More Letters to the Editor

These letters were not printed in the magazine and appear here unedited.

Virtual Services

Last month, my friend asked me on how to provide virtual services (web, ftp etc), so I scan through my old collection of Linux Journal looking for solution. When I look at Issue 35 (March 97), there is an article “A Guide to Virtual Services”. I eagerly read the article. The article provide the information that I was looking for, but in that issue only describe for www service saying that it will continue the month after. So I immediately open up issue 36, but to my disappointment, the article was not there. I scan through few Issues after that, but there was no luck. Although this is an old Issue, but I think LJ should not let this kind of problem happen again. I remember in one of the Issue on TOC, LJ advertise an article up coming, but I could not find the article in the month after.

Overall, I find LJ to be very useful and informative, but there are few little things that can be improved. Keep up the good work.

—Meor, Malaysia,

please improve table of contents with html links

LJ is a very great journal and I enjoy to read it every month.

1) It will be great if you put the Internet links (http, ftp...) referenced in articles with the table contents available on the web.

2) I'd like to see a more powerful endorsement to the open source model. Linux couldn't exist and live without it, even if non open source program are welcome. For example you could systematically mention the status of projects: open source/closed source and if open source the type of license (GPL, LGPL, BSD..)

And with tutorial and other documentation you could promote the open content license.

Happy New Year and thanks for the high quality of LJ.

—Jean-Marie Renard,

Nope, Adm. Hopper did NOT coin “bug”

No doubt there's some urban legend site somewhere that debunks this myth. I believe Edison talked of “debugging” projects, and that Adm. Hopper herself tried to correct the myth every chance she could.

—Felix Morley Finch,

A New Beginning

Over these Christmas holidays I have found time to try and install a particular, well-known, commercial version of the latest Linux kernel which I acquired some weeks ago. It has not been an easy task as, for one thing, I found the handbook very confusing, as I am a relative, if not intermittent, and maybe incompetent newcomer to Linux. Although, I have taken LJ for nearly four years now, and I did attempt to install an earlier kernel last year, but without success and I gave up; having spent many frustrating and wasted hours. In fact, thinking about it, I have over these past four years attempted on a number of occasions to get various 'makes' of Linux running on my machine(s), but I have never been successful beyond the basic installation and an occasional functioning X server. Abundant time and patience I do not have. But the thought of an alternative to MS Windows still appealed. I had hoped that through the suppliers much sung set-up tool I would at least have a fully operational Linux system running on my PC and, although I have now installed it and the X server, with the KDE desktop running, I find that I now cannot install my printer, nor can I connect to my ISP for e-mail and WWW. So I cannot use it, even though it appears to be running as a basic system. Eventually, of course, I would have liked to install various applications to help me in my work and life generally, but I fear this will be just another courtship without a marriage.

I have looked through the various, and apparently applicable HOWTO documents, from the usual web sites (using Microsoft Windows 98 and Internet Explorer, which were very easy to install) but, again, I find them very confusing, extremely time consuming and very uninteresting, as they appear not to have the solution I am seeking to my problems. No doubt technically brilliant - but useless to a non-techie!

I have even asked questions on the relevant Usenet Newsgroups, but no-one gives the solutions, they just keep asking for help themselves! I have reached the conclusion that Linux is really an amateur hobby software for technically advanced, masochistic computing academics, who enjoy making life difficult for themselves - but, regretfully, also for others, who are caught in their web by smart promotional material and feelings of inadequacy subliminally poured upon them, given false hopes and rapidly leading to unfulfilled ambitions.

I always read in Linux Journal about how wonderful Linux is (understandably so), and how Microsoft is a dinosaur - holding back the horizons of computing and making mediocre use of today's technology. Every issue of LJ tells us how many software companies are now writing for Linux. And, there is even an Enterprise supplement to the latest issue of LJ attempting to instill even more confidence in all those people out there (like me) who would love to be released from the bonds of Bill Gates. But, alas, I fear you are all chasing the rainbow!

Until you make the installation of Linux and its application software as easy to install as Microsoft, and others writing software to run on Windows 9x, you will never be taken as a serious player in the PC OS game. As much as I, and no doubt many millions of others like me, would wish for Linux to carve a large slice out of Microsoft's cake. No, until the ethos of Linux changes it will remain a Sunday afternoon game for most of us.

