Staff

  • Daniel Griffiths (Ghost1227) Contact - "Executive Editor"
  • Keith Policano (GraveyardPC) - "Cover Artist"
  • Lucas Westermann (Lswest) - "Contributor"
  • Gregory Key (VampirPenguin) - "Contributor"
  • Rangelov Gyuri (t0rch) - "Contributor"

Editors Desk

Some of our readers might have noticed a certain lack of releases over the last few months. Unfortunately, personal issues prevented both myself and Kensai from really giving our beloved publication the attention it deserves. Obviously, I am back in the saddle. However, I also have the unfortunate duty of reporting that Kensai has regretfully stepped down from all official positions in the Arch community due to his recent marriage and newly found family obligations. We would like to extend our best to Kensai and his family.

On the bright side, not all the changes we have weathered recently have been bad. As I am sure you can tell by now, ALM has undergone some changes itself. The recent layout changes were designed to more tightly integrate ALM with the Arch Linux website, reflecting our recently acquired official status. Additionally, we continue to release in both PDF and html formats so that our readers who prefer a printerfriendly or textmode version can still keep up with the latest in the community.

Finally, I would like to remind all our readers that the Arch Linux Magazine and newsletter is a community driven project. What does this mean? It means that while I might bear the responsibility for publication, I can't write all of the content alone. I frequently find myself having to write a good 75% of our content! Given that I am currently working a full time job, plus dealing with a one year old son, this can become quite difficult at times and results in delays in ALM releases. While I don't mind the writing, I dislike the delays. To those who have contributed over the last few months, thank you. To the rest of the community, please submit your original articles, graphics, screenshots, reviews, and the like. If you can't think of anything to write about but would like to contribute, please feel free to contact me!

I hope that all our readers enjoy the first issue of Arch Linux Magazine for the new year, and I look forward to another great issue next month!

Daniel J Griffiths (Ghost1227) (On behalf of the Arch Linux Magazine Team)

Devland

  • The new 2.6.32 series of the Linux kernel has finally hit [core]! If you haven't already caught this update, there's a few things that you should probably be aware of. First of all, Intel KMS is now enabled by default and Radeon KMS is now disabled by default. Additionally, external modules have now been split to an extra package. Arch users who want to install these modules should install kernel26-headers. (Read more)
  • An update for netcfg is currently in [testing] that changes the options for auto wireless. The new update has better roaming support and (hopefully) will prove more reliable with more complicated wireless configurations. Users of netcfg might want to take a look at this, preferably before it hits [core]. (Read more)
  • Fans of the recently released Google browser Chrome rejoice! Long rebuilds wasting rediculous amounts of disk space are a thing of the past, Chromium has finally hit [extra]! (Read more)
  • Some of you may have been involved in the recent Bug Squashing Day. For those who missed it, this definitely wasn't our best one yet. We started off with 803 total bugs in the bugtracker, and throughout the course of the day we only managed to close twenty-five bugs! Hopefully, our next Bug Squashing Day will be more sucessful... (Read more)

Arch Linux Schwag Report

Unfortunately, we were not able to get an updated schwag report for the month due to time constraints. However, this does not mean that you should stop supporting us! Visit our schwag merchants and show how much you love Arch!

Featured Interview - Ionut Mircea Biru (Wonder)

Thank you for agreeing to talk with us today Wonder. For starters, congrats on your recent promotion to Developer. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be first a Trusted User, and now a Developer?

A couple of months ago I saw a lot of TUs resigning and some of them had packages that I use every day. I decided to do something about that and talked to Allan to ask what I could do. He redirected me to Hugo (thanks a lot!) who became my sponsor at that time. I got involved in the maintenance of a lot of packages through the unofficial bug days and other community projects and because of my activity and several of my packages I was invited by Jan to be a part of the development team.

Some of the members of our development team have found a specific niche that they are trying to fill, such as Loui's focus on the AUR. Is there some specific goal that you have for yourself in the long run? Some specific project that you would like to see completed?

I don't know what the future holds, but I would like to be more involved in migrating the repositories to delta and xz support.

