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+---[ Issue 24
|                                           16th November 99 ]----+
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                       The Linux Bits: The Weekly(ish) Linux E-zine


------[ CONTENTS



I've been ill all week and done little more than sleep, but I did manage to come up with a couple jewels for you to use -- and also had some thrown my way via email that really helped me out a lot.

It surely is nice to know it's a "two-way street". You shouldn't be afraid to send along your own tips, tricks, hacks, whatever you've found to help someone out.

So far as Microsoft is concerned this week I have only this to say:

My website Linux Info Central has the Judge's Finding of Fact available for download. You can get it in PDF format, WordPerfect format, or you can browse it online (or download it) in good old HTML. I got these documents directly from the government website - the URL escapes me at the moment - sorry - and did nothing to them at all except download them and make links to them on my site.

Download it. Read it. Make up your own mind. I warn you though, it will take ages to read. Days in fact. I've not yet finished it yet, but I'm making good progress.

Amazingly enough it seems that the mainstream offline media seems to have been caught by surprise by this whole "Microsoft is a monopoly" thing. All I can say is they must have been living under a rock for the past 5 or 6 years (at least) to have avoided any knowledge of Microsoft's "unfriendly" behaviour.

Just one more glaring example of just how unreliable the offline media is. I'd personally not trust them for the weather report. If they said it was raining I'd look outside first before believing them.

I have a few tips to pass along this week -- some of my own discovery and some from other sources. So far as actually getting anything done on Athena this week; it's a mixed bag. Being ill for most of the week will do that I suppose. Sleep was my number one priority and that's what happened.

I trust Laurence will have some good news bits for us this week, although I've not visited the site for a number of days so I've no clue what might or might not be going on.



Microsoft. And nice people. But not in the same sentence.

This week's news has been completely dominated by the Microsoft story so I decided it only fitting to make this week's colour the Windows default background colour. (That's R:00 G:80 B:80 for the nerds amongst us.)

This week I upgraded my Red Hat 6.0 installation to Red Hat 6.1. Many thanks to Xander Harkness for sending me a copy. Linux seems to attract nice people. Many companies have gone out of their way to send us heaps of things to review, the editor of Linux Gazette sent me a nice e-mail thanking us for the work we're doing on The Linux Bits, loads of sites have linked to us, Joe Brockmeier over at LinuxMall has gone out of his way to give the Newbie's Linux Manual pride and place on their site, and hundreds of visitors have thanked us for the work we're doing. I've even had Macmillan Publishers a while back wanting me to write a book for them (unfortunately I was far too busy). The point is people have been nothing but nice to us. And I want to thank everyone for that.

If anyone has sent an e-mail over the last few months and I didn't get back to them, I wasn't being rude -- things are getting unbelievably busy.

Speaking of e-mails, I received the following e-mail from . The trouble is none of us have experience with Linux on the Sun Sparc so if anyone can help him out, please do:

I recently procured a used Sun Sparc IPC. I want to investigate Linux on this platform, but I do not want to fork out cash for the full retail version of Red Hat, which I would have to order since it is not available locally. This Sun does not currently have an OS such as Linux on it yet so it is not on the internet. Within my house, I do have internet access to where I could download from a Linux site and burn a CD, but all I have for the rest of my machines is Wintel boxes. Can I download to my Windows machine, and then burn a CD? What special provisions would I have to perform to make the CD bootable in the Sun? etc. Please help me!!!! I want to learn about Linux, but under my circumstances, it is very difficult to get started.

3 issues of The Linux Bits now, have exceeded 6,000 words. The biggest ever was issue 22 that came in at 6,500 words. Not to put you off reading this issue for fear of losing a good part of you life this issue comes in at just over 10,000 words! We've come a long way when you consider it wasn't until issue 10 that we exceeded 1,000 words! Actually we stepped up from under 1,000 words to 4,000 words in that issue alone! All thanks to Bill taking over as Chief Writer to leave me to the editing and layout side of things. Although recently I've been making Bill's esteemed title of Chief Writer disputable with the amount of articles I've been contributing. ;) A million thanks to Bill for the million plus words he's contributed to the cause. I don't even pay him. He must really like this whole "Linux thing".

Something else worth mentioning is that this is the first issue to have been created by 5 people. This is important to me. Technically I'm the boss but that's not how I work and definitely not how Linux works. Anyone wanting to have their say on something or share a tip is free to send it along to , , or and we'll see what we can do.



The Tale Of The Gratuitous GUI

Joe Barr over at LinuxWorld is not impressed with Red Hat's new graphical install, or its unfriendliness towards KDE.

Drilling Deeper Into Torvalds's Transmeta

Transmeta is the super-secretive company that Linus works for. Being super-secretive, there's naturally a lot of folk out there with a burning curiosity. If you're one of them this article will help.

Bill Speaks On Integration, Lawyering And Linux

Bill Gates speaks his usual tripe at a meeting with shareholders. Course the thing that makes this article interesting is that it comes days after the Finding of Fact. Read what he has to say here.

The Open Source Buzz

So what do the Open Source leaders think of the Microsoft ruling? Find out here in this excellent read.

Coriolis Publishes Red Hat Linux Exam Cram

This certainly sounds interesting. A book designed to get you through the Red Hat Certified Engineer exam (RHCE 300). (I'll be reviewing this book in a later issue.)

