Arch Linux Newsletter

February, 2009



Welcome to another issue of the Arch Linux Newsletter. This newsletter covers from December to February. Not too much content, just the relevant. We have an excellent interview with Jan de Groot, the GNOME packager. This month feature many Arch in the media articles, proving the success of Arch Linux in general. Also we have a all the common sections updated with new information for your reading pleasure.

I would like to thank everybody that have supported the newsletter since I took it in October, 2007. You guys have been awesome, the support of the community is even stronger in Arch Linux. I am thanking all of you, because as of the next newsletter I will no longer be the author, because of time issues in real life. Ronald van Haren, will take on the job, and believe me he is the best to step up to the plate as the Arch Linux Newsletter Author.

Because of this, expect a better newsletter, I will work with Ronald and help him in everything I can, many new ideas are going to be implemented into the newsletter. So expect better releases every month from now on. All in all, I leave you with another Arch Linux Newsletter.

Eduardo "kensai" Romero

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News

Release Engineering Team

I'd like to announce a newly formed team made to manage our ISO releases. The intent here is to provide you with up to date installation tools and release ISOs based on the kernel's release schedule.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Aaron Griffin)

KDE 4.2 is out and we are ready!

Today, on January 27th, the KDE team announces the stable version of KDE 4.2.0, so we have moved all kde-packages from [testing] to [extra]. We suggest that you exit from KDE before you update, backup your ~/.kde4 configuration dir and start with a clean config.

Read the Rest

(Posted by: Andrea Scarpino)

Arch Linux in the Media

Arch64, Archlinux for 64bit processors

"I highly recommend Arch64. If you are looking for a great 64bit system and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this is the system for you. You only need a fast connection and some time. Pacman is the best package manager out there. ABS gives you freedom to create your own packages or customize packages for your machine. The community is great and very helpful. If you aren’t running a 64bit system, this review would work for Arch32 with the added bonus of having the unstable tree available to you."

Read the Rest

Arch Linux - A sleek, fast linux distribution

"I had always wanted to try Arch Linux. Mainly because, most people who used it became its ardent followers and, I wished to know what was the magic that pulled a Linux user to go the Arch Linux way."

Read the Rest

A Weekend With Arch

"It's hard to explain what Arch Linux, when it's up and running, really is. The idea, of course, is that it's what you make it. After installing the GNOME meta-package, and a few extras, I had a "core" system -- with a GNOME desktop. It's up to me to take it where I need it go next, and it pledges to keep a step back, and not try to be something I don't need it to be. It's not something that will appeal to everyone, and that's fine (and as it should be). Arch's power is ironically both in its quick and dirty optimized core system and its completely blank slate approach to making it what you want it to be."

Read the Rest

Arch Linux in review

"When writing a review, I always try and view the distribution in the light of what it is expected to do - as claimed by the creators. Each Linux distribution is unique and they all have different goals. Some try to do and be everything, while others are very niche. Some want to include binary drivers and proprietary codecs by default, while others go out of their way to make a stand against such things. It makes sense that you cannot judge them all by the same criteria. For this reason I tend to look harder at distributions which advertise their ability to do everything out of the box, because that's a big call. Users are the same. Some want a distribution to do everything for them, to include every binary driver and be able to play anything they can throw at it. Others are happy to create, tweak and configure the system themselves. This diversity is a great thing, because it helps to build our community and push it forward."

Read the Rest

Arch Linux - a distribution for enthusiasts

"For some time now I’ve been meaning to upgrade the system on my old and trusty IBM Thinkpad T42. It’s had Suse 9.3 on it from pretty much when I bought it about four years ago, and as that particular Suse version is no longer supported, it was effectively unable to be upgraded. For example, I couldn’t compile some software, because my gcc was too old. And upgrading gcc would have been a right royal pain. Solution - scrap the lot (after an appropriate backup) and start afresh!"

Read the Rest

General Linux News

VoIP recording appliance runs Linux

"A developer of open source VoIP recording software is readying an embedded VoIP recording appliance. The OrecX VoIP Recording Appliance combines OrecX's Oreka TR Total Recorder application with a 1U, Linux-based, rack-mounted server aimed at the small-to-medium business (SMB) call-handling market, says the company."

Read the Rest

OpenChange, KDE bring Exchange compatibility to Linux

"Recent developments in the OpenChange and KDE open source projects are set to bridge a “missing link” in messaging and groupware compatibility from Microsoft's Exchange to open source clients. "

Read the Rest

Linux leader on Microsoft woes

"[Companies] have learned that they can participate in the higher-value, higher-margin choice Linux offers, both in embedded and on the enterprise side. They can offer their own branded software platform based on Linux, gaining a more direct relationship to the consumer, instead of Microsoft branding [taking precedence]. If Microsoft is getting 75 percent margins, you would like some of that high-margin business. That is really the lesson."

