– Suggested by Barry Johnson

The slogan says it all – “Nothing but Unix.” covers the full range of *nix operating systems in a language and style that will appeal to everyone from the newest newbie to the greatest guru. Features include “Introduction to Logging,” “Why Your Organization Needs Linux,” “Mandantory Access Control,” There’s even one called “Here’s Looking At You, Squid,” an insightful view of how Squid caches objects. Most of the articles are written in a concise and straightfoward fashion, perfect for the busy Penguin on the go. If you want “Nothing but Unix,” Rootprompt is the place to look.

XMLMind – XML Editor

XMLMind – XML Editor

XML is everything it’s cracked up to be. The use of XML has already had a huge though largely invisible impact on the web. And its future looks increasingly bright.

XMLMind is a WYSIWYG-style editor for XML with a very advanced feature-set. By utilizing multiple panes, XMLMind allows you to view and edit document structure, presentation and attributes – the very core of XML – from within the same interface. It’s clean, powerful and quite easy to use. Some knowledge of XML is required.

File System Structure

File System Structure

When I first started using Linux, the file system nearly killed me. I cut my baby computer teeth in the DOS-based environment (well … ok … it was actually BASIC) and the layout of Linux directories had me baffled for a while. I’d store a file and immediately it was lost. I had no idea what came “stock” in each directory, or even where to find the most important configuration and system files. The front slash was almost more than I could bear. And “dot” files? Get outta here!

I’ve since come to love the organzation of the Linux file system structure. What got me over the hump was a thorough pokin’ around in the top-level directories. Here’s what I found at the top of the Linux food chain:


      contains the main user-specific directories – think of this as a “My …” folder


      executables and other directories relevant to *all* users


      temporary files


      initialization and configuration files


      your devices


      a [var]iety of [var]ious things – log files, mail spools, etc.


      running processes


      ummm … the root file

The top-level directories also contain /opt and /sbin, files that have less relevance to all users. Many of these directories also contain subdirectories. While this is clearly a simplification of these directories and the overall structure, you should be able to dig deeply enough to unmask the Linux file system for the jewel it is.

Reading and Writing to a Windows Partition

If you’re running a dual-boot system as so many of us do, you’ve probably run smack into a problem once or twice. How do I get that text file into Linux that I created and saved in Windows? You could email it to yourself, reboot quickly, and hope to catch it in your Linux inbox. You could use a really short “sneaker-net,” saving it to floppy for the next time you boot to Linux. Or, using the full flexibility of your favorite penguin distro, you could simply mount the Windows partition as another device in Linux and read it straight from the drive. That’s right – Linux will read those Windows partitions, provided you mount them properly.

FAT32 Windows partitions mount and function best. The last few kernel versions have seen the addition of NTFS support, though writing to an NTFS partition is still only experimental. With Win32, you can read *and* write files nearly as easily as in the native Windows by following a few simple steps.
I’ll show you how my machine is set up as a guide.

I’ve created a directory in Linux – /mnt/winc. This is just as it appears: my C: Windows partition. To create the directory, open a console and log in as root [“su” followed by the root password]. Change directory to /mnt [cd /mnt], and enter the command “mkdir winc” [no quotes]. You’ve created, in effect, a directory that all the Windows data on your C: partition will eventually be stuffed into.

Now mount the Windows partition with the following command:

mount -t vfat /dev/hda1 /mnt/winc.

This command simply says, “Mount the device of filesystem type Win32 [“-t vfat”] found on the first partition of the first hard drive [“/dev/hda1”] in the Linux directory /mnt/winc. If you’re creating the Linux directory for the first time, the two commands can be joined:

mkdir /mnt/winc; mount -t vfat /dev/hda1 /mnt/winc.

The “mkdir” command only needs to be used the first time.

Now you can read from and write to that Windows partition to your heart’s content. When you’re done with the Windows file, you can unmount the partition using umount /mnt/winc.

As with all else Linux, there are a few caveats. This example only illustrates mounting the C: Windows partition, which is almost always the first partition on the first hard drive. Other Windows partitions will follow a naming convention in Linux that will, at first, make no sense. Feel free to play but, as always, play prudently.

Good Morning

Good morning. I’m a new entry to your inbox, eh? If I could sit you down at my kitchen table and pour you a cup of Peet’s, I certainly would. As a loyal ‘Gnomie, I’ve felt the family spirit of this community for a long time. That just makes it an even greater pleasure to be able to contribute each day, now, in such a big way. So, pour a cup, kick up your feet for a few, and let me fill you in on a few of the particulars of this latest great adventure.

An introductory slice of background seems in order. Linux is, quite simply, my passion. In my day job, I build, configure and install research-grade robotic telescopes running on the Linux OS. I’m also a partner in a small new company that specializes in pre-installed Linux workstations and servers. Even though my first computer was an Atari 1040ST, my first computer love was a Compaq running Debian. It was challenging, frustrating, frightening, and yet amazingly fun. To this day, 5 years later, the thrill of a new Linux discovery is, by definition, the thrill of computing.

Which brings me to Penguin Shell. This will be a newsletter that strives to live up to the sprit of both Lockergnome and Linux. It will work to inform the newbie, challenge the guru and entertain everyone along the way.

Having said that, the fact is this: the single most common comment in my inbox the past few weeks has been, “I want newbie tips.” I understand. In looking around the web, there’s simply not enough content or documentation on the fundamentals of Linux aimed at new Linux users. So we’re gonna do it here. If you’re an old-timer and the tips seem a bit slow, pipe up and drag us along with you. The downloads and links will be of interest to you. And, as I travel the world installing telescopes (coming in December – a 1-meter ‘scope in Japan), I hope the daily report will provide some entertainment, maybe even education, for all. The open spirit of the open source community can propel us all along.

‘Nuff said. Hey … pass me that donut, wouldya?

Tony Steidler-Dennison