Thursday, December 28, 2006

I pledged $10 for an Open Source Nvidia driver

Nvdia makes great drivers, awesome drivers for Linux. Those drivers are so great that no one has been motivated enough to write a good Open source driver for it.

OK, I'm kidding, there is a good Open Source driver for Nvidia cards already but they only support 2D functions. So if you want 3D hardware acceleration, you have to settle for the official driver. So whats wrong with that? you might ask.

Well if you are a Linux user, you might have come across the inconveniences involved with of upgrading the Nivida driver or the Linux kernel. But thats really a minor price to pay, compared to the freedom lost as a result.

An year or so ago, Nvidia dropped support for some of their old graphic cards such as the Riva TNT2. The result - you either had to upgrade your graphic card or use the last driver they put out. Chances are that last driver doesn't support any of the recent kernels. So your also stuck using an old kernel. Your freedom to keep up is lost.

One of my friends had an Apple PPC notebook (a really expensive Powerbook) which had an Nvidia card. He decided to install GNU/Linux and all of a sudden, there is no (3D) driver for his graphics card. Nvidia doesn't think its worth the trouble to put out a PPC compatible binary driver for Linux as most Apple users' run MacOS.

There are just some of the reasons why its healthy to have an Open Source Nvidia driver which supports 3D acceleration, thats good enough to run a 3D desktop such as XGL/AIGLX. Thats why I made the following pledge:

"I will pledge at least $10 USD towards the development of the
open source nouveau driver for the nvidia card series but only
if 1,000 other people will too."

If you believe in the cause, you too can pledge (no you don't need to enter your credit card just yet). If anything, it motivates the developers who are working hard with no official support from NVidia.

http://www.pledgebank.com/nouveaudriver

Friday, December 01, 2006

The alternative KDE Menu (made in Sri Lanka)


Came across this article that featured KBFX, the alternative application for KDE, which IMHO is a whole lot more appealing than what KDE and Gnome , for that matter currently has by stock. The KBFX project, by the way was started by our very own, Kandy resident, Siraj Razick, but now has few other developers & graphic artists contributing from around the world.

KBFX is quite popular because it enables one to theme the menu system in addition to providing a much cleaner UI to find all those apps. Popular eye candy portal, KDE-Look, even has a separate KBFX Theme category.

Anyway check out the article:

http://www.linux-magazine.com/issue/74/Ktools_Kbfx_Menu.pdf

The geek is back...

Been a long time since I've last blogged. Kept my self extremely busy at work and home, and I guess been a little lazy to blog given a couple of newer developments. So I thought I'd share the main developments that kept me away from blogging...

My new ipod


After battling with the idea of whether I should buy an ipod or not, I finally bit the bullet and bought a new 30GB video ipod. When Apple came out with these slightly improved babies (models), I figured that if it was good enough for all those million users then it was good enough for storing my mp3 collection.

After accidentally repartitioning the ipod, becuase it didn't seem to show the partiton using fdisk -l on Linux, and then finding out that I had just destroyed the the firmware partition, I had to go through the hassel of downloading the latest version of iTunes for my Mac mini just so I can download and install the firmware from within it.

But on a positive note, that process installated the firmware on an Apple HFSPlus filesystem, which of course was far more superior to that of Microsoft's FAT32, which was there by factory default.

Getting everything working on Linux was a snap thanks to GTKPod. All I had to do was to compile the hfsplus module for the Linux kernel and it automatically mounted as I plugged it in. While not all the features available through iTunes for the newer generation ipod, worked with GTKPod, I was neverthekless able to do the essential basics such as upload music/videos, create playlists, modify meta data and create smart play lists.

Podcasts


Another thing that kept me away from Blogging was all those great podcast shows. Now I don't want to sound like I've been living under a rock, not knowing about podcast. Actually, I've even created a video podcast with Arunan, which of course was too lame to be properly released. But the fact that I can have a bunch of these podcast on my ipod, ready for listening on my way to work and back was just ideal and highly addictive. Instead of listening to lame DJs go on and on like a theme from Titanic, I now get to listen to geeks go on and on :) So I now get most of my geek news from podcasts.

Console mania


Tracking the launch of the Sony PS3 and the Nintendo Wii was another one of those things that took away some of my blogging time in trade of doing research into these awsome nextgen consoles. I admit, I'm a fanboy of both these consoles (ok even M$'s Xbox 360 is pretty awsome). It was very exciting watching a video on utube showing an 8 penguins lineup (as a result of the 8 core processor) as Fedora Core Linux PPC version booted on a PS3.

The Wii with its motion detector and the ability to emulate the classic NES/SNES and perhaps with an optimistic possibility of even running Linux (Wii is also based on PPC) did keep me awake at night. So I do somewhat sympathize with all those losers that stood in 2 week ques to bye it :)

CBN Sat


We were all doing fine, and I've even forgot all bout that gadget, until that is, they started shouting about how the courts had allowed them to broadcast immediately. Well, its been a couple of days but nothing much except for a few minutes of the green light. The channels are not yet back on online. And so we wait, reading the CBNSat blog, reading the humorous comments by people who are formulating crazy plans to get even with their enemies.

So there you have it folks. The top 5 reasons why I was away from my blog (the 1st being work of course).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Buttala, we made it!

FOSS on Wheels got on to a lazy start yesterday. We waited for the bus (though it made it on time - 4pm), waited for people (LSF guys were late!) and then went shopping!

After a couple bottles of Mountain dew, Pringle cans and Kist fruit drinks among other things, seemed about right to start moving.

Traffic down high level was high as usual, and we made it to Ratnapura close to 9:00. We had a tasty mix fried rice dinner, at a restaurant just close to the Ratnapura police station. Apparently this restaurant was a famous spot for concluding business deals among Gem dealers, though that didn't seem to be the case on that tonight.

Couldn't do much after dinner, especially with the PSP batteries dying on me, so I dozed off instead. All I could remember was us making several stops for "nature call" sessions.

Finally we made it to Buttala. The room had a row of beds waiting for us to lay upon. The first thing we did was to reserve a bed for our beloved gadgets that needed to rest and charge.

So while I type away this blog post.. yawn... Anuradha and Suchetha are comparing their prizes - SLR like cameras by challenging each other to read the ingredients on a bottle a couple of feet away. As my camera wasn't upto the challenge, with only a 3x zoom, I instead settled for this picture of them taking the picture.


Yaaawn... good morning

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Building an offline version of Easy Ubuntu - EasyERUbuntu HOWTO

Motivation


easyerubuntu
Ubuntu has become a popular GNU/Linux distributions and has introduced many new users to the world of GNU/Linux and FOSS. Nevertheless, some felt that new users migrating would find it difficult not being able to perform certain functions such as play DVDs, listening to mp3 etc., even though the platform supports these functions. Getting these packages installed might not be trivial for some newbies even though much of the details has been well documented at http://ubuntuguide.org.

