Arch Linux Newsletter

October, 2008

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Welcome

Welcome to another issue of the Arch Linux Newsletter. GNOME 2.24 is almost here, packages are appearing in the testing repository already, and we know Jan de Groot is working hard to provide us with this fine Desktop Environment. We know this is a hard task, but he is taking extra precautions to make the transition as smooth as possible.

This month Eric Bélanger is being interviewed, an interesting interview as always. Also this month the humor section is packed with original stuff, so you all get a good laugh. Sadly, Branko Vukelic is no longer contributing the Bounce, apparently he got bounced too far. We wish the best for him.

I apologize for the one week delay, but here we are, better late than never.

Eduardo "kensai" Romero

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News

TeXLive now in extra

Based on the official release last week of TeXLive 2008, a collection of texlive packages is now available in extra and replaces the obsolete tetex. Some important points to note:

Read the Rest

(Posted by: François Charette)

netcfg v2.1 in [core]

netcfg v2.1 is mostly a bug fix release, however there are some important changes and new features.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: James Rayner)

Arch Linux in the Media

Live DVD for Linux Games

"The liveDVD itself is based on ArchLinux and comes pre-loaded with 13 popular Linux games, and more are planned for future release. Some of the games currently available are:"

Read the Rest

General Linux News

Michael Larabel talks about Phoronix

"Phoronix.com is the definitive Linux hardware review site, featuring articles on motherboards, processors, memory, power supplies, cases, and other components. While other sites throw a hardware review into the mix occasionally, hardware reviews are the primary focus of Phoronix.com. Phoronix founder and executive editor Michael Larabel has it down to a science -- so much so that he was able to package and released his primary tools as an open source hardware testing suite. Now it is easy for anyone to obtain reliable and repeatable benchmarks for the components in their personal computer."

Read the Rest

Tux3 Report: What next?

"It's been a busy week with all the checkins. Not all of them from me! And Tux3 university, which seems to be going quite well. For the next session (Tuesday, 8 p.m. pacific time on irc.oftc.net #tux3) the theme will be: VFS read and write. Yes, that's all, and it's a lot."

Read the Rest

GNOME 3.0 Art Roadmap - First draft

"This is the first draft of the GNOME 3.0 Art Roadmap. I made this because nobody was planning on doing so, and I cannot let GNOME 3.0 go by without some impressive changes. Now this roadmap contains some of my personal views and those of others that I’ve picked up. The document will probably change a lot, but it’s a first start, and I think we need a clear direction."

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Big Blue Adopts Anti-Shenanigans Standards Policy

"IBM is grappling with a particularly testy issue in the tech world -- the process of developing uniform standards -- with the formalization of a corporate strategy that underscores openness. IBM and Microsoft recently went toe-to-toe over ISO's adoption of OOXML, but Big Blue insists that it is not taking issue with a particular decision or group, merely pushing for more transparency."

Read the Rest

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips

Summary

Between August 15, 2008 and September 15, 2008, we sold a total of 33 products on the Arch Linux Schwag shop hosted by Zazzle. Our total royalties and referrals came to $44.73. Interest in Schwag is remaining steady.

In addition, Zazzle has recently introduced a Volume Discount Bonus. I think this took effect for the beginning of September. It basically means that if Arch Schwag products gross over $100 per month they give us an additional 7%. Since we gross about $400 per month, this could mean up to $30 more in Arch Schwag earnings each month.

I tried to publish Arch Linux Shoes (Walk it Simple with High Arches!), but the zazzle approval process for publishing shoes seems to be a bit messed up and I simply can't get them into the public gallery. However we do have two new products:

I don't know how popular these products will be, but since they're available, I thought I'd make them available to you as well!

Other Schwag

We still have plenty of White and Silver Arch Linux case badges left for purchase, as featured on schwag.neotuli.net. We shipped about 70 badges between August 15 and September 15. After the initial flood of orders that knocked us off our feet, there seems to remain a relatively steady stream of orders; we receive a new order every few days.

In addition, I recently stumbled across this page and contacted the author to see if there was any possibility to have some Arch Linux jewellery created. The jeweller has sent me some preliminary designs for Arch Linux rings and a pendant. These will be a very unique way to express your love of Arch. We're lucky to have such a beautiful logo, it converts to jewellery form very very nicely!

