rakhesh shows …

June 18, 2006

Flock: Live search results vs. query suggest

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 7:25 am

Just read a story on Flock on Internetnews.com. The author claims out that our live search results are similar to what the Google Toolbar does. Our search box is one of my favorite features, so I wanted to clarify the difference between what you can get from, say, Google Toolbar, and what the Flock search box offers. §

June 13, 2006

Staying on the cutting edge

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 10:46 am

This is an old article. But it has some info on the origins of the three BSDs. Interesting read. §

OpenBSD security features

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 10:35 am

Nice info here at this Wikipedia page. §

Theo de Raadt interview

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 10:29 am

NF: NFE, the Nvidia nForce MCP Ethernet adapter. How did you manage to write this driver? Is it reverse-engineered?

TdR: Nvidia did not giveanyone documentation. Instead, they expect people to load a giganticblob of binary code into their kernel, and just be happy with that. Some Linux people in Germany reverse-engineered the driver years ago,but the rough story I heard is that Nvidia asked them to stop, and they did. This just astounds me! In any case, Jonathan Gray (who startedthis effort) asked for their help with a few problematic technical details, and they refused. I could not believe that, so I asked as well — and they refused again. These are Linux developers, basically placing the community in a situation where they have to run a binaryblob of unknown code from a vendor, instead of sticking to their guns about open source? I must admit, I just don't understand some people.They must have much more flexibility to their belief systems than I have.

Damien Bergamini joined Jonathan toward the end andgot all the bugs out of the driver. We are happy to say that it appearsto be working better than the Nvidia binary blob. It is alsosignificantly smaller, and it is very clean source code.

NF: In the past there was amovement in the OpenBSD community to press hardware vendors to releasedocumentation about their products (Ethernet and wireless network adapters, RAID controllers, etc.) so that drivers could be written for OpenBSD or other open source projects. Some vendors did releasedocumentation, but others didn't. Why do you think vendors do that? They don't want their products to be supported on OpenBSD?

TdR: There are always at least afew efforts in the project to get more documentation out of vendors.But some vendors are still incredibly resistant. We often run into vendors who have signed NDA agreements with Linux developers, who willthen happily write a Linux driver filled with magic numbers, which only one developer in the world understands. Having signed the NDA ensuredthat Linux got a working driver, sure, but the internals are indistinguishable from magic. It cannot be fixed by anyone else, because it is full of secrets. It is a source code version of a blob.

There are many reasons why vendors will not giveinformation out. I believe that all their reasons are a lie to thecustomer. I can get nearly complete data books for the parts that arein my car, and I should be able to get them for the parts in mycomputer. §

I use OpenBSD and NetBSD on my laptop now. Left all the linuces — waste of time. And reading interviews like these, I feel all the more glad. One of the reasons I took to Linux long ago in college (apart from my fondness for CLI and Unixy concepts) was this whole thing about "freedom" — but Linux seems to be slowly losing out on that. Giving into proprietary drivers and NDAs and stuff like that …

I am searching for a particular interview of Theo. Just can't seem to get my hands on that …

June 10, 2006

"The Don” — discussions

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 7:36 am

Shaji Kailas is planning a new movie with Dileep as the hero. The idea
is to convert Dileep from a soft neighborhood boy to a macho macho man.
While the discussions were going on, we happened to be the fly on the
wall. §

This one’s too good!! :)

June 9, 2006

Windows Vista Beta2 download

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 10:45 am

Shagedellic!! §

It’s a DVD ISO image btw. No point downloading unless you have a DVD writer. ( I don’t. :-( )

Windows' hidden features

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 10:39 am

Check this out §

Goodness! That’s such an elephant size security hole in Windows!

Right-click on the Desktop
Create a new Shortcut
Point the location of the item to any executable… such as: c:\windows\system32\calc.exe
Name the shortcut, for example, http://www.microsoft.com
Start Internet Explorer (IE5 and IE6 work best)
Type “www.microsoft.com” into the address bar
Enjoy.

May 26, 2006

the supermarket thing

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 11:11 am

Nice post here by Joey. §

I gave up on using Ubuntu sometime ago. Infact I gave up on using Linux itself sometime ago. But I do agree with whatever the author has to say. 

