| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 57, 12 July 2004
Welcome to this year's 28th edition of DistroWatch Weekly. This issue departs from the usual format in some peculiar ways, due to a new maintainer and an almost unbelievable string of weird circumstances that have occurred in the past week. Details of this exciting tale and other (more relevant) subjects can be found below. Enjoy!
|Holidays in Hell - Robert Storey's First Week at Distrowatch
As was announced in last week's Distrowatch Weekly News that - after three years of non-stop slaving in front of his computer - Ladislav Bodnar (and his "significant other") have finally decided to take that long-planned badly-needed summer vacation to Europe. Obviously not wanting to see all his hard work go down the tubes during his absence, Ladislav recruited me (Robert Storey) as a substitute website maintainer. I was honored to be entrusted with this sacred task! In preparation, I spent a week camped out on the floor of Ladislav's apartment, and diligently paid attention as he carefully instructed me on all the technical details. As the date of the "handover" approached, I felt a growing sense of confidence - it was going to be a piece of cake.|
Perhaps you've heard of Murphy's Law? The first indication that all might not go smoothly occurred on the eve of Ladislav's departure, when I was rushed to the hospital doubled up in pain. I got to spend the entire night on a morphine drip (much less fun than it sounds), but was released the next morning and allowed to go home with the understanding that I would follow up with a doctor's appointment and some tests. I went back to Ladislav's house and began updating Distrowatch, but within a few hours I was back at the hospital with more of the same. I'd like to point out that this is not something I usually do.
The hospital misdiagnosed my condition, and indeed almost did a (wrong) emergency surgery. I'll spare my readers all the gory details, but to make a long story short, I got on my cell phone and called "the little woman," who hopped on a plane and retrieved me from the clutches of the medical staff. We made it as far as the airport, where I collapsed again, and we were thus unable to board our flight. We took a taxi to a nearby (different) hospital, and actually this proved to be a good move. The staff at this medical institution were far more competent, and within the hour I was properly diagnosed with a (drumroll, please) kidney stone. After spending one more fun-filled evening in the emergency room, I (we) finally succeeded in getting on an airplane and flew back home.
Until a few days ago, I barely knew the difference between a kidney stone and the Rosetta Stone, but needless to say I've boned up on the subject considerably (thank you, Google). Indeed, I almost feel like an expert (again, I'll spare readers the details). Although my original plan to house-sit for Ladislav (and enjoy his broadband connections) is now in tatters, I believe I can maintain Distrowatch from home with my slow 56K modem. Fortunately, every cloud has its silver lining, and I actually was very happy to leave the BIG city (where Ladislav lives) and get back to my rural backwater to play with my desktop computer, my motorcycle, my two dogs, and "the little woman," though not necessarily in that order.
Not surprisingly, during the past week I was remiss in my duties of updating Distrowatch, which really needs to be done on a daily basis. I also neglected to answer my email, including a few really important ones. In all fairness, I must say that I had a splendid excuse. However, time waits for no one, so (assuming no more nasty surprises) I'm going to put my nose to the grindstone and see if I can clear out the backlog of news which has been piling up in my inbox.
So that's how I spent the first week of my summer vacation. I hope yours was better.
By the way, if anyone is interested, I'm running Distrowatch on Knoppix. I don't mean the Distrowatch server (which resides in a web hosting service half-a-world away), but rather my own machine on which I build the website. I chose Knoppix in large part because the server runs on Debian, and it's very convenient to have both my desktop and the server so nicely compatible (everything in the same directories). Aside from all that, I really like Knoppix.
|Little Known Open Source Apps
Normally every week we like post a topic that triggers some readers' discussion and debate. As you now all know, I didn't get to spend any time in front of the computer last week reading tech news, or any other news - indeed, had World War III broken out, I probably wouldn't have heard about it. However, I did get to spend a considerable amount of quality time lying in bed thinking about Distrowatch, and one interesting topic that flashed through my mind was "useful open source applications." In particular, open source applications which are not well known.
Sure, everyone has heard of Mozilla, The Gimp and OpenOffice (well, at least everyone who reads this website). But I wonder how many people here have ever heard of Gramps (a genealogy program)? Not that I personally use it (since I'd rather not know who my ancestors were), but my brother is a real genealogy buff and he says that Gramps is good. I'll take his word for it.
Since I'm a writer by profession, I'm always interested in tools that can help me write more intelligibly (even if not more intelligently). A good example of a little known open source gem is Wordinspect, a GTK-based dictionary client (this is not to be confused with a spelling dictionary). Although it can be used to look up words online, I find it even more useful to combine it with a dictionary package (like Dict-gcide) - this creates a standalone reference dictionary on my hard disk. If you're running a Debian-based distro (as I currently am), you would install it like this:
apt-get install wordinspect dict-gcide
Back in the days when I was using MS-DOS, I went out and bought the American Heritage Dictionary for about US$100. That was a fine tool, but it's not available for Linux or the BSDs. Now I run Wordinspect, which has the added advantage of being free:
Wordinspect is a fairly large application. On the opposite extreme is Antiword, a tiny little applet that I use frequently. The sole function of Antiword is to turn Microsoft Word documents into ASCII text files.
How does one go about discovering these hidden gems? Aside from word-of-mouth or dumb luck, you can also browse through the massive list of packages in Debian unstable. You can download this as a text file:
Do realize that it's a very long list (over 16,000 packages at this time). There is also the inconvenient little fact that the names assigned to packages by the Debian maintainers don't always coincide with the names that other (rpm-based) distros use. Nevertheless, the Debian package list is a good place to start your search.
But like I said, there is always word-of-mouth, and I would certainly like to hear the opinion of readers. What useful barely known open source apps have you discovered?
|Released Last Week
As already mentioned, I've got a lot of stuff piled up in my inbox. It's 3 am here (time zone +8), I've been munching on pain-killers and I'm almost ready to fall out of the chair. But before I go, here's a brief synopsis of what's sitting in the inbox (more details will be forthcoming in the next few days):
Release version '0.5.4c' of 'redWall Firewall' is available through freshmeat.net. All URLs and other useful
information can be found at:
Version '0.7.2' of 'Damn Small Linux' has been released and can be downloaded via freshmeat.net. All URLs and other useful information can be found at:
Lormalinux 5 64-bit version beta is now available at:
Again, apologies for the hiatus. I know it was very unprofessional of me to almost drop dead on the job this week. I'll try to make sure that doesn't happen again. Until later...
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|• Full list of all issues|