Letters to the Editor

by Various
Practical Linux

I am at the crossroads, so to speak. Don't get me wrong—I'm a fanatic Linux user, but... First of all, some background: I work for Futurekids (South Africa), and our mission is basically to teach children and adults computer mastery skills. Currently this is done entirely on MS platforms. I started to search for alternative budget systems similar to what we use on MS, but had no luck. It seems the only use for Linux in the classroom is for Internet access and file/printer sharing.

This brings me back to the underlying problem. If we truly want to promote Linux, we must start with the younger generation—the adults of tomorrow. If we can work together to implement a solid education program based on the Linux platform, I believe we will have success. The net result? Children use Linux at school—they get frustrated with Windows at home—and eventually more and more home Windows systems migrate to the Linux platform. But we need this educational system first. To start, the software developers must begin producing “kids” programs—and please, not another flash card program—but programs that make use of multimedia to teach children how a mouse works, how the keyboard works, then progress to Encarta-like encyclopedias, etc.

Dear Linux Developer Community—there is your challenge!

—Nico Coetzee nicc@mweb.co.za

Product Support

I have been using computers for many years, so I am no stranger to the difficulties associated with installing a new OS. But to make claims in your magazine that so far are false, such as the ease of loading Caldera, has put me off both your magazine and Linux in general. I have tried to contact the company: the person at the 1-888 number could easily be replaced by a tape machine, technical-support lines requested I pay more money to make their product work, and I have received no response from e-mail support. I write to you because I read a review in your magazine, and dopey me, I thought someone there used the software before they wrote about it.

—Michael Brooks AZTowGuy@aol.com

Sorry you had problems. In actuality, at least four people here at the office, including the reviewer, used the Caldera LIZARD install successfully with only the one problem discussed in the review. Since that time, we did try to install it on an old machine with a strange configuration, and LIZARD hung up. We switched to the LISA install and it worked fine, installing everything off the CD-ROM without a problem. Took longer than LIZARD, but was still fairly easy. Writing an easy install that includes all possible configurations of hardware, both old and new, is not an easy task —Editor

The Revolution Continues

First off, I would like to say good job with your magazine. I always look forward to the new issue hitting our shelves in my store. I work for Barnes and Noble booksellers, and that's what the other part of this letter is about. I wanted to inform you that due to the support of our Customer Relations manager, and of the store in general, we have started a Linux Users Group through my local store. We meet in the store once a month (the third Tuesday of every month, for those of you in the Lakewood/Long Beach, CA, area). It has quickly grown to be the most popular group in our store, even surpassing the regular reading groups. I hope this trend continues and we see more user groups popping up. Thanks again.

—Jason Lundy lcghent@yahoo.com

Is KDE the Answer?

I have to disagree with Phil Hughes' position in “Is KDE the Answer?” in October's Linux Journal. At the end of the article, Phil states that we should all jump on the KDE bandwagon because KDE is further ahead and is the default on more distributions. He also states that one standard GUI is better than two for appliance users.

I think this is wrong. First of all, there is something to be valued in diversity, as diversity breeds strength. If one day KDE runs into a brick wall and cannot further advance, we'd still have GNOME. Furthermore, if we all jumped on the product that was furthest ahead, Linux would not exist today.

Second, I see no advantage to giving appliance users (or newbies, or any other user) only one interface. While this may require less mental exertion on the part of the user, it will also lead to a bland, homogenized world. A different, novel interface may actually appeal to some of the appliance users.

Phil also mentions offering “one standard GUI rather than two”. This is like saying the US has only two political parties. I use neither KDE nor GNOME, because neither works well for me. Just try running either on a slower Alpha with a TGA card, and you'll know what I mean. Instead I use icewm, which I think is far superior to either. I've used other window managers such as mwm, amiwm and twm, and find all of them far faster, more stable and in almost all ways superior to KDE and GNOME, especially on low-end hardware.

By saying that we should all jump on the KDE bandwagon, Phil is saying that we should all fit ourselves into KDE's mold rather than finding and developing the tools that fit us. In my book, KDE is not the answer.

—Richard Griswold griswold@acm.org


I always look forward to reading my issue of LJ each month. Great magazine; thanks.

The reason I am writing is to share a concern regarding Linux API stability. I enjoy system work too, but the fact is my company sells applications, not operating systems. If I am to produce shrink-wrapped applications, user and kernel APIs must remain stable. I just worked my way through our several drivers to get them from 2.0.* to 2.2.* series kernels, and now I see the driver API is changing again in 2.3.*. It is a terrible temptation to keep improving, but if it works, let's leave it for a while. And maintaining old APIs is not a long-term answer either—that's what makes UNIX systems so fat, all the baggage they carry around.

Thanks for listening.

—Elwood Downey ECDowney@ClearSkyInstitute.com

Load Disqus comments