LJ Archive


Kindle Edition of LJ

I love the .mobi version of LJ. It makes reading LJ on the Kindle absolutely fantastic. But, I've got one request: every Kindle account has an @kindle.com e-mail to which you can send PDF/.mobi/... files, and they are added to your Kindle automatically when you switch on Wi-Fi. So instead of sending an e-mail with download links, can you make it an option to send the .mobi version straight to my @kindle.com address? Then, I'll just have to turn on the Wi-Fi on my Kindle, and I'll be able read the newest issue of LJ.


Hmm, I'll make sure our distribution folks see your request. Another option might be a script that pulls links from your e-mail, downloads the .mobi, and then re-sends it to a specified account as an attachment. Perhaps it's a good challenge for Dave Taylor!—Ed.

Ultimate Linux Box

Browsing through the e-copies of my subscription, I found issue 148, the Ultimate Linux Box issue from 2006. Back then, dual-core processors were just becoming affordable for the common user, AMD launched its AM2 platform with the 939 socket, and DDR2 was emerging as the new standard in memory speed and performance. That was nearly six years ago. Maybe it's time to revisit the subject and make a comparison with today's technologies that make the Ultimate Linux Box? (And, (dis)prove the predictions of 2006 for the years ahead with the benefit of history.)

Having built a fair number of computers myself, mainly for myself, I could send you some proposed configurations if you'd like. Unfortunately, I didn't win the lottery, again, so I don't have the budget to build them myself and put them through their passes/benchmarks.

Vincent Westein

We did stop with the Ultimate Linux Box a while back, for several reasons. The biggest one was that “Ultimate” became so relative. For our Christmas-wish list, we did throw a configuration together, but I suspect it wouldn't be ideal for everyone. I agree though. I miss the issues highlighting rigs I'd never be able to afford. It was like looking at a geeky hot-rod magazine.—Ed.

Electronic vs. Print

Although I completely understand the economic necessity of publishing electronically—after all, you prepare, edit and produce the copy electronically, and it's easy enough to generate multiple formats for consumption on any number of devices—I have concerns, or perhaps observations might be the right word, about the longevity of the material.

For many years I have kept issues of magazines—National Geographic, Scientific American, Creative Computing (remember that one?), Linux Journal and a few others. I have also, at least in the case of Linux Journal, bought the CD-ROM archive. I did buy the National Geographic every-issue-since-volume 1, number 1. I have 9-track tapes (UNIX System V, World Data Bank II and a couple others). I have cassette tapes (music), reel-to-reel tapes (live performances), CD-ROMs, DVDs, Blue-ray discs and a few disk drives lying about along with a personal library of some 2,000 books.

One thing I've noticed: I still can read the hard copies, but most of the magnetic media is gone. Many CD-ROMs are gone, but I still can play records from the 1940s through today, and they “sound just as good” as they did then. I was more than a little surprised to discover that CD-ROM media just five years old had become useless, and a small collection of laser discs are unwatchable. So-called archive media, supposed to last decades (decades!?) is turning out to be somewhat less long-lived.

I have stood in the Bodleian Library at Oxford with a 600-year-old book in my hands (with gloves, of course) and read every word. I have stood in the British Museum in London and read a letter written by Elizabeth Tudor to her half-brother, then king of England, in the 16th century. I have admired Egyptian scrolls dating from 4,000 years ago (not decades, mind, millenniums).

I have long been painfully aware that the attention span of a computer is only as long as its power cord. I am becoming aware that our attention spans are ever shorter as our gadgets display fleeting glimpses of our civilization, glances destined to go “poof” in the ether when the battery goes dead. Alas.

Thomas Ronayne

Your concern is, unfortunately, very valid. I say this as a man responsible for keeping a microfiche system working, because archiving in microfiche is the “way of the future”. My only encouragement is that a digital format is generally easier to manipulate than physical media. Although a small script can convert many documents, I've yet to find an affordable scanner to read microfiche. Since I can still read my Usenet postings from the early 1990s, perhaps there is some hope for long-term viability.—Ed.

