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+---[ Issue 15
|                                             30th August 99 ]----+
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                            The Linux Bits: The Weekly Linux E-zine


------[ CONTENTS



Well, late again. At least I'm consistent. :)

Seriously though, I had Netscape 4.51 just "curl up it's toes and die on me" - completely - taking some articles I'd planned to put into this week's Linux Bits along with it into the ether. I installed Netscape 4.61 this afternoon (Sat.) after work and have just finished giving it the once over and it would appear that all is well - or as well as can be expected with me and Netscape at any rate. It would seem that we have an "undeclared war" in progress - and no one bothered to tell me about it first...

At any rate, I'll keep my opinions to myself - for now - and get on with the rest of the newsletter given the extreme lateness already.

Oh, just so you know, Laurence and I plan to have the 1st issue of TLBM (The Linux Bits - Monthly) out sometime around the first of the month - just a few short days away. So keep your eyes open as you don't know for sure when that will be showing up - but it'll be worth it I promise you.

Yet more format changes this week. Adding more stuff all the time it seems, but as Laurence has told me not to "stress about the length" I'll not be worried about that anymore. :)



Thanks to those nice people at BeSeen The Bits now has its own Linux Forum! We'd love to hear from everyone. is the moderator, so all postings to the forum are also posted to him. What this means is that if someone else can't answer your Linux questions (and he has the time!) he'll give it his best shot. It doesn't need to be a question, feel free to tell us how much you love (or hate) The Bits, what you think of Linux, why Linus Torvalds is God, etc, etc. All we ask is that you don't use bad language or include links to offensive sites.



If you're a resident of the United States or Canada you should pop on over to the homepage at LinuxWorld and enter their contest to win a new Dell Pentium-III server with a 450MHz CPU, 128Mb RAM, 9Gb SCSI hard drive, and who knows what else as part of the package. The contest runs until the end of September and you can enter once a day if you'd like. I plan to make it a daily stop for the next month or so at least. :)



While you're at LinuxWorld trying to win the server - hey, even I wouldn't turn down a system like that just because it had a P-III inside, a fool I'm not :-) - you might want to take a few minutes to take a look at their OpenBook Project. What it all boils down to is they have a book being put together by the Linux community for the Linux community with the book itself being like an "open-source" kind of project.

If you submit a piece, you get your name included as a contributor and an "honorarium" as well. I'm not quite clear yet on how the whole thing works, as I've been having my own personal war with Netscape this past week and haven't had nearly as much time as I'd like to look into it properly but it's worth taking a look at in any event.

The way I got directed there - quite specifically for that (as well as entering the Dell contest) was rather interesting so I'll share it with you.

Early in the week I was running just a bit behind on getting out the door to catch the bus to work. It didn't help matters that they were doing some paving in my neighborhood and had re-routed the buses for the duration and so the bus schedules weren't exactly as they should have been either. In any event, I got to the corner just in time to see my "normal" bus pulling away - from a block down the street where it had been re-routed.

There have been times in the past I'd have been kind of upset about such a thing but I always plan to leave enough time (about 30 minutes or so) so that if something should happen I still have at least a chance to make it to work on time. I'd already told my boss about the bus situation so I knew that if I was a few minutes late it wouldn't be a tragedy anyway. I took advantage of the time I had before the next bus to pop across the street and grab a bit of lunch while I was waiting.

I got on a different bus that makes a connection at a transit center to transfer to the bus headed to downtown. Normally I don't go this route as it means having to change buses and the other one is just a straight shot so I usually take that one. I'm glad I took the other bus that day...



I got on the bus to downtown from the transit center and had a Linux book with me. I was just getting started on it when the woman next to me said something about "that's a good book..." I looked around and next thing I know we're having this great conversation about Linux while the bus heads down the freeway. Her name was Joanne Wagner and she works for

Web Publishing Inc. (an IDG company) and IDG publishes (among other things) JavaWorld, SunWorld, Windows TechEdge, and last but certainly not least, LinuxWorld!

