Linux Format 279 (Sampler)

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Work smarter with outstanding productivity tools: LibreOffice 7.1 OnlyOffice 6.2 WPS Office and more…






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How to broadcast your life over Twitch, YouTube and more with OBS Studio!

pages of tutorials & features


Monitor and stress test your processor Get started designing and assembling circuits

Build a modern document site

BUILD SECURE CODE Create better web apps with security baked in

LXF Summer 2021


Discover the best new image viewer and editor




GeForce RTX 3070 Ti


Nvidia’s latest Ti takes aim at AMD’s RX 6800, reveals Jacob Ridley.



STREAMING Camera shy Jonni Bidwell conquers his fears as he harnesses the power of open source to live-stream his extravagant lifestyle.

Koozali SME Server 10


Mayank Sharma has a fondness for pointand-click server distros that roll out in a jiffy and don’t eat into his leisure time.

MakuluLinux LinDoz


Always on the hunt for distros that can help him reel in users to Linux, Mayank Sharma finds one that matches his sensibilities.

Venom Linux 2.1


Mayank Sharma finally finds a sourcebased distro that’ll satiate his need to run a source-based distro.

Tribblix Milestone 25

Find out how on page 32.


Poking his nose where he’s not supposed to, Mayank Sharma finds himself inside a Solaris variant that he just can’t shake off.





Management doesn’t much like epic storytelling of heroic deeds – even around the watercooler – and so Sin Vega is in a lot of trouble…

Office suites


Michael Reed compares five fully featured office suites, testing them on a modern computing setup as well as with older kit, as well as assessing their level of support.

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Behind the VPN veil


If you take your privacy seriously then you need to take virtual private networks seriously. David Rutland goes off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush.


Pi USER Raspberry Pi news

Linux Rescue To olkit Zorin OS 15.3 See page 96


The Pi Pico hooks up with a Rust OS, plus Windows 11 on the Pi and floppies return!

Arduino IDE 2.0 Beta 7


Les Pounder looks for something a little fresher among his maker buffet.

Build robots with Scratch


DVD pages

Les Pounder shows you how to use Scratch to build and control a simple robot.

Take better photos with your Pi


Mike Bedford on how to get the most from the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera while learning the basic principles of photography.

Breadboards, circuits and PCBs



NOMACS: Better image viewing


Nick Peers goes hunting for a top-class image viewer and editor, and is pleasantly surprised by what he finds.


VIRTUALBOX: Virtual networks


Discover how to create self-contained virtual networks within your own computer. Stuart Burns reveals all.


Build more secure web apps in Tim Armstrong’s new series, who starts with the essentials of Static Analysis and CI/CD.

Manipulate data with Pandas


Shashank Sharma deploys S-TUI to help him monitor processor performance.

Are you designing a circuit to interface to a Raspberry Pi or Arduino? Then grab a copy of the open source Fritzing package. Mike Bedford is your guide.

Static analysis development


Jonni Bidwell unveils how to use the Recovery DVD, plus details on Zorin OS 15.3.

ONLYOFFICE: DMS connectivity


Kseniya Fedoruk shows how to edit and co-author documents within your document management system.


Mihalis Tsoukalos explains how to use Pandas for storing and manipulating tabular data.

EMULATION: Acorn Electron


Les Pounder recalls when bedroom coders ruled the world and playground battles were fought for your micro.

DOCUSAURUS: Cloud-based docs



Will Windows 11 play nice with Linux? AMD releases open source upscaling tech, the only community-owned CentOS alternative makes its debut, while Intel makes a $2 billion offer for a semiconductor startup.

Kernel watch




VPN audio notifications are reactivated, group password management advice and how to run Linux from a USB stick. Plus systemd timers are explained.



Missing DVD content explained, can subscribers opt out of the DVD, and reusing old computing hardware for schools.



Back issues


Get hold of previous Linux Format editions, but act fast because they soon sell out!

Overseas subscriptions




Alexander Tolstoy ignores the pain of Russia crashing out of Euro 2020 by providing the lastest FOSS gems, including Inkscape, Maestrial, Cinnamon, Qmplay2, GitQlient, Gifski, FreeTube, Open Surge, Quantum Game 2, YOGA and Cpufetch.

DVD pages


Next month



Jamie Munro sets up GitHub, Docusaurus and Netlify to generate a professionallooking static documentation site.


Repair and restore


Fixit-bot Jonni Bidwell activates a handpicked selection of rescue distros to diagnose and cure diverse Linux problems.

Summer 2021 LXF279     5



THIS ISSUE: Could Windows 11 block Linux? AMD upscaling tech Intel targets SiFive Chinese RISC-V CPU Chromebooks boom


What does Windows 11 mean for Linux? icrosoft has recently announced a new operating system: Windows 11 (https:// This has surprised many people: a few years ago the company was pretty adamant that Windows 10 would be the “last version of Windows” and would instead receive major updates every year. Windows 11 will be arriving towards the end of 2021. So, how will this affect Linux users? An increasing number of new machines will likely come with Windows 11 pre-installed, and while Microsoft has previously declared how much it loves Linux, it’s never been too fond of enabling other OSes to be installed alongside it, and there’s a concern that Windows 11 systems could make a dual-booting Linux setup more difficult to achieve. Microsoft released PC Health Check, to prepare users for the new OS. Many people found their PCs were listed as incompatible. The tool has since been removed because a blog post revealed it was receiving negative feedback from people who had used it, and were being given vague information about how even modern PCs were able to run Windows 11. According to the new OS’s system requirements (see Windows11Reqs), a PC needs to have UEFI, Secure Boot, a 64-bit CPU and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 2.0. The TPM has caused concern for some people. It’s a small piece of hardware, usually included with a CPU, that can be used to securely encrypt data by any OS. TPM is primarily a security tool, and Microsoft was hoping to make it compulsory in Windows


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8.1. It was dissuaded from doing so, but it looks like the company has now changed its mind. This isn’t a huge hurdle for Linux distros, many support TPM out of the box (Ubuntu, Debian, openSUSE and Fedora). The same can’t be said for smaller distros that can’t support TPM, which could struggle with the new hardware. Of greater concern is the reliance on Secure Boot, which has been used in the past to prevent other operating systems from being installed. Currently, Secure Boot can usually be turned off in the BIOS if TPM 2.0 is present (you can download an early version of Windows 11 to test out for yourself – check out our sister website

CREDIT: Microsoft

Microsoft has unveiled a new operating system, but will it play nice?

Windows 11 is Microsoft’s upcoming operating system, and there’s already controversy surrounding it.

DUAL-BOOTING HURDLE AHEAD? “If new Windows 11 machines don’t enable you to turn off Secure Boot, this could make installing non-TPM OSes more difficult.” TechRadar’s guide at LXF279Windows11Download). However, if new Windows 11 machines don’t enable you to turn off Secure Boot, this could make installing nonTPM OSes more difficult, if not impossible. If Windows 11’s reliance on TPM 2.0 means many existing systems can’t run the new OS, could disgruntled users consider switching to Linux instead? This could be an excellent opportunity for Linux as a whole, and showcases its flexibility for running on all kinds of devices.


Got a burning question about open source or the kernel? Whatever your level, email it to the silence Q Stop I’m running Mint 20.1 Ulyssa

Cinnamon. I use the built-in network management tools to connect to a VPN running OpenVPN. I used to get a notification on the top right-hand corner confirming a successful connection when I started it, but I accidentally hit the “Don’t show this again” button one day. Despite searching I cannot find out how to reverse this. It was very useful. Ian Gibbs


It’s not obvious, but you need to edit the dconf database that is used to store Gnome settings. You can do this from the command line with the gsettings tool. Run one or more of these commands as your normal user, not with sudo: $ gsettings set org.gnome.nm-applet disable-vpn-notifications “false” $ gsettings set org.gnome.nm-applet disable-connected-notifications “false” $ gsettings set org.gnome.nm-applet disable-disconnected-notifications “false”

The first one controls the VPN notifications you’re asking about, the other two handle the general notifications when you connect to a network. Note that these are settings to disable notifications, so you

set them to false to turn the notifications back on. You can use the corresponding get commands to see the settings in force. If you prefer a GUI approach, first install dconf-editor (Mint doesn’t include it by default) then run it and go to org>gnome> nm-applet and click the various settings to change them. I suspect the warning about being able to break the system with injudicious use of this tool that you see when you start is the reason it’s not installed by default.

passwords Q Last-gasp I’m looking for a password vault/ secret server application to centralise credentials for a small team. The current scope is keeping shared credentials secured and I’m looking to solve spread and duplication issues. It needs to be open source, free (because management say so), able to be locally hosted on Linux and have a web UI. Leon Jarvis


Have you looked at Bitwarden ( It’s a password manager along the lines of LastPass, but open source. For the users, it comes with a desktop client, extensions for the popular browsers and mobile apps. You

Neil Bothwick is a timely triple-page troublesome Tux tinkerer.

can also use any web browser to access your password store and there’s even a command line client. By default, it connects to Bitwarden’s server, which is fine for many people but doesn’t meet your requirements. However, this does make it easy to see whether it fulfils your needs. If it does, you can run your own server locally. While installing a Bitwarden server manually can be tricky, there are Docker images to make the process much easier. The official image is quite heavyweight with many dependencies, but it’s designed for enterprise use. You state that this is for a small team, so the Vaultwarden (previously called Bitwarden_RS) image from https:// may be more suitable. This is a separate project written in Rust, using the Bitwarden protocols and API to create a more lightweight server. The various server options are compatible in terms of data, so you can export and import as you try different ones to see which suits your needs best. Bitwarden is also able to import password databases from other password managers, although I’ve only tried this with LastPass and KeePass.

sums Q Complicated My husband told me I should try out Mint. I downloaded it and it told me I should validate the download, but the instructions it gave seem incredibly complex. Is there a Windows program that I can trust to validate it for me? Karen Williams


Dconf-editor enables you to change many of the hidden settings for your desktop. It also has options to break it completely, hence the warning.

