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The Mailbag
From The Readers of Linux Gazette

HELP WANTED : Article Ideas
Submit comments about articles, or articles themselves (after reading our guidelines) to The Editors of Linux Gazette, and technical answers and tips about Linux to The Answer Gang.

An idea to the Linux Project. Make a complete new Help System/manuals :-)

Thu, 26 Sep 2002 14:18:11 +0200
Niels Larsen (njlarsen from tiscali.se)
As I initially planned to go after this with the Editors' Scissors I couldn't decide quite what to snip without having to put my own nickel's worth in at multiple places. Leaving it intact is a better example of the sort of ordinary soul who wants a simple set of instructions.
I'll suffice to say that I favor his attitude, but fear the sort of people who already have even heard of Linux Gazette might be above his "level 1" threshold, and he is not in the least bit clear where to draw dividers for his other 4 levels. He also shows a bit of intelligence and may be beyond "level 1" himself, too.
Many commercial distros come with "quick start" guides geared for the discs in the package. If you need that, I urge you, it's worth spending the money.
Beyond a fairly minimum start, what's a spreadsheet if you won't put numbers in it, an email program if you can't decide who to send mail to ... do we know any mail programs that will tell you why not to spam before letting you use them? There is more to life than simply being told, step by step, which button to push.
On the other hand, the big name distros at this point have so many applications in them that a "level 1" manual covering each would get so huge no level 1 personality would dare crack it, or the set of them, open. We used to have it as a cartoon on the wall back when I was in tech support: "I can tell I'm getting to this guy. I heard him open the shrink wrap on the manual."
But we will cheerfully point a News Byte entry at resources that make some effort to divide up the world of Linux info along the lines of how much experience you have. And yes, Mr. Larsen, that will require us to point you at a website somewhere. The weapon, should it come to exist, is no good if we truly keep it a secret. -- Heather

This mail is about making an even better manual -and help system, which ordinary endusers can understand, and read and USE. smile - positive - friendly - but not clever :-)

I am sorry, that I try to pass my idea around to various people by e-mail, but I have not yet found out the perfect way to do do.

I hope, that my ideas would saw an even better idea, because I am not that clever.

I am running my private "war" laugh to make Linux user friendly.

And this is my contribution to the Linux Project, I mean this idea.

If you don't like me, just scrap this letter :-)

There is sitting so many ordinary people out there, surfing the internet, using windows, and having lots of problems. So it is for me. I have worked with win3.11, 95 and now win 98. The screen freeze, programs cannot work together and so on. You probably know?

Therefore I now find that "D-day" has come, to attack. joking

It is time to make the millions og people, surfing the Internet, shift from windows to Linux.

But in order to accomplish this, it is needed with a campagn called: "Now Linux has become really userfriendly to install, use and surf the internet with", or maybe a better name ? :-)

Therefore my idea goes towards making e.g. 5 levels of help manuals. The total easy manual could be level 1. The levels for the professionals 2 - 5 hi

Keep -and continue developing Linux and its help -and manualsystem as is.

This level 1 manual should be made, by letting a completely newbie sit next to an Linux expert. Then they together shall install -and use Linux, and the necessary programs. Then let's say, a journalist shall write alle the stupid questions down into a manual. Just like the conversation goes on. It must be completely simple, only ordinary words.

E.g. "You take the Linux cd called binary 1, and put it into the cd box" and so on !! :-) The whole way, like this.

Then the same thing with all the important everyday programs. I mention: Start and log into Linux Connection to the internet - set up same -browser - mail program - news program - text editor - spread sheet - zip program - backup program - pgp program - wine - direct cable - real player - scandisk - webcopier (wget) - how to install a new program - and to remove it - and probably some more. Those are my minimum windows programs. I just mention those I use. I mean just the minimum number of programs. All above programs shall have this minimum level 1 manual, so people can start using Linux and more important open the individual program and immediately start using it. Only the minimum points, so you do not have to read pages and pages, to make it work. And please lots and LOTS OF EXAMPLET. That is the simplest way.

Keep all the existing (man - info - howto etc) as is. They belong to level 2 - 5 !! :-) They shall be used as cross reference. But here also is needed a complete Linux reference book, covering about everyting, because Linux now is so extensive.

I know, because I was at one point working with the High Pack surveying program. It came with huge manuals. Nobody was able to read it, og had the time. Then I made a manual of some a4 pages. I just wrote down just what I did, which buttons I pressed.

If you do not change attitude towards the paedagogic principles, concerning using computer programs, one do not move much towards getting people using Linux.

