Friday, April 18, 2008

24hrs Sinhala Blog Marathon Starts Today!

The Sinhala Bloggers Union is organizing a 24hrs Blog Marathon starting from 8pm local time today, 18th to the 19th. There are currently over 30 participating blogs, including our sister (or brother depending on where your from :) site sinhalenfoss.org. Each blogging site will be trying to reach a crazy difficult target of 96 posts! In otherwords, we're talking about a blog post appearing from each site every 15 min! Multiply that by 30+ sites and boy I hope the net doesn't crash :P

The easiest way to catch all the fun is to constantly reload http://marathon.sinhalabloggers.com/, the official blog aggregator (syndicator) for the event. But it doesn't stop there. These guys have created a custom Face Book application for the FB junkies, a twitter channel for twitter addicts like myself, a Yahoo Pipes mash up for the web services oriented and even IM based updates.

If your interested in blogging in Sinhala Unicode, it might not be too late to enroll your self by contacting them.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Best Last place to listen to Music

lastfm

If your a music lover and also inclined to discover new (&old) music then last.fm is the place to be. I've signed up a couple of months back and have really been enjoying music surfing. Thats right! similar to channel surfing last.fm is about discovering music based on what you like and what others who are like you like. There is plenty of research in this field, some of which are headed by the folks at lastfm, but what it essentially means is a good trip down music lane :)

You can sign up for a free account and search based on artist or a tag such as pop, rock, jazz or female vocalist. In any case your search result becomes a virtual radio station which goes off on all sorts of tangents discovering similar artists or similar artists, tags and so on. When you hear a song you really like, you can express your pleasure by marking it as loved, or display your hate by banning it and you shall never hear it. You can also skip tracks, unlike web streaming radio but can not seek within the song, since it isn't meant to be "music on demand" sort of a service but more of a personalized radio like service.

The killer feature is scrobbling, which you can get by downloading and installing the Free/Open Source last.fm client on your computer or portable device such as an ipod touch/iphone or N800. What scrobbling essentially is tracking the music you play and uploading that information to the last.fm server against your profile to improve the kind of music you hear and to provide user listening patterns and charts.

The ipod touch/iphone client for those who've managed to jail break their device is simply awesome. I am so hooked on listening to music wirelessly while lying in bed and marking tracks I like and checking out lyrics, information on the artist using the integrated wiki lookup as well as checking artist tour dates and locations (not that I'll ever go but its fun). Unfortunately the desktop clients seems to lack some of these fine features integrated for the time being.

So if your music lover, go check it out. Its web 2.0 done for music where you can form your own little friend network and discover music together. if your really hooked on it, might even be worth dishing out a couple of extra bucks for the value added features the network provides.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sinhalen FOSS Blogcast

Recently I've been trying to start a Blog and Podcast as a means of reducing the language barrier when it comes to learning and playing around with Free and Open Source Software, aka FOSS. So a couple of months back I started the Sinhalen FOSS Blog at Wordpress.com. The idea of the blog is really to introduce various aspects of FOSS such as howto's, command line tips/tricks etc. and provide a forum for other Bloggers to contribute related articles. In this regard, I am grateful to Lakmal and Kanchana for their contributions and hope more of you will take the challenge in installing Sinhala Unicode and getting in to the habbit of remembering to write in Sinhala :). Yes it can be a pain, especially with the current state of input methods. Yes there are always complexities in writing proper Sinhala. But as far as I'm concerned writing something is better than not trying at all. In this regards, I'd have to thank my mom who is my personal Sinhala specialist (she's got a degree in it), and Dhahajaya who is an upcoming singer/song writer (not to mention our accountant).

So the next natural evolution from text is to get into audio. Actually thats not really the case, but for now about an year I've wanted to start podcasting. I've, myself am (me me me) a huge fan of podcasts and listens to over 10 podcasts while on the road on my ipod. Besides I've always had a thing for talking so finally with the help of 2 more geeks, chanux and seejay, I've managed get over the inertia of getting into podcasting.

With the launch of the podcast, I've decided to get its own domain so from now on both the Sinhalen FOSS Blog and Sinhalen FOSS podcast will live at http://sinhalenfoss.org. We'd like to call it a BlogCast because its a fusion of both those elements. Talking about the show, its going to be bi-weekly (hopefully) at first and depending on the feedback and our time availability we might go in to a weekly format. The show will roughly be an hour long, where we will talk informally about news events in the foss world, reviews, gossip and what not in sinhala.

So go check out the pilot episode and give us feedback on how to improve, what you'd like to hear more of less of.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Good bye Gentoo - Hello Leopard

The following post was an April Fools Hoax :) While bits of it are true such as I did finally move away from Gentoo as my primary distro its got more to do with lack of time and laziness to reinstall gentoo. Hopefully I'll do another post on me moving to Kubuntu (Ubuntu + kubuntu-desktop package). I did find few annoyances but one should expect that running a beta software. I am happily using kubuntu with full desktop effects that is far superior that of Apple of Microsoft.

