Through October 29, 1998


read book now




BOOK Reviews

This is the second of the pages of Linux advice I am getting from readers.

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.

Depend on it: the organization of these pages will change as I work on Linux. I'm starting now with some mail and advice, but later I will do a full report coherently organized. You're seeing a sort of specialized VIEW of Linux.

The LINUX experiences here are organized into several pages. First, there are these pages which contain advice from readers, and sometimes my comments. This is a mixed bag, but I tend to post mail that I wish I had had before I started. If you want to play with LINUX, you will do well to look these over. They of course point to many other places where there is a bewildering amount of advice, most of it friendly. Most. The first letter of Part Three is fortunately atypical.

Some of the material in the Adventure pages (1)  (2)  and (3) is in response to questions I asked in:

Linux Queries: questions I had (or may have).This is for you to help me out: I'd like advice from those who know. I'll translate all that and put it up here or in view.

There are also:

Linux links and references: reference information from readers. NOT INDEXED.

Finally, my experiences in installation are contained in the LOG PAGE.

There are many pages for historical reasons. The relationship among these is not exact, and I may one day consolidate them all into one page. For the moment this is what we have.

Previous Page

Moshe Bar on mounting disks and installations

Instructions? Oliver Sharp on how to Mount up.

Mounted and to heck with it.

Moshe Bar says I'm not a dope.

Finding Applix in xwindows

That Display Variable

Moshe Bar on the mystery

Calvin Dodge on what's happening

Moshe Bar says networking will be easy

New Page on links

Detailed information on partitions and formats from an expert

And now learn what the devil is going on.

Red Hat and Corel announcement

read book now






At URL is a review of Applixware and another package. In it is a one paragraph description of how to install Applixware. The description makes it sound too easy to be true, based on your apparently frustrating experience. Hope it helps. Good Luck.

Joe Staudenmeier

I can hope so too. We'll see. Tomorrow. I've had it for tonight. Thanks.


Roger G. Smith []

The results of a little research—Two FAQ’s with Applixware related help.

Along the way I found out the surprising (to me) "faq" that Red Hat is no longer directly involved with with Applixware. See Red Hat’s statement. <>


"In order to focus exclusively on developing and marketing the Open

Source Red Hat Linux operating system, Red Hat Software, Inc. and Applix

Inc. today announced that Applix Inc will have all future responsibility

for the Applixware Office Suite, including Sales, Marketing, Product

Support, and Quality Assurance. "


So, Applixware is apparently no longer bundled with Red Hat Linux distribution. What they do include is the "Linux Applications CD" <>

which at least seems to include the CDC Linux port of Corel WordPerfect for _UNIX_ v7 (not to be confused with the WordPerfect in WordPerfect Office Suite v7 or v8) Corel WP for UNIX is multi-user and supports both charater (terminal) and GUI (via X-Windows) interfaces.

I suppose this means that you even set up a herc mono card and monitor on a 386 and do word processing. Use several old Mono x86’s for terminals—multi-user WP.

f Unlike Applixware, your readers can download a free 30-day evalulation. <>

As far as Applixware related installation goes (you did look on your RH cd’s, right? I don’t know if Joe Windows would think to do that...or should need to, if Linux is going to take over anything) Applix has a useful looking FAQ on the Applixware for Linux subsite (jump direct and avoid the frames <> :) and Red Hat has an older FAQ for RH v4.3 that has Applixware info on it, Applixware Office Suite Frequently Asked Questions <> dated November 1997

I see that Red Hat offers email installation support for "registered" users, including sending the current FAQ. Register on the support page. The site does not say if this support includes purchasers of the Red Hat/MacMillan(sp?) distribution...

As for me, I, lean to the full WP Office Suite. They cost the same now ($99) and I wouldn’t be learning a productivity tool from scratch.

Unless, of course, your experience with Applixware convinces me that I can’t live without it. :)

Live long.



ps: I recommend SSC’s <> Quick reference cards (they quickly become essential), books and the magazines Linux Journal and the (on-line) Linux Gazette?

Thanks. You may be a bit of time finding out about my experience. But tomorrow with any luck at all.

You said "I suppose I ought to try fighting with the Applixware installation again. Why do they have to be so darned OBSCURE about how to do it?"

After fighting with the bum design of both Red Hat’s and Applix’s web site’s (looking for info I just sent you) I have basically lost my desire to know anything more about Applixware. Add the fact that Red Hat is no longer incliding it, so you’re out $99 to work in the corner while most other people switch to Wordperfect Office Suite as it becomes available (compatible and more familiar) I can’t see it.

I’m still interested in _your_ experience, however.

Be sure to post an Amazon link as soon as they list the book. Sounds interesting. Congratulations.


DOn't give up hope yet. He said, encouragingly. Or perhaps hopefully. Anyway I'll try again. But I agree, given Word Perfect I'd go with that.


Moshe Bar []

Dear Dr.. Pournelle

Just a quick one. To mount the CD-ROM do the following:

1. Be root

2. "cd /"

3. "ls"

4. If you cannot see a /cdrom directory then "mkdir /cdrom" else skip this step endif

5. "mount -a /dev/cdrom /cdrom" /* Be sure to have the Applix CDROM in

the bay */

6. /* your cdrom is now mounted automagically by the -a option */

7. /* this works only for this session, after re-boot you have to repeat this steps w/o step 4. /*


If you want to mount the cdrom permanently we will have to this when you get better as the steps involved require a strong heart.