Easy Ubuntu was an attempt to provide a user-friendly front end that made it very easy to install several key packages that were missing in Ubuntu due to possible legal reasons. Unfortunately, the current stable version of Easy Ubuntu doesn’t support an offline mode. The development versions seemed to have a work-in-progress implementation for an offline mode, but that doesn’t seem to support the same user friendly GUI that is available during the network install.

EasyER Ubuntu (pronounced Easier Ubuntu) is an attempt to provide a companion CD for Ubuntu that uses a slightly modified version of Easy Ubuntu. Additionally, the CD is aptable, meaning you can add it as an apt resource using the apt-cdrom tool.

Here is how I made this CD:



Steps

  • Downloaded easyubuntu and ran the installer, selecting all packages.

  • Install any other packages. If you want you can use the option –download-only to prevent the package from being installed.


  • apt-get --download-only install foo

  • Installed apt-move utility and configured it so that it doesn’t actually delete the package cache (as a result of moving)


  • # apt-get install apt-move
    # vi /etc/apt-move.conf
    COPYONLY=yes

  • Created the local apt mirror directory


  • # rm -rf /mirrors/debian
    # mkdir -p /mirrors/debian

  • Ran apt-move to copy the debs from the apt archive


  • # apt-move -d dapper update

  • Because ubuntu repository structure, not all packages are inserted into the Packages.gz file by apt-move. We must remake Packages.gz with the help of apt-ftparchive.


  • # cd /mirrors/debian/dists/dapper
    # mkdir -p {non-free,contrib}/binary-i386

    For some reason the non-free and contrib directories were missing even though they were present at the /mirrors/debian/pool/ directory.

    # apt-ftparchive packages pool/main/ | gzip -9c > dists/dapper/main/binary-i386/Packages.gz
    # apt-ftparchive packages pool/multiverse/ | gzip -9c > dists/dapper/multiverse/binary-i386/Packages.gz
    # apt-ftparchive packages pool/contrib/ | gzip -9c > dists/dapper/contrib/binary-i386/Packages.gz
    # apt-ftparchive packages pool/non-free/ | gzip -9c > dists/dapper/non-free/binary-i386/Packages.gz

    Make sure that binary-i386/Release file exists and has the correct component entry.

    Archive: contrib
    Component: contrib
    Origin: APT-Move
    Label: APT-Move
    Architecture: i386

  • We need to remake the Release file so we first create a template apt configuration file called myapt.conf


  • APT::FTPArchive::Release {
    Origin "APT-Move";
    Label "APT-Move";
    Suite "dapper";
    Codename "dapper";
    Architectures "i386";
    Components "main multiverse contrib non-free";
    Description "Ubuntu Updates CD";
    };

    # rm dists/dapper/Release
    # apt-ftparchive -c ~/myapt.conf release dists/dapper/ > Release
    # mv Release dists/dapper/

  • Next we need to sign the Release file using out GPG key. But first we need to create our GPG key if it doesn’t already exist


  • # gpg --gen-key
    # gpg -bao dists/dapper/Release.gpg dists/dapper/Release

  • Next, we delete unwanted .apt-move directory


  • # rm -rf .apt-move

  • Next we need to identify the cd by making a .disk directory and making an info file in it.


  • # mkdir .disk
    # echo EasyERUbuntu `date +%Y-%m-%d` > .disk/info

  • Then we need to put our public keys in it.


  • # gpg --export -a "Your Name" > public.key


Easy Ubuntu Hack



  • Stop Easy Ubuntu from updating the conf/sources.list file by commenting out detect.replace(confdir) from easyubuntu.in


  • ###detect.replace(confdir)

  • Put a static sources.list line that only uses the CD ROM


  • deb cdrom:[EasyERUbuntu]/ dapper contrib main multiverse non-free


    where “EasyERUbuntu” is the label of the CD, which we define during mkisofs.

  • We can further modify the EasyUbuntu script to prevent it from running apt-get update on the CD everytime you install a package, which would cause an annoying error message .


  • Edit EasyUbuntu/gtkprocess.py and look for self.manager.remove(”–update-at-startup”) and comment it out. Also comment out the line synaptic.update()

    ### self.manager.remove("--update-at-startup") # EasyER Ubuntu Hack

    ### synaptic.update() # EasyER Ubuntu Hack


Thats it!

Burning and Using



  • Copy the modified easyubuntu directory to /mirrors/debian.


  • # tar zcvf /mirrors/debian/easyerubuntu.tar.gz easyubuntu

  • To create the iso


  • # mkisofs -r -A "EasyERUbuntu" -o ubuntu-companion.iso /mirrors/debian

  • Before you could use the CD, you need to add our GPG key to apt GPG keys


  • # apt-key add /cdrom/public.key

  • Finally add the CD as a source.


  • # apt-cdrom add

  • You can now extract the easyerubuntu.tar.gz from the CD to your home directory


  • $ mount /media/cdrom
    $ tar zxvf /media/cdrom/ubuntu.tar.gz

  • Now you can execute EasyERUbuntu


  • $ cd easyubuntu
    $ ./launchEU.sh


Issues: While most packages install properly, not all of them do. Most packages in the system tab don't work. These may require a bit more hacking to get working offline.

See Also: AptMoveHowto

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Freedom LOST at Software Freedom Day!

Last Saturday, 16th of September, the Sri Lankan team geared up to celebrate the Software Freedom Day (SFD). As part of the day's events, it was decided to have them in popular hangout locations. After some debate, the locations were realized as be that of Majestic City, Crescat and Excel World.

While we managed to secure the Crescat lobby by paying the reasonably quoted amount in advace, the quote from Excel World seemed too pricey, given the nature of the event. As Majestic City had already been secured (through Epsi computers), it was decided to drop Excel World as a location at the last minute, despite the pre-marketing brochures already mentioning otherwise. For the moment it seemed as if the management of Excel World, did not see any value in us having the event for the low price we asked.

What follows is the story of how things took a completely different turn, at the last moment and how the three different managements of the three different locations affected us.


Crescat


SFD 2006 Saturday morning, we turned up at Crescat with a bunch of computers, brochures and lots and lots of CDs. It was evident that the security personnel had already been informed of our arrival. They were very polite and helpful in getting Crecat opened. Further more the security guard was courteous enough to open the door for us when ever we wanted to move an item across as if we were customers walking in.

It was about this time that the Fecom Technology's guy turned up with a couple of tables, a huge HP server and a couple of notebooks. The guys went about getting the Crescat lobby setup. Myself, the two guys from Matara and Ven. Mettavihari, on the otherhand departed towards the next location - Majestic City (MC).

Majestic City


By the time we arrived at MC, the Epsi guys had already started getting the lobby setup. We offloaded some banners, CDs and handout and was pondering as to how we wanted to promote the SFD event, without hijacking the Epsi event. As this was the second day of Epsi's promotion, they already had their place including banners all setup.

After a bit of inspection, we decided to hang three banners, one that was horizontal, just above the main stage like area and another two vertical banners just next to the horizontal one. Two way sticky tape seemed to do the trick, except that it took some time for the exercise. Half way through, tough, a security guard came up and asked if we were part of Epsi as if we were upto something illegal, to which we said "yes".