Red Hat, Oracle To Promote Beefed Up Linux Version

Red Hat are working to make Red Hat Linux better suited to e-commerce, and Oracle ("the notoriously anti-Microsoft database giant") will help promote the version. Intended improvements include: software to run Java programs, the ability to address larger amounts of memory, a "journaling file system" to help Linux computers recover from crashes faster, and an update to Linux to get it to run on Intel's upcoming 64-bit chips. Naturally this will also include the joint promotion of the Oracle 8i database for Linux. The new version (6.2?) will be released in mid-December. (Personally I think they should call it Red Hat 6.x and leave version 7.0 until the soon to be released 2.4.x kernel has become established as "rock-stable".)

The Road Ahead: What If Microsoft Stumbles?

Ok so Microsoft wouldn't find this article amusing, but I did. Guaranteed to give you a chuckle or two.

European Users React Calmly To Findings In Microsoft Case

A "good-read" article in which many European businessmen were asked what they thought of the Finding of Fact paper, with some important points made.

The Post-Microsoft Era

Phew, what can I say? One hell of an article. Despite doing his bit to spread the "I don't like Microsoft" message, this guy presents a veritable feast of evidence to back up his words. Then just when you're thinking, "I should almost be at the end of this article, it was a damn good read," he moves onto part 2 of the article with a wealth of information concerning the evolution, culture, and freedom of the Net -- geared towards the well-known fact that the "visionary" Bill Gates missed the boat when the initial growth of the Internet came along, and that perhaps the Internet has done, and will play a large part in the taking-down of the monopoly that is Microsoft.

Cobalt IPO Hits Almost 500 Percent

Shares of Cobalt Networks Inc., the maker of a small, blue server-in-a-box, soared almost 500 percent in its initial public offering, making it the third biggest initial public offering ever. Oh and by the way: this site is powered by a Cobalt server!



The Register reports on Bill Gates question and answer session with his shareholders. To fully appreciate the following quote you'll need to read the short article. I think you'll agree it's quite a quote.

"With an understanding of Linux like that, and the promise of all that innovation and testing for Windows in the future, it looks as though the Linux community can rest easy."

- Source -



I said last issue that I'd try to add a bit more meat to this important section, so here you go. I've tried not to make it too technical, since most of us never intend to start contributing to kernel development, but most of us like to have at least a rudimentary understanding of what the kernel's all about and what's being done to improve it.

As of the 16th November '99:

Current development kernel: 2.3.28  (Released: 12th November '99)
Current stable kernel     : 2.2.13  (Released: 20th October '99)

2.2.x Change List | 2.3.x Change List
The complete and definitive record of every change the 2.2.x and 2.3.x kernel has undergone.
The place to go for the latest stable and development kernel.


Kernel Resources

The Linux Kernel

A LDP guide to how the kernel fits together, how it works, and a tour of the kernel.

Alan Cox's Diary

Without belittling the thousands of other fine people that work on furthering our Linux kernel, Alan Cox is the main guy behind all that kernel hacking business (with Linus having the final say on what goes in and what stays out of course). Here's his fine diary detailing - amongst other things - his latest kernel hacking exploits.


----[ DID YOU KNOW...

You've no doubt heard a million times before that "Linux is POSIX compliant". But what does POSIX mean?? POSIX stands for Portable Operating System Interface for Unix and it's the standard that defines the language interface between application programs and the Unix operating system. Adherence to the standard ensures compatibility when programs are moved from one Unix computer to another. POSIX is primarily composed of features from Unix System V and BSD Unix. So there you go, now you know.



Linux Package Guide

This is definitely one of the coolest features I've seen on a Linux site. Click on a distro, click on a letter, then click on a package, and check out that detail. It must have taken a legion of penguins to put this together! Most impressive.

Magical Newbie Tour

Are you new to Linux? No? Well guaranteed you have a friend or colleague who is. Why not point them out to the Magical Newbie Tour. It's pretty cool.

"Linux On A Floppy" Distros

Check out the above link for 12 - count them 12 - separate "Linux on a floppy" projects. Be sure to check out FREESCO Overview page as well (bringing the total up to 13) since it wouldn't be right to check out this site's "Related Links" page without checking their own "Linux on a floppy" project!



In TLB #21 Steve Coe wrote a nice review of PortSentry -- so nice that I had to try it for myself. In doing that I learned a couple of things that may be of interest to TLB readers; you be the judge.

When PortSentry is started with the -tcp flag, it goes into a "listening" mode on the ports named in portsentry.conf. That means that all those ports appear to be open. Of course, PortSentry will block attempts to connect. But to me, those apparently open ports are just an invitation to keep trying and probe deeper.

For that reason, I prefer to start PortSentry with the -stcp flag, that starts the "Stealth" mode (at least in Linux). Now the ports do not appear to be open, yet any attempt to connect will still be blocked.

If you want to see all this in action, and get a quick-and-dirty check of your system before and after PortSentry, go to the ShieldsUp site. You can get a port scan of the usual ports here that is harmless, but which will test your PortSentry install. It's a really informative site, even if it is oriented toward Windows.