From this you can see that Linux, or Unixes for that matter, where never meant to go outside the world of engineers. Unixes are for engineering workstations and for servers, not for typing letters and playing games. I have been working with Unix for 16 years and I think I know it well enough to write my own kernels and drivers, but if I need to write a letter (especially because there is no real Hebrew support in Linux or Unixes) or doctor a jpeg,I fire up my trustworthy Mac PowerBook or Toshiba notebook. Windows has made life easier for users, even though I resent MS for making me install 64 MB to launch office and Outlook. Just ten years ago we were servicing 4000+ terminals in the army with sub-second response times with just 16MB of memory. Today my son complains that 48MB is just not enough for his games machine. Go figure...

All the best

Moshe Bar

Ah. Thank you. I will get at this in the morning. I am beginning to wonder if UNIX plus a Mac will do everything that needs to be done with computers. It's an interesting view, anyway. But I confess that the more I see of the alternatives, the more I like Windows for all its messiness. After all, what is it we are to conserve? Disk space at $25 a gigabyte? Memory at $1 a megabyte? Electrons?

Software that if free of bugs is not necessarily USEFUL for much. Alas. I am sure my attitude will change over time. And thanks!


Oliver Sharp []

I read over some of your travails with Linux, and I had to grin just a tiny bit. I got my PhD at UC/Berkeley and was a heavy UNIX user in that life. I’ve since been living in the MS camp, since I work here; the Linux folks have accomplished a lot of amazing things and I have great respect for them, but they still don’t quite have the mass user religion :-).

I happened to install Applixware recently, so I thought I’d give you a few tips. I, too, found it absolutely mind-boggling that they didn’t say one word about installing the thing. In order to do it, you have to:

  • mount the CD-ROM drive, so you can access the bits (you use the "mount" command for that, assigning the CD to some empty directory in your file structure - /mnt is common).
  • poke around in the CD directories, looking for the executable ("ls
  • F" prints out the files in a directory and tells you whether they are directories (with a slash) or executables (with a star)). I believe that there is a shell script in the root directory of the CDROM called something like "install". Run it, and it sticks the suite on your disk (after asking you where to put it).
  • Then to run the apps, you go into the install directory (the default is under /opt - take note of it during the install process) and run the executable (I believe it is called "applix" - again, "ls -F" will identify the executables). Once it is up, it’s not hard to figure out how to use it.


Note: just to prepare you, setting up networking and printing can be a bit of a trial if you aren’t familiar with UNIX, but there is lots of help available on the net.




P.S. Any word on the sequel to Oath of Fealty? You mentioned it a couple of times in your column, but I haven’t heard anything since.

No sequel planned yet, but it's a good book. Our newest was sold to Simon and Schuster who have Oath (it was a NY Times best seller for them) so they may reissue it, Inferno, both Mote and sequel, when they do Burning City.

I confess your instructions are not a lot clearer than what I already had. It is probably stupidity on my part, but I don't have any applications installed yet. I am told Word Perfect can be got for this. From Corel? I'll have to write them. I get along fine with Corel. Word Perfect would be pretty good. If there's any way to install it.


Saturday, October 17, 1998 Evening

Well, I got this far: I have the Applixware CD mounted. I can sd cdrom and ls and see a directory. I can type install and be told to do install --help. I can do that and see an incomprehensible help file. There is an item called install-applix. Typing that produces "command not found.' Install -- help produces incomprehensibility that scrolls off the screen.

Isn't this fun? I am remembering why I thought people would stay with quill pens if they had to use UNIX to work with computers. Presumably it is obscure this way because it wants to be. There are things in capital letters like RPMS that don't do anything and there is a README in capital letters that nothing I can do seems to access. So after a while I played a game of Total Annihilation. I suppose I can spend a couple of hours looking for how to install this software package, but I suspect that once I do, I'll find it about as useful as it is now.


Dear Dr. Pournelle

I see that you got the cdrom mounted. Good. Yosef is working on the installation. Is it difficult? Let's just say that it is difficult enough to make a man like Yosef, with over 15 years of deep, deep Unix experience, have tears of anger and frustration in his eyes.

Oh well... We'll get there.

There are several problems with the Applix software. First of all, it was compiled using the older libc library, while the RedHat that you are using (and which Yosef installed also, because he had a gut feeling that there could be problems...) is running glibc. Glibc is the GNU C library, in my humble opinion superior to the libc library but there is some problems with the header files.

A step-by-step guide is going to be difficult to compile because there are so many conditionals. We will definitely try though. It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but soon...

Moshe Bar

Moshe Bar []


I'm sure glad you're around. It makes me feel a little less like a hopeless idiot. I'm sure I'll catch on to this, but I have to say, it's driving me nuts.

Dear Dr. Pournelle

We have good and bad news. The good news is that your skills are apparently no worse than ours in Unix.

The bad news is that Yosef has so far failed to make Applix work in a reliable fashion, i.e. the single components work, but they do not call eatch other (OLE doesn't work). It may well be because Applix is issuing libc calls and we are running glibc. If we convert RedHat 5.1 to libc, Applix runs much better, but other things fail in Linux.

Our day is over here (thank G-d) and we will have to continue tomorrow. I will notify you with more info tomorrow.


Moshe Bar

Thank you. I feel MUCH better now…


Fultani Yukinoli []

Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I am sure many people would write or have written like these, but try ‘more’ for reading text files, say, README.

# more README

(where # is the shell prompt)

You can also use ‘emacs’ for reading text files.

And for executing a command ‘install’ on your current directory, try

# ./install

Please note that case is significant, Install INSTALL install can be three different commands.

You can’t execute a file on the current directory by simply typing it’s name, unless the directory or . is included in the environment variable PATH.

On UNIX systems people are usually told not to include ‘.’ in PATH, because of security reasons.

You can see your PATH by typing

# echo $PATH

I hope those can be any help to you.

Thank you.

Best regards,

Fultani Yukinoli

Thanks. I do appreciate the help.