Only the minimum programs and their level 1 manuals, so people can begin using Linux. Then they later can fiddle into the more extensive matters, if they want to, or are able to.

Also, tell the programmers, to make their user programs simpler, and not having so many possibilities. Because it confuses normally people.

I say, make it SIMPLE and "talking" normally language, Do not call things devices, but floppy, cd, etc. because people do not understand it, and they then just stick to windows, because they have been brainwashed to use this!

Hope you get my message??? :-) :) :) :) :) :)

I repeat, keep the existing as is, but make this simple manual, as the secret weapon of Linux. I shall here in the end just mention, that I gave above idea to Bill Gates. But he just told me to approach him with a lawyer. He was afraid to be sued by me. But that is not my idea. Just giving a suggestion.

Maybe you can get just a tiny new thinking from this letter.

I am an old pensioner, and I can only give this idea, as my contribution to the Linux Project, which I find fantastic. But I still have difficulties in getting my Linux work. I cannot remember all I read. And please also free us from this phrase: "just go to this and this website". It is ok on level 2 - 5.

I am wondering, that now data programs has existed for so long, but still one is using this ridiculous complex manuals. I think programmers has been brainwashed by windows manuals/help system, which really is no good.

I think that the closest way to get enduser using Linux in buried in the help system, which has been neclected, I think ! I think this clever programmers are buried in the very programming, and are missing the link to the end-user

An example of what I mean: Word Perfect is a program, which main purpose is to be used to write a letter: In order to use the program do the following: 1. To open the program do so and so.... 2. To write a letter do so and so.... 3. When you have written the letter you should save it to both a harddisk and a floppy disk. Do so and so.... 4. To print the letter do so and so...... 5. And so on...... All the smart gadgets with the program is not necessary to show.

I mean, that the important thing is, to be able to use the various programs immediately.

Then if you want to do the more complex things with the program, use level 2, 3, 4 or 5. smile a lot ( I think, that even my older sister would be able to understand!)

If you can get lots of people going surfing the Internet and writing letters, as a minimum, using Linux, maybe a part of them slowly will begin digging into other parts of Linux. And that would be good, at least I think so! :-) Maybe, even that was your ultimate goal?

Sorry, if I repeat something, but I am old. Kind regards A grass root, who hope to saw just a tiny seed still -laughing - positive - friendly
September 2002.

Please do not reply, thank you :-)


Mon, 16 Sep 2002 12:36:20 -0700
Derek Isbell (derek from holladays.com)

This is a multi-part message in MIME format.

[argh. stop that, it's a serious waste of bits. For a oneliner question you just sent 3 extra email header lines, and a stack of HTML.]

Where can i find myself a copy of PC-MOS?

We don't know. The fact that the Answer Guy, Jim Dennis, took a best shot at poking around the internet a number of years ago, to answer a question about it, is the best we've got. PC-MOS itself appears to have disappeared and all that remains may well be all the search engine entries that point to our dusty little tidbits on the topic.

But if you've got a Linux question, or you got a thing you were trying to do with PC-MOS and wonder if some flavor or other of Linux is up to doing that for you... please, feel free to ask in more detail!

Minimal Linux (Redhat 7.2) Installation

Tue, 24 Sep 2002 10:28:23 -0700 (PDT)
V Sreejith (sree707 from yahoo.com)

I have a 40 GB hard disk. I have Redhat 7.2 installed with all the features on the hard disk taking about 2GB. I used the grub boot loader.

Now I have done a minimal redhat(7.2) installation on my hard disk.I could not go below 275 mb though. I edited my old grub.conf that is with the first installation and added this new redhat minimum installation paths.

During the boot when i select minimum version i got an error saying bios wasn't able to reach my new installation because of the cylinder limit. So I made a work around by specifying the boot of the old installation( both of them are same versions) and changed the root to my new installation. This worked and i was able to boot into my new installation.

Now after booting into my new minimum installation i deleted all the docs and man pages and further reduced my installation size from 250 mb to about 135 mb. After this i used the dd command to image the new installation to another linux partition which i created and having a size of only 200mb. I copied only the first 135 mb from the source partition to the target partition.

I added another label in grub.conf to point to this partition and tried to boot. But after some initialisation messages it stopped after showing the message kernel panic. I saw a message stating that "attempt to access block beyond reach" and showed the block limit on the partition and the block which was tried to access. Obviously the block it was trying to access was beyond the limit.

I am doubting whether this is some kind of fragmentation problems.Whether the first 135 mb of the source disk doesn't contain all the installed data. Could it be that this data is scattered all over this partition and i cannot image it directly into another partition. If that is the case what can i do about this? Is there any defragmentation tools available under linux?

