LJ Archive

Letters to the Editor


Issue #60, April 1999

Readers sound off.

LJ Enterprise Solutions

Thanks to Marjorie Richardson for mentioning KDE in the article “Linux and Enterprise: A Winning Combination” in the January supplement to Linux Journal. As initiator of the KDE project, I would like to add a few things.

KDE is far more than a desktop, as she seems to indicate. The main targets are not only users of the standard components (like the window manager or the startup panel), but also developers. Although it contains a window manager, file manager and a startup panel (what users usually call “Desktop”), this is only half the story. KDE is mainly a sophisticated application development framework. It makes it possible for programmers to create better applications for Linux in a much shorter time.

The main reason Linux has suffered from few and poor graphical applications was no free technology was available with which to build them. Every free software developer had to reinvent the wheel over and over, starting with a configuration system and a help browser and ending with a printer driver or at least a PostScript engine. KDE's success and the ever-increasing number of KDE-based applications demonstrate impressively what effect a desktop standard makes on productivity, and—even more important—the fun of programming. Note that “desktop standard” refers to the library level, object model and common helper applications; it has nothing to do with the way the windows are decorated or how users launch applications.

Thus, KDE is one answer to the “applications, applications and more applications” cry she mentions. I am talking about real applications here, including usable versions of a PowerPoint-like application (kpresenter), advanced vector drawing tools (killustrator), a document processor (KLyX), two advanced spreadsheets (ksiag and kxcl), a state-of-the-art web browser (konquerer), news reader, mail client and many smaller utilities such as image viewers, multimedia tools, games, text editors, et al.

Please have a look at http://koffice.kde.org/ and http://www.kde.org/applications/ for more information.

—Matthias Ettrich ettrich@troll.no

Hope you liked the article in February's issue, “KDE: The Highway Ahead” by Kalle Dalheimer —Editor

LJ in Brunei

I cannot believe what happened to me two days ago when I went into a bookshop in the country Brunei, Darussalam, where to my knowledge I am the only Linux user. What did I see in the computer magazine section? A Linux Journal!

Thanks for giving me a great magazine even in a country without Linux.

—Stefanus Du Toit sdt@ultracool.net


I liked the article “Take Command: Calendar Programs” by Michael Stutz (LJ, January 1998), so I installed calendar on my machine. With my system (Red Hat 4.1 and tcsh), I got “unterminated string” errors from entries like “John's birthday”. This is a consequence of the method by which GNU cpp manages quotes. I found a good workaround is to include this line:

(calendar >/dev/tty) >& /dev/null

in my .cshrc file instead of just calendar. It does not fix the errors, but it does throw them away.

—Tony Sumner solon@macaulay.demon.co.uk

Misstatement by LJ Editor

First of all, we at IGEL wish the LJ staff a happy, healthy and successful 1999!

In issue 57 on page 32 (“1998 Editor's Choice Awards”, Best New Hardware—Corel NetWinder), Ms. Richardson states, “Corel Computer is the first company to declare Linux ...” This statement is simply wrong and misleading. IGEL was the first company to introduce a Flash Linux-based Network Terminal/Computer or Thin Client back in 1994. Linux Journal even tested the unit at the time and printed a very positive product preview. This unit, then called Etherminal 3X/4X, is now replaced by the Etherminal W/J Thin Client series, which began selling much earlier than Corel's NetWinder. The functionality of Etherminal W and J goes beyond that of the NetWinder and has a much better price/performance ratio.

I would appreciate a printed correction of this statement, since our product marketing uses this time and functionality advantage publicly, and we do not like having to continuously argue against her statement.

On page 75 (“New Products”) is a short announcement about the release of Etherminal J, and we are very thankful for this mention. The following statement was cut from our press release:

In addition, Etherminal J supports Citrix MetaFrame and Citrix WinFrame via the integrated ICA Client for Linux, and Tekcentric WinCentric via an integrated WinCentric Client for Linux. RDP support is planned to be released in the future as well. This makes Etherminal J the only universal “All in One” Thin Client Workstation available.

In the same article, the price of the product is now outdated. The new pricing is strictly based on quantity, ranging from $590 to $899 US. Reseller pricing is available.

Last, I'd like to offer an article on IGEL as a company, supporting and using LINUX as its only OS for any product offered now and in the future. We have some very interesting product plans which will literally take Linux and IGEL's Flash Linux technology to new highs in 1999.