Meanwhile, Google has released Picasa for Linux. More specifically, for a "certain" bunch of Linux distributions. §

May 15, 2006

Ubuntu 2.0 (Twobuntu?!)

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:58 am

… if the most popular Linux distro has the smallest engineering team and is the least stable, it threatens the perception of the desktop distro market as a whole. Meanwhile, if Debian had 2 million new customers and 10,000 new bugs, I’ll bet they could pick up the pace for the increased workload, especially if it came with a few New Maintainer applications. §

A very interesting and critical look at Ubuntu. Heck, after reading the above line I seriously started wondering if sticking with Ubuntu was a good choice after all. For one, are they really doing much good for Debian (a distro I like loads) with all their work? And two, how much can I trust it for stability and stuff?

A good read.

May 13, 2006

Removing Spyfalcon

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 4:00 pm

My boss's home machine kept throwing messages that the machine was infected by spyware/ malware and that one needed to click the prompt to remove them. The machines looked very much like Windows's Security Centre warnings, but something about them wasn't quite normal. Clicking on them didn't produce any effect; and neither did there seem to be any spyware or similar programs in the startup menu etc (I used HijackThis and StartupList). Finally I booted into Safe Mode, and then clicking the link gave me a Page Not Found error (coz I wasn't connected to the net). Turns out the page in question was SpyFalcon.com, and from there it was easy to search the net and find a way of removing it. §

May 11, 2006

Hu understands the thoughts of chairman Bill

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 9:17 am

When President Hu Jintao of China arrived in the US last Wednesday, his first appointment was dinner with Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, at Gates's mansion (aka San Simeon North) on the shores of Lake Washington. They dined on smoked guinea fowl, which had been shot at by the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney. (He missed, and hit one of his friends instead; the guinea fowl was later killed by humane means.) The pair were joined by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, the Chinese ambassador to the US, a number of the President's aides and the deputy assistant head of protocol at the White House. Owing to an unpatched security hole in Gates's Windows-powered home-monitoring system, the meeting of the two Great Leaders was bugged and a transcript of their conversation has been obtained by The Observer … §

May 10, 2006

Kevin Carmony: Walking The Line of a Divided Community

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 9:07 am

Carmony's position is that, in ten years of holding out, the FOSS community has made relatively few gains, in terms of convincing vendors to release libre codecs and drivers. In other words, the strategy doesn't seem to be working. Additionally, while some will be patient, most users would prefer to have something – anything – that works in the meanwhile. One could argue that more people need to reject the non-free software and related hardware, and I agree that it takes a mass movement to convince vendors to change. The problem is, we would most likely need the vast audience of Windows users to join our cause – a rather unlikely scenario, if you ask me.

Carmony did reiterate the hybrid car anology with me. He also spoke of the Open Source "vegans". "Just because someone is a vegetarian, I don't think they should try to force everyone else to be that way (and those who do are incredibly annoying people to be around =). Some are what I call "open source vegans," meaning they refuse to use ANY proprietary code. Fine, I respect that, and I would never want to take that choice away from them. All I ask in return is don't try to take MY choices away either. If I want to toss some "junk food" (proprietary software) in with my fruits and vegetables (OSS), I should be allowed to do that.

In order for businesses like Linspire to compete against Microsoft, they have to educate people about the advantages of the GNU/Linux (your platform here), system. They already know about the non-free "choices". FOSS technology is fantastic. People need to be informed about the FOSS choices, and why they are so fantastic. In explaining the advantages of a FOSS system, one of the overriding concerns must be – has to be – the fact that, without the freedom offered by a copyleft license, they would not be able to experience the phenomenal power of a GNU/Linux system, the freedom to share software, and the genuine freedom to learn new skills.

Theo De Raadt recently lamented that many developers take from the OpenBSD community without giving back. And while I assume he is still committed to the non-copyleft approach, I think it speaks volumes to Eric Raymond's claims that the GPL is no longer needed. §

Through Thick and Thin!

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:55 am

§

Scott’s Pet Peeves

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:49 am

It bugs me when I can’t figure out who is next in line. I always blame the second person who arrived. The first person is blameless because one person can’t form a line even if he tries. But that second bastard can doom 20 people to incurable tension by refusing to stand directly behind the first person in an obvious “this is the line” fashion. That second idiot will start drifting to the side, perhaps checking out nearby merchandise or reading signs. That’s when the trouble begins. §

Hehe! I found this funny.