My aim is to reduce the linux installation size and to make an image of this reduced installation on a seperate 200 mb disk and to be able to boot and work on it.

I actually don't know whether this method works.This is a sort of experimentation.

Are there any other way of achieving this aim?



U of Phoenix

Fri, 30 Aug 2002 06:40:10 -0500
Pat Norton (nortonpc from email.uophx.edu)

Tue, 13 Feb 2001 10:00:12 -0500
K.Woodward (kwoodwar from mindspring.com)


I have a problem trying to setup Linux to access the servers at the University of Phoenix. The servers (Microsoft IIS) require a "log on using Secure Password Authentication" under Microsoft Outlook Express. I understand that this requires a email and news reader to authenticate using the WindowsNT Challenge/Response (NTCR) protocol [a really bad use of the http protocol]. The school does have a website to get to the email and news groups but it is timed and is very particular and seems to like rejecting Netscape Navigator access. The UOP Tech group's pat answer is that they only support Outlook Express under Windows, I want a Linux answer.

Is there any program or daemon that I could run to allow me to authenticate using this protocol so I could use Linux based email and news readers? I have tried using pine, staroffice, and leafnode and several others which are common under KDE/RedHat 6.2.


K. Woodward

I am using linux to try to connect to UOP now and have not found an answer to the problem that you had did you ever find a solution that worked if you did could you outline it for me.

Thank you,
Pat Norton




[LG 82] 2c Tips #2 completion

Wed, 04 Sep 2002 16:58:19 +0700
Bill Thompson (billt from samart.co.th)


The site for this Tip doesn't appear to be up any more. Do you have an alternate source or can send me the rpm or the source rpm?


Bill Thompson

I (the LG editor) was unable to reach that link when I was proofreading 2-Cent Tips ("connection timed out"), but I was hoping it was a temporary error. We at LG do not have any alternate sources or RPMs. Maybe Adam who submitted the tip does. -- Mike

I usually go poking around for them on rpmfind.net if I know some file they contain, or on freshmeat.net if I know the name of the project, in the hopes of finding whatever upstream source tree might remain. Sometimes I can find out why there's not an rpm anymore, but that's pretty rare. -- Heather

How about Jed?

Thu, 5 Sep 2002 09:34:07 +0200
Grabuñ £ukasz (l.grabun from arr.gov.pl)

First of all: LG is great! One of the best newsletters (?) I've ever read. Easy to browse webpage, understandable language, various topics. Great, just great.

There's just one thing I'm missing: there was a column for Emacs - fans, a nmber of articles about vim, even nano was mentioned. And what about jed? It's as powerful and customizable as emacs, but much lighter and easier to use. Will there be a few lines about this great tool?

Lukasz Grabun

We'd be happy to publish an article on jed if somebody volunteers to write it. Would you? The Author Information at http://www.linuxgazette.com/faq/author.html shows the desired HTML format.

Penguins, Lizards, and Pandas?

Mon, 23 Sep 2002 10:38:12 -0400 (EDT)
Virtual Sky Media Group (virtualsky_sk from yahoo.ca)

I'm proud to say that I've been a Linux user since July 2002 and I've enjoyed my new found computing freedom very much. I've also learned a lot, too.

I began my Linux experience with my purchase of Mandrake 8.2, a great distro. for a beginner, like myself. I also started out using KDE as my desktop manager, but have now found new liberties with the use of Window Maker. Which brings me to my submission to you today.

Linux itself has the wonderful Tux as its representative. KDE has a dragon-like lizard, and Gnome has a footprint of a gnome, I'm assuming. After reading from the Window Maker web site, I learned that Window Maker has chosen a Panda as it's mascot. So, I decided to make a contribution to the line up of cute and cuddly cartoon PR "toons" with this drawing of Amanda, the Window Maker panda:
[cute Windowmaker panda]

Oh, that's soooo cute! A panda with an attitude. /me likes. :) -- Ben

Now, don't you just want to start using Window Maker? :o)

Nope. :) But then, I'm an "icewm" junkie from way back.

I think I'll have to lobby Marko Macek for a mascot now. -- Ben

Keep the very informative issues of Linux Gazette coming! I enjoy them very much.

David Bouley

Glad you like'em, David! Stick around; there's always more good stuff in the works. -- Ben

An explanation sidebar might be inline about what a PNG is, why GIF, and now JPEG, are Bad Ideas, and why Internet Exploiter 5 doesn't know how to deal with PNG's. At least not as URLs; maybe it gets them right as inlines... -- jra

The only problem I've seen with PNG is that Netscape 4 displays a solid filled rectangle instead of the image if the image contains any transparency.