Regardless of which mode is used to start PortSentry, you'll soon notice that your syslog (/var/log/messages in my case) is getting filled with a long list of ports that PortSentry is watching. If you just have a dialup Net connection like I do and you start PortSentry on, say, a daily basis, that syslog will really grow fast. Here's what I did to alter that behaviour. In the portsentry_config.h file, change the default line:



...and recompile. The result will be a portsentry binary that classifies its messages to the syslog as "local0" instead of the default "daemon". Now you can segregate all PortSentry messages into a new syslog file by putting these lines:

local0.* /var/log/portsentry 
local0.none /var/log/messages

...into /etc/syslog.conf.

The resulting PortSentry log file /var/log/portsentry will contain nothing but PortSentry messages, and can be rm'd when it gets too big; syslogd will recreate it at the next boot, or after a killall -HUP syslogd.

Thanks again, Steve and TLB, for bringing a nice app to our attention.

Howard Arons

Bill: Thanks Howard for helping us make it a more useful program with your tips on it's use. I'll be doing this myself very soon. I'm in the midst of some system configuration changes or would have done so already.

Other TLB Articles By Howard:



"With the knowledge of Perl, the world is your oyster!"
--A fanatical Perl fan with the initials L.H.

You've probably noticed by now that Linux loves text files. Everywhere you look there's a text file. A configuration file? Just a text file. A data file? Just a text file. A script? Just a text file. Even your shell's command history is, just a text file! And then there's the World Wide Web. The world's biggest and most advanced network. Web pages? Just text files. CGI scripts? Just text files. External Cascading Style Sheets? Yes you've guessed it. Just text files.

Now perhaps when I tell you that Perl was pretty-much designed for the sole-purpose of manipulating text in 1001 different ways, with some super powerful commands you might start paying attention? Thought that might work. With the knowledge of Perl you'll be able to automate many repetitive and time-consuming System Administration tasks, create dynamic websites, and lots, lots more. Trust me, you'll be impressed.



- 1 -




To identify all your Perl programs use a .pl file extension.

- 2 -

Enter the following program:


print ("Hello Perl!\n");


...and press Ctrl+o to save it, and Ctrl+x to exit Pico.

- 3 -

To run the program you need to make the file executable. To do this, enter:

chmod +x


You only need to make the file executable once. After that you just modify and run.

- 4 -

To run the program, enter:



From now on I'll just say, "Enter this program:". I'll leave it to you to decide which text editor to use, and what to name the program. You'll also have the sense to realise that from now on, you: Enter the program; save and exit the editor; make the file executable; then run it.

Output From Program

Hello Perl!


Explanation of Program

1: #!/usr/bin/perl
3: print ("Hello Perl!\n");


The First Line Of All Perl Programs

Line 1 must be the first line of all Perl programs. It tells Linux where to find the Perl interpreter (required to make sense of the program). Nothing else (not even comments) are allowed on this line.

The print Function

Line 3 displays the message Hello Perl!. print () is what's called a function. You give a function something, and it does something with it. What you give it is always, what's inside the brackets. In this case, we're giving print () -> "Hello Perl!\n".


"Hello Perl!\n" is a string. The " " characters indicate the start and end of a string. The \n means, "now print a 'newline' character" (like pressing the Return key in a text editor).

Statements & The Semi-Colon

A statement is one particular task or instruction (usually corresponding to a line of code). A statement is terminated by a semicolon (;).

The semi-colon is used, to tell Perl that this is the end of a statement. A statement is one particular task/instruction (usually corresponding to one line of code).



Enter the following program (ignoring the line numbers e.g. "1: "):

 1: #!/usr/bin/perl
 3: # Get two number from user, multiply them,
 4: # and display the result.
 6: print ("Enter a number: ");
 7: $first = <STDIN>;
 9: print ("Enter another number: ");
10: $second = <STDIN>;
12: $result = $first * $second;
14: print ("Result = $result\n"); # Display result.


Example Output From Program

Enter a number: 5
Enter another number: 3
Result = 15


Explanation of Program


Lines 3 and 4 are examples of comments. Anything after the comment character # is ignored by Perl -- but only on that line (which is why another comment character is used in line 4). Comments allow you to make notes throughout you program so that when you come back to the program 6 months from now you know what's going on. Programmers that don't use comments, aren't good programmers. In line 14 I also demonstrate the fact that comments can come after any command.


Line 7 introduces the variable. The variable is the $first part of the command. A variable is used to store a value. You can name a variable anything you want as long as you stick to the following rules:

  • Must start with a dollar-sign ($).
  • The next character after the dollar-sign must be a letter from a-z or A-Z.
  • Anything after the first 2 characters mentioned above can only be a-z, A-Z, 0-9, or _ (the "underline" character).

A variable can be as long as you want, and it's case-sensitive, meaning $first, $First, and $FIRST, are all different variables.

Standard Input

Line 7 also introduces something called standard input i.e. <STDIN>.

<STDIN> just means get the user to input something. So:

$first = <STDIN>;

...means, "Get input from the user and store the input in the variable $first".

The Result

In line 12, $first is multiplied (*) by $second, and the result is stored in $result.

Line 14 then displays the result. When Perl sees $result contained inside a string, it replaces it with the value stored in $result before displaying the string.


So what did you think? Good? Bad? Lousy? I'd really like to

on this one. Perl's such an important part of Linux, Unix, and the Web that it's a subject worthy of becoming a regular part of The Linux Bits. Over time I'll be covering everything Perl has to offer. No easy task I can tell you! Hope you liked it, and I'll see you again next week for another instalment!



