LJ Archive

Letters to the Editor


Issue #66, October 1999

Readers sound off.

Portable MP3 Players

I read with interest the article in the June issue (#63), “MP3 Linux Players” by Craig Knudsen. It seemed to imply the Empeg product was the only solution for MP3 players in cars. I would like to suggest braver readers take a look at http://www.mp3car.com/. The site has great examples and links on how to build one yourself. Thanks.

—Alistair Hedge ahedge@skylink.net

Neural Networks

Great article! Thanks for printing “Stuttgart Neural Network Simulator” by Ed Petron, July 1999. I have been working with neural networks for two years now in my high school science fair projects. This article provided a good introduction that I would have loved to have had handy when I first started working with neural networks. I really enjoy seeing Linux being used not only as an alternative OS, but as an OS with scientific and educational purposes.

—Michael Katz-Hymanm katzhym@nhgs.tec.va.us

Free Beer

The first thing I did after reading the Guest Editorial entitled “The Point Really is Free Beer” was to check the cover date on the magazine to see if it was an April Fool's joke—sadly, the issue date was July 1999.

People like Eric Hughes lead the Open Source movement in the same way that the front bumper on my truck leads me down the highway: it's along for the ride, but it really has nothing to do with who's driving the machine or how we get where we are going.

He states that “To be generous, maybe one-quarter of the total value of software comes from the product.” To see what a lie that statement is—it is only necessary to imagine his proposed institution without the software. What value does it have? The answer is zero. All of the well-dressed staff, administrators and planners are of no value whatsoever without the people who produce the product.

The converse is not true; programmers like Linus and the other open-source developers have great value to all of humanity without the participation of institutionalized parasites in the process.

Mr. Hughes points out that most of the work so far has gone into building software tools. Well, duh—first you build tools—then you use those tools to build applications. You can't do it any other way.

Mr. Hughes has the audacity to accuse those of us who write open-source code of having selfish ends. Wow! What about Mr. Hughes' goals? Assume that two-thirds of the 25 million dollar grant he wants to get the ball rolling would go to “the talent”. That leaves about 8.3 million. Building construction and furnishing will eat up most of that: can't look chintsy—have to look solid to impress the idiots.

That will leave about one million for staff salaries. Since I assume Mr. Hughes will be willing to lead us, I guess his take will be about five hundred thousand a year, with the rest to be split up among the other drones at the institution. Bah.

Instead of giving grants to useless institutions or to groups of programmers, why not give the whole thing to the individuals who do the work? I can promise you my needs are awfully small compared to some institutionalized thief. Fifteen hundred a month would keep me writing open source pretty much full-time. It is about time the worker bees realize they are the ones with the sting—not the drones.

One hundred per cent of the value of software comes from the product. Period—end of discussion.

—Bob Canup rcanup@hal-pc.org

Linux Resources

I was chatting with someone and mentioned that Linux Journal was just full of advertisers with affordable Alpha systems, and sent him to you. He couldn't find a list of your advertisers. Sounds like a business opportunity to me. List hardware vendors and software vendors. Let me search for vendors by name and by product. Then I could choose to buy from your advertisers, or I could find one that sells what I am about to buy and patronize them.

Thanks for doing everything else right. The guy I was talking to will probably be subscribing now. I gave him four links to Alpha vendors on the Web right out of the handiest issue. (Then I quoted the rates, and he replied, “cheap”.)

—Duane Smecker telmer@ptw.com

A list of advertisers in each issue can be found on the web site Table of Contents page for each. This list includes links to the advertisers' web sites —Editor

Linux Install on Laptops

I was inspired by the informative article in July's issue by Daniel Graves, in which he described the installation of Linux on an IBM Thinkpad 750. Several months ago, I purchased a Sony VAIO 505 mainly driven by the form and weight factor. One of my first tasks with the machine was to install Linux on it. I have made the chronicle of the task available at www.seanet.com/~scout/linux505.htm for anyone who is interested. I appreciate your publication, as it provides a good balance of topic breadth and depth each month.