I am Debian

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:32 am

Interview with Mark Shuttleworth (Ubuntu). Good one. §

May 9, 2006

Gone in 60 seconds–the high-tech version

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 4:01 pm

First introduced in the 1980s, modern remote keyless entry systems use a circuit board, a coded Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology chip, a battery, and a small antenna; the latter two designed so that the fob can broadcast to a car while it's still several feet away. The RFID chip in the key fob contains a select set of codes designed to work with a given car. These codes are rolling 40-bit strings, meaning that with each use, the code changes slightly, creating about 1 trillion possible combinations in total. When you push the unlock button, the keyfob sends a 40-bit code along with an instruction to unlock the car doors; if the synced-up car receiver gets the 40-bit code it is expecting, the car performs the instruction. If not, car does not respond. §

Using Sarge with backports and other sources (even sid)

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 3:11 pm

Gotta read this later on myself. Pinning is a concept that confuses me big time. And for a while I have been thinking of using Debian Sarge and somehow get it to use Backports or other sources. So this article is a godsend for me. :) §

Interview: Theo de Raadt (OpenBSD)

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 2:57 pm

Jeremy Andrews: You've also made mention of "mini-hackathons". How do these work, and are any currently planned?

Theo de Raadt: A few years ago we held a mini-hackathon for pf specifically, after a cansecwest conference in Vancouver which a few developers were attending. The mini-hackathon was held in a cabin near the town of Sechelt, in the woods, up the Sunshine coast; it even took a ferry ride to get there. I think there were about 15 people, staying in giant hunting tents that our hunting developer Bob brought from Edmonton. The cabin had power, but no net! There was a DSL link just under 1k away, up a hill, but it was at the maximum distance. We cut with a machete and rolled fiber through the bramble between the two buildings, and then we had net and could do commits! We were afraid that the deer would break the fiber, but the next day we saw them avoiding it, very carefully stepping over it… §

I like interviews with Theo. And I like OpenBSD. I dont use it much now coz I have a laptop, and hence don't have the luxury of having 3-4 HDDs. I like to try out all the BSDs (even though OpenBSD and NetBSD are my favourites), and with one HDD you cant install them all. When I was in college, I had all the 3 BSDs on my machine there, and spent a lot of time learning OpenBSD. Its a very nice OS. With an amazing installer program (totally geeky!) and an amazing fdisk program and a very nice bunch of manpages.

Wal-Mart seeks smiley face rights

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 2:30 pm

Crazy! Heh! §

Bluetooth Headset Roundup

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 2:14 pm

I liked the Jabra BT800. Liked it from the time I saw its specs on the Jabra site, and now I like it even more after seeing some pics and reading the author's opinions. §

Live Messenger Opens to Public

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 2:06 pm

Go get it tiger! §

May 8, 2006

The Paradox of Choice

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 2:12 pm

In his book The Paradox of Choice, author Barry Schwartz says that contrary to conventional wisdom, giving people many choices is often bad for them:

  1. When presented with many choices, many people experience "choice paralysis" and do nothing, even when doing nothing is the worst possible choice. For example, give people 20 choices of mutual funds in their 401k, and many more will just let their money sit in a low-yield money market fund than if they only had a few choices.
  2. When people do select from a large field of alternatives, whether for consumer products or life partners, they usually experience greater "buyer's remorse" than those who selected from a small number of alternatives.

A very true observation. §

Rename Windows files in bulk

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 1:14 pm

Pretty cool tip. §

Desktop Linux needs to develop standards

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 1:01 pm

A very nice article on the problems faced by new Linux users coz of the ever changing GUIs of Linux. §

Database War Stories

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 9:58 am

Interesting stories from TimO'Reilly on Web 2.0 companies and their experiences with Databases. As of now there's 7 parts to it. §

May 1, 2006

Debian sid FAQ

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 1:28 pm

Past few days I have been toying with the idea of running Debian Sid. I have Ubuntu Dapper Beta/ RC/ whatever installed, as well as ArchLinux. I like ArchLinux coz its always "current", and I like Ubuntu coz it gives me a stable/ tested snapshot of Debian "current". But you know how it is, after a while you start to think how it would be to keep running Debian "current" itself. Sid. So I was searching around the net and found this FAQ. §

One thing that I don’t understand is this: How can I be on ArchLinux current and keep updating without any problems, while if I am on Debian "current" (unstable) its such a big dangerous deal? To quote:

Should I use sid on my desktop?