Finally, I've been researching placing an order for some Arch Linux USB keys. The current limitation is the initial investment; I would like to make enough money off existing Arch Schwag offerings to reinvest in new products. At the moment I'm planning on selling 2GB flash drives at $25 each. I don't have a timeline yet, but they should be available by the end of the year.

As these offerings become available, I will be writing a storefront to use instead of our current error-prone and unprofessional google web form.

Contributed Article

by: Eduardo "kensai" Romero

The Diversity of Arch Linux. Endless possibilities.

We, the Arch Linux Developers, like to call Arch Linux a meta-distribution. With Arch Linux, decisions like how to configure your desktop are your own, and we strive to keep these customizations in your hands. The configuration choices for your system are limitless. For example, you can have a minimal installation, only the base system and the console that Linux provide. You can go for a medium sized installation, containing a window manager and some light applications you would like to use for productivity. Or, you can install a full desktop environment, like GNOME, KDE, XFCE or LXDE, and set it up the way you want. Every installation of Arch Linux is different from every other, depending on the desires of the user performing the task.

What about Ease of Use? Well, have it as you like as well. You can have a very basic desktop, performing only tasks you deem necessary; browsing the web, reading emails and instant messaging for example. But we also have in the official repositories, complemented with the Arch Users Repository, all the applications needed to create an Arch Linux system that can automatically mount devices such as USB flash drives, digital cameras, portable music players, and much more. Also the applications necessary for syncing palm pilots, PDAs, cell phones and similar devices as well. And to the surprise of many users, all of these features are available in basic desktop installation. In other words just installing XFCE4, KDE4, GNOME or LXDE will give you all those functionalities we just talked about.

An Arch User must have a basic knowledge of the applications needed to perform such tasks in order to create an environment with a level of usability perfectly suited for him. And the user does not depend on, or need to worry about the developer decisions as to where the distribution is headed. We try our best to package everything in a way that doesn't interfere with the user's usage of the applications in question.

Note: This is the first in a series of articles about the Arch Linux distribution and all its possible various configurations. Hope you enjoy!

Featured Interview

Eric Bélanger

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

    Before using Arch Linux, I was using Slackware. It is a nice distro but the number of official packages is rather limited. I did try to install packages that I could find on the net but most of the time they were for older version of Slackware so they were not always working as expected. At the time, I didn't know much about packaging and system administration so I couldn't understand/fix the problem. Therefore, I started to look for another distro with a larger package selection. I also wanted the ability to install and update packages via the Internet like Debian but more up-to-date so it would work better with my laptop. I did a search on DistroWatch with these criteria and Arch Linux came in the results. To make a long story short, I tried it and liked it.

  2. Can you describe your work on Arch Linux?

    I am mostly acting as a packager as I maintain quite a few packages in the repos (core, extra, community). I also build x86_64 packages for the devs/TU who don't have access to a x86_64 machine. I do repo-related work like orphaned package adoption and repo cleanup. Finally, I do administrative work on the forums as necessary.

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

    The only thing I would change would be to decrease my packaging workload in order to have more time to work on other parts of the distro. I can't say what I would do but I'm sure that I would be able to find something as there's plenty of work.

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

    Probably the same as on the website.

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

    Usually, yes. It becomes a responsibility when the out-of-date packages pile up or when I struggle to figure out or fix a bug or build issue.

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

    Not really.

  7. Are you addicted to tacos?

    No. Why would I eat tacos when I can have poutine?

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

    Aaron Griffin? Who's Aaron Griffin?

Devland

Arch Linux Development News

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Community Highlights

Tips and Tricks

by: Ronald van Haren

Crond - cron daemon

The manpage defines crond as a background daemon that parses individual crontab files and executes commands on behalf of the users in question. By default, after adding crond to the daemons array in /etc/rc.conf, or starting the daemon manually, scripts that are placed in /etc/cron.{hourly,daily,weekly,monthly} are run once in the timespan indicated by the directory name.

Before continuing, make sure the program is installed on your computer. As cron is in the base group, it most likely there already. If not, you can install it with the following command:

pacman -S dcron

As you may notice, several scripts may already present in one of the /etc/cron.* directories as supplied by some packages on your machine (e.g. logrotate).

Now that we have covered the basics, let us see how we can customize dcron to run some scripts or commands at a time of our liking. This is where crontab comes into play. Crontab files are by default located in /var/spool/cron/, where one by default can find a file called root (only readable as root) with a couple of entries present to run the scripts placed in the /etc/cron.* directories. As indicated in the file, do not edit this file manually. That is, if you do not know what you are doing. We will discuss later how you can work around it if you are not comfortable with the vi editor.