I won’t ask why you didn’t get your husband to do this for you. You are right though, the instructions do make the process look more complex than it’s. There are two steps involved: the first is a checksum test to make sure that the ISO file you downloaded wasn’t corrupted during download. Mint use a program called sha256sum to generate a checksum for each file. A checksum is just a string of characters that’s unique to a particular file. Change the file, even slightly, and the checksum changes, so if you get the same

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Solaris distribution REVIEWS

Tribblix Milestone 25 Poking his nose where he’s not supposed to, Mayank Sharma finds himself inside a Solaris variant that he just can’t seem to shake off. IN BRIEF Tribblix is a Solaris distro that’s made up of components from OpenSolaris, OpenIndiana, and illumos projects. It helps users explore a traditional Solaris system but with modern tools, and the convenience of a binary package manager.

SPECS CPU: 32-bit, 64-bit and SPARC Memory: 2GB HDD: 10GB Build: The latest image is 64-bit only, though older ones for 32-bit and SPARC are also available

ribblix pitches itself as a flexible, fast, and familiar OS to anyone who’s used Solaris in the past. The distro brings the retro Solaris up to date and ships with modern software on top of the illumos-derived foundation. For anyone unfamiliar with Solaris, Sun Microsystems’ SunOS evolved into the rechristened Solaris and began as a proprietary UNIX variant designed to support Sun’s SPARC processors. Its list of supported hardware widened over time, and in 2005 Sun released the source code in the form of OpenSolaris. Then Oracle purchased Sun, renamed the OS once more to Oracle Solaris, and decided to cease source releases, effectively closing the source once again. That’s when the community took it upon themselves to maintain OpenSolaris. They decided to ditch its development tools and processes and created the OpenIndiana Hipster branch to modernise the OS. Hipster is compiled with GCC instead of Sun Studio and is based on the work of the illumos project, which produces the kernel and other core utilities. Tribblix, however, isn’t just another illumos distro. Although it does borrow illumos technologies such as the kernel, ZFS, zones, DTrace, and SMF, and a few components from OpenIndiana, the distro insists that it’s essentially been built from scratch, with its own build and packaging system. Tribblix bills itself as a traditional Solaris system with software distributed as SVR4 (System V Release 4) packages. The distro is also particular for its use of lightweight window managers. It defaults to Xfce, though several other lightweights ones like Mate, Openbox and Enlightenment, and dozens of window managers can be installed from its repositories.

Contrary to appearances, the distro wasn’t named by the author, but was picked from a list of names in a contest at an OpenSolaris event.


All Suns blazing

The distro is available in two variants: a standard edition designed for workstations and another built on OmniOS, primarily for the LX zones, which helps run most Linux programs inside a virtualised environment that it claims is lighter than a typical virtual machine. Both editions are released in a standard and a minimal image. First-time users should stick with the standard workstation image. This also drops you to a shell environment and that’s by design, since the developer intends to provide just enough OS to help users build their desktop from scratch. Any distro that takes this DIY approach to building a usable desktop must have a solid package management system, and we’re happy to report that Tribblix doesn’t

disappoint. Its custom Zap (Zip Archive Packaging) package manager essentially provides compressed versions of traditional Solaris SVR4 packages. Moreover, instead of individual packages the distro thinks about managing software suites or applications. These are known as overlays and help install complex pieces of software such as desktop environments, office suites and more. Using overlays enables you to get to a desktop with working wireless in no time. For installation, the distro uses an installation script. All you need to do is point the script to a partition you want to install Tribblix on and let it rip. You can also pass the name of any overlays and the installer will install these as well. Many of the commonly used overlays such as Xfce are bundled in the standard installation media, which further speeds up installation. Partitioning is handled by the well-documented Solaris format CLI utility. However, we’d suggest anyone not familiar with Solaris partitioning to first experiment with the script inside a virtual environment. Just like the installation, the installed Tribblix system boots quickly and feels responsive, even inside VMs, which would be a good environment for anyone to acquaint themselves with the ways of Solaris.



There’s more Tribblix than its score would let on, and we’d encourage all inquisitive types to take this for a spin.

Rating 7/10 Summer 2021 LXF279     23


Roundup LibreOffice 7.1 OnlyOffice 6.2 WPS Office 2019 11.1 FreeOffice 2018 r982 Calligra 3.2.1

Michael Reed Michael’s tech journey started when, aged six, he used an Apple II with a green screen monitor.

Office suites Michael Reed compares five fully featured office suites, testing them on a modern computing setup as well as with older hardware. HOW WE TESTED… The text for this month’s Roundup was created by continually moving it between the word processor modules of the various office suites. We also loaded various test files, in the standard formats that you’re likely to encounter, into as many of the modules as we could, making notes of the speed and accuracy of this process along the way. As well as using a desktop PC, we also ran the suites on a rather outdated laptop, an old eMachines model with 2GB of RAM, a 1.7GHz CPU and a 1,024x600 display. This is to test to see if the suite could be used to bring an older machine back to life for light office duties – a valid application for an office suite. We also spent some time on the support forums and other web resources to make sure that they were all going concerns with a future that makes them worth investing time into.

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ffice applications have seen many improvements since the first spreadsheet and word processing programs were made available for personal computers. However, what you do with the programs that handle the core office activities hasn’t changed a great deal. These activities include creating text documents, using a spreadsheet or a database and putting together graphs and presentation data. Note that two of the suites – WPS Office and FreeOffice – have picked up an annoying habit from Microsoft of naming the current release after a given year and then not incrementing it in subsequent years. So, we’re looking at the latest versions of all of the


suites (they were updated in 2021) even though they are entitled WPS Office 2019 and FreeOffice 2018. Office suites span two extremes of integration: some offer specialised views on the given document within a common interface; at the other end of the scale, some are literally separate applications that are installed together. Some of these suites come in more than one flavour, for example, an Android or web version, and OnlyOffice itself can be served over the web. We’ll make mention of these, where appropriate, but we’re primarily concerned with desktop applications that run directly in Linux.

Office suites ROUNDUP

Core office applications

How do the five office suites on test handle the basics?

here’s room for debate on the matter, but we consider the core office applications to be: word processing, spreadsheet, presentations and database. LibreOffice and Calligra have all of these, and the applications themselves are fully featured in each case. The same is true for FreeOffice, OnlyOffice and WPS Office, except they don’t come with a database. As for the modules themselves, they all offer the basic facilities. In the case of word processing, you’re more likely to make your decision due to personal preference about the user interface rather than because of a lack of essential functions. In addition to the basic facilities that most users need, each of the word processors have features for more advanced, graphical layouts. In the case of FreeOffice, only the paid-for version offers mail merge and label printing. It’s a shame that the OnlyOffice word processor doesn’t have a way of adding continuous word count to the main window. The Calligra Office word processor ploughs its own furrow when it comes to UI layout, and the whole thing feels like an original take on how a word processor should work, making it less immediately familiar to the first-time user. Similarly to the situation with word processors, each of the spreadsheets contain all of the basic facilities that most users will need. In the case of LibreOffice, there’s some awkwardness when creating charts because the settings are altered in a dialog. The other suites take a more efficient approach of using a sidebar,


Who doesn’t love a good spreadsheet? This one was created in LibreOffice. All of the suites could carry out this work with ease.

which enables real-time tweaking of settings. But then, the LibreOffice spreadsheet did have the advantage of a spellchecker. The Calligra and LibreOffice databases cover similar ground to each other. They can be used to design a visual front end, and both can use industry-standard database back-ends such as MySQL. The LibreOffice database supports integration with its word processor module for things like mail merge tasks, and label creation and integration features with the spreadsheet module. All of the suites have a presentation module that enables the user to create slides that are composed of text, graphics and animation, and to play them back in a sequence.

VERDICT LIBREOFFICE 9/10 ONLYOFFICE 7/10 WPS OFFICE 7/10 CALLIGRA 7/10 FREEOFFICE 7/10 All of the suites provide competent implementations of the three key office applications. LibreOffice and Calligra also provide a database.

