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The Mailbag

HELP WANTED : Article Ideas

Send tech-support questions, Tips, answers and article ideas to The Answer Gang <>. Other mail (including questions or comments about the Gazette itself) should go to <>. All material sent to either of these addresses will be considered for publication in the next issue. Please send answers to the original querent too, so that s/he can get the answer without waiting for the next issue.

Unanswered questions might appear here. Questions with answers--or answers only--appear in The Answer Gang, 2-Cent Tips, or here, depending on their content. There is no guarantee that questions will ever be answered, especially if not related to Linux.

Before asking a question, please check the Linux Gazette FAQ (for questions about the Gazette) or The Answer Gang Knowledge Base (for questions about Linux) to see if it has been answered there.

Is it possible to create customized Linux install cd?

Fri, 24 May 2002 03:33:29 +0000
Simkin Ramses (simkin1 from

I've seen the Red Hat site dealing with genhdlist/genhddir,( but is there a way to change the Red Hat installation gui to include a customized set of RPM's? (something other than custom/workstation/server)? I'd like to try and bundle my own Linux installation CD, but using programs that aren't included on the standard install cd's, and still utilizing the Red Hat base installation software. Any suggestions?

I confess that when I customize I go a bit more whole hog than this and tend to skip native distros' installer routines. Still, having the partition phase can be nice, and having your local staff able to tag Our_Local_Stuff might be nice too.
So, folks - send us articles on tweaking installers to do your bidding :) -- Heather

Playing CD Music Digital Output

Wed, 22 May 2002 12:29:09 -0500
Bill Parks (wparks from

I purchased an eMachine to run Linux on. It came with (sorry) XP which I used to check out the hardware. It plays music CD's fine but uses digital data over the IDE buss rather than a cable from the CD drive to the sound input.

Loaded Red Hat 7.3 and it plays sounds fine but it won't play music CD's...the player just runs and the CD spins along.

How do I configure the CD/sound system to pick up the digital sound data on the IDE buss to play the music?

Thank You,
Bill Parks

ps -ef problem

6 May 2002 11:56:35 -0000
prosenjit bhattacharyya (prosenjit_bhattacharyya from


I am running Red Hat Linux 6.2 on an Intel server. The problem is I cannot access Linuxconf over the web and my SWAt configuration tool also does not run. The apache server is working fine. I have a proxy connection configured on my PC for Internet access.

How can I implement Acess Control Lists in Linux on the lines of Solaris? If possible where can i get more info and necessary s/w support?


It's good when strangers cannot change the controls on your box - it's not so good when you can't. Articles on defending your web-driven admin tools from joyriding visitors would be appreciated by many readers.
Note that there are many flavors of Access Control Lists these days, but few easy-to-read articles about setting them up. That'd be cool too. -- Heather

What documentation is available for ramdisk and initrd fundamentals?

Mon, 29 Apr 2002 19:10:28 -0700
HATHAWAY Steven J * LEDS (Steven.J.Hathaway from

What are Linux ramdisk fundamentals? This spawns various related questions below. I could use some information to fill the gaps in my understanding of the ramdisk processes related to Linux startup. I have successfully created several RAM based Linux systems built from scratch and using for reference the Slackware boot/root floppy disk layouts - that do not specify "initrd" to Lilo.

A mini-howto or full how-to may be useful as a guide for developers of embedded linux and small custom systems.

Lilo can pass parameters to the kernel and the init process. Does Lilo do the passing of parameters to "init" or does the kernel pass the parameters from Lilo onto the "init" process? When does Lilo (boot.b) get out of the way and allow things to happen?

I can find only scatterd documentation that explains how to use ramdisk and initrd, but nothing on how to control the side-effects of ramdisk usage between the kernel, lilo, and init.

  init level changes (/etc/inittab)

What gets executed first (/linuxrc or the "init" process)? Or do they try to operate in parallel? ugh! (MS/Windows try to invoke many of the startup processes in parallel.)

When "initrd" is specified in "lilo.conf" and the Linux kernel is configured for ramdisk support, and the system is booted, what ramdisk image is loaded first or at all?