Of course it was silly of me to assume that when a directory shows INSTALL--APPLIX that typing what I see would accomplish anything. This is UNIX, which is more akin to the Adventure Game than to a useful system for getting anything done. It is after all intended to provide full employment to wizards and gurus, a job it accomplishes well. But that's not your fault. It's mostly mine for hoping there really was some alternative to Microsoft Mania. I fear, though, that this isn't it. Apparently UNIX manages to be small and efficient by making the user keep a compiler in his head.

Anyway, I'll try this; I have some other mail I had better get to first, though.

I used to LIKE the Adventure Game.





When you issue a command to linux, it searches all of the directories listed in the environment variable PATH for a file to execute with that name, just like DOS, with one notable exception.

Unless the PATH specifically includes "." (current default) it doesn’t, by default, look in the current directory for the command file.

This may be what’s happening to you when it can’t find the ‘install_applix’ command.

The way around this is to issue the command in the form:

prompt > ./install_applix

this forces the command interpreter to look specifically in the current default directory for the command.



Living under a bridge on the Information Superhighway

Now why didn't I think of that? I'll try it shortly. I do like the Adventure Game, I do, I do.

For some of what happens, see the Linux Installation Log.


Erich Schwarz []

Dr. Pournelle,

Off the top of my head:

1. "ls" often will give you a hideous long scroll. Try:

ls | more

That "pipes" the output of _ls_ through _more_, which is a print-one-screen-at-a-time command. And if you know something about what you want to look for, it’s easier. Say you know you only want files containing the string "*plixw*". Then, type:

ls *plixw* | more

The first part of the command tells "ls" to only list files whose names have the pattern [anything]-["plixw"]-[anything]. The "|" means "pipe the output through..." and "more" is "print-one-page-at-a-time".

In general, if an command gives you a long, long scroll, typing

[foo-command] [arguments] | more

will help. And if you want to save the command’s output for later

scrutiny, you can type

[foo-command] [arguments] > foo-command.txt

which redirects the command output to the file "foo-command.txt".

Then you can read the file with

pico foo-command.txt


emacs foo-command.txt

2. Some software packages like KDE need another directory, like

"opt", to work right. I didn’t know Applixware followed this charming custom. One fix might be:

[login as root]

cd /

mkdir opt

before you try installing Applixware. "mkdir" creates a new directory, and setting your working directory as "/" puts "opt" at the top of the file hierarchy for your Linux partition.

World Domination, heh. But at least you’re not being made to swap a dozen floppies to do a legitimate system upgrade, like unto Windows 98...


Thanks again. I keep trying to learn these things. It takes a good bit of time, which is, I think, the lesson for all. If you want to escape the Borg, be prepared for a long fight.

Try this next:

Dear Dr. Pournelle

First of all, there is some confusion here. You seem to update both linux2.html and linux3.html at the same time. I thought you were only working on linux3.html and so didn't see the progress you made with Applix as reported in linux2.html.

To locate the applix software package and make it run do the following:

1. Be jerryp

2. "startx"

3. open an xterm session, by right mouse clicking on the desktop and choosing terminal or console.

4. "locate applix"

5. You will get a bunch of replies, but there should be only one line with a path and just plain "applix" at the end

6. type the whole path and applix at the end plus &; at the end of the line

7. applix will (try to) start on the X desktop

If it will work and how to set up printing are other issues.


Moshe Bar


Sorry for the confusion. My original notion was to put queries on one page, my actual log book on a second, and advice from readers on a third (which became two pages because it got so long). I thought through cross references I'd be able to keep things straight. I suspect I need Trellix to keep track of all this; I'll try to reorganize sometime after I get some work done in the next day or so. I've printed out what you said, now to go see if that works (I managed startx earlier so it's sitting in that). The last time I tried to start applix I was told about an environment variable. I am looking up references to that now. Thanks! I do keep trying, and I don't feel too stupid. Maybe between us we'll get some straightforward instructions for others who want to try this path…

Alas, the results were just not quite what was expected: see the log page, LOCKUP.. Meanwhile I got this.


Dear Dr. Pournelle

It is lunch time and we have made little progress with Applix. It is a wreck of an application. The word processor and the spreadsheet work now, but the installation is too difficult. OLE still won't work with glibc and we get kernel panics all the time with RedHat 5.1 if we use libc.

Besides, printing from Applix at times will work and sometimes won't, depending on the lunar position and the Dow Jones index, I think...

Let's give it up, Dr. Pournelle. We have more meaningful stuff to do here, and Microsoft Word continues to work just fine for you and for me in the mean-time.

However, we got Corel WordPerfect7 running in the first try, and that is a very nice word processor. Printing works fine.

The Applix failure is not in any way diminishing the value of Linux, obviously. In Chaos Manor, just attach an external modem to it (or better, ISDN) and you can share that one link to Earthlink with all workstations in your network. This is rather easy to set up and I can give you step-by-step instructions on how to do it. You can detach the monitor and move Linette to the cable room and you will have a very reliable and efficient Intranet / Internet server. You do not need to change any software setup on Linette to achieve that.

Best regards

Moshe Bar


As you can see over in the log page, I am still not getting applixware to run; in fact it has locked up the machine. The good news is tha the Corel WordPerfect7 has arrived, and that is important.

I think I will get Darnell over to help set up the networking; my goal of using this Linux box as a networking server seems reasonable, and I'm glad to hear that you think that should work. In addition, I have some obligation to the readers to get Word Perfect 7 running properly on this. For that matter, I want to get the applixware running if only to be able to say that it was or was not worth the fight. For the moment the machine is locked up and I fear I will have to pull the plug to get control again. And I have a column to write on Microsoft and the Department of Justice.