If you think you can handle a broken Debian system, sure. Do you know what to do if libpam0g breaks, preventing all logins? Do you know what to do if grep breaks, causing the boot process to hang forever? These things have happened. They will happen again.

If you’d like to avoid the brown-paper-bag bugs like these, then use testing instead.

Does problems like this apply if I am using ArchLinux current too? :-S 

(Update: I figured from the Arch forums that by Arch’s current is not exactly testing/ unstable. Their "current" has stuff which has been tested and hence not (hopefully) unstable. If you want the Sid equivalent of Arch, then you must uncomment the testing and unstable repositories in your /etc/pacman.com file and if you do a pacman -Syu after that you get all the "testing" stuff. Cool, that’s nice to know). :)

I want to see most of the planet online

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 12:43 pm

An article § on Sun’s new CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, as well as a nice interview with him. §

Jonathan’s blog is something I try and read regularly. He doesn’t post there much, but whatever he posts is quite interesting.  

What economic trends do you worry about?
I worry about the American attitude toward education, engineering zpecifically. And I worry about our immigration policies. The cofounders of companies like Google, Intel and Sun were not born in America. If we persist in this idea that innovation will only come from within America, I think we’re going to miss out on the next Sun Microsystems, Google and Intel.

I liked that.

April 30, 2006

Sun is working “true to the spirit”

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 3:15 pm

A very nice post. §

OpenBSD 3.9 coming …

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 3:00 pm

With OpenBSD 3.9 slated for release tomm (May 1st), here’s an interview and an article related to OpenBSD. § §

InstaFeed

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:38 am

Received feeds through your messenger clients. Presenting: InstaFeed! §

Via Novell Cool Solutions. § 

PC-BSD’s package management philosophy

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:15 am

The PC-BSD package manager doesn't use pkg_add, or the ports system, or even RPM. Instead we've developed more of a straight-up installer approach. Software packages are installed into their own separate directories, complete with libraries and all. The goal is to have installed programs be entirely self contained, so that if the lib's on the system change, the package will be unaffected. Each package is installed into its own subdirectory under "/usr/local/MyPrograms/". The PC-BSD installer takes care of making links, setting up binaries to find their required libraries, creating icons, etc. Removing the app is also managed by PC-BSD. The directory is simply removed, along with any relevant icons / links created.

This approach is something major OS's all learned to master very early on, (I.E. Windows ®, Mac ®) but the *nix world still struggles with. Many systems and distributions install packages and libraries all over the system, creating a tangled web of dependencies, where one wrong move could render many other programs inoperable. This can make installing or upgrading programs very difficult, unless a specific RPM or binary has been created for your exact distribution, which sometimes are in short supply. §

PC-BSD 1.0, the first stable release of this Desktop oriented OS based on FreeBSD 6.0 and KDE 3.5.2 is out. I had given it a shot long ago, didn't like it much. (To be fair, it was a beta/ alpha release; so that could be one reason). I like having the full power of the OS to me, not just a glorified GUI version. And so I didn't like PC-BSD much then coz it was FreeBSD and yet was not FreeBSD. It didn't have an identity of its own.

Today however, while reading the para above on their website (in the Projects section), I liked what I read. And now I see that PC-BSD is not just about a glorified GUI pasted on FreeBSD 6.0; rather, it has some ideas and innovations on its own. Personally, I like the fact that they are doing things this way. It amazes me on how much energy and resources are spent towards package management concepts on both Linuxes and BSDs; and I keep wondering how come the Windows world doesn't seem to make such a big fuss out of it. If Windows can have a simple double click way of installing, then why not Linux or BSD?

