Build a Linux distro via the net

SUSE

Building your own Linux distribution sounds like a hair-raising experience, and it would be if you had to compile every source file from scratch with no guidance. Thankfully, though, the OpenSUSE folks have made it much simpler with their SUSE Studio build service, as our friends at PC Plus explain. With just a few mouse clicks you can generate your own custom version of OpenSUSE - and even test it inside a web browser! Good going.

Introducing TermBuilder - a Linux command line generator

Command line

If you're a Linux newbie who wants to learn a bit more about the command line, or if you want to chain a few commands together to get some special output, we have a new tool for you to try. We call it TermBuilder, and it's a web-based command-line generator for Linux and other compatible Unixes. All you have to do is click buttons and choose options and it will generate commands for you to copy and paste into your terminal.

Explore operating systems beyond Linux

Operating systems

We love Linux, us. We breathe it, eat it, and install it on anything that can add two numbers together. But we're also fans of other free software operating system projects - large or small - and we love to watch them improve. Our chums at PC Plus have uploaded a look at 10 alternative operating systems, covering ReactOS, Haiku, Syllable and more. Many of them ape classic OSes, so if you were a total Amiga or Atari ST addict back in the day, you might just fall in love again here...

Free Gimp tutorial PDFs

Gimp

Issue 128 of Linux Format magazine carries the last instalment of our Gimp tutorial series. It's been going on-and-off for years now, with the latest batch running from June 2008 until now.

Although we're sad to see the Gimp tutorial go away for the time being, we'd like to thank its author - the incredibly prolific Michael J. Hammel - for all the awesome work he's done over the years, and we're happy to announce that we're releasing high-res PDFs of Michael's 18 most recent GIMP tutorials for everyone to enjoy.

LXF readers have, we hope, learned a lot following in Michael's footsteps over the years, and it's great to be able to share these tutorials with an even wider audience. In these tutorials, you'll learn how to create all sorts of fun, weird and wonderful effects with Gimp, and the step-by-step guide should make it easy for users of all levels to follow.

Read on for download instructions and more information about what's inside...

Reviewed: Linux Mint 8

Distros

Bored with brown? Looking for more oomph in your Ubuntu installation? We test the latest release of Linux Mint, the shiny green distro that stands on the shoulders of giants and offers its own unique tools. Read on to find out whether Mint is actually a better Ubuntu than Ubuntu...

Howto: Linux and Windows virtualization with KVM and Qemu

Sysadmin

In the wise words of Wikipedia, "Virtualisation is a broad term that refers to the abstraction of computer resources". Within this definition sits a whole variety of products - Sun's VirtualBox, Parallels, Bochs, Xen, KVM, Qemu, various flavours of VMware and many others. And there's a great deal of jargon to confuse the unwary - emulation, full virtualisation, paravirtualisation, virtual appliance, hypervisor... the list goes on. And not everyone agrees exactly what all these terms actually mean.

We're going to deliberately sidestep the jargon and the hype to take a practical look at the virtualisation technologies in Ubuntu, in particular KVM and Qemu and the related userspace tools that create and manage virtual machines. Although the discussion centres on Ubuntu, the technology is applicable to all Linux distros.

Warning: if you're a little less experienced (or a little more time constrained!) you might find our other article, virtualisation made easy, a little easier to read.

Arduino hardware hacking: Part 3

Code

In our previous two tutorials (see here and here), we created a Simon-type game using the Arduino, a hardware platform for simple, and not so simple, electronics projects.

We placed three buttons and three LEDs on to something called a breadboard, and wrote a small program that would send a random sequence to the LEDs, which the player would then need to replicate by pressing the buttons in the same order. Each time you got the sequence correct, the sequence would be extended by one and repeated. The further into the random sequence you got, the higher you scored.

In this, part three, we're going to build on what we already created and add another important feature - sound! So, get the hardware out, make some coffee, and prepare for some hardware hacking fun...

Now available: Hudzilla Coding Academy in print!

Code

If you've been following the Hudzilla Coding Academy - our free Mono and C# tutorial series - you'll be pleased to know that it's now available as a special edition magazine, on-sale worldwide and available online.

