Arch Linux Newsletter

November, 2008



Welcome to another issue of the Arch Linux Newsletter. What is going on in the Arch Linux Development world? We are working diligently to solve the problem with orphaned, unmaintained and bug-pending packages in the repositories, for better quality control. Inspired by Allan, Pierre has provided a new package in the extra repository called pkgstats, which allows all Archers to easily provide the development team with a list of packages you have installed.

With the input you provide, we will now be able to prioritize our work, and focus on the packages Archers use most. Also, we can more easily see which AUR packages deserve to be in community and vice versa.

Eduardo "kensai" Romero

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News

New nvidia-173xx packages available for users of GeForce FX cards

The recently released 177.80 version of the NVIDIA driver stopped supporting the GeForce FX series of cards. If you find your Xorg setup no longer working after upgrading, you need to install the new 173xx legacy drivers:

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Pierre Schmitz)

Kernel 2.6.27 in core

Last night, kernel26 2.6.27-2 has been moved from testing to core. This upgrade seems to be pretty smooth, so don't expect many problems.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Thomas Baechler)

squirrelmail: return to stable branch

Back in the paleozoic era, during the migration from PHP 4 to PHP 5, we switched to Squirrelmail's development branch out of necessity.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Paul Mattal)

JRE and JDK Moved to Community

As some of you may have noticed, the sun Java Runtime Environment and the Java Development Kit have spent too much time waiting in the extra repository waiting for some love. However, no developer was excited to maintain these packages.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Eduardo Romero)

pkgstats: contribution was never that easy

Annoying bug you filed not fixed? Waiting on a package to be updated? If only there was some way you could help out and improve everybody's favourite Linux distribution... (in case you are wondering, I mean Arch).

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Pierre Schmitz)

Arch Linux in the Media

Life on the cutting edge - ArchLinux

"After a few months of using it, I finally feel I am confident enough to write a piece about one of the best, and I MEAN best, linux distros ever, archlinux. This distro is rather unique, and several things in it make it the ideal distro for the intermediate level linux user. The following is in no way a review or tutorial about arch, THAT part would need another post. Currently, I am focusing on its importance as a distro for the intermediate linux user."

Read the Rest

General Linux News

Boycott Novell: Champion of freedom or den of paranoia?

"Few sites about free software attract more controversy than Boycott Novell. Founded in 2006 in response to the first Microsoft-Novell deal, as its name suggests, the site has evolved more recently into a site for commentary and investigation of any subject that might be a threat to free software. To its regular readers, this subject matter makes Boycott Novell -- like Groklaw, its apparent inspiration -- a defender of the community. But to others, especially those who have been the subject of its articles, the site is full of illogical arguments and undeserved attacks, and an embarrassment that only brings the community into disrepute."

Read the Rest

New Xfce beta focuses on usability

"Xfce version 4.6 is shaping up to be more significant than most minor releases. Besides fixes and enhancements that are invisible to the casual user, the first revision in almost two years of GNU/Linux's third most popular desktop includes numerous changes to applications such as the calendar, mixer, and logout dialog, a new configuration engine, and usability changes to the desktop. Their combined effect is to increase the usability of Xfce without sacrificing any of the speed for which the desktop is well-known."

Read the Rest

OSS Gaming: Ready for the Big Leagues?

"Tux is no mere drone -- he likes having fun every now and then. When it comes to gaming, open source tools and applications have a lot to offer developers, but that's not where it stops. Open source games themselves can be had for little or no cost, and a lot of them offer just as much baddy-blasting entertainment as proprietary titles."

Read the Rest

Quick Look at KDE 4.2-SVN

"As the work on KDE 4.2 turns out to be on quite an advanced stage, I’ve decided to test the current development version. For the purpose of this test I used the Archlinux distribution, that features the KDE 4.2-SVN packages repository. It is just enough to add appropriate entries into pacman.conf at the top of the default repositories, and there we can go on installing kde-svn. Read my impressions below."

