2002 12 12

                    LINUX NEWS
          December 12, 2002 - Issue #111


1) Sean’s Notes

2) Linux News

More On Largo
Moore's Law Coming to an End?
Last Chance to Appease Your Geek
Where Did SAIR Go?

3) Linux Resources

Capturing Screens
Interview With Source Forge Creator
NVIDIA Linux Forums
Move Over, Citrix
PostgreSQL - A Better Way To Manage Data

4) App o’ the Week

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1) Sean's Notes

If you're like me, you spend a lot of your time in the shell.
Given that, there is no reason we shouldn't make it a
comfortable place. Login scripts let you run commands on every
login, be they changing your path, setting a printer, or running
various tasks. The unfortunate part is that since there are many
shells available, each has its own files that it touches, so
customizing one shell may be different from another.

In case you weren't aware, there are two main families of
shells. One is the C shell, which includes csh and tcsh. The
other is the Bourne shell, which includes the original sh, and
the GNU bash (Bourne Again SHell). Then, there are derivatives
such as the Korn shell (ksh), which borrows heavily from the
Bourne family, and zsh, which is somewhere between the two. My
preference is bash, since that's what root's shell should be,
though tcsh doesn't bother me at all. Since I do all my shell
programming in bash, I find it works well.

Regardless of your shell, they each go through a series of
files, executing their contents, which set up the shell. Some
are stored in /etc, meaning they are global; others are written
by the user, allowing them to override or augment root's wishes.
This is further complicated by some shells being considered
"login shells", and others "non-login shells". Basically, if you
came in through telnet, ssh, or logged in through the console,
it's a login shell. If you came in through X, or are running as
part of a cron job, it's a non-login shell. There are, of
course, options that override this, and exceptions, so we'll
try to go with safe assumptions here.

For bash users, the global file is /etc/profile. The best file
to override this stuff is ~/.bashrc. For csh, the global file is
/etc/csh.cshrc and ~/.cshrc for your personal additions. Read
the man page for your shell to get the gory details. I've got to
be honest and say that even after years of using them, I still
have to refer to the man page to find out what supersedes what,
and when a certain file gets run. (Some shells will look for a
set of, say, three files, and execute any that exist. Others
will execute the first one they see, and skip over the rest.)

But what useful stuff can be done? The first thing that comes
to mind is setting the prompt. In Bourne derivatives, the PS1
environment variable is where it's at. For csh, the much
simpler "prompt" is what you're looking for:

export PS1="Your wish, master> "    # bash
set prompt="Your wish, master> "    # csh

Your prompt can do more than cater to your ego, though. By
embedding special sequences, you can have the date and time,
your user/host, or current directory in your prompt. Bash users,
check the bash man page under the PROMPTING section. csh, it's
in the tcsh man page under "Special Shell Variables", within
the "prompt" heading. I like the default "\[\u@\h \W]\$", which
gives something like:

\[sean@bob tmp]

This lets me know who I'm logged in as, what host (always
double check before you do anything like a shutdown!), and
where I am.

Another task is to set your path. This is one where you want
to augment your system-wide settings, not override them!

I often create a subdirectory underneath my home directory
called "bin", where I store various shell scripts. As such,
I'd like $HOME/bin to be in my path.

export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/bin	# bash
set path=($path $HOME/bin)	# csh

As you can see, we're setting variables the same way as before,
except that reference is made to the old value. Thus, the
commands above append to the path, rather than replacing them.

Another helpful thing to put in your login script is aliases.
Aliases let you shorten a command, or to force the command to
always be run with certain arguments. Some shells support them,
some don't. You can get a list of what's aliased by typing
"alias". You'll see how you get color directory listings,
because "ls" is aliased to "ls --color=tty", meaning that the
parameter to turn on color is always given behind the scenes.

I find that I run "ps -x" often to see all my own processes.
Therefore, I can run the following alias to make "px" run
"ps -x":

alias px="ps -x"		# bash
alias ps ps -x			# csh

Throwing any of these commands in the appropriate file ensures
that the functionality is available every time you log in. The
kind systems administrator makes use of the global files to add
functionality to his user's environments, such as the proper
path, or some helpful aliases/options. Remember that the user
has (and should have) ultimate control over their environment,
so trying to implement login controls and other security
measures is difficult or impossible.

Long live the Penguin,


2) Linux News

More On Largo

Largo, Florida has been saving buckets of cash by moving to a
thin client model using Linux and KDE. This latest look at Largo
shows some new developments, including how they come across
their thin client devices. It's no shock that eBay is a big
source, but the price they paid blew me away.


Moore's Law Coming to an End?

Moore's law states that the number of transistors on a chip will
double approximately every 18 months, and it's held true since
the late 1960's. Intel's chairman paints a bleak outlook, saying
that due to power leakage, the law may be hitting some limitations.


Last Chance to Appease Your Geek

If you're looking for that perfect gift for your Linux geek,
ThinkGeek has lots of cool gizmos and clothing. Here's their
ordering deadlines, in case you want to have it shipped before
the 25th. (You'd think with a ringing endorsement like that, I'd
get free stuff, but noooooooo...)


Where Did SAIR Go?

Remember the SAIR certification program? What ever happened to
it? Newsforge made a few inquiries, and it turns out the body is
still twitching, but there's an odd smell...


3) Linux Resources

Capturing Screens

While I can think of a couple of easier ways to get an X-Window
screen capture, this technique shows off some of the lesser
known utilities in the Unix world that may come in handy at times.


Interview With Source Forge Creator

Tim Perdue was one of the driving forces behind Source Forge, a
site for the hosting of Open Source projects, and PHP Builder, a
site for PHP developers. This interview talks about what
happened behind the scenes on the project, and what's coming up
now that the original product was battered by VA Software, and
resurfaced as Open Source, again.


NVIDIA Linux Forums

I've been very happy with my NVIDIA graphics card, especially
since the company has developed accelerated Linux drivers. This
link is to their Linux forum, where you can get information
about the recent updates to the Linux code, and get a hand with
any problems you might have with your card and Linux.


Move Over, Citrix

"CrossOver Server Edition is designed to help the corporate
marketplace bridge to Linux," said Jeremy White, CEO of
CodeWeavers. "With Server Edition we offer corporate workgroups
the ability to control costs by consolidating on a lower-cost
desktop, while still running the applications their users have
grown accustomed to. But whereas Citrix and Microsoft Terminal
Server licenses typically cost hundreds of dollars per user, we
can provide outstanding productivity for much less. The result
is cost savings with real convenience."

http://www.codeweavers.com/about/press_releases/?id 021210

PostgreSQL, A Better Way To Manage Data

I'm starting to get a large collection of PostgreSQL books!
It's a database with features approaching the level of Oracle,
but with the freedom of Open Source (because it is!).  Here, I
review Premier Press' "PostgreSQL: A Better Way To Manage Data"


4) App o' the Week

Ever since the days of DOS, I've had an interest in the inner
workings of operating systems. As I got into Linux, the
multitasking components such as the scheduler were particularly
fascinating. Here is a set of utilities that let you peek and
poke at the various settings associated with processes and
priority. Some of the utilities require a 2.5 kernel.


(C) 2002 BrainBuzz.com, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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