The magazine version includes another six all-new projects (taking the total to 15), many corrections to the original online text, plus dozens of new tips that take your knowledge further. So, if you're looking to learn to program and aren't sure where to start, Paul Hudson's Coding Academy takes you from zero to hero with minimum theory with maximum fun.

On the included DVD you'll find all the software you need to get started, pre-configured with all the source code from the projects in the magazine. In short, it's all you need to get started and take control of your computer today.

Click the Buy Online button below to buy the magazine now wherever you are in the world, or click here to see what's inside the magazine.

 

Win a free subscription to Linux Format

LXF

We just stumbled across this video of a happy reader getting his copy of the world's best Linux magazine, and we think he deserves a free year's subscription to Linux Format for his trouble. We're always happy to see this sort of thing, so if you upload to YouTube a video of yourself reading/enjoying/reviewing your copy of LXF then send us a link in the comments below, we'll pick the coolest/funniest video and give its creator a free year's subscription too.

(PS: if you're already a subscriber, we'll add a free year to your existing subscription. RPCJerkobi: drop us an email at paul.hudson@futurenet.com to claim your prize)

Mozilla believes in... free porn?

Mozilla

A few years ago, British newspaper The Telegraph covered the UK government's budget announcements by posting tweets onto their site that included the hashtag #budget. As you can imagine, this was soon abused, and Twitter users had much fun at the Telegraph's expense.

Well, apparently Mozilla hasn't learned, and so we were surprised to find a curious link on the Mozilla.org front page this morning, promising "Screenshot - Free Hard Sex Videos, XXX porn, Hot Sex...", apparently on the grounds that the link in question had "Mozilla Firefox" in its title.

We expect Mozilla will remove the offending link quickly enough, but let's hope they are smart enough to modify their Community Ticker code so it doesn't happen again. If you weren't lucky to catch the comedy URL yourself, we've put the pic below.

The best Linux desktop search tools

Group Test

Tools such as grep, find and awk have often come to the rescue of gleeful Bash-mongers searching for files buried beneath gigabytes of other items. But when a typical Linux distro takes up a couple of gigs of disk space, it's not hard to imagine that finding your files will only become trickier over time.

Compared with their internet brethren, today's desktop search tools can be used not only to look for the names of files on your disk, but can also perform context-sensitive searches within email archives, images, videos and music. Some tools take it a bit further and even index your browser history and bookmarks. But with so many different tools to choose from, often offering the same or similar features, just which are worth trying?

We picked out the best desktop search tools for Linux and put them through their paces - read on to find out how they fared!

(PS: if you much prefer working on the command line, don't miss our how to find files on the Linux command line tutorial!)

Ubuntu Netbook Remix vs Moblin

Netbooks

Over the last 12 months, netbook and mobile Linux has made massive advances in features and install base. This is primarily thanks to two netbook distributions - Moblin and Canonical's Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR). Both have built on the massive potential that was unlocked by the Asus Eee PC but led nowhere, as its operating system failed to inspire a new generation of Linux users.

But now technologies from Google such as Android and Chrome OS are bringing a new wave of innovation to the Linux netbook space, so we thought it was time to take a look at the contenders in the netbook and mobile distro space to see just what's going on. Which netbook distro is right for you? Do they work just as well on desktops? Are Chrome OS or Maemo real contenders? Read on to find out!

(NB: if you missed our previous articles, catch up by reading our group test of netbook distros and our guide to choosing the best Linux distro for you.)

Podcast Season 1 Episode 25

Podcast

Title: Dreaming Androids

In this episode: Google releases the Nexus One and Mark Shuttleworth has announced he's going to relinquish control of Canonical. Freescale unveils a Linux touch tablet and we ask whether 2010 could really, honestly, be the year of Linux on the desktop.

How to sniff network traffic with Wireshark

Security

The internet is inherently insecure. Whenever you send data across it, there is a chance that that data could be sniffed, and someone could end up with your personal data. Hopefully once you've read this article, you'll have a better understanding of how to prevent this from happening.

When data travels through the internet, it needs to pass through multiple connections to get to its final destination. Most people don't realise that the data can be read by any machine it passes through on this journey.

With the right tools, you can sniff this data yourself, and any data that passes through your network. This is because most networks actually send data intended for anyone on that network to all machines on your network, and your computer will ignore anything that's not meant for it. This is especially true for most wireless networks, even networks that are 'secured' with WEP/WPA.