The "initrd" image or the kernel ramdisk image?

What programs are responsible for the loading the "initrd" and "ramdisk" root images (kernel or LILO boot.d).

Note that the Linux kernel does not need LILO in order to load a ramdisk from a second floppy using the same drive.

When is "pivot_root" an implicit process, and when must it be explicitly invoked?

What is the difference between a LILO specified "initrd" and the kernel specified ramdisk loaded as root?

Lilo can change and override some kernel default parameters.

Much of my experimenting is with "Linux From Scratch" ( as a basis to start from.

I have a fundamental problem understanding the relationships between an "initrd" image, ramdisk root image, and the use of /initrd, /linuxrc, and swap-root. I am essentially trying to create a memory-based portable Linux solution (without X) that is loadable on multiple i86 (PC) architectures from floppy. Each section, except for UTILDISK, I am wishing to have a minimal set of products to implement the desired functionality. This is for computers with many megabytes of memory, using no hard disk.

  BOOTDISK    a floppy containing kernel and LILO boot products
  INITDISK    a floppy containing loadable modules
  ROOTDISK    a floppy containing a compressed root filesystem
              and a small set of utilities (i.e. busybox)
  UTILDISK    floppy disks containing useful utilities.

BootDisk Floppy: format "minix" mounted as "/fd" Created as a LILO boot disk

/fd/kernel.gz                    my kernel.gz (2.2.x, 2.4.x)
/fd/boot/message                 general message
/fd/boot/boot-text.b             boot with "message" file
/fd/boot/boot.b -> boot-text.b   make default boot loader
/fd/boot/chain.b                 chain boot loader
/fd/boot/map                     lilo boot map
/fd/etc/lilo.cmd                 backup of lilo command file
/fd/dev/fd0                      device for loading ramdisk
/fd/dev/fd0u1440                 device for loading ramdisk
/fd/dev/null                     bitbucket device
/fd/proc                         is/not required for Lilo boot?

I can successfully load a ramdisk as root using for sample the Slackware bootdisk and rootdisk floppies, and then try to create my own RAM resident Linux using Floppy Disks. But the Slackware distributions do not mention "initrc" in the "lilo.conf" files.

Kernel Flags (rdev)
  root = /dev/fd0    = root device (or secondary ramdisk)
  use ramdisk        = true (load image into ramdisk)
  prompt for ramdisk = true (for ramdisk on second floppy)
  ramdisk offset     = zero (not on disk shared by kernel)

See attached hathaway.lilo.conf.txt

Partial Ramdisk Directory for intermediate root system

/linuxrc          Started by kernel after ramdisk loaded
/dev/ ...         All devices and/or MAKEDEV scripts
/proc             Kernel information structure
/bin/ ...         Support programs (i.e. busybox)
/sbin/ ...        System programs
/lib/ ...         Libraries for dynamic linked programs
/lib/modules/ ... Kernel modules
/etc/ ...         Configuration files
/etc/rc.d/...     Files supporting /etc/inittab
/etc/inittab      Config file for sysvinit

This document is prepared for public consumption with no copyright.

Steven J. Hathaway

Note: now that it is published here, it falls under the collective copyright of the Linux Gazette. You do not need to give up your copyrights to publish an article or thread here... you just need to allow us the ability to give it away worldwide or for corporate entities (such as RedHat, SuSE, etc) to sell it on their CD collections, and not provide any odd restrictions that conflict with that. -- Heather

Actually, "no copyright" means it's public domain. Putting a license on public domain material is like putting a license on air. You can do it but everybody's free to ignore it. It's kind of misleading though, because people might think they have only the license's rights and not the public domain rights too. -- Iron

fvwm95 FvwmButtons

Sun, 28 Apr 2002 22:29:48 +0200
Hans Borg (Hans.Borg from

Hej Answer Gang,

This is my third question in a short time. I hope you don,t get fed up. All previous "problems" asked for has been nicely solved.