LJ Deserves the Benefit of the Doubt

I wasn't planning to renew my subscription to the magazine, my instinctive reaction being against any form of digital format. But, today I got your 2012 January issue and with it your reader letters, and at least a couple mentioned how much better digital is than dead trees for the environment. Although the jury isn't out on this one (a printed magazine nowadays should be done from renewable carbon-neutral sources, and digital media means burning fossil fuel to power all those severs and fancy gadgets), my gut feeling is digital is better in this regard. I also saw the table of contents with highly technical security topics. Finally, I have bought your magazine in the three countries where I have lived from quite early on, sometimes providing the only bit of uncensored Western media I had access to.

In conclusion, I will give the magazine a spin in its new form, but please, keep it Linux. Sometimes you deviate so much from just Linux that it's not funny. Now that you are charging for bytes displayed on screen, you have to focus on what the magazine is all about (or make explicit the wider aims of the magazine, but that is another can of worms I'm sure you don't want to open at this time).

Jose Luis Martinez

I'm starting to get used to the digital format myself, and although my home still might be full of paper books, I find I read more on my Sony e-reader than anything else. I suspect my kids will grow into adults who prefer to read on their mobile devices. I'm not sure how I feel about that!

As far as content goes, we try to focus on Linux and open source. We do have a “Non-Linux FOSS” blurb in our Upfront section every month, but it's tiny. We try to choose articles that are interesting to Linux users. Usually, that means Linux-specific, but sometimes the scope is a little broader.—Ed.

Digital Format for Magazines

Although I think the format could still use some tweaking, I have been waiting for this for a couple years. I had pretty much quit subscribing to any print publications a couple years ago because I have gotten tired of all the paper lying about. I think your short-lived sister publication TUX is what finally pushed me over.

Jim Gribbin

TUX was published before I was on staff with Linux Journal, and I too was sad to see it go. I still have every issue lovingly preserved. I'm personally excited about the different distribution options we have electronically. The same content can be manipulated to work in multiple ways. It's pretty cool.—Ed.


In your January 2012 issue's Upfront section, YNAB is listed as a Linux-supported budget application. Unfortunately, a couple months ago, Adobe discontinued Linux support in AIR.


Ugh, tell me about it. In fact, I mentioned YNAB for multiple reasons. One, I think it's a great program, and I figured other Linux users might like it as well. I also wanted to mention YNAB in our magazine specifically, so the company would see Linux users as a viable customer base, not just something supported because AIR happens to be cross-platform. Will YNAB see a mention in a prominent Linux magazine as a sign that it should continue Linux support? I don't know, but it's possible. Will Adobe read it and decide to resume its Linux support? Less likely, but I guess there is some hope.

Nevertheless, YNAB works on the last-released Linux version of AIR, and since I personally use it and think it's a great program, I mentioned it. As far as AIR support goes, that really frustrates me, because I've given Adobe a lot of positive lip service during the past few years for supporting Linux. Grrrr.—Shawn


As I was reading the latest issue (January 2012), I couldn't help but wonder whether you are being paid for the articles such as the one on YNAB in the Upfront section. They almost come across as blatant advertising! To include YNAB is a bit of stretch—the only tie to Linux being the Android app! Don't get me wrong; it provided me with the motivation to start using it, but it would be nice to know whether you are receiving money for this advertisement.


No, the journalistic side of Linux Journal generally has very little contact with the advertising side. If I do something where a company has paid, I make it very clear, saying “This XXXXX was sponsored by the fine folks at Springy Widgets dot-com”, or something like that.

For the UpFront part of the magazine, I try to find things that interest me as a Linux user and share them. Sometimes my interests line up with readers better than others, but rest assured, it's just me. (I tend to be absent-minded and forget to keep track of finances, thus my mention of YNAB.)

