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Unix

+ - The Linux Command Line

Submitted by Muad
Muad (11989) writes "Mastery of the shell is what separates boys from men, in the memorable words of The Olde Unix Greybeard — this machudo test of computing proficiency has indeed stood the test of time, a kind of cultural hazing ritual for those of us who are in the know — as opposed to the namby-pamby who require a graphic interface with options spelled out for every possible task! As one who was struck early by the beauty and versatility of the Unix Shell, I cannot but be pleased by the recent proliferation of books on the subject, popularizing what was often seen as a subject hard to approach and difficult to master. It does certainly pacify my inner drill-sergeant!

The Linux Command Line, By William E. Shotts, JR (No Starch Press, $49.95) is the most recent entry in a veritable pantheon of books dedicated to the subject of using and scripting the *nix shell interface, and to its credit it is probably the most approachable tome on the subject that is still willing to cover all of its breadth and depth. My chosen terms of comparison for this new work are Arnold Robbins and Nelson H. F. Beebe's Classic Shell Scripting (O'Reilly), hands down the best resource on scripting the shell currently in print, and No Starch's own How Linux Works, by Brian Ward. While spanning similar, overlapping material, these books approach the topic with a different spirit: Robbins and Beebe's book is an unsurpassed masterpiece I own multiple copies of, squarely focused on scripting and exhausting every detail, while Ward's book, albeit closer and more similar to Shotts', focuses on the system's operation, not on the user's terminal-mediated interaction with it — and therein lies a significant difference for readers new to the terminal as the only window into a computer's functionality, the same difference that passes between understanding how a transmission works, and being able to drive stick-shift.

Unabashedly Bash-centric, the book delivers a complete introduction to the shell that presupposes no knowledge whatsoever, providing an easily approachable learning path for those novice to the subject, but drilling deep enough to leave the reader quite proficient at the other end of the reading traverse. Unlike most other books on the shell, which tend to focus on the task of scripting the interface and not its interactive use, Shott's book is first and foremost about using a Linux system through its simplest, most effective interface, and only the latter quarter of the book is dedicated to scripting. Shott will indeed go quite far in making sure that the reader has all the details necessary to make use of the command line at her disposal, often expanding on the structure and operation of the system to deliver a complete view of just what arguments passed to a shell command actually represent — an omnipresent sub-question many authors tend to forget to fully answer when covering the commands themselves.

Any new code hacker in the making will certainly want to take advantage of this well-thought path to understanding the interface most computers were really meant to be used with, but even those who already dabble in the terminal stand to gain by reviewing the carefully assembled coverage the middle chapters deliver on subjects like input/output redirection, pipelines, variable expansion, and quoting — good sources of recurring "gotcha" moments for most users. The book does not limit itself to the mechanics of performing simple filesystem-based tasks, it dedicates space to examining how to perform, from the shell, more practical tasks like printing, text-processing (it's Vi for those of you worshipping in the church of Emacs, not that it matters in this case), compiling programs, and scheduling backups. The section on keyboard tricks is highly recommended to new and intermediate users alike, even I was reminded of a few shortcuts I had forgotten.

The book closes with a complete introduction to shell scripting. While as mentioned this is not the core of the book, it still spans more than 100 pages and is more than adequate for users receiving their induction into the world of the shell — important advanced topics like redirection and subshells get their moment in the spotlight, and those destined to Shell Scripting mastery will receive all the tools necessary to make good use of the Linux Documentation Project's Advanced Bash Scripting Guide (Available online) or O'Reilly's aforementioned tome as their next stop on the path to terminal enlightenment.

Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of man (1) and a Product Manager for Canonical's Ubuntu Advantage and Landscape products."
Books