I was running Red Hat 5.2 since its release and when PC Quest (The premier IT mag in India) released RH 6.1 I really did not want to upgrade since 5.2 was giving me good service and all my hardware was working. But I was aware it had a GUI install, and I wanted to check that out.

So I popped the CD in to the drive and went for a reboot, and it presented me with the now familiar boot: prompt. I hit Return and off it went. My first intention was just to let it go and see all the packages, then cancel the installation, just before the format. So I clicked 'next' repeatedly till it said that I did not have enough disk space. I was slightly shocked. How could that be? I have a 2Gb hard disk with 931 megs for Linux and the rest was free (no billg@... in my system). I got slightly uneasy at the thought that a simple no nonsense (without GNOME, KDE...) installation like mine could gulp 1 gig. I was getting first indications of the way RH is going and that is the reason I wrote this article.

So I came back to the package selection to get rid of packages which I did not want. The first thing I noticed was that there is no indication of the total Mb required for the install (which was present in RH5.2) so that I could make better decisions. My earlier uneasiness got worse. Is RH playing the game of you-do-not-have-to-know-we-know-better? I got fed-up with the GUI and wanted to go to text mode, so I pressed the reset button.

Text was my favourite mode and it still remains like that. A few "nexts" later I reached the package selection and phew! RH has screwed this even worse. Their is no F1 as in the earlier version; which allowed us to get a small description of the current package, and the total size required was also absent.

I decided to stop upgrade for now and go for a full install.

Thus I backed up my /home, /root, and /etc, and went for the full install. I hit Return at the boot: prompt and started off with the graphical installation. Soon after partitioning, the install program told me that my system did not have enough RAM so it is writing the partition table to the disk immediately. I only have 32Mb of RAM but I've never thought of upgrading it. I was perfectly happy with what I've got, and now I'm being told me that I do not have enough RAM. What does the install program do? Compute some calculation with 10 million particles, or simulate a mission to Mars?.

My uneasiness was growing. I have never seen a Linux program telling me that I did not have enough RAM. But I have encountered this messages in OSs with bloatwares where their is an unholy alliance between the hardware vendor and software vendor where one makes faster chips and the other uses that as an excuse for polluting the computing world with bloatware. Is RH taking us to that Heaven of freedom? I accepted the fact that I do not have enough RAM, and proceeded with the install. When I reached the install package section the install suddenly froze for no reason. At first I did not get any idea why it had happened. My only option was to reboot and start over again.

To my surprise and utter dismay this happened again. It was time to investigate. I switched to console 2 and ran ps ax. There I found a zombie process: set xkbmap <defunct> (or something similar). So I thought that the keyboard was the problem. I rebooted again and this time selected the std keyboard and surprise (!), it hanged again. I rebooted once more. This time I just accepted the defaults and no hang occurred. I could actually hear RH telling me, "So you thought that you know better huh?". All that rebooting had made me think I was installing some Redmond OS rather than Linux, adding more to my anxiety.

So in the meantime I was in the custom mode of install and wanted to select the packages by hand. I had deselected GNOME, since I rarely use X. I also wanted to test how entrenched is GNOME in RH 6.1. I did not know by what criteria RH had selected the packages in this sections. Some of the common packages like Awk, Zip, Vi, etc, were absent -- but some GNOME things were present; like GnoRPM. Even though I had explicitly deselected GNOME. When I say that I do not want GNOME -- I really mean that. I do not want someone pushing GNOME down my throat. So I manually removed all trace of it. But their was one small bit where I couldn't, that was when I installed the xmms and mpg123 player. Both seemed to want some Enlightenment component -- so I was forced to install that also (fortunately it was only one package). But the sound quality is poorer than the old x11amp and I'm going to revert back to it.

One more word about the package select window. One has to do a double-click to select/deselect the individual packages but the double-click time is set so low that it took me 2 or 3 fast double-clicks to select each package, even though I can select multiple packages -- I cannot select them all at one time, only the last package gets selected.

And finally after 2 days and much frustration, I managed to boot to the new kernel. The result? The most difficult installation of Linux I have done so far, far more difficult than the PCQ March 96 Slackware release. The thing that has made me concerned most was the direction RH is taking us. I'm well aware of the fact that a nice GUI is one which is required by all modern OSs. But pushing one down the throat of someone who does not want it, is not something that is expected of a decent Linux distribution.

What I would expect from RH is that they make one more choice in the list of installation types. One for a no-frills - but functional - install with all the major Unix tools which can do justice to the people like me who do not think that the GUI is the best thing that has happened to mankind after zero and wheel. Now I fondly remember the old days of Slackware where 150 megs was enough for a fully functional installation. And I have a gut-feeling that I still only use those 150Mb worth of software. In short let us not make another Windows out of Linux.



Athena is Bill's Linux box -- his pride and joy. Each week he gives us an update on what's been happening with Athena... hopefully providing some tips for your own Linux box in the process...

As I said in the Op-Ed bit I've been ill this week and not got much done. I did however run across some useful tips - some sent to me - that may make your life a bit easier so here they are...


Kernel Compiling

As you may recall I was having difficulty with getting the new kernel to boot correctly after compiling. Specifically it was "hanging" at the "checking module dependencies" portion of the boot process. That meant I couldn't use any modules but rather had to make a "monolithic" kernel that had support for anything I wanted to use - no matter how infrequently that might have been.