I really thank you for the help, and I will try to get up some of the pictures we took around Jerusalem and in Galilee while we were there last spring. But first I want to get this Linux thing under some faint semblance of control…


Wade L. Scholine []

At the risk of answering a question you’ve already solved, let me

address this one. You write

Well, progress of sorts. If I type ./applix I get a message: before running this product you must set your environment DISPLAY variable. Maybe I’ll figure out how to do that and what to set it to. But at least I have found how to invoke it. More or less. What fun.

Applix is apparently an X program, so you have to have X running. If

startx or whatever you use does not set DISPLAY, you should type


at your shell prompt. Then try running applix again. If you get similar messages, you might want to try setting DISPLAY to :0.0. Remember to export the shell variable, so that it will be inherited by child processes.

This is your way of telling applix that you want it to display its windows on the machine that it’s running on, as opposed to some other one. (If you were at another machine that had its own X server, with an IP address of say,, and you wanted applix to do all its interaction with a user at that machine, you could set DISPLAY to The".0" part of the display ID is to distinguish screen number, of which your display will have only one.

When you figure out what flavor of DISPLAY incantation you need you should include it your .profile so that you never have to type it again.

As soon as I dare restart to unlock the machine I will try that, and THANKS. Vinceramus! (I have the feeling I have the wrong conjugation but what the heck.)



Sorry to hear you are having linux difficulties. My linux knowledge was hard earned, and difficult to impart, which is probably a symptom of not having it perfect understanding. I will now attempt to impart it to you.

Whenever an application says something about "Set your DISPLAY variable", it means "you may have more than one monitor, or you may wish to display my windows on another computer, and because this is Unix, I refuse to assume you mean the default monitor on the local system". To shut this foolish program up, type into an xterm (or rxvt if you prefer, or at the console):

export DISPLAY=0:0

then type


to confirm that there is now a system environment variable named DISPLAY containing the value 0:0. You will want to add a line to this effect in some sort of initialization file, possible startx itself.

I personally was quite satisfied to get XEmacs running - I used it for everything for months. The most fun thing to do with a linux system is to not install any pre-made binaries - just download source and compile it yourself. If all is well, it works like:

download foowriter.tar.gz

mv foowriter.tar.gz /usr/src

tar zxvf /usr/src/foowriter.tar.gz where zxvf means eXtract Verbose from Zipped File. wasn’t that intuitive? cd /usr/src/foowriter ./configure; make; make install you will want to go read the new Patrick O’Brian book while this runs.

and then it works. A similar process is followed for making a new kernel, which involves a prolonged q&;a about what features of the new kernel should be compiled in. While there is a "load drivers on demand" sort of thing, I found it easiest to compile all of my drivers into the kernel directly for reasons I can’t recall.

You really only need two partitions: / and swap. if you have multiple physical disks, it is good to put /usr on it’s own disk, likewise /var, but if there’s just the one physical disk life is simpler with just / and swap.

Logging in as root offers no protection from any foolish command you may

type. The time I mistyped

rm -rf *~ (remove all backups from all directories, and don’t ask any



rm -rf * ~ (remove everything, don’t ask questions, and then remove a file named ~) pretty much says it all.

Configuring sendmail was nigh impossible ( I had a sort of exotic setup - uucp for incoming mail, outgoing queued until a scheduled connection to my ISP), so I used qmail instead. I HIGHLY RECCOMEND THAT YOU DO LIKEWISE. qmail is trivial to configure in comparison to sendmail, more secure, and faster. qmail configuration involved a handful of config files, most of which were only one or two lines. The central file of a sendmail configuration is truly deep magic, unsuitable for such as we.


Jeff Paulsen

Sort of like the registry, eh?

OK, I have restarted, and I will try this, then try to find applixware. Sigh. At the moment it is trundling to test everything since I had to pull the plug. Maybe if I set this environment variable that won't happen again? I really don't know why I got a complete lockup. I thought that wasn't supposed to happen.

I sure wish I had only / and swap, and it may be that before I am done I will do just that: kill 'em all and start over.

Well, I found applixware. A new episode begins when I figure out what I did right...


Dear Dr. Pournelle


Congratulations! I am happy for you.

Why it did not work the first time, as opposed to your second trial? These are the mysteries of Applix. There is no UNIX explanations why it should behave that way.

The bind error message points so something deeper: you have routing set up on you server, pointing to a network outside Chaos Manor. I need to know what is running on your machine:

1. Be root
2. "ps -egux"
3. If you see a line ending with "routed" or / and "gated" then you have static/dynamic routing set up, which is a problem.
Read the PID (process ID) number of these two deamons and do "kill " and the PID number for each of them

The bind problem is solved for this system run. Next boot, same old problem


The email that is waiting for you when you log is as root is either a warning/error message pertaining to the failed applix start-up or a mere system maintenance notification. You see, sendmail is running on you system (which is exactly the same email system that Earthlink is using, as most ISPs do). You can send email from jerryp to root or, if configured correctly with the rest of the world.

To simply read or delete your email do


h is for help
d is for delete
a number (like 1 or 2) will set the pointer to that email, if you have more than one
q is for quit

If you want to send email to jerryp just do

"mail jerryp"
then type the subject
then type the text
then type "." just a full stop and you are done.


Now, the real question comes up, does printing work from applix? WordPerfect is very easy to set up, I don't foresee problems with your skills.

For any other question, I remain available.

Moshe Bar

I'll get to that later. I have to put some attention to Palm Pilot now. Thanks as always. I was sad to hear of the grenade attacks in Beersheba during the peace negotiations. Hope none of your family or friends were harmed. Best wishes.


It's getting to be time to SAMBA, but not just yet...

