Current_Issue.tar.gz - When Underdogs Take Over the World

by Shawn Powers

Programmers, network administrators, tech-support personnel and IT folks in general are rarely in the limelight. It's no secret, however, that the people behind the scenes are truly the ones running the world. As part of the geeky infrastructure that keeps the planet going, we all know the power of the underdog. Heck, we “save the day” on a regular basis, and most people never are the wiser. Can you imagine a world without any IT staff? Oh sure, that might seem a bit arrogant, but really, with little fanfare, we keep the end users happy. And, our operating system of choice? Linux, of course.

With its relatively small desktop market share, Linux often is considered an underdog. Here at Linux Journal, we prefer to think of it more along the lines of “Undiscovered Superhero”, but however you look at it, Linux is the operating system that is easy to love. If you take off the wide-angle lens, however, and look strictly at software in the Open Source community, we have underdogs of our own. This month, we decided it would be nice to give the spotlight to those diamonds in the rough.

If you're reading this article on the Linux Journal Web site, chances are you're using the Firefox browser to do so. Firefox certainly isn't an underdog anymore, but James Gray gives us a play-by-play history of its evolution from the very beginning. Hopefully, the Firefox success story will be one we see repeated over and over. Will Xara Xtreme be the next application to offer some serious competition in its field? Well, switching to an open-source license for its core program certainly is a step in the right direction. Dan Sawyer shows us this graphics and illustration design program that is now available. If you're tired of running Adobe Illustrator via Wine, you'll love the new Linux native Xara Xtreme.

If indeed you are reading this on-line, you've probably correctly assumed that is hosted with Apache. That should come as no surprise, but what might come as a bit of a shock is that Will Reese tells us Nginx might be a better alternative. Thankfully, it's still very much an open-source project, so we're at least willing to listen. Cory Wright tells us about a wonderful alternative to BIND as well. If security and configuration concerns about BIND have given you cause to worry, djbdns just might be the ticket. Cory walks us through the why, how and where of configuring this little-known DNS server.

What discussion regarding underdogs would be complete without talking about the command line? Love it or hate it, Linux is built around the terminal. Kyle Rankin tells us how to get the most out of our terminal by splitting it up. If you're not sure what you would put in a split-window xterm, a good place to start is with e-mail. Victor Gregorio tells us all about Mutt, a command-line e-mail client that has more features than many of its GUI counterparts.

Here at Linux Journal, however, we're all about choice. If the command line makes you nervous, there are plenty of GUI alternatives. Heck, we even have choices when it comes to the version of Linux distribution you want to run. Many of us use the “big dogs” of the Linux world when it comes to distros, but what about Gentoo? It's certainly not for the faint of heart, but Mike Diehl thinks it might be worth the time it takes to install. Perhaps after reading his article, you'll agree.

If you're just looking to cheer for the underdog or hoping to discover the Next Big Thing, this issue should educate, enlighten and entertain. As always, we have our full lineup of regular columns, helpful tech tips, and geek-friendly product reviews. So whether you stay up reading all night or start a stockpile of reading material for the analog television blackout in February (Doc Searls talks about that this month as well), this issue is bound to be a keeper.

Shawn Powers is the Associate Editor for Linux Journal. He's also the Gadget Guy for, and he has an interesting collection of vintage Garfield coffee mugs. Don't let his silly hairdo fool you, he's a pretty ordinary guy and can be reached via e-mail at Or, swing by the #linuxjournal IRC channel on

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