Licence and installation We’re concentrating on what’s available for free in the five suites.

ll of the office suites that we’ve looked at here are available free of cost when it comes to the core suite itself. LibreOffice, Calligra and OnlyOffice are free in every sense because there’s no cost to download the fully working suite and the source code is also available for download. All of the suites are available for Windows and Mac, too. This is an important consideration if you want to pass them on to people who don’t run Linux, although, Calligra appears to have only basic support on those environments. WPS Office and FreeOffice are examples of the commonplace ‘freemium’ model, in that the core product is free, but there are costs associated with extra features such as mobile applications and services like cloud hosting. That said, the developer of OnlyOffice also offers paid cloud hosting, but you can implement that yourself using your own server. However, here, we’re primarily interested in looking at the free core suites, rather than the paid-for add-ons that are available. Thankfully, each of them offer .deb and RPM format archives for installation, and OnlyOffice also offers Snap, Flatpak and AppImage downloads.

The clue might be in the name, but you still need to obtain a free licence key to use FreeOffice.


FreeOffice will nag you until you request the free licence key. It’s free to use, in all fairness, but it feels like a strange hoop to have to jump through compared to other Linux software. LibreOffice and Calligra are both available in the repository of most major distributions. As always, it might be worth checking the official website to see if a newer version is available.

VERDICT LIBREOFFICE 9/10 ONLYOFFICE 9/10 WPS OFFICE 6/10 CALLIGRA 9/10 FREEOFFICE 6/10 We have got nothing against well-priced commercial options, but being free is good, too. All of the suites offer core facilities for free.

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STREAMING Camera-shy Jonni Bidwell conquers his fears as he harnesses the power of OBS Studio to stream live to his, er, three followers.

eing an online broadcaster has been a legitimate profession for some years. But the pandemic fuelled a surge in aspiring home streamers. And despite the ongoing relaxation of measures, the home streaming wave shows no sign of breaking. Whether it’s repairing washing machines on YouTube, playing Doom on Twitch or just ranting on Facebook Live, there’s abundant diversity in the things people are broadcasting, and tuning into. Setting up a professional recording studio at


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home is an expensive undertaking, but you really don’t need any fancy hardware at all to get started. Many a YouTuber started out using just their laptops. Software-wise, the open source OBS Studio is by far the most popular choice. It provides an intuitive interface that makes it easy to manipulate scenes and add effects during recording. And it can stream to all the most popular platforms (as well as a whole bunch we’d never heard of, and some we could have done without hearing about). We’ll show you how to get the most out of that and start broadcasting to the

world. You can even run it on a Raspberry Pi, and it works great in tandem with the Pi Foundation’s High Quality Camera. But why stop there. Thanks to Owncast, it’s remarkably easy to self-host your streaming. All you need is enough bandwidth to support your audience. With even a modestly fast upload speed you’ll be able to host a few dozen viewers. And if you don’t then take Owncast off-world and run it on a virtual private server. As long as your stream can get from OBS to Owncast smoothly, then the mass transport all takes place in the cloud.

Raspberry Pi streaming

Streaming basics The hardware and infrastructure you’ll need to get your stream live. dam Curtis’s seminal 2002 documentary The Century of the Self highlighted how rampant consumerism in the West, driven by careful marketing, has engendered a society focused on the individual. Curtis’s production was prescient, given that the decade that followed saw the rise of social media, selfies and targeted advertising. And in the past decade we’ve seen this appeal to the ego used to direct not just purchases, but politics too. We offer no salve for this societal narcissism, and as the old saying goes: if you can’t beat em, write a feature all about live video-streaming. Well, maybe our list of old sayings suffered a misprint. And just because we’ll show you how to put a camera and a microphone in front of yourself and broadcast signals to the internet at large, it doesn’t mean we want you to become a product-placing, falsehood-selling influencer type. There are plenty already, and we would rather you didn’t contribute to the further erosion of society. Indeed, you could use this power to foster community values instead, sharing arts and crafts and stories of the old country.


Hardware considerations

Whatever you’re planning to broadcast, you’ll probably need a camera and a microphone. Your laptop’s ensemble will be just fine to get started. If the hardware works elsewhere in Linux then it will work on OBS (Open Broadcasting Software) Studio. This gem of open source software is hugely popular, both on Linux and proprietary OSes. As you get more into this you may want to upgrade hardware. Microphone pops are annoying, and poor lighting makes your skin look bad. For high-quality game streaming you might want a video capture card, if you’re streaming live audio you might want to invest in a mixing desk or better soundcard. If you want to appear

super-imposed on a funky backdrop you’ll need a green screen. Basically, there’s no shortage of directions to invest in this field, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still haven’t covered how this streaming thing works. We looked at OBS Studio back in LXF269 when Nick Peers showed us how to stream our Linux desktops. OBS sends video streams (whether they’re from your desktop, a camera, or the internet) to a streaming platform. This platform (whether it’s YouTube or a server in your basement) sends the stream to viewers, often recompressing it on the fly to accommodate different viewers’ bandwidth situations. So OBS only needs to have sufficient upload bandwith to get the data to the streaming platform, which ought to have more. Streaming platforms often incorporate some kind of interactivity, such as chat windows, so your viewers can express their approval or otherwise through colourful language and emoji. We’ll see later how to set up our own self-hosted streaming server too, sticking it to the tech giants. But for now let’s turn the page and get started with OBS.

Even if you don’t have a camera, you can live-stream your terminal tutorials using just a microphone or a text-tospeech engine.

STREAMING VS RECORDING We’re going to concentrate on “live” livestreaming in this feature, but you might prefer to record your show, do some edits and retakes, then upload it. OBS Studio is just at home recording as it is streaming – you just need to make sure you have enough disk space. At the default bitrate (2,500kbits/sec) an hour of video will occupy just over a gigabyte (plus more for audio). If you’re recording to another machine (say, over your LAN via Samba ) then make sure there’s enough bandwidth for this, especially if you’re streaming and

recording simultaneously. This is mostly a concern for patchy Wi-Fi connections. The OBS setup wizard can optimise for recording from the get-go, which means it’ll drop frames from the stream before it does so for the recording. Once you’ve got your video recorded, the non-linear video editor KDEnlive is great for editing it. You’ll need plenty more space for this though as working with large videos tends to produce lots of temp files, as well as the finished product. You might also want to treat audio separately, using Audacity, for example.

Never let an opaque data collection policy get in the way of a quality audio editor. Audacity is widely available.

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Image credit: thinkstockphotos

IN-DEPTH Behind the VPN veil

If you take your privacy seriously you need to take VPNs seriously. David Rutland goes off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush. inux users are a paranoid bunch and they don’t welcome surveillance in any form – whether it’s Google’s trackers that are strewn across the web, or individual webmasters checking their access logs for IP addresses and then nuking your router with a Low Orbit Ion Cannon when you leave a nasty comment on their wine-tasting blog. A virtual private network disguises your IP address by routing your traffic through a remote network. You can spoof your location and pretend to be in Russia, the US, Jamaica, or wherever your VPN provider keeps its servers – meaning that your dismissal of the Taittinger ‘43 as a drink for geriatric poseurs will go unpunished.


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If you’re serious about privacy, and you don’t want other people knowing what you’re watching and downloading, a consumer VPN might be exactly what you’re looking for to help you cover your tracks. They’re not perfect by any means, but can prove valuable as part of a package of measures to keep your online activities under the radar. You’re probably reading this while seated near to your PC at home. Don’t worry if you’re not – just pretend. Your PC is connected to your router, and through your router, it is connected to the internet. But your PC isn’t the only device in your house and it probably isn’t even the only device within eyeshot of where you’re sitting right now. There’s your phone sitting next to

Behind the VPN veil IN-DEPTH you on the couch; there’s your Roku TV stick; there’s the glossy black games console; there’s an array of printers and scanners. If you’re anything like us, there’s probably a stack of low-cost Raspberry Pis running a farrago of bizarre and specialised tasks. In other rooms there are likely to be other computers, other laptops, other phones belonging to other members of your household, and yet more longforgotten Pis up to their own arcane shenanigans under a coating of warm dust in the attic . They all talk to each other through the router that’s sitting unobtrusively in the corner. Even if the internet dropped out today, they would still be able to talk to each other. You could send files to Jon, up in his bedroom, listen to Kendra’s MP3 collection, stream movies from the NAS in the den. You would be able to do this because all of the devices are on the same network. And because they’re all on the same network they all have the same IP address when connecting to the outside world through your router. It’s a private network, which means that only the machines on it have direct access to it. This author can use the network to view a document on their laptop, and then conjure it into the physical world via the laser printer in the lounge. From your back bedroom in Basingstoke, you can’t use this printer because you’re not on the private network. But you can be invited to join this private network, giving you access to all of the author’s devices and domestic IP address, by creating a virtual private network. With a VPN, an encrypted tunnel is created over the internet, between your machine and one of the machines on the author’s network. For all intents and purposes, you may as well be inside the same building.

Why would you want a VPN?

