Letters to the Editor

by Various

I work as a journalist for the Slovak magazine PCRevue, so typing articles in my native language is very important for me. On page four (describing the cover) of the 3/99 issue of LJ, you stated that Linux is truly an international OS. A true statement, but just partially.

Stephan Kulow, Mathias Elter and I along with many translators from around the world want to make the KDE environment internationalized. It works fine for us; we have menu items, and I can write ISO-8859-2 characters to this localized Kmail window with no problems. KDE was the first desktop environment in Slovakia, translated to our language (Windows 95 was not translated; they just did Windows 98). This is one area in which we are a step ahead. GNOME, CDE and other desktop systems for UNIX have not been translated.

Also, the developers of (mainly) commercial software don't handle I18N properly, so we must use wrappers for libX11 done by Stano Meduna, et al. We have some patches that would help I18N in XFree, for example, but XFree development isn't truly open—no reply, no help. No truly usable office software is available under Linux for our language. For example, Star Office from Star Division doesn't initialize I18N properly. With wrappers, it works partially, but when importing MS Word 97 documents, it won't change the encoding from Windows-1250 to ISO-8859-2, so I am displaying Windows-1250 with ISO-8859-2 fonts. Export of HTML is done via that ugly 7-bit convention. Surprisingly, not all characters are working like this (e.g., l-acute works only in some browsers and doesn't get exported correctly). WordPerfect took care in providing I18N support, but it also uses the 7-bit convention for HTML export and cannot import other HTML encodings (like Unicode). The import/export of Word works fine, but it is not perfect. The t-acute and l-acute characters are changed for question marks; l-acute is probably used only in our language, but programmers should think about it.

I am looking for Koffice or some open-source office package which I could fix to use I18N correctly, or a commercial company that fixes its errors fast, responds to users and takes care about their products. We have found, for example, that Red Hat is such a company. They have incorporated Stano's patches for X and our key maps into the distribution along with character sets and other things to help I18N. But they don't make an office suite.

—Juraj Bednar bednar@isternet.sk

Table of Contents for Supplements

Two possible solutions to the weird rules of the Post Office are: print the TOC in the previous or following month's magazine, or publish the TOC on your web site.

—Alan Rocker rocker@acs.ryerson.ca

As a matter of fact, we do publish the TOC on-line. See http://www.linuxjournal.com/issue57/lstoc.html for both the TOC and all the articles —Editor

Interactive LJ

Ah, you just robbed me of all the fun of making my own searchable index of LJ issues. Your service at http://interactive.linuxjournal.com/ just found the article I needed.

Thank you for a very useful on-line service, and of course, the indispensable Linux Journal.

—Rolf Magnus Nilsen rolf@itdata.no

Error in March 1999 issue

I always take the “Best of Technical Support” column with a grain of salt, since it is user opinions based on no investigation of the specific situation. However, one in March was kind of appalling. Luis Cardenas asked if PCI modems would work with Linux. You published a response by Mario Bittencourt that was a very nice, concise guide to making ISA modems work with 2.0.x or older kernels.

Unfortunately, the advice is not at all applicable to PCI modems and could very well lead people to go out and purchase such modems, only to find they won't work on Linux.

Further, the advice is only good for older kernels which still support the deprecated /dev/cua# devices. It has been considered bad practice to use these devices for some time, and in the current kernel they don't exist anymore.

—Shawn McMahon smcmahon@eiv.com

Yes, you are correct—PCI modems are basically Windows only. We should have caught that, sorry —Editor

Kudos to Trident

I am writing to let you know of a recent hardware company's exceptional support to the GNU/Linux community and the GPL.

The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture project (http://alsa.jcu.cz/) is a project designed to build an architecture for pro-quality sound and MIDI applications, from low-level drivers for sound and MIDI hardware to high-level libraries and sequencers. The project is committed to releasing all work under the GPL.

As you may know, many sound card manufacturers are reluctant to give any technical help, and even some of those that offer help require non-disclosure agreements, which exclude the possibility of released source. We have blacklisted some companies (http://alsa.jcu.cz/black.html) which have either refused to release information or have decided to release binary-only drivers, which ALSA will not use.

Trident (http://www.tridentmicro.com/) recently contacted the ALSA developer mailing list, having written their own drivers for their 4DWave chip set for ALSA, and offering the source for the drivers. They graciously allowed all of it to be put under the GPL, including technical documents.

I am hoping to drum up support for their hardware in order for the community to demonstrate how cooperation of this sort can aid sales. Maybe this will convince more companies to follow.

Their chip set is used in the following products. If GNU/Linux users are looking towards purchasing a sound card, perhaps they would consider some of the following, since these cards are well-supported under ALSA.


