How the Linux kernel works


In depth: My trusty Oxford Dictionary defines a kernel as "a softer, usually edible part of a nut" but offers as a second meaning: "The central or most important part of something." (Incidentally, it's this first definition that gives rise to the contrasting name 'shell', meaning, in Linux-speak, a command interpreter.) In case you're a bit hazy on what a kernel actually does, we'll start with a bit of theory.

Economic plight boosts Linux adoption


In our second podcast we pondered whether the dodgy economic outlook could actually bring more users to Linux and free software. With everyone afraid to open their wallets, surely software that has an initial zero cost is much more attractive for businesses looking to move on from legacy software, right? And home desktop users -- how many of those will really want to splash out on the much-hyped Windows 7 when it comes out, if things get worse?

Take the Linux Filesystem Tour


Well, hello! Welcome to the Linux Filesystem Tour. My name is Manuel Page, and I will be your guide today. I and my bus driver, Hal D., are very pleased to have you on board. Just a couple of safety announcements before we start off - please keep your hands inside the bus at all times, and don't delete anything you might see along the way, unless you're sure you know what you're doing. OK, off we go!

Compile source code - and solve problems


Building software from source - that's a bit old-school, isn't it? Who wants to wrestle with the command line, hunting down dependencies and coaxing the GCC compiler into running properly? Well, it does sound like a strange thing to do in this world of binary packages and online repositories.

We have thousands of packages available via the internet, all neatly compiled for our distros, thereby usually nullifying the need to get down and dirty with a Makefile. Or so it seems... Read on to find out why you may want to compile a program from its source code, and deal with the problems that can crop up.

Linux kernel 1.0 turns 15 years old


That's right -- it's a day short of a decade and a half since Linus Torvalds announced version 1.0 of his kernel. On 14 Mar 1994 at 12:51:16 GMT, Torvalds posted a newsgroup message informing the world (well, the lucky few who had access to USENET) that despite his plan to release 1.0 earlier, "being just two years late is peanuts in the OS industry". Torvalds originally announced his kernel hacking antics in August 1991, little realising that his hobby project would attract so many developers and eventually garner enough commercial interest to make Messrs Gates and Ballmer scratch their chins in unison. Original comp.os.linux.announce post after the break.

Programming languages that melt your brain


In their day-to-day jobs, coders naturally focus on the more commonly used languages, such as C++, PHP and Python, but there are plenty of more left-field choices, such as Ruby and assembly, that are well worth learning to broaden your coding knowledge. Now we're going to have fun with some really esoteric languages, all of which are so fabulously crazy and entertaining to try that you'll look at programming in a completely different way.

Before continuing, you should know we'll be assuming you have a general programming background; that said, even if you've never written a line of code in your life, you'll still find some of the concepts here compellingly mind-twisting. You wouldn't want to use any of these languages to write any large, complicated applications, but you'll learn a lot about the makeup of programming languages. Plus C, for all its fiddliness, will seem like a gorgeous paradise once you've spent some time in these foreign lands...

Renoise 2.0


Reviewed: Soundtrackers are cool. They let musicians create music in a style reminiscent of the way assembler programmers write code. Notes become numbers and timing becomes a position in a list. Renoise is a proprietary sound tracker for Windows, OS X and Linux with a mostly functional demo version. But does it live up to the memory of OctaMED? Read on...

PCLinuxOS 2009.1 released


You'd expect the seventh most popular distro on DistroWatch to pump out new releases more often, but it has been a quiet couple of years for PCLinuxOS. The last release arrived in May 2007 -- which is, like, a bajillion years ago in the distro world -- but we're not complaining. We're super glad, as no doubt many other Linuxers are, that the distro is still thriving and we have a new version to explore thanks to the awesomely named Ripper Gang.

Group test: note takers


Paper - don't you just hate it? We live in the 'information age', and yet the much promised era of the paperless office still seems decades away. Our desks are cluttered with notes, reminders and scraps of random information that desperately need to be sorted, but it's hard to find the time.

You've probably tried the brute-force method of computerising your notes: keeping a plain text file (or word processor document) on your desktop, ready at hand to tap in phone numbers, reminders and other tidbits that you need to store in a hurry.

This system works fairly well at first, but it soon becomes unwieldy. As much as you try to keep notes together in categories and purge expired information when necessary, eventually you end up with a morass of data that's impossibly hard to manage. Sure, it's a slightly better system than playing 'hunt the Post-It Note', and it certainly saves on trees, but there has to be a more elegant solution...

Practical PHP Programming has a new home


We've had a number of complaints from people saying that the e-book Practical PHP Programming (also available in print, albeit cutdown, as PHP in a Nutshell from O'Reilly) was running on a slow server, which made it rather hard to read.