On my Linux systems, a program called GPM is installed when I install RedHat 5.1 This program gives mouse services to command line Linux (I.E. it lets you cut and paste). Any way, I find that to be a good way to test the mouse. Also, you may have been told this already, but you exit XFree86 by hitting Ctrl-Alt-BkSp. On most Linux systems, Ctrl-Alt-Del is set to reboot that machine, but I think XFree86 overrides that, which is why you couldn't do it. I have watched many an NT person walk up to a Linux box and reboot it when they thought they were just trying to get a login prompt. Thankfully, you can remap what Ctrl-Alt-Del does. However, that is in some obscure place that I can't remember.

One of my gripes about the RedHat install process is that it doesn't prompt you to create a user account after getting you to make a root account.

I found that the easiest way to immediately get files transferred between Linux and windows 9x and Linux is to install the Personal Web Server (which also has ftp services) on a windows 9x box. I have never figured out how to get an ftp server working on Linux (I didn't need it desperately enough to spend more than an hour or two). I have gotten Samba working (which makes Linux work through network neighborhood), but it is a bit intimidating to have to deal with right away. Your home network is big enough and old enough that it might not present you with as much of a problem as it did me (my network is just a win95 desktop, a win95 notebook, and 2 old 486s running Linux).


Joshua Boyd

Thanks for the pointers, and for your other letter on setting up this site with Access. I believe Darnell has been working on that (Access and data base organization) in his copious free time; it's one of the things I think I will turn my attention to once I get this Linux box networked. That will probably not be for a week or two; at least I have it doing SOMETHING useful now, though.

I generally tend to work on one thing for a while, then turn to another; I'll get back to web redesign one of these days. For now, thanks again: Samba is I think my next LINUX project.


Calvin Dodge []



I don’t have the full answer for you - at least, not without examing the entrails of your system.

I can say that Applix is designed to run under (in, on top of?) X-Windows (which sets that DISPLAY variable - try "set" in a shell window inside X-Windows to see environment variables (including DISPLAY)), so that’s why it wouldn’t run from the command line while in text-only mode. I tried that, too, before I realized it had to be done while running X-Windows.

As to the lockup - I’m mystified. Did you try CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE to shut down X-Windows? (I occasionally ran into problems with the window manager in RedHat 5.0, but the "X-Windows three finger salute" always brought me safely back to the textmode screen)

Did you try the Applix selection from the Start button while running X-Windows as "jerryp"? My recollection is that users get more directories in their "path" environment variable, so it could be that "root" doesn’t have /usr/bin in its path (while I can almost guarantee "jerryp" would). Give it a try.

I’ll check when I get home (about 9 p.m., so no "Buffy" for me tonight) to see exactly how Applix is set up on my system. I’ll let you know what I find, of course.

One nice thing about Applix (IMHO) is that its word documents (with an ".aw" extension) are text files with HTML/SGML-like markups (like "<STRONG>"), so it’s possible to poke in them with a plain text editor to see what Applix uses to signal formatting changes.


The messages you have waiting are most likely bulletins from "cron" (which runs batch jobs at scheduled intervals), or a job which is started by "cron".

The simplest way to read that system mail (at least, the way I’m familiar with) is to type "mail" (and ENTER, of course) at the command line, then type "r" to read the first message. (Yes, it’s primitive). You’ll see the messages are numbered, and you can read a specific message by using its number ("r 3", for example). You can delete the same way - "d 2" deletes message number 2, while "d *" deletes all mail messages. "q" quits the program.

I’m sure there are other ways to read system mail, but I’m lazy enough that I stopped at the first program ("mail") which worked for me.

You need to be logged in as "root" to read root’s mail, of course, but you don’t have to actually log in that way to begin with. You can log in as "jerryp", then temporarily change to "root" by typing "su", then ENTER, then the root password when asked for it. That’s generally the preferred method to do superuser stuff - it reduces the chance that you’ll accidentally do something which messes up your system (wouldn’t it be nice if Win9x came with a feature like that, to prevent ignorant hands from moving or deleting important files?) When you’re done playing administrator, type "exit" and ENTER and you’ll be back to "jerryp".

You can even "su" inside a shell window in X-Windows when you need to do little sysadmin stuff like that.

Well, I’ll stop here, since you already have too much email. I hope all this helps you.


Calvin Dodge

Thank you. I am accumulating instructions and suggestions here in the Adventure page so that I can print them out and try it all when I get a bit more time. It is obvious to me that the next step is to spend some time learning UNIX. Does anyone know a really good introduction? I used to have dozens of UNIX books but we cleaned out a year or two ago and things are a bit thin in the library now. While I get a good bit from readers, some way above any call of duty, I don't have any systematic introduction to what's going on.

In the early days I very much resisted UNIX as being user hostile and sure to kill the computer revolution; if we'd had to go from CP/M to UNIX I suspect that there would be maybe 10 million small computers out there in the world; maybe fewer. Mac and Windows saved the revolution, Windows particularly after Apple decided to maximize profits rather than go for market share.

Now there is a large enough installed base of enthusiasts to make something like LINUX viable, and that competition to Microsoft is going to be very beneficial for us all, including Microsoft.

So if you don't see immediate activity don't stop sending advice: I'll get back to Linux shortly. First, though, I have some Palm Pilot work to do, and I have to pay bills, and there are these books that must be written or I will starve…




It has been some time since I had Linux running on my PowerMac. (lack of hard drive space)

There are a number of "window managers" for X Window server, each with their fans. One is called fvwm95, which closely resembles Windows 95, and might be the best bet for you. My personal favorite was AfterStep, which resembles NeXTStep. I believe the Red Hat distribution comes with something called KDE which you may want to run. Without one you have what I think is called XVM, the default, which is very limited, and generally unpleasant.

