2002 03 28

                    LINUX NEWS
        Resources & Links From CramSession.com
             Thursday, March 28, 2002


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

Practical PostgreSQL
GNOME on a Low End Machine
SUN Unveils Star Office Pricing
SE Linux to Undergo Certification

3) Linux Resources

Console Codes
Extend the Star Office Beta
Programming With libpcap
Basic X Tweaks

4) App o’ the Week

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1) Sean's Notes

Several discussions on the Linux-General board in the past
week have centered around the question "Will Linux Prevail?"
The word "prevail", according to the dictionary, has many
meanings, from "influence", to "gain superiority or overcome".
So when we ask the question, "Will Linux Prevail?", what are
we really asking?  If you haven't joined in, I encourage you
to do so:


To some, it's nothing less than total world domination.  A
penguin on every desktop and Bill Gates sleeping on the street,
or Linux is doomed for failure.  Others separate servers and
desktops, and define success factors for each.  Still some base
the answer directly on the health of Linux-related companies.

We can wave financial statements showing that those Linux
companies are tanking, complain that our mothers could never
use it, and declare it dead.  After all, if it will never
destroy the Evil Empire, then why bother trying?  The thing
is, Linux and the Open Source ideals are pretty new to most
people, and the needs of commercial vs. free, and users vs.
developers are still being sorted out.

On the other side, we can realize that Linux is all about
offering choice.  As long as it remains a viable alternative,
I think it has done its job.  Before Open Source, security
bugs were discussed in closed circles, and vendors would take
months to release patches.  In the meantime, crackers were
distributing exploits, yet systems remained vulnerable.  Open
Source raised the standard that vendors had to adhere to.
Publication of the bugs forced quicker patches, thus more
secure systems.  Even recently, Microsoft dedicated a whole
month (at least on paper) to finding security bugs and
patching them up.  Without Linux and its method of sharing and
communication, I don't think that this would have happened.

On the server side, we may not have Linux running every
critical system, but I see a lot of it acting as "glue".
Reporting, network services, web servers, mail relays, and
security sensors are all popular applications of Linux that
most people don't even see, but rely on.  As established
companies like IBM, Oracle, and Compaq fund development,
CIOs will hopefully be more confident in Linux's abilities.

On the desktop, we're plagued by the litmus test of usability,
"Can my mother use it?".  Perhaps the average home user won't
yet be up to the task of maintaining a Linux box for day-to-day
use, but I think that Linux will be a real hit in the corporate
environment.  The ability to lock down the user environment,
update and troubleshoot systems, and maintain security from one
chair is outstanding.  Take the common complaints of
incompatible hardware and complex administration away from the
user, and Linux becomes the perfect business tool.  Already I'm
seeing fewer .DOC files being broadcast, and being replaced
with more universal formats such as PDF and RTF, showing that
companies are realizing that the reader having Microsoft Word
isn't a given anymore.

Total world domination isn't a necessity, and in my humble
opinion, not a desired outcome either.  Macintosh and Novell
enjoy a strong user following, yet play second chair to
Microsoft, and the calls of their demise aren't as loud as
those of Linux.  Even if Red Hat folded, and all the major
vendors dropped their support for Linux, we'd still have the
following that got us from the early 90's to the dot-com boom.

For Linux to continue competing, though, it has to grow.  If
you haven't installed it yet, now's as good a time as any to
give it a shot.  If you've already got it installed, try some
of your daily tasks with it.  Sooner or later you may find that
Linux is the perfect way to scratch an itch, such as filtering
incoming mail for viruses and spam, conserving your Internet
usage with a caching proxy, or watching over your network as
an intrusion detection box.  You never know, you just might
find yourself preferring the environment to your current setup.
If you already count yourself in the ranks of the Linux savvy,
then help out someone who isn't.  Ultimately, if Linux builds
a community of users working toward a common goal, and
continues to offer a high quality alternative, I don't see
how it can't prevail on the desktop, server, embedded device,
or anywhere else.

Long live the Penguin,


2) Linux News

Practical PostgreSQL
Interested in using PostgreSQL, a powerful relational
database for Linux? This book has everything you need, from
installing the product, programming and writing queries, to
basic care and feeding. A one-stop book for any PostgreSQL


GNOME on a Low End Machine
Default installations of GNOME have become very heavy,
leading to extended waits to start a session, and sluggish
performance on anything but the most modern hardware. This
article looks at this trend, recounting the author's
experience in getting Linux running on a palmtop.


SUN Unveils Star Office Pricing
They're still a little vague on the actual cost, but it
looks like the numbers are in the ballpark for the average
home user. I've been using Star Office 6.0 beta since it
came out, and despite a few bugs, I've been quite impressed.


SE Linux to Undergo Certification
The NSA (the American Spy Agency) has been working hard to
add Mandatory Access Controls to Linux, which will allow an
administrator fine-grained control over what the user can
and can not do. Now they're looking to certify the product
against the internationally recognized Common Criteria.
Microsoft is trying to get Win2K to the same level, so this
may be a key factor in trying to get Linux into government


3) Linux Resources

RAID 1 is mirroring, such that two disks are identical
clones, ready to take over for the other in the event of a
disk failure. It's no good against the host hardware
crashing, though. DRBD steps in to perform disk mirroring
over an IP network.


Console Codes
When trying to figure out how to send a break key from the
console, I found this complete list of escape sequences. It
also lists the commands to change colors, so if you were
wondering how to jazz up your shell prompt, start here.


Extend the Star Office Beta
When SUN offered SO 6.0 as a trial, it told you that it
would expire on March 31. That day is fast approaching, and
no product is forthcoming. This patch extends the life of
the software to June 3. Uncompress the tarball (tar -xzf
whatever.tar.Z) and copy the soffice.bin over your current


Programming With libpcap
libpcap is a library that lets you sniff packets. There are
several uses of this other than the obvious packet sniffer
and decoder. If libpcap is what you need, this tutorial will
guide you through its basic usage.


Basic X Tweaks
Even though there are tools to help you with the initial
install of X-Windows, it is helpful to know how the
configuration files work in the event that you want to make
a couple of small changes without going through the whole
setup process again. Here's a look at some of the settings
specific to XFree86 4.0.


4) App o' the week
PXES is a distribution that allows you to create network
booting thin clients out of of regular PCs, capable of
accessing X-Windows servers or Microsoft Terminal Servers.
The setup is graphical, and seems to keep scalability to
large sites in mind.


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