Thank you for your interest and continuous support!

—Hans L. Knobloch President and CEO, IGEL LLC

My apologies for my misstatement with regards to the NetWinder. The Etherminal was indeed first. I would like to talk to you more about your company. —Marjorie Richardson

Re: Linux in Lebanon

These comments are about the article entitled “Linux in Lebanon” by Ibrahim F. Haddad which appeared in the January 1999 issue.

I was pleasantly surprised to see LJ cover Linux usage in our country and commend Mr. Haddad on a nicely written article. I would, however, like to point out that company usage of Linux has been somewhat downplayed. Our company is almost exclusively a Linux shop, and we have created very large web sites which are served on Linux machines.

For example, LebHost (http://www.lebhost.com.lb/) is a comprehensive search engine about anything related to Lebanon, and our main web site offers free web sites to Lebanese (http://www.greencedars.com.lb/). Both sites are Linux-based and very heavily visited. We also have dozens of hosted domains on Linux machines as well.

In our case, it was clearly not a matter of “follow the crowds”, even though Microsoft software is “freely available” in a pirated form here. We find Linux much more attractive to use because of performance, flexibility, superb support and source code availability.

—Edmond Abrahamian, PhD. edmond@greencedars.com.lb

Csound Article

I read the article in February's LJ, “Linux Csound” by David Phillips. I think you should add a link in the “Resources” section to the Quasimodo Project, http://www.op.net/~pbd/quasimodo/.

This project is a rewrite of Csound for UNIX, supporting multi-threading, with enhanced real-time performance, GUI, modular, etc. A first ALPHA (without GUI) is available now. When this project is finished, it will be absolutely the coolest Software Synthesizer System that has ever existed.

—Thomas huber@iamexwi.unibe.ch

SSC's Distribution Choice

I am a little confused over which distribution to get and install on my machine. All seem fine for most tasks. I remembered in a past issue of LJ that SSC uses the Debian distribution. Why was Debian your choice over other distributions? Was it because it is an all-volunteer distribution versus commercially-based distributions such as Red Hat, Caldera and others?

Additionally, if I choose a distribution other than Red Hat, I fear I may not be able to purchase software products because companies are specifically alliancing themselves to support only Red Hat instead of all major distributions (or, rather, certain components used in all distributions). This is reminiscent of Wintel systems versus Apple. More software was made to support Windows. People, like vendors, will go where more is offered. Distributions that are not Red Hat compliant will be left in the dust—a situation that will lead to factions within the Linux community. Companies need to provide products without requiring Red Hat be installed.

—Jean Tellier jtellier@cts.com

Yes, our primary reason for choosing Debian was that it is a volunteer effort. Red Hat is part of the effort to develop standards for Linux that will keep applications from being distribution-specific. While many companies have ported their products to Red Hat first, I don't think any have said they will not support other Linux versions. Informix came out for Caldera first but now works for the others as well. Corel's NetWinder comes installed with Red Hat, but Debian also works well on it. I think you can pick whichever distribution you wish without worry —Editor

Non-root Shutdown Possible with sudo

I saw a question in LJ January 1999 (“Best of Technical Support”) for which I can provide a suggestion. The utility sudo can be configured to provide non-root shutdown capability. sudo (su do) basically allows non-root users to execute a restricted set of commands. It essentially performs an su - root -c command but can ensure more restrictive access control and does not require you to give out the root password.

On my desktop, I configure it so that any time I want to run a root command (I log in under a regular user account called stephen), I just type sudo command, and it executes it for me without hassling me. Of course, you can configure it to require passwords, allow only a single command, etc.

More about sudo can be found at http://www.courtesan.com/sudo/.

—Stephen Thomas stephen@thomas.mitre.org

Name Misspelling

You accidentally spelled Jaroslav's name wrong in your article about Csound in the February issue of Linux Journal. The correct spelling is Jaroslav Kysela. (You were very close!) Thanks.

—Chris David cdavid@umich.edu

Linux for Macintosh

I have just finished reading Alan Cox's article “Kernel Korner: Linux for Macintosh 68K Port” (January 1999). An excellent article in an outstanding publication. I wait quite impatiently each month for LJ to appear in the mail. Please keep up the broad spectrum of articles—something for the experts and something for us beginners. Thanks.

—Ron Phinney rphinney@xroadstx.com

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