If you’re not setting up a remote work environment, then you probably want a VPN because you want to disguise your location and identity from the powers that be. Note that we didn’t say ‘because you don’t want to be tracked,’ because we know that our astute readership isn’t actually that naive. Advertising and tracking companies don’t need your IP address to work out who you are. Aside from cookies, there are a variety of tactics to establish either a concrete or inferred link to your real identity, ranging from browser fingerprinting to harvesting the MAC address or IMEI of your hardware. It’s very likely that you’ve already given them explicit permission to do so,

Ignore the ticking countdown clock on NordVPN’s home page. All VPN providers have them. It means nothing and has no effect on price or availability.

and a VPN on its own won’t do squat against that kind of corporate surveillance. Tracking companies have you pinned already, and using a VPN might result in you being shown Albanian adverts, but unless you take some extra precautions then Google and an entire encyclopedia of other tracking companies still know exactly who you are. Fundamentally, there are only ta few legitimate reasons to use a consumer VPN. The first is to access geoblocked content. If you’re an expatriate stuck on a volcanic island on the far side of the world, and you’re feeling homesick for the latest episode of EastEnders, you’ll find that you can’t access the show through iPlayer because it’s restricted to IP addresses in the UK. Your machine will connect to the BBC servers, the BBC server will check the incoming IP address and realise that the request is coming from a beach bar near Phuket – tough luck. No EastEnders for you. By connecting through a VPN server located in the UK, the BBC server will see a UK IP address and you’ll finally be able to find out how Ian Beale’s latest plan to turn The Queen Vic into an anime-themed tattoo parlour is about to be thwarted by Phil Mitchell lodging an objection with the Walford planning committee. We feel obliged to point out at this point that accessing geoblocked content – either from the BBC or some other streaming service – is likely to constitute a breach of the Terms of Service at the very least. We would never suggest that you do it. Aside from malicious wine-bloggers stalking you across the net, the other use case is if you’re planning

There’s a nonzero chance that routers supplied by your ISP won’t support direct connection to a VPN. Some providers supply preconfigured routers that will make setup very easy.

OPTIONS AND PRICING So you’ve decided that you do need a VPN in your life after all. The next thing to think about is whether or not it suits your needs. Sure, everything on the front page of Google will promise (and probably deliver) great speed, easy-touse tools and fantastic support. You also need to consider how many devices are allowed. Can you only get Gardeners’ World on a handful of devices, or does the service permit unlimited

connections? If so, check the T&Cs to find out if unlimited is actually unlimited or mere sales words to fool the unwary. Linux support is a must, and if at all possible, you want a VPN service that keeps its help desk in-house rather than outsourcing to a hack-prone third-party liability. Lastly, if you want a VPN to circumvent geoblocking for a specific country, does the provider have physical servers in that country?

VPN companies will usually offer longterm deals at a much lower rate than their single monthly rate, so if you think you’re going to be using it regularly, it’s possibly worth getting a 12-month (or longer) subscription. If you do decide to go for a single month for a one-off event, make sure that you cancel as soon as possible. We can’t stress enough how important it is for you to read the terms and conditions in full.

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TUTORIALS Control a robot


Building robots in Scratch with GPIO

Take your first motorised step with Les Pounder as he shows you how to use Scratch to build and control a simple robot. obots are very cool and the Raspberry Pi GPIO is the ideal way to control them. We can do this using Scratch. In this tutorial we shall learn the basics of working with the GPIO in Scratch by first controlling an LED before applying the same principle to control the motors of a robot. If you’re unsure as to how to build a robot, we have a short guide in the boxout which may just help. So let’s build a robot! Scratch 3 should come pre-installed on your Raspberry Pi OS image, but just in case it’s missing it can be installed from the main menu, under Preferences>Recommended Software. Scratch 3 is found in the Programming category; place a tick in the box and click Apply to install. Once installed, Scratch 3 can be found in the main menu under Programming. Open Scratch 3 (on first start Scratch may take a little while to open). We’re going to assume that you have an understanding of how to code with Scratch, (if not see LXF180/1, 207, 209, 277/8). Before we write any new code we need to click the blue folder icon in the bottom left of the screen to load the Extensions menu. From there select Raspberry Pi GPIO and a palette of new blocks is added to our code. Our first project will get us familiar with the basics of using the GPIO with Scratch. Our focus moves to the Raspberry Pi itself and our electronics. In a breadboard, insert the LED and make a note of which leg is shorter. In the shorter leg side, connect one leg of the resistor.


OUR EXPERT Les Pounder is associate editor at Tom’s Hardware and a freelance maker for hire. He blogs about his projects and adventures at

YOU NEED Any model of Raspberry Pi (best with 3, 4, 400) The latest Raspberry Pi OS A long HDMI cable A robot chassis (see boxout, facing page) 1 x LED 1 x 220 Ohm resistor (RED RED BROWN GOLD) 2 x Female to Male jumper jerky 4 x Female to Female jumper jerky Breadboard 2 x DC motors with solder wires attached A motor driver board (we used Cytron’s Maker Drive) 4 x AA batteries and battery holder Get the code at archive/refs/heads/ 46     LXF279 Summer 2021

The code to control our robot is relatively simple. We need only a few blocks – many of which are duplicated – to digitally control the motors.

The other leg can be placed in another row of the breadboard. Using two jumper jerky wires, connect the leg of the resistor to any GND pin on the Pi. Connect the other leg of the LED to GPIO17. Please see the highresolution diagram in the download for this issue. Moving back to Scratch and we start the code by dragging When Green Flag is Clicked from Events into the coding area. Next we drag repeat 10 from Control and connect that to the previous block. The remaining blocks will be inserted inside the repeat 10 loop. From Raspberry Pi GPIO drag two Set GPIO 0 to output high and place them in the loop. Change the first to read Set GPIO 17 to output high and the second to Set GPIO 17 to output low . These two blocks will turn the LED connected to GPIO 17 on and off 10 times. But to see the change we need to place a Wait 1 Second from control in between these blocks, and another after turning the LED off. When you’re ready, click the Green Flag above the stage to run the code. The LED should blink 10 times, on for one second, off for another second. This test has confirmed that our GPIO is working with Scratch 3, and that we understand the principles of turning a GPIO pin on and off. This is digital IO control and is the most basic electronic concept.

Controlling motors

Robotics is a great way to learn coding. However, the one problem is that the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO can’t directly control a motor because it requires more power than a GPIO pin can safely provide. We instead control a

TUTORIALS Pi photography


Take better photos with your Raspberry Pi hen Raspberry Pi launched its HQ Camera in 2020 (see reviews LXF264), it introduced something very different from their previous two cameras. While the other two camera modules are made up of a sensor and its interfacing electronics together with a lens, the HQ Camera doesn’t have an integral lens. This means that you need to buy one or more lenses separately, and Raspberry Pi offers a couple of alternatives that we look at here. In that way, it’s similar to digital SLRs (D-SLRs) cameras, but different from the cameras in phones or compact standalone cameras. Our aim here is to introduce the HQ Camera for those who haven’t yet taken the plunge, and to follow this up by investigating how to use some of its lessfamiliar features, and at how to choose lenses as alternatives to those provided by Raspberry Pi. Armed with this information, we trust that many of you will decide to try your hand with the HQ Camera, and that it


OUR EXPERT Mike Bedford has embraced all that digital photo techniques bring, but does like to play with manual controls, so the HQ Camera is surely a winner.

FOCAL LENGTH EXPLAINED The focal length is proportional to the magnification provided by the lens and is inversely proportional to its field of view. However, direct comparisons can’t be made between different lenses if they’re used in conjunction with differently sized sensors. For that reason, a 35mm equivalent focal length is commonly quoted because it’s familiar to photographers and provides an easy way of making comparisons. The 35mm equivalent focal length is calculated by multiplying the focal length by something called the crop factor, which depends on the sensor size. For the HQ Camera this about 5.5. This means that the 35mm equivalent focal lengths of the 6mm and 16mm lenses are 36mm and 88mm, respectively. A lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 50mm is considered to be a “standard lens”, which means that it has roughly the same field of view as the human visual system, so the 6mm lens is a slightly wide angle lens, and the 16mm lens is slightly telephoto. Beyond these two official lenses, some Raspberry Pi dealers offer other lenses – for example the £36 8-50mm f/1.4 zoom lens from the Pi Hut or the £15 2.8-12mm f/1.4 zoom lens from Pimoroni – but knowing that the crop factor of the HQ Camera is 5.5, and bearing in mind that there are lots of C or CS mount lenses available, you should be able to choose other lenses that will meet your needs.

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Unlike RPi’s previous cameras, the HQ Camera doesn’t have an integral lens, although compatible lenses are available from several sources.

will form the basis of some fascinating new projects. Indeed, we already have some plans to present some exciting things you can do with it in the coming months. The new sensor has a higher resolution – specifically 12MP, which compares to 5MP for the original camera module and 8MP for the v2. But although that megapixel figure is the one that most users concentrate on, the size of the sensor is also significant because the larger the sensor, the more light it gathers, and this also improves the image quality. So we should point out that while the original and v2 camera modules both had 1/4inch sensors, the HQ Camera has a 1/2.3-inch sensor. These figures don’t relate directly to the sensors’ width, height or diagonal, but the area of the sensor in the HQ Camera is about three times greater than that of the earlier RPi cameras. For reference, consumer D-SLRs have sensor that has a 12-times larger area again, and that increases by a factor of another 2.3 in professional full-frame D-SLRs. The HQ Camera supports lenses with C or CS mounts, which are standards commonly used in CCTV cameras. While these are widely available – although not always affordable – Raspberry Pi has picked a couple of third-party lenses that are the “official” offerings. One has a focal length of 6mm and the other 16mm – see the boxout (left) for more details.