Q: This question is about the fvwm95 WM handling. It is more of "cosmetic" than functional nature. Using Slakware 7.1 distribution with Linux kernel 2.2.16 for this set up. Introduced a button in the "Button bar" that fires up an executable. That works fine, but the "Button" in the bar then always shows "pressed in". Clicking, for example, Xterm defined in the same "Button bar" always returns the "button" as "not in". What controls this? Is it the return status from the fired up executable, or is it defined somewhere in the fvwm95rc script or something else ? Hoping for some nice advice, or any tip is welcome.

Best regard

fvwm95 is a fvwm-family window manager which has been tweaked to give the maximum similarity to a stock Windows(tm) 95 interface. It's ancient, but many people like it because it's much more lightweight than the Desktops.
Notes about giving fvwm95 a tune-up, or tweaking the current revisions of Fvwm 2 to act more like fvwm95 (with a few less bugs), would be appreciated.
Some people may also experiment with qvwm (Japanese sound "kew" = 9, Roman numeral "V" = 5 --> 95 window manager). ( -- Heather

lpd/lpr problems with serial printer

Fri, 26 Apr 2002 22:53:25 -0500
Mark Gorat (markgorat from

I am using Mandrake 8.2. I have recently installed a serial printer using a Digi Classic-8 ISA card. I have several terminals that use this card without any problems. I can print to this printer by using 'cat {filename} > /dev/ttyS11' and this works just fine, however I cannot get lpr to print to this printer. I think that my /etc/printcap file is ok(I hope). If anyone could point me in the right direction on this problem I would greatly appreciate it!

Mark Gorat

This message was run through the laundry to wash out stray = signs and the HTML attachment was hung out to dry. -- Heather

[LG 77] wanted #1 private email

Mon, 29 Apr 2002 06:52:55 +0200
Christoff van Zyl (Christoffv from

Hallo Cheryl

I just want to know from you if you have solved your problem.

If you did will you point me in a direction on how to setup a Linux server, with internet access and e-mail serve, that are connected to two win98 machines. The Linux machine must dial on demand when one of the win98 machines want access to the internet.



Overall, this kind of question is rather a common one to The Answer Gang. It would be great for one of our readers who lives in both worlds to contribute an article about their dial-outbound-on-demand setup. My guess is that it could use masqdial.
Thanks Christoff, for expressing the question clearly! -- Heather

[LG 78] wanted #3 Lexmark Z22

Wed, 01 May 2002 18:33:53 -0400
neil (ntan from

I would like to find out how he got the Lexmark Z22 to do even that...I have not been able to get mine to print more then 1 line before it locks up. I am using RH 7.2.

Neil T.

Articles on using GDI printers or other winprinters would be appreciated. For that matter, any articles on really setting up your printing environment would be good. There's always the Linux Printing HOWTO ( but personal experience and your tale of success might help a lot of people. -- Heather


[lug] MPAA and Senate...again (fwd)

Fri, 24 May 2002 11:22:04 -0500 (COT)
John Karns (jkarns from
via the Boulder, Colorado LUG list (

They just don't seem to be willing to take "no" for an answer from the public!

John Karns

Date: Fri, 24 May 2002 08:49:28 -0600

From, "MPAA to Senate: Plug the Analog Hole!"

As quoted in the article, Cory Doctorow writes: "this is a much more sweeping (and less visible) power-grab than the Hollings Bill, and it's going forward virtually unopposed. ...the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group is bare weeks away from turning over a veto on new technologies to Hollywood."

There is a comments form available as well as Doctorow's article on "the analog hole" for EFF links in there.


Mon, 6 May 2002 09:49:53 -0700
Gary Lawrence Murphy (garym from

Isn't the RedFlag caricature just a little racist? Isn't it just a bit condescending to have the Chinese Linux user portrayed as a myopic pre-revolutionary peasant farmer with a cronic overbite? Maybe it's just me, but it doesn't seem like a great way to win new friends.