He immediately just walked away with no hint at all as to what was to come! After finishing sticking up all three banners, and feeling somewhat proud as people looked up from below and down from above, we entered a bookshop to buy a white bristle board and a permanent marker. These were used to drew a sign with the message "Get your free (zero cost) GNU/Linux CD!".

We placed a few handouts and CDs on top of the piano at MC, and had just finished sticking up the "free CD" sign on the granite beam right next to the piano, when the same security guard came walking (fast) back telling us to take it down!

My initial reaction was, "Sorry, we'll take the sign down", as we had a doubt whether it was proper to stick a sign up on the beam. But then, he insisted that we should also take down the banners! The banners we spent a good 20 minutes sticking up and getting it just right. Just then my phone rang! It was a guy from Epsi on the other line apologizing and explaining that we have to bring down the banners and that he had just got blasted from the MC management. I asked him if there was anything that could be done but he seemed sure there wasn't. "These guys are very touch", he told me.

We decided, that we should try to talk to the management and explain that we were part of the Epsi promotion. The previous year, we had already had a similar promotion with the Notebook shop which was very successful. We asked the security guard if we can talk to the management. He said that we should talk to the head of security and vaguely pointed his finger to a man. It wasn't clear who he was pointing to. We asked again. Again he pointed to a person in a crowd. It was evident he did not want to be the one to introduce us to his superior. I mean the security guard that was literally telling us to bring down the banners and posters seemed scared. So we followed the man we thought was the head of security. He quicky went into Cargills, so we too went into Cargills.

He seemed like a nice person, who was walking slowly, looking around, not much keen on buying anything. Sort of like an undercover agent, masquerading as a customer. My self and Hamudurowo approached him together and asked, "We were told that you are the head of security". The man calm and smiled and said no. Soon we saw his family walk over to him. We knew we had the wrong guy so said sorry and went back to catch the guard.

Now he was pointing to another person who was speaking loud with one of the Epsi guys. We walked over to him and said are you the head of security. He barked at us saying, "This does not concern you!". Hamuduro and I tried to explain that today was a special event to which he said, you have no permission. We explained that we were part of the Epsi promotion but he said that Epsi had no permission to hang banners in the middle or to get any other party involved. We asked if there was anyway to which he kept nodding and moving his face away as to walk off. We finally said, that we'll pay to which gave a steep gaze and said, this place costs 15,000/- but since Epsi has a shop its free for them. We asked if we can pay that but he said, "Send a proposal and we will have to put it to the board". Then if we want we will allow. We tried to ask the procedure of how to get the location in detail to which he snapped and repeated, send a proposal and we will decide. We said that we had this event last year, to which he replied, "I didn't know about this last year". We explained that we had publicized and was bringing in people to the location to which he gave a blind look.

By this time he was very angry and popping like a can of pop corn. He told that we couldn't not have the promotion and that we should immediately "Get out!". All our attempts to talk sense with the guy had failed, miserably. He didn't have any decency to even ask what we were trying to do there. We decided to can the location since we didn't want Epsi's promotion to be in jeopardy.

The Epsi guys were quite upset as well. They didn't expect this but knew that MC was very tough and a bully. They had the shop at MC for the last 14 years but still was treated like dirt.

Excel World


SFD 2006 We decided to focus primarily at Crescat and so went back. But since the brochure's had mentioned Excel world, and since we were down to just one location out of 3, we decided to send a small team to just sit at Excel World with some brochures and CDs while having some food. No banners, no computers, just some handouts so as to not cause much of a problem. A senior person from the management had seen us and the team had also identified him as management and had approached him for permission. He had given the permission and had wanted to offer a better rate and so had asked for my phone number. I got a call from that person saying that he was very busy and that he would like to work with the community and offer a better rate. Though it wasn't as low as Crescat, the rate seemed fair enough and so I gave the goahead. He offered us the necessary arrangements to bring computers and setup. Later that evening after the Crescat event was no longer happening, we moved all the computers to Excel world and continued celebrating well into the night. Since it was Karoke night, there the place was packed and out of which some people visited out table.

Final Thoughts...


So except for MC, who got overally hot tempered and as a result, totally lost it in front of customers, the other two locations was very much supportative. The management at MC has somehow built up a massive ego and a bureaucracy that they ended up ruining their image with us. They have violated our freedom to celebrate an important day in a peaceful manner which could have added a lot of value to them. As a result, I don't see myself ever wanting to have a promotion at MC but am looking forward to having more of such events at the other two locations.

Friday, September 15, 2006

An Open invitation to celebrate Software Freedom Day, the 16th

Software Freedom Day is a global effort to promote the use of Free and Open Source software. Free software is a matter of liberty, not price. Its a matter of the users freedom to run, copy, distribute, study,change an improve the software.

As part of the celebrations we are having two events at two locations:

Majestic City lobby


We will have some cool, sleek notebooks running Free & Open Source software both on Windows and GNU/Linux. Come see the new GNU/Linux desktops in action and how running FOSS can save you money while preserving your rights!

Crescat lobby


This event is all about power computing. We'll have powerful gaming machines and servers running optimized versions of GNU/Linux that will make games screammmmm! See how the Linux system can be optimized specifically for your hardware even if its an old Pentium 1.

Ready to see how deep the Rabbit hole goes? Well bring along your desktop or notebook and learn how to get GNU/Linux installed on it.

There will be FREE GNU/Linux CDs distributed at both locations.

More info at
http://www.softwarefreedomday.org
http://www.softwarefreedomday.org

Monday, September 04, 2006

Linux booting at 30,000 feet...

linux_flight.jpg

My good friend Iranga, had taken this photo (on his way to SL from UK) of the Linux kernel booting on the on-flight personal entertainment system of a First Choice Airline.

So I guess, First Choice has chosen GNU/Linux as its first choice! Iranga told me that once the kernel booted it loaded a kiosk like interface.

But if the airline itself ran on the Linux kernel? or any other commmon OS? Reminds me of this joke...
http://www.webaugur.com/bibliotheca/field_stock/os-airlines.html

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Reader's Digest Newsweek's guide to FOSSSL2006

Last week has been both exhilarating and some what exhausting with a series of events that began with the Hackathon on Monday, and ended with Geekout on Sunday (though I came back on Saturday).

I've finally got around to uploading the photos which is available at my flickr blog. Here is the recap:

Sunday 13th



On Sunday, I spent the whole day setting up my barebone with Ubuntu64 and testing out VLC hoping to steam the cricket match during the Hackathon. First I tried the multicast mode of steaming video via ipv6, which sort of worked, except that it flooded the network to the point that no one could browse the internet. So much for that! Instead, I settled for the good old http streaming.

