Showing posts from 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 …

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:

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 HFS…

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 re…

Building an offline version of Easy Ubuntu - EasyERUbuntu HOWTO


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

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 Ub…

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.


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 …

Linux booting at 30,000 feet...

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...

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".

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.…

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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

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

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?"

We leave your place without having taken a …

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 phenom…

Swap (old_monitor, new_panel);

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 se…

BabyTux Digest, probably the first...

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 provid…

Which came first? The Computers or the Operating System?

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 d…

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 a…


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.


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


To connect, I'd recommend using wvdial with stupid mo…

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…

My new Cybershot!

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 :)


More Pictures from Amaya Hills

Ubuntu [Drapper] Launched in style!

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.…

Foss-Ed for geeks [Day 1 & 2]


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 lat…

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 optim…

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 decide…