On the Web - Reviewing the Basics

by Heather Mead

A few months ago, a friend of mine who knows I work for Linux Journal asked if I could help him install a Linux distribution on his home computer. He's a part-time student and didn't want a repeat of a situation from last semester: having rebooted his system after it crashed, he discovered the document file he'd been writing was corrupted. This wasn't the first time he'd “lost” work, and he wanted to know if there was another OS option. We switched him to the latest Red Hat, which uses the journaling ext3 filesystem, and so far things have run smoothly.

I thought of my friend recently when reading Bruce Byfield's Web article on “Breaking the Word Processor Curve” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/7120). Bruce builds a good case for OpenOffice.org's Writer being the best word processor around, because it takes a completely different approach to style, structured texts and long documents. Instead of using menus to access a limited number of style options, OOo Writer “offers a floating palette called the Stylist. Repositionable anywhere on the screen, the Stylist not only makes the application of styles more convenient, but it makes the editing and creation of styles a single right-click away.” In addition, many features that don't work in Microsoft Word do work in OOo Writer, such as master documents and automatic numbering. In this case, although my friend was looking for an alternative, he may have ended up with the better choice.

If you're already familiar with Linux or other UNIX systems but want some refresher articles, start with “Using CFS, the Cryptographic Filesystem” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/6381). Author Jerry Sweet explains how CFS encrypts files in a directory and then lets you decrypt them to plain text for a specified amount of time with a local loopback NFS mount. When you're done, you check the files back in, and they are once again encrypted. If you're interested in trying CFS, Jerry's article also provides scripts and tips.

Two more good refresher articles are “Overview of Linux Printing Systems” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/6729) and “Linkers and Loaders” (www.linuxjournal.com/article/6463). The first article discusses the basics of UNIX printing systems and how they revolve “almost entirely around the PostScript page description language”. Author Stephane Peter then shows how these basics apply to Linux and covers the BSD LPD printing system, the LPRng printing system and CUPS. “Linkers and Loaders”, on the other hand, is an overview of how compilers, linkers and loaders work. Author Sandeep Grover explains three different types of object files and the difference between working with static and shared libraries. If you're looking to get into development or administration, these two articles might be a good place to start your research.

Much of our lives are spent learning new things and teaching others, and as far as Linux goes, the Linux Journal Web site is here to help you. If you'd like to write an article that covers a basic or teaches us something new, drop us a line at ljeditor@linuxjournal.com.

Heather Mead is senior editor of Linux Journal.

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