Arch Linux Newsletter

March, 2009



Welcome to yet another release of the Arch Linux Newsletter. This month is a very special one for the Arch Linux Newsletter. We have an interesting interview with Pierre Schmitz, the developer in charge of KDE. In the Community Highlights section we take a look at the contributions of many Arch Linux users, highlighting the contributions of nsf, an outstanding Arch Linux user and contributor. As well, we discover who is the winner of the Screenshot of the Month title.

This newsletter in particular is sporting some new and revamped sections, please be our guest in the quest to discover what they are and what valuable information they hold for us. It is my privilege to present to you the March, 2009, Newsletter.

Eduardo Romero (On behalf of the Newsletter Team)

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News


2009.02 ISO Release Update

The original archlinux-2009.02-ftp-i686.img USB image was broken, a new image (archlinux-2009.02-2-ftp-i686.img) has been uploaded. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you. With one image broken, we also had to create new torrents: We now use a single torrent per file again and added more mirrors to the webseeds. All seeders should stop seeding the old torrent ... (Read the Rest)


2009.02 ISO Release

We proudly announce the release of the new Arch Linux installation images, version 2009.02. It took us quite a while, but we think the result is worth it: we added some cool new things and ironed out some long-lasting imperfections. 2009.02 comes with the following features: - Kernel 2.6.28 - Ext4 support. Installation can be done on a ext4 root ... (Read the Rest)

Arch Linux in the Media

2009.02 Release

The new Arch Linux 2009.2 release was accompanied by competition among Linux sites trying to claim first posting rights on their front pages. Notable sites including Distrowatch, OSNews, Heise Online, Softpedia, and TecChannel all raced to the finish.  It's hard to say who won, but it was very exciting to see Arch Linux get such great exposure.

Arch Linux reviewed over at Guia do PC

"Arch Linux developers and users believe that trying to hide the complexities of a system actually results in an even more complex system, and is therefore to be avoided." (Read the Rest) (English)

Arch Linux Revolts Against ATI Catalyst Driver

"Eduardo Romero and Andreas Radke of the Arch Linux project feel the Catalyst Linux driver is "in a pitiful state and AMD is doing close to nothing to improve the situation, they just take Linux as a joke." As a result of them not liking this ATI driver, it's going to be moved out of Arch's extra repository and into AUR or Community, which puts it in a lesser state." (Read the Rest)

Arch drops ATI's Catalyst driver

"Since being bought by AMD in 2006, we were promised improved Linux drivers for ATI video cards. Recently AMD released a second batch of information on their hardware to the open source community, which helps to feed into the radeonhd driver, but their closed source proprietary driver still remains, well, closed. The driver has always been second rate, but now it has gotten to the point that Arch Linux developers have decided to dump it all together." (Read the Rest)


Arch Linux Development News

Featured Interview

Hi Pierre, first we would like to ask about your background. How did you come to Arch Linux? And how did you become a developer?

Early in 2003 I had started to use Linux regularly. It was about July of 2004 when I was looking for a new distribution. I wanted one with all the new stuff and a rolling release schedule. And I wanted something easy to use and understand. That means I wanted to know how the system configuration and packaging works without reading the manual. So I was recommend to have a look at Arch.

A few month later, at the end of December 2004, I initiated the first German Arch forum. Having some experience with forum hosting and already written my own bbs, this was a natural thing to give something back to the community.

In October 2006 I became a Trusted User and started contributing packages to the [community] repository. Of course this helped a lot to improve my so-called packaging skills.

Sometime around May 2007 I applied for the job as developer in order to help with the x86_64 port of Arch.

I understand you work maintaining KDE in between other packages, how has maintaining KDE been as a task?

I took over the maintainer ship from Tobias (tpowa) right before the first KDE 4 release. The biggest challenge was the move from version 3 to 4. I decided to skip 4.0 and keep 3.5 until the release of 4.1 and replace it with the latter then.