She'd been to Seattle to see Nick Petreley (the editor - writes the Penguin Brief) and Joe Barr (also writes a column for them) and we talked a bit about that and then she told me about the Dell contest and the OpenBook Project - and I told her about Laurence and the marvellous job he's doing with the Newbie's Linux Manual here at The Bits and my own humble efforts with The Linux Bits since I assumed the reins from Laurence. With results like that I should miss the bus more often I'm thinking! :)

I've already asked Joe Barr (he and Nick Petreley are 'over-seeing' the OpenBook Project) if he would like to have a short bit about the Screen program and how it lets you use the lowly VT-100 to great advantage and he said to send it along. So I'll just take what I've already done for The Linux Bits and send it along to Joe and see if they want to include it into the book or not.

So, you see, the whole thrust of this project is not so much to have people with years of experience doing it all - but rather to have the community with all it's diversity of experience and opinions to contribute. I think it's a marvellous idea and would encourage all of you to take a look at the book outline and read the forums, see if you can make a suggestion, or perhaps there's a bit that you already know how to do, that they need some help on. Let's get involved!

I can't "hack the kernel" (at least not yet!) but I can talk about the things that I know how to do and if that is something they would like to put out for the rest of the world to see then so be it. I'm hoping that Laurence will have a look and maybe come up with something for the book as well although I know he's horribly busy with the Newbie's Linux Manual already.

This is, actually, a bit like a "Newbie's manual" only on a bit larger scale. Or perhaps not, I don't know what Laurence has planned for us next do I? :)



A Simple Internet Gateway for your LAN

All your PCs can access the Internet with only one ISP and one phone line. (I tried to get this in last week but the link didn't work right... I got around it. Worth a read.)

Developers Demand Linux Port of Delphi And Get It

I was wondering how the Borland survey turned out. The first time through their server died... I had to take it twice! :)

Be Inks Pact With RealNetworks

Since going public last month, the operating system maker is forging alliances more aggressively. This is the first news I've seen on BeOS in a while. But it would seem that they are on the right track. Still not multi-user apparently from what the article says but they seem to have found a nice "niche" for themselves despite that.

Fujitsu And Siemens Tie Powerhouse Knot

Japanese and German computer makers sign global partnership and aim for number one position in Europe. Hey... didn't I see Fujitsu in the BeOS story too? Busy aren't they?

An Open Business Plan For Red Hat, Inc.

An osOpinion piece: An open business plan for Red Hat suggests how Red Hat should move forward with their pot of money. It includes buying SCO...

Microsoft Linux: Will It Happen? When It'll Happen? An Os Opinion Interview With Mariko El-nabi

Another osOpinion piece: Microsoft Linux is an interview with Mariko El-Nabi on when and how Microsoft will move into the Linux business.



MandrakeSoft made its Linux debut just over a year ago (July 23rd '98) with Linux-Mandrake 5.1. Back then it was simply a rework of Red Hat 5.1 with KDE included. (KDE never made its way into Red Hat until version 6.0 because of a licensing disagreement.) When people got wind of this "Red Hat Linux Deluxe" offering, Linux-Mandrake understandably attracted many people.

Here's some of the big things that have happened to MandrakeSoft over the last few months:


  • "Panoramix", their new graphical installer, released as open-source.
  • MandrakeSoft released a graphical partitioning tool for Linux called DiskDrake.
  • "Cooker", their development version announced. (Receiving a substantial amount of developer interest.)
  • MandrakeSoft announced the funding of David Faure to work full-time on development of KDE and KOffice.

I was really proud of MandrakeSoft for doing this. Just goes to show what a nice bunch of people they are, and that they care more about the Open-source community than profit, profit, profit. 3 cheers to MandrakeSoft!


  • Linux-Mandrake wins two LinuxWorld Editors' Choice Awards. One for "Product of the Year" and the other for "Best Distribution/Server."
  • Robin Miller from Andover News Network's made a highly public switch to Linux-Mandrake.


  • Bynari Systems to provide support services for Linux-Mandrake in the U.S.
  • AXA Placement Innovation made an equity investment in MandrakeSoft.

