Arch Linux Newsletter

May, 2009



A month has passed in silence without any word from the newsletter team. Behind the scenes hard work has been done to create yet another great Arch Linux newsletter for you to enjoy. This month the Arch Linux newsletter sees, among others, a great interview with Hugo Doria, one of our developers. We also take a tour through our Schwag shop, where we spend some time looking at some of the new collector items.

In the community highlights we discover some of the great work of Xyne, and pogeymanz explains what, for him, makes the ideal desktop. Additionally, we have a general review of what happened in the Arch Linux community this last month.

Last, but not least, we try to increase your knowledge a little further through a great article about diff. All of this and much more is made available for you by the awesome Arch Linux Newsletter Team. Thanks for your support, and enjoy.

Ronald van Haren (On behalf of the Newsletter Team)

Table Of Contents

Arch Linux Front Page News


vi, vim and gvim update

Finally, the new vi* packages are up. There will be a little migration pain. For optimal results, I recommend to "sudo rm /usr/bin/{view,rview}" before you run "sudo pacman -Syu"


Dovecot 1.1.14 upgrade requires user intervention

Due to a limitation in pacman's conflict checking when a directory is replaced by a file with the same name, the upgrade to dovecot-1.1.14-1 requires manual interaction. It's safe to update using "pacman -Sf dovecot" to avoid two file conflicts. Please also have a look at the changed file layout and changes in /etc/dovecot/dovecot-example.conf.


Xorg-server 1.6.0 moves to extra

Xorg-server 1.6.0 and its related drivers will make their move to extra. This new release features input device properties, DRI2 and kernel mode-setting (KMS). Note that DRI2 and KMS are only implemented by the Intel driver at this moment. This release also comes with a new driver: xf86-video-intel-legacy. This driver is an old intel driver version, patched to support recent ...(Read the Rest)

Arch Linux in the Media

Distro Review - Arch Linux 2009.02

"After many broken promises and much procrastination, I finally made it onto Arch Linux and that’s where I’ve been for the past couple of weeks now. I had a failed attempt at Arch last year when my hard drive died; not Arch’s fault in any way, but since then I haven’t really had a chance to get back to it. It’s a distro a lot of people tell me about. The Arch fans are always really passionate and enthusiastic in describing it to me; so I figured it was high time I found out for myself what all this fuss was about..." (Read the Rest)

Arch Linux at PicoCool

"PicoCool is a global community dedicated to uncovering the cool, whether in art, design, environment, culture, architecture, fashion, travel or technology." (Visit the Arch Linux PicoCool Page)

Arch Linux Review

"Well, I will say one last thing and I have been using Arch Linux for 2 weeks of work on the laptop and the desktop PC at home and I was not tempted to go back to openSUSE. Obviamente hay cosas que no domino, pero el tiempo me dará más sabiduría (así como las listas de correo, los foros y la documentación de ArchLinux). Obviously there are things you do not master, but time will give me more wisdom (as well as mailing lists, forums and documentation of ArchLinux)." (Read the Rest - Spanish) (English Translation)

Made the switch to ArchLinux

"Additionally, with Arch, practically everything in their repositories is current. I seriously have no idea how they pull it off. Their package maintainers actually appear to give a damn! At the time of writing, packages like gimp, pidgin, and banshee are all the current release version, not even 0.0.1 version behind, bloody current!" (Read the Rest)

Arch Linux Rant

Just when we were starting to get worried Arch Linux was too perfect...there it is. Like any other distribution, not even Arch Linux is for everyone. Read the article if you like to have proof. (Read the Rest)


Arch Linux Development News

Featured Interview - Hugo Doria

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

I started using Linux with Slackware, and after a learning period I felt that it was time to help the distribution. Unfortunately at that time Patrick was very sick, and all the development was very centralized on him, which made it difficult to contribute with something.

From there I began to test other distributions. I tried Debian and Gentoo, then I found Arch and felt in love with it. I identified with its philosophy, characteristics and the fact that it was very easy to contribute.

After some time using Arch I, along with some friends, started the Arch Linux Brazil group. We translated, created some documentation and packages for AUR.

I became a TU and some months later Arch was looking for developers. I applied and here I am. :)

I understand one of your tasks as a developer is keeping the packages in the repositories up to date and in working order. Can you elaborate a bit on that? Do you have a category of packages you devote most of your time to?

