2001 08 30

                    LINUX NEWS
             Thursday, August 30, 2001
       Read By 7,000 Linux Enthusiasts Weekly!


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

Review of Checkpoint FW-1 on Linux
KOffice Rolls Out
Spot the Bugs, Win Some Loot
Corel to Sell Linux Operating System Unit

3) Linux Resources

How to create a Linux-based network of computers for peanuts
How to View MSWord Documents in Linux
UNIXHelp for Users
Free SuSE CD
Minimal Perl

4) App o’ the week

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1) Sean's Notes
Last week we took a look at the Load Average and the top
utility as a way to spot CPU hogs.


This week, it's time to look at the memory situation.  A
quick snapshot can be called up with the "free" command.
I've used -m to report in megabytes, and trimmed some
uninteresting data to make it fit.

# free -m
             total       used    free    buffers   cached
Mem:           139        131       8          2       74
-/+ buffers/cache:         55      84
Swap:          133         26     106

The first line deals in physical memory.  There is 139M of
memory in this system, and 131M are used, leaving 8M free.
Is this system starved for memory?  No -- the answer lies in
the the last two columns.  2M is taken up for disk buffers,
and the OS has cached 74M of data in memory.  These last two
figures are dynamic, in that Linux will take memory away
from them when applications need it.  This way, all the
memory is put to use in some form or another.

The answer to "how much memory are my applications using" is
found in line two.  It gives the used/free figures without
the buffers and cache calculations.  So, I'm using 55M of
memory (131-2-74), and 84M is free (8+2+74).

Line three deals with swap.  Swap is memory that has been
temporarily stored on disk to free it up for other uses.
Here, I've got 133M of swap, and am using 26M.  Even though
memory is free, the operating system will keep a certain
amount of swap in use, such as memory that hasn't been
touched in a long time, and some space just to keep track of
the swap itself.

Two big indicators of a memory problem will be the free RAM
not including buffers (84M) getting low, and the used swap
space (26M) getting high.  Once you start digging into swap,
your performance will suffer.  You'll also be able to hear
the drives churning (if the machine is close).

The quickest way to find out who's taking up all that memory
is, again, with top.  Fire up top

# top

Then, tell it to sort by memory usage with the capital M key.

16765 fred      14   0  190M  98M    64 70.7   0:11 memsucker

here, you can see that a process called memsucker is taking
up 70.7% of the memory... The size column says that 190M have
been allocated to this process.

Some applications leak memory, ie they allocate it, but never
free it.  These programs will benefit from being killed and
restarted every so often.

Some applications are naturally memory intensive, in
which case you may want to temporarily increase the size of
the swap for the duration of the job.  If it is a process
that runs often, such as a database, you'll want to look at
increasing the size of physical RAM, or getting other apps
off that box.

Keeping on top of the memory situation is critical to the
smooth functioning of your machines.  Get a feel for what
gets used in normal operation so that you know when it's
time to add some more RAM or take other action.

Long live the Penguin,


2) Linux News

Review of Checkpoint FW-1 on Linux
"Check Point FireWall-1 is the 800-pound gorilla of the
commercial firewall industry. Check Point Software
Technologies has ported its popular, sophisticated and
relatively easy-to-administer firewall to the Linux
platform. FireWall-1 is further enhanced with integrated
VPN functionality that's easy to deploy and manage. Such
integration sets Check Point apart from both commercial
Linux firewall suites and open source security alternatives."


KOffice Rolls Out
Congrats to the KDE crew on releasing KOffice 1.1. It's a
free integrated office suite, including a word processor,
spreadsheet, presentation package, and more! Kivio, the
Visio-like tool, looks especially interesting.


Spot the Bugs, Win Some Loot
Ximian, packager of all things GNOME, are nearing completion
of the Evolution mail reader. They're asking for your help
in finding bugs, prizes range from $100 to a Palm V. There
are different categories, so even if you only submit one
bug, you could still be a winner!


Corel to Sell Linux Operating System Unit
Xandros Corp has bought Corel's Linux division for around
$2M US, and 5% stake in the company. I wish Xandros more
luck than befell Corel... It's a tough market, and people
are already well established.


3) Linux Resources

How to create a Linux-based network of computers for peanuts
So, you know that an old computer can be revitalized with
Linux. But just how old can that box be? For how cheap can
you build a reliable network? You'd be surprised! This
article is the first part in a series that looks at how to
set up a complete network of old computers, but still have
the performance of a new machine.


How to View MSWord Documents in Linux
Whenever someone emails me a .doc file, I have to fire up
Star Office to read it. Kind of a pain; I'd prefer something
smaller that I can tell PINE to associate with .DOC and save
a lot of time. Luckily, I was able to find some good
alternatives here.


UNIXHelp for Users
Courtesy of the University of Edinburgh, this link has
helpful advice on how to perform tasks from email to shell
commands. It even has tables to help those converting from
DOS and VMS!


Free SuSE CD
Grab yourself a free SuSE evaluation CD! Just tell them
where to ship it, and wait by your mailbox.


Minimal Perl
So, you think you want to learn Perl, but the learning curve
is intimidating. The "Minimal Perl" approach teaches a subset
of Perl that is designed to get the job done, rather than
cutting elegant code. Once you figure all that out, you can
get into the more esoteric parts of the language, or just
stop there. This link points to a slideshow -- it's a
gzipped postscript document, so after downloading it, gunzip
it, then use "gv" to view it.


4) App o' the week
H.323 is a standard used in voice and video conferencing
systems such as VOIP. The Open H.323 project was formed to
create an H.323 stack for Linux. Along with the main project
are side projects to create gatekeepers and clients.


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