As indicated in the root crontab file, there are a number of fields we have to specify when adding a new command:

<minute> <hour> <day> <month> <dow> <command>
Field Description Range
minute Minutes that have passed after the selected hour 0-59 or *
hour Hours at which the selected task should be executed 0-23 or *
day Day of the month at which the selected task should be executed 0-31 or *
month Months during which the task should be executed 1-12 or *
dow Days of the week during which the task should be executed 0-6 (0=Sunday) or *
command Name of the program/script to be executed -

Now lets start adding a command we want to execute the first six days of every month, and thereafter each Wednesday at 12.30. As root, issue

crontab -e

The VI editor opens now with the root crontab file. Add a line with

30 12 1-6 * 3 mycommand_or_script

Please note that the command issued is executed when either of the conditions supplied is satisfied.
So can I do the same if I just want to run a command as my user? Sure you can! Just repeat above steps when logged into your user account.

As promised, I would give you a way to circumvent the use of the VI editor. Let me illustrate it by making a new crontab file for my username (be sure to first become root to do this).

touch /var/spool/cron/ronald
chown root:users /var/spool/cron/ronald
chmod 600 /var/spool/cron/ronald
$myfaveditor /var/spool/cron/ronald
== [ADD WHATEVER COMMAND YOU LIKE FOLLOWING DISCUSSED SCHEME]
crontab /var/spool/cron/ronald
Now everything should be fine. Next time you want to add something, you can just start at the $myfaveditor line above.
To see if you did everything correct, list the scheduled tasks (as the user you want to view the tasks for) via
crontab -l

Expand your Knowledge

Do-it-yourself Konqueror commands

"KDE's Konqueror is as multifunctional as a Swiss Army knife. It works as both a file manager and a Web browser, and you can enhance it even further by adding new commands to its repertoire by means of service menus. The new commands appear in Konqueror's context menu when you right-click a file. Here's how to create service menus, and some specific commands that you might want to use in them."

Read the Rest

5 Ways to Know You're Ready for Virtualization

"To help you avoid those opportunists who jump on new technologies like cockroaches pouncing on freshly fallen cake crumbs—gobbling up the sweet bits and running off into the dark when the lights come on, I’ve compiled 5 simple questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge. Remember all the “sky is falling” Year 2000 experts who convinced you to upgrade, replace, and heavily invest to rid yourself of this virtually (no pun intended) non-existent bug? Some of them are back as virtualization experts and this time they’re out for the rest of your blood. Giving blood voluntarily is a good thing but having it sucked from you by these buzzword-spewing, virtual vampires is painful and expensive."

Read the Rest

Speaking UNIX: !$#@*%

"If you're familiar with UNIX, the pipeline, or pipe, is an integral part of everyday processing. Originally developed by Malcolm McIlroy, the pipeline allows you to redirect the standard output (stdout) of one command to become the standard input (stdin) of the following command in a single chained execution. Using the pipeline isn't limited to one instance per execution. Quite often, the stdout of one command is used as stdin of the following command, and the subsequent stdout is redirected yet again as stdin to another command and so on."

Read the Rest

The Humor Section

[heyuxiang] anybody tried the virtual machine virtualbox ?
[Daenyth|Work] heyuxiang: I don't believe anyone has tried virtualbox
[Daenyth|Work] ever
[evaryont] kensai: we're funny? that's news to me. Maybe someone should add it to the newsletter? Who's the editor-in-cheif? ;P
[foutrelis] gwash, small incremental progress is the way to go :D
[Daenyth|Work] kensai: well duh. I am the most important here, of course I should be in the newsletter
[gwash] foutrelis: [****] incremental progress, we want CAPITALISM!!!
[kensai] evaryont, editor in chief, let me see, I gues that would be kensai, hm, me, yay!!!
[evaryont] kensai: yay!!!!
[Daenyth|Work] kensai: congrats!
[kensai] I just promoted myself
[foutrelis] gwash, I just want cookies ;-;
[evaryont] kensai: \o/
[kensai] thanks guys
[evaryont] np
[evaryont] kensai: do you deserve it?
[foutrelis] Guys, Gnome 2.24 was released like 5 hours ago; why hasn't it been upgraded in Arch? Rolling distro my ass!
[iarwain1] kensai: this is #archlinux. Nothing funny to see here

Closing

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])