The subject of delta and xz support seems to come up frequently both in IRC and on the forums. I suspect that many of our users would appreciate that particular feature. Any idea how involved implementation would be? Is this something that we might be seeing soon or is this maybe a year or two down the road still?

Pacman itself already has delta support and can use any compression method. The biggest thing that is delaying implementation are the other scripts that don't know how to handle deltas at all. I don't know how long implementation will take, that depends only on us.

Alright. Well, with the new year, not to mention a new decade, is there any particular technology you are looking forward to?

I'm looking forward to seeing how the nouveau driver will be now that it has been merged into 2.6.33 release of the kernel. I'm also looking forward to seeing how HTML5 progresses (whether or not it will replace flash), and checking out Gnome 3.

I must admit I'm curious about HTML5 myself. In closing, is there anything that you would like to say to our readers?

Use [testing], report bugs, and I always say "downgrading is not a solution." :)

Community Contributions

  • Chances are, all of our readers are familiar with Xyne's masterpiece Powerpill. Some of you may have pondered the feasability of such a program that supports ABS/AUR. Well wonder no longer! Xyne recently released a variation on the Powerpill concept, titled Bauerbill, that provides just that feature, along with the parallelization we all love and several other nifty features. Definitely worth a look! (Read more)
  • For some of our users, sharing out a file is as simple as dropping it into a preexisting folder on a local webserver. But for those who don't run their own webserver, the process of setting up Apache for such a simple task is likely overkill. Enter quickserv. Another gem from Xyne, quickserv allows the creation of an incredibly simple HTTP server for adhoc filesharing! Check it out! (Read more)
  • Hopefully, at least some of you check in on the monthly screenshot thread at least occasionally. Many of the screenshots posted include a simple informative window that tells such detail as kernel version, uptime, window manager, and the like. Now there has been a simple script floating around the forums for quite some time that provides this simple service. However, user melik has released a new version of the famous script written in Python! Why? Why not? (Read more)
  • Like color on the command line? Wish programs such as ping, md5sum and the like included more robust color support? Fear not, your wish has been granted! User cytol has released cope, a Perl wrapper for various command line programs that cloaks the output in pretty color! (Read more)
  • I kept telling myself that I shouldn't advertise my own software, but I needed another community contribution and honestly couldn't find anything else that I thought worth including. So... here it goes. Many of you have probably seen my frequent rants on the subject of display managers. Virtually every major display manager is either rediculously unstable, lacking in features, or has a huge memory footprint. I see no reason for my display manager to use 75% of my RAM! As such, I finally sat down and wrote Console Display Manager. While CDM isn't as pretty as some of the main stream alternatives, it is remarkably stable (as long as I don't release untested code), and has a surprising feature set for such a simplistic package. If you're looking for a minimalistic alternative to the big boys, check it out! (Read more)

Windows 7 GPL Violation

Contributed by: Lucas Westermann

As some of you may have already heard, the tool that Microsoft offered to create Windows 7 installable USB images (the "Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool"), was pulled from Microsoft servers recently. This was due to the fact that some of the code within the much anticipated tool was lifted from an existing opensource application (the ImageMaster project). Not only did they not offer the sourcecode, or attribute the work to the original authors, but also further restricted the licensing in their TermsOfUse.rtf file.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the GNU General Public License, it strictly states that, among other things, the distributor must offer their source code in one of three ways. Additionally, it strictly states that if you incorporate GPL-licensed code into your own software, you must release your code under the GPL as well, while clarifying any further restrictions (while keeping within the standards of the GPL), and it must carry notices that clearly state that all of the above regulations apply. Since this is technically "old news", I will focus on what happened after Microsoft removed the tool from their servers (without comment).

Microsoft's Peter Galli, who is the open-source community manager for their Redmond-based Platform Strategy Group, admitted that their tool did, in fact, contain code from the ImageMaster project. He went on to say that the use of the code and the lack of proper licensing was unintentional. Microsoft has also admitted that, although the tool was created by a third-party contractor, they share fault in this violation, as they failed to catch the infraction during the review process. Furthermore, this incident has apparently led to a review of other tools provided in the Microsoft Store. No further violations have been found, or at least publicly acknowledged.