When I became a developer my main task was package maintenance (I maintain about 130 packages). I am very interested in packages related to security (such as namcap, ettercap and Wireshark), multimedia (mplayer and banshee) and python (pygtk).

Today I am more interested in code and projects for Arch. Now I am responsible for namcap, for example. Also, I plan to create a security project (Arch-Sheriff was a start) and add support for translation in our installer.

Recently you took up some namcap development. Can you please explain to the users what namcap is?

Namcap is a tool created to help detect problems in binary packages and PKGBUILDs.

Abhishek did a great job creating a wiki page with informations about namcap. It is a great starting point for those who want to know more about the tool.

Do you plan to keep working on namcap and can we expect some new cool features coming up?

Yes, I do. Namcap is a great help for packagers (especially the beginners) and I want to improve it.

There will be a new namcap release soon, with some bugfixes and new modules. After this release I want to work on a way to show some useful information on namcap output, such as docs size.

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

I am watching the development of ext4. I already use it on my desktops and want to see how far it will be improved. I am also very interested in virtualization.

Hugo, 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?

Arch is growing a lot and the users can perform a very important role in this story. Help in the forum, wiki, reporting bugs or creating patches are just some of the things that a user can do to make Arch better.

Oh! And never forget the "Arch Way".

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Zazzle Summary

I've been busy with other things and a bit distracted this month, so I didn't create many new Zazzle products. At the famous Mr. Green's request, the I run an Arch Linux Server t-shirt was born.

Other Schwag

I was in Chicago for Pycon towards the end of March. Besides having a great time at the conference, I met up with some famous Archers including my personal slave shipper, Simo Leon. I bought him dinner in exchange for all the great work he's done shipping case badges and USB keys. I also saw the keys for the first time myself, and I must say I'm impressed with the quality.

We only have about ten keys left, and I will not be restocking in the near future. They are not popular enough to justify the high upfront investment required to get them printed. So if you want one, now is your only chance, buy one before its too late!

Also while visiting Chicago, I met the lady responsible for the python merchandise over at WearPython (I bought the Zen of Python shirt). She is happy to provide us with a wide variety of laptop bags and backpacks; these are already available for pre-order along with our other items on the Arch Schwag Site.

These bags are currently on sale for an initial preorder that will be placed in June. I'm hoping to receive enough orders to get a modest discount on having the professional embroidery done.

I know I promised I'd be ordering more case badges this spring. I have tried to contact the printer that created our last two batches, but they haven't been responding to e-mail. I will keep trying; if I don't get a response soon, I will find a new provider. Keep an eye on the site for more details.

Community Highlights

TU Corner

In Review

Center Stage

Screenshot Of The Month

The screenshot of the month award of this month goes to Rob, maybe better known under his alias pogeymanz. Rob uses a slightly modified XFCE 4.6 environment as his desktop of choice. As he explains, when setting "the panel to 'normal width' instead of 'full width', the task list changes size depending on the number of tasks in it", which is "visually uncomfortable". Rob luckily found a patch available which changes exactly this behavior.

Rob continues by stating how much he likes compiz now that he realizes "it isn't all about wobbly windows and spinning cubes". "It actually quite K.I.S.S.", given that you can "turn off pretty much every single window managing function, including moving and resizing windows, and start adding only the functions you are going to use". It is his opinion that "anyone who is using a *box WM on decent hardware should at least give Compiz a shot. Start by making Compiz behave just like your *box WM and then just keep going until it is even more finely tweaked than your *box set up", as he explains.

The Emerald theme you see in the screenshot is called 'DarkandNameless', whereas the gtk2 theme is XFCE-4.2, the latter being available via the gtk-xfce-engine package. The last feature you see in the screenshot is 'Conky', telling Rob that everything is okay.

Tips and Tricks

Diff - comparing files line by line

Although the most well known application of the diff utility is to compare two files with each other, this is certainly not the only useful thing diff can do. How about comparing the content of two directories, or the content of a particular file with a file holding a similar name inside a directory? Another use of diff is the creation of patch files.

As you may have noticed by now, the diff utility has a quite a few possiblities. In the following examples we will only touch some of the basic and more important usages, and leave the exploration of the more exotic usages as a reading exercise to you.