I don't have that problem anymore. I got an email from a reader - sorry bro but I just can not find your email to credit you! You know who you are I'm sure.

This person had a similar problem. He told me that what I needed to do was to move the "newly generated" file from the /usr/src/linux directory over to the /boot partition and that would solve the problem. Unfortunately, when I found out about it, I had already since done a make mrproper and the file was - of course - history! With the way things have been going though it didn't take long for me to have another reason to compile the kernel - yet again - and this time I made sure to do as he had recommended. I did, of course, rename the old file in case I didn't get it right.

Guess what? Kernel booted just fine! No problems. I even had some stuff compiled in as a module this time around. No problems. I still have some weird thing with it insisting that some module or other isn't there - but it's only like three lines this time, and I'll not worry over an extra 3 lines in the boot process that isn't relevant to what I use.


Backup Issues

My Zip drive now works just fine. No Problemo. I only wish I could say the same about the CD-RW drive.

It seemed that despite everything I could thing of, there was no way to get the CD writing programs to even acknowledge the CD-RW was on the same planet, let alone the same computer system.

I've solved that. Kind of. At least made the beginnings of solving it, and that's sufficient for now.

What I had to do was not an "obvious" thing and - like the deal with the kernel compilation above - it seems that no one actually tells you "do this" and so you're left with very 'generic' answers that just don't go far enough.

Do you know that the Kernel-HOWTO - the "authority" on how to compile a kernel - barely even touches on the compilation of modules? It doesn't mention the file at all. Nor do any of the books that I've read on the subject so far. Kofler does at least talk about the use of modules and how to do the make modules; make modules_install but even Kofler makes absolutely no mention whatsoever of the file.

I wonder why that is? Obviously it's an important thing and the absence of it in the proper place sent my machine into spasmodic fits at boot time unless I did not compile in support for any modules whatsoever and then also went into the /etc/rc.d/rc.sysinit config file and commented out the lines that had depmod -a in them. That was the only way I could get the kernel to boot. Not a "good thing" in my book.

Anyway, back to the CD-RW. I found a tip in the file I got from the

Linux Tips and Tricks site that talked about getting an ATAPI CD-RW to be recognised. It talked about compiling in Generic SCSI support - which I had already done long since - and then it made this statement:

You need to include a "boot time" option to LILO on the command line. That option is:


That is for my system. My CD-RW is the 1st device on the second IDE controller so that is the hdc part. I had no idea until I saw this that I needed to do that, in order for the CD-RW to be recognised by programs such as cdrecord.

I tried it. It worked. Now that I know I can get the CD-RW to be recognised as what it is, instead of just a plain ol' CD-ROM, I'm a happy camper. I still have a long way to go before I'll be done. I've yet to find a program that would do what I want to do - "on the fly" image-creation and "burning" and also be "multi-session" capable. So far, the ones that I've tried have all either not had the capabilities I was looking for - or they have done the "crash and burn" routine - and sometimes not very nicely at that.

I'll keep you informed on that you can be sure.


Some CD-Writing Tips From Laurence

I thought since CD Writers are becoming prevalent nowadays and that since Bill's being going into great detail about CD-Rewriters that I'd contribute a little knowledge of my own to help you along.

Tip 1: First Try The Best Software

The first thing I'll tell you since I know the vast majority of the visitors to our site are using Windows is that the undisputed leader in the CD-Writing department for Windows, is Nero Burning ROM. Better still, you can download a free trial version from

their site (3.82Mb). I'd have to say - as blasphemous as it is - that it's probably wise to get used to burning CDs in Windows before venturing into the murkier waters of Linux.

Tip 2: About On-The-Fly Recording

On-the-fly recording is just a fancy term for copying a source CD directly to a recordable CD; in the same way you would make a copy of an audio tape by placing the master tape in one deck and the blank tape in the other deck.

Obviously this means on-the-fly recording requires both a CD-R or CD-RW drive and a CD-ROM (or a drive that can read CDs e.g. a DVD-ROM drive).

Both drives must be attached to the same EIDE controller. (If it's SCSI drives you have, then this second part does not apply.)

The reason is this: When you're writing to a recordable CD the data must be available in a continuous stream without any interruptions. Most modern drives have a 2Mb buffer that stabilises the flow of data. If anything slows down the data from the source, this buffer can empty and produce a write error on your recordable disc. Provided the CD reader is fast enough, you should be able to transfer data from the source CD directly to the writer, which is on-the-fly-recording.

The only other way to copy a CD is to first drag everything from the source CD onto your hard drive, and then write the CD. I've never had to do this, but a friend of mine told me it was a real pain.

Tip 3: Switch Off That Screensaver!

It goes without saying that you don't want the screensaver cutting in during a recording session. Chances are the data stream will be interrupted and the recording is damaged. Also, if you're on a network, log out. Basically switch off anything that could jeopardise your recording.


Zip Drive And Midnight Commander (MC)

Since the Zip drive is working fine I've been using it to do some system backups. Yes, it actually is something that I do -- and not just talk about. :)

Midnight Commander (MC) for those that don't know is a program that is similar in functionality to the Norton Commander shell from my long ago DOS days. Works very well and best of all is that it's a text program (based on ncurses) so you don't have to run it under X! I'm a huge fan of any program that doesn't require X to run. You've probably already noticed that though.