The resulting agreement made by Microsoft included the re-release of the tool under the General Public License, along with its source, which was completed on the ninth of December. It is now hosted on the Microsoft CodePlex servers. However, now that it is opensource and under the GPL, the steps for installing the program in question have become slightly more complicated, requiring not one executable, but three. This is due to the fact that it requires the .NET Framework and Image Mastering API, which are not licensed under an open source license. While this may seem unnecessary and over complicated for casual computer users, it actually makes it a smaller download for some systems, as the .NET Framework is likely already installed on most systems due to it's popularity amongst Microsoft developers.

Despite the obvious negative connotations to this scandal, there is a positive side. The opensourcing of the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool allows developers to modify it to their needs. Despite similar opensource tools, such as unetbootin, there is always the chance that Microsoft's offering is more efficient, or at the very least, a different approach. Additionally, the fact that an industry giant such as Microsoft is willing to respect the GPL, even if only after the violation was brought to light, may prompt other companies to follow suit.

On the consumer side of things, hopefully Microsoft's willingness to follow the terms of the GPL will open people's eyes to opensource software. There are some people who follow the belief that anything released as opensource can't be secure or quality software, and who will often opt for commercial solutions when they are able to. By releasing even such a small tool under the GPL, Microsoft may cause some of those who prefer to pay for their software to at least rethink their reasons or take into account possible opensource alternatives.

This incident shows that, whether or not this particular slip-up was intentional, the code revision process can be sloppy at times leading to mistakes. This also begs the question "is this really the only case?". I know that I'll be keeping an eye out for any tools from the Microsoft Store that are moved to CodePlex in the near future. I'm not saying that Microsoft is the only company who can be affected by this sort of thing, it's distinctly possible that similar errors have occurred within other companies. Makes one wonder how many of the top software companies actually respect the GPL? Just because opensource developers give away their code without a commercial company backing does not mean that they deserve to have their chosen license ignored.

Lastly, Software Freedom Law Center technical director Bradly Kuhn recently posted guidelines for how to go about responding to suspected violations. Within these guidelines, he states that it is best for those who suspect GPL violations to give the benefit of the doubt. After all, freedom, choice, and a general respect for individuality are at the core of the opensource community.

References: arstechnica.com, withinwindows.com, blog.seattlepi.com, port25.technet.com

Commentary

Contributed by: Gregory Key

I recently was trying out a few, actually more than a few Linux distributions to put on my Asus EEE900. I had a pretty setup with PuppyLinux 4.3.1, Zenwalk 6, I believe, and then I got to Fedora 12. I'm sorry, it must be some kind of bad RPM karma with me and any distro that uses RPMs. Yes, I know that speed is relative, but if said relativeness is running to slow for my taste, I go on to the next disc. It may be a fine distro, but my patience is low when it comes to waiting.

The reason I was looking at Fedora 12 is that over a weeks time I tried to get Asianux, but had major lags while downloading. That particular company had a "working" version of Moblin that seemed to be farther along than others, so I downloaded and tried it. Unfortunately, I found it wasn't as complete as it was advertised to be. Still, it's a new idea that seems to me ideally suited to the Netbook class of computers, and putting on a touchscreen would make it the cats meow. Everything else I found was Ubuntu based, so I opted for Fedora 12.

The startup didn't go too bad and I really didn't have to wait too long. Their partitioner is a graphical type, but I usually opt for cfdisk or fdisk for long time reliability. I've found some quirkiness with gparted whenever I've tried to use it. After setting my mount points, I proceeded to add the filesystem to each of my slices for the hard drive. The only thing is, I didn't have any choice but ext4? all the other options were greyed out. Since Fedora is supposed to be the cutting edge side of Red Hat, I decided to go for broke. The rest of the install went well, it even easily set up encryption and would have set up LVM if I had needed it. Unfortunately, Fedora 12 fell in the same class as the Asianux install. In the end I went with Easy Peasey which, if it had a touch screen, would be fantastic. However, I have experienced no problems. All my hardware was found as easily as it was in other distros with only a few "restricted" drivers to install and I was off to the races.