Manual controls

All cameras except the most basic point-and-shoot models offer a degree of manual control over focusing, shutter speed and aperture. The HQ Camera’s lenses,

CREDIT: Raspberry Pi Foundation

Mike Bedford explains how to get the most from the Raspberry Pi HQ Camera and learn the basic principles of photography at the same time.



Design breadboards, circuits and PCBs Designing a circuit to interface to a Raspberry Pi or Arduino? Then grab a copy of the open source Fritzing package. Mike Bedford is your guide. uilding an electronic circuit – perhaps for interfacing external devices to a single board computer like a Raspberry Pi or Arduino – is commonly carried out on a breadboard. This might be as far as you need to go, but if you’re building the circuit as part of a practical project, then breadboarding is just the start. It really needs to be rebuilt in some other form for use in a real-world project. Alternative methods of electronic construction involve either using a stripboard if you’re only going to build a single circuit, or a printed circuit board (PCB) if you either need to build several or if you want to publish your design for others to build. Fritzing is an electronic CAD package that was designed for electronics enthusiasts and the maker community. It provides three different views of a circuit – breadboard or stripboard design, the schematic, and the PCB layout – and enables you to switch between them. What’s more, making changes in one view results in those changes also being reflected in the other views.


OUR EXPERT Mike Bedford had previously heard for Fritzing but, until recently, hadn’t delved into it. However, he assures us he’ll most definitely be using it a lot more in the future.

Mostly free

Fritzing is unusual in that, even though it’s open source, the executable code can no longer be downloaded freely from the Fritzing website ( Instead, you can only download it (for Windows, Mac or Linux) if you support the project by making a contribution of at least 8 Euro. If this goes against the grain, you can compile the source code yourself from Github or, if you don’t feel confident to do that, you might find it in your repository. We were able to install it from the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS repository, but only a beta version.

Fritzing ships with a library of components, but if your design uses one that isn’t included, you can add your own component definition to the library.

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With a breadboard layout defined, you can move on to document your design as a schematic or, alternatively, you can start by defining a circuit in the Schematic View.

It seems that the most common way in which Fritzing is used – and the intention of its designers at the University of Applied Sciences in Postdam, Germany – is to enter the circuit as an arrangement of components on a previously built and proven breadboard design, and then convert it to a schematic and/or a PCB design. While this is the established method that’s been adopted by the maker community, it’s not the way professional electronics engineers work; starting with a schematic diagram, move on to testing it, modify the schematic after prototyping, and finally generate a PCB design. Both methods are supported by Fritzing, but it’s useful to take a look at the pros and cons of each approach. For designing simple circuits, starting out with a breadboard design is perfectly workable and, if this is what you’re used to, and you still find it relatively easy to work in this way, then there’s no need to change course yet. However, as your aspirations grow and you find yourself designing ever more complicated circuits, sooner or later you’ll find that starting out by patching up components on a breadboard isn’t easy. This is because the layout of a physical circuit – whether that’s on a breadboard, stripboard or PCB – doesn’t necessarily follow the logical flow of signals. A schematic, on the other hand, so long as it’s been well planned out, is able to do exactly that. And so,

IN-DEPTH Rescue and repair

On the DVD

pair Get your Ree u c s e &R Toolkit on the DVD!

RESCUE & REPAIR Fixit-bot Jonni Bidwell reveals how rescue distros can quickly diagnose and cure diverse Linux problems. inux has a reputation for reliability. People band around phrases like ‘rock-solid stability’, ‘outstanding resilience’ and sometimes even ‘unbreakable’, but often people’s experience of Linux runs entirely counter to this. Whether it’s your first install or your latest orchestrated update to your compute cluster, sometimes Linux just falls over. There can be lots of reasons for this (hardware failure, user failure, competing operating systems, buggy BIOSes, cosmic rays) and sometimes it seems like the only resolution is a complete reinstall. This is never a satisfactory solution. Partly because you might never find out what was wrong (and it might still be wrong), but mostly because it takes time and effort – and who has time or effort nowadays? Our DVD this month has a delightful selection of rescue


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distros, and if the worst should happen to your box then they’ll help you get it up and running again. Dual-booting with Windows is a common cause for consternation. That’s why we always recommend to keep it on a separate drive (or not install it all). There are plenty of reports of Windows updates kindly removing Linux bootloaders from people’s systems. This is easy to fix, as we’ll see (SystemRescue can do it in a jiffy) but to the untrained eye it appears as though one’s Linux install (and all the data on it) has entirely vanished. There are also enough reports of said Windows updates corrupting Linux volumes to make us wary. We recommend unplugging such drives while the Redmond OS does its thing, but if this advice comes to you too late, then hopefully this feature and our Rescue Toolkit can be your saviour.

TUTORIALS Image viewer

NOMACS Credit:

Get a better image viewer and editor Nick Peers goes hunting for a top-class image viewer – and is pleasantly surprised by what he finds. re you looking for a good tool to view – and perhaps edit – your images easily? While Shotwell might seem like an obvious choice, it’s more geared towards building a library of images rather than acting as a quick-and-easy image viewer. What you need is nomacs. The tool bills itself as an “image viewer”, but that does it a major disservice. It’s an excellent choice for viewing single files, or the contents of folders, supporting a wide range of image formats (including Photoshop PSD and RAW image files from digital cameras), but it does so much more. You can edit a photo’s metadata for example, and correct problems with photos courtesy of nomacs’ Adjustments menu. It even throws in a few clever effects, including photo


OUR EXPERT Nick Peers is trying not to think about the hundreds of superfluous photos he’s built up over time.




4 6 File Explorer Browse your drive for photos to view – either select one to view it or click a folder for a thumbnail preview.


Thumbnails Displays a list of thumbnails for all files in the currently selected folder. Click one to open that image.


Overview This panel makes it easy to set a magnification level (use the slider or type a figure), plus pan around the photo.


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Notes This translucent panel displays any text that’s stored in the ‘Exif.Image. ImageDescription’ tag in the image file, and can be used to edit the text.


Metadata info Displays all the metadata associated with your image. Double-click an entry to edit it.


Edit History Any changes you make to the current image are shown here – click one to undo all subsequent changes.


$ flatpak install flathub org.nomacs.ImageLounge

Press Y twice when prompted and wait for nomacs to install all its required dependencies. Once complete, nomacs can be launched via the Gnome launcher. On your first run you’ll be prompted to select a language – only English is available, so simply click OK to find yourself at the main nomacs screen.

Tool with a view



mosaic and tiny planet tools. All in all, it’s an excellent tool to add to your image-editing arsenal. As always, nomacs is available through Ubuntu’s universal repos (and therefore the Software Centre), but you’re tied to an older version. For example, Ubuntu 20.04 users would be stuck with version 3.12. A better bet is to install it through flathub – assuming you have flatpak installed, simply issue the following command:

You can view a single image or load in a folder full of images, which can be displayed as a slideshow or viewed one at a time with the help of an optional Thumbnails panel. But that’s not all: nomacs can also load the images inside a compressed folder, and display all the images inside a Microsoft Office document (such as embedded graphics in Word or PowerPoint) too. To select your first image or folder, open the File menu and choose Open for a single file (including compressed and Office files), or Open Directory to load the contents of an entire folder. When you open a single file, it’ll be displayed within the nomacs window. If you open a folder then a new view – Thumbnail Preview – is opened, displaying the images as a series of cropped square previews. The view is rather basic and not very helpful, but one of nomacs’ strengths is its customisability. More on that shortly. For now, double-click an image to open it and then use the arrow keys (left and right) to cycle through the photos in the folder. The same technique applies when viewing the images in a compressed or Office file. When opening these, the first image in the list is displayed, and you can cycle through them using the arrow keys. This can quickly become tiresome, so it’s time to start tailoring the nomacs user interface using its customisable panels. Start by pressing the T button, which adds a panel of thumbnail images from the currently selected folder. By




ISSUE 278 August 2021

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In the magazine Want a faster, better server? We show you how to set up some of the best server distros around. We also cover desktop virtualisation, running a mobile second screen, emulating the Altair 8800, multitasking in Python and web-app security.

In the magazine Discover what’s new in the latest version of Ubuntu, grab a slice of network-attached storage, code a game in Scratch, emulate the Dragon 32 and set up your own streaming server with Jellyfin, Plus we look back at Prestel, the pre-internet data service!

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In the magazine Ramp up the security of your Linux system and turn it into a fortress. Have fun with a Raspberry Pi Pico, explore the best window managers, code a Space Invaders-style game in Python, emulate 486 PCs, set up a back-up system and more!

