Beaker browser start page

The first story I wrote for Linux Journal appeared on its website last week. My introduction to the Beaker peer-to-peer web browser received a nice reception on Twitter. I hope you find it interesting too.

Since most of what I know about Beaker is in the story, I want to tell you more about Linux Journal, and why I’m so proud to write for it.

How I learned Linux

I got my first copy of Linux from a PR person from SuSE Linux in 1999. I’d read a press release about a commercial “Linux Office Suite” (not OpenOffice, which didn’t exist yet), and I asked for a review copy. The PR person asked if I needed the operating system too. A week or so later, I got a big box of software and documentation (those were the days!). Only problem was, my computer didn’t have enough power to install the OS. So the CDs sat gathering dust.

My first linux distro: Corel Linux (Credit: DistroWatch)

A few months later, Corel released its own Linux distribution, which was really just Debian with a decent graphical installer. Since I’d written reviews of WordPerfect in the past, they sent me a copy of Corel Linux, and WordPerfect for Linux. I don’t know whether I’d gotten a better computer, or that the installer was better at handling the hardware I had. Either way, it ran — and I was hooked.

Books and Magazines

A few blocks away from my apartment was a technical bookstore, Softpro Books. This was obviously in the days when you could fill a modestly sized retail space with all kinds of books about computers and the variety of software needed to run them. Not all of them were in the for Dummies line; some of them were Complete Idiot’s Guides. Still others were doorstop-sized technical guides for more advanced users and programmers.

Softpro also carried a ton of print magazines covering the same territory. Not long after I had gotten Corel Linux installed on my machine, I found Linux Journal on a Softpro rack. I brought it home, and almost instantly realized that I barely understood any of it. The stories were about a variety of projects that other Linux users engaged in, and often had a lot to do with the command-line interface. The letters column would debate fine points of syntax and regular expressions. Not to mention sample code that didn’t always work.

It wasn’t long before I also realized that if I was ever going to get off the Microsoft merry-go-round, I’d have to learn a lot more about this OS. After picking up a few more issues, and getting a little more up-to-speed, I subscribed. I never quit, either.

As a writer, I was always a little frightened to propose ideas to the magazine. Eventually, I worked up the courage to do so. LJ rejected most of them, but this one got on to the LJ website (where good stories that didn’t quite make print went) in 2004.

Between the usual trial-and-error way of learning new software, the books I picked up, Linux User Groups, and Linux Journal, I got good enough at Linux that I eventually wrote one of those doorstop guides I mentioned earlier, openSUSE Linux Unleashed.

LJ’s recent history

Linux Journal was the first magazine to focus on Linux and the applications that ran on it. It’s only a year younger than Linux itself and the ecosystem it covers. It has always been an important voice in the Linux community.

As with many print magazines on pretty much any topic, the World Wide Web has wrought a ton of changes in how writers and editors communicate with their readers. LJ’s last print issue came in August 2011, but full issues in various electronic forms (PDF, epub, even mobile apps) continued to come out every month to subscribers.

Since then, subscribers get to see all LJ content first, in a format consistent with a print magazine. Some months later, those stories are published on for everyone’s benefit.

(Not) The End of Linux Journal

We all got a scare at the end of 2017, when the publishers announced that they couldn’t support electronic releases, and that LJ would end. A month later, Private Internet Access opted to fund the electronic version of LJ for another year (at least). LJ, now with Doc Searls as editor-in-chief, would publish without advertising, and continue as a voice for the community.

I wanted to get on board, and sent a bunch of story ideas. To date, the LJ editorial team has accepted every idea I’ve sent (I’m honored, by the way). The Beaker story ran in the December 2018 issue. In January 2019, I wrote some security tips based on the Linux Foundation IT guidelines. I’m working on two other stories now; I’ll tell you about those as they get closer to completion.

The Linux community needs Linux Journal. If you have any interest in the Linux ecosystem, open source software, the Open Web, and similar topics, you really should subscribe, or become a Patron.

Did Linux Journal, or some other magazine, help you learn the technologies you most treasure? What do you think of electronic delivery of “traditional” magazines? Do you subscribe to any magazines or newspapers in whatever form today, or do you just use the Web and/or social networks?

Drop any of your memories and opinions in the Comments section!

Author Michael McCallister
Author Michael McCallister

Hi! I’m Michael McCallister, but you can call me Mike. I write about technology, software, and the open Internet from the viewpoint of the user.

Do you (or your readers) want

  • to get more out of WordPress and the open Web? I co-authored WordPress in Depth and currently write for WPMUDev. I built this site myself, with the incredible assistance of the global WordPress and IndieWeb communities. I can help you too.
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I believe that personal computing and the internet are the most powerful tools ever developed to empower people and advance democracy. Click the Metaverse tab above to see Notes from the Metaverse, where I offer news and analysis of these topics. I’ve spent the last few decades learning to master these tools, and helping others to do the same. If you find it interesting, please Follow!