As for the mandated ext4 filesystem, I think the jury is still out. Ext4 seems to be getting mixed reviews, including some reports of issues with data loss. I value my data and with one exception have never lost anything. In theory, ext4 is supposed to be able to resize a partition and, I believe, go backwards to ext3 if the user so desires. I would personally give it another year. I enjoy jfs, ext2 and ext3 for my computing needs.

And now for something completely different... It seems like most kids today (hey, I'm over 40) only know enough to understand what a mouse is and how to click on a few icons. This is especially true in the Microsoft crowd, although it is being brought to the open source community through the growing influx of new users flocking to GNU/Linux. For the most part, I have found this to be simple ignorance as a direct result of people only doing such as they are taught or what they need on a regular basis. But there is another world that beckons below that mouse dominated environment. It is called a command line.

I don't know about you, but I like to know what my computer is doing at all times. Reading a log here, watching a process there, seeing hard drive space used or the available amount of RAM and swap space. For me, that is a mixture of watching what is going on in a desktop environment and on the command line. Usually I have many things going on at once across various desktops, terminals and the like.

But how do I keep track as I jump from directory to directory? Well, Arch user Zer0 recently releaced a custom bash prompt based on a ZSH prompt that he liked. The original post from Zer0 can be found at http://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=84386. For me, his prompt gives just the right information without being too overwhelming.

Gamers' Corner: Teeworlds

Have you ever wondered about a way to bridge a boring moment at school or at home, or simply spice up your lunch break at work? Then check out Teeworlds, a free cross-platform online multiplayer shooter!

After installing Teeworlds on your Windows, Linux, or Mac based system, join one of the hundreds of available Teeworlds servers. You will enter a welcoming two-dimensional world with beautiful trees, smiling suns, and lovely houses. But beware: its beauty is only skin deep! Grenades, bullets and flying ninjas threaten your life as the action begins. Your tee, a cuddly ball with a gun, is controlled by keyboard (movement) and mouse (aiming). Similar to its bigger FPS brothers with an additional dimension, Teeworlds is easy to learn, but hard to master given plenty of advanced moves to learn. Some use the most remarkable feature of the game: a multifunctional grappling hook. When shot, the hook will attach to any solid ground in range of fire. This allows for swinging to usually unreachable places, moving very quickly and unpredictably, and it even allows for tossing around your enemies. However, since offense is the best defense, you should take a glance at your gun rack. Teeworlds offers a variety of weapons. There are the hammer and pistol, which you carry by default, and weaponry also includes the shotgun, grenade launcher, laser rifle, and even a ninja sword!

While struggling to keep yourself at the top of the scoreboard, you will rarely encounter a dull moment in the world of the tees. A welcoming change to the normal Death Match game type are official game types Capture The Flag and Team Death Match, but the options don't end there. There are virtually no limits set as Teeworlds is backed by a lively community of talented opensource developers that have created an array of custom game modes, maps, and weapons for your fragging pleasure.

On game mechanics, Teeworlds tries to bring the well-known KISS principle to perfection. Since this opensource project is under constant development, everybody is invited to send in patches or content to enrich the game. A user-friendly interface and newbie-friendly environment only add to the atmosphere that makes your stay in Teeworlds as pleasant as possible.

Bottom line is, if you have a few minutes of spare time you should definitely give Teeworlds a try. You will not be disappointed? pixel bloodshed has never been so cuddly!

To install Teeworlds, use the `teeworlds` package in [community].

Software Review: 2009 LnF Awards

Usually, the Software Review section is reserved for the review of a particular class of software (text editors, web browsers, video editors, and the like). This month, however, I have decided that we needed to up the ante, so to speak. For those of you who aren't familiar with the so-called "LnF Awards", the members of the Arch community have spent the last year compiling a list of the best light and fast applications to date. Theoretically. Unfortunately, many of the applications listed are neither light nor fast. Seriously, who could possible consider OpenOffice light or fast? Despite the thread's shortcomings, it does provide a look at some of the best minimalistic software available and I believe that many of those wonderful programs are frequently overlooked. Thus, this month's Software Review will be my own personal review of the best light and fast applications of 2009.