Building the first set of KDE 4 packages was a lot of work. Nothing from 3.5 could be reused and I needed to get familiar with the new cmake system. It wasn't only new to the packagers but also to the KDE developers themselves. So until the release candidate of 4.1 I wasn't sure they could release on schedule; but they managed in the end.

But the situation soon improved. We now have minor bugfix releases every month and major updates with new features every six months.

With upcoming pacman 3.3 we will have the possibility to split packages easily. I am quite sure we will make use of this feature to improve our KDE (and other) packages. I won't go into detail here but no one has to worry about it. I will make sure that splitting makes sense and won't introduce any drawbacks for anyone.

The benefits are cleaner installations, choice of what to install and of course more features because we do not need to evaluate if we really want to add another dependency by enabling a rarely used feature.

We know KDE4 has been giving some headaches to some users, even Linus Torvalds switched to GNOME because of it. Can you tell us a bit about your personal experiences with KDE since the 4.1 version started to be packaged?

Linus was referring to KDE 4.0, which was never meant to be used by any end user. Anyway: From a technical point of view there is no reason not to use KDE since 4.1. It is as stable and usable as other desktop environments.

Especially if you had used KDE 3 for a long time you would have some difficulties with version 4. This applies to me as well. For example I was skeptic about Dolphin as a file manager. But if you get used to it, it is a great improvement over Konqueror. But I think if you had never used Konqueror before you would find the usage of Dolphin very intuitive.

In general I am amazed at the speed of development. Let's not forget that KDE releases 4.2 just one year after 4.0.

Do you think KDE4, which is at version 4.2, is now ready for the production use, the end user should make the move at this time?

There is no doubt that KDE is ready for production use. But of course KDE is not the desktop to fit everyone's need. So, if you are interested in something new, install KDE, use it for at least one week and decide yourself if this is really the right thing for you.

And for those who still use KDE 3.5: give the new version a try. Some things are different but in general improved.

Changing the topic a bit, are there any new technologies coming to Linux that you are expecting?

In the near future I expect the first usable web browsers based on the WebKit engine. It is important to have some counterpart to Mozilla's Gecko. It is lightweight, very fast and can be used on different platforms with different toolkits.

Qt 4.5 ships with an improved version of this rendering engine including SquirrelFish Extreme, a very fast engine for JavaScript. Upcoming Gnome 2.26 will use WebKit in its web browser Epiphany. And last but not least we have some new standalone browsers like Arora or Midori.

In the long term I am excited how the situation about graphic drivers for Linux will develop. At the moment we either have to use closed source drivers, open but broken drivers or even closed and broken drivers.

Pierre, thanks for the interview, we do appreciate the hard work you put into Arch Linux in general. Anything else you would like to tell the users?

Since I have been with Arch we have experienced a great number of changes and general improvements. Our popularity increases and we welcome new users every day. In future we will have to deal with a bigger and bigger community. It will be important to keep our philosophy and underline the so-called Arch way.

In addition to this it will be interesting to see how well our infrastructure will scale. For example we currently have more than 70 mirrors worldwide. A majority of them syncs directly from the main server. This results in a delay of several days when big updates like KDE or even new ISOs have to be distributed.

Last but not least it seems we have to be more careful on what and how to post on our public mailing lists. While nobody was interested in this in the past, you will now find your words distributed by blogs and news sites immediately.

For example, I remember how my ssh connection to my server began to lag; some guys where maxing out my 100 MBit connection, just after I had posted the availability of some test ISOs to a developer mailing list.

And let us not forget the discussion about the possible removal of the catalyst drivers some days ago which was picked up by Phoronix as "Arch Linux Revolts Against ATI Catalyst Driver" before we had a final decision or even an announcement.

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Zazzle Summary

As I promised in the last newsletter, we are now featuring a couple of embroidered products on the Arch Schwag Shop:

Discussion broke out on the forum as to how you relate to Arch. Xyne accidentally suggested this t-shirt.