It's clear that Linux-Mandrake is making an impression on the Linux world. Now that they have 20 employees and the money to fund open-source projects as well as a reputation for offering a great "value-for-money" Linux distro.

Since MandrakeSoft now has the resources to do things their way, they're no longer relying on direct use of the Red Hat code base. Good news for everyone is that they'll keep full RPM support. Not so much a wise move, as a dumb move if they had dropped it.

Hats off to MandrakeSoft. I look forward to seeing what becomes of them in the months to come.



Peanut-Linux Premium v1.1-3 Release

Ranking as a mini-distribution due to its size (40MB), Peanut-Linux promises to be a full GUI version of Linux, more up-to-date than current versions of the major distributions. It includes KDE and X Windows, though items such as Gimp and Perl must be added. They could use a spell-checker for their webpage, but it looks like they are working hard. For people who find the major distributions too bloated but want more than command-line functionality, this might be one to check out. [Thanks to Dave Stevens.]

Hmmmm... I went over to the page and took a quick look-see and it seems like a very interesting distro to check out. Seems to have all the necessary parts and all in only about 125MB total after install (according to their website) so you don't need a lot of space to take a look at it. I'll be doing that soon I'm sure...



Free Unix Giveaway List
Here's an interesting link. Folks wanting to give away things - Linux related of course.

The #1 place to go for Linux software - if they don't have it here there's something wrong...

Linux Weekly News
The best Linux news site on the Net.




Hey there fellow Linux users and abusers!

Normally I am loath to spend upwards of £50 on a book, especially on a subject that I am new to. The subject in this case is Linux, and the book in question is


I had been following the staggering progress of Linux in a magazine we get here in England called PC Plus. It seemed perfect to me, as I have always been a tinkerer and a fiddler, not willing to be satisfied with the other flavour of operating systems, and their approach to doing things.

I needed a book that would take me from complete newbie, (as far as Linux is concerned), to being able to run my own system, and get net access, and the above mentioned book did all that and more.

The book itself is 780 pages stuffed with helpful advice and pointers that appeal to newbies and seasoned Linuxers alike.

One of the most helpful sections is "Systems Administration", this helps in setting up your new Linux box for first use. With sub-sections on "Understanding System Admin", "Booting and Shutting Down", and "Managing User Accounts" and more, it certainly helped me get going.

There are chapters that I have yet to tackle full on, these are concerning the ins and outs of TCP/IP protocol, and setting up the Linux web server, Apache. As I am a single user on a phone line to the Internet, I have not had much use for a web server as yet. Maybe if we get cable modem access in the near future in England, (looking good by the way), this might change.

In addition to all the sound advice, you also get 3 Flava's of Linux thrown into the pot. Red Hat 5.1, Slackware 96, and Caldera Open Linux Lite. This final distro was added at the last moment, and is not covered in great detail. But as everyone knows, one distro is very much the same as the next. (Prepare for flames, break out the extinguishers!)

Two chapters of the book deal with installing the Red Hat and Slackware versions, and they are reasonably in depth. I managed to install Red Hat without too many problems. Although I have now migrated to SuSE 6.1, this book still sits by my monitor and is opened at regular intervals to check and make sure I am not about to wipe my hard drive with a fumbled command!!

The book is due to be updated very soon, in fact Edition Four is already on the shelves in England, sporting Red Hat 5.2, (even though Version 6 is on the streets!).

If you are interested, the book is published by QUE, and the ISBN number is 0-7897-1132-X. They can be contacted at their website, the book costs - $59.99 (US)/$84.95 (Can), and £56.49 (UK).

I can be contacted at or ICQ #24762026.

Speaking Of Reviews: Kofler Update

I got a notice in my email yesterday from

Fatbrain. It would seem that Michael Kofler's 2nd edition of has finally made it to the stores! Yeah! It's available at Fatbrain and also at for about the same price ($35 and change). But I'll probably get mine from Fatbrain as I won't have to pay taxes that way. Amazon is in Seattle, I'm in Seattle, hmmmm... taxes!