—Ted Ipsen scout@seanet.com


Concerning Red Hat 4.2/5.0/5.1/5.2 and Debian 2.0/2.1.... Both Red Hat and Debian used to support libg++-devel, which included some very useful C++ templates. Available documentation at www.debian.org says that libg++-devel will no longer be supported and that libstdc++-devel contains the functionality.

This isn't true! If you compare the contents of libg++-devel and libstdc++-devel, you will notice many files are missing. How can I build my C++ code on a new Red Hat 5.2 machine without having to rewrite all those useful libg++-devel templates myself?

For example, libg++-devel contains g++/String.h, g++/Random.h and g++/Regex.h, while libstdc++-devel does not. Red Hat used to ship with libg++-devel, but doesn't as of version 5.2.

—Steve Durst sdurst@110.net

Floppy Formatting

Occasionally, in “Best of Technical Support”, someone asks about formatting floppies from any directory except root, and the gurus respond that it can't be done. But the following changes work for me with Red Hat 5.1:

chmod 777 /dev
chmod o+w /dev/fd*
chmod 777 /usr/bin/fdformat

Since gurus can't be wrong, what am I missing?

—John C. Burgess burgess@wiliki.eng.hawaii.edu


I have been a Linux user since way back in 1997, and a subscriber to LJ for nearly as long. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your magazine. I learn something useful in every issue—from “Take Command” to “At the Forge” and all the others. Despite what I have read in other letters, I think you are doing a great job of balancing the advanced, technical subjects with those of the novice, intro type.

Last month (#63), I was surprised and delighted to see Linux applied to my old career of archaeology, and this month (#64) I was surprised and delighted to see the spotlight on Linux in my current career in the graphic arts industry! Now, if you can find someone who has successfully integrated Linux and beer-making to write a short article....

Keep the great stuff coming!

—Mike Edwards medwards@ega.com

Standards, Linux Wars, etc.

Troy Davidson (August LJ letters) has been watching too many movies. His Highlands war exists only in his imagination. I've been using Linux for an even shorter time than Troy has, but have quite a different take on MS vs. Linux. Comparing Linux with Windows 9x is like comparing seagulls with the penguin: they are two different birds with different purposes.

Linux is a UNIX clone, and UNIX is a multi-user system. It has important work to do and it is probably not going to expend a lot of effort looking after you. It has many of “you” to look after; so probably, it won't treat you like your nanny, which is precisely what MS Windows sets out to do. Linux in its present form is not for the casual user; it is for the person who wants to master the system in the way that only the availability of source code can provide, and there are many such people out here.

Nobody remains a beginner. As you gain experience, the user-friendly “features” of MS Windows become obstacles. Then you look for a better place to work. It's waiting for you—it's called Linux.

Linux is not ready to take over the desktop, but the server war is over and Windows NT is not the winner. (We have two local ISPs; one on NT, one on Linux. So I have personal experience regarding which one holds up better.) There is no mystery as to why the bedrock under the Internet is UNIX, Linux and FreeBSD. They got there first and offer the most. NT has a following in business intranets—the suits tend to stick together.

Richard Stallman's world of free software is going to prevail, and for a very simple reason: free access to source is going to create an abundance of local experts. When the casual user discovers that one local expert is worth 1000 e-mails to MS support, then Linux will begin to take over the desktop. MS will always have a market; someone has to look after the beginners.

Let us not call for “standards”. We don't need standards. We need more of the same creative anarchy that has got us to where we are. Spend more time reading code, Troy, and less time watching movies.

—Jack Dennon jdennon@seasurf.com

Helius Review

It was fun to read the review for the Helius DirectPC router. However, you could have tested the download speed easily. I had the same problem with my ADSL connection—frequently, the Web at large would be the bottleneck. To get a better idea of what your real pipe to the Internet is, set up multiple downloads from multiple sites. Sum the throughput of the varied connections, and you'll get an idea of what your incoming connection can support.

—Michael Rasmussen mikeraz@barley.patch.com

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