So, thanks to the fact that the author also just happens to be the editor of Linux Format and TuxRadar, we've moved the entire book to our super-fast server. What's more, he also took the time to update the text for the first time since it was originally released, so it now covers lots of new functions and features added to PHP in recent releases.

So, update your bookmarks: the new home for Practical PHP Programming is This is just the beginning of our plans to upload a great many more programming tutorials in coming weeks - watch this space!

From the archives: the best window managers of 2000


A lot people read and enjoyed our previous article, "From the archives: the best distros of 2000", so we had a hunt around in the dark, damp cellar where old copies of Linux Format magazine live, and dug up another gem, this time from issue 2: a group test of the best window managers, complete with screenshots. Read on!

Get more netbook screen space with PekWM


Netbooks, eh? Lovely little devices for light computing on the go, but they usually have pretty limited screen resolutions (by normal laptop standards). It doesn't help that most desktop environments and window managers cram panels and widgets onto the screen, leaving little room for the most important stuff -- your apps. O'Reilly Broadcast looks at PekWM, a cheeky little window manager which frees up valuable screen real estate, giving more room for your Firefox/OOo/Emacs/Nethack sessions to flex their muscles.

Out of the Park


Reviewed: Management games, of any genre, are not for the faint-hearted. Not only is there a mountain of information to deal with, but if you're into the subject matter, it doesn't take long before the simulator takes over your entire life.

If baseball is what gets you cooking on gas, prepare to say goodbye to your family, become a recluse, and thrive on a world of management decisions and statistics: Out of the Park 9 is available on Linux.

How to fix the most common Linux problems

Fix Linux!

We'll come right out and say this - Linux breaks. There, we've got that off our chests. No matter how much we might like our chosen distro, there is no denying that things can go wrong, or that it might not even be right in the first place.

Of course, Linux distros are not alone in this - a computer system is a huge, complex collection of interacting software and hardware, even more so when the basic install includes several gibibytes of extra software over and above the OS.

We can't show you solutions for every problem that might arise, but we can show some of the common issues people face and, more importantly, show you how to go about identifying a problem. One more thing to bear in mind as you're reading is that even if you can't work out the solution yourself, an accurate description of the problem will be of great help when asking others for advice.

Open source microbloggers you should follow


If you're a fan of or Twitter and want to follow the alpha geeks of the free sofware world, we've put together a list of people to make it easy for you to find them.

Automate Linux with Cron and Anacron


How's your Greek? Did you know that Χρόνος (chronos) means 'time'? Sure you did! And in Greek mythology, Chronos was the god of the ages, the personification of time. Hence we have words like chronometer and chronology. Given that programmers have never been famous for being that great at spelling, we also have Cron – a Linux service that arranges for actions to take place at specific times.

In this tutorial you'll learn how to configure Cron to schedule your own jobs, and how to make sense of the Cron configuration that comes with your Linux distribution. Cron is great for machines that are left running continuously, but in the second half of the tutorial we'll look at its younger sister, Anacron, which may be more appropriate for personal computers that spend a lot of their time switched off.

Resurrect your old PC


Rather than throw old hardware away because it can't cope with Vista's bloat, we show you how to put it to good use - read on to learn how to transform your old computer into a mail server, a fileserver, a web server, a spam blocker, a PC for kids and more!

Amarok vs Songbird


Reviewed: Most migrants from other operating systems will seek out a Linux alternative to the ubiquitous iTunes, and chances are they'll come across Amarok 2.0 and Songbird 1.0. They're both contenders for the Linux music player crown, but take different approaches. Which one is right for you?

Save time with Gedit snippets


Some people think that Gedit is a toy text editor not suitable for more experienced users. And while it might lack Emacs's psychiatrist or Vim's undo branching, it turns out that Gedit has a lot of power under its hood - if you know where to look.

One feature that is guaranteed to save you time is Snippets, a plugin that enables quick insertion of commonly used text, and something we use frequently here on TuxRadar. We're going to show you how to get started using the built-in snippets, and how you can use shell commands and even Python code to make your own...

Vim: master the basics


In depth: There are more text editors for Linux than you can shake a stick at. Every man and his dog seems to have had a go at one. The ones written by dogs usually involve a lot of sniffing around the connectors at the back of the computer and are probably best ignored, but that still leaves quite a lot - emacs, kedit, gedit, kwrite, kate, mousepad, leafpad, fte, joe, jed, nano, pico... the list goes on.

But the one that most Unix and Linux professionals prefer is the grand-uncle of them all, Vi, and its younger brother, Vim. (Vim stands for "Vi improved" and is a 1991 Vi rewrite produced by Bram Moolenar.

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