Johannes has been kind enough to take the time to contribute to The Linux Bits. Thanks J! English isn't his first language so I had to edit his article in places (as best I could without making me a co-author!), but since the most I can do is count from 1 to 10 in Spanish, and string together a few sentences in German, I think his English is pretty damn good.

Hi, dear Linux Friends!

This is Johannes Drechsel-Burkhard (Joe), a 34 years old IT-Professional from Vienna, Austria.

Ok a professional, but I started to take a look at Unix and Linux first in the beginning of 1999. So I am definitely a Linux newbie. So take my perpetrations as a "childish, professional sight of something really completely different" out there in (user)space.

Bill asked me to tell you a bit about my experiences with S.u.S.E. and StarOffice, as I use both.

I have two important tips for you all, that will possibly help to get everything running smoothly (avoiding the problems I ran into).

I started with SuSE 5.1 half a year ago. The installation worked out fine. I was really afraid and awaited disaster, but surprise, SuSE installed itself at the fourth disk on the second logical drive on a system, where DOS 6.22 / Win 3.x, OS/2 and NT resided in parallel. So trust in the quality!

Nevertheless there were problems. Problems you can avoid with a little care.

Tip 1: Linux Does Not Like Tuned Systems

I used my Pentium 166 with OS/2 and NT for more than a year running at 200 MHz without problems. But SuSE starved many times at installation time (but continued on exactly the same point after rebooting!!! biiig smile). After that it ran OK for a while (a few hours ;-), until I tried to compile my first kernel. It simply was not possible. I got a compiler error at different points.

As you can imagine, I tried that a lot times, as I really did not want to use Microsoft products anymore, after my latest adventures with FrontPage 3.0 and Internet Information Server 4.0. Those really are things that do what they want. Hand-coded HTML will be corrupted behind your back, physical and virtual deleted folders can't be remade on different locations, as IIS tells you that the folder already exists - even if you could not find the place where IIS thinks the information is from (with a BINARY search over 10Gb diskspace). Noooway! Really not!

Fortuitously I met a young man, that asked exactly: "Did You run NT before?", and "Did you tune your system?". After I had to answer both questions with "yes", all became clear:

Believe me, Linux runs faster with 166 MHz than NT with 200. So nothing is lost! Simply the Linux kernel seems to be programmed to use some "hot spotted" processor registers NT never deals with. But I really don't have a technical description that you may trust. Simply use your system at the manufacturer specified frequency, and all will work fine.

Tip 2: Staroffice 5.0 Did An Unpleasant Thing To My System

After the installation of StarOffice 5.0, printing to lpr did not work any more. I needed almost a week (of course I did other things too ;-) ) to figure out what the problem was.

lpr is the Line Printer Queue. All jobs should be sorted after their content, and put in the queue for the correct associated printer filter (color, monochrome, different dpi's, etc.) that is specified with the PRINTER environment variable by default. Ghostscript as the postscript interpreter then needs a path to it's fonts to do its job, after lpd (Line Printer Daemon) gave the command. Ok, that is a very silly overview of it all, but exactly that path to the fonts was deleted after the installation of StarOffice. The same thing happened again, after I downloaded and installed the upgrade to StarOffice 5.1.

Even, if it did not happen again at a third installation (I moved the /home - directory to its own partition and forgot to move also the user specific Office settings :-( ), it could be useful for You too, to know how to correct that. It is interesting, that the re-installation of the fonts with YAST (Yet Another Setup Tool) did not help, as I did the same in a similar way:

I downloaded the newest version of Ghostscript

here (2.5Mb).

This corrected the problem, and further problems did not appear! So get it up and running, or wait until next week, where I'll be more detailed in describing the products for that, (for those who want to know more in advance). But if you already have 170 MB space left under /opt (you could choose a different path), don't worry, be happy, and rely on the programmers in Hamburg, Germany (Star Division). It is available for a lot of platforms too.

StarOffice 5.1 is really the most useful, uncomplicated and powerful office package I ever had to deal with!

But it's also the first Linux program I've used that slows down the system noticeably. This is because there's the equivalent of Excel, Word, Access, PowerPoint, CorelDraw, Netscape, FrontPage, a Scheduler and Outlook, all running at the same time, as part of the one single application. With this taken into account, it's fast (and impressively stable).