+ - The Linux Command Line

Submitted by Muad
Muad (11989) writes "Mastery of the shell is what separates boys from men, in the memorable words of The Olde Unix Greybeard — this machudo test of computing proficiency has indeed stood the test of time, a kind of cultural hazing ritual for those of us who are in the know — as opposed to the namby-pamby who require a graphic interface with options spelled out for every possible task! As one who was struck early by the beauty and versatility of the Unix Shell, I cannot but be pleased by the recent proliferation of books on the subject, popularizing what was often seen as a subject hard to approach and difficult to master. It does certainly pacify my inner drill-sergeant!
The Linux Command Line, By William E. Shotts, JR (No Starch Press, $49.95) is the most recent entry in a veritable pantheon of books dedicated to the subject of using and scripting the *nix shell interface, and to its credit it is probably the most approachable tome on the subject that is still willing to cover all of its breadth and depth. My chosen terms of comparison for this new work are Arnold Robbins and Nelson H. F. Beebe's Classic Shell Scripting (O'Reilly), hands down the best resource on scripting the shell currently in print, and No Starch's own How Linux Works, by Brian Ward. While spanning similar, overlapping material, these books approach the topic with a different spirit: Robbins and Beebe's book is an unsurpassed masterpiece I own multiple copies of, squarely focused on scripting and exhausting every detail, while Ward's book, albeit closer and more similar to Shotts', focuses on the system's operation, not on the user's terminal-mediated interaction with it — and therein lies a significant difference for readers new to the terminal as the only window into a computer's functionality, the same difference that passes between understanding how a transmission works, and being able to drive stick-shift.
Unabashedly Bash-centric, the book delivers a complete introduction to the shell that presupposes no knowledge whatsoever, providing an easily approachable learning path for those novice to the subject, but drilling deep enough to leave the reader quite proficient at the other end of the reading traverse. Unlike most other books on the shell, which tend to focus on the task of scripting the interface and not its interactive use, Shott's book is first and foremost about using a Linux system through its simplest, most effective interface, and only the latter quarter of the book is dedicated to scripting. Shott will indeed go quite far in making sure that the reader has all the details necessary to make use of the command line at her disposal, often expanding on the structure and operation of the system to deliver a complete view of just what arguments passed to a shell command actually represent — an omnipresent sub-question many authors tend to forget to fully answer when covering the commands themselves.
Any new code hacker in the making will certainly want to take advantage of this well-thought path to understanding the interface most computers were really meant to be used with, but even those who already dabble in the terminal stand to gain by reviewing the carefully assembled coverage the middle chapters deliver on subjects like input/output redirection, pipelines, variable expansion, and quoting — good sources of recurring "gotcha" moments for most users. The book does not limit itself to the mechanics of performing simple filesystem-based tasks, it dedicates space to examining how to perform, from the shell, more practical tasks like printing, text-processing (it's Vi for those of you worshipping in the church of Emacs, not that it matters in this case), compiling programs, and scheduling backups. The section on keyboard tricks is highly recommended to new and intermediate users alike, even I was reminded of a few shortcuts I had forgotten.
The book closes with a complete introduction to shell scripting. While as mentioned this is not the core of the book, it still spans more than 100 pages and is more than adequate for users receiving their induction into the world of the shell — important advanced topics like redirection and subshells get their moment in the spotlight, and those destined to Shell Scripting mastery will receive all the tools necessary to make good use of the Linux Documentation Project's Advanced Bash Scripting Guide (Available online) or O'Reilly's aforementioned tome as their next stop on the path to terminal enlightenment.
Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of man (1) and a Product Manager for Canonical's Ubuntu Advantage and Landscape products."
Book Reviews

+ - The VueScan Bible

Submitted by Muad
Muad (11989) writes "This is somewhat of an unusual title for me to review, far from my usual Linux or TCP technology pastures. But when I saw that Sascha Steinhoff had penned an entire book on VueScan, I felt I had to take a good hard look at it — not least because of the quality of the program being covered, and the reputation for good publishing work I have come to associate with Rockynook publications.

VueScan, for the uninitiated, is simply an incredibly complete program that enables configuring of every tunable value of almost every scanner ever made. There is nothing else out there quite like it, and most advanced users who ever try the program become instant converts, despite its low marketing profile. My first experience with it came as I tried to use my vintage 2001 Canon scanner with a 2008 MacBook Pro — No Macintosh drivers for this scanner were ever made, but sure enough, VueScan was able to drive it, and to expose settings that I was previously unaware even existed. This is perhaps one of the fundamental reasons for the program's success: even for current scanners with good drivers, options not directly exposed by the manufacturer are made accessible. An incredible degree of direct control of the device then becomes possible.

With great power most often comes complexity management — to paraphrase famed book reviewer Spiderman. Operating Vuescan is not all that simple, which is where this book comes in. The myriad options offered could dazzle anybody, and Sascha's guide is a great source of help for those who want to understand the meaning and potential of all options that VueScan makes available to the end user.