One thing I used to think was that maybe the Windows approach is "bad" in some ways, coz it allows you to download stuff from all over the place, and that can in turn cause stability and other problems for the OS maybe. You know, perhaps the newly installed thing isn't compatible with some other app, etc etc. But then I realized that even the BSD or Linux world allows u to download stuff from all over the place — and so that can't really be a differentiating factor. Maybe, then, its a matter of size or something? In Windows, each downloaded app is self-sufficient — it contains all its required libraries etc etc. And so it doesn't depend on anything else; but at the same time its a bit larger download/ installation. Linux and BSD on the other hand have apps depending on other apps, and so this way they "build upon" each other. Downloads and installed sizes are lesser coz a lot of stuff is shared between apps; but the side effect is that you have a mesh of dependencies.

From a geeky point of view I guess its more "satisfying" to know that your system doesn't have any unnecessary bloat etc. As in, the problem is as optimized as it can be. No libraries etc are installed twice. No space is wasted. And so on. And so the Linux or BSD way rules. But from a end user point of view, I'd say the Windows way is a lot preferred. Who cares if you have 2-3 copies of a library in your system? As long as they don't cause any problems with each other and the system as such, and I can have a much easier way of downloading and installing packages, why not? (In Windows for instance, I can download the setup file for a package at work when I am online, and go install it at home offline. With Linux or BSD, I can't be sure of that. Most prolly the file will have some dependencies, and so I have to go online from home too to try and download them).

Ofcourse, all this is just my guess work.

On a related note, check out GoboLinux.

April 28, 2006

No places for Firefox2

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 7:32 am

Wokeys, so it turns out that the much touted "Places" feature of Firefox2 won’t be there after all. Instead, it might get pushed to Firefox3. ("Places" is similar to Flock’s "Favourites"). §

Personally, I think that’s a trashy piece of news. One of the things I was looking forward to in Firefox2 was the Places feature. (Another thing I was looking forward to was the change in placement of the tab close buttons. Finally Firefox takes a more sensible approach!) So things are a bit sad that way. What’s there to look forward to in Firefox2 without Places? Ben Gooder tries to justify that (not to well IMHO). § 

Here’s the document that Ben refers to in the link above. The way I see it, its just a bunch of UI improvements or "catching-up" work done by the Firefox2. I mean — "Larger search box" — is that even a "reason" to make this Firefox2? Or what about "Tabs are "default" for new window open requests"? Except for a handful of interesting features, I don’t see why the rest should count in calling this release Firefox2 and not Firefox 1.6 or something! §

April 27, 2006

IE7 Beta2 released

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 12:22 pm

Notice the lack of "preview". This is the Beta2. :) Here’s a nice post on the same by Beranger. §

Scott Free!

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 7:23 am

Sun CEO Scott McNealy steps down and hands the reigns over to his Number 2, COO Jonathan Schwartz. § §

The first link is about Scott and his successor. The second is about Scott and his contributions to Sun/ Technology etc.

April 25, 2006

Freespire

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 7:56 am

Well, much along the lines of Red Hat’s Fedora and Novell’s OpenSUSE, now Linspire is starting of Freespire.

The new Freespire distro was announced Monday by Linspire President and CEO Kevin Carmony during his keynote address to Summit attendees. Freespire will be a Debian-based, community-driven and -supported project tied to the commercial Linspire distribution, Carmony outlined, in much the same way as Fedora Core and openSUSE relate to their parent commercial distros, Red Hat Linux and SUSE Linux, respectively.

But there the similarity ends and Linspire is being quite vocal in outlining the differences.

Much of what makes Linspire unique amongst Linux distributions is its focus on the desktop and the company’s willingness to incorporate fully-licensed versions of proprietary software and drivers that allow end-users to perform operations–such as viewing a movie on DVD media legally in the US–that might not be afforded to users of other distributions.

Linspire has legal licensed versions of the proprietary codecs, and its giving those along for free (beer) in Freespire. 

Freespire is venturing into new territory by offering a free community Linux operating system that includes the option for legally licensed proprietary software pieces at its core distribution. Without this choice, desktop Linux’s market adoption will continue its slow creep toward mainstream acceptance.

Compared to other distros like OpenSUSE, that do offer proprietary stuff like Flash and Acrobat and Java, this is the first time a distro is giving away licensed versions of MP3 and other multimedia codecs away I guess. That’s what makes Freespire different I guess. 

