LJ Archive


I Must Be an Extremist

Wow—you should have had the NSA declare Linux Journal an extremist organization months ago.

I had, sadly, let my subscription expire a few months ago. However, after reading that Linux Journal and its readers are considered “extremists” by the NSA, I have resubscribed for two years with automatic renewal after that.

Take that NSA!

And, thanks also for a great publication. Keep those extremist articles about privacy and freedom coming.

David Both

Thanks David. I have to admit, when I first heard of the XKEYSCORE/NSA stuff, I went to our Web site to see what on earth might have attracted attention. The first thing I saw was a video still shot of me doing the issue intro with a really goofy look on my face. “This is the face of terror”, I said to my wife, who replied with something like, “we're all doomed.”

We're happy to have you as a subscriber, and we'll try to continue with our extremist ways—whatever that might mean!—Shawn Powers


A glance at the XKEYSCORE snippet shows “These variables define terms and websites relating to the TAILs (The AmnesicIncognito Live System) software program, a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums.”, followed by:

"$TAILS_terms=word('tails' or 'Amnesiac Incognito 
 ↪Live System') and word('linux' or ' USB ' 
 ↪or ' CD ' or 'secure desktop' or ' IRC ' or
 ↪'truecrypt' or ' tor ');
$TAILS_websites=('tails.boum.org/') or

Note that it is quite likely that extremist forums do advocate use of Tor and TAILs, as do most comsec concerned folks, such as forensic specialists and malware investigators, and perhaps, Three Letter Agencies. Since Linux Journal is a publicly available and informative forum on Linux items of interest, such as Tor and TAILs, I would suggest that the proximity of “extremists on extremist forums” to “linuxjournal.com/content/linux” does not associate “linuxjournal” with “extremist forums”. However, your point is that access to your Web site in conjunction with the Tor or TAILs query may put one on a “watch list” for further scrutiny—well, given the forensic and malware workload these days, that will push the noise-to-signal ratio up quite a bit (no pun intended). Do you think DistroWatch is somewhere on the list?

Arnold Hayes

It's so crazy, it's really hard to tell what the exact reason or triggers we might be associated with are. The concept at all is just...crazy. I can't think of a better word. The Linux community and, in kind, the Linux Journal community are obviously advocates of freedom, but when standing for the very things that make America what it is marks us for scrutiny? Again, crazy.—Shawn Powers

No More Letters in the Magazine?

I am disappointed that the Letters portion has moved to the Web site instead of being printed in Linux Journal. I read LJ off-line with my Kindle and look forward to the Letters every issue. Now that it's no longer there, I have to view it on my desktop, which defeats the purpose. Trying out the Letters link on my Kindle when I'm on-line does not provide me with content that is easy to read on the device.

I remember this with paper magazines of old, where they provided “extra content” on the Web. I rarely visited them. And if I wanted to, the magazine often wasn't with me anymore, and I'd forget the link.

Granted, I can view LJ on my Nexus 10, or my MacBook, but nothing provides the pleasure of reading that is E Ink.

Also, looking at the link www.linuxjournal.com/letters, how would I know what was the response to what particular issue?

I propose an alternative, since you wanted to allow for comments: publish the Letters to the Editor in the magazine, with the replies if any, then also provide a permalink to the letter on the Web. This will:

  • Allow me to read while in a relaxed mood, either the PDF, .epub or .mobi versions, without the need to switch context and jump to the Web (and from there, go down the rabbit hole of surfing).

  • If I'm passionate about a letter, I can click on the link to see if there are more responses.

  • I can comment on my thoughts, if I have any on the particular topic.

With the letters still in my head, I can refer to the actual letter in question in LJ and click on the link for immediate gratification.

Since LJ is an electronically delivered magazine, you do have possibilities that are within your power to manipulate to make the user's experience better than what paper publications can do.

Wari Wahnab

Thank you for the input, Wari. We did shift the Letters out of last issue, but we've included them back in this one because of letters like yours. As you mention, we're trying to make the Letters something that is interactive in a little more timely manner than once a month. We'll keep tweaking how we do things, and hopefully we'll find a good solution. Your input is invaluable, because otherwise we're just guessing!—Shawn Powers

I See the NSA Is Labeling Linux Journal as an Extremist Web Site

If Linux Journal is an American-based company with servers located inside America's borders, I'm sure the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF, https://www.eff.org) and/or American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU, https://www.aclu.org) would be happy to litigate a case on your behalf against the NSA, for free.

Warrantless spying on an American journal and its users is clearly a violation of the first and fourth constitutional Amendments—freedom of speech, association and warrantless surveillance.

The lawsuit would be great publicity for your magazine. Linux Journal vs. NSA would be plastered on the front pages of every major news organization across the world.