That evening we went out to dinner at the Thai restaurant at Trans Asia with the "geek people".

apachecon_asia_00415.jpg

After dinner, I was very much intoxicated after a hefty meal, but knew that the show must go on. So I set about to test the video streaming setup in a similar condition to that in the conference. Luckily for me, we had two rooms reserved at TransAsia for some of our guys to stay over, so I decided to spend the night hacking at the video streaming problem. As a result of the wireless router (belonging to WSO2) being bought from the US, it required a 110v power supply, which was only to be found in the bathroom, where you would normally plug an electric shaver. The solution involved co-locating the equipment near the bathroom, which enabled us to conduct a successful test :)

apachecon_asia_00420.jpg

Monday 14th


DSC00429.JPG

With all that testing, you would have expected me to say how managed to stream the match. But Murphy had his way and we were never able to stream due to several problems such as an unstable wireless link. Nevertheless (on a positive note), we did show the match using a video projection on to a big screen. I'm not sure if people coded or watched the match, as I didn't stick around to watch. I had to run off to FOSSSchool and FOSSUni.

Out of those two events, FOSSSchool was extremely successful with a full house, while FOSSUni was moderately successful, perhaps due to other prevaling circumstances.

Tuesday 15th


apachecon_asia_00458.jpg

ApacheConAsia got on to an awesome start with several interesting talks. I was surprised that even though I wasn't directly part of the Apache Developer community, there seemed to be a track that suited the technologies I was interested in (hint: not java).

apachecon_asia_00467.jpg

Russ Nelson stood out as the other "geek with an attitude" ;) I could have sworn he was my twin older brother when it came to the love for gadgets. Actually he is much smarter and geekier than I could ever be. After all he writes packet drivers for a living!

He had a cool glove like keyboard, which he had developed to make it easier to type (after a not soo steep learning curve), in mid air without ever touching a conventional keyboard. Keystrokes are transmitted via bluetooth to his awesomely cool Nokia 770 tablet PC, which by the way was also running on GNU/Linux!

Another fun session at the ApacheCon Asia were the "Lightning Talks". Unlike Count Dracula's lightening talks, which involved counting numbers, accompanied by thunder and lightening, these topics weren't restricted to just counting, though there was a count down timer of 5 minutes. Each person had the freedom to talk about anything, be it technology or "what they did last summer", as long as it ended in exactly 5 minutes.

apachecon_asia_00476.jpg

IMHO, Mifan probably did the most hilarious talk involving an adaptation of the Sahana disaster management system for managing, well family disasters, so to speak :). David Recordon, more commonly known as Dave, started his session talking about a RPG game called, WereWolf, which at the time seemed total greek - that was until geekout (see below).

apachecon_asia_00501.jpg The last session for the day was another common item in the ApacheCon menu, known as a BOF (pronounced Boff) which stood for Birds of a feather. BOF's are basically a place for small interest groups to informally meet to discuss on an interesting topic. As I didn't much understand what was actually been said, instead I concentrated on something more tangible and at arms length -- free Beer!



Finally we all went out for dinner to the Gallery Caffee which had a nice romantic ambiance.



apachecon_asia_00503.jpg

apachecon_asia_00520.jpg



Wednesday 16th


apachecon_asia_00536.jpg Woke up late after a night out and missed Sanjiva's talk on, "The world is flat in Apache" :( I had some catching up to do with organizing fossenterprise that was going to happen in another 2 days, so spent most of my time was spent at the Hackathon lounge. I still managed to squeeze in a few interesting talks such as Embedding Axis2/C by Samisa and ofcourse the panel discussion that was moderated by Manju Hathotuwa.



apachecon_asia_00543.jpg

The day ended with an award ceremony, followed by cocktails. During the awards ceremony, I was called up on stage and given a T-shirt for mentoring FOSSCode. I also won a nice IBM denim shirt from a lucky draw that was held by US Technologies.

Cocktails were fun, especially for Russ who seemed to enjoy playing the role of the "confused, wanna-be" minister.

apachecon_asia_00584.jpg

Thursday 17th


I came late on Thursday, just in time for the "Web Application security bootcamp" tutorial, by Christian Wenz, which literally scared the crap out of me! He dazzled the crowed with some amazing JavaScript and SQL injection methods to show how naive web developer's are and how easy it was to penetrate their web sites. While he did show how to write secure code that can minimize this sort of cross scripting vunerabilities, at a considerable cost of putting in a lot of extra effort. Good security concious framework should (hopefully) make this trivial.

Friday 18th


Got up earlier than usual and rushed off to water's edge. Most of my involvement at FOSSSL 2006 was with the planning of FOSSEnterprise, which was about to be put to the test. At first, there wasn't a huge crowd, apparently due to a high traffic jam as a result of the security arrangements for the SAARC games. But by about 10am we had a full house of corporate people wanting to know about FOSS. As a result, by the end of the day, we only had two file dockets left of which I took one. Anuradha took the other ;)

apachecon_asia_00589.jpg apachecon_asia_00587.jpg

Danise did a touching opening speech on what FOSS was all about and how it has/is changing the lives of many in the world that at one point I had to fight hard to keep my eyes dry.

This was followed by 5 short case studies, each lasting no more than 15 minutes, which talked about how FOSS was the differentiating factor. My talk on "securing your infrastructure using FOSS" was the last talk for the day and was rushed to finish in 15 min. Luckily I ended up escaping an official escort even after taking 18 minutes.

After FOSSEnterprise we got on the Geekout bus and started our journey to Kithulgala, which turned out to be a long long long journey...

By the time we got there, it was raining hard, and we were starving. The bus we came in had a few glitches that prevented it from going anything over 30km/hour. Pretty much everyone who was using alternative transport beat us to the destination. Nevertheless we managed to kill time arguing over the GPL License and what it meant that we didn't notice it as much.

geekout00621.jpg The "Kithulgala Rafter's Retreat" we stayed in was indeed a great retreat from modern life. The cottages we stayed in were well designed to look simple and in touch with nature. For example, you could barely see the wiring, that provided electricity to the ancient looking switches. The yellow ambient lighting (which was of energy saving type), gave a warmth feeling.



geekout00623.jpg

Each cottage was uniquely built to fit the landscape it was in. Myself, Anuradha and Sanjaya shared a cottage. After a tiring day, we decided to hit the sack early. There was a constant loud sound of the water stream rushing a few feet across and below us. One could also hear the sound of frogs, crickets and other natural beings. But we were too tired to appreciate these by this time.

Saturday 19th


geekout00653.jpg

Got up late to a lazy Saturday but after a naturally cold shower I was ready for anything! After having a delicious breakfast consisting of bread/string hoppers with samen,dal, coconut sambol, we started to contemplate on white water rafting. But before it was the time, there was a little time left to play a little game called Geocache, which was basically a modern hitech version of "Hide and seek" or to be slightly more accurate "treasure hunt", but using a GPS device to locate the hidden treasure.

The way the game went was as follows: First Russ hid a box containing nothing useful :) somewhere in the field (of leeches) and then gave the Geo Co-Ordinates which we entered on to Rich Bowen's GPS device. Then it was a matter of walking around trying to find the hidden box. Ofcouse its not easy as it sounds due to the relatively lower accuracy of civilian GPS and that fact that you have to be constantly moving to get a reading. We eventually managed to find the device but had some bad leech experiences along the way.

