Readers sound off.



Longtime subscriber here (from probably back in the late 90s or so). I've spent time in various engineering, IT and support positions during, before and after college to end up where I am now, and along the way, I've continually found my ideal notebook shrinking further and further, and my tolerance of bootup times shrinking proportionately.

This finally came to a head in 2004, when your hardware reviewer test-drove the Sharp Actius MM10, arguably the pinnacle of all ultramobile notebooks that came before. I was convinced and bought one from the same folks that supplied yours (in fact, I bought the actual review unit your reviewer used). I immediately fell in love with it for various reasons, and it followed me across the country several times, from Alaska to Florida, from the US to India and back. I became hooked to its light usefulness, and the 7.5–8 hours on the 9-cell battery. I patched my kernel with laptop mode, tweaked my journal commit times, and learned to love Xfce and later Fluxbox. I could power and boot fully in less than 30 seconds (though I later added some nice convenient things that lengthened it, but it still was less than one minute). I got used to its weird little keyboard and learned how rarely I actually use an optical drive. I turned in lessons, then later administered remote servers, and yet later wrote code in vim via a VPN connection over wireless to the office from outdoors, airports and friends' houses (truly—how boring a guest am I?).

This was all fantastic and magical until its motherboard decided to stop playing nice with IDE devices sometime in late 2006. Nothing else on the market came close. There was no direct replacement. Well, some came close, but their 12" screens wouldn't fit the accessories I'd accumulated over time, or their low-power modes wouldn't yield the same battery life with their high-capacity batteries, or not all of their hardware had kernel support, or they cost way too much. I felt utterly abandoned by the industry, which seemed to assume that folks with my needs are obviously in the market for an overpriced tablet PC, essentially the only machines attempting to meet the MM10's form factor and feature set.

Then, sometime last year, something interesting, amazing and incredible happened. For completely tangential reasons, the industry saw fit to meet this exact market and form factor, and then one-up me by competing on price as well! Since then, I've tried to follow this mini-notebook trend, largely publicized via OLPC's XO, then later ASUS's Eee PC 700. And, the movement got a name—the netbook. I'm not sure I'm sold on this name, but it is certainly adequate, and at least I can tell the world that what I've been looking for has a name.

One great thing is these netbooks recognized that your typical desktop distribution (further, no operating system available) didn't really cater to a highly mobile audience and heavily customized them to address this issue. Hence, full GNU/Linux support is a foregone issue. Astounding! So, I have hope, and I'm in the market for an MM10 replacement now. It shouldn't be too hard, because most of the new models out-sport comparable specs in most areas and exceed in others (I'll take your 15G hard drive, and double it as an SSD, no less).

What about the HP 2133 Mini-Note KX872AA? How about the MSI Wind? Any implementations of the new VIA OpenBook reference implementation? The new Eee PC 900? The brand-new mystery Dell netbook that everyone's salivating over now? There are others I know nothing about, I'm sure. How about a netbook showdown?

Sunit Das


Joshua's response to my showdate tech tip is indeed very helpful [see Letters in the March 2008 issue of LJ]. Frankly, I was not aware of the versatility of GNU's date program. I wrote showdate a long time ago and have used it for doing all sorts of date arithmetic, and I thought it would be nice to share it with others. showdate, however, is not broken or quirky, and if someone does find a bug in it, please contact me at ssahore@yahoo.com. It certainly has room for improvement—for example, the ability to change its datum or use string-valued symbols, such as now, before, after, ago and so forth.


Alternate Image Resizing Script

I would like to suggest an alternative solution for the image resizing script presented by Dave Taylor in his Work the Shell column in the June 2008 issue of LJ.

The basic script on page 29 contains nine calls to system utilities. That means every loop cycle will start nine separate processes. This is the price for the string splitting and the floating-point arithmetic used, which can be completely avoided by two simple tricks. What remains is a solution with one call to file. This will save about 70% runtime when used in a loop running more than 100 arbitrary image files:

declare -i multiplier=75  # in percent (integer)


string=( $(file "$filename") )  # make an array from output
width=${string[4]}  # select width
height=${string[6]}  # select height
height=${height/,/}  # remove trailing comma

let width=($width*$multiplier)/100  # new width
let height=($height*$multiplier)/100  # new height

echo "$filename scaled: width=$width height=$height"

Fritz Mehner

Indy Tux

Thought this image might give you a laugh if you haven't already seen it.

Courtesy of SEO (www.seoclinic.co.uk).

Mike Wax

Sed Is Your Friend

Everything shown in Dave Taylor's July 2008 Work the Shell column using combinations of sed/grep/cut/etc can be drastically simplified, not to mention lighten the load on the system.

To grab the initial top list of films:

curl -s http://www.imdb.com/chart/top | \
 sed -e 's/>/>\
/g' | \
 sed -n -e 's/.*\(\/title\/tt.*\/\).*/http:\/\/www.imdb.com\1/pg' >

To fetch the titles:

curl -s "$1" | \
 sed -n -e '/<title>/s/<title>\(.*\) (\([0-9][0-9][0-9][0-9]\)).*/\1 |

And, finally, please—cat'ing a file into a pipeline that then uses head to peel off a subset of lines?

for name in $(head -10 top250.txt)
 sh ./getfileinfo.sh ${name}

Randy Medd

Dave Taylor replies: Thanks for your note and reminder of the power of sed. It's tricky. I try to find a balance between having incredibly obfuscated but powerful invocations of individual commands and having an evolving sequence of commands in pipes that mimic how most people develop shell scripts. Sometimes it produces utilities that are less than maximally efficient, but really, if it's run once a week, do 535.4 milliseconds really matter?

DTV Help

Thanks to Alolita Sharma for her article on DTV in the July 2008 issue of Linux Journal.

A couple years ago, my wife and I purchased a Hauppauge DVR-950 for use with our HP laptop. At the time, we wanted to find out what was available in HD via the local over-the-air stations before committing to the purchase of an HDTV receiver. We continue to use the 950 occasionally to record and play back programs.

I have been dual-booting the laptop since the release of Dapper Drake and have found increasingly little use for Windows with the exception of running the 950. Thanks to your article, I believe the day is close at hand when I will be able to eliminate Windows entirely.

I picked up my copy of LJ last Thursday and read your article over the weekend. On Monday, I started working on the project, and by Monday afternoon I had MythTV up and running. At first, I had a problem with accessing the MySQL server, but after running the configuration utilities and resetting the password, I was able to get into the back end set up. After making a few educated guesses on the front end setup, I was able to get MythTV to scan for and find the active broadcast channels, and now have it working just fine for watching and recording DTV. I still need to refine the setup just a bit but I don't think that will be difficult at all.

William Parmley

Photo of the Month: Tux Cupcakes

Have a photo you'd like to share with LJ readers? Send your submission to publisher@linuxjournal.com. If we run yours in the magazine, we'll send you a free T-shirt.

Cupcakes by Franci Rogers; Photo by Robert Rogers


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