Read the Rest

Microsoft Has A Problem: Software Patents Go Up In Smoke

"Just read over at groklaw about a ruling made last night by the US Appeals Court. According to it, the patents granted for business practices would have to undergo specific and stringent testing procedures to check the worthiness of granting a patent to it. Essentially, they are aiming to mandate a passing of “ machine-or-transformation test” as a pre-requisite for granting a patent. This means that a mere “idea in my head” doesn’t qualify for a patent until it is put into practice on a machine or can transform the state of an object for a specific purpose. Am no lawyer but what the experts are making out from the long judgement is that many industries will be hit hard by this ruling. Especially software companies who own most of the software patents as business practices, and a majority of these would be found unworthy of patents as they would be found too generic and stifling for the growth of industry."

Read the Rest

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips

Zazzle Summary

Between September 15, 2008 and October 15, 2008, we sold a total of 40 products on the Arch Linux Schwag shop hosted by Zazzle. Our total royalties, referrals and volume bonus came to $94.75! This is a record high, thanks to everyone!

Case Badges

Our case badges, are still shipping at a steady rate. We shipped nearly 50 badges between September 15 and October 15. Orders remain steady. If my calculations are correct (which is unlikely but I don't have the heart to ask poor Simo to count them by hand), we have about 20 badges of each colour (white and silver) left. I will not be ordering more batches when stock runs out so place your orders now before its too late. I would like to focus on some of our other offerings (see below) for a couple months but will likely be shipping case badges again in the future.

USB Keys

After researching community interest in Arch USB keys, I have purchased 8GB USB keys with the Arch Linux logo. The keys weigh in at $45.00 USD and shipping will range form $3 to $5. We have already sold a dozen of the original 50 we ordered. I will not be making a repeat order any time soon, so don't miss out!

My initial investment on these keys is about three times as much as I've made so far off existing schwag offerings. There seems to be a lot of interest in them though so I invested some of my personal savings in the project with the hopes that it will pay off in terms of donations to Arch.

Arch Jewellery

Arch Linux Ring Top View

The jeweller I contacted last month, Micha Weidner, has sent some beautiful pictures of the pendant/pin and ring that are now available at Arch Linux Schwag. I am personally stunned at how beautiful these turned out. Micha's artistry is amazing, and Thayer Willams also deserves credit for designing such a sculptable logo!

I can't wait to order my Arch ring and I hope many of you are as eager to try out some of this jewellery as I am. The ring will be selling for $120 USD and the pendant is currently going for $45.

Arch Storefront

I've finally had time to develop a nice storefront for all these items. You can now shop online at Payment can be made online using paypal's interface, but I don't think you are required to have a Paypal account in order to pay.

Other Vendors

Miggols99 will be selling the Arch USB key preloaded with Arch from his Archux Shop and is also offering an install CD. Crouse is giving away free e-mail addresses.

Original Article

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips

Its What You Make It

Around this time each year, a lot of senseless discussion seems to show up in the Arch communication channels. I haven't come up with a reasonable explanation for this; Arch is too small to suffer from the September that never ended effect, and it can't be due to boredom, since most people are busier in the fall than earlier in the summer. Perhaps its this lack of time; people have time to complain and discuss but not to implement.

At any rate, I've unofficially noticed an increase in the number of flamewars, troll posts, and misunderstandings of what Arch really is during the months of October and November. Through December things seem to get more productive again.

It may thus be a great time to remind people about The Arch Way, also known as the Arch Philosophy. Unfortunately, this term has become an overused buzzword within the community and is becoming meaningless, vague, and undefined. Anyone is happy to defend their opinion by saying it conforms to the Arch Way. And anyone else will happily tell them that no, in fact the opposite stance is more in line with what the Arch Philosophy is all about.

So which is it?