Before we continue let us create two files, called file1 and file2 respectively. For the purpose of visualization we also created two simple files which we will use throughout this review. Before continuing let us first review the content of both files. In this example we use the 'more' utility for it, but of course there are many other ways of reviewing the content of a particular file.

  • arch> more file1 file2
  • liger
    3   fishes
    3 fishes

    We are now ready to go. For a lot of work the amount of whitespace used is not really important and does not prevent the code from working. The -b switch does exactly that, and the standard diff output of our example files becomes

  • arch> diff -b file1 file2
  • 0a1,2
    > dog
    > cat
    <     cat
    < dogs

    When you are working with simple lists, it may be more pleasant to display the output in column format. Let's have diff output the differences side-by-side for easy viewing while again using the -b (or --side-by-side) command switch.

  • arch> diff -by file1 file2
    				      >	dog
    				      >	cat
    liger					liger
        cat				      <
    dogs				      <
    3  fishes				3 fishes

    Sometimes you might want to compare the content differences between two separate directories. For example let us take two separate directories dir1 and dir2, each with different file contents:

  • arch> ls dir1 dir2
  • dir1:
    file1  file2
    file2  file3

    Running the diff command against these directories identifies the content differences in its output.

  • arch> diff dir1 dir2
  • Only in dir1: file1
    Only in dir2: file3

    The diff command can be taken a step further to create patch files, a well known method to submit changes in software in the open source world. In this way, you only need to provide the patch file made using diff instead of supplying any modified original source code, which decreases the size and makes reviewing the changes a lot easier. The patch command can then be leveraged to merge your changes made by diff into the source code.

    For example, the next command will create a patch file from a single modified file,

  • arch> diff -u originalfile newfile > mypatch.patch
  • Let us improve a bit on our previous command to make it applicable to a wider range of cases. We add the -a (or --text) switch to treat all files as text, the -N (or --new-file) switch to create a new file if a file is present in one directory but not the other, and the -r (or --recursive) switch to make it recursive and let diff search the whole directory tree. The new command is specially modified to work on directories, but still works equally well on two files,

  • arch> diff -Naur originaltree newtree > mypatch.patch
  • As noted before, the above examples are only some starting points for using the diff tool for comparing differences between separate files and/or directories and creating patch files. There are many more options to explore in the infopage. Check it out!

    Expand your Knowledge

    MultiTail: following multiple logfiles in a single program.

    "Troubleshooting often involves having to watch logfiles in real time. That means using tail or a similar utility to see new messages that are added to a logfile by Apache, MySQL,, or whatever program you're trying to deal with at the time. While tail is usually readily available on *nix systems, I prefer to use MultiTail whenever possible." (Read the Rest)

    Iotop: a Python program showing processes and their respective I/O's

    "Iotop does for I/O usage what top does for CPU usage. It watches I/O usage information output by the Linux kernel (requires 2.6.20 or later) and displays a table of current I/O usage by processes on the system. " (Read the Rest)

    Watch: execute a program periodically and output to the screen

    "watch is used to run any designated command at regular intervals. It displays its output on a console (i.e., all-text mode display) or terminal window (i.e., a window in a GUI that emulates a console) that is temporarily cleared of all other content (i.e., prompts, commands and results of commands). This makes it easy to observe the changing output of a command over time." (Read the Rest)

    The Fun Section

    Daenyth> I miss sex with my first gf
    thewizord> Daenyth: how'd you lose your hand?
    louipc> tiddly eh?
    fsk141> ya
    fsk141> it seems like the best solution
    fsk141> I compiled zim for os x, but it's a piece of crap
    louipc> the website almost made me crap myself
    fsk141> what site?
    fsk141> tiddlywiki?
    fsk141> good or bad way?
    louipc> crapping pants is always bad isn't it?
    fsk141> hehe
    louipc> unless you're into that kind of thing haha
    (9:26:01 AM) Celettu: pleasantly surprised yesterday when I installed Dawn of War: 
    	      Soulstorm yesterday and wine just ran it out of the box
    (9:26:09 AM) Celettu: less pleased that everything was in French..
    (9:27:04 AM) End3r: LOL
    (9:27:37 AM) Celettu: but it ran!


    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])