To offer a constructive alternative, in Chinese mythology, isn't there some triad of great heros where one is a king, one is a soldier and the other is a sombre scholar; I think these are the figures you see in the shines at most Chinese restaurants -- the Scholar for the RedFlag user seems a far more apropos choice than a rice-farmer ;)

PS. I don't think the other caricatures are necessarily flattering either. I don't identify with the Debian geek, and Mandrake geeks aren't all babies. But the point is, it's one person's vision. That doesn't mean it's the only vision.
Perhaps Franck might be willing to spin his imagination and draw a few alternative designs of the different distro users. But that's his decision. -- Mike

I've been in contact with Franck, and I think you're right about the possibilities of future alternates...

... the artist replies ...

And of course as Mike pointed out, it is a "one mans vision". If I was to draw something else for someone else, isn't that the same thing once again? Am I not just drawing for someone else's own opinion? ;)
I definitely don't identify myself as the RedHat geek, yet thats all I use at home. Look outside the square and think of the reasons why I chose the characters I did. Here are reasons for a couple:
New Distro, easy to install and almost "childs" play to use which is why I chose the baby character.
Hard core hacker, serious individual who tends to spend a lot of time in front of his pc tweaking his distro. The majority of Debian users I have spoken to tend to have pony tails and a goaty. Of course not all look like this :)
Asian chap, and what do we associate asians with? Of course the Chinese Coolie hat and dark robe. Yes I could have used an Emperor or some famous fighting character, but Linux is the poor mans OS which is why I chose the rice paddy farmer character I did.
I can guarantee no matter what I draw I will never please everyone. What a boring life it would be if we all agreed :)
I'm sure this will start a great debate in the Mailbag column :)
Franck Alcidi

And RedHat is the ComputerAssociates type. I wondered about SuSE though.

At least we'll find out how many people are listening!

[Ben] For myself, I find it hard to disagree with your arguments above, although I have little doubt that somebody somewhere will be offended by at least one (and possibly all) of them. There is a line at which humor becomes defamation, but it's a very difficult one to draw;

Good thing we have all these talented artists to try it. -- Heather.

[Ben] ... this is one of the reasons that the press in the US has as its limiting factor "absence of malice" rather than the laws of slander, etc. that apply to everyone else. <shrug> I also believe that Political Correctness has been carried way, way, WAY too far, and doesn't deserve much more than to be ignored on most occasions. A prickly type might have taken offense at much of the "Russian spy" banter that gets aimed at me, for example; for myself, I take it in the vein in which I believe it was intended,

Of course, I wouldn't have said it during the 1950s or 60s when there were actual concerns (or hysteria) about Russian spies. It's only because times have changed that it makes a good joke. -- Iron

[Ben] my friends here in the Gang to respond well to "did you mean what I thought you meant?" questions, and think myself more than fully capable of dealing with any actual offense that may come up.

Ditto. -- Iron

[Ben] Yes, that trust could be abused, but -
If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid.
   -- Alister, in alt.sysadmin.recovery
I also note the Usenet truism that flame wars most often get started not by a person who is offended by something but by a third party taking the position that the material may offend someone else. To me, that's a sign of arrogance and a note of incipient trouble; a person who has actually been offended may accept an apology and make peace, but someone who only imagines an offense is not so easily mollified. It's the reason that that kind of "complaints" are considered to be "trolls" in a number of newsgroups.

Is this a trolling of recursive flame bait? Just asking. -- Gary Lawrence Murphy

Re: The Answer Gang has moved

Tue, 7 May 2002 09:01:16 -0400 (EDT)
Christopher Murtagh (christopher.murtagh from

This message (below) was sent to the YellowDog linux general list. I cannot find your subscription to unsubscribe you. Please do so or turn off your bot. Thanks.

Christopher Murtagh (YDL-general list admin)

The message below was an auto-response from mail address <>, not a mailing list.
Somebody sent a message to <> also containing a "From:" mentioning the Yellowdog Linux general list, and the autoresponder replied with its information that <> has moved.
Possibly this email was an instance of the Klez.E worm, which produces forged "From:" taken from the infected system's address book. We've received several hundred such, ourselves. If this is the case, credit the security model o