The book opens with a detailed GUI introduction, which is convenient in establishing an even playground as VueScan ships in versions spanning Windows releases starting with 2000, as well as any OS-X version since 10.3.9. It further has 32 bit and 64 bit builds, and (ta-daaah!), it supports Linux too — via Adobe Air I am told, so most major distros are inherently covered. The book then provides a color management in a nutshell tutorial, a nice introduction for those like myself who have never quite gone deep enough into in this very useful subject. A similar primer is provided on image resolution, and covered is not merely the most commonplace flatbed scanning of prints or other "positives", negative scanning also gets its fair share of attention. Very nice coverage of the properties and procedures applicable to different media types, including slides (E6, Kodachrome K14) Color (C41) and black and white negatives, as well as different types of paper is included, most of this material being of great interest to any scanner user, not just those who are VueScan adepts. File format and their advantages as well as the drawbacks of every choice are also reviewed.

Advanced techniques like multiscanning and multi-exposure (had no idea you could do that with a scanner), and specific options like descreening (a blurring algorithm to compensate for printing raster artifacts) are covered in gory detail. Workflows for newspaper, text-to-OCR, magazines, color prints, slides, negatives, and more media originals are included. This level of detail is very appreciated, providing a set of meaningful settings for every relevant option is a great way to get started with a high-quality result despite the multitude of settings, and fine-tune your way from there — all too often exposing every lever and knob can throw off a new user with disappointing initial results. An extensive program reference section is included, spanning about a third of the book and covering every nook and cranny of the menu options, ideal to clarify the specific meaning of a mysterious menu entry.

In closing, this book is a great complement to a great program, richly illustrated, as it behooves a Rocky Nook title, and providing useful knowledge beyond the immediate boundaries of what is strictly related to VueScan but also teaching the reader what else is necessary to produce a great scan. User's manuals are seldom enjoyable, but Sascha's work flows well and reads quickly, getting us where we need to be to achieve productivity quickly and in an almosts enjoyable manner.

Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of man (1) and a Product Manager for the SUSE Linux Enterprise and openSUSE distributions. He can be reached as @Federico_II on Twitter."
Hardware Hacking

+ - Arduino: A Quick-Start Guide 1

Submitted by Muad
Muad (11989) writes "BOX DATA Title: Arduino: A Quick_Start Guide Author: Maik Schmidt Pages: 263 Rating: 8/10 Reviewer: Federico Lucifredi ISBN: 9781934356661 Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Arduino-Quick-Start-Pragmatic-Programmers/dp/1934356662/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1297643169&sr=8-1 END BOX DATA

Maik Schmidt, Arduino: A Quick-Start Guide — The Pragmatic Bookshelf, $35

Maik Schmidt is our guide in the Pragmatic Bookshelf's venture into the world of electronics. This is a compact work, like all others in the series, it goes straight to applicable examples and makes you get your hands dirty with real work. The Arduino platform has been described in many ways, but the best I have heard so far insightfully labels it "The 555 of the future," referring to the ubiquitous timer chip so many simple electronic projects make use of. If you haven't been hiding under a rock for the past few years, you have doubtlessly seen the plethora of material on the subject that's out there: even O'Reilly, which usually does not ship multiple titles on a single subject, has a variety of them. Most of these works are rather similar, the ones I prefer are Massimo Banzi's Getting Started with Arduino (O'Reilly, 2008), by one of the original developers of the platform, and the strongly related Getting started with Processing by Casey Reas and Ben Fry. These are brief books in the 100-page range, not exhaustive works, but covering the core philosophy and basic operation of the tools is sometimes the best way to jump into a new subject.

There is a lot of material on the subject, even the current issue of Make magazine has a very good roundup (and not for the first time, if I may add). So, how does Maik's work stand out in the fray? Right after a brief introduction to ease you into the Arduino environment, the book turns to interesting projects, more sophisticated than the usual fare (read: not the usual LED-blinking using pulse-width modulation that every tutorial out there walks you through). Examples of this include connecting with a Wii Nunchuk, motion sensing, networking, infrared remote control interfaces, and more. These projects are the high-note of the book, and span almost two-thirds of its length — and are significantly better than most other project material currently in print.

This is a hands-on book, theory is kept to a minimum, as you don't really need previous experience to tackle an Arduino: the platform was specifically designed to cater to artists and designers, it is meant to be approachable by users who are not EE wizards. That said, if what you are after is learning the underpinnings of low-level electronics or hardcore embedded systems programming, this book is not for you: pick up a copy of Horowitz and Hill's The Art of Electronics (possibly including the student manual), and check back with us in a year or so for the digital followup recommendation. But if you have less time on your hands, and you just want to network-enable a coffeepot or build some interactive art display, the introduction to Arduino Maik delivers is quite sufficient for your aims, and it spans material other authors have been remiss to include, like developing libraries and (Appendix C) use of serial line protocols.

