Issue #16 February 2006

Ask Shadowman

Shadowman has Winter Olympic Fever! It's a beautiful thing when the nations of the world put their brave young athletes on skis or sleds, sending them down moguls or jump hills or chutes of solid ice, all together in a shared quest to bring home glory. Or crutches.

Shadowman looks forward to the day, let it be soon, when open source has its own Olympiad. Let Drupal and Plone and OpenCMS developers do battle for the coveted CMS gold! Let Python and Perl and Ruby zealots settle their differences in the arena of code -- and let tcl get its well-deserved Certificate of Participation!

Of course, some of the events are likely to change completely every four years -- but if the Winter Olympics can bless snowboarding as a sport, then we can surely admit Ajax applications into the Open Source Olympiad.

See you at the Open Source Olympiad in Bangalore in 2010. Or maybe not.

Got a question that you'd like Shadowman to answer? Ask him.


Just about every single Chinese or Jewish reader asked some variation of this question by fcorak:

How can a brilliant and witty knowledge broker such as yourself mix up the dates on the Chinese and Jewish New Years?

To which Shadowman replies:

Shadowman could make a joke about the confusion of his half-Jewish, half-Chinese fact checker -- but as always, the confusion is Shadowman's own. And what would you do, dear readers, if you couldn't call him on it every month?

"Brilliant and witty knowledge broker" is a good touch, though, and very kind. Shadowman will make sure that the editors put that on the book jacket when the time comes.

Vishal asks:

Dear Sir, if i set umask 555 then default permission 666 makes 111, which means every one has execute permission. --x--x--x but I cannot run these. Why?

To which Shadowman replies:

When Shadowman discussed this last month, he knew this would catch somebody.

Here's the short answer: Vishal, how can you expect to execute a program that you aren't actually allowed to read?

Don't set permissions on your binaries to 111. Or 333 for that matter. You're just wasting inodes if you do.

Morpheus asked:

We get to see/read stunning content on RHM each month -- when will we have a printable PDF version of it also available for download? That way back issues as well as current issues of the RHM can be shared and distributed in LUGs, colleges and other places where the magazine is appreciated but online connectivity is the show stopper to getting it read. And please don't tell me to copy and paste into OpenOffice.org to generate my own PDF -- that does not make the cut.

To which Shadowman replies:

Good question, Morpheus. One that comes in quite a bit, actually.

Red Hat Magazine is not currently configured to be a print magazine. It may be that The Editors (all hail The Editors) can come up with something printable, but it probably still wouldn't look like a print magazine.

Shadowman has now heard the question enough now to turn it back on you, dear readers. Do you want to see a printable version of Red Hat Magazine? If so, why? Do you need to see a printable PDF, or is a simple link for printable HTML sufficient? Do you want to be able to print the whole magazine at once, or would you rather print an article at a time? Do you want to see graphics, or is that just going to waste your ink?

Talk now. The Editors (all hail the Editors) are listening.

[ The Editors: This month, we're running our infamous Red Hat Magazine survey. We take this poll a couple of times a year to check in on our readers and see what features and topics they'd like to see in the coming months. So, please, when you see our survey link, take a few minutes to tell us how you really feel. And, as always, our mailbox is open. ]

Rinaldi asked:

<flamebait>Why should I switch from Slackware to one of the Red Hat products? </flamebait>

To which Shadowman replies:

This is a good time for "storytime with Shadowman". Gather round, kids. Settle down, now. And no hitting.

Shadowman was on a great barnstorming tour around the country not too long ago, kissing hands and shaking babies and spreading the good word about sharing. Seeing the highways and the byways of America and beyond, you might say.

Well, one night Shadowman found himself driving through a cold and lonely mountain town -- the kind of town where there's one stoplight and three fast food restaurants, and one little motel that died when the interstate went through a few towns over. The snow was starting to blow, the Shadowmobile was acting like a cranky five-year-old in desperate need of a nap, and that little motel had the look of a haven.

So Shadowman found himself lying in bed in this very motel, flipping through the stations available on the old wood-grain console television, wondering idly if it might be worth fighting with a PPP configuration he hadn't used in years -- when a high school quiz bowl show came on. All the kids of the county high schools, gathered together to do Big Brain Battle. And Shadowman's a sucker for kids dropping knowledge, so he was hooked.

The kids slugged it out on topics ranging from Avogadro to Zambia. The answers were coming fast and furious. Emotions were running high. Midway through the game, it came time for the kids to take a break, and to say a little something about themselves. The captain of the first team thanked all the team parents and coaches for coming out to support the team. The captain of the second team did the same.

But the captain of the third team -- an intense, bespectacled young lady with a quick buzzer -- looked dead into the eye of the camera and said, "we want to thank Pat Volkerding, the creator of Slackware Linux, for making the best Linux distro ever!"

Shadowman can not adequately describe his reaction.

Pride? Absolutely. Shock? Without doubt. Bemusement? Yes. A certain embarrassment for the parents and coaches who were clearly not as strong an influence on these young lives as Pat Volkerding? A bit of that as well.

Unfortunately, the tide turned at that point, and Team Slackware proceeded to get crushed. Which brings Shadowman to his answer, Rinaldi: Shadowman is pretty certain that Team Red Hat would have dominated that quiz bowl -- and might even have thanked the parents and coaches as well.