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Joe versus the Potato: Potato's installer outshines that of Slink-and-a-Half
By Joe Barr, Version Control, October 11, 2000

Debian: The distribution your mother would use I've been using Debian for about a year now, and I'm totally addicted to it. In fact, I'm so addicted that when I had to use Red Hat at work this summer, I just ssh'd to my home machine to do any non-work-related Linux stuff. When I told people at work about Debian, they had never heard of it. That's sad because it has so many advantages, in terms of ease of use and security, over those other distros. Here's a quote from a T-shirt I always wanted to get from copyleft.net: "Debian: It's the distribution your mother would use -- if it were twenty times easier." Andrew Chant

LSB needs stronger leadership: Scott McNeil would make a good choice to lead LSB
By Nicholas Petreley, The Penguin Brief, October 6, 2000

Linux font fright Is anyone involved in the Linux Standard Base thinking about how fonts are installed and used under Linux? I backed into the issue when I got the WP 2000 suite, then thought it would be nifty to use some of those hundreds of extra Type 1 fonts with other apps, like the FrameMaker beta. When I saw that WP had installed that handy FontTastic font installer/server, it seemed that it would be simple. The KDE font manager was seeing everything I installed with FontTastic. I'm sure you know what I've learned since then. Short version: Gimp -- OK, Frame -- no way. (Well, not without lots of font-by-font manual manipulation, which I haven't tried yet.) It seems that for Linux to make any real inroads as a desktop OS, it'll need to handle fonts with some kind of system-level service that all apps can call. John Spragens Learn from Sun's experience Sun reconciled the conflict between modular evolution and interface stability. In a nutshell, [Sun developers] use fine-grained versioning inside their libraries to define the libraries' permanent components. That way, developers can call these interfaces and never worry about an upgrade breaking their stuff. And end users never need to worry either. The guy said that developers were absolutely ecstatic when this was announced, because it really reduced their testing and certification burden. Instead of a thick standards document to describe compatibility, they created two pieces of "scanner" software called appcert and apptrace -- much easier to apply than reading a thick legalistic document. Why reinvent the wheel? I say, lets learn from Sun's experience and simply adopt something similar to what they do. Jason G. Fleming Linux in the developing world and the culture of waste I have been a sysadmin for a long time, mainly in Latin America and the Caribbean. I always view with amusement the North American obsession with user-friendliness. I think it is so arrogant. It is the position of those with machines that have more than enough resources. It is the culture of waste. When the point is getting the job done, sharing resources makes sense. When the scenario is not personal, not "enterprisewide" (whatever the hell that means) -- but continental, multicultural, and multilingual -- personal preferences are the first thing out the door. Your obsession with pretty GUIs drives me crazy. Linux, if it succeeds, will succeed in the Third World, where resources are still expensive. It will succeed because it is free -- as in free beer, not free speech. Free speech is still expensive in the Third World. Empowering the user is more important than your MP3 player of choice in the color du jour. This pettiness over whether KDE is better than GNOME is like rich kids showing off their sports cars in the schoolyard. The real success for Linux is not its possible acceptance by corporate America -- it is the rest of the world grabbing it with both arms because they have finally found a product that they can afford. Richard Hamel-Smith Who wishes they were using Linux? Here are the non-nerd people I know who are not currently running Linux (but have considered it):
  1. Convinced that you get what you pay for, and insists on buying expensive (e.g. Microsoft) commercial software when the job could be done by freeware (even under Windows).
  2. A business owner with existing accounting data to carry forward. He is happy to pay for any software he needs, but requires accounting, fax, email, and an office environment that he can use by himself and is simple enough for a part-time employee. I could set up a machine for him, but he would be unable to recreate it without my assistance if it crashes.
  3. Wants to do one thing with his computer: play Flight Gear. I never managed to get his GeForce card to run with accelerated 3D. He needs nonstandard kernel modules to support his sound card and joystick, and he has an AMD chipset when doing AGP.
  4. Has a small apartment and is using the TVout on a Matrox G200 card to avoid using a monitor in addition to the TV. Unable to get the TVout working under Linux, even though the driver is present and working, so continues to use Windows indefinitely.
  5. Hates Windows and pines for the good old days of mainframes and FORTRAN. Scared to install Linux because everybody says it has a really good graphical interface, much better than Windows. Has not found the courage to try a text-only installation.
  6. Is mildly dyslexic and has real problems with command lines. Is scared of dealing with installation and configuration files, but can cope with the Windows GUI-based simple settings and stuff.
What common thread do you see among these six people that could be resolved by the community? Alex Perry

Win4Lin vs. VMware: Nicholas Petreley loves VMware but is having trouble finding a use for it
By Nicholas Petreley, The Penguin Brief, December 8, 2000