But, perhaps, that is what Linus Torvalds wanted Linux to be. A mere diversion, a game on a rainy day for millions of computer users who are continually frustrated by the hang-ups, glitches, idiosyncrasies and poor performance of MS Windows. A subversive, flanking attack on the mediocrity we have all now come to accept. A sniper, a terrorist, perhaps. Without wishing to win any war but just, simply making a point! Making us believe there is something out there which is better.

The foundations to a new religion, maybe. The end of that rainbow, perhaps? But I, and I suspect many others, are not convinced Linux has any answers, let alone the solution. We need the messiah now, to interface the maker(s) with reality. To interpret the commandments for us. A few disciples to spread the faith to simple-living, working people who are just too busy - or just not interested - in how the 'world' was made. We now want to exploit it for our own gains and evolve as good Linuxians; putting the 'darkness' to task and hopefully, eventually behind us.

Is there no life after Microsoft?

—“Roger Reeves”,

Beginning users

Linux is now getting to the point where DOS was in the early 1980s. The more users that experiment with it at home and learn it's benefits the faster Linux will be appreciated by the average and beginning user. That user is looking for a stable system he can work with and understand. Windows doesn't even come close to this requirement. These beginning and intermediate users should be at least part of the focus of your magazine. If you take the fear out of people using and modifying their computers Linux's use will soar through the roof.

—James L. Caudle,

Caldera Open Linux Base 1.2

I have noticed that your magazine supports Caldera products. I am curious to know if you have had the experience of Open Linux developing problems as the OS was used over a period of time.

I purchased my copy of Open Linux in May of 1998. My copy is also registered. Now that I have used Linux and am beginning to understand how it works, I find that things in Open Linux have quit working. I have been careful not to alter any script files ( I am not yet proficient at C\C++ programming). At first some of the desktop links did not work. Later, the menu choices in the Desktop box quit working. Recently, Netscape fails to access the Internet. The help files and Star Office have never worked at all.

I am sure that for those of you that are well experienced with Linux that these are minor and trivial problems to fix. Unfortunately for me, I am a newbie. I have found that Caldera does not offer any guidance or help on their web site. Contacting Caldera and paying for the support they could offer is not financially possible. For such a great, new, and an alternative to Microsoft, Open Linux has been a disappointing and frustrating experience. Thanks for your time.

Rick Sams,

Re: BTS Shutting Down

In the Jan. 1999 Best of Technical Support in the Linux Journal, Thomas Okon asked about a utility to allow a user to shutdown the system without having to login as root. The solution is at sunsite as

—Andy Holder,

Letter to the editor: Red Hat beware

I'm running Caldera 1.3, but I was curious about the Gnome desktop so I ordered the Red Hat power tools package and the freeware games that go with it. I figured Caldera supports rpm's so there would be no problem.

Well, there's a problem. The rpm's won't build due to failed dependencies. I downloaded what it said I needed and installed it. I still haven't got it to work. Bottom line: Instead of playing with a cool desktop and the games that go with the package I'm pissing up a Red Hat rope.

Selling free software that only runs on a proprietary OS is no different than what Microsoft and flavors of UNIX have done for years. It will take a lot of unforseeable good will on Red Hat's part before this user considers them a viable option again under any circumstances.

—Bob Lazarski,


Regarding the answer to “Updating Web Site” in Jan 99 issue.

By reading the man page, and config files of mirror I understand the update goes FROM remote TO local site and this is not what wanted (If I am not wrong! ;))

The only two programs I found (I haven't tested them yet) are:

Best regards,

—Rafael Cordones Marcos,

Your publication

I am a relatively newcomer to Linux, and I recently started my subscription to Linux Journal. Although I find the Journal useful, the level of the articles are way over my head. It is my impression that, now that Linux is expanding its horizons and developing a much larger audience, the need for more basic articles becomes a very important issue. The idea that Linux is for hackers is obviously outdated, but this needs to be reflected in your publication. Thank you for your attention,

Helio J. Malinverni, M.D.,

BTS: User shutdown

Issue #57 column you didn't know of a better way to enable user shutdowns. On my 3 user system, where I don't worry overly much about security concerns, I solved that problem by set the suid bit on the halt and reboot programs. On more security conscious systems one could write a suid script file that checked users presence in /etc/shutdown.allow before executing the real halt or reboot program.

It does seem rather odd that the shutdown command doesn't do this itself doesn't it.

—Kenneth Corbin,

Shuting Down

I was reading the Best of technical support (January edition ) yesterday when I read two things that might have other solutions.

First I would like to remark that with the Atapi Zip drive the preformated partition is /dev/hdX4 and not /dev/sdX4. It is of course an IDE device.

