First Time Linux


Here is a short collection of downloads, both reading material and source code. And the latest addition, a new wallpaper image for Debian.


From the getting Knoppix section, it's often useful to be able to check the Md5 checksum of a downloaded file to make sure it's ok. This is especially important for ISO images, to avoid wasting a CD burn on an ISO that's already corrupt.

jar file md5.jar (12 kb)

On Linux systems you can already use the command md5sum to generate and check the checksum, but for other systems here's a handy java tool to do the checking for you. There's a few different ways to call it, for example:


Some linux distributions prefer to use the Sha1 algorithm instead of Md5, for example Fedora Core only publish Sha1 checksums for their ISOs. These checksums are longer than Md5 (20 bytes instead of 16) and therefore supposedly more resistant to spoofing or false positives. Again, checking this is easy if you've already got a linux system, using the command sha1sum, but if you want to get a linux system and you haven't got this command available, what do you do? There are Windows-specific exes available to do the job, for example Gnu's textutils package but firstly they're windows-specific and secondly they're exes. So two good reasons to look for an alternative.

In this case a great job has already been done by, who have released a 22kb jar file called sha4j.jar which can be simply called to generate the hash from the specified file: java -cp sha4j.jar com.softabar.sha4j.Sha1 -f<filename>

In my case I had to recompile from source because I've still got JDK1.4.2, but as they provide the source too inside that's no problem!


Garble is a command-line tool to communicate with a Garmin GPS over the serial port. It's distributed as part of GpsDrive, and therefore comes standard with Knoppix, but it's a little buggy and no longer supported by the official sourceforge page. This source tarball here contains some bug fixes and has been tested with a Garmin etrex Vista. The owner is no longer contactable so this is being made available here as version 1.1.0.

tgz file garble-1.1.0.tar.gz (31 kb)

There is a known bug with the timezone handling, whereby both the current time and the track timestamps are off from local time, but it's still very usable for downloading waypoints, tracks and screen grabs.

For previous versions of Garble, and more information, see the dedicated Garble page.

Cathedral and the Bazaar

As discussed in the what is linux section, this essay by Eric S. Raymond discusses the ideas behind open source software and his experiences making it work.

tgz file cathedral-bazaar.tar.gz (47 kb)

The author's version is online at, but for those who would like to read it offline, this is a single-file version. This essay is freely distributable under an open publication licence, the only changes made here were the movement of the revision history from the first page to the last, and correction of a number of typos.

The Tao of Programming

Not about Linux in particular but an amusing read by Geoffrey James about the art and philosophy behind programming. The original link is at Kragen Sittler's page, this just removes the distracting background to make it more readable.

Update: This link hasn't got the distracting background any more and has been made much more readable, so another copy here is no longer required...

Excerpts from this book are also included in the fortune files for Mandriva, in the file "computers".

Debian Wallpaper

debian wallpaper debian wallpaper

Here's a simple, pale wallpaper made for Debian systems. Those who are not keen on the "Spacepyjamas" theme of Debian Squeeze may like to try this one out instead, although of course the boot theme and login theme still need to be replaced. Or maybe this might just serve as inspiration for your own creations.

It was made using the official Debian logo (from, and rendered using povray with shiny reflections and smooth shapes. Then the result was just tweaked a little in Gimp to raise brightness and reduce saturation to make it more subtle.

This jpeg is offered here in standard 4:3 format (1600x1200) and also in wide/shortscreen 16:10 format (1920x1200). If you have another resolution screen in such a format then you can simply use Gimp (or similar) to resize it to what you need.

All feedback welcome!