Arch Linux Schwag shop on zazzle. Our total royalties and referrals came to $81.86 for this period. I'm very impressed with these earnings for the first month. This is an excellent way to support Arch while receiving something in return. Thanks to everyone who purchased products this month!


I received my first two Arch Linux Zazzle products the other day. I am stunned by the quality. I thought I was paying a bit of a premium for the customization, but it turns out I was paying a premium for quality merchandise. I'm very impressed, especially as I compare it to the disappointing product I purchased years ago from the old Schwag shop. I have also had favourable feedback from a few other community members on the quality of the merchandise they have received. On top of that, Zazzle guarantees that you'll be satisfied!


We earn a royalty on each product sold. In addition, we earn referral for products sold if you use the 'zazzle-star' url. Any time you link to Arch Linux, use the url* rather than

In addition you can earn referral dollars yourself if you refer people to Arch Linux Schwag merchandise. Visit Zazzle's Associate Page for more information. Feel free to link to our products on your personal website and keep the referral for yourself. Of course, if you'd rather the referral go directly to supporting Arch Linux, you can use the archlinux* url mentioned above.

A History Lesson

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips

Who is Skoal?

Too many people (two, at last count) asked me "Who is Skoal" while preparing last month's newsletter. Modern Arch Linux belief appears to be that Skoal is just some guy who posts on the forums occasionally.

But the Arch traditionalists of old know better. Skoal is a legend amoung legends. He's a poet. A humorist. A bard. A satirist. He could happily jump in the middle of the most violent flamewars with such bizarre posts that the entire community would just stop and scratch their head. No more flame war. He probably knows more Arch History than any other community member. If he doesn't, he will gladly make something up. (and here I go following in the master's footsteps...)

Skoal's original avatar was the traditional Skoal chewing tobacco logo. His signature, well-known by Arch old-timers as '\\//_' was a mystery for the longest time. Skoal would occasionally post incognito on mailing lists across the web hoping some Archer would recognize him soley by this signature. Someone finally cracked the signature's meaning, but I'm not giving the secret away, no. Not with so many people asking me "Who is Skoal?" His identity must remain shrouded in the mystique of time. I think it is time for the crazy lad to reassert his authority on the Arch Linux forums. Skoal, my friend, you have been nearly forgotten. Drop us a line, homey.

For hours of entertaining reading, consult the Arch Linux forum search for "posts by skoal". Does anybody remember what he said about redundant posts? Find the post on black helicopters. There's also the popular 'Ode to Mr. Floppy Drive'. And of course, the post linked in last month's newsletter...

Contributed Article

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips

Community Contributing

I've seen a subtle shift in the way the Arch Community is making requests (or demands) on the Arch Linux developers. The conversation often starts with "Arch Linux should do X", followed by a developer responding "The Arch Linux core will never support X, but patches are welcome"

What do they mean? Basically, Arch Linux is what Aaron Griffin, Arch Linux Overlord, likes to call a "Meta Distribution". It provides the basic simple tools you can use to create exactly the system you want. Nothing is customized in the Arch Linux core, but everything is customizable. You have full control and you are free to exercise that control.

The distinction lately, has been between what the developers support in the core and what the users support in the community. This is a false dichotomy. In my mind, the developers are community members (obviously), and the community members are also Arch Linux developers. There are many tools that have been developed for Arch Linux that are not officially maintained in the core but are still considered by most to be part of what Arch Linux "is".

What does this mean to someone wanting a change in Arch Linux? It means that if you don't like something in the way the Arch Core is configured, you can change it. You can create a new repository to share your changes. You can go so far as to create a separate "Specific Distribution" based on the Arch Linux "Meta Distribution". You can create a new installer, a new GUI frontend, a new repository. The possibilities are limitless.

It is not the responsibility of the Arch Linux development team to make Arch Linux what you want it to be. It is your responsibility. As a member of the Arch Linux Community, you are a developer, and vice versa.

A common response to the "patches welcome" motto is "but I don't know how to do that". Arch Linux is, perhaps above all, a learning distribution. You need to learn how it works to configure it. You need to learn how it works to improve it. You may not know how to do it yet, but I guarantee that you can learn how to do it. Arch Linux allows you to "scratch your own itch". I hope soon conversations will go like this instead:

Originator: "I think Arch Linux should optionally support X. I'm not too good at Y, but I'm trying to learn it and thought I'd try making X happen for practice. Have a look at my first attempt and see what you think."

Community Member: "I like this idea. I had a look at your Y and here is a patch that fixes a problem I had"

Originator: "Thanks for the patch! Now I've learned how to use the patch command too!" Here is version 0.02 incorporating your patch:...