Linux has found broad acceptance on servers, but has met with resistance from desktop and laptop computer users for its lack of native support for hardware and multi media formats. Freespire addresses this hurdle by offering proprietary drivers and software as a choice, and giving desktop Linux users the option of "out-of-the-box" legal support for MP3, DVD, Windows Media, QuickTime, Java, Flash, Real, ATI drivers, nVidia drivers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, third-party fonts, and so on. This is a significant first for free, community versions of Linux. Other Linux distributions do not include all of these pieces of proprietary software in their core, free distributions.

There’s lot more to read about this new (yet unreleased) distro. But I am just lazy to keep quoting from the various pages. § § § § §

The distro is as yet unreleased. Since its based on Debian, I guess I will be giving it a try when its out. :)

Get Yahoo! Mail Beta

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 7:27 am

To get Yahoo Mail Beta, just switch your content preference to Germany, France or UK. Then you will be asked if you want to join the beta when you log into your Yahoo Mail. Say yes, and join the beta. Then from the options menu, change your content preference what it was before. Then go to Yahoo Mail again. You should see Yahoo Beta. If you don’t see it, go to options and click "Try Beta" button. That’s all. §

Yahoo! still does not get it though. Its nowhere near Gmail in simplicity and easy of use! Naah. I guess it just proves that there’s no point copying a competitor unless you also understand what it is that really draws users towards their product. Yahoo! Mail Beta is got lots of AJAX, but none of the simplicity and non-clutter of Gmail. And its got long ads on the right side of the window.

In its defense, Yahoo! Mail Beta is much much much better than Microsoft’s Live Mail (Kahuna). Microsoft’s offering has to be the worst of the lot!  

April 24, 2006

How Mono got into Fedora

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 9:24 pm

Did you know that there’s a body called the Open Invention Network (OIN)? And that their role is to collect patents and keep them for "Free" software projects to use? And that …

As it happens, OIN holds a set of patents covering a number of fundamental aspects of XML-based web services. These patents (originally assigned to a failing company called Commerce One) created a fair amount of concern when they went up for auction at the end of 2004; many companies feared that they could be used to shake down companies all over the e-commerce field. What actually happened is rather different: they were bought by Novell for $15.5 million and eventually contributed to the OIN pool. These patents, it seems, are considered strong enough to keep Mono safe.

Novell did the community (and perhaps the technology industry as a whole) a big favor by buying those patents; in the process, it beat out bids from a couple of "intellectual property" firms associated with Nathan Myhrvold. Donating them to OIN multiplied the favor by putting these patents directly into the service of free software. We may all be a little safer as a result of this action. §

Wow! That’s soo nice. I found the whole thing pretty cool. A proper offensive strategy than just being on the defense always. :) 

April 23, 2006

Choosing a Debian distribution

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 11:03 am

Nice read. §

Status of GNOME 2.14 in Debian

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 9:25 am

 Hourly updates on the status of GNOME 2.14 in Debian Sid. §

April 21, 2006

The unabridged selective transcript of Richard M Stallman’s talk at the ANU

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 3:09 pm

Richard Matthew Stallman, the father of the GNU movement once gave a talk at the Australian National University where he explained his stand on the name GNU/Linux, the Digital Millennium Act, DRM which Stallman chooses to call Digital Restriction Management and software idea patents. He talked for over one hour explaining and throwing light on these and many other topics of interest to GNU and all freedom loving people. §

A very nice read. Stallman was someone who’s views inspired me a lot while making the switch to Linux years ago. Great guy.

That said, I do think he’s goes a bit overboard at times. You know, not entirely in tune with the "practical" nature of  this world. But that’s fine I guess. You need to aim for the sky, then only you’ll manage to get atleast the earth.

I look forward to the day Ogg is the format for audio. And when DVDs can be playing without any legal hassles. And when OpenDocument is the format for spreadsheets and documents and stuff like that. And when stuff like flash have free software replacements. That would be the day one can use one’s Linux distro right out of the box — the legal way! :)

The folly of piracy regulation

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 2:23 pm

Any cure which relies on tighter regulation of the market — especially the kind of extreme measures being advocated by some people — is far worse than the disease. As a widespread phenomenon rather than a nuisance, piracy occurs when artificial restrictions in the market jack up prices beyond what people think are reasonable. The "regulation-enforcement-more regulation" strategy is a bottomless pit which continually recreates (on a larger scale) the problem it supposedly solves. And that commercial effect is often compounded by the more general damage done to social and political freedom. §

Well said. :) 

Check the site out. Its a free library. Not many books there as of now, but its worth a look. And the rest of the write-up by this author is interesting too.  