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TUTORIALS Acorn Electron


Les Pounder takes us back to a time when bedroom coders ruled the world and playground battles were fought for your micro. he BBC Micro, made by Acorn Computers, may have been its most famous machine, but for most 1980s home users the price tag was just a little too high. A budget alternative was needed to compete against the Spectrum. In August 1983 the Acorn Electron was introduced to the world, with 32KB of RAM and a Synertek SY6502A CPU clocked at 2MHz, specifications similar to the BBC Micro Model B. The Acorn Electron was a successful machine, selling around 200,000 units over its lifetime, but it never really put up much of a challenge. But to many devoted fans the Acorn Electron was their route into computing. The BBC Micro dominated the 1980s education, semi-professional and hobby markets. This author remembers being introduced to the “Beeb” by their father’s friend who was an electronics engineer. But the price of the BBC Micro meant that they had to “make do” with a Commodore 64 instead. The Acorn Electron was unofficially announced in 1982, by Acorn co-founder Hermann Hauser responding to a question in an issue of Popular Computing Weekly. The question asked was if the ZX Spectrum was hurting sales of the BBC Micro. Hauser’s response was that the company was already working on a new machine, saying that, “Later this year Acorn will release a new computer, priced under £200 that will compete and outperform our competition.” The idea of the Acorn Electron came from Chris


OUR EXPERT Les Pounder is associate editor at Tom’s Hardware and a freelance maker. He blogs about hacks and makes at

BBC MicroBot is an awesome resource of knowledge and inspiration for BBC BASIC projects, and writing BASIC via a tweet is a worthy challenge.

The Acorn Electron may have been Acorn’s attempt to fight back against Sinclair, but to many people it’s where they cut their teeth in programming.

Curry, who saw that Acorn was missing out on the gaming market, which was dominated by Sinclair and Commodore. The Acorn Electron saw Acorn reduce the number of chips used inside the machine, from 102 to just a dozen. An example being the single chip that powered the audio, video and IO ports. The Electron is also missing Mode 7 graphics, a high-resolution mode for text that was used with CEEFAX to transmit live data from the BBC. Ultimately the smaller chip count meant a smaller mainboard, which reduced its costs and the size of the machine. This also meant that the Acorn Electron was missing many of the expansion features present on the BBC Micro. There was no Econet networking, expansion slots, RS423, analogue, printer and user port. Extra features could be added, but you had to pay a little extra for the Plus 3 add-on that introduced a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive. Emulator options for the humble Acorn Electron are limited. We searched for a few and the top search was Elkulator (, which seemed to meet our needs, but then a chance encounter with a Snap package lead us to Clock-Signal, which was easy to install and covered more than just the “Elk”. To install Clock-Signal, you’ll need to have Snap packages enabled. This is done by default in Ubuntu 16.0 and onwards, but if not already enabled there’s a great guide to follow at installing-snap-on-ubuntu, which will get you up and running. Open a terminal and run the following command to install Clock-Signal: $ sudo snap install cl

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CREDIT: Bilby, CC-BY 3.0, https://commons.

How to emulate an Acorn Electron

TUTORIALS Static document site


Build a cloud-based documentation site Jamie Munro shows you how to set up GitHub, Docusaurus and Netlify to generate a professional-looking static documentation site. ocusaurus is an open source documentation application developed by Facebook. It’s one of a growing number of JAMstack static site generators that uses a blend of JavaScript, React and markdown to make it easy for you to deploy clean, professional-looking documentation sites that are easy to maintain. A Docusaurus site can be managed as a git repository, meaning that version control is baked in and, perhaps most importantly, your developers can use their tool of choice to directly edit the content in markdown files, or even edit the files directly on GitHub. Although Docusaurus v2 is technically still in beta, they recommend using it, even in production. The objective of this tutorial is to deploy a customised documentation site to the cloud using GitHub and a free Netlify account. Netlify, GitHub and Docusaurus are all powerful tools with many different features that we couldn’t possibly hope to cover in a single tutorial, so we’ll only be touching on the bare essentials to get a site configured and deployed. Docusaurus is (perhaps unsurprisingly for a documentation platform) well documented and there are a number of good ‘getting started with GitHub’ guides available online.


OUR EXPERT Jamie Munro maintains the documentation for healthecco. org, an open source project that uses NLP and graph technologies to bring the world’s health knowledge to researchers and medical decision makers.


Docusaurus requires node.js version 12.13 or greater. If you’re using Ubuntu then be aware that the official repository is several versions behind on version 10.19. We recommend grabbing a binary from NodeSource – We tested both the LTS (14) and current node.js (16) binaries on Ubuntu 20.04.2. To install Node.js version 16 on Debian/Ubuntubased systems, open a new terminal window and type: The GitHub repository we created during the making of this tutorial is available for reference at https://github. com/Jiros/ docusaurus.

$ curl -fsSL | sudo -E bash $ sudo apt-get install -y nodejs

You can confirm node.js is installed by checking the version at the command line: $ node -v

Because our ultimate goal is to use GitHub to manage and deploy our Docusaurus instance we’ll create a new, empty repository on GitHub, clone it locally and then install Docusaurus. To do this you’ll need

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A view of the final site we will build. Taming a Docusarus is as easy as one, two, three.

to log in (or sign up) to You can create a repository under the Repositories tab by clicking New and entering a name for the repository. This can be anything and will appear as the directory name once you’ve cloned the repository to your local PC. From 13 August 2021 GitHub no longer enables you to authenticate from the terminal using your account password. Instead you’ll need to generate a ‘Personal Access Token’ and set a scope that defines what the token is allowed to do in your repositories. Make a note of your token as you won’t be able to see it once you browse away from the tokens page. This provides more security for your repository. After logging in to GitHub go to to create a new token. For our purposes the token only needs to have access to the options listed under ‘repo’. Whenever you’re prompted for your password in the terminal you can use your personal access token. Browse to your new, empty repository where GitHub will display some helpful Quick Setup information including the link you’ll need to clone your repository. If you want to store your credentials so you don’t need to re-enter them each time, issue a git command. You can include them in the initial command to clone the repository, which will store them in the config file in a hidden .git directory on your local machine. Back in a terminal window switch to, or create a directory where you’ll keep the local copy of your repository and type the following command, replacing <USERNAME> with your GitHub username, <PASSWORD> with your Personal Access Token and



Alexander Tolstoy is constantly refining his collection of the best open source software on the planet!

Inkscape Maestrial Cinnamon Qmplay2 GitQlient Gifski FreeTube Open Surge Quantum Game 2 YOGA Cpufetch VECTOR IMAGE EDITOR

Inkscape Version: 1.1 Web: here’s only one vector editor for Linux that can compete with commercial packages such as Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator. Indeed, Inkscape is one of the jewels in the crown of open source software. The program is packed with a rich set of features, and it’s become a versatile application for many creative activities including digital art, illustration, icon design, business graphics, plans and more. It can also be used for graphic design, such as creating a poster or brochure. Inkscape often comes top when pitted (see Roundup LXF248) against other vector-editing solutions for Linux, including Karbon (part of KDE’s Calligra Suite) and LibreOffice Draw. Now we have a fresh version that’s packed with new features. The appearance of Inkscape 1.1 back in May may have seemed like a minor dot release, but it’s actually a major milestone version. What you’ll quickly notice at the first launch of Inkscape 1.1 is the brand new welcome screen that enables you to perform some quick setup actions. There are five empty canvas presets available, with different colour schemes and transparency representations, lots of keyboard shortcuts presets, and also several icon themes for Inkscape’s tool bars. The welcome dialog has also a separate tab for New Document presets, which we think will come in handy for new Inkscape users. Not much has changed visually in the application itself, but you’ll probably notice that various Inkscape dialogs, such as Text Formatting, Align & Distribute, Layers and Object Properties, are now docked as detachable tabs. It’s now much easier to rearrange those tabs and even stack them along the left-hand side of the window, which was previously not possible. The Export dialog is now easier to use because it no longer displays an extra confirmation window. It’s another dockable dialog, and so all you need to do is to bring it up and press the Export button once, and that’s it. Don’t forget to try out the new Extension manager to get hold of even more cool Inkscape add-ons!


Set up your new Inkscape instance with the help of this new welcome dialog.






Welcome screen The beautifully designed wizard will help you quickly set up your new Inkscape document, change its dimensions, appearance and so on.


Main tool bar Use this feature-packed left-hand panel to create new shapes, draw lines and curves, select colours and work with the nodes of your vector objects.



Placement and size Never align objects approximately.

Instead, use precise figures to move them. The same applies to sizes and dimensions. Dockable panels Inkscape has a wealth of extra features, panels and tool properties that you can make use of. Everything can be neatly docked along either the right- or left-hand side of the window.


Advanced path tools Merge, intersect or divide sets of vector objects, edit their anchors or regular nodes and revel in the freedom of vector drawing!


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Part One!

Don’t miss next issue, subscribe on page 16!