Zooming in on the details, perhaps the comment can be made that it would be good if there was a single kit available including all components used in the text: perhaps Makershed or Adafruit Industries will supplement their existing kits with one comprising the full range of the author's selection. On the plus side, I must highlight the extensive illustrations, which visually represent the breadboard linkage between the Arduino and the sensor or actuator being used with extreme clarity, and are much more effective in teaching neophytes than more traditional circuit designs. Where these are not actual pictures, they were generated using the alpha release of Fritzing, a very interesting piece of software (see fritzing.org) aiming at facilitating circuit design for those of us without a background in electronics.

The landscape of Arduino publications is shifting faster than many other subjects in print, and doubtlessly Maik's status as "king of the Hill" is but temporary — however, among those books on the subject I have personally surveyed, I am pleased to say that he currently holds the championship cup.

Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of man (1) and a Product Manager for the SUSE Linux Enterprise and openSUSE distributions."
Transportation

Austria's 'Bionic Man' Dies In Car Crash 200

Posted by timothy
from the sad-to-hear dept.
euphemistic writes "An Austrian man who became the first person outside the US to wear thought-powered 'bionic' arms has died from injuries sustained in a car crash ... Kandlbauer, who would have turned 23 next month, sustained severe head injuries when the specially modified car he was driving swerved off the road in the south east of Austria and crashed into a tree on October 19. The cause of the accident is not yet known, particularly whether the neurally-controlled arm-prostheses he had been fitted with might have played a role."
Book Reviews

+ - The Linux Programming Interface

Submitted by Muad
Muad (11989) writes "BOX DATA Title: The Linux Programming Interface Author: Michael Kerrisk Pages: 1552 Rating: 8/10 Reviewer: Federico Lucifredi ISBN: 9781593272203 Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Linux-Programming-Interface-System-Handbook/dp/1593272200/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1287346463&sr=8-1 END BOX DATA

Michael Kerrisk, The Linux Programming Interface — No Starch Press, $99.95

Michael Kerrisk has been the maintainer of the Linux Man Pages collection (man 7) for more than five years now, and it is safe to say that he has contributed to the Linux documentation available in the online manual more than any other author before. For this reason he has been the recipient a few years back of a Linux Foundation fellowship meant to allow him to devote his full time to the furthering this endeavor. His book is entirely focused on the system interface and environment Linux (and, to some extent, any *NIX system) provides to a programmer. My most obvious choice for a comparison of the same caliber is Michael K. Johnson and Eric W. Troan's venerable Linux Application Development, the second edition of which was released in 2004 and is somewhat in need of a refresh, lamentably because it is an awesome book that belongs on any programmer's shelf. While Johnson and Troan have introduced a whole lot of programmers to the pleasure of coding to Linux's APIs, their approach is that of a nicely flowing tutorial, not necessarily complete, but unusually captivating and very suitable to academic use. Michael's book is a different kind of beast: while the older tome selects exquisite material, it is nowhere as complete as his — everything relating to the subject that I could reasonably think of is in the book, in a very thorough and maniacally complete yet enjoyably readable way — I did find one humorous exception, more on that later.

This book is an unusual, if not altogether unique, entry into the Linux programming library: for one, it is a work of encyclopedic breadth and depth, spanning in great detail concepts usually spread in a multitude of medium-sized books, but by this yardstick the book is actually rather concise, as it is neatly segmented in 64 nearly self-contained chapters that work very nicely as short, deep-dive technical guides. I have collected an extremely complete technical library over the years, and pretty much any book of significance that came out of the Linux and Bell Labs communities is in it — it is about 4 shelves, and it is far from portable. It is very nice to be able to reach out and pick the definitive work on IPC, POSIX threads, or one of several socket programming guides — not least because having read them, I know what and where to pick from them. But for those out there who have not invested so much time, money, and sweat moving so many books around, Kerrisk's work is priceless: any subject be it timers, UNIX signals, memory allocation or the most classical of topics (file I/O) gets its deserved 15-30 page treatment, and you can pick just what you need, in any order.

Weighing in at 1552 pages, this book is second only to Charles Kozierok's mighty TCP/IP Guide in length in the No Starch Press catalog. Anyone who has heard me comment about books knowns I usually look askance at anything beyond the 500-page mark, regarding it as something defective in structure that fails the "I have no time to read all that" test. In the case of Kerrisk's work, however, just as in the case of Kozierok's, actually, I am happy to waive my own rule, as these heavyweights in the publisher's catalog are really encyclopedias, and despite my bigger library I will like to keep this single tome within hand's reach of my desk to avoid having to fetch the other tomes for quick lookups — yes, I still have lazy programmer blood in my veins.

