Saturday, June 16, 2001

read book now




BOOK Reviews

This page will contain mail that refers me to useful information. In most cases I post it uncommented, and it's here as much to concentrate this in one place as anything else: that is, as much for my convenience as yours.

IF YOU GOT HERE DIRECTLY, please go to the Home Page, or What Is This Place?, or even What's New. If you are interested in the BYTE Fiasco (or if you don't know there was a fiasco), please go look there. Don't just send me mail without finding out a little about this place. I understand that many Linux enthusiasts have been directed to this section without passing through the home pages. We'll both be better off if you find out before you turn on your flame thrower.

I do not guarantee even that the links exist, or that they will be useful; I have used some and that gets into the Adventure pages.

Corel and Red Hat announcement

Some recommended books

Many recommended sites for information


Star Office

Dr. Huth Mark summarizes who should and should not use Linux

read book now






One more Linux suggestion: You can always call Red Hat customer support. That’s part of what you are paying for when you buy the CD. (How else could they justify charging money for a "free" operating system?)

Talin ( -- Systems Engineer, PostLinear Entertainment.


"Humans are a race of compassionate predators."




I know you’re deluged with mail, and I feel that I’ve already used about 500% of my monthly quota of your attention, so I’ll try and make this short.

Shutting down: Ctl-Alt-Delete will cause the machine to do an orderly shutdown and then restart. However, this will not work if X-Windows is running, because it intercepts this key. What I generally do to shut down my machine is quit X-windows, then hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete, and then just as the BIOS page comes up I hit the power switch. This avoids the need to log in as root.

Mounting a CD: Since you have Red Hat, and installed "everything", try this as an experiment: Go into root and type "mount /mnt/cdrom". I don’t know if this will work. It works for me, however, and I don’t think I did anything special in the way of setup.

KDE and GNOME are both free for the downloading. Go to and and look at the screen shots to get an idea of what these things are about. Of the two, KDE is the more mature and easier to install, but even so it’s pretty difficult, as it involves editing a number of configuration files, and downloading about 12 different pieces. I’m told that the next version of Caldera Linux will have KDE installed by default. Note that I personally have not installed either of these things, but I will probably get GNOME once it’s a little more mature.

To put these issues in perspective: I consider the Linux command-line environment to be about as difficult to use as DOS was in 1991, which is when I first started using DOS. Linux is somewhat more complex, but it’s also much more powerful. Mounting a CD-ROM in Linux is about as complex as configuring MSCDEX was in DOS; Installation using RPM is about as evolved as using NiceInstall or any of the other DOS-based installation programs that existed back then. And you can’t say that you didn’t get work done under DOS, now can you? Now, it’s true that DOS is dead and gone, and Windows is a lot more accessible; But it is my belief that Linux is evolving faster than DOS me, you would not have wanted to see what Linux was like three years ago—I certainly did not want to use it back then.

Talin ( -- Systems Engineer, PostLinear Entertainment.


"Humans are a race of compassionate predators."




Mariano Cividino []


I've been playing with Linux Since 1996 and, just like you, started without knowledge about the UNIX environment. First of all there is a book that I allway recommend to my mates that start trying Linux for first time, That book is Running Linux of Matt Welsh and Lar Kaufman, of all the books I've seen it was the most usefull for me, because it covers the UNIX environment from the very basic and thoroughly. Is not one of those fancy books with hard covers and nice photographs, but is very effective. Is published by O'Reilly and Associates Inc. Matt Welsh is active part on what is known as the LDP (Linux Documentation Project).

About your doubts on file sharing, addition of hosts and TCP/IP configuration another excelent book fom the same editorial is Olaf Kirch's Linux Network Administration Guide. Is, just like Running Linux, very clear and effective. You don't need to buy this one, I did it, but is not necessary you can download it from the LDP web site.

Another thing that I found very helpful has been the Linux Home Page You can find there all kind of documentation, FAQ's and HOWTO's that would issue most of your doubts.

You'll find that sharing files and adding new hosts on a UNIX network may seem UNIX guru's thing but is actually very easy.