Laurence: And with myself, my mate Peter, and Raj (author of the previous article) all sharing Bill's opinion it's clear there are many out there that share our views. Something Microsoft never appreciated, and hopefully something the Linux developer community will never forget. On the subject of the console based Midnight Commander you can find out more in my mention made of it, way back in

Issue 5.

I've discovered to my great pleasure that the combination of MC and my Zip drive can make doing a backup - or restore - just about as painless as it can get. Short of having it done while you sleep that is. I'm working on that. :)

Laurence: And the uncanny thing is - after the writing of this piece - I introduced Bill to something called "Cron" that allows you to do just that! For all the ins and outs check out the new section of the Newbie's Linux Manual: Automating Things With Cron.

MC has some features that make it particularly well-suited for this application. The main screen of MC shows you two directory panels. You use the Tab key to move between them. Once you've selected your two directories you can then proceed to:

  • Do a comparison of the files in each to see what is different.

  • Select individual files (or groups) and then either do a Move or Copy operation to the directory shown in the opposite window. Or delete them if no longer needed. MC, BTW, has a "safe delete" option that you can use. I recommend you do so.

  • Do the same thing for entire directory structures that you can do for individual files or groups of files - i.e. move or copy them to the other directory and if the directory doesn't exist it gets created.

  • Make a "release" of the selected subdirectory using either tar.gz or tar.bz2 and that output can be directed to the Zip drive directly when you give MC the filename for the "basename" to use. I tried it. Worked like a champ.

  • Do a chown on a group of files.

There's lots more that MC can do for you. I've just recently started to use it regularly and have become a huge fan. I've not had the time to actually read the docs to figure out how to get it to do some things that it doesn't do right now. For instance, as a "default" it doesn't offer the opportunity to use the Zip or Unzip programs. I'd like to add that. I will. Just need to find the time. It allows you to configure it to your heart's content -- even to the point of providing a "user menu" you can fill with plug-in programs to add extra functionality.

It also works with a mouse so if you want to use one you can.


Linux On A Zip Disk??

I know that this will interest Laurence. :)

I went to the

Slackware site since they had just released Slackware 7.0 to find out a bit more about it.

I discovered that they have a version of Slackware - called Zipslack that will not only fit onto a Zip disk but that will also allow you to install this particular version to a DOS or Windows partition if you wish. They include the loadlin and rawrite utility programs as part of the package, giving you the opportunity to check out Linux on your Windows or DOS system without having to do any partitioning. This version is based on the UMSDOS filesystem from what I read in the docs on the site.

On the installation, if you're doing it to a Windows or DOS partition - or to a VFAT Zip disk - just unzip the file to the root directory of the partition and it will create all the stuff for you. Then you can use loadlin to boot it up.

Since I don't run Windows or DOS then it's a bit trickier but I'm quite sure it's "doable" as one of the questions in the FAQ was about "migrating to a Linux partition". To install it you'll need a boot disk and a root disk. I'm not too clear on this aspect of it, since I've not had time to actually install it yet, but I went ahead and downloaded the files for when I do find the time.

The file is 37Mb, plus an addition 4-5Mb for the boot disk and documentation files. The files in question, can be found at the Walnut Creek CDROM's FTP site.

The total installed size is approximately 89Mb - I've yet to verify this myself, but in any event it can fit quite comfortably on a 100Mb Zip disk. You can't boot from the Zip of course - well, if you have an honest-to-God SCSI Zip drive I suppose you could - but they explain how to create the boot disks, and how to boot to the Zip drive after the boot prompt appears from the floppy boot.

This is not a "stripped down" version either from what I could tell. It doesn't include X, KDE, or GNOME but it does include the standard development packages such as gcc and so forth. It's based on the latest stable kernel: 2.2.13, and has the capability to have X and so forth added to it at a later date.

I'm really looking forward to being able to find the time to try it out - especially since it'll fit onto a Zip disk! I'll let you know how that turns out you can count on that.

Laurence: I haven't tried it out myself but I've seen it in action on someone else's Linux box and I can tell you it's the real McCoy. The only thing cooler that Linux on a Zip disk is Linux on a floppy. Those interested in Linux on a floppy should check out this week's Links To Interesting Places (above).


Tips I Picked Up This Week

Symbolic Links -- Be Careful!

I've not really done much with Red Hat 6.1 since I did the install except to do some "routine" configuration tasks. The reason is fairly simple really. I was checking out the docs for the Red Hat Update Agent prior to setting that up - as I still intend to do - and discovered that it would, by default, keep the files it downloaded in a subdirectory of the /var directory. Since it was installed on a 1Gb partition this didn't leave very much room for this kind of thing so I decided to try and setup a symbolic link to a directory on the other drive and put the files there.

It didn't work out quite as I had expected it too. What I did was use:

ln -s /localpart/var /var create a symbolic link to a directory on the 10Gb "common data" partition I had already setup. I also - of course - made a backup of the current /var directory using:

mv var var.bak

...before I tried to make the symbolic link. Good thing I'm such a "backup fanatic" - especially towards config files - or I'd have been in big trouble.

What happened was that when I tried to boot the next time the system hung because it was trying to start the syslogd daemon and couldn't do that because the file it was trying to open was on a partition that had not, as yet, been mounted. So it hung.