Read the Rest

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Contributed by: Dusty Phillips

Zazzle Summary

The Zazzle Arch Schwag shop is still selling well. There seem to be a lot of Arch t-shirts wandering around out there (the most popular, by far is the Arch Is the Best shell script), but I haven't met anyone wearing one yet.

There are three new shirts available this month:

The latter two new shirts are meant to be user-customized. Everyone has their own favourite list of open source software, make sure you're wearing your own!

In addition, Zazzle recently started allowing custom embroidered products. I will be releasing several products featuring an embroidered logo in the future.

Other Schwag

The Custom Arch Schwag shop is a little unwell at the moment. We haven't sold as many USB keys as we had anticipated, which has put me in a financial crunch and filled Simo's shoebox with more USB keys than he needs. The good new is, we still have plenty of keys available for sale! ;-)

We've sold out of case badges in both white and silver, and due to the excess expense of the keys, I'm not in a position to reorder until this spring. Demand has been relatively steady for badges, so we'll probably get quite a few printed when I can afford it. There are a small number of badges left, and we're giving them away with USB key orders. By your key today and get a free case badge!

We've shipped a few items of jewellery already. I must say I'm absolutely delighted with my ring, it looks even better in real life than in the jeweller's photos. It also attracts a lot of attention, so if your goal is to advertise Arch or strike up a conversation with the ladies, this is a great tool to do it.

As always, I'm considering other custom products including laptop/messenger bags, notepads, and pens. Higher ticket items (like laptop bags and USB keys) can be a bit of a problem as the up-front investment is high. Let me know ( if you have any ideas for custom merchandise not yet available through Zazzle or the Arch Schwag shop.

Featured Interview

Jan de Groot

Jan de Groot, who single handedly maintains GNOME and Firefox in extra as the most notable and popular packages that can be mentioned, he is nearing the thousand packages mark, no easy task, that is why we appreciate his awesome work.

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

    Arjan Timmerman, the former GNOME maintainer, asked me to try out Archlinux. After a few weeks I was hooked to the simplicity of pacman and the PKGBUILD system.

  2. Can you describe your work on Arch Linux?

    My main tasks are GNOME, X.Org and GStreamer packaging. I also do some incidental Mozilla packaging, and before Andy took over the toolchain I used to maintain that also.

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

    If we count both architectures, I'm heading towards 1000 packages, which is way too much for a maintainer that has a fulltime job. I can keep up with the workload quite well, but sometimes things are stagnating.

  4. You are the GNOME packager, do you use GNOME exclusively, have you ever thought of switching?

    I use GNOME exclusively on all my systems. I have used KDE 2.x, 3.0 and 3.1 in the past, but when Debian changed their GNOME packages to 2.0 or 2.2, I switched to GNOME because I liked the simple appearance.

  5. What do you like the most about GNOME? And what you don't like that much about it?

    I like the simplicity of GNOME. The interface is dumb and simple and does what it should do. What I don't like about GNOME is that new external dependencies are forced now and then. This release was the release where PolicyKit (and ConsoleKit) were forced to the users, the next release will probably force users to install PulseAudio. Though end-users shouldn't notice difference, this makes things more complicated for both package maintainers and system administrators.

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

    I'm looking forward to new development in X.Org and the kernel. This includes things like kernel modesetting, GEM and DRI2.

  7. Are you addicted to tacos?

    No, I hardly ever eat them.

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

    As long as he eats enough tacos he should be able to.


Arch Linux Development News

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Community Highlights

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

Tips and Tricks

Contributed by: Ronald van Haren

GNU tar: an archive tool

GNU tar is an utility which creates and extracts files from archives. The name tar is derived from its initial use, namely Tape ARchiver. After reading this tips and tricks section you may want to gather more information using the tar manual or info files. Both come with the a standard tar installation on Arch Linux.

Let us first look into the three most used parameters to the tar command, namely --create (or -c) to create a new archive, --list (or -t) to list the contents of an existing archive, and --extract (or -x) to extract one or more member from an archive. Further we may need the --file (or -f) option to specify the name of the archive we want to create, list or extract. Note that -f should always be the last option before the archive name or you will likely get an unexpected result.

You want to know if you already added that particular file to your archive? That is pretty easily done using

  tar --list --file=myarchive.tar $myfilename

or, using wildcards

  tar --list --file=myarchive.tar --wildcards '*partofname*'

Please note that $myfilename should be the location from the parent directory (so the directory from which you issue the command). Similar commands can be used to list contents of a directory in the archive.

