Readers sound off.

I Love Your Opinions

Nick, I love [your columns] and all your articles. Up until you came along, I thought I was the only Linux jinx. I've had very few easy install/upgrades of Linux. My latest, Kubuntu5, installs fine, although Kubuntu6 can't seem to find my gateway to the Internet, no matter what I set with ifconfig, so I'm stuck for now with 5. My motherboard is an ASUS A8V-MX with an integrated Ethernet, sound and video (which don't work), so again, I agree with you.

I've used CP/M, DOS, OS/2 and (yuck) windoze. Then three years ago, I discovered Linux, and I've been converted—if only it wasn't so damn picky.

/var/opinion/ this month, October 2006, is very VERY interesting! I plan to use your experience installing MythTV as a guide to make my attempt to do the same upgrade. Please make this an article, including all hardware and software, with explicit steps to follow.

Eric Forbes

Deja Vu All over Again

Your recent changes to the magazine layout reminded me of the time when Dr. Dobb's Journal dropped Forth from the programming tree.

The older Dr. Dobb's Journal's taught me to use the then free language Forth; Dr. Dobb's Journal also felt like it was losing its innocence.

Ten pages of ads before making any sense is beautifully commercial.

I wish you all success in presenting Linux with a glossy, professional, corporate image.

Colin Tree

Fedora Disk Labels All over Again

I have found a reason why Fedora uses disk labels rather than device file entries. It may be because, on some machines, using device files causes a strange race condition. For example, in our lab (www.minds.may.ie/~balor/photographs/lab) we have machines on which GRUB correctly interprets /dev/sda1 as the first SATA device. However, on boot (before root is mounted), the Linux kernel (sometimes) assigns the /dev/sda1 device file to the first USB mass-storage device that happens to be plugged in to the machine, causing a failure to mount the root partition. Obviously, using / as the root disk label means that any USB mass-storage disks would be ignored, and the correct partition on the SATA disk would be mounted. I do agree that a label such as FC5Root is preferable to /, as one could then have FC4Root and FC5Root on the same box.

Aidan Delaney

I noticed this same unpredictable behavior on one of my systems too. I installed a RAID card to avoid down time due to any single disk failure (I use RAID 5), and I noticed that Linux does not respect the boot order I set in the BIOS. I haven't noticed any race conditions with any given kernel, but one kernel will make the RAID card /dev/sda, and another kernel will make it /dev/sdb. I discovered how to control which it sees first with Ubuntu by changing a script in the initrd image. Look for how I did it in our new tech tips column this month called Tech Tips with Gnull and Voyd. —Ed.

No Myth about MythTV

I have just read your /var/opinion in the October 2006 issue of Linux Journal. You make a couple of valid points about MythTV—for example, that it can be time-consuming to set up, but once it is running, it is like 99% of the Linux boxes I have ever built in that it just keeps working! Can I suggest for ease of setup and use that you give MythDora a try? The ISO images can be found at www.g-ding.tv, and the main guy there is very helpful (so much so that I actually felt like I wanted to feed data back into the system, not feeling obliged as I have with some other projects I have assisted with).

Incidentally, you are right—it is becoming apparent, from what I have read on the forums, that the Hauppauge WINTV-PVR-500 is just 2*150's bolted together (so why didn't they call it the 300? Too obvious?). I am sure you are aware, but if you have any issues getting it working, the guys over at linuxtv are very approachable and have helped me out many a time with my Compro DVB-T300s and my Dvico FusionHDTV Dual (which I must admit thought would be a bag of pants but works flawlessly).

I must admit, I do look forward to reading your magazine, and your /var/opinion page does usually give me something to think about.

Now for a shameless plug: to see how far I have gotten with my MythTV build, go to trueentropy.linuxbloggers.com, and all should become apparent (if I have had time/remembered to update it).


Digital Subscriptions

Having bought the paper version of LJ for more than ten years, I took out a digital subscription last week. It's a real improvement! Not only can I read back issues without having to search round the flat for them, but I also can fit dozens of issues on a memory stick, and my wife doesn't complain that I'm hoarding paper!

Rotating the view on my IBM 1600x1200 ThinkPad and holding it sideways gives a perfectly readable full-page view.

Peter Grant-Ross

64-Bit Laptops

The discussion in the Letters column [October 2006] about 64-bit laptops caught my eye. One reason to have 64-bit laptops is binary compatibility with the desktop. My laptop is purposely set up to mirror my desktop system. I use rsync to move things back and forth and keep them synchronized.

Right now, I don't have to worry about moving executable files back and forth or where I do a “make”. That's a situation I would like to keep unchanged if and when I move to 64-bit systems.