Build a static analysis development pipeline Discover how to build securer web apps in Tim Armstrong’s new series, who starts with the essentials of Static Analysis and CI/CD. s a developer or software engineer, having enough time to work on cleaning up technical debt and fixing vulnerabilities is difficult. It generally requires that your project manager understands the risks and why prioritising the clean-up of technical debt is important. Thereby ensuring that your workplace isn’t the next company to be lambasted in the media for being the target of a cyberattack (or worse, leaking PII client data in a massive security breach). Project managers as a whole have a hard time comparing the risks of an attack to the benefits of a new feature. The feature is quantifiable, while the risk of getting hacked is not (especially if you don’t have the tooling to realise that you’ve been attacked). This tutorial covers how you can integrate static analysis into your source-code management to identify, quantify, and prevent vulnerabilities in your code while improving general code readability and maintainability. This will enable project managers to obtain insights into any extant vulnerabilities or technical debt in the code, while simultaneously helping developers and engineers write better code. We’ll be focusing on Python, but there are alternatives to any tooling used for every language. The tutorial will also be using GitLab as the source-code host and CI/CD solution. This is to make things approachable without the cost or complexity of closed source platforms. Because this tutorial isn’t about GitLab’s built-in oneclick solutions (although these can be a good place to start if you don’t have time to set up your own pipeline) the final result of this tutorial is a functional static analysis stage for a CI/CD pipeline along with an understanding of what you can gain from building this into your workflow.


OUR EXPERT Tim Armstrong is a former lead engineer turned developer advocate specialising in networking, software development and security. Find him on Twitter as @omatachyru.

When working on a larger change, running the static analysis tools locally before committing can save a lot of time. If you make big changes frequently, consider adding them to your pre-commit.

Linting hell

The first stage of any good pipeline is linting. This is a form of static analysis that dates back to the 70s, and is one of the most useful and versatile methods to identify and prevent bugs in code from reaching production. Lint derives its name from the fluff that forms pill-shaped “bugs” on clothing. It should come as no surprise then

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Using Black to format your code is easy, while building it into your precommit ensures you don’t forget.

that the goal of linting is to find bugs (speaks for itself), stylistic errors (clean code is easier to spot flaws in during peer reviews), and potentially vulnerable constructs (vulnerable to code injections). So a quick search on essentially any search engine for ‘python linter’ will bring up a handful of articles and multiple links to pylint, so you’d be forgiven that there isn’t really much happening in this space. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth; other projects just don’t seem to be very good at SEO. The python linting space is well represented with everything from PEP compliance to McCabe Cyclomatic Complexity scanners (a fancy name for a tool that counts how many branches there are through a function). To make life simpler, a group of developers has built a fantastic tool called Prospector that wraps a curated list of some of the best python linters and scrapes the output of each tool into a common format. Before we get started our pipeline let’s give Prospector a try locally. As it’s on PyPi this is as easy as pip install prospector[with_everything]==1.3.1

( pip3 if you’re running dual-stack Python 2.x & 3.x). In the directory of any python project run prospector ./

This will bring up a few findings that should be fairly simple to fix in the code.

Constant craving

GitLab’s integrated CI/CD solution is easy to use, free for most small- and mid-projects, and incredibly powerful. It’s also convenient because it’s got most of

CODING ACADEMY Data manipulation

PANDAS Credit:

Manipulate data like a pro with Pandas

Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable as Mihalis Tsoukalos explains how to use Pandas for storing and manipulating tabular data. andas is a Python library that gives you a rich set of tools to carry out data analysis. It’s no exaggeration to say that if you’re going to work with Machine Learning and Data Analysis in Python, then you need to learn how to use Pandas, which excels at data conversions, selections and manipulations using simple to understand code. The core elements of Pandas are the DataFrame and Series structures, which are used for data storage because without data you have nothing to process, explore or work with. The Series structure is a onedimensional labelled array that can hold any kind of data, whereas the DataFrame structure is a twodimensional and size-mutable data structure. Before we see these two data structures in action, we need to learn how to install Pandas.


OUR EXPERT Mihalis Tsoukalos is a systems engineer and a technical writer. He’s also the author of Go Systems Programming and Mastering Go, 2nd edition.

Anaconda creates a controlled environment that enables you to define the version of Python as well as the versions of the packages you want to use. It’s available as an Individual Edition for solo user, students and researchers.

Installing Pandas

Although you can install Pandas on its own, the recommended way is under the Anaconda environment. Installing Anaconda ( on an Arch Linux system is as simple as running the pacman -S anaconda command with root privileges – use your favourite package manager for installing Anaconda on your own Linux system. You can operate Anaconda using the conda command line utility once Anaconda is activated. You can activate Anaconda on Arch Linux by running source /opt/anaconda/bin/activate root . After that, your Linux shell prompt will most likely change to inform you about the active Anaconda environment. Once Anaconda is installed, you should have Pandas, NumPy, SciPy and Matplotlib installed as well (if not, install them using the conda utility). You can make sure that Pandas is installed by running $ conda list pandas # packages in environment at /home/mtsouk/.conda/ envs/LXFormat: # # Name Version Build Channel pandas 1.2.3 pypi_0 pypi

Should you wish to see the complete list of installed packages, run conda list instead. If you don’t want to install Anaconda, you can install Pandas using pip – in that case you should execute pip install pandas with root privileges and run pip show

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This screenshot shows how to load data from a disk file and learn more about it using the read_csv(), head(), describe() and info() Pandas functions in the Jupyter GUI.

pandas to learn more about the current Pandas installation. You should also do the same for installing NumPy, SciPy and Matplotlib. The following interaction with the Python shell makes sure that Pandas is working: >>> import pandas as pd; >>> print(pd.__version__); 1.2.3

The previous output verifies that Pandas is accessible and that we’re using Pandas version 1.2.3. If the Pandas library can’t be found, we’re going to receive an error message similar to ModuleNotFoundError: No module named ‘pandas' . For reasons of simplicity, from now on this tutorial will be using Anaconda for running Python and all presented libraries.

Data Frames

Let’s kick off with manipulating two-dimensional data. The data file that’s going to be used is related to Linux Format and has the following columns: issue (id), number of pages (pages), number of tutorials (tutorials), year of publication (year), month as a string value (month) and a column with a random integer number from 1 to 200 (value), to have some extra information in the data file. The following interaction with the Python shell shows how to read a CSV data file (lxf.csv) that contains data in the aforementioned format and load its contents into a data frame named df:

On the disc


Get code and DVD images at: /archives

Discover the highlights from this month’s packed DVD!


Using Linux for the first time can be very confusing. It’ll most likely be unlike anything that you’ve operated before, especially if you’re used to Microsoft Windows or Apple macOS. Generally our DVDs are designed to be run directly, which is to say that when you first power on your PC (or Mac, see below) it should ‘boot’ from the DVD – so before Windows or macOS even starts to load – with Linux running directly from the DVD. This trick is known as a Live Disc. It enables you to try out the various versions of Linux without having to install or change anything on your PC. Just remove the DVD, restart your PC and it’ll be exactly as you left it. While many systems will boot from a DVD when it finds one, many will not. See below for the standard process for enabling booting from a DVD on various desktops and laptop PCs. The alternative option is to locate the ISO file on the DVD and write this to your own USB thumb drive and attempt to run that. We recommend using Etcher from that’s available for Windows, macOS and Linux. Good luck!


Zorin OS Lite es, we know. Zorin OS 16 will probably be out by the time you’re reading this. Rest assured that it wasn’t at the time we compiled this month’s DVD, and we didn’t really feel comfortable putting the beta version on the disc. Anyway, going with this edition enables us to serve up a rare treat to users of 32-bit machinery – machines that can’t run all the glorious distros based on Ubuntu 20.04 and later. Zorin OS 15 is based on Ubuntu 18.04, so is supported until 2023. We haven’t featured Zorin OS for some time, but it’s a fine distro that’s well worth checking out. It bills itself as something that will “make your computer faster, more powerful, secure and privacy-respecting”. The premium Ultimate edition, along with the free Zorin Core (for 64-bit machines only) are fairly unique in that with a couple of clicks you can make it look like Windows or macOS, ideal for new users who might otherwise be baffled by the idiosyncrasies of Gnome Shell. That functionality isn’t in Zorin Lite, but don’t let that put you off. Zorin Lite’s



Many PCs should boot automatically if they’re turned on with a disc in the drive. If not, many offer an early Boot Menu accessed by tapping a key while powering up from cold: F9 (HP), F12 (Dell, Lenovo), F8 (Amibios) or F11 (Award BIOS). Alternatively, use the BIOS/UEFI to adjust the boot order to start with the optical drive. Again, this is accessed by tapping a key during power up, usually Del but sometimes F1 or F2. Some new UEFI PCs require access via Windows: holding Shift select its Restart option. If you’re still having problems using the DVD then visit www.linuxformat. com/dvdsupport Mac owners: Hold the C key while powering on your system to boot from the disc.

