More Letters

Big, Bad LINUX

I thought you might (just might!) be interested in the impressions of one who has earlier experience of UNIX, but has only recently started experimenting with LINUX. (Since taking early retirement, I have continued to fool around with PC/IX, MINIX and similar, but the need for everyday applications forced me to grit my teeth and face up to W9x.)

I'm disappointed. I have a range of computers all of which are capable of running one or other of the variants of UNIX I have lying around. But not LINUX.

Only the newest, fastest machine is capable of running it at all, and then so slowly (by comparison with W95) that it's just not practical. Of course, new machines are getting faster/bigger all the time, but I do worry about an operating system which will not perform at all satisfactorily on machines which run other System V distributions perfectly well.

LINUX is just too big and cumbersome and the machine configuration threshold too high. None of the distributions I have are anything like modular enough, so huge amounts of what gets installed are likely to be redundant in many specific environments. Some hand-pruning is possible, but requires skills which the average user shouldn't be expected to have.

The development labs. where I used to work produced cut-down variants of their in-house System V UNIX for a whole range of experimental machines, right down to hand-held data-collection devices with relatively slow processors. Is it not time that some thought was given to the needs of machines other than big servers and the like? There are a lot of people “out there” who would just love to dump W9x, just as soon as someone offers a practical alternative. LINUX is not that alternative. Nor, if my assessment of the way it is heading is correct, is it ever likely to be.

—Chris. Aubrey-Smith,

Product of the year

I'm a little disappointed in your choice for product of the year, Caldera OpenLinux 2.3. While I can't say that I have a better idea, I do know that I've had significant problems with this product.

While installing it on a system with an onboard Adaptec aic7890 SCSI Controller, Lizard will just hang. Using the console based installer, Lisa, provides the same result. It was only with Rhat 6.0 and an updated install disk could I get linux installed on this system (I'm a newbie, so this is all relative).

I would like to say that I look forward to your magazine every month, and generally find it very useful and informative. Please though, in evaluating products, don't be so kind. The community can only benefit by a little prodding. Thank You,


We ran across the hanging problem with the Adaptec too. The fix, given to us by Caldera support, was quite easy and was printed in the magazine in the review. At the boot prompt type install er=cautious—Editor

Why I still use Windows 95...

I'm a big fan of Linux, and have been since 1994, when I first installed Slackware on my 8MB, 75MHz Pentium system. Since then, I've moved to Slackware “96”, 3.6 and 4. I've used Linux to prototype applications I am working on at work. It has been a marvelous learning tool for me.

Linux doesn't blow up. Individual applications do, and Linux, like Solaris, and other systems, simply removes the offending application from the system. That I don't have to re-start Linux every time I use leads me to conclude that it is a high quality product.

I want to use it as my main operating system, and have been trying to move to it for the past 28 months.

I simply can't.

Currently, I have an ALPS MD-1000 printer, and an A-Open software based modem. Linux flat won't work with either of them. I've tried. I've searched Caldera, RedHat, Debian, and assorted distribution vendor sites. They all indicate their distributions won't work with these products. The standard “Linux Guru/Advocate” cry seems to be, “Buy real hardware.”

Again, I can't. I have children, a house payment, two car payments. I simply don't have the money to drop a new printer and modem in, when the ones I have work fine, and accomplish everything I need them for.

And that's just the hardware side of the problem. The software side is far more complicated.

In my work, I am required to maintain project schedules in a format that is compatible with Microsoft Project. To date, I have been unable to find project managmement software for Linux that would provide this capability at a price a mortal can afford. Hence, I use IMSI's Turbo Project for Windows 95/98/NT. At $90.00, it works, and it does what I need. Linux doesn't.

The documents I write have to be compliant with Word 97 file formats. I have tried Star Office 5.1, and found it doesn't meet the requirement. More accurately, if I stick to simple tables, and text, with no graphics in the document, Word 97 can read an exported document, even though there are formatting problems (font sizes, page margins, etc. The problem is of a scale that the page counts even change...). WordPerfect 8 has similar problems, although not as sever.

Hence, I'm stuck with Word 97, under Windows 95.

Having limited cash resources, and looking toward the next year, I will have to upgrade my computer system. However, this will be mostly software upgrades. I expect to obtain a new Linux distribution, hopefully with Star Office and Word Perfect (maybe even Corel's Linux?). Printing will continue to be a headache (print to file, split that hummer up across a zillion floppies, take it to the office, re-assemble it, and dump the postscript file to the network printer... Real user friendly...), and using Linux for internet access will remain a wish.

I will obtain a Windows upgrade, and Word 2000. I have no viable alternative in the land of Linux. And this will remain the case until Linux works with the hardware I own, and the hardware I can afford.