Linux as you said is not as user friendly and easy to use as WINTEL but you can do very interesting things on it an have a lot of fun.

I am currently running a dual PII 266 MHz Linux box with SMP support working just fine. I used to have a second liux box on a Pentium 200 machine both connected thru 10BT and believe me sharing files with NFS is quite easy.

Linux is not a OS for the begginer, the lawyer or the accounting person and is not going to be that for a long time, but during the last two years I've seen a big improvement on usability an applications available.

Last thing: I've used Red Hat and Slackware distributions in the past. Currently I'm using Caldera Open Linux Base, It comes with a lot of bundled software, including Netscape Communicator 4.0 (4.5 beta is available but I haven't downloaded it) Star Office and allmost all the necessary software to make you change your mind about Linux. Is also a lot more user friendly because it comes with an installation CD that is bootable so you don't actually need to make any boot disk, and if your machine doesn't support that feauture it comes with the boot disk also. Also brings a very effective central administration tool called LISA that is text based (not Xwindows).

Thanks for the interest on linux and Good luck.



Hi Jerry,

don’t know if anyone has pointed out the fix for the sendmail hanging problem, if not, here’s a URL for a fix:

  • ron


Ronald McCarty




The Red Hat web site, if you drill down far enough, has some fairly good info buried amongst the FAQs. FAQs are apparently where all the info is, and, probably all your questions can be answered with the HowTo files on the CD. Provided you know where to look, and God help you if you don’t have windows™ with which to read the files and print the docs!

Anyway, this link may be of assistance about installing Applix:


As I said, you’ll have to drill down, but installation is mentioned in the Applix FAQ.

Probably everybody has told you about that by now.

Anyway, thank you for the tip on MC! I sure wish I had known about it a few weeks ago! Why do they hide all this stuff?

Keep up the good fight, and try to ignore those who call you silly names.

Regards, Bob Ball




Hello Jerry,

Read about your Linux troubles...

Here are a couple suggestions:

Linux without KDE is like beer without alcohol:

It may fill a purpose, but it’s certainly not enjoyable.

  • Sound: Soundblaster 16 ISA (not PnP) is the one best supported by the kernel.

If you want support for many different cards, check out


Final comments:

While Redhat is the dominating supplier of Linux-packages, it’s far from the best. One might even say that Redhat is the Microsoft of the Linux-community.

For example, it doesn’t ship KDE, the best Unix-desktop, for what appears to be "not invented here" envy. There is an attempt at justification of their policy somewhere on the Redhat site.

Also Redhat Linux is sadly lacking key security components like Kerberos, and Secure SHell, necessary for security in larger campus networks. Other Unixes like SUSE Linux and FreeBSD are delivered with most necessary security components.

Best regards,

/Ola Sigurdson

Linux consultant &; technical writer

Actually since I quit drinking I find beer without alcohol rather enjoyable but I get your meaning...



Hi again Mr. Pournelle,

Unless you are actually enjoying learning Linux the hard way, you might want to look through the extensive help which is available for free on-line: docs on

configuring much of what you are already dealing with Several online books about general new user help, network help, etc.

Actually, I think you find it more fun figuring this stuff out. Have fun.

I’m impressed - you know emacs. I don’t know emacs, yet.

Dan Koppenheffer



Here’s Boot Magazine’s 12-step guide to Linux installation.


It looks as though you’re getting lots of advice, but the advantage to this link is that it’s all in one place and in the correct order. :-) I haven’t fooled with Linux, yet, but I did skim the article. I remember seeing several gotchas that are simple if you know about them but would be just about impossible to find on your own.

Drake Christensen

Parsoft Interactive



I began to install Red Hat several weeks before you did and have struggled with similar issues. (cursed network cards, twice cursed video cards, and damned Applixware!!) I, too, have used a copy of Running Linux and have found it lucid and very helpful, albeit incomplete.

I'd like to point you to a book which contains copies of the Unix Howto's and installation guides. I've found it very useful. For some reason, having a book in my lap seems to make the struggle easier. carries it, natch.