Product Name




Union Miss Melody 4DWave PCI


4DWave PCI


ONSpeed 4DWave PCI


PCI 64-Q3D


SoundVision (model SV 750)


True Sound 4Dwave




SonicWave 4D


WaveAudio Interactive (Model AWT4DX)


Opera CyberPCI-64



You can read more about ALSA and the call to sound card manufacturers at http://alsa.jcu.cz/call.html/.

—Thomas Hudson thudson@cygnus.com

Window Manager Confusion Spells Doom

My company sells CAD software for Windows NT, we run the company on Macintoshes, and we serve our data from Linux. I was surprised how easy Linux was to get up and running.

However, once upon a time there were two UNIX tribes: the Open Software Foundation and UNIX International. Each tribe was trying to rubber-stamp UNIX for the masses. As the two camps fought, a third tribe from the Northwest called Microsoft provided business with Windows NT. Windows NT did not provide anything great; in fact, it was largely based on an operating system from Digital Equipment Corporation called VMS. The UNIX tribes had beaten this operating system years before.

Linux has a real opportunity to compete in business beyond the server. All that is needed is a single standard desktop. Forget about KDE and GNOME. Merge them, do whatever you must with them, but get a single desktop environment for which developers can write applications and users will prosper.

I am convinced Windows NT cannot serve my business. Unfortunately, until Linux provides a common desktop, Apple's OS X may be the only way to finally bring the power of UNIX to the business user.

—Jeff Millard President, SolidVision, Inc. jeffmill@solidviz.com

Linux Certification

I am writing in regards to the article “Linux Certification for the Software Professional” by P. Tobin McGinnis in LJ April 1999. First, I have been working with PCs since I got my first Apple back in the early 80s. When I went to college, I started using the x86 platform. After finishing my college degree, the Air Force sent me to Keesler AFB to teach computers to new recruits. There I first heard the word “certification” in regards to Novell's CNE program. We were teaching Novell 4.x to our students. People started talking about Novell certification, and of how much one could make if they had this certification. A couple of years later, I was working as a contractor for the Corp of Engineers in Mobile, AL on a team that went to field sites to convert Novell servers to NT. Once again, I heard the certification buzzword, this time from Microsoft, and the buzz of big money if one had the MCSE certification.

People began to scramble to get certified at great cost to themselves—$100 US per test, $50 US per book, and in some cases, thousands of dollars for classes. Now, many of the questions and answers for these certification tests can be found on the Web. People are passing the test who have never installed the NT OS. Yet because they are certified, they are called experts—their certificate is meaningless.

Now I read in Linux Journal the buzz about Linux certification. I thought Linux was better than that. Certification has always been a way for companies to market their products. The training companies are the only ones getting rich from certification. Linux has grown exponentially without certification. I am against certification.

Please don't promote Linux certification. It will ruin the Linux movement. The movement was created by people who rebelled against the likes of MS, Novell and many other companies. Now it seems we are running to join their ranks with the same certification nonsense.

—Kyle Enlow kenlow@indiana.edu

Linux in Schools

I am writing this after reading the article “Linux in a Public High School” by Andrew Feinberg in your March issue. I am currently one of two system administrators at Bridges Academy, located in Los Angeles, California. My associate, Brook Elliot, and I run a Debian 2.0 box with the 2.0.36 kernel. The Linux box runs on a T1 line, and using DHCP, we enable students to plug in to any of the Ethernet jacks around the school and check their e-mail or browse the Web. Although most of these students are using Windows 9x machines, a select few of us use the full Linux potential.

Both Brook and I are students at this school. We currently have a web page up for the school at http://www.bridges.edu/, which runs under Apache.

—Matthew Kaufman xel@Bridges.Edu

Byte Magazine Syndrome

Many years ago, Byte magazine was a technically oriented magazine that I enjoyed reading as I enjoyed reading the December issue of Linux Journal. Early last year, Byte was publishing fluff. I hope the March 1999 issue of Linux Journal is not an indication of more fluff to come. With the exception of the GNU gettext article, where are the items that show a reader how to use a Linux system in a new or more productive way, to use a new programming library, to reduce incoming spam, etc.? One or two articles on interesting uses of Linux is fine (such as “Linux for the International Space Station Program” by Guillermo Ortega), but please don't go the way of Byte.

—Richard Film. Unix. Mirkwood@disney.com

I wouldn't call discussions of Internationalization “fluff” myself, but everyone has his own opinion. As always, we try to remain as balanced as possible between technical and non-technical articles. I hope April and May were more to your liking —Editor

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