More seriously, we lost a product on Zazzle this month; the "Hacked by Phrak" round sticker was removed at Mattel's request due to perceived copyright infringement. Apparently they don't like us paying tribute to the Skeletor character. This greatly irritated me and I realized that the legend behind the Phrakture character and Arch Linux is too good for Skeletor. Phrakture can crush Skeletor, he can hack Skeletor, he can throw cars at Skeletor. Phrakture is the MAN. Phrakture deserves his own character.

So without further ado, I present the new official Phrakture!:

I'm hoping this character will overtake the legend and we will break all connection with the character Phrakture so naively honoured. We're better than those big pushy companies and their lawyers-on-retainer. If you have some graphic ability, feel free to submit your take on the real Phrakture to be included in other products. Going forward, I solicit the community's help in eliminating references to the Skeletor character.

Finally, while demonstrating these posters to Pyther he said he'd like a poster featuring the Arch Linux logo. Here it is.

Other Schwag

I believe we have finally resolved the DNS issues at the Arch Schwag shop. Simo's in-depth knowledge of the DNS service was incredibly useful, this guy deserves a free dinner if I ever see him.

We've sold a few more USB keys this month, and are still giving away case badges with each order until we run out of them (which will be soon). We will probably be ordering a new batch of case badges in April. Interest in jewellery seems to be increasing.

Community Highlights

TU Corner

In Review

Editor's Note: Although the above sentence does not apply anymore, it remains there for informative purposes.

Center Stage

Screenshot Of The Month

The beauty of a screenshot is defined by ones taste, and is very personal. In this section we seek for both originality and creativity, keeping usability in mind. The screenshot which took most of our attention this month is called 'shades of gray' by phisphere. Phisphere, who first started using awesome back at version 2 because of its "simplicity and clean config files", was initially struggling with the new lua configuration style coming with awesome version 3. He states that his setup "was an experimental project to make the best out of different shades of gray". Some of the configuration files used to create this setup are currently available via this link.

Tips and Tricks

GNU Wget - The Non-Interactive Network Downloader

The info page describes GNU Wget as a utility that allows the user to download files from the web, supporting HTTP, HTTPS, and FTP protocols, as well as retrieval through HTTP proxies. It is non-interactive in the sense that it can work in the background without the user being logged in, allowing the completion of a transfer when disconnecting the account.

GNU Wget accepts the following syntax, where the required options and url should be substituted in the syntax:

wget [OPTIONS] [URL]

Here is a list of the most common options to wget:

The above gives you a nice overview of some of the great possibilities available with GNU Wget. For a much more extensive list please consult the GNU Wget info page.

One last tip, if you find yourself using the same options over and over again, consider adding them as an alias in your ~/.bashrc.

Expand your Knowledge

SSH Tricks

"SSH (secure shell) is a program enabling secure access to remote filesystems. Not everyone is aware of other powerful SSH capabilities, such as passwordless login, automatic execution of commands on a remote system or even mounting a remote folder using SSH! In this article we’ll cover these features and much more." (Read the Rest)

htop: an alternative to top

"...though an applications like top makes sense on the console, a more sophisticated one would be great, extending the basic top functionality with enhancements to it’s usage. This tool already exists: It’s the ncurses based “htop” and we’ll have a closer look at it now. " (Read the Rest)

Prompt Magic

"Why stick with the standard boring shell prompt when you can easily make it colorful and more informative? In this tip, Daniel Robbins will show you how to get your shell prompt just the way you like it, as well as how to dynamically update your X terminal's title bar." (Read the Rest)

The Fun Section

SquareHimself> select * from PORNVIDS;
Daenyth_> Error: OOM
mattikus> time to go do big boy work
fogobogo> the toilet? again!!!
mattikus> i eat a lot of fiber
Howitzer> fluxbox is bloated!! It includes a panel! :D
rson> Howitzer: openbox is bloated, it includes xml


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])