Arch Linux Newsletter

April, 2009



Another month, another great Arch Linux newsletter for you to enjoy. It is interesting to see how much media exposure Arch Linux is gaining lately. We have a section dedicated to it full of links to different reviews or mentions of Arch Linux by the media. Also interesting is that Arch Linux was picked one of the five best distributions by Life Hacker.

As always, we have an interview with an Arch Linux developer. This month our interview is with the maintainer of the kernel package for Arch Linux. Also, this month features an interview with the Arch Linux Games Team; the ones behind the Arch Linux games repository. Additionally, community member Chris Brannon cannot go without notice. His work with building an Arch Linux installation media for the blind is a much appreciated effort that many will enjoy.

Last but not least, Alex Minkiewicz teaches us how to use screen, an awesome application that might boost up your productivity as a Linux user. All of this and more, made available to you by the awesome Arch Linux Newsletter Team. Thanks for your support, and enjoy.

Eduardo Romero (On behalf of the Newsletter Team)

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News


ATI catalyst support dropped

As many of you may have noticed, support for the catalyst ATI Linux driver, has been moved to the AUR (Arch Linux User Repository). This was partly due to lack of motivation from the maintainer in charge of the package and lack of support from AMD to the general Linux ecosystem. AMD has been great to the Linux community, and ... (Read the Rest)


Bug Day - Saturday 21st March

On Saturday the 21st of March we will be holding a bug day to combat the ever increasing number of reports in our bug tracker. We will clear outdated reports, fix/implement those that already have patches provided or are trivial to fix/implement and discuss the pros and cons of implementing some feature requests. A rough TODO list that you can ... (Read the Rest)


xorg-server 1.6.0 in testing

The upcoming version of xorg-server will have a lot of workarounds and patches removed. Doing so, the package becomes easier to understand, as even its maintainer has no idea what is happening anymore. When upgrading to xorg-server-1.6, you will see these file conflicts on most systems: error: failed to prepare transaction (conflicting files) xorg-server: /usr/lib/xorg/modules/extensions/ exists in filesystem xorg-server: /usr/lib/xorg/modules/ ... (Read the Rest)

Arch Linux in the Media

Five Best Linux Distributions

"You get a pretty lean, spartan system at first, but it can be quickly built onto using the Pacman package manager. There's an extensive list comparing Arch to other distributions in the distro's wiki, and it's definitely worth a look if you're trying to decide whether Arch is for you." (Read the Rest)

Arch Linux - a distro collector’s pick

"Are you tired of frequent seeking or all these mega-piles of CDs constantly growing on your desktop? Is there any place left out there? Do you really need to wait another six months to update your software or get the feature you expect? Well, what I want to tell you is that there is a solution! Let me introduce to you, Arch Linux." ( Read the Rest)

Arch Linux Review

"Arch Linux is a great distro, it has almost always the latest package versions available, it is optimized to run on modern computers, and is a great option for the Desktop user, it may requiere a little of work to make it work, but do not be afraid it is actually easy to make it, you just need some time." (Read the Rest)

Advantages and Disadvantages of Arch Linux over other distributions

"Arch Linux is one of my favorite distros, and my main distro for some time. Has features that make it the ideal distro for those who want to learn more about Linux, but without losing the simplicity. One way to know a little more about Arch for those who haven't used it yet, is knowing of its advantages and disadvantages compared to other distributions, although these are often subjective and depend on what the user wants to do with Linux." (Read the Rest) (Spanish)


Arch Linux Development News

Featured Interview

Hi Tobias Powalowski, we would like to know how you discovered Arch Linux, and how did you become a developer?

Huh, quite some time ago :) (damn, 5 years are gone ...) In early 2004 I was searching for a distribution which already offers the 2.6 kernel series and latest KDE packages. I tried Slackware, but the missing package manager was a big disadvantage. The next one was already Arch Linux. (I think it was 0.6 installation iso) As a former SUSE user, I tried to do my daily work with Arch Linux. After 2 weeks of testing I kicked down SUSE and started to build missing packages. 4 weeks later, I applied for a TU position and extended packaging a lot. In August 2004 Judd invited me to join the Archlinux developer team. After that, I took over KDE and Openoffice maintainership. Then I became interested in kernel and hardware detection. Those who can remember, hwdetect was introduced to do autoprobing of modules. The Kernel package was unified and initramdisk setup was introduced. Udev development speeded up and replaced hwdetect for module loading. After that Initramdisk boot sequence was replaced with Initcpio. Archboot was born to replace the old offical Installation ISO. After finishing studying, my spare time was reduced heavily. KDE was taken by Pierre since 4.x series and official ISOs are now created by the release team using the new AIF installer and archiso boot sequence.