As for JPG, I've heard conflicting information on whether any patent applies to it, but the last I heard was that there wasn't a problem. Have you heard differently? -- Nike

JPEG is fine. The so-called JPEG patent is bogus, and if Forgent tries to use it, they will lose it (like BT and the hyperlink patent) (This is from the leading defender of software patents, Greg Aharonian: http://www.aful.org/wws/arc/patents/2002-07/msg00029.html)

PNG support in browsers (inluding MSIE) is "quite good":

(Linux Journal has been using PNG instead of GIF since our redesign last year, and there have been no complaints.) -- Don

And of course, Don ought to know, since he cheerfully burns all GIFs. (http://www.burnallgifs.org) It's a good site to check on why a number of patents out there are really quite foolish. -- Heather

In any case, PNG and JPG have quite different uses. PNG is good at compressing line art but bad at compressing things with lots of colors (e.g., photographs), whereas for JPG it's the reverse. Whenever somebody sends a GIF to LG, I convert it to both PNG and JPG, and take whichever one has the best compromise of small size and color brilliance. It's not always one or always the other. Sometimes the sizes are hugely different, as in one being four times the size of the other. -- Mike

Thank you!

Thu, 19 Sep 2002 14:54:05 -0500
Bryan Lord (blord from wlgroup.com)

I read your article "Routing & Subnetting 101", and... wow! I listened to my teacher ramble on for almost 3 hours and I didn't absorb a darn thing. By reading your article I think I know enough to really get my hands dirty.

Thanks, Again.
Bryan Lord


Questions to linux-questions-only@ssc.com and linux-questions-only@ssc.com

Wed, 4 Sep 2002 10:44:33 -0700
Heather Stern (Linux Gazette Technical Editor)

This is a reminder that although the aliases:

work, the real address of the Linux Gazette Answer Gang is:

We're working towards getting all sites that mention us to give the correct address, and to get them to not mention us if they suggest we cover anything that's not about computers.

Please spread the word!

bridging and routing

Mon, 9 Sep 2002 11:43:31 -0700
Mike Orr (Linux Gazette Editor)

Please do not publish my email address; I will read the Gazette for any responses.

Email address will not be published. It shows up in this correspondence, but there's no public archive of this list.

We do publish addresses for Mailbag items and 2-Cent Tips, but not for Answer Gang questions. That's Heather's choice as the TAG Editor Gal. If I were doing it I'd publish addresses in the Answer Gang column too, because why should that column be different? In any case, you don't know which of the three columns your letter might appear in. A lot of it has to do with whether it produces one or two short replies or a long discussion.

So the only way a reader can guarantee his/her address won't be published is to specifically ask us not to.

-- Mike

Originally, the Answer Guy column was purely the answers of Jim, but as it changed, The Answer Gang column is now about matters which have pretty much been solved, or discussed to death in some fascinating way. Therefore unless the original querent's problem remains unsolved -- a real stumper -- there's little need to provide his or her email address, but we do mention the name.
In the case of Tips other people may have useful comments, so the address is offered.
Unless, of course, they'd like to be anonymous.
People do not get selected for Help Wanted if they wish to be anonymous. You can't beg a few thousand readers for help that way. They just have to have a complete and interesting enough description to tantalize one of the Gang to answer them. -- Heather

(no subject)

Tue, 24 Sep 2002 07:14:02 +0530
anonymous ()

[ An 8 line sig block claiming confidentiality, erased per its instructions. ]

Must be confidential indeed; it didn't say anything but this!

This mailing list (The Linux Gazette Answer Gang, which makes its home at linux-questions-only@ssc.com) is not a confidential location. It is a mailing list filled with a medium sized handful of Linux folk, who expect as their main pay a bunch of warm fuzzies and the knowledge that a really juicy answer can be published for the readers of our monthly magazine. Opinions are likely to run rampant, conclusions may or may not occur (we guarantee nothing) and attachments in HTML are often ignored or grumbled about unless you're defending a foreign character set (yes, we have translators). It's a good idea to actually dust off your sense of humor because we definitely use ours.

If you need an answer in some business-like fashion, you'll have to consider a consultant instead. LinuxPorts has a good list of them.

If you want an answer in a "Making Linux a Little More Fun" fashion you'll at least need to provide us a real question, and if this sig block of yours is automatic, a disclaimer that supercedes it and grants publishing permission. We have examples in our "Ask The Gang" FAQ; see http://www.linuxgazette.com for more. Lots more :)

Your HTML attachment has been sent to the shredder; it wanted a snack and we won't be passing out candy for almost a month !