You will most likely want someone to write a boot script for you that will automatically start the X Window Server, your choice of window manager, and what programs you’d like to have it open at the beginning. Or you could take the time to do it yourself, but you would be learning some potentially idiosyncratic scripting in order to do so. Better to take advantage of a linux fanatic fan, I think.

En Xristos,

Steve Schaper



One other brief note: Mac OS X will be (more or less) NeXTStep, with a Mac interface, UNIX completely hidden, and the 80% or so of the Mac OS APIs that were compatible with multi-threading. Many existing Mac programs - perhaps most - will run on it, it is said.

What will happen to the OpenStep development environment (which I rather like) is unclear. It was the reason for Gil Amelio’s buying NeXT, but Steve Jobs seems to be hiding or dropping things that made it great - so I don’t know what to think. I was a registered developer and worked with two versions of what was then called Rhapsody. I liked it. BSD UNIX underneath, Mac-like GUI on top. Power for those who needed it, ease of use for everyone else.

But Jobs seems to have a different vision. Canceling promised support, features and releases. Saying that he didn’t want ‘garage programmer’s’ and so forth.

My present plan is to transition to Linux over time. After all, there is still GNUStep ( and Gnome.

  • Steve Schaper



We are all Private Ryan




Thanks. Good to hear from you. As noted, I am accumulating advice and tips into one place and after I read the new book I'll go through all this and get to work. It will be a week or more: I have many things that have to get done. At least I got the Linux box to do something. The next step is a big one, since I have to set up networking. Stay well.



Dear Dr. Pournelle


Now, Linux:

Setting up the network is MUCH easier than making applix run. First, because everything works fine in the linux kernel. And second, because I have done it too many times in my life to count just how often.

We will get there fast, you’ll see. Just let me know when you’re ready. We will start with Linette first and then we will configure the Win clients, one at a time. In two hours you will be done. Promised.

Also, we will have to solve the routing problem in Linette, sooner or later.

If you don’t there could be problems with the network setup.

And last, if you want to share your Earthlink link with all of the stations in your network we will have to set-up PPP on Linette, too.

The nice thing about computers, and UNIX especially, is that once running, they automatically generate a continuos stream of work for the (generously paid) consultant or administrator. When our customers insist on signing a contract for one month only, I never disagree because I know that we will be staying much longer.

On a final note, it seems that the virus in your home has somehow made its way to my office, as everyone is sick, too here. Maybe through email...


Moshe Bar

I am sure glad to hear that networking is going to be easier. That starts next week, I think. And I am keeping notes. I have always suspected that viruses can be transmitted by email…


More detailed information on formatting:


Larry Schilling []

I’m a retired UNIX system person and have worked on partitioning lots on SUN systems (Sun Unix is now SOLARIS). Here is some guidance and a little history to help you.

1. Root size. How much space you need for root depends on here your system puts /tmp. If /tmp is mounted (physically lives somewhere else than root), you probably only need 10 MB in root. I usually put 25, just for drill. If /tmp is within the root partition, allocate at least 50 MB.

2. Swap size and location. It is desirable, if there is only one swap partition, to have it physically around the middle of the disk (minimizes head movement). With today’s disks, swap should never be smaller than 200 MB. At current prices, disk space is almost free, anyway. I don’t know what Linux allows, but in Solaris, theres "mkfile" and "swapon" commands that allow you to sprinkle swap files around the disk. I never could discern any performance difference between a single swap partition and several swap files, though.

3. /usr - Originally, (I think) where all the user home directories were located. Evolved into a secondary system partition. Put applications in /usr/local, usually in /usr/local/bin. Reserve at least 300 MB for this one, more if you plan on loading lots of stuff.

4. Make a partition (and put it in the mount table according to your system directions) for user home directories. Original motivation (and it’s still a good idea) is that buggy user programs can only clobber the user’s partition, leaving the system intact. This obviously won’t work for a malicious user, but it helps for normal bugs. What you name this partition doesn’t make much difference, just make a name easy to type.

5. Unixes derived from A T &; T System V use a directory named /opt for installed packages; I don’t know whether you need a separate partition for this on Linux.

6. On Sun systems, I usually make a partition of about 200 MB (/usr/openwin) to hold all the X-windows stuff. You’ll have to consult the manual to see if this makes sense for Linux.

Read what you can about the Unix file system. The concept of independent file systems, all "mounted" at various points throughout other file systems is central to Unix organization, and is the concept most alien to Windows.

The Linux mouse is apparently following the Sun convention: Button 1, left, is "select." Button 2 is "adjust." Button 3 is "menu." In windows, when making multiple selections from a list, you have to hold down a key, like Ctrl, to make second and subsequent selections. With a Sun mouse, make the first selection with Button 1, subsequent selections with Button 2. Anytime you want to see a menu, click Button 3.

Unix commands are just small (originally) application programs and were, in the beginning, single functions that could all be "piped" together to form more complex functions. Over the years, there has been some software bloat and the commands aren’t so small any more. The command "od" (octal dump) is a case in point. What started as a simple file dump now has a whole page of options. Learn to use the "man" command. man -k <keyword> will frequently get you valuable information.

I’m seriously considering Linux for my home system as an alternative to Windows 98; I’ve had a bellyful of Microsoft operating systems, and I don’t like the IE user interface. On the other hand, I use Word 97 and MS Publisher and would like to continue. Decisions, decisions!

I hope the above helps you a little; after you get used to the Unix command conventions, it all makes considerable sense and its the world’s best development environment.

Good luck,

Larry Schilling


P.S. I just bought a Viewsonic PS790 monitor and it’s beautiful. Highly recommended.


And now we find out what the devil is going on... on behalf of Paul []

I was reading your adventure into Linux page and you stated:

"Anyone reading this who knows just what the devil is going on

and why I can get in there now when I could not before is invited

to explain it"

Well here’s my shot at it.