I understand you are in charge of the Arch Linux kernel among other packages, can you explain a bit in depth about your roles for Arch Linux?

At the moment my focus is mainly on kernel, boot process and early userspace. I'm still doing some work on KDE packages (eg: digikam, trying to get back to amarok soon), I'm really happy that Pierre does such a good job on KDE :). If there is enough time I hack on my archboot project and help on the official installation ISO. Porting Archlinux to Nintendo DS(tm) would be perhaps a fun task in the future ;)

Maintaining the kernel should be a hard job, can you tell us a bit more about the difficulty of such a task?

It has improved a lot since the latest main kernel releases. The main issue you encounter is that you cannot test all hardware that exists on the planet before moving things from [testing] to [core]. Also the 3rd party binary modules are sometimes really difficult to fix to compile and work with the latest kernel releases. Inclusion of new things and removing old deprecated things can be a real hard task. The perfect kernel has not yet been released, every kernel has issues. (eg. alsa is always broken on some machines) As you see, it never becomes boring if you maintain the kernel package ;)

Anything you would like to improve in the kernel26 package?

Hrm, perhaps we can split out the include files to a seperate package with the next big pacman release, that would improve readability a lot.

Well, changing the topic a bit, any technologies in which you are particularly interested? For Linux or in general?

Virtualization is a technology I'm interested in and I'm happy in watching KDE and Linux desktop development.

Well, thanks for your time Tobias, we do appreciate your work. Anything else you would like to tell the users?

I would be so happy if someone could write a working kopete IRC plugin for KDE4 so I can use IRC channels again with my favorite messenger application.

The community grows daily, we become more and more a distribution that is recognized by others. That's great and I'm sure we will manage the growth of the community, to become one of the big Linux players, who don't need GUIs for configuration.

Thanks for using Arch Linux, reporting bugs, contributing code and donations. It's great to see how Arch Linux has evolved and without the work of so many users, TU's and developers, this wouldn't have been possible. We should keep on going down the road to world domination ... :D

Bug Day Review

By: Allan McRae

On Saturday 21st of March, we held the first Arch Linux Bug Day since the end of 2007! Although only scheduled for a day, the differences in time-zones across the world meant many participants continued for most of the weekend. The goal was to combat the ever increasing number of reports in our bug tracker, through the closing of old bugs that had been fixed or were otherwise now invalid and by rebuilding packages for which trivial fixes had been supplied.

In total, over 150 bugs were closed in the bug tracker during the weekend (128 for the main Arch project, 25 for Community and 1 Pacman bug). Dozens of other invalid bugs were closed in preparing for bug day during the proceeding week.

The Devs and TUs involved extend a big thank you to users who helped out by locating bugs to close or those that had trivial fixes and by looking for and testing fixes for other bugs. Thanks especially to users wonder, jra (byte), djgera, fijam, ombra09, tigermesh and pyther who were active throughout the weekend.

  • Some memorable IRC moments:
  • < hdoria>  _Snowman_, JGC lets do a rush
    <hdoria>  we need to close 100 bugs
    <_Snowman_>  I was about to take a break
    <_Snowman_>  I'll be back in an hour
    <hdoria>  break is for the weaks
    <hdoria>  :P
    <djgera>  well guys, i am leaving, if not my girlfriend, kill
    <fijam>  okay, it's way past midnight, I am out
    <fijam>  will just leave some loose ends if someone wants to have a look
    <hdoria>  dont leave me
    <hdoria>  :P
    <hdoria>  man
    <hdoria>  since allanbrokeit came back, 20 bugs were opened
    <allanbrokeit>  lies!
    <hdoria>  :P
    <_Snowman_>  it's quiet here since wonder left
    <MrElendig>  I'm going to open a new bug!
    <MrElendig>  muhahahaha!
    <MrElendig>  I will undo all your work!
    Sunday afternoon, Montreal time:
    <_Snowman_>  i don't think I'll do much bug squashing today
    <_Snowman_>  I keep having internet connection problems

    Arch Linux Schwag Report

    Zazzle Summary

    Several of the new embroidered track jackets sold after last month's newsletter, so I've added a couple new embroidered products:

    It costs to get the embroidered logo stitch pattern made, so all the embroidered products are using the same pattern. Pick the one that suits you best, and remember, you can always customize it using Zazzle's tools.

    Forum member bangkok_manouel e-mailed me this month with the following to say:

    We have the "hacked phrak" T-shirts, the tacos T-shirts, now we're missing the "Allan broke it" T-shirts so I tried to fix that.

    So here's the shirt.