White water rafting was truly exhilarating but the hightest point for me was that of jumping off a high rock into fast moving water stream. It didn't feel dangerous until it was my turn. My body only felt it was suicidal just a split second after letting go of the ground, but then it was too late. I can't wait to do that again!

After coming back and having a delicious lunch, we started playing WereWolf, the weird game that Dave was talking about during Lightening Talks. I found myself in an awkward position when I discovered that my girl friend was a were wolf, capable of eating me as I was a mere villager. Convincing the other villagers to get rid of her would also prove touch as they might suspect me as a werewolf. Ultimately I played it safe and helped kill off two of the other Werewolves before they relialized she too was a werewolf. The final werewolf turned out to be Ken core, whom I pointed out as my dying last word purely on gut feeling and it turned to be correct, ending the game.

Later that night we had a barbecue after which I rushed back home, thanks to a ride by Rucith and the gang!

geekout00652.jpg

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

FOSSSL 2006 bill board

Well you haven't made a mark until your up on a billboard, so they say and that's what I saw yesterday as I was driving my way to the ApacheCon conference.

DSC00454.JPG

Many thanks to Virtusa for donating their hoarding to the FOSS community during the FOSSSL 2006. Also a special thanks to the army dude that gave me permission to take this picture. Sorry for forgetting to take your name down.

You can see the hoarding in front of the Bera Lake.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Blogging from ApacheCon Asia

I'm currently at ApacheCon Asia, the first ever ApacheCon in asia which is also a part of a week long FOSS event known as FOSSSL2006.

You can catch all the pictures from the event on my Flicker photo blog.

We had a good event yesterday at the Univerisity of Moratuwa, called FOSSSchool and FOSSUni which was to talk about FOSS in the academia.

DSC00446.JPG DSC00429.JPG


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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Door-to-Door marketing FOSSSL 2006

We are not your average sales people. We couldn't be... had we even tried to. We shouldn't be... because we are already selling just fine. We ought to be... because that's what people seem to expect.

We are the Sri Lankan FOSS community and we're coming to your door step - well if we find time, that is.

Here are the top 5 reasons, why your never going to think of us as the average sales person:


  1. We don't wear a tie. We don't have shiny shoes. We generally like to wear jeans and cool FOSS T-shirts, some of which, has the GPL license printed on the back.


  2. We don't carry a brief case full of sh**. We might have a poster or two in our hand.


  3. You like what you hear so much that you have an urge to invite others to listen to our gospels.


  4. After a few minutes of listening, your not sure what we're here to sell. You might even ask "So what is it that you want from us?" or "So what's in it for you?"


  5. We leave your place without having taken a penny or a filled up registration form. And yet, you feel like we've sold you something.



Even though my feet are killing me after all that walking, it was a very satisfying day. All the places that we visited was welcoming and they had already heard about Free & Opensource software (FOSS) to some degree or the other. You could tell they knew something about FOSS but were eager to learn more.

After talking with many guys in the banking, insurance, shipping and the telecom industry, it was apparent that there is a high demand for learning GNU/Linux and about other Opensource software that could replace their current proprietary IT infrastructure. Many of them had a sense of "Opensource is the new trend, the future", but was somewhat unsure of how to go about deploying it. While some places I visited had already adopted one or two servers for handling mail or proxy, the majority is still running on proprietary systems, with an expensive overhead. What is evident is that they realize that its high time to start shopping for an alternative - something that brings back control and reduces cost.

This thirst to know more is the primary motivation for us when we organize events to educate the public at different levels. FOSS(SL) was a week long series of events we started last year, around the first ever Software Freedom day celebrations. So while the rest of world was celebrating a day, we were doing a week :)

Similar to last year, this year's FOSSSL 2006 is a special one as it encompasses the first ever ApacheCon for Asia. ApacheCon is a very popular conference in the US and Europe, that brings thousands of developers and technologists on to a multi track sessions comprising of talks and tutorials. ApacheCon Asia will have a star line up of speakers both local and international. This will be a good opportunity for our local developers to interact with key developers of the popular Apache software that powers nearly 65% of the web (at the time).

Another useful event for the above said local industry looking to migrate is FOSSEnterprise which looks at the know how of adopting FOSS in the enterprise. There will be several real world case studies followed by panel discussions that will be moderated by key FOSS personalities. Similarly, there will be prominent line up of speakers, who have a lot of experience working with the industry.


To end it all off, there is a fun event called Geek out which is an action packed camping trip with a chance to hang out with the geeks!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Buddha statues emitting magical rays or Mass Hysteria?

On my way home today, I got caught to an unusual traffic jam. The kind you get when there is a heavy storm, an accident or a very smart cop trying to override traffic lights! But as soon as I turned off from the Nawala junction towards, Nugegoda it was evident none of those were the cause. For some weird reason, traffic was just moving slow as far as the eye could see.

Then without thinking much about it, I joked to myself, if this was caused by "yet another Buddha statue" emitting rays and people flocking to see. All day, I've been hearing people musing about how this phenomena was happening in multiple locations and how it had caused traffic jams and even few accidents. But I was too busy at work to think much of it. I didn't really think there could be anything other than a Sri Lankan cricket match that was capable of such things.

After getting home, I got to know that my mom, my girl friend's two sisters and a few other relatives have also witnessed this phenomena. Dinner was spent debating the different theories ranging from that of a conspiracy theory to misdirect attention, to possible chemical agents that might have reacted, to glow in the dark phosphorous to.. well the list goes on. Things got more bazaar when I learned that my gandmother and aunt had seen this in their own living room!

Ladies and gentleman, we have just witnessed Mass Hysteria, induced possibly by an optical illusion caused by a memory effect in the retina due to over exposure. Shocking isn't it?

Mass hyteria can do some horrific things to people as in the case of War of the world's, radio broadcast.


"The War of the Worlds, a radio adaptation by Orson Welles based upon H. G. Wells' classic novel, was performed by Mercury Theatre on the Air as a Halloween special on October 30, 1938. The live broadcast reportedly frightened many listeners into believing that an actual Martian invasion was in progress." - wikipedia


Though I personally didn't get much excited to stop the car and witness this myself, the following demo might illustrate what people think they are seeing.

hysteriademo

Concentrate on where the red meets yellow for some time and you should begin to see a light-green glow that changes in width and intensity. Many people have supposedly reported green as the color of the rays. But this theory requires the statue to be of two colors. Anyway these are not my findings but some that I heard on ITN from some viewers that have done some field research.

The final decision by the experts are yet to be announced. Fingers crossed for I hope they don't say that its real :)

P.S
What you see is not always what you get. Check out these optical illusions.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Swap (old_monitor, new_panel);

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Liquid Crystal Display(LCD) Panel prices have come down considerably, perhaps partly driven by some competition from plasma displays, though I feel the LCD will win in the long run.

The price drop has encouraged many organizations (especially in developed countries) to ditch their old monitors, (that have been arriving by the container loads into Colombo), for new LCD displays.