1. Linux is a multiuser platform.

2. Linux uses shared libraries. <-- my guess

2. Applixware is commercial software.


Dealing with reason #1 first. As you might have noticed already your root account and your jerryp account are two different things. Root can do some stuff that poor ole jerryp simply can’t. That’s because of file permissions. Root is the superuser, he can do just about whatever he pleases. Poor jerryp is just a lowly user. Users can have restricted access to a system’s resources. As you are beginning to discover. It all depends on how paranoid root is on a system. Some UNIXish style systems have no security others can have a lot. You haven’t messed with yours so much so your permissions are however Redhat decided to set them up for you. A few commands of interest here are chmod, chgrp, and chown.

Taken from the UNIX man pages (type man <command>)

chmod - change the access permissions of files

chgrp - change the group ownership of files

chown - change the user and group ownership of files

All of this is well and good on a multiuser system but how to tell what exactly is going on?

ls -l <filename>

That will give you the long detailed file information information that looks like this:

  • rwxr-xr-x 1 root bin 118524 May 7 03:23 fvwm95*



See this stuff? -rwxr-xr-x

Those are flags of that file’s permissions. They are grouped in sets of three flags per entry. They go like this:

Owner Group World

rwx r-x r-x


Files have owners. Owners are in groups. Everyone is in the world. This file in question is owned by root, but is in the bin group. World doesn’t change.

Now root can Read, Write, or eXecute the file (the first rwx) People that belong in the bin group can Read and eXecute, and so can the world. Notice how if you are not root you can not write to the file? That’s called root hath it’s privileges. Now sometimes only root can execute a file. In that case the file’s permissions would look like this:

  • rwxr—r—


99% of the time when you hear "it works for root but not for a user" that means that file permissions are to blame. Let me also add that directories themselves can have permissions. In order to see this at work as jerryp try to look into root’s home directory. Naughty, you shouldn’t be poking around in other people’s personal home directories. Then again root can :)

Reason #2 Linux has files in it like Windows *.dll files.

In Linux they have the extension .so Maybe Applixware needs some? I can hear you already, "Oh no! Not things like dlls" Yeah at least Linux gives you a few tools to deal with these pesky things.

When you booted up a program named ldconfig ran. It updates

the shared library database. You can also type ldconfig -v

to see some exciting output. Another program of interest when dealing


shared libraries.

ldd - print shared library dependencies

That’s the boot factor right there. You can run ldconfig whenever you want though. Have a look at /etc/ (less /etc/ and echo $LD_LIBRARY_PATH (an environment variable type set to see them all) for more information about what is going on. This is could be the reason why booting made a difference in your case.

A savvy user would have just ran ldconfig, or then again might have been

perplexed too, until they rebooted. (sometimes it’s a long time between reboots running Linux!)

ldconfig - determine run-time link bindings

Yeah, this can be heavy stuff.


Let’s deal with situation #3 now shall we?

Applixware is commercial software. What does this mean? Well it means that they expect to generate revenues with each person that uses their software. Each account on a UNIXish style system is another potential user. They don’t know, or probably even care, that on your system root, and jerryp are one and the same person. I’ll let you think about the further implications of what all of this means. You surely wouldn’t expect to share Microsoft Word on a server with an office building full of people would you? (maybe you can do this I’ve never tried. It can’t be legal even if you can.)

About that sendmail hang-up that you’re having a bit of a problem with try setting up a name for your machine. localhost isn’t happening. Use the hostname command.

Oh, and to support most network cards you will probably have to build yourself a custom kernel with the support that you desire. "Canned" kernels (one’s that you get pre-compiled with a distribution) stink. Make your own. I mean what’s the use of running an OS like Linux if you don’t build your own stuff?

It’s easy to configure and install a kernel. And quite impressive, I might add! See the real power of the operating system that you are using now. Let her rip! Just try building yourself a custom tailored kernel using a commercial operating system. Ask Microsoft if they could please send you the source code for one of theirs. Get yourself the latest kernel source somewhere like (the latest is 2.0.35)

put that tar file into /usr/src

cp /path/to/file/linux-2.0.35.tar.gz /usr/src/

cd /usr/src

Remove or move your old linux directory in /usr/src (rm -rf or mv)

tar xzvf linux-2.0.35.tar.gz

cd linux

make config

while you are configuring your kernel have another virtual console open with the file /usr/src/linux/Documentation/ open in a text editor so you can see what some of these strange things the kernel asks you about are. (I like joe the text editor for this, you can use emacs though) Oh yeah, get another virtual console by hitting alt+F2 (you have 6. Neat huh?

It’s like having 6 computers)

When you are all done configuring your kernel

make dep

make clean

make zImage

cp /usr/src/linux/arch/i386/boot/zImage /

(use your mouse to copy then paste this ponderious path into your command it’ll be right on the screen as the kernel finishes) make modules (if you have configured anything as a module)

make modules_install

joe /etc/lilo.conf (or some other text editor)

Add another entry to lilo for a backup kernel image use vmlinuz.old as a


and o as the boot name I’ll paste in mine

# The default Linux Kernel to boot.

image = /vmlinuz

root = /dev/hda2

label = l

read-only # Non-UMSDOS filesystems should be mounted read-only for checking # Original bootdisk image <---This is that added part.

image = /vmlinuz.old

root = /dev/hda2

label = o



Save all of that

This is a safety net in case things go wrong. They can, and do! If your new kernel doesn’t boot you can still boot off of your old kernel.