Thanks for publishing such a solid magazine. Keep doing so, and I'll keep subscribing. It's been a fun 4 years.


Re: MSC.Nastran on Linux

While musing over the November/1999 issue of Linux Journal we noticed on page 9 (items 28-30) that you had converted Bill Gates III into ASCII and got 666. We tried this using the convention B=66, i=105 (ASCII codes) and summed the digits. We did not get 666. Can you please tell us how you got 666?


Penguins Rule, NT drools,


—Joe Griffin,

Someone sent this in as e-mail and unfortunately we did not check the figures. Sorry. —Editor

Religion and LJ

After reading the January '00 issue of LJ and seeing in the LJ Index that there were 7 complaints about your interview with Linux Torvalds I thought I would go ahead and make it 8. I was going to respond before but it escaped my mind and since I'm at work now and reading the Jan. issue I thought while its fresh in my mind I would make the comments I was going to a couple weeks ago.

I think the comment you had about religion based on one of Linus' answers was uncalled for not to mention incorrect. Our country was founded on the premise and beliefs of Christianity. No where in our Constitution does it state there should be a separation of church and state although our government likes to tell us that statement exists. Our country was founded upon the beliefs of Christianity and upon the belief in God whether atheists want to acknowledge that or not. God exists whether they care to believe in Him or not. I find it odd that a lot of people in the CS and IT fields are atheist. I haven't yet figured out the cause of that; maybe it's just a weird coincidence. Who knows? I for one though am a Christian and I am in the IT field. I am probably one of a select few though but I don't mind. I think you need to be more aware of the subjects you talk about in your interviews before you make comments that aren't true. <begin sarcasm> And try not to be too biased if you can. <end sarcasm>

Thank you for listening and with the exception of that article, keep up the good work on your great magazine.

—Brandon McCombs,

Re: Comments about Jan. 2000 issue #69.

I must admit I was disapointed with two articles in this issue.

On page/44/45, Marcel Gagné wrote about getting connected using ppp. He chose to use a text baased login, that is getting pretty rare, because windoze can't do this without extra software from the ISP. The PPP-HOWTO hasn't been updated since 1997, and is really obsolete.

The two helper tools are also biased towards the text based login. If, as is fairly common, the newbie even sends a newline after seeing the modem connection stanzaa, sending the ISP into a misconfigured text script, which does not permit connection. If you really want to see a good page, see

On page 86/87 Gene Hector makes an invalid statement that the first and last subnets are not usable. While this was true for older versions of Novell, it is not true for any form of *nix.

Hope this helps,

—Bill Staehle,

Name left out?

I read with interest the article “Audio and Video steaming..” in the Jan 2000 issue of the Linux Journal ( page 36). I would like to bring your attention to the photograph of the Network Engineering team (Figure 1). There are 11 people on the team. But I see only 10 names mentioned. Someone has been left out.

—Makarand Kulkarni,

Linux Journal Letters Page - Linux should go commercial

Firstly, I think it's really great that your mag is available in Scotland now, as you lot seem more in touch with what's going on than the single UK effort. The reason I write is to state that I think that Linux should become a commercial interest, and be sold, or at least KDE and GNOME should be sold. My reason is thus: Imagine is Red Hat discovered a way to make Linux so easy to use, as easy to use and install as say, a PalmPilot. There would not be much demand for their boxed Linux distros as the only reason to buy their's is the support, which would no longer be necessary. This means that it is against Red Hat's and Caldera's interests to make “their” products easy to use. Similarly, if either company found a way to make a full Linux distro which was very small, and a tempting download, they would be reluctant to produce it, as we'd all download it and not buy it on a CD.

On the same subject, we keep heearing that the GPL software is better than commercial, I would like to see one, single, lone example of this. People state the Gimp, excellent software, as good as Painter, or Photoshop? No. Worse still, KDE and GNOME, GNOME is cool buy very sluggish on my 366MHz Celeron, KDE is not as fast as my brother's 233MHz iMac in general reponsiveness (don't get me started on how it compares to my 36MHz RISC OS computer!). I think the best option for the dedicated Linux user is Solaris/CDE with LXRUN, only problem is that in the UK, the free Solaris offer is over, so we have to pay for it, and take the risk that we will prefer what we had. Here is what I think, KDE 2 should be sold for about $30, this would raise rather a lot of money for the KDE group, an allow them to hire some more coders to make development of KDE 3 faster.

That's all. Keep up the good work.


Correction to “Networking Oddities”

I wanted to comment on one of the answers to your question printed in the December issue of The Linux Journal.

The second answer, from Marc Merlin, says:

There is another possible reason [...for the connection refused messages, etc...]: the connections are being denied by tcpwrappers...