    This inspired me to create an entire new product line entitled "Arch Legends", but I haven't had time yet. Next month then!

    I randomly decided that a Tux Fridge Magnet would be cute. So I made one.

    I got bored one day and started an off topic thread questioning the randomness of a certain number. I thought I was being clever, but somebody broke it by bringing up the obligatory "XKCD did it first" comment. However, lively discussion ensued and I realized that opinions as to the randomness of the number 14 are, in fact, divided. So pick a side and wear it proudly:

    If you aren't sure which side to take, buy them both and pick which one to wear each day randomly!

    Other Schwag

    With Arch's surge in popularity after the release last month, we sold a fair number of the remaining USB keys. (Or maybe it was the free case badge offer...) I'm out of debt and we have about 20 keys remaining. I've reduced the price to $35 per key in hopes of getting rid of them quickly. So the time has never been better to get your own Arch USB key... and its almost too late, so don't miss out!

    I will be ordering more case badges in April. Start saving, they're about $2 a badge, so everyone can afford at least one!

    For those new to the Schwag, we also have unique and beautiful Pendants,Pins and Rings cast in silver (though if you're loaded, gold and platinum versions can also be created.) These are my personal favourite of all the Arch Schwag items available.

    If you have any ideas for custom schwag, whether it is images or ideas to be posted on the t-shirts and other merchandise at the Zazzle store or new products we can have custom made cheaply for redistribution on the Schwag Shop, feel free to contact me with suggestions.

    Community Highlights

    TU Corner

    In Review

    Center Stage - Community Interview Arch Linux Games Project

    Hi Daenyth and Chris, we know you have been around in the community for some time, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you met Arch?

    Daenyth Blank

    I'm really just a huge nerd; I love technology and computing. Apart from those passions, I'm very into music and gaming. I first found Arch when I was looking for a distro for my new laptop. I had been using Slackware previously, but I was just getting sick and tired of the constant compiling, and with the laptop being very low-end, I wanted a binary package manager. I first tried Ubuntu, but the cd wouldn't boot from my pcmcia drive. Tried Debian after that, but using my pcmcia slot made the kernel panic. After that, someone recommended that I give Arch a try, and about 25 minutes after booting I was finished installing.

    Chris Bolton (Stythys)

    Similarly to Daenyth, I'm also a huge nerd =P. I'm very into technology and have been using computers my entire life. Apart from that, I'm very into music (piano/English horn, specifically), a little gaming, and a bit of photography. I switched to Linux a few years ago, and used Ubuntu for the majority of the time. Half a year ago or so I wanted something more, since I was becoming pretty acquainted with Linux, and started distro hopping. I remember coming to arch after Gentoo, and I've never looked back. I really think this is the perfect distro out there, and don't see me ever moving away.

    Now, which was your motivation to keep using Arch Linux for long and to contribute as well?

    Daenyth Blank

    I really think Arch is the perfect distro for me, since I'm a bit of a control freak. It's fast, simple, and lets me do things my own way. I started contributing because I really appreciated the help I had been given, and wanted to help others in turn. I can't really imagine myself choosing any other distro at this point. Aside from the technical points, it has the absolute best community I have ever seen. The people are really wonderful.

    Chris Bolton (Stythys)

    The Arch Way describes exactly what I want in a distro. It's fast, elegent, simple, and gives you complete control with minimal effort. But what really makes this distro is the community. The community is just awesome...seriously, best I've yet to come across, which is what made me want to contribute something to all those who helped me.

    Why do you think people would benefit from the Arch Linux games project?

    Daenyth Blank

    Our goal was to make it simple for Archers to get their favorite games easily. Games in general are large, slow to compile, and just a general pain to get installed; binary packages make things a lot easier.

    Chris Bolton (Stythys)

    Games are often large, and can take a long time to compile. Sometimes you can even run into compiling errors and it can be a real pain to get working. Maybe you'll just forget about it! We wanted to take the popular games in [unsupported] and provide binary packages so people don't have to bother with all that hassle, and just get to playing! =]

    Any plans in the future for the Arch Linux games project?

    Daenyth Blank

    Chris is currently working very hard to convert our website to Redmine. When I get the combination of time and inclination I'll be working on some custom package uploading software, similar to the TU's tupkg, but simpler, more modular, and not needing a cron job. I also have in mind a system to scan our repo and try to automate finding out of date packages.

    Chris Bolton (Stythys)

    Not a whole lot at the moment...but we're really welcome to any ideas the community has, since that's why we're here in the first place. I believe Daenyth will try to get some more automated tools for us in the future sometime, if he's able, like scanning for out-of-date packages, maybe a custom uploader, stuff like that.