Then the second more important thing is the question about shutting down. Thomas Okon wanted to let another user shutdown the system. You wrote the only possible the three finger salute. However there is another possibility .. it's sudo , sudo allows you to give certain users the rights to use specific commands with root permissions. Probably there are other tools that do the same but sudo is the tool that I've been using to give my users the root permissions to certain commands.

It might be useful to some other question in the future

—Kris Buytaert,

Enterprise solutions

Like everybody else I try to promote Linux as much as possible and think a lot about how to use Linux in business environments. So I think it's a great idea to bring out the Linux Journal supplement: enterprise solutions!

I've red a story of a guy trying to implement Linux and StarOffice in a small office and made mistakes that had nothing to do with Linux but is good to warn the community about so here's the URL:

Thanks a lot for the great work you are doing, Linux Journal brings me a lot of fine reading hours !


—Ben van Scheppingen,


Re: Best of Technical Support - Shutting Down, Linux Journal, January 1999, Page 61

Thomas Okon ( wrote concerning how to allow a non-root user to shut down the system. I offer a solution that worked for me with Red Hat 4.2, and now with Red Hat 5.2.

I set up a user that could shut down my Linux machine when I logged on as that user. The only purpose that user had was to shut down the machine.

I manually performed the following steps to enable this capability. I always saved a backup copy of the original files before I made any changes.

When I want to shut the machine down, I log off the machine, and then simply enter “down” at the login prompt. The down user's “.bash_profile” file is executed, followed by the “.bashrc” file, which executes the “/root/down” file. The echo lines are displayed, and the machine is gracefully shut down.

—Bob Van Meter,

Please consider

another issue of database articles. I know Feb 1998 was but much has happened. I have all of the ports ( Sybase, Oracle ... ) and would love to read information from experts on things as how to connect clients to a server ( no real examples ) ...

love the magazine.

—Dale Smyth,

Our November 1999 issue will again focus on databases and we have a 3-part Sybase tutorial coming up soon. —Editor

QuarkExpress Port

I use Linux everyday. I say this simply to let you know I'm not an M$Clone. However, I also use Win95 OSR2 at home, and NT4.0 at my client site (CertCo).

I want to let you know that Lydia's problem is Quark's sole responsibility. Their Win95 port is rotten. A couple of contracts back the company gave the new Marketing Comms lady permission to use Quark. Since it was a Wintel shop, she purchased the Win version. And as you know, it crashes. A lot. I worked with her for about three weeks trying various combinations of HW/memory/installed drivers. We never found a combination that was satisfactory.

She eventually gave up on it and began using a combination of FrameMaker and M$ Word. I really doubt that combo is suited for your tasks, but it worked for brochures, ads, and collateral.

I'm not defending M$ by any means. I just wanted you to know that the problem is squarely in Quark's lap. They'll deny it if you bring them to task, saying that Windows is to blame. But they're quite wrong. I run PS 4/5 as well as AI 7/8 on my Win95 box and have yet to crash it even when doing complex layouts. So Adobe is either heavily into black magic or they have better coders. Personally, I think it's the coders.

Happy New Year!

—Mike Adams,

“Resources” as part of on-line resources!

There usually is a “resources” section at the end of articles which contains references and URLs.

Why are not those included on-line? If they were, readers would save time by not typing the URLs!

—Farid Hamjavar,

Just one more thing for me to remember to do. :-) I'll put it on the request list but no promises. —Editor

Editorial Suggestion

Through your publication, you could provide some services that would foster Linux acceptance into the main stream by making it more approachable. Please consider these two suggestions:

SUGGESTION #1: Demystify the fabric of “UNIX tradition” that is part of understanding most of what happens during the use and administration of a Linux box. If you don't know these traditions, you are often lost without a clue.

SUGGESTION #2: Add a survey page to your web site collecting hardware in actual use and the applications in use on Linux boxes. Differentiate between hobby/residential, educational/student, and commercial installs. [Do something to sort out survey stuffing web crawlers (sigh)] and publish the results as monthly histograms.

DISCUSSION #1: Let me illustrate this fabric by example. Years ago I got a “real AT&T UNIX” system and its wall of paper documentation. This was my first exposure to __UNIX__. I opened the books and was instantly lost in a printing of what I learned were “man pages” bound in alphabetical order. Then someone told me to look under 'G' for “Getting Started”.