Emacs: a tutorial for beginners

Apps

We're all set to put our feet up and wait for Santa to deliver nice presents, but before we do that we have a present for you: an all-encompassing Emacs tutorial that takes you from getting started all the way through customisation and how to use it for different purposes. So, if you're looking for something to do to give you an excuse to avoid festivities around the Christmas tree, read on. And regardless of whether Emacs is your thing or not, we wish you a very merry Christmas and an awesome, Linux-flavoured new year!

Podcast Season 1 Episode 24

Podcast

Title: Linux Mint

In this episode: The Gnome community considers dropping GNU, while a Gnome screensaver is found to contain malware. We trawl through our favourite TuxRadar comments of the year and ask whether it's good to sue for GPL violations.

Linux Format issue 127 - don't miss it!

LXF


Here's a quick heads-up about the latest issue of Linux Format. We're giving it a special mention here because we're expecting it to sell out quickly! Why, you ask? Well, just like every issue it's packed to the gills with Linux and free software reviews, features and guides, but this month we've gone the extra mile:

  • A monster double-sided, 8GB DVD with Ubuntu 9.10 (special Linux Format remaster with 300 extra packages), Mandriva 2010 and OpenSUSE 11.2
  • A free, bonus wallchart: one side is crammed with quick Linux tips, shortcuts and links, while the other side has awesome Ubuntu artwork for your wall

LXF 127 is available in UK newsagents today, and for US-based readers it should be stocked in your nearest Barnes & Noble or Borders soon!

Update: copies have already sold out at our online store, so you'll need to buy it in brick-and-mortar stores instead. Heck, buy five, put them on eBay, and make yourself a tidy profit.

Update part 2: we've got some more copies available in our online store, so grab one before they sell out again!

Open Ballot: is it good to sue for GPL violations?

TuxRadar

The Software Freedom Law Center has announced a lawsuit against 14 companies, including Best Buy, JVC and Samsung, for GPL violations relating to BusyBox, which is a GPL-licensed bundle of Unix tools. The SFLC said it "gave each defendant ample time to comply with the requirements of the license", but what do you think: is suing necessary in today's world, or does it reflect badly on the Free Software community? Moreover, should we be encouraging the naming and shaming of offenders, or does it generate bad feeling towards the GPL?

As per usual, the best comments will be used in our podcast, so please leave a name other than Anonymous Penguin, please state your view clearly, then back it up with some sort of logical reasoning.

Get the best KDE Linux distro

KDE

Not all distros are made equal, particularly if you're a KDE user. KDE has had something of a rough time over the last couple of years. The transition from version 3.5 to 4.x hasn't been easy, and over this period many distributions have decided to use either Gnome or stick with KDE 3.5 as their default desktop.

But we feel KDE 4 has now matured to a point where most KDE users can safely dump their old desktop and move on to the new one. There are very few stability issues, and most of the functionality found in 3.5 has been migrated to 4.3. The question is, which Linux distro provides the best experience for KDE users?

Rather than providing simple packages for KDE, a real KDE distro is likely to include GUI refinements, usability tweaks, custom themes, artwork and a good selection of KDE applications. It's also nice when Gnome and GTK applications play happily with their KDE counterparts, especially if a compatible theme has been chosen from them both. KDE-based distros should be able to do this better than simple Gnome desktops.

So, we took eight of the top KDE-focused distros and pitched them head-to-head to find which ones really rock, and which ones just limp along with a vanilla set of packages. Read on!

Make Linux look awesome!

Gnome

It's now fair to say that the Linux desktop is at the forefront of visual effects, a cornucopia of eye-candy overflowing on to your desktop. And with a few tweaks, it can look even better.

With both Windows and OS X continually upping the ante in what the average desktop user expects from their desktop experience, it's vitally important that Linux stays ahead of the game - even if that only means turning on a genie effect for minimized applications when your friends come over, or using a more usable version of virtual desktops when you lend your machine to someone.

Adding eye candy should never be about purely cosmetic changes. Instead, it should enhance the usability of the desktop and make the average session more productive and more streamlined. We're going to show you how to do just this, and in the process we'll help you turn your Linux desktop into the envy of your proprietary OS-loving friends.

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