It's also completely Microsoft Office compatible, so file sharing is not a problem. You're not even forced to save documents in native StarOffice formats if you don't explicitly ask for that. *.dot keeps *.dot, *.doc keeps *.doc, without nagging popup messages in MS-style like, "Do you really want to save that as doc ... some data/styles may be lost ... blah, blah, blah."

StarOffice is simply able to deal with it, as it could/should be... *sigh*

If there's anything you would like to see me include in next week's The Linux Bits, concerning SuSE or StarOffice, then please let me know!

The homepages for SuSE and StarOffice are:



Due to the length, and the lateness, of this week's issue I'll keep this section pretty short this week. Well, short for me at any rate.

I said earlier that I'd been having an "undeclared war" with Netscape and that's about the best description I can come up with. Netscape 4.51 just went nuts last week. It refused to unload on more than one occasion, causing me to have to use the "Nuke this window" option to close it down. Once it locked up my X-server so badly I couldn't even get out of it using the Ctrl-Alt-Backspace combo. Once it went into some kind of "endless loop" or something - all I know for sure is that it was most assuredly NOT responding to any commands and my hard drive was just sitting there churning away because it was working the swap partition to death I guess. On that particular occasion after listening to my hard drive grind away for 15 minutes I finally decided that even if I did have to go through a "forced check" from not shutting down cleanly that was probably the only way to get NS to stop. So I did that. Shortly afterward I went to find an article that I had in a NS email folder and it flat out refused to even acknowledge that the mail directory existed...that's when I knew I had trouble. Big trouble.

So, I loaded up the KFM browser - which is much easier on the system resources than NS but unfortunately, does not yet support Java or JavaScript. And there are some sites that actually require you to have Java working, or the sites just don't function correctly. I personally think that sucks but that's how it is - and went to the Tuxfinder site to see where I might be able to find RPMs for the "latest and greatest" (Hah!) from Netscape. I had the 4.61 tar-ball sitting on the system but really didn't feel up to dealing with that on a first install of any kind under Linux, and the RPMs would give me the chance to get a look at the GNOME RPM manager and see what I thought about it.

I managed to find the RPMs just fine, so I closed down KFM and opened up NCFTP to go get the files. I saw that they were about 8Mb total so I started the transfer and went to bed. Woke up to find the files sitting on my system and went to work.

Getting home from work I immediately set out to uninstall the "spawn of Satan" NS 4.51 and install the 4.61 version and "hopefully" have access to a Java-enabled browser again. I'm pleased to say that it went pretty well, and from what I've seen so far NS 4.61 is a big improvement over 4.51 - but that doesn't make me like it any better.

I am actively searching for a replacement for NS and if anyone knows of a graphics browser for Linux that has Java capabilities please let me know.

On a more positive note for the week, I just checked the status info and have been up for 2 days and a bit. Doesn't seem like much, but what's important is that the last time I shut down it was because I had to shut the system off long enough to attach a new surge suppressor to it. No way around it, you have to actually unplug the system to do that. :)

I'm looking into getting a UPS but the surge suppressor will do for now. It's a nice model with a US$15,000 "connected equipment" warranty so that will have to do until I can get a UPS.

I also discovered the joys of online auctions this week. I went to to look for a book and found that they had the book I wanted on sale for $38 (plus tax and shipping - puts it close to $50) but there was a notice up about "check in the auction section for special buys" or something like that so I did. Glad I did. I managed to get the same title for only $37 (including shipping, and with NO tax) which allowed me to bid on a small tool set (for $6 and shipping will be about $4) so I ended up with the book and the tool set for what I would have paid just for the book alone. Not a bad deal at all in my opinion.

Oh, the book in question was:

10th Edition - 1550 pages - Hard Cover
by Scott Meuller
( also available)

2 CDROM's included as well. Published last fall which makes it plenty "good enough" for a hardware reference for me for now at any rate.