Text Editor: Vim (Visit Homepage)

I'm sure that every reader saw this one coming. Based on the defacto Unix editor Vi, Vim is designed to be an advanced text editor that expands on the feature set of its namesake. Both highly configurable and remarkably powerful, Vim is frequently seen as a "programmer's editor." Definitely not your grandma's WYSIWYG word processor, Vim is designed not to hold its users' hands and comes with a rather steep learning curve. Despite said learning curve, it is certainly worth putting the effort into learning Vim, and it has proven to have a large, if not fanatical, user base.

To install vim, use the `vim` package in [extra].

Web Browser: uzbl (Visit Homepage)

Developed by one of our own, uzbl follows the UNIX philosophy of doing one thing and doing it well. Built on libwebkit, Uzbl is the ultimate minimalistic web browser, providing nothing but the bare necessities to facilitate browsing the Internet. No builtin method for inputting URLs, no bookmark management, no history, or excess functionality make this one of the fastest browsers available if you can figure it out. Thankfully, there are various sample scripts distributed with uzbl as well as available online which make using uzbl relatively sane. If you are looking for a web browser that you can install, launch and use, keep looking. On the other hand, if you are looking for a powerful, customizable minimalistic browser that you can build as you see fit, this just might be your cup of tea. Oh, by the way... uzbl is under heavy development and should be considered alpha software. You have been warned.

To install uzbl, use the `uzbl-browser` package in [community].

PDF Viewer: apvlv (Visit Homepage)

This little gem makes every other PDF viewer look positively bloated. Based on Vim, apvlv provides the simplest possible interface to working with PDF files. Everything from movement to magnification is controlled through Vim-like keybindings. Best of all, it's blazing fast! Tired of bloated, proprietary PDF viewers? Check out apvlv! You won't be disappointed.

To install apvlv, use the `apvlv` package in [community].

File Manager: vifm (Visit Homepage)

Yet another application based on the ever-popular vi, vifm is an ncurses file manager with vi like keybindings. While not the simplest way of managing your filesystem, vifm is remarkably capable, giving the user the ability to execute virtually any command that isn't built in through an embedded console. Designed for those who prefer minimalism, but don't want to go quite as minimalistic as coreutils, vifm is a remarkable piece of software with a lot of potential.

To install vifm, use the `vifm` package in the Arch User Repository.

Instant Messenger: BitlBee (Visit Homepage)

While not a standalone instant messenger, BitlBee is probably the most frequently used minimalistic IM client available for Linux today. Generally speaking, the vast majority of Linux users will at some point in time find themselves on IRC. BitlBee takes the viewpoint of why seperate IRC and IM? By providing a daemon, BitlBee even allows a user to log out and log back in without disconnecting... particularly useful for those of us with uncooperative computers prone to crashing. What's even better is BitlBee's ability to work with literally any IRC client. All you have to do is connect to localhost as you would connect to any other server, and follow the instructions onscreen. You'll be up and chatting in no time!

To install BitlBee, use the `bitlbee` package in [extra].

Web Browser: Vimprobable (Visit Homepage)

Although similar in basic appearance to the aformentioned uzbl, vimprobable is significantly more user friendly. Providing a simple vi-inspired interface, command completion, builtin support for bookmarks, and much more, vimprobable is the best ultra-minimalist browser for those who want something a little bit more complete than uzbl or lynx without the overhead of Firefox or Chrome.

To install vimprobable, use the `vimprobable-git` package in the Arch User Repository.

System Menu: dmenu (Visit Homepage)

Short for dynamic menu, dmenu is probably one of the most widely used minimalistic applications for Linux. Originally built for use with the dwm tiling window manager, dmenu has since found use in virtually ever other tiling window manager as well as several floating window managers, most notably Openbox. But dmenu is so much more than a simple, keyboard-driven menu. Users have submitted dozens of scripts for dmenu to allow it to function as a desktop pager, media player frontend, and so much more. Just do a quick search on the Arch forums to see what I mean!

To install dmenu, use the `dmenu` package in [extra].

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.