There is another perspective to this: while writing, I took a break and while wandering around I found myself in Miguel's office (don't tell him ;-), and there spotted a Bell Labs book lying on his shelf that (incredibly) I have never heard of. After a quick visit to AbeBooks to take care of this embarrassing matter, I am back here writing to use this incident as a valuable example: the classic system programming books, albeit timeless in their own way, show their rust when it comes to newer and more esoteric Linux system calls (mmap and inotify are fair examples) and even entire subsystems in some cases — and that's another place where this book shines: it is not only very complete, it is really up to date, a combination I cannot think of a credible alternative to in today's available book offerings.

One more specialized but particularly unique property of this book is that it can be quite helpful in navigating what belongs in to what standard, be it POSIX, X/Open, SUS, LSB, FHS, and what not. Perhaps it is not entirely complete in this, but it is more helpful than anything else I have seen released since Donald Lewine's ancient POSIX Programmers Guide (O'Reilly). Standards conformance is a painful topic, but one you inevitably stumble into when writing code meant to compile and run not only on Linux but to cross over to the BSDs or farther yet to other *NIX variants. If you have to deal with that kind of divine punishment, this book, together with the Glibc documentation, is a helpful palliative as it will let you know what is not available on other platforms, and sometimes even what alternatives you may have, for example, on the BSDs.

If you are considering the purchase, head over to Amazon and check out the table of contents, you will be impressed. The Linux Programming Encyclopedia would have been a perfectly adequate title for it in my opinion. In closing, I mentioned that after thinking for a good while I found one thing to be missing in this book: next to the appendixes on tracing, casting the null pointer, parsing command-line options, and building a kernel configuration, a tutorial on writing man pages was sorely and direly missing! Michael, what were you thinking?

Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of man (1) and a Product Manager for the SUSE Linux Enterprise and openSUSE distributions."
Games

+ - Sony Get Nasty With PSBreak Buyers-> 1

Submitted by YokimaSun
YokimaSun (930294) writes "The War between hackers and Sony over the Playstation 3 has now taken an even more sinister turn with Sony now going after not just shops but actual buyers of the PSBreak Dongle, threatening them with fines of many thousands in Euros and forcing them to sign Cease and Desist letters. Seems that Sony will use any method possible to thwart both Homebrew and Piracy on the PS3."
Link to Original Source
Earth

+ - Humans will need two Earths by 2030-> 2

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "A recent report warns that, Humans are overusing the resources of the planet and will need two Earths by the year 2030. The Living Planet Report tells that the demands on natural resources have doubled in the past 50 years and now outstripping what the Earth can provide by more than half."
Link to Original Source
Image

Autotools 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Muad writes "John Calcote is a senior software engineer in Novell's Linux business, who after slogging up the steep learning curve the Autotools triad poses to those packaging software according to the portable GNU conventions for the first time, very kindly decided to make the experience easier to newcomers by sharing his years of experience and carefully crafted bag of tricks. His book is a welcome update to a field that has not seen entries now for a full ten years, so long has been the time since GNU Autoconf, Automake, and Libtool by Gary V. Vaughn, Ben Ellison, Tom Tromey, and Ian Lance Taylor hit the shelves. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is driven by the need to turn a profit to fund its endeavors, and specialist items like this book are not obvious candidates for volume selling - which is a credit to No Starch Press' willingness to venture down this path." Keep reading for the rest of Federico's review.
Programming

+ - Programming Things I Wish I Knew Earlier 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Raw intellect ain't always all it's cracked up to be, advises Ted Dziuba in his introduction to Programming Things I Wish I Knew Earlier, so don't be too stubborn to learn the things that can save you from the headaches of over-engineering. Some sample how-to-avoid-over-complicating-things advice: 'If Linux can do it, you shouldn't. Don't use Hadoop MapReduce until you have a solid reason why xargs won't solve your problem. Don't implement your own lockservice when Linux's advisory file locking works just fine. Don't do image processing work with PIL unless you have proven that command-line ImageMagick won't do the job. Modern Linux distributions are capable of a lot, and most hard problems are already solved for you. You just need to know where to look.' Any cautionary tips you'd like to share from your own experience?"
Books

+ - Autotools

Submitted by Muad
Muad (11989) writes "John Calcote, Autotools, a practitioner's guide to GNU Autoconf, Automake, and Libtool — No Starch Press, $44.95