PS. I'm also hoping the folks at YNAB will keep their product Linux-compatible too, since Adobe dropped AIR support. Hopefully, mentioning them in a Linux magazine will show them (or Adobe) that we're customers too dag nabbit!

Switch to Electronic-Only

Regarding some comments on the recent switch to electronic-only publishing: I always liked Linux Journal, but I always thought it was too expensive to subscribe to. Then when LJ became electronic-only, it was only $20 to subscribe, and I'm glad I did. I've been enjoying reading the archived back issues that you thankfully included in the subscription price, and the new issues seem to be maintaining the same quality. As far as print versus electronic, I have shelves full of my favorite magazines in my basement that I save because I can't bear to throw them out, thinking that “someday”, say, when I retire, I'll go back and read them again, but who knows if that will ever happen. Having the issues on hand electronically makes them much more available to me on any device that can read them, which is good. But, I'm surprised to see you still going with the two-column format like you did in print. This means when I'm reading the .pdf, I have to use the arrow keys to go up and down each page, then page down to get to the next page, then use the up and down arrows again. Since you are now electronic-only, a single-column format to eliminate the arrowing up and down would be better (lots of your readers are older like me and can't read at a resolution that would put one page on the screen). Keep up the good work, and I'm glad to be a subscriber finally.

Frank Palmeri

Glad to have you as a subscriber, Frank (“One of Us. One of Us”). Seriously though, the two-column layout for the PDF is designed for folks who prefer the traditional magazine look. The mobile versions (.epub and .mobi) have flowing text, so the up/down-back/forth scrolling shouldn't be required.—Ed.

Electronic LJ

I bought my Xoom primarily to be able to read PDFs comfortably—including Linux Journal in PDF form. The new two-column format works beautifully on Xoom. Also, I get all the graphics as well as the sense that I'm reading a magazine.

I'm not a fan of .epub for anything but plain straight text (novels, for example). I've gotten several computer books from Kindle, and on the Kindle reader, they're useless. I can get by reading them on the Xoom, but the code samples—and those are crucial, of course—have virtually unreadable layout. The same goes for trying to read poetry on a Kindle. So, please don't abandon the magazine-like PDF versions.

Eric Beversluis

We don't have any plans to abandon the PDF, and I agree that PDFs look great on tablet computers. We do keep trying every month to improve the code layout on mobile reading devices, but it is a challenge.—Ed.

Good Work on the Digital Editions

I was a bit disappointed when you converted all subscriptions to digital, because I liked the printed edition. But after some months, I can say you guys rock. The PDFs are okay, but the native applications for iPad and Android and the .epub version and the .mobi versions are really worth the subscription.

Despite the really good work you already do, I dare suggest one more thing. Why not integrate to iOS Newsstand? I mean, don't abandon the native application for devices without iOS v.5, but it would be nice to have it integrated to the Newsstand. Thank you for the good job; I'm going to renew my subscription for sure.

Lorenzo Lazzeri

Integrating with the various storefronts is something we're researching, but it's a complex endeavor. Hopefully, someday Linux Journal will be available seamlessly on any platform. Right now, the iOS app is the best way to get automatic delivery.—Ed.

ELF Virus, Part I—Program Bug

I read with interest Himanshu Arora's article, “ELF Virus, Part I”, in the January 2012 issue of Linux Journal. However, I discovered a bug in his code that will cause the program to fail in certain cases. Near the end of the infect() routine, he uses the rename() function to rename the modified executable back to its original name. This call will fail if /tmp and /home are on different filesystems, as they are on my system.

My workaround was to change the #define TMPLATE directive to a temporary file on the same filesystem as /home. A more robust alternative would be to test for the potential error condition and use a system() call to move the file, or use write() to replace the original file. Thank you for the interesting article. I look forward to following this series.

