Readers sound off.
Linux Too US-Centric

Paul Taylor (Letters, LJ March 2001) complains about SuSE 7.0 defaulting/reverting to a German keyboard. I'm afraid he won't get any sympathy from those who don't live in the US and have to put up with this type of behaviour from the majority of products. The arrogance of US companies means that most systems default to US dates, US keyboards, US spellings and US measurements, often requiring considerable effort by users to “fix” their machines for their own locale. Linux is particularly poor in this area compared with, for example, Microsoft. At least with a Windows OS, if the locale is set correctly on initial install, it stays that way for all Microsoft applications and most other third party applications (although Microsoft's idea of Metric measurements has a strange US flavour—what is “A4 Letter”?). Not so with Linux. I have often been caught out on Linux, particularly with log files, because the dates are formatted wrongly. The Linux crowd do care about the end user, as long as the end user is a techie and an American. I would rewrite Paul's last sentence as: I think the basic problem with most of the software development crowd is that they don't give a rat's arse about the non-US end user.

—Mark Easterbrook, Southampton, UK

Disturbing FX

I read the article “GFX: XFree and Video4Linux” (April 2001) by Mr. Rowe, and I must say, for the first time in my life, an article in LJ really disturbed me.

Mr. Rowe presents himself as a person who hasn't followed Linux from the beginning and doesn't know it, but having picked it up he now dislikes it. He says that Xf86Config is “prehistoric”, Xf86Setup is “not good enough” for him, pure text programs are “dated applications”, dselect is “primitive” and so on.

“Why our mouse wouldn't work was a mystery”, he says, and he says also that some desktop managers “also include a window manager, but desktop managers have a lot of other features”. It's ridiculous: can one really come to LJ and print such things?

It is clear that (after the X server) the window manager is the first component you need to decore your screen, but obviously enough, Mr. Rowe never tried twm, fvwm, olvwm and all the tiny windows managers that can run on the i386 with 2MB of RAM and 60MB of hard disk. Saying that Xf86Config is prehistoric indicated that one must never have tried to tune manually the timing lines on XF86Config, too.

—Franco Favento dei Favento da Triestef.favento@ieee.org

Rowe replies: Franco, sorry my article disturbed you. Thank you for writing to let me know. I like Linux, but I still see things that need improvement. Many involved in the development of Linux and Linux-based software share this opinion. Otherwise, why the ongoing effort? The criticism that bothered you wasn't really about Linux, was it? It was XFree86, a GUI also used by FreeBSD and other operating systems. If we compare the available configuration tools to editing modelines by hand, then you are right that we should appreciate a great improvement. If, on the other hand, we compare to configuration in Windows, Mac and BeOS, then saying XFree86 is primitive is one of the kinder things that may be said. Many users experience distress configuring XFree86. In response to your question, I have used twm and olvm, but have not tried fvwm. Back when my desktop was a Sun Sparc20 I developed multimedia software running on OpenLook (that is, olvm). Open-source software can be responsive to a cry for improvement. And, what better place to point out what we should be thinking about improving in Linux software than Linux Journal? My column is not about moving to Windows (as you suggest), but about moving from Windows to Linux. Thanks again for writing. I hope some of my future articles may be more to your liking.

Simple Accents

This is about the keyboard question to get á or ç (Best of Technical Support, April 2001). I think the answers there were too complicated.

Just edit your XF86Config and make sure your keyboard section does not have any “no dead keys” statements. Finally, pick “en_US” instead of “us” which is the default. Now all those trs intéressantes combinations will be available using your dead key. It will work everywhere too, even on consoles.

Below is a sample of what that section might look like.

XkbKeycodes “xfree86”XkbTypes “default”XkbCompat “default”XkbSymbols “en_US(pc104)”XkbGeometry “pc”XkbRules “xfree86”XkbModel “pc104”XkbLayout “en_US”

—Hassan Auragiaurag@geocities.com