Pl give solution

Wed, 18 Sep 2002 09:57:06 +0200
Frank Rodolf (linux from rodolf.com)
Question by choudhary chothmal (chothmal_c from yahoo.com)

Hi choudhary,

Dear sir, Pl give sol these problem 1 Write a shell script to print end of a glossary file, in reverse order . using array (Hint use awk ,tail )

Q-2 Modify call command to accept more than one month? Q-3 Write a shell script to print file names one per line has directory showing serial number of file

I see schools have started again...

While we're perfectly willing to help you with any questions you have about Linux, we will NOT help you with your homework.

I am sure you will find all the info to solve the problems in the textbook(s) your professor gave you (or had you buy). It (they) might be a very interesting read - just try it.



Letter of inquiry

Thu, 19 Sep 2002 02:16:09 -0700 (PDT)
dang mangaoang (jomegs143 from yahoo.com)

Dear Sir,

I am writing this letter to inquire about your product Red Hat Linux. I saw Red Hat Software's advertisement . . .

Red Hat is a company of its own; you should follow contact information provided in the advertisement. -- Heather

http://www.redhat.com -- Dan Wilder

We don't make Linux, we just blather about it.

http://www.redhat.com as well as
http://www.linux.org and probably
http://www.li.org not to mention

-- jra

. . . for version 5.1 of Linux in the issue of Linux Journal.

That's an interesting case of time travel you have there; you've reached the Linux Gazette, which is a related pubication in that we're hosted by the same publishing company.
Red Hat 5.1 is quite ancient... -- Heather

RedHat is up to 7.3 in production release, and there's a beta 7.4 out there somewhere, I think, rotting people's cats' teeth. -- jra

They [Red Hat] are mirrored in a number of countries so it should be possible to find an instance of the 7.2 "GPL edition" disc on servers nearer to you. Beware that downloading 650 MB can take a while, though. -- Heather

I was quite impressed with the capabilities as listed in the advertisement, and I would like to learn some more about the product. I am a student and we are studying about Linux and this is the reason why I want to learn more about the product.

Running older versions of Linux for experimental purposes, or studying what was claimed of Linux a few years ago to see how it has grown, are both valid student projects. -- Heather

another thing is I want to subscribe a magazine about linux operating system.

In that case you came to the right place, almost :D
I cheerfully direct you to the website for Linux Journal, http://www.linuxjournal.com where you can use a secure connection to subscribe, or find more information about having it sent to you monthly.
Linux Gazette is only available as a webzine although that leads to some unusual "subscription" models in the form of Sitescooper, debian packages (lg-subscription), and services that can tell you when a website changes. These features are not provided by staff of the Gazette but rather, by volunteers elsewhere. -- Heather

Hope you could reply me as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,


Hope you found this useful!
Thank you, and enjoy Linux. -- Heather

ssc subscription

Mon, 02 Sep 2002 09:18:37 -0700
John R. Sowden (jsowden from americansentry.net)

I subscribe to various linux/dos/security/pascal/xbase lists, so knowing what "ssc" is is somewhat difficult. Once a month you send me a reminder to make sure I still want to subscribe. Please consider describing the various subscriptions, including other ones that might be of interest.

SSC is Specialized Systems Consultants, Inc, the company that publishes Linux Gazette, the print magazine Linux Journal (http://www.linuxjournal.com), and books and reference cards about Linux/Unix. The message you get once a month is from our mailing-list server, reminding you how to unsubscribe or change your settings. Other mailing lists we run are are at http://www.ssc.com/mailman/listinfo and in the top right corner of http://www.linuxjournal.com . A few are discussion lists, but most are announcement-only lists (newsletters).

-- Mike

How to Ask a Question

Fri, 30 Aug 2002 09:48:01 -0400 (EDT)
Naresh (nganta from myrealbox.com)

How can I ask a question to the answer gang?


Send your note to the address: linux-questions-only@ssc.com
Make your subject a useful one.
Make your description of what you're trying to do, and what is going wrong, sufficiently detailed and interesting that some of the gang can answer it.
We might answer in a big burst, or after a long time, or not at all. A small portion of the "not at all" get pubbed as Help Wanted and readers from all over the world may give those a shot - but for that the description does have to be pretty clear.
We've more details in the Linux Gazette FAQs.
Good luck! -- Heather

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Published in Issue 83 of Linux Gazette, October 2002

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