Mark Anthony

Himanshu Arora replies: First, thanks for reading the article. Regarding the issue you pointed out, I don't think that it's a bug. It's one of those many scenarios in which the rename() function errors out. I have done proper error handling in the code for this.

Your suggestion can well be addressed as an enhancement to the code in the sense that the logic won't error out if rename() fails. This comment could well apply to many of the other system calls used in my code. Because this code was more of a proof of concept rather than an actual virus, I refrained from adding such complexity to the code.

Anyway, I appreciate your hard work and would like to thank you for your review.

Product of the Year: GNOME 3???

I have long considered Linux Journal to be a reliable source of information, but declaring GNOME 3 as Product of the Year is really disappointing to me (see the Readers' Choice Awards in the December 2011 issue). I find it pretty hard to believe that this could be voted on as Product of the Year. It has been widely accepted in many, many forums that GNOME 3 is a huge step in the wrong direction. As a reader and longtime Linux user, I find it hard to believe that this is what voters said.

Morocho Ni

Readers voted; we counted the votes and reported. Perhaps those users who don't like GNOME 3 simply didn't vote. I don't know. Rest assured, however, we report what we see.—Ed.

Amazon Cloud Articles?

I am a subscriber and love this magazine. I have experimented with running Linux instances in the Amazon cloud, but I do not yet actually know enough about the process to accomplish any serious work. It would be extremely useful to me, and I am sure for others like me, to have a complete article or series of articles on spinning up Linux on AWS; creating an Amazon machine image (AMI) from scratch; converting a virtual box, Xen, or VMware virtual machine to an AMI; setting up a distributed computing task (such as data mining) on AWS; running special-purpose applications (like “Big Blue Button”) and so on. In other words, practical, in-depth treatment/tutorials on how to use the Amazon cloud for business and personal-computing solutions. I hope you will consider running such an article or set of articles.


Thanks for your suggestions—we'll see what we can do!—Ed.

LJ Digital Format

I just purchased a Kindle to be able to view the new LJ digital format, and so far, I think I am liking the change. I wasn't sure if this old dog could learn a new trick, but I think I have accepted the change. One request I would like to make is converting the old archives (1994–2011), which are currently available on a DVD, to the new digital format. If those were available in the .mobi file format for the Kindle, I would be first in line to place an order for such a product and probably many others would be interested as well.

Gary Stout

Great minds think alike—we're actually working on converting some archives now. See www.linuxjournal.com/ebook for more information.

Frink Programming Language

May I suggest an article on the Frink programming language? I think it's really neat and deserves a lot of attention from the Linux community. Here are some links to whet your appetite: futureboy.us/frinkdocs and confreaks.net/videos/120-elcamp2010-frink?player=flash (a quick video presentation). It's also available as an Android install and has access to most, if not all, of the device's features (futureboy.us/frinkdocs/android.html).


Thanks Leon, it looks cool!—Ed.

Google Currents Edition?

If you guys haven't considered it already, you definitely should look into a Google Currents edition of LJ. Google Currents is an Android/iOS app that displays various publications and blogs. Even if you were unable to put the actual magazine into Currents (not sure how paid content works), the various reviews, blog posts and how-to articles on your Web site would be a welcome addition!


We have just started looking into Google Currents, but we do have a native Android app that will download the issue automatically every month. It pulls in articles from our Web site as well. If you haven't played with it, be sure to check it out. It's free in the Android Marketplace.—Ed.

You Won Me Over

Okay, I have to admit I was mad about the all-digital option at first. It look me a couple months before I sat down to configure my iPad to connect to my account. I can't believe how easy it was to get things going. Reading the content on my iPad has been a great experience. It's a new way of reading! I like getting the new monthly issue right away. I have to say, you won me over, and best of all, digital means LJ will stick around!

Sean Humphrey

Hooray! I too enjoy seeing the full-color magazine on a tablet computer. It seems almost more vivid than the printed magazine was!—Ed.

LJ Archive