LJ Archive



I just read Dave Taylor's column “Simple Scripts to Sophisticated HTML Forms, Take II” in the July 2010 issue. I don't know how to ask this nicely, so I'll just ask it. If you're writing for Linux Journal, why are you writing your scripts on Apple OS X and not a Linux distribution? If you don't want to use Linux as your primary OS, that's fine, but at least do us the service of firing up a virtual machine with Linux. Otherwise, great series.

Jason Froebe

Dave Taylor replies: A fair question! I have long ago ascertained, however, that from a command-line perspective, any *nix that is POSIX-compliant is going to be functionally identical. Although I certainly can—and have in the past—install a variety of different Linuxes on my computers, I instead test with the NetBSD-based Mac command line that's part of Mac OS X and double-check on the FreeBSD server I have running my main Web sites. Are they Linux systems, per se? No. Does it matter? I don't think so. What do you think?

Thanks for the Nokia N900 Review

I was so impressed with the review Kyle Rankin wrote about the N900 that I jumped onto the Web and started reading about this wonderful product (see the May 2010 issue). The more things I read about it, the more I wanted it. So now thanks to Kyle Rankin, I own one. FYI, the latest update helped the GPS a lot. Also, there is now a turn-by-turn navigation app, Mobile Maps. It's $49.99 euros, and around $61 US. Thank you Kyle Rankin!!


Kudos for “Adventures in Scanning”

Thank goodness for Dirk Elmendorf's “Adventures in Scanning” in the June 2010 issue. Like Dirk, I too, have shied away for quite some time from scanners in Linux, and especially multifunction devices. However, I'd been thinking more and more about moving on from my plain-vanilla laser printer, but well, I was still chicken-hearted. Dirk's column has helped bolster my courage a lot! Multifunction printers, onward!

Kay Schenk

Using Telnet to Send E-mail

Regarding Torsten's Letter and Kyle Rankin's reply in the July 2010 issue, note that the actual SMTP RFC is RFC-5321 and not 2821. It was updated in 2008. See www.rfc-editor.org/cgi-bin/rfcsearch.pl?searchwords=5321&opt=Number&num=25.

Wayne Pollock


I would like Linux Journal to print an article on Plone, because one, you haven't printed anything on it, and two, I would like more people to know about it. Also, I bought the June issue of Linux Journal at Barnes & Noble, and I am thinking about subscribing to it. Although I am 11, I learned lots about why there are so many distributions and how they are so different. I use Linux Mint 9.

Stephen McIntosh

It has been a while since we've had articles on Plone in the magazine, but if you check out our Web site, you'll find some articles from past issues. I'm glad you enjoyed the June issue, and hope we continue to entertain and inform you. Be sure to check out our Web site too, there are many Web-only topics that come out quite regularly. Welcome to the family!—Ed.

Thanks for the LJ Archive CD

I have been a subscriber for so long I can't remember, and I've kept all my LJ magazines. Unfortunately, due to the preparation of renovating my parent's house and me moving into a smaller apartment, I have no space for my LJ collection (amongst other things). I had to, in one fell swoop, throw out all my magazines. Thankfully, you guys came out with the LJ CD. Now I can read all the magazines even if I no longer own the printed copies. In any event, thank you very much for LJ. I love it. Keep up the great work!

Edmund Wong

GASP! Seriously though, my wife often asks why I keep multiple copies of each Linux Journal issue, and my response is usually something deep and meaningful like, “Because!” She's seldom impressed. Still, I understand your pain, and I'm glad the CD helps soothe the burn a bit. Thanks for kind letter.—Ed.

Maintaining Automatically Generated Files

In the June 2010 Hack and / column, Kyle Rankin presents a possible nightmare to the next sysadmin after him. The script automatically generates a config file, complete with comments that say “add any extra munin options for each host here”. When run in a cron.daily fashion, however, this means someone else may happen across the config file, change it, and then be perplexed the next day as the changes vanished.

Anything that is auto-generated should have such comments replaced with a header comment indicating that it is generated automatically, the source of the generation and a timestamp. Help out the next poor guy who inherits the system (or even yourself), as a year later, you might not remember what you did.

David Morton

The Future of Linux: the Average Windows User

An open letter to the Linux community:

I consider myself the above-average Windows user. I've taken and passed A+ Certification and some Windows networking courses. I have a basic, big-picture understanding of the DOS command line and Windows. I don't like anyone, such as Windows or Google, monopolizing control over their clients, so when Linux came along in the 1990s, I wanted it to succeed. I have loved the idea of a free computer operating system for everyone that Linux brought to us. When I say free, I mean freedom from being controlled by Microsoft or its peers. I don't mind paying for an OS that offers freedom from control. So I attempted to use the Red Hat distribution around 2000 to no avail. Now, ten years later, I'm at it again with Ubuntu. I love it. There are so many aspects to Ubuntu that I like better than Windows. One is that there is so much free software for nearly anything you need/want to accomplish. The problem I see is the fact that many hardware devices and software are not compatible.

If Linux is to make headway into the individual consumer market, these compatibility issues must be overcome. I would like to ditch Windows totally, but at the present time, this isn't feasible. I have listed some of the current obstacles that I see and objectives the Linux community needs to work toward for it to be viable to the masses:

  • Compatibility with all Linux software and hardware devices, no matter what Linux distribution the consumer is using. The Linux community needs to reach out as one body to hardware and software manufacturers with uniform standards that apply, no matter what distribution is being used. This leads to the next item.