Aharon (Arnold) Robbins

Less Technical?

First off, I think Linux Journal is a terrific asset to the Linux community.

I have to agree with Guilherme DeSouza [see Letters, November 2006], who argues that Linux Journal is going downhill, as it moves toward less technical content and more attempts to appeal to the masses. This is what caused Dr. Dobb's Journal to crash while LJ was taking off: Dr. Dobb's Journal tried to expand into cute and slick articles and lost its core audience, while LJ was offering solid technical content.

I certainly applaud the intent of Taylor and Gagnéto make Linux more accessible to a wider audience. But, I question whether LJ is the forum for it. For example, if you walk to your local bookseller and watch who buys LJ, how many MS Windows programmers do you think you'll see? I've tried to interest MS programmers in Linux and gotten nothing but bored stares.

If that's the case with Windows programmers, ask yourself how many Windows users are going to pick up a Linux Journal. My guess is the number of readers of LJ who have no programming background and no Linux background is less than 1%, but surely you have the numbers to say. If you really want to reach the masses, maybe LJ should sponsor a contest for the best Linux-related article published in, say, PC Magazine or the Wall Street Journal.

In short, I hope you'll not abandon your core audience as Dr. Dobb's Journal did. I enjoy LJ and read it thoroughly, and would hate to see LJ lose its way.


A Supplement to “The Dark Age of Linux Journal

I have to admit that this note was provoked by Guilherme DeSouza's letter in the November 2006 issue. Let me introduce myself: I have been a user of Linux for a long time. In fact, I tried to install the Red Hat Halloween release in 1994. I had read of Linux before 1994, and I considered it the most exciting development in computing at that time. The Red Hat disc did not have all the drivers for the peripherals of my rather advanced Compaq, and despite many helpful but frustrating phone discussions with Red Hat, I actually used Slackware, which was more up to date and I think was packaged with Matt Welsh's “Linux Installation and Getting Started”. This being said, I consider myself an amateur user of Linux rather than a professional. To such as myself, there was much of interest in the early issues of Linux Journal, and I have had a subscription since the beginning. One thing that sticks in my memory was the introduction of ext3 and the instructions in LJ to use a make file to install it, which really worked to my great excitement. I used Linux as my basic working system in support of my research and for connecting to my central UNIX system until my retirement. Latterly, I found SUSE most satisfactory, and I continued using that at home. I will admit that I did dual-boot with Windows, because I needed some of the programs that made up the MS Office collection.

However, I am afraid that Linux Journal is becoming, dare I say it, boring to someone like myself. It seems to me to be aspiring to emulate a professional journal but without the rigor of the Journal of the ACM. My math is up to it, and I can scan the titles of the ACM and read the articles that interest me, but I used to read the Linux Journal cover to cover, and these past few months, I realized that I no longer do so. The other US Linux magazines (are there more than one?) seem to be thin negligible broadsheets, but the European journals are different. Linux Magazine (not the US magazine of the same name) is interesting, and I do read it more or less completely.

I read the on-line TUX magazine with a great amount of interest, but I would prefer to see some of its content in Linux Journal. I don't know if your editorial staff has looked at Linux Magazine recently, but they should do so despite the $10 price.

James Silverton

Thanks to all who have written to us about the technical content of Linux Journal. One thing that needs to be said up front is that it is unrealistic to think Linux Journal or any magazine will please everyone. Those who find a particular article boring should keep in mind that for every article that you may feel is beneath you, another person finds that particular article the most useful and views your favorite technical article as incomprehensible. The Linux universe does not revolve around only one type of reader.

Some of you may have noticed that we occasionally include some less-technical end-user content, because a portion of our readership appreciates it and benefits from it. We try to pick more advanced end-user topics, however, rather than basic point-and-click tutorials. Ironically, with respect to James Silverton's suggestion that we include content from TUX in Linux Journal, that is the only category we consciously try to avoid—“new desktop user” content. Our sister magazine, TUX (www.tuxmagazine.com), targets that audience very well.

Aside from including a variety of content, the only conscious shift we are making is to focus some of our more technical content to provide readers with information they can apply in practical ways, not just for our readers' amusement, but so they are better equipped to do their jobs. Having said that, we certainly do not believe that articles for your amusement and instruction are a bad thing. We understand that purely academic articles are desirable, interesting and have long-term benefits. So, we'll always include them. We simply need to strike the right balance. You can help by keeping your letters coming. —Ed.



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Milagros's picture

I'm trying since yesterday to about:config and the only thing that shows up is this http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/8004 , the list doesn't show up... Would you, please, help me with this problem?... I am not a Linux user ... but I hope you can help me as well...Please, let me know what is happening with this...Thank you...