I believe having a copy of the XKEYSCORE source code specifically listing Linux Journal as a “target” selector would give your lawsuit plenty of standing for a case against the NSA.


Thank you, Ralf. As of this response, we're still just reeling a bit from the notion that our readers, and most likely our staff, are being monitored and/or spied on. While we do have an international readership, we are indeed an entirely US-based magazine. The worrisome part is, if we are targeted, I can only imagine who else must be! Scary stuff.—Shawn Powers

Days Between Dates Script

Regarding Dave Taylor's “Days Between Dates?” article in the July 2014 issue:

grep '29' => Yes, 1729 was a leapyear, so February 29, 
 1729 is a valid date.
grep ' 29' => Oops, 1729 wasn't a leapyear, so February 
 only had 28 days.

Jyrki Kajala

Dave Taylor replies: You're right, the addition of a leading space does make this invocation more accurate! This problem will, of course, show up any time there's a “29” in the year, including in 2029, by which time we'll likely have a different way of figuring out whether it's a leap year. “Siri? Is this a leap year?” “Jyrki, you asked me that 4,503,343 milliseconds ago. Why are you asking me again? Have you become obsolete?” “AUuuugggghhhh!”

More on the Days Between Dates Script

In the sidebar in Dave Taylor's “Days Between Dates?” article in the July 2014 issue, he states that date doesn't work for dates before 1970.

If you are using the GNU corelib date utility, this is incorrect:

$ date +%s '1776-1-1'

$ date -d '@-6122019600'
Mon Jan  1 00:00:00 MST 1776

Also, date handles some pretty free-form date entries, although the date has to be a complete date—no attempts with only a month and year, for example.

On a separate note, date +%j -d 'Dec 31, $year' will give you either 365 or 366, depending on whether or not it's a leap year. I'm not sure how it handles years in which there were less than 365 days. I suspect it just treats all dates as Gregorian.

Alan Young

Dave Taylor replies: Thanks for the helpful message. As an old-school Linux and UNIX guy, negative seconds-since-epoch bugs me, but that's okay, because your observation that the %j day-of-the-year value easily can be used to test for leap year is terrific and one I'm going to borrow!

Removing Letters to the Editor from the Digital Magazine

I was surprised to find that you are no longer including the Letters to the Editor section in the Linux Journal digital magazine (as of the July 2014 issue). Since your magazine has gone digital-only, I find that I now read it cover to cover (mostly), and I particularly enjoyed the give and take that occurs between the readers and the article writers in the Letters section.

I realize that I can still read this interchange on-line, but doing so adds a little more “friction” to the process and fails to inform me when there is feedback on the various topics.

Since Linux Journal is now available only in digital formats (PDF, .epub and so on), it seems that removing the Letters section does not result in much of a cost-savings (possibly a small savings in page layout/markup/design). Do you have a more compelling reason for this change?

If you feel that this must be a permanent change, perhaps you could include a sidebar listing the topics of letters received (with links to enable accessing them on-line).

I also miss the “Photo of the Month”, although I realize you may not always have a photo to share with us every month.


Thanks Gerald! Yes, we shook things up a bit taking out the Letters to the Editor. They're (obviously) back this month. We'll eventually find the perfect mix of interactivity and convenience. Last month, was our first step toward that goal. Thank you for letting us know your thoughts; it really helps us shape the future! We'll continue having Photo of the Month as well, as long as we receive good submissions, so please send your Linux-related photos to info@linuxjournal.com.—Shawn Powers

Keep Up the Great Work!

I just subscribed to LJ two months ago, and I love it! I have been involved with computers and electronics since I was ten years old when I started with the Apple IIE. I also love high-power rocketry! I plan on building a Linux computer to control a high-power rocket I plan on doing for Level 2 NAR certification soon. Also, I love health and fitness, as I was a personal trainer for nine years. Now I train and workout hard-core for myself and train clients part time. I am a technology and fitness freak! I love it!

I love the PDF format of LJ, as this is way of the future, since we can eliminate paper clutter and have links to click on when we want more information on details. I love it! I have tons of paper books and old magazines that I want to convert to PDF. I started doing it myself with a good Fujitsu scanner, but I have so many, I want to hire someone or some company to scan most of these books for me.

Keep up all your amazing content in the PDF format!

Christian Lombardo

Welcome aboard, Christian! I'm still struggling with my fitness routine. The diet is going well (40 pounds lost as of today, July 5th), but getting motivated to exercise is harder. I still try to walk as much as possible, but I'd like to be a runner someday.

Thanks for sharing your appreciation for the digital publication. The feelings on that subject vary widely from user to user. Thankfully, I think the tablet/reader market has matured to the point where reading digitally is really a painless experience.—Shawn Powers

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