Letters to the Editor

Readers sound off.
Editor wars

I was very amused by the article on the vi versus Emacs paintball tournament—indeed a great way to resolve flame wars. My suggestion for the next tournament: Gnome versus KDE. I'll put $5 on Gnome.

—Christian Tan, the Netherlands pigeon@xs4all.nl

ATF: Great work

I just wanted you to know I think Reuven Lerner's “At the Forge” column in LJ is consistently outstanding. I subscribe to LJ because I am interested in Linux. When I first saw Reuven's column I passed it up, as I had no interest in web development. I read “At the Forge” one day while bored, and found it to be truly well-written and interesting. I began reading each installment, and I enjoyed learning from them. One day I realized I had learned quite a bit and decided web development looked fun. To shorten the story, I recently put up my first page. I plan on reviewing my LJ back issues to read ATF columns I may have missed. I want my page to be an interactive data collection point for a project I am working on. Thank you, Reuven, for the informative, clear and interesting writing that got me started.

—George Saich gsaich@ibm.net

August Issue

A friend gave me his copy of your August issue, and I was impressed with the quality of your magazine. I am surprised, though, that in Mr. Pruett's article on demand graphing, he did not mention the products of Visual Engineering (http://www.ve.com/). Their Java classes are available free to anyone, and these classes create graphs on the fly without much ado. My job is to fill in the cracks of a network management system that products such as Openview and Tivoli leave, and I have found VE's tools and a little Perl scripting to be essential in this endeavor. By the way, I am in no way affiliated with VE; I just like their tools.

—Jeffrey Absher jeffab@flash.net

My article tried to show one method for creating web graphs using widely available Open Source tools. I didn't mention Visual Engineering's tools because I knew nothing about them. I've since looked at demos on their web site. I'll stick with my method, as the Open Source tools I use work very well. However, I encourage others to look at VE's tools for themselves. They might be a good fit, particularly if you need dynamic plots in a web browser.

Every solution has trade-offs: VE's products are written in Java, which is still not well-supported in older browsers. When I first started using the gnuplot method three years ago, Java was still perking. Also, VE's Java-based graphs must be converted to GIFs before they can be printed. VE provides this capability, but it's another hoop to jump through. While VE makes their source code available, they do so at too high a cost for many users. I'm still biased toward Perl and CGI-based Open Source tools and see no compelling reason to toss Java into the mix.

I'd like to thank the readers who suggested I look at FLY (http://www.unimelb.edu.au/fly/), an Open Source program written by Martin Gleeson that creates GIFs on the fly and uses the GD graphics library. FLY operates on a much lower level than gnuplot, so you'll have to construct your plots from graphics primitives like circle and line. Again, every solution has its trade-offs. Experienced programmers may want to skip FLY and simply use the GD library directly, with a language like C or Perl.

Finally, thanks are due to the many readers who noted that the latest stable beta version of gnuplot (available at http://science.nas.nasa.gov/~woo/gnuplot/beta/) supports GIF natively, removing the need for a conversion using ppmtogif.

—Mark Pruett pruettm@vancpower.com

Netscape Interview

I enjoyed the August '98 interview with the Netscape people. It was quite a shot in the arm for the Linux community. Although I work in the computer industry with NT, I have been a Linux user since 0.99 and would like to see it become more mainstream.

While things are really coming along, I think we in the Linux community should take a mature leadership role and stop making petty, unfounded potshots at Microsoft.

A case in point is the article from the same issue called “Migrating to Linux, Part 1”. With all due respect to Mr. Jacobowitz, anyone who has ever used NT would know that this article was laced with little lies based on anti-Microsoft mythology. I am surprised that all of the “computer scientists” at LJ did not catch this.

I am sure that even Marc Andreessen would agree that we have to be more mature in the way we deploy and market Open Source.

—Brad Schroeder brads@interlog.com

I have reread my article, and I assure you that my experience with MS Windows NT Workstation 4.0 was exactly as described therein. If an NT professional discovers it was my “pilot error” that caused my troubles, I'd be happy to accept responsibility and learn from my mistakes. Also, I harbor no personal resentment towards Microsoft, and I still occasionally use a few of their products, some of which are quite exceptional. However, I do agree with the general theme of your letter: Microsoft bashing is inappropriate behavior for the Linux/Open Source community. Let's concentrate on Linux's strengths rather than the weaknesses of the commercial alternatives.

—Norman M. Jacobowitz normj@aa.net