Ok. I knew exactly what had happened. Blessed my lucky stars for having made the var.bak directory. So I broke out the boot disk to boot from floppy and fix it. Nope. Didn't work the first time either. The same reason. All the boot disks do really is direct you to the proper spot on the hard drive to find the kernel and so forth. Unless you are quite specifically making it capable of doing something different that is the "default" behaviour.

Ok. Booted again. This time entering:

redhat single the LILO boot prompt (with redhat being the label in /etc/lilo.conf) and was able to get booted up successfully since the single or emergency option bypasses all the network startup stuff -- including the starting of the syslogd daemon. Got rid of the link; moved the /var.bak directory to the /var directory, rebooted and all was well.

Just so you know. If you're going to be using a symbolic link - and believe me they can be incredibly useful - just be careful, and be absolutely certain to leave yourself "an out of it plan" should things turn fowl.


LILO - Yes, LILO Again!

When I discovered that the link wasn't going to work as I'd hoped I decided to try another tact, and try doing an install into one of the other 1.2Gb partitions that I have available just for this very purpose. That didn't work either.

What I wanted to do was to install Red Hat 6.1 onto a partition on the second drive - and have that drive be the default for booting, so that I could then remove the RH 6.1 install from the first drive once I'd transferred over all the required files.

I discovered that LILO will not allow you to boot into a partition on the second drive (/dev/hdb) directly - bypassing the MBR of /dev/hda as it insists that it be installed into the MBR of the first drive. After that you can boot it to anywhere in the world - provided of course that the kernel you are booting with is within the first 1024 cylinders of the drive. The actual Linux system itself can be on the moon far all LILO cares but the kernel absolutely must be within the first 1024 cylinders of the hard drive.

Laurence: Note that this is a limitation of BIOS because of the ugly x86 PC architecture and not because of LILO. Now as for the Amiga -- there was a real computer.

And as it turns out it would seem that it also demands to be installed onto the MBR of the first drive in the system. I had been under the impression that so long as you only had two drives and the kernel was properly located this wasn't an issue. Apparently it is.

There's just so much about LILO that nobody seems to tell you. Not in the docs. Nowhere. It's not a very "friendly" program is it?


Upcoming Projects

Making Space - Moving Drives

Well, as you can see from my discussion of the links problem I still had - have - the same space issues as before with the Red Hat 6.1 install and being able to setup the Red Hat Update Agent, and be able to use it without having to watch over it every time it does a download -- to see if it has enough space.

So, what I have decided to do is this:

  • Make sure the system is totally backed up. That's been what I've been working on this past week -- when I wasn't sleeping.

  • After being absolutely certain that I have everything backed up and the installation on the first drive (/dev/hda) exactly as I wanted it, I'll have to do a repartition of the second (/dev/hdb) drive to give myself enough space to do what I want.

I discovered that the 1.2Gb partitions I'd setup for my testing are not - in all honesty - large enough for what I've discovered my needs to be. That's Ok. Athena was meant - from day one - to be a "test bed" for me and is fulfilling that requirement nicely.

Please note however that this is not like Windows - this "re-installation" is most assuredly on my terms -- and not because the "OS" decided to "wipe" my partition - and all my data - for me.

  • Once I have the drive properly setup do an install of Red Hat 6.1 to it's "new home" and configure it.

  • Once the RH 6.1 install has been done on the second drive and configured at least enough to pull across my email and so forth then I'll be removing the smaller 1Gb drive.

I will initially be just swapping the drives so that the 17Gb drive will be the "master", and the 1Gb the "slave" -- so that I can be absolutely certain I have everything properly configured before removing the smaller drive.

Why you ask am I removing the smaller drive? In all honesty I am at least considering getting a DSL connection. That requires the use of the Ethernet card currently installed in my system. The Ethernet card that hasn't worked since I installed the 2nd drive. That probably has some sort of an IRQ conflict happening with the second drive and so my first step to try and solve that particular problem will be to simply have only one drive in the system - freeing up the spot that was free before - and see if my Ethernet card likes that well enough to be recognised by the kernel during bootup.

If that doesn't make it happy then I will try something else. But, as they say - "KISS" - "Keep It Simple Stupid". :) Don't try to make something more complex than it needs to be. Also, one of the primary tenets of troubleshooting is to note what you did -- that was different before the problem started.

In a nutshell the card worked with only one drive installed, plus the CD-ROM of course. I installed the second drive and the CD-RW (which used the same controller slot as the first one and shouldn't really be a factor). The Ethernet card quit working. Hmmm...

CD-RW To Actually D0 Something!

As I stated above I've just made a start on getting it to do it's intended "job" of being a means to do system backups. At least I can get it to be recognised and that's a start. Now I will have to do some testing and find a program that will do what I need it to do without the "crash and burn" that I've seen so far from every one that I've tried. I'll keep you informed of my progress. In the meantime if this is an issue that someone has already dealt with and they can recommend a good program to do what I need - "on the fly" burning, with multi-session support - I'd appreciate a short

telling me what you use and where I could find a copy to test out.



I said last week that I'd decided to make KDE my default GUI because of the instability being shown by the GNOME/Enlightenment combo. Well, I also said that I'd not "given up" on GNOME.

I had the RPMs for GNOME 1.0.53 and the updated Enlightenment already on my system. I finally found the time to actually install them, and do a bit of testing. They seem to be much improved so far as the stability issues are concerned and so I'm back to using GNOME/Enlightenment as my default GUI again.

