Ok, the rants about magazines doesnt seem like it will ever go away. After a brief hiatus last month (more down to lack of time than quality of magazines) we can return to the proper ranting about how terrible they all are.
This website already has a littany of articles about specific sections of the mainstream magazines, often based on when they (mainstream mags) decide to try and cover what is still (especially in the UK) a niche product – namely Linux.
Now, given that the title of this rant is “Linux Format Magazine,” you may have already guessed which journal is about to come in for the good news… Based on our “sister site” Linux Convert, you can also guess we are fairly on-side regarding linux and feel that it really should be more mainstream. That said, it is not yet there (despite hype to the contrary), and as such needs as much support, development and promotion as possible.
Overall, LXF is good in the last respect. The fact that WHSmiths sell a magazine dedicated to the wonders of open source is, simply put, a GOOD THING. We like it. We encourage it.
However, and this is (as you may have guessed) a big however the magazine is far from good. If anything it is slightly below the par a normal PC magazine would have to be to keep sales going. I can only think that the small market it serves want (need?) magazines enough that LXF can sell (despite the highprice…). If it were a mainstream PC or internet magazine it would have folded long ago (anyone remember Internet Magazine?)
Lets take the July 2006 issue as an example.
First off the good points: Well it covers linux. That is good. The cover disk (which is actually inside the magazine but no one has come up with a new name for it yet..) doesnt have the usual “Three billion pounds worth of software” crap all over it. This is also good. In fact the cover disk is pretty great all round. It has two distros on (neither of which are Ubuntu!), Oracle 10g XE, KOffice and so on.
Granted this is mostly free open source software you could DL yourself but sometimes it is nice to have it in one place where you can find it. Not to mention some of the lesser known bits are unlikely to ever see the light of day without cover disks like this. LinCityNG is now taking up a LOT of my spare time 🙂
Now on to the bad points. First off, the biggest from our point of view is the fact that the Ubuntu marketing juggernaught seems to have hit this magazine as well. The cover loudly proclaims this as it hightlights the 6.06 release with the words “UBUNTU ROCKS! Which Dapper feature will you love the most? p20” Well that is unbiased isnt it…
Now this is minor for some people (I mean even Whydontyou has Ubuntu running on one of its machines…) but the cover page is crammed full of a complete lie. “Hardcore Linux” it proclaims. This is supposedly about the 26 pages of Linux projects people can use to learn linux and become “more skilled” with the system and its software.
These projects are:
- Replace MS Exchange with Open-Xchange
- Web Filtering with DansGuardian
- SSH2 Tunneling with PHP
- OpenOffice Macros (in Calc)
- Inkscape tutorial
- Remove cache and history (and cookies) in Firefox
- Install and configure WordPress
Now, I am not going to recreate the hyperbole that surrounded these in the editorial or other places, but suffice it to say they are shameful. The first three are pretty “hardcore” and you need to be a major linux-geek to either want to do it or be able to do it. Seriously, unless you have a full blown network in place the Open-Xchange will be pointless (and if you do, why are you learning how to administer it from a magazine..?).
The Open Office macros article is great. I actually liked this one. It was the sort of article which is both appropriate and worthwhile for a magazine. This is the sort of thing people need. Articles and tutorials on how to do the things they actually do with their windows machine but in linux. How many people read PCFormat to learn how to configure and deploy MS Exchange Server?
Then we come on to the last three. Shocking. The inkscape is not a “Hardcore Linux” tutorial, it is a guide on how to draw artistic vector graphics on a computer. It is a good tutorial, dont get me wrong, but what has it got to do with Linux? It belongs in Computer Art or whatever.
From there it goes down hill. The firefox tutorial is insulting to even computer newbies – and again has nothing to do with Linux. This could just as easily have been the windows version. Four pages on managing cookies, clearing cache and history is shocking. Only two pages less than give to setting up Open-Xchange….
The wordpress tutorial gets a special mention. Why on EARTH does a linux magazine need a tutorial for blogging softwhere, which even in its own review it mentions how easy it is to use! Basically this is two pages of screenshots for the terminally daft, as it explains how to set up WordPress. Amazing. Surely anyone who has been able to actually work out how to pay for the magazine will be able to set up a WordPress blog – especially as the magazine provides no assistance for the difficult things (loading plugins, what to do when it goes wrong etc). It is simply step by step process of following the on-screen promts.
Linux Format – shame on you.