Linux Encyclopedia

by John Purcell (Editor), Amanda Robinson (Editor), Olaf Kirch, Michael K. Johnson

Price: $49.00

Paperback - 1595 pages 5th Bk&;cdr edition (March 1997)

ISBN: 0964430924


warm regards,

mark huth

Is it too wild to want to get into space?




Dr. Pournelle,

I haven’t seen you mention this book before, but I’ve found it indispensable in my path to learning...

I’ve been a Windows programmer and never have used UNIX on a professional basis. However, I’ve recently been put in a development group that works on Sun’s Solaris environment.

I’m also going to the University of Alabama at Huntsville. In the computer science MS program, we use UNIX for all our lab work.

I have very little free time time to do extensive amounts of reading, but I needed to learn the basics of the OS quickly. When I found "Learning the UNIX Operating System," I bought it immediately.

It’s a short book (82 pages), and it’s written in a conversational tone. It’s an introduction to UNIX that covers, among other things, login, copying and moving files, editing files, mail, and process management. It’s well worth the time.

Oh, one other thing - it’s an O’Reilly book. That’s an immediate advantage, in my opinion.

"Learning the UNIX Operating System"

Jerry Peek, Grace Todino, and John Strang

4th Edition, 1998

ISBN 1-56592-390-1

Recommended price on the cover is $10.95(US)

Good luck.

  • Paxton

As it happens I have that and I'm just starting it. Thanks


Go here to find the source code for latest stable and development versions of the Linux kernel. Tip: Once you download and uncompress a new kernel, you’ll find a Changes file in the kernel source directory. This tells you in detail what utilities you need to upgrade, how to tell what version you have, and where to get new versions; it’s handy, to say the least.


Factoid: DejaNews runs Linux on its servers. That has nothing to do with why I’m listing it here, though. I’ve found that anytime I have an error in Linux that I don’t understand, I just search for it with DejaNews and usually it’s already been covered in a thread somewhere. This is the single best tool I have for fixing problems with my Linux system.

The KDE Project

KDE is a suite of utilities (a file manager, a window manager, plus lots of other goodies) for X. It’s stable and looks great; I use it as my desktop, causing no end of envy among my Win98 using friends. The default look is arguably sort of boring, but if you visit you’ll find a ton of ready-made replacement styles. You can download RPM files for KDE from; poke around until you find the right files.

The GNOME Project

GNOME is a desktop project roughly comparable to KDE. It’s younger and hence still hasn’t hit 1.0 yet, so it’s still not quite the equal of KDE yet. It does not include a window manager, which means you get to pick your own to suit your taste.


GIMP (The GNU Image Manipulation Program) The GIMP is a marvelous open source clone of Photoshop. Download it and give it a whirl; it’s really shockingly good. Adobe even recommends it to people who ask them about a Linux port of Photoshop.


A great news site; go there for a few days and you’ll likely be hooked.

The WINE Project

Wine is a program that lets you run Windows executables under Linux. They release new versions every couple of weeks, so even if your favorite program doesn’t work yet, keep downloading and compiling the latest Wine release and you may be pleasantly surprised. For instance, Unreal started working with Wine a release or two ago; I can now play Unreal under Linux with full 3dfx and networking support (although Unreal’s sound doesn’t work yet). Emulating Windows is no mean feat, and as such there are lots of rough edges and unimplemented methods, but progress is steady and so far it’s looking really good. Try running Word and see what happens.

RPM repository on

RPMs, as you may or may not have discovered yet, are pre-packaged program files that are intended to be installed like this: rpm -i foo.rpm (if you downloaded foo.rpm from somewhere, say) or rpm -U foo.rpm (if you downloaded the latest foo rpm and are upgrading an older copy)

This website keeps a pretty comprehensive list of RPM files that you can download; if you’re looking for the latest release of foo in rpm format (and you can’t find it through freshmeat), look here. Basically the entire idea of RPMs is sort of like downloading a self-extracting, self-installing exe under Windows, except you use the rpm command to handle the extracting and installign part all in one step. Plus, rpm keeps a record of what you install and where foo.rpm puts its various files so that you can later uninstall foo.rpm in one step. (rpm -e foo) Finally, RPM uses this record of installed files, combined with information that’s stored in the rpm file (foo.rpm, to beat a dead horse) to make sure you have any prerequisite software installed. (Example: say foo.rpm depends on your having bar.rpm installed. If you do, fine, but if you try to install foo without bar, then rpm will complain. It also won’t let you later get rid of bar, since that would break foo. This behaviour can of course be overridden, if you’re sure you want to do that.)