John Calcote is a senior software engineer in Novell's Linux business, who after slogging up the steep learning curve the Autotools triad poses to those packaging software according to the portable GNU conventions for the first time, very kindly decided to make the experience easier to newcomers by sharing his years of experience and carefully crafted bag of tricks. His book is a welcome update to a field that has not seen entries now for a full ten years, so long has been the time since "GNU Autoconf, Automake, and Libtool" by Gary V. Vaughn, Ben Ellison, Tom Tromey, and Ian Lance Taylor hit the shelves. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is driven by the need to turn a profit to fund its endeavors, and specialist items like this book are not obvious candidates for volume selling — which is a credit to No Starch Press' willingness to venture down this path.

The book opens with John's experiences in adopting the Autotools, and quickly offers what is in my view a very important word of caution that is often lacking in the few tutorials I have seen on the Net: the Autotools are not simply a set of tools but foremost the encoded embodiment of a set of practices and expectations in the way software should be packaged the GNU way. While it is acceptable for beginners not to know what these expectations are, the right frame of mind to approach the Autotools is to focus on learning what way the Autotools operate, what they are trying to accomplish, and why. Attempting to use the Autotools without understanding the bigger picture will lead to very high amounts of pain, as it is one of the toolsets most difficult to adapt for use separate from the policies they represent, so strongly are these conventions embedded in their fabric. With this understanding, it becomes possible to generate extensive configurations with a few lines of Autoconf or Automake — without this understanding, it very quickly becomes a battle to force a round peg into a square tool...

John's style is more extensive and takes a longer path to the "technical meat" of the problem than the 10-year old alternative, but in this reader's opinion it flows significantly better as there is an underlying story, a thread that connects the bits of what is otherwise a pretty arid subject. For those masters of shell-fu, this book is a page-turner, while for mere mortals it is a good, approachable, path into a difficult skill.

The book is structured around the packaging of two different projects, the first being a simplified "Hello, World" project to provide a digestible introduction to the processes and technology of the Autotools, while the second representing the full-blown packaging of a complex, real-world project (the FLAIM high-performance database). This is a very good approach, breaking the theory into many practical examples of practice, and providing many ready-made bits that the rest of us can start our own configuration build files from. The result is a first half providing a gentler, streamlined introduction to the subject matter, before the full jump into the gory details of the most complex possibilities the toolset offers. While it must be noted that John attempts to keep away from those most fine details which "may be subject to change" between minor releases of the tooling, which is doubtlessly good for both our scripts' and the book's shelf life, it must be observed that he does not shy away from very dense (and otherwise utterly undocumented) material, such as the use of M4 macros in Autoconf, something a colleague of mine once pointed to me as "the one more reason I'd rather chew broken glass than deal with Autotools".

Assuming you have the requisite knowledge of Make, Shell scripting (particularly Bash), and GCC that are essential to a developer, packager, maintainer or buildmaster of a Linux, BSD or *NIX project, or that you are on your way to achieving those skills, this is a book that belongs in your shelf, right next to the RPM documentation. This is material for experts or experts in the making, but in my opinion you will find no better introduction to this complex subject. I had it on my wish list well before it was ever printed, and its presence on my desk caused several other developers in my office to order their copies pretty much on the spot upon finding out of its existence. Either as a learning tool for a skill you are trying to attain, or as a reference to turn to when faced with the complexities of this unique set of tools, this book is well worth its price tag.

I certainly hope this is not the last publication we see on the Autotools in this decade, but either way, it is a good start indeed — and my hope is that the publisher will refresh the title when an update is warranted, without waiting ten years!

Federico Lucifredi is the maintainer of man (1) and a Product Manager for the SUSE Linux Enterprise and openSUSE distributions."
Science

+ - Fundamental constant not so constant in space->

Submitted by
Danny Rathjens
Danny Rathjens writes "The Economist cutely writes, "Ye cannae change the laws of physics
Or can you?" There was already evidence that the fine structure constant — a measure of the strength of electromagnetic interaction — became slightly smaller going back billions of years based on observations of light from quasars. Staggering newer observations provided evidence that the value going back in time actually became larger! The crucial difference being that the new observations were take from a telescope in the other hemisphere and so pointing to a different part of the universe. That indicates that the fine structure constant not only
changed over time but it also varies based on position in space! physicsworld.com points out some fascinating implications of this observation. The pre-print of the article submitted to PRL is available at arxiv.org."

Link to Original Source

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