I did buy the Mighty Mouse and Apple keyboard as mentioned I wanted a good portable bluetooth device and they worked effortlessly (almost :) on the latest Ubuntu 8.04.

No Leopard's were harmed in creating this hoax as the desktop your seeing on my Acer laptop is actually a full screen screenshot sent to me by Siraj using his Mac notebook which I loaded before taking the picture.


Its been a little over 3 years since I switched from Debian to Gentoo. I still remember my blog post titled "Goodbye Debian, Hello Gentoo" like it was yesterday. Gentoo was a gr8 distro for me since my machine ran like a speeding bullet as a result of being able to optimize it to my old P4 notebook at the time. Actually before loading Gentoo on my notebook I actually ran it a on my AMD64 bare bone system as a 64 bit OS. I later install gentoo on my Mac Mini PPC as well and was loving it.

But then came the painful realization of upgrading packages and I would spend a lot of time on the PPC machine and the AMD 64 machine downloading and compiling packages. You see unfortunately in most cases downloading source code takes up more space than the compiled binary and compiling it on an old PPC system or even an old AMD 64 (2GHz equivalent) was a killer. But I must say I enjoyed it - until of course the system was still half broken and I had to do a revdep-rebuild to rebuild those packages.

Eventually I gave up running Gentoo on those systems and started running Ubuntu or Debian. Till recently my Apple PPC G4 was running Debian but when I upgraded to Leopard (aka Mac OSX 10.5) it replaced the boot loader so now its just running on that. My AMD 64 is running Ubuntu 64 with a Leopard like theme by following the instructions at Mac4Lin.

So basically till last weekend I was only running Gentoo on my main notebook and funny enough it was the same installation I did 3 years ago on my HP P4 notebook. You see when I got this new Acer, I was too lazy to re-install Gentoo so copied the files across and re-emerged everything. And thats how Gentoo is. You can rebuild the whole system and have it like a new one. But for things to work right sometimes you end up recompiling a couple of times only to find by the time your done its time to upgrade again :) But more recently I had a couple of apps which just crashed like wvdial and X with compiz.

So last weekend, I carefully backed up my data and started installing Ubuntu. Since I was already using xorg 7.3 and what not I thought I'd install Ubuntu+1 (aka 8.04 beta). Its one thing to switch from Gentoo to Ubuntu but another to also switch from Kde to Gnome. I've been a Kde user for over 6 years! So I did the apt-get install kubuntu-desktop. Oh boy is kubuntu not so ready. Compared to Ubuntu I find it buggy and not polished at all.

After spending the whole of weekend I managed to get something which sort of resembles my favorite desktop - Leopard.

compiz-awn

But it was such a pain. When ever I rebooted the machine kubuntu would not properly start desktop effects. I spent a couple of hours trying to figure this out and even went on IRC #kubuntu but no luck. Finally I nailed it down to a some sort of a dbus error. And that was the last straw! I've had it spending time messing around with my OS. The reason I left Gentoo was to have an easier time enjoying the desktop and now the same thing with kubuntu!!!

All this happened yesterday and I was quite frustrated with Kubuntu and Linux in general. I know linux has come a long way and its still a great OS but when all you want is to "just do it" Linux tends to fail more often. So I was quite frustrated and went for a shower since by then I was feeling so sweaty and sticky. While showering it occurred to me that I was really most comfortable with the Mac OSX GUI than anything else. If you've been following my blog you would remember that I wrote several posts from even before Compiz-beryl was invented on making the desktop look more like Mac OSX. I remember a couple of years back I managed to install a hackint0sh version of OSX Tiger on one of the IBM Thinkpad, so yesterday started looking into it. I had the ISO for Tiger but wanted to install Leopard instead. Luckily I had the ISO's for Leopard also :) since I had upgraded my Mac Mini with it so after following the instructions at this site I managed to get OSX Leopard running on my Acer.

Everything pretty much works great such as Sound, 3D acceleration, Networking, Wi-Fi and even bluetooth. I recently bought an Apple Mighty Mouse since I wanted a bluetooth wireless mouse and it works great. It was so much easier to configure on OSX than on Linux.

So it looks like for the time being until I have a bit more time on my hand I am leaving the OS I spent the last 8-9 years using for an OS I've aspired all other OSes should become. Apple has always been very innovative and I think the desktop OS will be won by them at the end.

I am still a hoping to use a lot of Open Source software from within Mac OSX. When I get more time I might even look into the wonderful Darwin system which is a truly Open Source kernel based on BSD Unix. I am also very keen on getting into Apple's Objective C based CoCoa development using XCode since it will provide me with the means to develop iPhone apps using the SDK. I also hope to buy an iPhone once the 3G version is available. Wooh! can't wait!

Anyway I wrote a lot and I'm quite excited and hope to bring you guys more articles on using Mac OSX!

Leopard on my Acer