LJ Archive

Letters to the Editor


Issue #55, November 1998

Readers sound off.

Editor wars

I was very amused by the article on the vi versus Emacs paintball tournament—indeed a great way to resolve flame wars. My suggestion for the next tournament: Gnome versus KDE. I'll put $5 on Gnome.

—Christian Tan, the Netherlands pigeon@xs4all.nl

ATF: Great work

I just wanted you to know I think Reuven Lerner's “At the Forge” column in LJ is consistently outstanding. I subscribe to LJ because I am interested in Linux. When I first saw Reuven's column I passed it up, as I had no interest in web development. I read “At the Forge” one day while bored, and found it to be truly well-written and interesting. I began reading each installment, and I enjoyed learning from them. One day I realized I had learned quite a bit and decided web development looked fun. To shorten the story, I recently put up my first page. I plan on reviewing my LJ back issues to read ATF columns I may have missed. I want my page to be an interactive data collection point for a project I am working on. Thank you, Reuven, for the informative, clear and interesting writing that got me started.

—George Saich gsaich@ibm.net

August Issue

A friend gave me his copy of your August issue, and I was impressed with the quality of your magazine. I am surprised, though, that in Mr. Pruett's article on demand graphing, he did not mention the products of Visual Engineering (http://www.ve.com/). Their Java classes are available free to anyone, and these classes create graphs on the fly without much ado. My job is to fill in the cracks of a network management system that products such as Openview and Tivoli leave, and I have found VE's tools and a little Perl scripting to be essential in this endeavor. By the way, I am in no way affiliated with VE; I just like their tools.

—Jeffrey Absher jeffab@flash.net

My article tried to show one method for creating web graphs using widely available Open Source tools. I didn't mention Visual Engineering's tools because I knew nothing about them. I've since looked at demos on their web site. I'll stick with my method, as the Open Source tools I use work very well. However, I encourage others to look at VE's tools for themselves. They might be a good fit, particularly if you need dynamic plots in a web browser.

Every solution has trade-offs: VE's products are written in Java, which is still not well-supported in older browsers. When I first started using the gnuplot method three years ago, Java was still perking. Also, VE's Java-based graphs must be converted to GIFs before they can be printed. VE provides this capability, but it's another hoop to jump through. While VE makes their source code available, they do so at too high a cost for many users. I'm still biased toward Perl and CGI-based Open Source tools and see no compelling reason to toss Java into the mix.

I'd like to thank the readers who suggested I look at FLY (http://www.unimelb.edu.au/fly/), an Open Source program written by Martin Gleeson that creates GIFs on the fly and uses the GD graphics library. FLY operates on a much lower level than gnuplot, so you'll have to construct your plots from graphics primitives like circle and line. Again, every solution has its trade-offs. Experienced programmers may want to skip FLY and simply use the GD library directly, with a language like C or Perl.

Finally, thanks are due to the many readers who noted that the latest stable beta version of gnuplot (available at http://science.nas.nasa.gov/~woo/gnuplot/beta/) supports GIF natively, removing the need for a conversion using ppmtogif.

—Mark Pruett pruettm@vancpower.com

Netscape Interview

I enjoyed the August '98 interview with the Netscape people. It was quite a shot in the arm for the Linux community. Although I work in the computer industry with NT, I have been a Linux user since 0.99 and would like to see it become more mainstream.

While things are really coming along, I think we in the Linux community should take a mature leadership role and stop making petty, unfounded potshots at Microsoft.

A case in point is the article from the same issue called “Migrating to Linux, Part 1”. With all due respect to Mr. Jacobowitz, anyone who has ever used NT would know that this article was laced with little lies based on anti-Microsoft mythology. I am surprised that all of the “computer scientists” at LJ did not catch this.

I am sure that even Marc Andreessen would agree that we have to be more mature in the way we deploy and market Open Source.

—Brad Schroeder brads@interlog.com

I have reread my article, and I assure you that my experience with MS Windows NT Workstation 4.0 was exactly as described therein. If an NT professional discovers it was my “pilot error” that caused my troubles, I'd be happy to accept responsibility and learn from my mistakes. Also, I harbor no personal resentment towards Microsoft, and I still occasionally use a few of their products, some of which are quite exceptional. However, I do agree with the general theme of your letter: Microsoft bashing is inappropriate behavior for the Linux/Open Source community. Let's concentrate on Linux's strengths rather than the weaknesses of the commercial alternatives.