Extracting only a single file from an archive can also be done in much the same way,

  tar --extract --file=myarchive.tar $myfilename

Extracting using wildcards can be done via

  tar --extract --file-myarchive.tar --wildcards --no-anchored '*partofname*'

here the --no-anchored option is added to allow recursive search in all subdirectories in the archive.

Okay, that was easy right? You have probably already used these options quite a number of times. Let us proceed and look into the more exotic and less frequently used options of the GNU tar progam.

To append a file to the end of an archive, there is no need to create a new archive. This can be handled with the --append (or -r) option. Note that members of the same name will not be overwritten and the archive may hold multiple members of the same name after one performs this action. In this case only the latest added member of the group (the one that shows last with the --list option) ends up in the working directory. Appendng a file to an archive can be done in a way similar to

  tar --append --file=myarchive.tar $myfilename

and to extract any other member of the same name than the last one, one can use the --occurrence option. For example to extract only the second occurence of a member from an archive

  tar --extract --file=myarchive.tar --occurrence=2 $myfilename

An option related to the --append option is the --update (or -u) option. This option only differs in the fact that it only appends a member with the same name as one already in the archive if the member to be appended is modified more recently.

Now we know how to append files to an archive, let us see how we can remove members of an archive. The operation which can do this is the --delete operation (no short form exists). Delete rewrites the archive so make sure you have the necessary permissions to do so. The deleting operation is performed like this:

  tar --delete --file=myarchive.tar $myfilename

With the --concatenate (or --catenate or -A) operation one can add an archive to another archive of choice. It can be best explained with the use of an example (please note that the archive to the --file operation is the archive to which the other archive is added):

  tar --concatenate --file=myarchive.tar myarchive2.tar

Finally, the --compare or --diff (or -d) operation is useful to compare members of an archive with files with the same name present on the filesystem in terms of filesize, ownership, content, modification date, etc. Such an operation can come handy to check if the member in the archive is the latest version as present in the filesytem. By default, if no membername is specified, the comparison is done for all members of the archive. If only a specific member needs to be checked, this can be done via

  tar --compare --file=myarchive.tar $myfilename1 $myfilename2

There are many other useful options to tar that will perhaps be discussed in the future. For the time being, its a great time to consult the tar man and info pages to improve your knowledge further.

Expand your Knowledge

How-To: Install Ubuntu On Your PS3 For Vintage Gaming Emulation

"It still kind of surprises me (in a good way) that Sony was, from the start, very OK with PS3 owners tinkering with Linux on their PS3s. A modified release of Yellow Dog Linux was available from the very beginning, and some very handy hard drive partitioning and dual-boot utilities are baked right into the PS3's XMB; Ubuntu gets installed on an entirely separate partition of your PS3's hard disk, so your default system doesn't get touched and switching between Ubuntu and the XMB is a piece of cake."

Read the Rest

Speaking UNIX: Stayin' alive with Screen

"The command line is a powerful tool, but it has a fatal weakness: If the shell perishes, so does your work. To keep your shell and your work alive—even across multiple sessions and dropped connections—use GNU Screen, a windowing system for your console.
Harry Potter may have his wand, Thor may have Mjöllnir, and Buckethead may have his axe, but all those gizmos pale in power to the QWERTY. With a few taps at the command line, you can launch a Web site, recruit legions to your cause, or vanquish a marauding thunder lizard. "

Read the Rest

How To Argue That Open Source Software Is Secure?

"Lately there has been a huge push by Certified Microsoft Professionals and their companies to call (potential) clients and warn them of the dangers of open source. This week I received calls from four different customers saying that they were warned that they are dangerously insecure because they run open source operating systems or software, because 'anyone can read the code and hack you with ease.' Other colleagues in the area also have noticed that three local Microsoft Partners have been trying to strike fear in the minds of companies that respond, 'Yes, we use open source or Linux' when the sales call comes in. I know this is simply a sales tactic by these companies, but how do I fix the damage these tactics cause? I have several customers who now want more than my word about the security of systems that have worked for them flawlessly for 5-6 years, with minimal expense outside of upgrades and patching for security. Does anyone have a good plan or sources of reliable information that can be used to inform the customer?"

Read the Rest

The Humor Section

[... Gorgut is having problems with his computer ...]
* Daenyth stands on top of Gorgut's head
[Daenyth] does this help?
[Gorgut] Daenyth: no...?
[Daenyth] oh :(
[Daenyth] it usually works...
Xilon > eclipse is slow
cupe^ > Eclipse is.. like syrup
Xilon > cupe^: it's sweet but can potentially kill you?


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])