Click the links to learn more about me and my life, buy my books, and read some thoughts on the writing life. You may see some additional tweaks of the site in the coming days. If you’re missing something you think should be here, do say hello!


What an amazing thing Book Expo America is! While I was only in New York for a little more than two days last week, “special” is really only one adjective. As an author, the trip was very successful. As a tourist, it was too short. As a consumer, well, I’ve had better experiences, but lessons learned…

I have a lot of stories to tell, but I won’t make you slog through one really long post. Since this IS an author site, today I will write about my one day at the Javits Center, home base for BEA 2014. Next time, I’ll tell you about the travel experience in the Big City.

What is Book Expo America?

A quick introduction if you’re not in the book business: Book Expo America (BEA) started as the annual conference of the American Booksellers Association, the group that organizes and lobbies for independent bookshops across the country. The conference still offers dozens of educational sessions and panel discussions focused on the book business from the perspective of the booksellers and librarians who attend.

Publishers  attend and exhibit at BEA to connect their catalogs with the humans who place orders and offer recommendations to their customers about what to read next. Authors and literary agents attend to sell their current book and make deals for their next projects. This year, even independent, self-publishing authors had a portion of the trade show floor to call their own.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, ABA battled for the survival of independent mom-and-pop bookstores against the corporate Goliaths: Barnes & Noble and Borders. Absent some context, I suppose you could say they won: Borders is gone, Barnes & Noble fights rumors of its impending doom, and ABA membership is actually up this year!

Of course, the corporate bookshops weren’t really slain by the independents, but by another Goliath that once dubbed itself “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” While not an ABA member,  Amazon had a big presence at BEA through its CreateSpace and children’s publishing subsidiaries. A newer acquisition, Goodreads, also gave authors tips in  using its author program.

But I digress… enough exposition! Not here to pontificate on the state of publishing. Here’s the action part!

So how did the signing go?

Glad you asked — It went great! Carole Jelen and I were among the 750+ authors scheduled to sign books during the show.  At 10:30 in the morning, a half hour before our scheduled signing, I signed in at the Author Green Room. No, it was not like an airline club room with mahogany-paneled walls and attendants for our every needs — though the couches were pretty nice. I was given my choice of Sharpies to sign with, and offered coffee or tea.

Authors with the BenBella Team: Left-to-right: Carole Jelen, Jennifer Canzoneri, Glenn Yeffeth, Michael McCallister
Authors with the BenBella Team: Left-to-right: Carole Jelen, Jennifer Canzoneri, Glenn Yeffeth, Michael McCallister

As it happened, the two representatives from BenBella Books who scored us the signing appeared shortly after I got there, so I had someone to hang out with until Carole got there. Let me say before I go too much further that everyone we’ve worked with at BenBella has been nothing less than terrific in shepherding this project through. If you ever get a chance to publish with them, take it!

Mike and Carole sign 'Build Your Author Platform' at Book Expo America 2014
Mike and Carole sign ‘Build Your Author Platform’ at Book Expo America 2014

Just before the appointed hour arrived, the BEA Signings manager gathered us all up for a walk to our tables. Carole and I walked down to Table 11 not sure what to expect, but when we opened the curtain to greet our public, I think we were both a little surprised to see a long line of autograph seekers waiting for us! A line that kept coming for the full 30 minutes!

We met booksellers, librarians, and writers in a variety of genres. People kept telling us how much they needed our book. Even the author signing next to us told us he wanted one! The time just flew by.

Time to Celebrate

We close out Build Your Author Platform with a whole chapter reminding you that the writing life is supposed to be fun; that after the hard work of writing your book and working on your platform, you need to celebrate the achievement and have a party.

Andy Ihnatko at MacWorld 2008. This image was ...
Andy Ihnatko at MacWorld 2008. This image was cropped from the original flickr image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With that in mind, we gathered that evening at the Times Square Intercontinental Hotel (right across the street from the legendary Birdland jazz club), with many of Carole’s friends and associates in the publishing industry for a bit of champagne and conversation.  It was great fun, and I’m happy to say that I largely behaved myself. OK, it’s true I could hardly stop showing off the wonderful review we’d gotten that morning from big time tech columnist Andy Ihnatko, but that was pretty much the extent of my bad behavior. You can find more pictures from the signing and party on my Facebook page.


Many of us hoped the night would peak with a viewing of the semi-natural event locals call “Manhattanhenge,” but the overcast skies spoiled that. Such is life…

All in all, it was a spectacular day, especially for an introverted nerd like me. Every writer should have one (or many) like it. Many Thanks to everyone I crossed paths with!

Were you among the people we met at BEA? Have you hosted a great (or even not-so-great) book signing event? Feel free to share a story in the comments.

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