I also found, and got registered on ebay and almost went into orbit when I saw all the deals on there! How about a 17GB IDE drive for $142? New. :)

But actually my biggest concern, hardware-wise, is getting a way to backup the system. I've pretty much decided on a Zip drive (internal IDE model) as that has been shown to be well supported under Linux and most of all you have to be concerned about that don't you? Also, Iomega has just brought out - very recently in fact - a new 250MB model of the Zip drive that also reads and writes the 100MB disks so at least they didn't just make it so it wouldn't work with the older models as some companies are prone to do.

It seems that the biggest challenge with the 250MB Zip drive will be finding one available. I've called all kinds of dealers in Seattle and although they have them listed in their ads they don't have any of them, not a one!

Of course, you know that over at ebay they have them coming out their ears. You know, I think I could really get to like this online auction bit. Not a substitute for a good local dealer you can count on to have what you need, when you need it. But finding such a dealer is not as simple as it sounds.

Well that's about it for this week I guess. I hope you liked the links to the stories, and the reviews by Joe and Mark - Thanks a lot guys!



I thought I'd quickly tell you a story since Bill's mention of ebay brought it back to mind. A few months ago I read a story about a kid (I think he was 12) who discovered ebay on the Net. 12 year olds don't get issued credit cards, so he used his Dad's - without permission! Know what's coming next? 3 days later he had ran up a $25,000 bill - OUCH!



One of the many newsletters that flows past my eyes every week is the Langalist (Fred Langa). I saw the following article in a recent issue and kept them back as they are good for a smile or two... Oh, you'll probably figure it out yourself but the Langalist is a Windows newsletter... smile

First snow, then silence. This thousand dollar screen dies so beautifully.

With searching comes loss and the presence of absence: "My Novel" not found.

A file that big? It might be very useful. But now it is gone.

The Web site you seek cannot be located. But endless others exist.

Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, and reboot. Order shall return.

Aborted effort. Close all that you have. You ask far too much.

Stay the patient course. Of little worth is your ire: The network is down.

A crash reduces your expensive computer to a simple stone.

Yesterday it worked. Today it is not working. Windows is like that.

Three things are certain: Death, taxes, and lost data. Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream, but the water has moved on. This page is not here.

Out of memory. We wish to hold the whole sky, But we never will.

Having been erased, The document you're seeking Must now be retyped.

Serious error. All shortcuts have disappeared. Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Windows NT crashed. I am the Blue Screen of Death. No one hears your screams.

The last two lines just about say it all don't they? ;)



Whenever X hangs (usually because of Netscape, did I say that? I never said that?), your first port of call is the keyboard combination:


Lots of people know about the above combination, but what happens if this doesn't work? Time to bring out some heavy duty arsenal. "Look out boy, aas gonna kill me a process!"

Ctrl+Alt+F2           (Switch from 1st to 2nd virtual terminal.)
ps -ax | grep startx  (Discover PIP_number.)
kill -9 PIP_Number    (Napalm X!)
Alt+F1                (Return to 1st virtual terminal.)

That's it, you're back to where you started with a hung X - no longer hung! No illegal reboot required, so no potential damge caused to your filesystem. Is Linux the best OS or what ?!



Newbie's Linux Manual Updates

  • Vi Survival Guide
  • Command Tutorial #1: cd & ls
  • Customising Your Login Message

Miscellaneous Additions

  • The Bits Linux Forum


----[ WRAP-UP

I would like to have contributions from others as well. Remember, you don't have to be a "geek" with 37 years of Linux experience to provide a review of a useful book, or utility, or application, or Linux distribution, or ... ?? Got a handy tip that has helped you out? We'd like to hear it!

Well, that's it for another week my fine featured Penguin lovers. What did you think? Good? Bad? Let me know what you thought and make any suggestions on topics you'd like to see covered here. As I said last week, this is your newsletter as much as mine... smile



This week's The Linux Bits has been brought to you by:

  • Bill Turner- Chief Writer
  • Laurence Hunter- Assistant Writer, Editor & Layout
  • Johannes Drechsel-Burkhard- Contributor
  • Mark Thomas- Contributor


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