I've been contemplating on an LCD TV versus a Plasma TV but both seem a tad too high for my budget. I didn't want to settle for a 15" or 17" LCD display either because there was already a perfectly functioning 17" monitor. So anything above 17" that was reasonable was what I had in mind and thats exactly what I found (sort of).

I came across a brochure from Metropolitan, that said they would buy back any monitor and sell you a 19" Acer LCD for 10k less. I was a bit skeptical as to the price saving so I decided to do some home work at Unity Plaza. From initial investigations it seemed as if this wasn't a good deal at all, because I could buy a 19" LCD without returning an old monitor for about the same price or a little higher!

Further investigation into the specs revealed that none of those displays were as good as the Acer display. For example most displays could only go up to 1280x800 or in some instances 1024x768 while the Acer could do 1440x900. Also most other displays did not mention their response time which probably meant it was around 12ms or higher, while the Acer one had a wooping 8ms. The lower the response time the less ghost effect you get with high action video. So I came to the conclusion that the dislay was worth more than the extra 10k that is being reduced.

But where would I get an old monitor thats worth less? Ah.. thats where my 10 year old 15" monitor which my dad was using comes in. Its a win-win situation. He gets a 17" monitor; I get 10k off for a really old, "not so good for your eyes" monitor; our family saves on electricity because I'm a heavy computer user; the problem of disposing a junk monitor without hurting the environment has been handed over to someone else.

So if your looking for an upgrade, this might be a good opportunity.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

BabyTux Digest, probably the first...

babytux_digest The babyTUX Digest came as an idea to some of us to create an online magazine that covered Free & opensource software(FOSS) and related technologies. It is probably the first FOSS Magazine from Sri Lanka, carrying several articles by local writers.

The magazine hopes to cover a wide range of FOSS applications in the style of reviews, how-do-i/how-to etc. as well as other local news and events related to the local FOSS movement. While it is primarly written for the intelligent newbie, there will be some articles for the intermediate and advanced user as well.

To commemorate the launch, there was a small private party at "The Commons", which was attended by few key contributors to the project as well as some well wishers (who'll hopefully be future contributors). Arunan, who is also the Editor, gave a run down of the pilot issue and enlightened the gathering as to how and why it was put together. In addition to the local writers, several foreign writers have also provided articles for the first issue.

The magazine, which is being distributed via a Creative Commons License, can be downloaded from the BabyTUX Digest website - http://digest.babytux.org. Don't forget to sign up for the babytuxdigest googlegroup to be notified as soon as a new issue of the magazine is released. For the moment, the babyTUX Digest will is planned to be released once every two months.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Which came first? The Computers or the Operating System?

no_winlogo

Imagine going to your vehicle dealer to buy your dream car and inspecting evey inch of it. Beautiful interior and gourgous exterior only tempt you to look under the hood.

At first your dazzled by the sparkling engine, but your eyes quicky gaze at a sticker pasted on engine.

"This car was designed for Kaltech Koolant and Engine oil"

"Have times changed", you might think to your self. Last time you bought a car, it pretty much ran on any type of Coolant or even water. Same went for engine oil. Weren't Coolants and Engine oils supposed to be designed to work with cars and not the other way around?

At this point you might change your mind, and start to look for another car. To your horror, all new cars come with this logo.

"What's up doc?", you ask the dealer. "Oh come on....practically every car these days runs on Kaltech, he tells you. Seeing that your not satisfied with his answer, he titls over to your ear and wispers, "Don't worry, it does run on other Coolants or just plain old water... but don't quote me on that!". "We're not allowed to remove that sticker and tell you that the car is more flexible than meets the eye. If we do, we could loose our dealership!", he explains.

Thankfully this story is fiction... atleast in this parallel Universe; or is it??? Something somewhere has terribly gone wrong in our universe, because apprently computers are now designed to run on a certain Redmond OS.

The best things that happened to our computers were a result of IBM opening up their PC architecture design. As a result there was more innovating in both hardware and software that powered the PC. So why deny that power by having a sticker that undermines it.

Get the real facts and ask your self, is the sticker worth it! Shouldn't your computer deserves more.

Your computer doesn't have a chicken and egg problem. Well may be just a chicken problem.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

They wanted me to play Games on Linux during the Lecture...

I've never been officially asked to play games in front of a crowd as part of a lecture before.. until NOW, that is! But to add to the joy, how about going out of Colombo (sort of) and into a camp? LKing Camp was what it was called and this second time around, it was held at the Sarvodaya, Moratuwa.

How much more fun could it get? Especially considering the timing with my dual core upgrade and 1GB RAM. So you could imagine how excited I was at the opportunity, when I was invited right after my speech at FOSS-Ed for hackers.

Getting machines for the setup was the event was a bit of a hassle due to the hardware being pretty new and the machines donated by University of Moratuwa still running Fedora Core 4. Ultimately I was able to convince an upgrade to FC5, which fixed most of the 3D grahic issues. On my notebook, I had to do a quick install of Ununtu since I didn't have time to get 3D working on Gentoo (its working now).

As for the game, I ended up going with the quake 3 demo as it performed very well on the intel based grahic cards we had with the Opensource driver. Unfortunately there were some problems when I plugged my notebook to the projector and so had to use a desktop to play the game :(. This too was quite a challenge as I had to look at a not_so_bright projected screen, where the enemy could barely be seen.

After spending an hour or so explaining how to optimize the system for gaming on Linux, we didn't get much time to actually play the game. Luckily for me. we played the game long enough for me to tie the score with my LAN opponent.....phew~

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For more pictures: see all photos from LKing

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NIBM LUG invites LKLUG

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I was quite impressed the other day when a few of us from the Lanka Linux User Group (LKLUG) visited the National Institute of Business & Management (NIBM) as a result of an invitation we received a little over a month ago, to deliver few lectures. The event was held on the 24th of June.

I thought they did a fantastic job in organizing the event by inviting us well ahead of time and following it up with suggestions for topics to talk of and later fixing a proper time slot that was convenient.

Surprisingly this was the first of such an event and they had even made it a public event (which we were unaware of until later), and had yet managed to fill an entire auditorium of about 90% outsiders.

It was only a couple of years ago that LKLUG first walked into NIBM and planted the seeds of Free & Opensource software by conducting a 2 day workshop on GNU/Linux. Therefore I think it was quite rewarding for us to see how organized and determined they have become in executing this event.

Good job NIBM! Keep spreading the love and freedom....

Monday, June 26, 2006

Getting a Lanka Bell CDMA working on Linux

Thought of bloggin on the topic as I am constantly asked about the topic. Its not that difficult to get the Bell CDMA phone working most of the time. If you have the hotplug or hald running as soon as you plugin the phone to the USB port it should get detected and the proper driver loaded.

This is how you can check if the driver was loaded properly:

Type dmesg and check the end of the output you should see something that says the ti_usb_3410 driver was loaded successfully.