    Well, thanks for your efforts in contributing to Arch Linux, as we all appreciate your work. Anything else you would like to tell the users?

    Daenyth Blank

    We're always looking for volunteers. Anyone at all can contribute; even something as simple as reporting out of date packages can help, or if you'd like to get more hands-on, we can set you up as a packager. Currently our other priorities are an SMTP guru (our mailing lists and probably the mail server itself are out of commission), and possibly someone with some web developing experience to set up an archweb-like system. The best way to contact us is on the freenode IRC network in #archlinux-gaming

    Chris Bolton (Stythys)

    I can say that we're always looking for more help where it's available. Our team at the moment is basically just Daenyth and I. Also, we really do appreciate any and all feedback we can get. Even just reporting out-of-date packages, or letting us know another game that should be in there helps. What we'd most appreciate right now is a web-guru, or at least someone who can configure mail servers, as ours is busted =P. I'm doing my best to try to get it working, but it's a no-go so far.

    Screenshot Of The Month

    Graham, probably better known under his forum name Mountainjew, just switched to KDE 4.2.1 after years of using Gnome. He states that he "was looking for a simple, highly functional desktop" with everything he needs just at his fingertips. He continues by stating that he "intended to use the desktop space as much as possible without it seeming cluttered". He made a desktop that he thinks could appeal to people who have never used GNU/Linux before.

    The window border used in the screenshot is called 'Dworkindek'. Together "with a grey/white color scheme it fits in well with the 'clean' feel of KDE 4". The Plasma theme used is called 'Glowish'. Graham likes it together with the wallpaper used "as it has a nice transparent grey".

    Tips and Tricks

    Screen - Screen manager with VT100/ANSI terminal emulation

    Screen is well known for it's ability to maintain application persistence even after closing out the terminal from which it was launched. A popular usage of this functionality is to start an application from a created Screen session, detach from it and disconnect from the terminal, then reconnect and reattach from a different location.

    Screen can also split the terminal window into numbered screens running different applications. This can be useful for displaying these different applications in one terminal window.

    This Screen tip focuses on Screen's ability to share sessions with other users. This is great for collaborating with one or more users, students, coworkers, and fellow geeks! For this example let us create a Screen session on a host computer to share with someone on a remote guest computer.

    Please note that all Screen commands start with crtl-a followed by the command syntax.

  • First make sure screen is installed on the host computer. Screen is available from the Arch Linux Extra repositories:
  • pacman -S screen
  • On the host computer create a session name by running the command:
  • screen -S [session]
  • On the guest computer, ssh into the host computer as [user].
  • On the host computer enable multiuser access to Screen by running the command:
    :multiuser on
  • On the host computer grant access to the Screen session for [user]:
  • :acladd [user]
  • Finally connect to the shared Screen session on the host computer by running the command:
  • screen -x [user]/[session]
  • There may be instances where you want [user] to have view only permissions to the shared Screen sessions. You can achieve this by running the following on the host computer:
  • :aclchg [user] -w "#"

    As always, a more extensive review of the possibilities of Screen can be obtained from the Screen info pages included in the package.

    Expand your Knowledge

    stunnel - HowTo: Bypass restrictive outbound firewalls using stunnel

    Stunnel can encrypt tcp connections inside SSL that can be used to poke a hole through an L7 filter at the firewall.  In this example, stunnel is used to make an ssh connection outside a firewall that has ssh L7 filtering enabled.

    Manipulate process priority with nice

    "...the “nicer” the program, the less CPU it will try to take from other processes; programs that are less nice tend to demand more CPU time than other programs that are nicer." (Read the Rest)

    lsof - examples and tips

    "The lsof command lists open files, sockets, and pipes. To learn more about a Unix system, run lsof on them to see what files are held open (such as libraries or log files) and what ports daemons listen to." (Read the Rest)

    The Fun Section

    joyfulgirl> benny: You're an op???
    benny> joyfulgirl: no, I know some exploits
    benny> down downright right Lowkick
    benny> hadouken
    benny> and then I get op, unless I'm in practice mode 
    tomkx> On topic please - there are other places for relationship chatter
    Daenyth> tomkx: my girlfriend is linux
    Daenyth> srsly
    Daenyth> she loves the way I "make install"
    Daenyth> all her /dev entries are mode 7 for me ;)


    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 (Eduardo Romero [eduardo {at} archlinux . org], Ronald Van Haren [ronald {at} archlinux . org], Dusty Phillips [dusty {at} archlinux . org], Alex Minkiewicz [arch {at} sent . com], and Dan Griffiths [ghost1227 {at} archlinux . us])