In general, I think it boils down to a simple unwritten contract as to your rights and responsibilities as an Arch user. Simply put, it is your right to do whatever you see fit with the Arch Linux core and to make Arch into exactly what you want it to be. It is your responsibility to ensure you don't interfere with other people having this right.

It is human nature to be aware of our rights, but people often neglect their responsibilities. But it is important to uphold your end of the deal. Hundreds of people have contributed to Arch Linux in various ways and you are free to take advantage of their work. The only payment required is a healthy respect for other people's freedom to take advantage of it in completely different ways. Even those of us who have contributed many hours of our lives to Arch have only spent a small fraction of the total time that has been invested in it. This means that the fundamental responsibility of respecting other peoples' freedoms applies just as equally to the most senior developers and contributors as it does to the newest member still having trouble with the installation procedure.

Its great to talk about rights, responsibilities, and respect, but how do you enact them? I have a few suggestions that I've learned from several years of observing (and attempting to emulate) the most successful respecticians in the community:

Featured Interview

Douglas Soares de Andrade

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

    I was using Slackware (after using other distros) when Patrick got sick and the distro development stopped. I had to change to another distro as it was my main work distro, so I did the change after sending various messages to the mailing lists I was subscribed to see if we could find a medic for him, and of course, I'm really happy that everything went ok.
    So I tried a lot of distros to see which one would be the next, then I remembered that I read something about a distro called arklinux. By mistake (or not) I typed and here I am since that time =)

  2. Can you describe your work on Arch Linux?

    I work mainly as a packager, building quite a lot of python and sysadmin packages. In the Cavern Age I helped a little in the AUR code too (talking about it, the new AUR developers are doing a impressive job - KUDOS to all of them).

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

    Nothing, I really like how things have been going.

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

    Keep things simple, which is the same reason that I work with python, so here is the mantra (zen of python parts that applies to Arch):
    Beautiful is better than ugly.
    Simple is better than complex.
    Complex is better than complicated.
    Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules
    . There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.
    Now is better than never.
    Although never is often better than *right* now.

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

    It is fun to package stuff that you use every day (I'm my case, python and sysadmin stuff).
    The problem is when you have to hunt patches to make things work (like gdm 2.24) and when you assemble everything the package do not work as you expect =)
    As for the responsibility, I'm very concerned with the quality of my packages so sometimes they take more time to be ready for production. Subversion, for example, which I had to delay its updating because it was breaking devtools.

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

    * Possible

    - Ext4
    - ZFS
    - Gnome 3
    - Python 3
    - Zope/Plone to RUN under python 2.6

    * Not so possible

    - Free broadband internet in Brazil =)
    - Teletransport

  7. Are you addicted to tacos?

    Not as much as Eliott, but I really prefer Brazilian Food (mainly the dishes my wife does)

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

    This is a well know jutsu in the Arch Ninja village - he just summons 50 kage-bunshins and they lift anything in the way. Using the same idea, I have to say a thing about Eric, Pierre and Jan - we all see that they build a lot of packages - the logical reason is that they (as Aaron) uses kage-bunshins to build the packages (of course, using the local university labs to have all the needed computers)


Arch Linux Development News

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Community Highlights

Tips and Tricks

by: Ronald van Haren

Conditions in bash scripting

Creating scripts in bash will most likely require you to use conditions and loops at some point. Example of conditions are if-then-else-statements and loops.

Let us first take a look into the if-then-else condition. The basic syntax for such a statement can be written as

if <condition1>; then 			# execute when this condition is satisfied
elif <condition2>; then 		# execute when above condition is not satisfied, but this one is
else					# else execute

Obviously there are a lot of conditions we can check for, which include checking if a particular file exist, if it is readable, if it is a directory. comparing strings, etc (fire up the bash manual and look under 'CONDITIONAL EXPRESSIONS' to see the whole list of possibilities).

How do we implements this? Here is an example where we check if a file is writable. If this check returns false we see if the file exists and print a message accordingly:

if [ -w $filename ]; then				# if the file is writable
elif [ -f $filename ]; then				# if the file exists
	echo "the file "$filename" is not writable"
else							# else
	echo "the file "$filename" does not exist."