# dmesg
ti_usb_3410_5052 2-1:2.0: TI USB 3410 1 port adapter converter detected


You can also check that the driver was loaded by using lsmod. The dmesg output should also tell you the USB serial port that the driver has bind itself to. (Usually /dev/ttyUSB0)

# lsmod|grep ti_usb_3410

Also make sure that the proper ppp modules have been loaded, or else you will notice that the dialer will not be able to connect to the ISP.

# lsmod|grep ppp

ppp_generic
ppp_async
ppp_deflate

To connect, I'd recommend using wvdial with stupid mode. I'm not sure if any other dialers support the stupid mode. Create the wvdial.conf script as follows.

# vi /etc/wvdial.conf

[Dialer Defaults]
Init = ATZ

[Dialer BellNet]
Modem = /dev/ttyUSB0
Phone = #777
Baud = 230400
Init1 = ATZ
Stupid Mode = 1
Dial Command = ATDT
Username = your_user_name
Password = your_password

Your ready to dial.

# wvdial BellNet

At this point, I find that sometimes the driver is unable to activate the phone's modem unless you pick up the handset and set it down. This isn't always the case but most of the time wvdial gives up because it doesn't get any respose from the modem.

If by any chance you are having trouble with the driver when you look at the dmesg output then usually upgrading the kernel to the latest should help. Otherwise you could try downloading the old driver for 2.6 and installing it manually (you need to have the kernel source)

http://gate.brimson.com/downloads/ti_usb-0.3-1.tgz

Thats it!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cloning my notebook...and then mutating it!

Who said that only rich doctors were allowed to clone? I've just cloned my 3 year old notebook on to my brand new Acer TravelMate 4200 notebook that I got from my office.

While the operation wasn't extremely easy, given that I had about 30GB to clone accross a 100MBps shared LAN, it was relatively easier than reinstalling all my 500 odd packages. Given my preference for Gentoo Linux, this would have resulted in a considerable amount of down time waiting for everything to compile. Instead I had a workable system that was identical to where I left off.

Cloning 101



Cloning a GNU/Linux box is relatively simple. I booted both machines off two Knoppix LiveCDs, and then proceeded to configure the network cards on each notebook, so that they can ping each other. Then I partitioned my new notebook's hard drive, wiping out windoze, but keeping the hidden recovery partition just in case (i needed to return it). If you thought that this required creating partition sizes identically to the old notebook, then think again. I was able to utilize my new 80GB hard drive as I pleased, evenleaving some unpartitoned space to play with in the future.
Disk /dev/hda: 80.0 GB, 80026361856 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 9729 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes

 Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/hda1               1         509     4088511   12  Compaq diagnostics
/dev/hda2   *         510         521       96390   83  Linux
/dev/hda3             522         770     2000092+  82  Linux swap / Solaris
/dev/hda4             771        7617    54998527+   5  Extended
/dev/hda5             771        2637    14996646   83  Linux
/dev/hda6            2638        7617    40001818+  83  Linux

So as you may have noticed that unlike the doctors, we are not cloning the body but instead the soul.

# mkdir /mnt/install

Ater creating the install mount point, next I formatted the different partitons and mounted them, but in the following order:

  • format /dev/hda5 and mount to /mnt/install
    • # mkreiserfs /dev/hda5; mount /dev/hda5 /mnt/install; mkdir /mnt/install/{boot,home}
  • format /dev/hda2 and mount to /mnt/install/boot (I prefer a seperate /boot partition)
    • mkfs.ext2 /dev/hda2; mount /dev/hda2 /mnt/install/boot
  • format /dev/hda6 and mount to /mnt/install/home
    • mkreiserfs /dev/hda6; mount /dev/hda6 /mnt/install/home
Next I mounted the different partitions from my old notebook in a similar manner (without the formatting steps..duuh!).

By using rsync tool that was already installed on knoppix, I could now begin the cloning process by issuing the following commands.

On the old notebook

# /etc/init.d/rsync start

On the new notebook

# rsync -av root@ip_of_old_notebook:/mnt/install/ /mnt/install/

..and after about a few hours later the system would have completely been cloned.

Unfortunately as my hard drive layout (body) wasn't compatible with the old one, I needed to reconfigure the /mnt/install/etc/fstab and /mnt/install/boot/grub/menu.lst files and change the partitions to the correct values.

Finally, I installed the boot loader, GRUB on the new machine and rebooted it.

# grub-install --root-directory=/mnt/install/boot /dev/hda

kernel panic!

Ok so it didn't exactly go smooth, but only because I used a custom kernel that was optimized for my old notebook. After recompiling a new kernel with drivers for the acer notebook, and rebooting, I was able to get it to work like a charm. If you're using a standard stock kernel, then you are unlikely to have these issues.

One other point to keep in mind is to have some sort of automatic hardware detection deamon running so that you don't have to manually specify drivers. For this, redhat systems use the Kudzu package or something similar while debian systems tend to use the Discover package. I ofcourse opted to manually configure my drivers the Gentoo way!

Introducing Mutations...



I've already done a bit of mutation by modifying a couple of files, but ultimately the whole point of running Gentoo is to optimize it for my hardware. This is going to take a bit of time, as it requires me to recompile the complete system with new compiler flags (aka USE flags). I've already started download all the package sources and hopefully within a day or two I can finish that. I am eager to see how long it will actually take to compile the system, (while I work on it ofcourse), since it has got 1GB of ram and an intel Duo Core Centrino processor (see full specs below).

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For anyone purchasing a new notebook thats worth value for money, the Acer TravelMate 4200 is an excellent choice IMHO. And if you want to fully utilize its power then an OS such as Gentoo or any other GNU/Linux disto for that matter is *the* excellent choice!

Processor: Core Duo T2300 1.66 GHz
Motherboard chipset: Intel 945GM
Memory: 1GB DDR2 SDRAM (upgraded)
Hard drive: 80 GB ATA 5400rpms
Optical drive: DVD Super Multi writer
Connectivity: Ports 4 x USB 2.0; RJ45 (LAN); RJ11 (modem); VGA-out, Bluetooth,Built-in devices 1 x Type II PC Card slot
Network: Ethernet 10/100/1000, Wireless LAN 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g
Display: Graphics hardware Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950, 224MB
Screen: 15.4 inch, TFT (widescreen) 1,280 x 800
Dimensions: 358 x 269 x 33.8 mm
Weight: w/battery 2.98 kg
Other: Disk Anti-shock protection, Quick charge (80% in 1hrs)

See Also

Friday, June 09, 2006

My new Cybershot!

camera-inhand

After the last foss-Ed event and seeing the quality of the pictures taken from my (6 year old) Kodak 3600DX camera, I decided it was time to buy a new one.

When deciding what sort of camera to buy, it occurred to me that having a small, highly portable one would be most practical as I can always carry it around with out pre-planning to take pictures. There were countless number of times that I wished I'd brought my camera along and had to settle for a quick phone camera shot, instead.

So I decided to go with a Sony cybershot T series. After reading a couple of reviews and especially this one, I was sold on buying the T30. I got mine at Nastash, a/the gadget shop at Liberty Plaza.

