Letters to the Editor

Readers sound off.
Be Specific

Through my letter box came a smoking issue. I loved the cover and the feature articles on building an Ultimate Linux Workstation (or even a lower budget version). I coveted all of these configurations, which were better than the surplus Celeron-based system I'd just commissioned as my personal Linux workstation to replace a failed 486-based Linux box (don't laugh—that 486-based workstation gave better performance than many high-price Windows boxes).

As I read these articles though, a long-running frustration of mine resurfaced. Many years ago I studied AI and expert systems when the computing science literature was full of talk about a hardware configuration system at Digital (now Compaq). Their system, known as either R1 or xcon, would check that a hardware configuration was viable. If not the system would remind the engineering team what needed to be added and finally generate a detailed list for the installation engineer to follow so that boards were plugged into the correct bus slots. With all the hardware options for Linux I've long thought that a similar expert system was necessary.

Obviously such a system needs a database containing what motherboard has what features, what hardware is necessary for a server and what is needed for a low-end/high-end workstation, etc. Specific issues with hardware options could be highlighted, e.g., what EIDE drives to avoid and why, what ASICs don't work correctly, whether to use Intel or AMD processors, whether Alpha or PowerPC chips would be more appropriate, what video cards have only partial support in XFree86, what software need not be installed on a workstation and what is required on a server, how many fans are needed and where should they be mounted, even down to issuing reminders to the installer of applicable CERT advisories. Extensions could help configure Beowulf clusters, firewalls, diskless workstations, laptops and many other useful setups.

I wanted a summary at the end of the Ultimate Linux box article of the various suggested hardware configurations. A simple spreadsheet (gnumeric of course) helped to collate all that advice and price it. In that respect the following article on the cheaper workstation was a better source of information. But being able to feed these configurations into an R1/xcon-like system would have been really helpful—especially if it held up-to-date price information. Then I'd know which supplier to buy which components from so I could get that ultimate workstation at the lowest cost.

If anyone is working on such a configuration tool I'd love to hear from them and/or to read about it in Linux Journal.

—Trevor Jenkinstrevor@suneidesis.com

What about Tapeware?

I just finished reading the Readers' Choice Awards and find it interesting that no one mentioned Tapeware from Yosemite software for backup.

We have used both tar and BRU but find Tapeware to be far superior to either. It is a distributed application (in the class of Arkei, I suppose?) and runs seamlessly distributed across both Windows and Linux platforms. The GUI is QT-based, which makes it look and feel exactly the same between Windows and Linux.

Just thought I'd mention this product since no one seems to know it exists.

—Bud Millwoodbudm@weird-solutions.com

Uses for CueCat

Good job with the CueCat article!

Living in Europe, I wondered why so much buzz about a bar code scanner. Then I read on the Net how it is distributed and what the attached software does (or is capable of doing). It stinks!

I'm glad LJ supports this kind of backward engineering efforts by publishing both the method and the results. At least it makes life a bit more uncomfortable for privacy invaders!

On the other hand, such an inexpensive device with open-source drivers can be sold by the thousands for perfectly legitimate uses. I will buy one on my next trip to the US, I'm thinking about:

  • Finally classifing our library and keeping track of the borrowed material.

  • Doing the same with our music/data CDs.

  • Classifing our medicines. With two kids we don't know what we have, what it's good for, when it expires and where we hid it last time!

—Carlos Vidalcarlos@tarkus.se

In Response to Arthur (“Letters”, November 2000)

I rarely feel the need to reply to mail printed in mags, but yours was so full of misconceptions that I felt an overwhelming drive to set the record straight and educate you simultaneously.

First, regarding your statement that “(America) consumes so much...yet gives little back....” Put on some sunglasses so that you may open your eyes and take a good look around you! Electricity to power the computer upon which you wrote that misguided e-mail originated in the USA. The computer itself, what is today accepted as the “PC”, came from here. The Internet upon which your garbage was transmitted—not to mention the underlying technology such as telephone equipment—originated in the USA. Television, the car you drove to work, and the list goes on and on! Compare that to the list of things contributed to the world by your little penal colony (all I could manage is Foster's Lager, fuzzy brown fruit and Crocodile Dundee) then do the math!

—Todd Ficht, Americanficht@ieee.org

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