Arch Developer: "Its good to see these community projects based on the Arch Linux core. I hope it goes well. You might want to consider adding feature Z.

For the record, many of the most successful community projects started out just like this. Some of them continue to be popular in the community, some of them end up getting incorporated into the Arch Linux core, some of them get adopted by new maintainers, some of them get ignored and forgotten. But always remember: Arch is your distribution and you have the right and the responsibility to mould it into exactly what you want it to be.

Featured Interview

Simo Leone

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

    I ran Mandrake for several years and Fedora for a couple weeks. Then a friend recommended Arch, I tried it, fell in love, and so it began.

  2. Can you describe your work on Arch Linux?

    I joined the dev team back in '05, after submitting some patches to the AUR beta. Most of the early stuff I did involved packaging and AUR coding. Then at some point the AUR turned into bbs/wiki/aur/bugs/web-stuff. Along the way I've contributed code to most of the Arch-related projects. More recently my focus has turned towards liveCD generation and the installer. I guess you could say I've done a little of everything.

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

    Absolutely. A lot of the code I look at is sort of kludged together. It works, but it's inefficient and really hard to read for one reason or another. Dan has done an awesome job improving the pacman codebase, and that's what I'd like to do for the AUR and other projects.

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

    The Arch Way is simple, elegant, easy to understand, and easy to build upon.

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

    It depends on the situation. If something breaks and I'm the only one around to fix it, Arch can feel like a chore. Most of the time Arch is fun though.

  6. If you were to be stranded on a desert island what or who would you like to have with you?

    Nothing. I'm not too keen on the whole materialism thing.

  7. Has the addiction for tacos hit you as well?

    I'd like to take this opportunity to plug Chipotle. I'm actually more of a burrito guy.

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

    I've seen him do it. Twice.


Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Forum Highlights

Mailing List Highlights

Expand your Knowledge

Three utilities for automatically converting audio for portable music players

"While large cheap hard disks allow you to keep your audio collection in a lossless format such as FLAC on your home network, when you are on the move you probably want to squeeze the most out of every gigabyte by using a compressed format. This article takes a look at three tools aimed at making audio conversion for portable music players a painless task."

Automatically watching Web sites for changes

"If you want to be notified when and how a Web site has changed, you can turn to either netstiff or urlwatch to keep and eye on things for you. Both of these tools monitor Web sites for changes and allow you to see a diff-like output of exactly what has changed. You can also use netstiff to monitor FTP sites for changes."

Tips and Tricks

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Getting calendar information from the command line using 'cal' and 'date'

A typical ArchLinux installation comes with two very nice little applications which can help you extracting calendar information, namely 'cal' and 'date'. These applications are respectively in the 'util-linux-ng' and 'coreutils' packages.

As one would expect, 'cal' has the capability of displaying a simple calendar on the command line. A simple 'cal' gives the calendar of the current month only. If you are more interested in a particular month of/or a particular year, you can try 'cal 5 2008' or 'cal 2008' to show the calendar of May 2008, or the calendar of the whole of 2008, respectively.

Now assume you already have a day or date in mind, and you want to have more information about it. This is where the 'date' utility comes into play.

This should be enough to get you started. For all available options, please see the respective man-pages of 'cal' and 'date'.

The Humor Section

solarwind - A few days ago, this site was turning German. Now it's
back to English? What exactly is going on?
Misbah - it was just an april fools thing.
solarwind - Are you serious? That gave me a friggin' heart attack! My favourite distro turning German?!?! I'd kill myself!
Iphitus - you would have had a blast looking at all the miserable translations we spat out :P
JawsThemeSwimming428 - I am sure there has already been a post about
this, but what are the English-only speaking people supposed to do? No, learning
German is not an option right now. Will we still be able to post in English here
for help? If not, where? Also, I just installed Arch (English obviously). Will
any future upgrades change the language to German? Will pacman stop using
English commands? How will this effect an English only speaking individual?
Slammer64 - ROTFLMAO.........................April Fools!
Thisllub - Ha ha ha ha ha Ha ha ha ha
theringmaster - I have no idea why people are laughing at this man's post. This is a big issue for us english-born people, I don't care how easy it is to learn. I will switch to another distro if they change arch linux itself to be all german.
edit: ok now i understand......haha, but it's still april 1 where i am vuboy - Can anyone recomend a similar distro? Very new to linux, having to learn another language to use this distro is too much. I like Arch but..... [...]
mmmm, is this an April fool's joke? Seriously, I'm pounding google all in a panic looking for optomized distro's similar to Arch.


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