A few days after I went on a trip to Amaya Hills (aka Le Kandian), and took these pictures among others :)

ENjoy!

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More Pictures from Amaya Hills

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ubuntu [Drapper] Launched in style!

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Many geeks turned up at ExcelWorld on last Sunday for the launch of the much waited and anticipated version of Ubuntu, codenamed Drapper. Drapper, aka Ubuntu 6.06, has several improvements over previous versions. Here are some of the high-lights:


  • Single installable LiveCD

  • Graphical Installer

  • Nice sleek look (Ubuntu only IMHO)

  • Official promotion of Kubuntu

  • Update notification applet

  • Improved hardware support, especially for wireless devices



Anyway, I hope to write a review on my first impressions on Ubuntu later this week.. so stay tuned.

I got to the party a little bit late - at around 6pm even though it was on from about 1pm. As I arrived I could see a table infested with geeks, notebooks and digi camera's. Got myself a set of Ubuntu and Kubuntu CDs of which I installed Ubuntu on my home barebone system as an addition to the existing 3 or 4 other distros :)

Anyway it was a fun launch... enjoy the pictures.


  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/ubuntu/

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mahangu/tags/ubuntu/

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Foss-Ed for geeks [Day 1 & 2]

[day1]

Listening to Prof. Lawrence Lessig speak was like listening to a continuous flow of harmonic notes resonating ever so smoothly and flawlessly, you'd wonder if he has memorized it.

They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", and yet somehow, it seems just the opposite with Prof. Lawrence's slides. Even though it contained only a couple of words per slide, when synchronized with his continuous train of words, had a powerful effect to convey a message - a message of commons.

I've never heard or seen anyone speak so effortlessly while flipping though a serious of slides, atleast 10 - 20 slides per minute at times, each only containing a word or sometimes a couple of words, and to do the whole exercise without pausing to look at the screen to change slides. The closest I've seen to this was probably the "weather report" on CNN or BBC.

I was lucky enough to not only listen to two such high passed but yet calm speeches done at the FOSS-Ed and later in the evening at the laugh of the Creative Commons Sri Lanka website, but also had the privilege of talking him to lunch.

While the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the talk by Prof. Lawrence, there were a lot of other great technical speeches that seemed to keep most of the audience at the edge of their seat. Unfortunately I couldn't sit throughout the rest of the talks, as my own rear was on the line to finish the presentation on Kernel Configuration, that I'm supposed to deliver tomorrow (today by the time you read).

[day2]

On day2 I didn't stay for many of the lectures and was basically running around and trying to finish my presentation. When the time came, I think I had enough slides to get me through the kernel config lecture. Everything went pretty well except for the fact that my notebook did not display anything on the LCD when hooked up to the projector, which was annoying as I had to keep turning my head to see if I was typing the commands correctly.

Later we had an interesting guest speech that wasn't in the schedule by Wipul Jayawickrama. It was on the topic of using "Social Engineering" to penetrate security and contained many real-world stories from his experience.

The ended with a "not-so-great" panel discussion, (of which I was also a part of :)), either because the crowd was shy or dumb struck for questions. I think this was a another very successful foss-ed.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

FOSS-Ed for Hacker's is coming to town

The second installment of FOSS-Ed, an ongoing series of seminars to educate on the wonders of Free and Open Source Software or FOSS in short will commence from the 22nd, Monday.

FOSS-Ed was a huge success last time around with very good participation and you read more about on my previous post Fullhouse @ FOSS-Ed.

This time around we expect an even greater participation and by looking at the number of current registration, looks as if we are heading for another Full House! Unlike the previous FOSS-Ed seminar, the latest installment is targeted at the IT savvy geeks that enjoy programming and installing and fine tuning software for security or performance.

Whats more exciting is that Prof. Lawrence Lessig, the great visionary, an excellent speaker and founder of Creative Commons, the alternative to copy right, will be the keynote speaker. I'm very much looking forward to hearing him speak.

And finally, ahem, ahem... I too will be speaking on "Linux kernel configuration and optimization" that I hope will help to demystify the topic and help people realize that "Kernel compiling" doesn't require you to have an inhaler, standby!

For anyone interested in coming for the event, there is still time to register at http://www.foss.lk.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Late night Anatomy : Playing Dr. Hannible with my gadgets

Lately, I've been getting urges to dissect things; computer things to be more specific.

First involves an unsuspecting DVD writer and the second my first ever notebook that has always been a favorite item to show off at exhibitions or lectures involving gadgets.

My DVD writer has always been giving me trouble since I've got it a little under two years ago, during a visit to Singapore. Not only did it cost me about $120, it was very picky as to what DVDs was appropriate to play or write to.

For example, the first disappointment came when I was unable to write to any of the cheap "Melody branded DVD +R"” I had bought (25 stack). Then there were many accounts of (pirated) DVD movies, that I had to go back to return, only to find that it played well on the player or on my notebook.

Finally, just a few weeks ago, it completely stopped reading DVDs of any sort. At first, it seemed a little spin with a cleaning disc would do the trick, but that wasn't the case.

So I decided to rip it apart to see if I could get more personal with its inner workings as well as clean the laser by hand. I'll let the pictures speak for them self.

dvd001 dvd002 dvd003 dvd004 dvd005


Finally after putting it back to together, the result hadn't changed. While it no longer played DVDs it was happy to play CDs. This was abou the time my brother was also visiting from UK and wanted some DVDs written before leaving, so I ditched it and bought the same Sony DVD writer (newer model of course) for half the price, locally!

The decision to dissect my sony vaio notebook was really sudden and was purely because I "just felt like it"”! Actually, I've had put away my vaio, a much loved device, not to mention my first of the kind, for some time now. It has always been an inspiration and a triumph for the only OS - GNU/Linux that could make use of a crippled notebook that only worked for about 3 months, before the hard disk along with its controller failed. That is why, I always took this gadget along to captivate the audience of a notebook that had no permanent memory, with no apparent use, suddenly coming to life by using a floppy containing a few kilo-bytes of ether-boot code that enables it to boot off GNU/Linux completely off another machine lying on the network.

Sony (and apple) has made it difficult to remove their devices by packaging it ever more tightly. Unlike most notebooks, the vaio that lay before me, did not like anyone tampering with it to install a hard drive or even expand its memory. But tonight, I was feeling comfortable to finally remove a device that was never meant to be removed.

vaio000 vaio001 vaio003 vaio002 vaio004


vaio005 vaio006 vaio007 vaio008

It was a highly sweating journey through the process from dissembling to assembling. Though I was able to put it back together, removing the unwanted hard drive and making the device even lighter, reconnecting the touch-pad cable onto the motherboard proved impossible under the circumstances. I was working under limited space between the 3 millimeter thick cable that was supposed to just sit under a small plastic lock. Unfortunately I had broken one side of the plastic lock while snapping it out with my fingernails.

Other than that, the notebook worked as before and the following day I bought a 5-port USB that made it easier to plug in the USB floppy, thumb driver for extra memory and a USB mouse simultaneously.

Which device will I dissect next? Stay tuned.