The place of Wine, Win4Lin, and VMware As a dual-booter since before the patched-shoelace days, I am grateful for Win4Lin and VMware, and can tell you that I use both of them and Wine, and all three have their place. Wine is really the Win32 platform of choice. It's simply the most reasonable approach for running Win32 applications under Linux, no different from using LessTif to run Motif applications. It's maturing at an exponential rate. I try every application periodically with a new release of Wine, and if it works, that's how I run it. It's free software, doesn't require a Windows installation -- which is really cumbersome and slightly repulsive -- and is fast. VMware is a real self-contained virtual machine. It can run NT and Windows 2000, and supports sound, etc. You can have multiple VMs, each with their own registry, etc. I have to use some poorly written radiology software that does funny things to the registry and requires an old version of Netscape, as well as an 8-bit color setting. I set this up on a 1-GB virtual disk, and it never interferes with any other software. Finally, a virus could trash your home dir under Win4Lin, but not under VMware. Win4Lin provides easier access to the Linux filesystem, with no networking scheme required. Win4Lin starts up faster, integrates better into my KDE desktop, and is often the best way to run workaday Windows 95 software under Linux. However, Win4Lin's documentation and online support knowledge base is nowhere near as good as VMware's. David Fenyes

Microsoft unleashes piracy police: Are you safe?: Open source software is the best defense
By Joe Barr, Version Control, December 13, 2000

Virginia Beach should have fought the BSA I admit I don't know much about IP law, but I would have hired an IP lawyer and told BSA to file their suit and prove their case. I think there is a rarely used presumption that everyone has followed the law. If everyone made it distasteful to pursue frivolous claims, they would decrease. Milt Walker

Linux predictions for 2001: What's in store for Linux this year? Look no further than Joe Barr's crystal ball
By Joe Barr, Version Control, January 3, 2001

George-the-lesser to let Gates off the hook? Unfortunately, I agree with your point about Dubya and Bill G. Microsoft was waiting in anticipation for George's good-ol'-boy network to successfully rig the election so they could wriggle off the hook. Joe Camel, Charlton Heston, the insurance industry, and big oil are also happy. Thomas Glascock

Linux 2.4 and USB: Until Linux USB drivers ship with desktop products, Linux will not rule the desktop
By Nicholas Petreley, The Penguin Brief, January 19, 2001

Generic drivers for everyone! Never mind USB, Linux has more important things to fix. Video and sound: Every time you upgrade your PC, some part of Linux dies. Why, oh why, can't some clever person develop a nice functional generic driver for sound and video cards? (Remember VESA? It wasn't the best, but it always, always worked. Manufacturers had to support it, but it wasn't hard, so they did.) Why can't we have LVideo and LSound for Linux; the open source answer to DirectX? Is there a driver? Who cares, it supports LVideo and/or LSound! This way, you will always get sound and video out of your system after an install. No matter how spanking hot that card is under Windows, it can still drive your Linux partition. It seems to me that a good quality cluster of generic drivers is a 90 percent solution to the Linux-on-the-desktop problem. 80 percent functionality for 80 percent of the devices covered by its category is more than enough. Plus, if a company were inclined to write a more functional driver to provide that extra 20 percent of functionality for their product, they'd have one to modify instead of having to write it from scratch. I can see it now: 'L' drivers everywhere... LVideo, L3D, LUSBCamera, LUSBPrint, LPrint, LSound, LPPoE, Lmodem ... maybe even LWindows. :-) David H. Allingham

LinuxWorld Expo refutes the FUD: Reports of Linux's demise have been greatly exaggerated
By Joe Barr, Version Control, February 7, 2001

Linux (and LinuxWorld.com) gets down to business For the longest time, I was disappointed by the quality of editorials, articles, etc., in the majority of pro-Linux media. It seemed people spent more time bashing Microsoft than focusing on Linux's strengths. Most articles I read on LinuxWorld.com in particular were disappointingly strewn about with pointless sarcasm and animosity. They weren't even funny. But suddenly, this particular article seemed even-tempered, straight-forward, equipped with facts, "more focused on the real work at hand," "past the hype stage," and knowledgeable of "sound business decisions." I almost gave up on LinuxWorld.com because each article seemed like nothing more than a rant. Kudos for a respectable and informative article. Trust me, this is what we like -- the people "out here" who decide what OSs will run on our servers. It's stuff like this that we come back for in the long run. Brian McCurdy

Make Debian the base standard: Distros should standardize on the platform that sooths Dementia Upgradia Habitua, or DUH
By Nicholas Petreley, The Penguin Brief, February 23, 2001

Avoid the RPM nightmare with Debian Bravo! Finally, somebody who obviously has built machines and tried to maintain them speaks out for those of us without a column and an audience! It is about time someone said what I, and many other Debian users, have known for quite a while. The freedom and joy of having a real Unix system that can be easily patched, updated, and upgraded is something all users of lesser systems should experience. The "real" Unixes like Solaris could learn a lot from Debian. The RPM hell is a nightmare nobody should endure for long. Aaron C. Springer Standardize the process, not the method RPM works fine for me. RPM works as the package format and is nice and simple. However, Yup is my front-end for updating and installing RPMs with dependency resolution. It is small, written in Python, and uses apt-get syntax. Unlike the apt port for RPM, Yup requires no patching to the main RPM source. Standards might want to standardize the process and not the method -- perhaps making "updating with dependency resolution" a standard and then letting people use red carpet, Yup, yast, apt-get, or whatever, as long as it complies. Standards should allow innovation. Jeramy B Smith

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SYS-CON's Linux News Desk gathers stories, analysis, and information from around the Linux world and synthesizes them into an easy to digest format for IT/IS managers and other business decision-makers.

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