In fact, this sort of error does *not* indicate rejection by tcpwrappers. Tcpwrappers work through inetd; thus, before the wrapper has a chance to accept or deny a connection, the connection must already have been accepted by inetd. Tcpwrappers can choose to drop the connection or pass it on to the appropriate service.

If the connections are rejected, this will result in telnet connections that are accepted but disappear quickly, or by ftp errors similar to the following:

421 Service not available, remote server has closed connection

The only way you'll get the errors you've described is if (a) inetd is not running, (b) inetd is running but those specific service shave been commented out of /etc/inetd.conf, or (c) there is a firewall configuration on your system that is rejecting the connections.

—Lars Kellogg-Stedman,

Correction to “Boot Process Question”

In the December 1999 Linux Journal, a questions of yours was printed regarding a problem with bringing up your network interfaces at boot time. What you describe is a classic configuration problem, and I'm afraid that both of the printed answers missed the point entirely.

A properly configured Red Hat system doesn't require you to go around modifing the order of your rc files. The error you describe is usually caused by the simple fact that your network configuration is set to enable your ethernet interface at boot time, generally via an entry similar to the following in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0:


For interfaces corresponding to PCMCIA devices, the ONBOOT paramter should be set to “no”:


The initialization of the device will be handled by the PCMCIA software when the pcmcia rc script runs later in the init process.

Modifying the order of your rc scripts can be a bad idea unless you are sure that you won't be breaking any dependencies. While it might fix the symptoms in this situation, it's not really fixing the problem, and is ultimately an unnecessary hack.


—Lars Kellogg-Stedman,

Re: Correction to “Boot Process Question”

On Wed, Dec 08, 1999 at 11:55:24AM -0500, Lars Kellogg-Stedman wrote: A properly configured Red Hat system doesn't require you to go around modifing the order of your rc files. The error you describe is usually
Actually before 6.0, that wasn't true, and I filed a couple of bugs about this. If you re-read my answer, you'll see that I said that what the user saw was normal and expected behavior. I merely explained how to change the boot order should there be some other reason to do it (RH can't get all the possible cases right, for instance, they used to run routed before my PCMCIA interface was brought up).
caused by the simple fact that your network configuration is set to enable your ethernet interface at boot time, generally via an entry similar to the following in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0: ONBOOT=yes
For interfaces corresponding to PCMCIA devices, the ONBOOT paramter should be set to “no”: ONBOOT=no
This is true but it's not relevant to the current point. If you look at the code, you'll see that it says:
# is this device available? (this catches PCMCIA devices for us)
/sbin/ifconfig ${REALDEVICE} 2>&1 | grep -s "not found" > /dev/null
if [ "$?" "0" ]; then
    echo "Delaying ${DEVICE} initialization."
    exit 1
So what RH does is to try to bring the interface up, but that fails for PCMCIA as it's not running yet.
The initialization of the device will be handled by the PCMCIA software when the pcmcia rc script runs later in the init process.
That's correct, PCMCIA brings the interface up later.
Modifying the order of your rc scripts can be a bad idea unless you are sure that you won't be breaking any dependencies. While it might fix the symptoms in this situation, it's not really fixing the problem, and is ultimately an unnecessary hack.
I said that he didn't need to change the order for his problem, but I explained how to do it in case there was some other good reason to do it.

Since you don't seem to believe me, I'll give you examples:

PCMCIA is started by /etc/rc.d/rc when it reaches S45. That's already too late if you plan to mount SMB or NFS filesystems as netfs starts at S14. Another example is syslog (S30) as you may be sending syslog output to another machine, or atd (S40) as /var/spool could be NFS mounted...

—Marc Merlin,

Re: Multifax Article in Recent Issue

I read with interest your article on Multifax in the December issue of your magazine. But I found one obvious thing missing from the article. Where are you going to get the fax numbers? Are you going to purchase them? I recently dealt with this issue with a company for which I work.

I run a small Linux consulting company on the side so we did something about it. We fired up the old brain and wrote a utility that will obtain all the fax numbers by area code or prefix. I told the guys at OCLUG (Orange County Linux Users Group) about it. I have already been flamed once. I feel our utility is a good thing which allows you to market to people who leave their fax machines on. Anyway, if you are going to write an article about faxing, Linux can provide tools that make development much easier than under Windows. If you want to do an article on our software, I would be happy to share the source code with your magazine. If you don't want to write an article about it, but publish this letter, I leave this as an exercise for the more advanced readers of Linux Journal. I think we should all remember that goverment, organized crime, most marketing organizations and many other people have these numbers, and as Linux users, we might as well have them too.

—Gary Baker,