A good place to find software; I don’t use it as much as I used to now that I’ve found and freshmeat.


Go here to get updated versions of stuff for your RedHat system (the updates are in RPM format, natch).

These sites ought to help you a lot. The support you get through these sites is light-years beyond anything you’ll get from, say, Microsoft or Apple. Once you get over the initial hump of figuring out that drive letters don’t exist in Unix and how partitions work and suchlike, I hope you’ll find that Linux is actually pretty friendly. (It’s just picky about who its friends are....;)

Oh, and I can’t resist one more thing:

You can figure out a lot about what your system is doing by running tail -f /var/log/messages in a window as you try to sort out problems. The tail command is like "more" except it shows you the last few lines of the file instead of the first few. The -f option makes tail "follow" the file, constantly displaying new lines as they’re added so you can watch in real time. /var/log/messages is the file your system uses to store messages from the kernel. When I got my sound card working, I would make changes elsewhere and use tail -f to watch /var/log/messages display the errors I was causing. Then I’d paste the error messages into a DejaNews query, and I’d be rolling....

That reminds me - the third button on your mouse is for pasting. To copy, just use the left button to select the text as normal. The mere act of selecting the text copies it to the clipboard buffer; to paste, you click once with the third button wherever you want it to go. Command-line tips (I’m assuming you’re using the default shell, bash) - hit tab to complete partially-typed filenames or commands (this saves you much typing), and press the up arrow to access previous commands (like hitting F3 in DOS, except this lets you go back farther). FTP - use ncftp instead of regular old ftp; it’s a much better ftp client (it has a command history - just hit the up arrow like you do in bash, and it has filename completion - hit tab, again like in bash).

Finally, use linuxconf; it’s a frontend to the various config files that run your system. You can run it while in X or in text mode (so you can telnet in and use it from elsewhere in Chaos Manor), and it apparently even offers web-based access (but I haven’t tried it personally).

Ok - I’ve got to stop somewhere; this might as well be it. Good luck, and have fun.

-Patrick Hearon


Birchall, Richard []


Thanks to your good example, the Halloween furor, and to a friend’s statement that Linux is "practically unusable, only for experts", I have ordered a Linux CD.

I recently tried Sun Solaris x86. Solaris installed easily. It boots automatically into the CDE (Common Desktop Environment) which is easy to use. CDE is also used by other commercial UNIX’s.

For Linux, I knew that I wanted to use KDE (CDE clone). It is the most developed desktop manager for Linux; from all accounts it makes using Linux easy.

The KDE website ( lead me to the Mandrake Linux distribution. It is a "meta-distribution" which integrates RedHat 5.1 and KDE. It’s objective is to provide "turn-key Linux".

The timing seems right. KDE version 1.0 was released only this July.

Mandrake was released a month or two after that. Very exciting!


Richard Birchall

Interesting. Thanks. I should have a look at that. I'll be back with Linux in a day or two.

Jerry, I just installed and looked over Star Office 5.0 for Linux—free for personal use—from

It was really easy to install, with good instructions. I think it’d be worth your time to check it out.


Matthew Miller --->

Quotes ‘R’ Us --->






From Another fan who misses your articles in byte, Great to see you are trying linux - sounds like it’s begining to get fun (after the initial learning shock!),

If you want a starting point to answer some questions, I have put together quite a few answers on my web site ( ),

Anyway, welcome to the great adventure:),

trying to keep it short (as I’m sure you’re flooded )

best regards


--------------------Alan’s sig--------------------------------

If the answer’s not on , let me know, cause it’s supposed to be! --------------------end Alan’s sig--------------------------------

 Thanks. I'm getting back to Linux shortly when I get back from a trip.



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