Many of the Linux newbies that we want to attract are windows power users. They have a tradition that says, “use documentation as a last resort.” The Linux tradition relies heavily on man-pages, HOWTO, FAQ and other online docs. When you couple this chasm of difference with the “one program one function” philosophy, a Linux user will often need a road map to the several different sets of docs required to learn how to deploy some feature of interest. Linux Journal could publish these road maps.

I know that you've seen books or training materials that say, “... if you want to do XXXX, then read the following chapters in this order...” Sort this out and publish it for the newbies (and not so new bees). For example, “If you want a Linux box that does most of what the typical home office Win9x box does, then AAA, ..., ZZZ” Another example, “If you want a Linux box for a SOHO firewall/gateway, then AAA, ..., ZZZ” These could begin as web pages of document links on the LJ site , evolve into multi-part LJ articles and some eventually become _handbooks_ under the SSC banner.

DISCUSSION #2: If a person, SOHO or corporation wants to “try out Linux” and wants minimum risk, there is some homework to discover a set of compatible hardware, a distribution, and required errata or patches that will work. I found most of what I needed on USENET, but was quite suspect of the results. I wished for a moderated source of “this collection seems to work” information. You could be that source.

I've been a “computer geek” since 1969, and I consider myself both knowledgeable and experienced. In spite of professional experience with both “real AT&T Unix” and with “real UCB UNIX”, I often find myself lost in confusion over the rationale behind many tools and tasks of system use and administration.

—Daniel M. St.Andre',

LyX Article Errors

When I received my January, 1999 issue of the Linux Journal, I immediately noticed the article about LyX. I then proceeded to read this article. I was, unfortunately, struck by numerous inaccuracies.

First, I was dismayed—nay, insulted—to see the statement: “Now back to the documentation. [\ldots{}] most of the files are not too detailed [\ldots{}].” Since I am the former editor of the LyX Documentation Project and personally wrote about half of the User's Guide, I know for a fact that this statement is flat-out false. Seriously, though, the article's description of using a file descriptor to open a manual named Main.lyx does not describe version 0.12, but one of the earlier versions of the 0.10 release. The file descriptor long ago disappeared, replaced by 6 menu entries for each of the primary manuals. These manuals, in turn, are highly detailed and complete. I highly recommend Amir Karger's Tutorial as a place to start. Only the Customization and Reference manuals remain incomplete and crufty.

A second error is the description of an error message due to a missing X-server font. I am perplexed; I never saw any such bug report cross the LyX developers' mailing list since the 0.9 development series over 3 years ago. Back then, Asger Alstrup Nielsen worked hard to improve the font-drawing code. His continued work over the past few years make loading even a huge document [e. g. the User's Guide] quite speedy. Only a 486 [such as my laptop] will show any delay due to X-server font loading.

In another mistake, the article states: “Change the template file by hand using any plain text editor. Please, please, please do not edit any LyX file by hand with a text editor. You will render it unreadable by LyX [unless you really, really know what you're doing, and even then, you'll screw up occasionally—I speak from experience].

There are several minor mistakes, including:

LyX doesn't waste time, code, and memory trying to reproduce the printed page, a superfluous feat. Instead, it provides you with contextual, visual “cues” that imply the printed result in a natural, often intuitive fashion.

I don't intend to belittle Ulrich Quill's efforts in writing this article. I only wish he had made certain his reporting was accurate. Had he contacted the LyX developers' mailing list, we could have assisted him with the article, as well as told him about certain important changes:

I have one final note to anyone wishing to write an article for the Linux Journal and get their name in lights. When writing about a program, please do contact that software's development team! I often see articles about Linux in the professional IT journals at work, articles that are full of falsehoods and other bad reporting. [One such article stated that the many Linux distributions were binary incompatible. Heh?!] If we can't report about ourselves with accuracy, how can we expect others to do the same?

P. S.: These opinions are my own, not those of the LyX Team as a whole.

—John Weiss,

happy hacking keyboard

I just read the review of the Happy Hacking Keyboard in LJ, and I couldn't help but notice that it looked very familiar to the keyboard I got at Fry's electronics for all of $20. Granted, the control and alt keys were not in new places like the HHK, and it did have that darn windows key, but I'm willing to put up with it (:

—Joshua Colvin,

Re: Linux Technical Question

This is a response to a question in the January '99 issue about mounting a Windows 98 Zip disk. The response indicated that the partition is actually partition 4 but that Peter did not know why. Here is the answer: Partition 4 corresponds to the DATA partition on a Macintosh drive. This allows the Zip/Jaz drive to operate on both PCs and Macs (This was gathered by way of my usage of a Jaz disk which has the same consideration).

—Daniel Davis,