Care should be taken that you always put a space between the brackets and the condition, otherwise it won't work. It also is a good habit to quote string variables (like "$filename") above.

How about loops? Suppose we want to do some operations on (or in) a couple of subdirectories of the current working directory. This can easily be done using a for loop. For example

for i in "test1" "test2" "test3"; do
	echo "you can put some commands here"

You want to iterate some commands while a particular condition is true? Here comes the while loop to use. The syntax used in a while loop combines some of the syntax of the if statements and the for loop:

i=1				# set initial value
while [ $i -le 5 ]; do 		# do while i is less than five
	echo $i
	i=$((i+1)) 		# increment

Expand your Knowledge

Four password lockers that can help you keep your Web logins secure

"It is good practice to use a different password for each Web site you need to log in to. Good passwords tend to be long and contain a wide selection of characters. That can make remembering all your passwords difficult. But you can make things easier on yourself by storing passwords for various Web sites in an encrypted file on your computer. I'll take a look at a four programs that give you easy access to your passwords when you need them and protect the password file itself against compromise."

Read the Rest

Quickly move an executable between systems with ELF Statifier

"Shared libraries that are dynamically linked make more efficient use of disk space than those that are statically linked, and more importantly allow you to perform security updates in a more efficient manner, but executables compiled against a particular version of a dynamic library expect that version of the shared library to be available on the machine they run on. If you are running machines with both Fedora 9 and openSUSE 11, the versions of some shared libraries are likely to be slightly different, and if you copy an executable between the machines, the file might fail to execute because of these version differences. With ELF Statifier you can create a statically linked version of an executable, so the executable includes the shared libraries instead of seeking them at run time. A staticly linked executable is much more likely to run on a different Linux distribution or a different version of the same distribution."

Read the Rest

Check your disks' health with GSmartControl

"GSmartControl presents your hard drive SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) health information in a graphical display. With GSmartControl you no longer have to fish around in /dev/disk/by-id to find the drive you're interested in and then inspect the output of smartctl trying to figure out which SMART attributes have values that you should care about."

Read the Rest

Linux/Unix Shell Script To Find Your Google Page Rank

"[...]this script focuses, simply, on the Google Page Rank (PR) of any specific URL. "Simply," as you'll see, is a matter of perspective. For instance, our script for today is fairly easy to follow. The actual deconstruction of Google's checksum algorithm (a "very" important piece of information if you want to get your Google PR) is somewhat complicated. "

Read the Rest

Python Data Persistence using MySQL

"The best way to learn new programming techniques is to write an application that exercises them. This article will walk you through the process of building a simple Python application that interacts with a MySQL database. In a nutshell, the application picks up some live data from a web site and then persists it to an underlying MySQL database. For the sake of simplicity, it doesn’t deal with a large dataset. Rather, it picks up a small subset of data, storing it as a few rows in the underlying database."

Read the Rest

The Humor Section

[Ghost1227] any awesome users that know how to launch under xnest?
[Ghost1227] that didn't sound quite right...
[kensai] Ghost1227, I once lunched under a nest, does that count?
[Ghost1227] kensai: see that's why i like having you around, always good for a laugh
[uhsf] users of awesome, maybe, but awesome users ?  that sounds a bit much
[kensai] me, nah, I never get to be featured in the humor section :(
[kensai] damn that editor in chief
[Ghost1227] lol
[rson] god dammit dusty.
[rson] he proofread's you right out doesn't he?
 kensai: no one cares that dev's take their spare time to compile packages for us.


And so closes yet another Arch Linux newsletter. We sincerely hope you enjoyed the newsletter this month as we enjoyed creating it for your reading pleasure. Please, contact us, with your opinions and/or suggestions for improvement. Also, we love user contributions, so feel free to submit your article for consideration.

The best to 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])