—Norman M. Jacobowitz normj@aa.net

Linux and Saving Private Ryan

This is a story about how Linux helped in Saving Private Ryan. I thought your readers might be interested in how Linux supported the National D-Day Memorial Foundation both very inexpensively and reliably.

A friend, James Ervin, and I had been involved in the installation of our local Internet access through the cable TV company, Bedford Cablevision, as well as the installation of Linux for web servers, mail servers and firewalls. In Bedford, Virginia, where we live is a small organization called the National D-Day Memorial Foundation. We set up a web presence for them on the Internet with the cable company's help. We put together a computer (an AMD 5x86-based server) for about $350 and installed Linux for a firewall, web and mail server. They had some web pages donated by a graphics design shop, Howlin' Dog Designs. The day after the cable company installed the cable and cable modem, the pages were up on the Internet on their own server. Initial requests for web pages (http://www.dday.org/) were few, about 2000 per month.

A while later, they were contacted by a company called DreamWorks which wanted to do a movie related to D-Day. Support was provided by the Foundation to DreamWorks and eventually the movie was released. Their web traffic then increased to about 2000 requests per day, and Linux has faithfully borne the load. That is the story of how Linux worked behind the scenes during the making of Saving Private Ryan.

—Rich Kochendar ferrich@photon.cablenet-va.com

Compliment for Michael Hughes

I just finished setting up an extra PC as my new router to the Internet. I used the instructions from the article “Getting in the Fast Lane” by Michael Hughes in the June 1998 issue (#50), and although I used a regular modem instead of a cable modem, I was able to connect to the Internet within hours of playing with the kernel and ipfwadm. I must say I was excited to get it working and especially to browse my PC web site from the Internet using the DHCP address from my ISP. I even sent this e-mail from one of the PCs on my internal network. Keep up the good work, guys.

—Danny M. dannym@tiac.net

Red Hat 5.1

I just wanted to write and let everyone know that Red Hat 5.1 is excellent! From start to finish, the installation was seamless. I recommend novice users buy the boxed version made by Red Hat; it comes with e-mail support, a nice book, a boot disk and a set of three CDs. Not bad for $54.99; the book included is worth that price if you are a novice. Now that I have migrated to Linux, I find myself chanting “Cool, It Works with Linux!”

—Michael T. McGurty mmcgurty@ovis.net

Re: How Many Distributions?

I was in total shock when I read the Editor's remarks “How Many Distributions?” in the September 1998 issue of Linux Journal. It seems to me to be the most anti-Linux message I have ever read. What gives you the right to tell the Linux community what is good for it? Isn't that why we don't like Bill Gates? He feels like he should lead the computer industry in the direction he sees fit.

What would have happened if someone had told Red Hat there were too many distributions? What if someone had told Linus Torvalds there were already too many x86 UNIX kernels? After all, BSD, Minix, SCO and Solaris (x86) already existed.

If someone wants to start up a new distribution, my hat is off to them. It's much harder to start up a distribution today and have it succeed than it was just two or three years ago. This is partly due to how great the current distributions are. If a new distribution has binary compatibility problems, no one will want to use it. This should encourage them to make sure their distribution complies with the Filesystem and Binary Compatibility Standards that have been proposed.

Linux is about individuality. I prefer Red Hat, FVWM 1.X and vi. Why should I use Caldera, KDE and Emacs? Too many people are caught up in Red Hat vs. Caldera, KDE vs. Gnome, vi vs. Emacs. Who cares? They all work with Linux! That's what is so great about it all. I can have an operating system tailored to me. People who enjoy Linux should express themselves in whatever manner they like, whether it's creating a new distribution or creating a new resources page.

Maybe I'll express myself by creating a new Linux magazine. I understand there's quite a monopoly in that area.

—Pete Elton elton@wizard.com

The purpose of that column was to express my opinion, not to dictate to the Linux community.

Actually, we do have competitors—in Germany, Spain, Korea and Japan. I've also heard rumors of Linux magazines in Italy and India —Editor

LJ in Canada

A friend at work brought his LJ August '98 issue in for me to look through. I bought a previous one a few months ago, but never received any notification of the free issue. I've been trying to find a place that actually carries the distribution.

However, when I was in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, I did find such a place. At the grand opening of a new bookstore called Chapters, LJ sold out in two days while all these other MS Windows magazines sat there collecting dust. The same held true for the three shelves of Linux books. By the second week, word had spread that they carried Linux books, and the shelves were soon bare.

—Richard Jones Rich_Jones@wmg.com

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