  • The various distributions must tear down the walls between their peers and work together for the common good, which is Linux for all.

  • A 100% GUI interface with no need for using the terminal, unless the user would like to use it specifically. This, I believe, is the major obstacle we have to scale over together, and it's especially needed for installation.

I hope this gives the Linux community some ideas on how to make Linux better for and easily used by the nontechnical, common user.


Thank you for your letter. I love to see people share my passion for free and open software. Although I largely agree with your points, one of the unavoidable consequences of freedom is the freedom everyone has to do things differently.

I wish there were a common packaging system (I'd pick .deb myself). I wish there were a common GUI interface. I wish there were common configuration tools. I fear, however, that if we “forced” compliance to standards, we'd lose the very freedom we love. It's a wickedly double-edged sword, and I'm not sure I can come up with an ideal answer. Hopefully, your letter and my response will get people thinking about such things.—Ed.

Friends Don't Let Friends Use Windows

My home is 100% Microsoft-free. My primary desktop runs Mint-9-amd64, my old laptop runs Ubuntu 9.04, and my Dell Mini 9 Netbook runs Xubuntu 9.10. I have tried many other distros, but I like these the best. I have a friend who wants to switch to Linux and even tinkers with Ubuntu 10.04 within VMware on his Windows 7 machine, but he just can't make the switch, mostly due to a dependence upon one specific Windows application, but I also suspect it's a healthy fear of the unknown.

I recently invited this friend to join me at an upcoming local Linuxfest, but he declined due to schedule conflicts. I fear that he will never make a “cold-turkey” switch to Linux, so I gave him the advice below. I'm sharing it in this message because other readers may find it useful for helping struggling converts (the rest of the letter is the advice to my friend).

I went back and forth between Windows and Linux over the years. Each time I was driven back to Windows because of a perception that some critical application existed only in Windows and frustration when some things seemed to be harder to do in Linux. Over time, I gradually switched to Windows versions of many of the open-source packages used in Linux and discovered that, with the familiarity of use, I grew comfortable with the open-source applications, such as OpenOffice.org, GIMP, Gramps, GnuCash and Scribus and so on. At some point, I realized I wasn't using Windows for anything but a program launcher for open-source software and that there was really no reason to continue to use Windows. At that point, I switched 100% to Linux and left Microsoft behind forever.

If you really would like to abandon Microsoft, I recommend following a similar path. Start using multiplatform open-source equivalents of your current programs, and after a period of acclimation, you too will realize that you don't really need Microsoft Windows anymore.

Start with OpenOffice.org. It is as good as Microsoft Office, just a little different here and there. The learning curve is not steep, and it's worth the effort. After OpenOffice.org, switch, one at a time, to other open-source solutions. First, read this: tinyurl.com/2xju2m.

Ed Comer

Great advice! Switching to open-source alternatives is a great way to make the transition. Also, your link supplies great information. Thanks!—Ed.

Rockbox Isn't Linux!

I thought I'd better drop a note in case no one else offers a correction to Dan Sawyer's assertion in his “Philosophy and Fancy” article in the June 2010 issue of Linux Journal. He says at one point: “No discussion of the different approaches would be complete without mentioning embedded distributions—versions of Linux and derivative operating systems (such as Rockbox and Android) designed to run on handheld devices, in networking appliances, NAS servers and dozens of other gadgets, toys, tools and machines that consumers love to use and hackers love to repurpose.”

Unfortunately, Dan makes a mistake that for some reason a lot of people do, which is that Rockbox is in some way based on Linux. It's not—not even remotely. The kernel has been written entirely from scratch, and we don't ship a “distribution” either. We include no GNU tools as they'd be recognized by the GNU Project. (And I say that merely because I can't think of any that we ship, but I don't want to claim something that later turns out to be slightly untrue!) I imagine Mr Torvalds would be quite insulted if he ever found out people were of the opinion that he'd written it! About the only thing it has in common with Linux is that it's vaguely POSIX (although not nearly as much as Linux itself is these days).

We at the Rockbox Project are constantly flummoxed at the number of people who seem convinced that Rockbox is based on Linux. We've certainly never said it is! Indeed, if Dan can point us to the source of his own confusion on this matter, we'd love to set whomever straight too!

Other than that, the article was an interesting read, and I thank Dan for the rest of the time he invested in writing it!


Dan Sawyer replies: You are, of course, correct about Rockbox. In my tracing of philosophical links and the cross-fertilization among open-source projects, I failed to portray the situation accurately. Thanks very much for the note!

Dynamic nmap + xymon

Great Hack and / article by Kyle Rankin in the June 2010 issue of Linux Journal covering the grepable output function of nmap and culminating in your own dynamic configuration file for Munin. What's so cool about this is it's 1) simple, 2) easy and, most important, 3) brilliantly easy and simple!

I've actually borrowed your idea to do the same thing on the networks I administer at work using xymon (www.xymon.com/hobbit/help/about.html).

You know as well as I, there can be a lot of steps involved in getting servers deployed in any environment (even when it's highly automated), but I sincerely dig shortcut ideas like this to make my life a bit easier in the system administration realm.

Keep the cool tips coming, friend!


Photo of the Month

Have a photo you'd like to share with LJ readers? Send your submission to info@linuxjournal.com. If we run yours in the magazine, we'll send you a free T-shirt.

Do you think six years old is old enough to switch from The Wizard of Oz to really interesting stuff? Submitted by Alexander Sirotkin.

LJ Archive