Best of Technical Support

Our experts answer your technical questions.
Digital UNIX Gateway?

I currently have a TCP/IP (via modem) connection between my Linux box at home and my office workstation (DEC station running Digital UNIX). The problem is that the DEC machine is not a gateway, so I cannot reach the rest of the subnet or the rest of the world, for that matter. Is there a way my Linux box can reach the subnet gateway which is two hops away? The route command in my current version of Linux (Slackware, kernel 2.0.0) does not support the -hobcount flag, which is supported by Digital UNIX and would do the trick. —Martin Olivera,

If your PPP IP address is one from the subnet your DEC station is sitting on, you just need to make sure it does ARP proxying for your Linux machine (in other words, it has to accept packets for your Linux machine's IP on its local Ethernet). If this is not the case, then it is more difficult. The options you have are:

  • Find out if Digital UNIX can do IP masquerading like Linux can.

  • Configure routed on your DEC server and advertise a route pointing to your Linux machine. Note that this will not work if your default gateway ignores RIP information, and it may upset your network administrator and/or be against company policies.

—Marc Merlin,

Typing Spanish Characters

As a Spanish speaker, I want to use a keyboard with a complete set of Latin characters. I succeeded in implementing it for almost all applications, except Netscape. I installed the XKeysymDB file in the correct place, and this file works properly for Sun machines (I tested), but not for PCs with Linux. I tried to find the answer at Netscape's home page, but I couldn't. Perhaps I did the wrong search. Does anyone know how to set Netscape in order to have a “compose” key which produces accents, tildes and all that sort of thing? —Guigue,

If I'm not mistaken, the XKeysymDB file works only for a particular keyboard, so the one that works for your Sun keyboard is unlikely to work for your Linux machine's keyboard. Jamie Zawinski's xkeycaps found at may help; it is a graphical editor for editing keyboard setups under X. —Scott Maxwell,

Migrating from Windows

I got interested in Linux through a programme on BBC World. However, after an afternoon roaming the Internet, I couldn't get an answer to two questions most laymen probably have on the subject: does Linux replace Windows on my computer and is the process irreversible; will I be able to use my Windows-based programmes on Linux? —Philippe Humblé,

Linux can replace Windows on your computer, or the two can coexist. If you buy a commercial distribution or a Linux book, it should help explain how to do this. The process is irreversible only in the sense that you'll never want to go back. There are different ways to use your Windows-based software under Linux. A couple of emulators—Wine and Wabi—enable you to run some Windows software directly under Linux. (Similarly, DOSEMU lets you run DOS software under Linux.) Other Windows software can be run by rebooting the machine into Windows, using the software, and then rebooting into Linux again as soon as possible. As time goes on, you'll discover Linux software that can partially or entirely eliminate your need for Windows—Linux-native word processors, spreadsheets and such. —Scott Maxwell,

Alternatives to X

I am new to Linux and have heard much about the X Window System when word processing using Applixware Office or Corel's Word Perfect for Linux. What if I don't want to use X? Are there quality office applications that will run without X?<\n> —John Tam,

There is not, as far as I know, a non-X integrated office suite, but many of the pieces exist. For document processing, you can use TeX. Whether you'll like TeX or not depends on your needs—it is rock-solid and extremely powerful, but it is not WYSIWYG. —Scott Maxwell,

Most people associate “quality office applications” with “graphical user interface”, a “what you see is what you get” environment like the current flock of office applications shipping for Windows machines. On UNIX systems, the standard GUI environment is the X Window System, so all of the current office suites for Linux run on top of X. This makes life much easier for the programmer—she can concentrate on writing a good word processor and leave the details of making it “graphical” to X. Early versions of X were somewhat tricky to set up and supported only a small subset of available graphics cards, but the configuration programs have come a long way as has driver support—a quick read of the X HOWTO should leave you with nothing to fear from “getting graphical” on your Linux machine. —Vince Waldon,