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32-bit default theme offers a slick, cool blue take on the traditional metaphor. Zorin Lite uses the Xfce desktop, which enables it to run (albeit not very smoothly) on the kind of hardware you see in the minimum specs box. And it’s easy to customise. There’s a panel dedicated to tweaking the window manager and it’s straightforward to set up desktop wallpaper cycling. Zorin also includes its own rescue tool, so if the worst should happen you might not even need the bumper pack of rescue distros we’ve squeezed in alongside it. If you’re unlucky, you might see a fatal error at the end of the installation saying the bootloader failed to install. This happens sometimes with BIOS machines and on the 64-bit VM we tested it on. If you’re feeling brave, you can install Grub on the fly. But please don’t use this method blindly – you could easily make the situation worse. A safer method is to re-install by writing out the ISO file on the disc as described for Clonezilla (opposite). Choose to continue with the live environment post-install, fire up a terminal and do the following (replacing /dev/sdX and /dev/sdXY with the target drive and partition, for example /dev/sda and /dev/sda1): $ sudo mount /dev/sdXY /mnt $ sudo grub-install /dev/sdX --boot-directory=/mnt/boot $ cd mnt/ $ for i in dev proc sys; do sudo mount -o bind /$i $i/; done $ sudo chroot . $ grub-update $ exit

Zorin enables you to easily tweak compositing settings so you can have ghostly, ethereal-looking windows. Is it Halloween already?

Now you should have a Zorin-themed bootloader.


DEFECTIVE DISCS: For basic help on running the disc or in the unlikely event of your Linux Format coverdisc being in any way defective, please visit our support site at Unfortunately, we’re unable to offer advice on using the applications, your hardware or the operating system itself.




Clonezilla o, it’s not a mistake. Clonezilla is actually on the DVD, it just doesn’t appear on the boot menu because we couldn’t figure out how to make it boot. But that’s okay, because it’ll take you no time at all to write the ISO file (which you’ll find in the Clonezilla/ folder on the disc) to a USB stick using either Balena Etcher ( or any of the other methods listed on our DVD support pages. Oh, and on the subject of things that aren’t mistakes, SystemRescue and Rescuezilla are on the disc too – you can read about them in our Rescue and Recover feature back on page 56. And we can fill this page extolling the virtues of Clonezilla. Don’t worry, it’s not a monster with a penchant for tearing down power lines, rather it’s an incredibly useful tool for cloning, backing up and restoring partitions. If you’ve ever tried to move a Windows or macOS install from one drive to another, you’ll know it’s very easy to get it wrong. Proprietary OSes and their bootloaders have all kinds of expectations about where to find their partitions and don’t take to third-party tools rejiggling things. Even moving partitions on pure-Linux machines can be non-trivial, but at least there it’s often straightforward to repair, at least if you comfortable with the likes of our remedial Grub instructions on the previous pages.

32- & 64-bit

dvanced Bash A Scripting Guide Go further with shell scripting. ash Guide for Beginners B Get to grips with the basics of Bash scripting.


ourne Shell Scripting B First steps in shell scripting. he Cathedral and T the Bazaar Eric S. Raymond’s classic text explains the advantages of open development. Clonezilla is a text-based affair, so check out some fancy graphical offerings in our repair and restore feature.

It’s a problem that should be solved with UEFI, but somewhat ironically ends up being compounded by it. For example, if you’re not keeping the old drive you’ll need to prepare a new EFI partition on the new one, and then teach it about the new disk layout. Hardware manufacturers’ poor implementations of UEFI can lead to their own problems, sometimes superficial like rearranging your boot menu, and sometimes serious like none of the boot menu entries working. Anyway, don’t worry. Whatever your partition-related quest, Clonezilla can in all likelihood help with it. You’ll find case-by-case usage instructions at But to just have a nosey at the program, choose Clonezilla live from the boot menu (or use the copy to ram option if you have more than about 1GB of memory), select your language and keyboard and choose Start Clonezilla. Despite its humble interface it can connect to Amazon S3 storage, or even use BitTorrent to serve images. And if you are planning massive-scale cloning operations, Clonezilla can even run in a server mode and orchestrate the whole thing. Simply glorious!

he Debian Book T Essential guide for sysadmins. ive Into Python D Everything you need to know. I ntroduction to Linux A handy guide full of pointers for new Linux users. inux Dictionary L The A-Z of everything to do with Linux. inux Kernel in a Nutshell L An introduction to the kernel written by master hacker Greg Kroah-Hartman. he Linux System T Administrator’s Guide Take control of your system. ools Summary T Overview of GNU tools. NU Emacs Manual G Six hundred pages of essential information! roducing Open P Source Software Everything you need to know. rogramming from P the Ground Up Take your first steps.

All these options will surely come in handy, especially if you’re trying to read from a device with unreadable sectors.


Never used a Linux before? Here are some handy resources: Read our quick-install guide Looking for an answer? Want to delve more deeply?

Summer 2021 LXF278     97




will be on sale Tuesday 24 August 2021

The #1 open source mag Future Publishing Limited, Quay House, The Ambury, Bath, BA1 1UA Email EDITORIAL Editor Neil Mohr Late-night stream editor Jonni Bidwell Art editor Efrain Hernandez-Mendoza Operations editor Cliff Hope Group editor in chief Graham Barlow Senior art editor Jo Gulliver Editorial contributors Tim Armstrong, Mike Bedford, Neil Bothwick, Stuart Burns, Matthew Hanson, Kseniya Fedoruk, Jon Masters, Jamie Munro, Nick Peers, Les Pounder, Michael Reed, David Rutland, Mayank Sharma, Shashank Sharma, Mihalis Tsoukalous, Alexander Tolstoy Cover illustration Raspberry Pi is a trademark of the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Tux credit: Larry Ewing ( and The GIMP.

ADVERTISING Commercial sales director Clare Dove Senior advertising manager Lara Jaggon Head of commercial – Technology Dave Randall Account director Andrew Tilbury



We celebrate three decades of open source development going from kernel zero to hero.

Classic distro hopping

Emulating old PCs is fun and enables us to explore those classic distros of old. We travel back in time to the days of the floppy!

Terminal browsers

We couldn’t think of anything more appropriate than testing web browsers that you can run in your terminal.

Design documents in Scribus

Get to grips with one of the longer-running creative open source projects and put together professional-looking pamphlets.

INTERNATIONAL LICENSING Linux Format is available for licensing and syndication. To find our more contact us at or view our content at Head of Print Licensing Rachel Shaw NEW SUBSCRIPTIONS & BACK ISSUES Web UK 0330 333 1113 World +44 (0) 330 333 1113 EXISTING SUBSCRIPTIONS Web UK 0330 333 4333 World +44 (0) 330 333 4333 CIRCULATION Head of newstrade Tim Mathers PRODUCTION AND DISTRIBUTION Head of production UK & US Mark Constance Production project manager Clare Scott Senior ad production manager Jo Crosby Digital editions controller Jason Hudson THE MANAGEMENT Chief audience and ecommerce officer Aaron Asadi MD, tech specialist Keith Walker Head of art & design Rodney Dive Commercial finance director Dan Jotcham Printed by Wyndeham Peterborough, Storey’s Bar Road, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 5YS Distributed by Marketforce, 5 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5HU Tel: 0203 787 9001 Linux® is the registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in the U.S. and other countries. GNU/Linux is abbreviated to Linux throughout for brevity. Where applicable code printed in this magazine is licensed under the GNU GPL v2 or later. See www.gnu. org/copyleft/gpl.html. All copyrights and trademarks are recognised and respected. Disclaimer All contents © 2021 Future Publishing Limited or published under licence. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any way without the prior written permission of the publisher. Future Publishing Limited (company number 2008885) is registered in England and Wales. Registered office: Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA. All information contained in this publication is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Future cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. You are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/ services referred to in this publication. Apps and websites mentioned in this publication are not under our control. We are not responsible for their contents or any other changes or updates to them. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to us, you warrant that you own the material and/or have the necessary rights/permissions to supply the material and you automatically grant Future and its licensees a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in any/all issues and/or editions of publications, in any format published worldwide and on associated websites, social media channels and associated products. Any material you submit is sent at your own risk and, although every care is taken, neither Future nor its employees, agents, subcontractors or licensees shall be liable for loss or damage. We assume all unsolicited material is for publication unless otherwise stated, and reserve the right to edit, amend, adapt all submissions. All contents in this magazine are used at your own risk. We accept no liability for any loss of data or damage to your systems, peripherals or software through the use of any guide. Notes: my shed guttering and water butt are working perfectly.

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Future is an award-winning international media group and leading digital business. We reach more than 57 million international consumers a month and create world-class content and advertising solutions for passionate consumers online, on tablet & smartphone and in print.

Nextcloud on the Pi

We get right up to date with the latest release of NextCloud and deploy it on everyone’s favourite tiny computer. Contents of future issues subject to change – as we might never come back from summer holibobs.

98     LXF279 Summer 2021

Future plc is a public company quoted on the London Stock Exchange (symbol: FUTR)

Chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne Non-executive chairman Richard Huntingford Chief financial officer Rachel Addison Tel +44 (0)1225 442244

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