When lilo first starts hit shift, or tab (I don’t have to do this all that often) then type in "o" to boot your old kernel.

cd /

mv vmlinuz vmlinuz.old

mv zImage vmlinuz

(Redhat might put these files somewhere else I don’t run Redhat it’s gotta be the worst distro going IMHO Have a look in /boot though if vmlinuz isn’t in / or use find / -name vmlinuz ) Run lilo (just type lilo you should see it say added blah, blah)

uname -r


uname -r

If this was too brief an explaination you can have a look at

Right now there are serious problems as to which compiler should be used


with a Linux distribution. If things don’t work it’s probably because of that.

I’ll give you one more hit tip in case you are successful with your kernel build.

Edit /etc/hosts

I have two machines on a LAN here’s what mine looks like:

# For loopbacking. localhost

# Dotted quad nickname Fully Qualified Domain Name togs togs.ldesk pbutton pbutton.ldesk

Bingo, my machines can ftp, telnet, and ping one and another.

Or you can put yourself to sleep with this:

The Network Administrators’ Guide Just be sure to get your local machine’s name all setup right first.

In closing I haven’t run Applixware myself but have run the demo of Perfect Office and was quite impressed with it the few times that I could run it.

Good luck with Linux, it does rock and once you have figured Linux out I’m sure that you will be quite impressed.

Sorry about the long email but people crying about Linux problems really

get to me. There are problems with Linux but you haven’t gotten that far yet. You’re coming along though. Let’s see if you stick it out for the long haul. Many don’t. Once you do get the hang of it Linux will not crash. Right now you’re driving blind. For your own information I have been running for a bit over a year now I guess. You’ll get the hang of it.

For instant answers to many common Linux questions use: (no attitude)



IRC on EFnet in #linuxhelp (<--friendly, I hang there sometimes.)

and #linux (<-- they’re snots. You have been warned!)

With the correct attitude on IRC you can often get the best help.

Or come in with a female sounding nickname the geeks will be

falling all over each other trying to help you ;) heh

I have put up a page of a lot of helpful Linux links.


Linux, it’s not just an OS, it’s a community!

Linux is user friendly, it’s just choosey about who it’s friends are.

   (You can say that again!)

Linux is user friendly, it’s just choosey about who it’s friends are.

Now that's a LOT to digest. Thanks. I'll be back to Linux shortly and I'll start here… I think my main point is made: if you want to use Linux or UNIX you have to spend some time learning the tool set. Quite a bit of time. When you are done with that study you will have some powerful tools and abilities, but if the notion is to just sit down and write a letter or a book, there may be simpler ways. (My Mac friends will laugh like hell at this point.)

Now would I want to disturb all those people who have put half their lives into learning UNIX well by pretending to be a young girl stuck with a job as office manager for a bunch of Linux geeks and unable to cope? Naw…




Ronald Offerman []


First Things First, bad luck on the Byte situation, I have been reading it for years and your column was always one of the first and most fun to read. I also like your SciFi books (some a on the all-time favorites).

Now this Linux /thing/ ;=)

I am responsible for a lot of systems and love to use (and really _use_) Linux for server applications (mail, firewall, web, database, DNS you name it), but is also does very well for the normal user ONCE it has been installed.

FYI, my children, 5,5 &; 7 are using my secondary system at home (which is also the firewall/mailserver) and have no trouble in using various window managers. (KDE, Gnome, WindowMaker, ICEwm, AfterStep, E!!!) (BTW NEVER call _X Window System_ "X-windows", you are likely to be shot by the X police). The only thing I gave them was a mouse, keyboard and username/password (each has their own, each also has their own desktop environment) and a X login. They /discovered/ the rest themselves. They had little experience with any computer, but within a couple of days knew their way around.

The biggest problem in starting to _use_ is getting it setup in the first place; RTFM is the best advice and expect to spend some time struggling to get X _with_ mouse up and running. You already took that hurdle so the worst WRT the GUI environment is over. Network setup can be tricky but the RedHat control panel can be very helpfull for the novice user.

It all basicly boils down to what you want from Linux. Using it for as a desktop is possible (Applixware, WordPerfect, StarOffice, etc.) but setup for this should be done by an experienced user. If you want to know what Linux can _do_ for you, you will _have to RTFM!_, if you really want to do a "Linux from the user perspective" get a preinstalled system (eg. from VA Research). Linux (as any *nix OS) is a powerfull multiuser environment and should be treated and respected for it. Because of this powerfull environment try to run as a normal user (not root!) as much as possible. You should only use the root account for administrative tasks.

Please remember your best source of support it the Internet, use DejaNews, irc (#linux is a start), Yahoo, AltaVista, whatever, any answer can be found within less time it would take to call a commercial support company.

For you reference, my current primary system (PII/400,128MB/10.2GB IDE/4GB SCSI Adaptec 3940U/Intel AGP/Diamond Monster 3D II/SB AWE64) is fully supported under Linux, took 2 hours to install (including hunting for the AGP driver) and does run Quake2(Linux) just fine. I also have a dual-boot portable (Toshiba), 486/66DX2 and P5/133 running Linux at home without any problems (I am trying to build my own Manor 8=) )


Linux rocks and sucks, depending on invested time and knowledge.

Fire any question you have in my general direction (our to any of the thousands of other Linux users) and you will know the speed and quality at which this support works.

A big fan,


For real eye-candy checkout (www.)enlightenment(.org), M$ windows themes fade compared to it, but it does need some system resource (DR >0.14 are less resource hungry but not for the general public, yet)


RedHat "OS" doesn’t exist, RedHat is one of the distributors.


<- Ronald Offerman |


<- Root Powered Carrot Munchers Ltd. Inc. SA AG BV

"Daddy, why do those people have to use Microsoft Windows?"

"Don’t stare, son; it’s not polite."

"M$ Windows NT, an accident waiting to happen"

Yeah. Of course if I had all the time to learn all this I wouldn't have a problem, but if I take all that time I won't have an income…



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