But, that's not set "in stone" by any means and one thing that I demand of any software - no matter what it's type or who makes it - is that it works, and is reliable.

So long as GNOME fulfils those requirements it's my GUI. If it doesn't, it's not. Simple.

Demand results -- not promises.



This week I made good progress on the Newbie's Linux Manual with the addition of 4 new sections, bringing the total up to 32 sections.



The continuing adventures of "Eric" the penguin... (Did you miss Part 1?)

Eric hurried down the corridor. He could smell something... Cheap cologne... As he continued the smell got stronger and stronger until he came to a door that said "Master's Chamber". He slowly turned the handle and entered the room.

It was circular. Starkly furnished. An entire 180 degrees of the circle was glass, giving an expansive view of the harbour. Few had ever seen the inside of this building, let alone the inner sanctum. Eric looked around the room. To the left was a 4 poster bed with black satin sheets. He walked to the bedside cabinet and opened it. Inside was all sorts of exotic apparel. Lingerie, feathers and a few things we can't mention here for fear of lawsuits.

Eric closed the cabinet. To the right of the doorway was a desk with a computer on it. Eric smiled. This is what he was here for. He sat down at the desk and hit the power button. The machine whirred into life. He flipped the monitor on and waited. After a few seconds a loading screen appeared that said "*MY* Windows". After a couple of minutes the depressingly familiar sight of Windows appeared. Eric looked in the drawers of the desk and found a pile of unlabelled disks. He slid it into the machine. After a few seconds a dialog box appeared. "You have inserted a disk. Windows must be restarted." Eric sighed and clicked okay. This was what the "freedom to innovate" did. He restarted the computer. After a few seconds the floppy drive squealed and the words "INVALID SYSTEM DISK. PLEASE REBOOT." Eric removed the disk from the drive and rebooted. After another couple of minutes, he was back where he started.

Eric decided to play a hunch and went to open the "My Documents" folder sitting on the desktop. He clicked it. A dialog appeared. "A required DLL is missing or incorrect version. Please reinstall this program." Eric sighed again and hit okay. Maybe he could do this another way. He opened the file manager. After a second a dialog appeared. "Explorer has caused an invalid page fault." He hit okay and everything on the screen disappeared. He hit Ctrl-Alt-Del... Nothing. He hit it again... And again... He power cycled the machine and waited. The screen flickered back to life after a few seconds, then the machine ran it's disk scanning program... Eric pondered to himself as he watched the program scan the disk. The ultimate in system security. Your computer is guaranteed 100% secure if it's crashed all the time...

After what seemed like an eternity the machine continued the boot process, and a couple of minutes later Eric was confronted by the ever mocking desktop of Windows. He tried the file manager again. This time it worked... He decided to play another hunch and looked in the "My Documents" folder. No folder by that name. Then he noticed a directory called "my doc~1". That must be it. He looked in there, 1 file. Plans_~1.doc. Eric reinserted the floppy disk. He tried to copy the file to the disk. "Disk write-protected or full." He ejected the disk. It was enabled. He slid it back in then accessed the drive. A file list appeared before him.


Eric couldn't help himself. He double clicked on the file. A dialog appeared. "There is no application associated with that extension." Eric sighed for the 1000th time. This was ridiculous. How could people use this garbage on a daily basis? He hunted through the menus until he found a graphics viewer. He opened the viewer and then opened porno1.jpg in it. A box with the words "Visual Basic" appeared. Curious. He checked the next file. It was a screen shot of a program called Excel... He checked the next, and the next. All software products... Bizarre! He formatted the disk and copied plans_~1.doc to it. The computer had cost him a lot of time with it's unstable tomfoolery and he was behind schedule.

He heard footsteps approaching. Time to leave. He ran to the window and opened it. He climbed onto the ledge (no easy feat with no hands and stumpy legs) and jumped. He would soar to freedom. Just as he jumped he remembered something his Mother had said to him. Penguins can't fly! He started to plummet toward the ground.


Will Eric survive his horrible fall from the 10th storey window? Will next week's episode actually appear next week? Has anyone not figured out the Master in question is a certain CEO we all know and hate? Does anyone find it odd that software products turn him on? All this, plus the square root of minus 1 in the next thrilling instalment of The Linux Chronicles!

"Eric" is in no way related to Tux the popular Linux mascot. All character featured in The Linux Chronicles are purely coincidental. has been instructed by "Eric" to defend his right to individuality to the point of repeatedly and viscously hitting cynical perpetrators over the head with a rolled-up copy of the GPL license. "Eric" is a trademark of "Eric". All Rights Reserved. Parents caught christening their baby penguins "Eric" will be severely frowned upon. "Eric" is protected under section 01010101 of the People's Penguin Party (PPP) Charter.


----[ WRAP-UP

Well, I've pretty much said all I intend to about Microsoft for a while. Let the Finding of Fact do the talking.

I didn't make This Week With Athena a very small section this week. Oh well. Useful tips are better than a short newsletter I suppose.

Until next week my friends.



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

  • Bill Turner- Chief Writer
  • Laurence Hunter- Assistant Writer, Editor & Layout
  • Steve Coe- Assistant Writer
  • Howard L. Arons- Contributor
  • Raj- Contributor

Want to contribute? Feel free to

your submission.

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