by Staff


Kudos on the Redesign

I received my copy of the March 2006 issue of LJ, and I was surprised to see the graphic design. I think the new design is awesome. Thanks for your work.


Thank our artist extraordinaire, Garrick Antikajian, for the spectacular new design! —Ed.

Separation of Church and Ads

I'm not so sure I like the new look for LJ. It's difficult to tell where the ads end and the articles begin. I feel that it acts as a distraction to the reader and hides valuable information among the noise of advertising.

William W. Atkinson

Blackjack in Fewer Draws

I just read the “Writing a Shell Game” by Dave Taylor in the March 2006 issue of Linux Journal, and the technique he used for shuffling cards seems somewhat inefficient and incorrect. Taylor is randomly selecting cards from a fixed array. A far better algorithm would be a swap-based shuffle, where you walk along the deck, swapping each card with a randomly chosen other card. The code to implement this is shorter than Taylor's “choose until bored, then scoop up the rest” method. In bash, you could do it with:

# Shuffle the deck
while [ $i -gt 0 ]; do
    swap_i=$(( ( $RANDOM % $i ) + 1 ))
    i=$(( $i - 1 ))

No need for creating a second deck from a first—this shuffles in-place. Still, I'd like to thank Dave for the article, because although I know I've encountered bash arrays before, somehow I just could never get the hang of the syntax. His article spells it out in an understandable and useful way.

Steve Fink

Dave Taylor replies: Hey! That's some cool code you've written there, Steve. Thanks for sharing it. In terms of whether my algorithm was optimal, well, um, err, I've been too busy figuring out whether we were going to implement Atlantic City or Vegas rules to worry about how well the shuffle worked.

Substantiate Your Dislikes about GNOME

I'm a KDE refugee and much prefer GNOME, so I was surprised at the depth of [Nicholas Petreley's] dislike [see the March 2006 etc/rant column]. It'd be nice to know what objective standards he's measuring GNOME against. I'm not suggesting that GNOME is “the best”--for example, I too dislike Nautilus and usually install another file manager.

Sonia Hamilton

I will be more specific in a future rant. In the meantime, as far as what a user sees, GNOME is a window manager, panels and file manager. The minimalistic window manager, Metacity, doesn't have much to do with GNOME. The panels get more minimalistic with each release. The only substantial component of GNOME is Nautilus, and you replace it. What does that tell you? —Ed.

What a GNOME Needs

I think the lesson to be learned from both open-source and commercial software is that everyone has different needs. [GNOME should come up with a method] that would allow people to choose just what level of features are available to users, what the defaults are and so on. As distro makers get a better sense of the varying classes of users, they can continue to fine-tune their policies without having to be full GUI developers. And as users themselves grow, they can be given the option of moving to a more advanced GUI policy. This would be an elegant way of satisfying everyone's needs. And it keeps in line with what I think of as real choice in the traditional UNIX sense.


GNOME Does Not Offer Choice

The only real complaint I have against GNOME is that it doesn't support no-auto-raise-on-focus. You Google it, and you find letters that are six or seven years old asking when it will be available in GNOME, with the GNOME developers pretty much ignoring the request or saying, “never”. So to the people who say that GNOME offers choice, ask them why you can't choose to have the focus in a window that is partially occluded? If you get the Microsoftian response of “Why would you want that?”, then you have demonstrated that they really don't care about choice. And here I find myself at the end of the letter, apparently disagreeing with Nick! Choice does matter, and GNOME bites precisely because it fails to offer it.


My sentiments exactly. As per the previous letter, I'd like to see a desktop that “just works” but makes it easy to customize it to the Nth degree if I so choose—Ed.

In Defense of GNOME

On the defensive, GNOME has the ability to do everything I need/want. It's a simple and elegant design, which means I don't need to customize it and rip out applications to slim it down. For me, at least, it is very intuitive when I need to make a change or add something to it. The biggest priority for me is system resources; it is not uncommon for my computer to be pushing the max limit because of the magnitude of the programs I run.

Chris Stackpole

You make a good point about GNOME using fewer resources than KDE. However, when I really want to minimize the resources used by a desktop, I run IceWM or Fluxbox. To each his own—Ed.

Make Innovation Not Duplication

[There is] a real challenge to those who design user interfaces for Linux. In order for Linux truly to eclipse Microsoft on the desktop, it is not enough to be “as good as Windows”. It has to set a new paradigm, one in which productivity surpasses anything possible with Windows.

To paraphrase your comments [see etc/rant, March 2006]: choice is nice, but it's not an end in itself. If you have only crap to choose from, then choice means nothing. We don't need to have a choice among user interfaces that are basically patterned after what Microsoft has established. We need to be able to choose a better way of doing things with a computer in general. We need a better paradigm of user interface. We need something that really emulates the way we think as humans, and not how Microsoft believes we should think.

Ken Peterson

Make Raves Not Rants

I've been a subscriber for five years or so. If the badgering rants of Petreley continue, I'm canceling. In fact, I don't want to read any rants. I like raves.

John Elliott

We print raves. See the raves about the rant column, for example—Ed.

KOffice Live Links

I'm a happy reader of LJ next to also being a core programmer of KWord and several of the other KOffice components. As your article went over a core feature [see the February 2006 etc/rant column], and you apparently missed some aspects of it, I would like to invite you to do a more thorough review of the capabilities of KOffice. In direct reference to your article, I can inform you that in KOffice the OLE kind of embedding is actually done quite innovatively (since 1999 already), and much like you have witnessed in EIOffice, there is a way to keep the embedded document external so that the chart and spreadsheet data is updated whenever the external document is edited.

Thomas Zander

I couldn't find the way to do what you described. It obviously isn't as simple as the EIOffice method, which is simply “copy” and then “paste link”—Ed.

Boobies out of Place

I found the cartoon with reference to “boobies” out of place in a professional magazine. It was hard for me to enjoy reading the March 2006 issue of Linux Journal. My mind kept wandering to such places as pondering if my coworkers were thinking about my “boobies” while I was trying to convey sophisticated technical material, perhaps in defense of our Linux operating systems.

Linda Hedges

Why Isn't etc/rant LSB-Compliant?

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to call your column “var/rant” rather than “etc/rant”? Given the context of the column, it's not implied that one should take the content as fact, but rather coincidental output based on certain circumstances. Just a thought....

Ken Peterson

You're probably right, but you gave it much more thought than I did—Ed.

Skype Hype

In the January 2006 issue of Linux Journal, (Home Projects) there was an article regarding using a Linux-based Skype Server for your home telephone service [see Andrew Sheppard's “Build a Linux-Based Skype Server for Your Home Phone System”]. I set up the server using Fedora Core 3, following the article every step, until I completed installing SkypeMate. Long story short, it didn't work. Please help.


Andrew Sheppard replies: Linux is, sadly, the poor cousin of Windows in terms of hardware driver support. However, there's an open-source project for Linux to provide independent drivers and support for the Yealink B2K USB/PSTN phone adapter. Here are the links: savannah.nongnu.org/projects/usbb2k-api and memeteau.free.fr/usbb2k.

The default mode may be different depending on what version of the B2K adapter you have, and who re-badged it (they all come from the Yealink factory, as far as I can tell). In my case, leaving the PSTN line unplugged will leave the adapter in USB mode by default.

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