MS releases Need For Click thanks to the US Patent Office

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:59 am

Since losing the patent case filed by Eolas (U.S. Patent No. 5,838,906—known as the ‘906 patent), Microsoft has to change radically the way IE works with a lot of content, especially video and other ActiveX controls.

Microsoft is now making changes for Internet Explorer. The changed IE handles active content, such as QuickTime, Macromedia Flash, Java and other ActiveX controls in a new way. Rather than automatically rendering and displaying active content, the updated browser prompts the user to confirm each active content item on a page. §

Heh! The crazy patent system! :)

 

Multimedia support in Linux

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 8:45 am

… "ideological reasons" are there where Fedora Core doesn’t want to support NTFS — but this is not multimedia. When a distro supported by a business (not by a single guy, like for MEPIS) does not include support for MP3 files, or for AVI files, or for libdvdcss, this is not for "obscure ideological reasons" — it’s because of the law, dammit!

Warren Woodford may not give a damned… whatever about the fact that you should pay for distributing any support for playing MP3 (and he pays not). And Microsoft formats are proprietary — Linspire payed for that! And DVD decoding is illegal in many countries!

So, if a one-man-distro doesn’t care for that, fine. But this is not a sustainable business model. All the business-backed free distros can not follow the same path! §

I like the way Beranger puts this. Some time ago I too used to wonder on how come some small distros (like MEPIS for instance) have full multimedia support , whereas larger distros (like OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, Fedora, etc which have with commercial backing) have zero mp3 and DVD etc support. From the documentation and websites of these distros, I’d get the impression that it was not included coz of "ideological reasons" — and that was like a big grudge I had against them. Why are they soo damn ideological anyways? Smaller distros based on these larger distros have all the stuff built into them, so why don’t these larger distros throw away their ideologies?! And not just that, everyone keeps saying Linux is a Windows replacement and is meant to replace your desktop OS, so then why don’t they include mp3 and DVD support (instead of their ideologies) coz that’s like bare minimum requirements nowadays!

Ofcourse, that was before I started reading more about all this and actually spending some time with these distros. Then I realized that the point was not about ideologies. Sure, it was "presented" as if it were an ideology issue, but the actually core of the matter is about these being illegal to provide. Support for MP3 or DVD etc is simply illegal to support for these distros — unless they shell out money and licensing fees etc for these formats — and that is impractical (it goes against the whole idea of "open source", and hey, how long and from where do you expect these community driven distros to go about paying licensing fees anyways?!) And I realized that even though the distros do not include support for all these, its quite easy to get the required stuff yourself — doing a search on the Net will get you plenty of articles that show you how to do it. And infact, nowadays we even have simple one-click-solutions for installing all this (eg. EasyUbuntu). So things are not as bleaky as they sound; and its definitely not coz "ideological reasons" or whatever.

Beranger puts it all well above. :)  

April 20, 2006

Microsoft’s new brain

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 5:02 pm

Brutal competition. A stock going nowhere. Microsoft is in crisis, so Bill Gates has unleashed his new hire, software genius Ray Ozzie, to remake the company – and conquer the Web. §

An interesting (but long) article on Roy Ozzie and Microsoft’s new strategies.

Dangerous Drafts in Yahoo Mail?

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 4:43 pm

Tech Dirt digs up an interesting bit in the latest evolving story of Yahoo working with the Chinese gov’t to hand over user information… according to USA Today, the email that helped to jail Jiang Lijun was just in draft mode. Two things are noteworthy here: first, the email wasn’t even sent, and the user might have thought its draft mode makes it more private; second, just how did the Chinese gov’t know about this user and draft in the first place? (Do they regularly spy on users in some sort of agreement with Yahoo?) §

Eww! About two weeks ago I moved out all my mail from Yahoo and Gmail. Its tempting, when you have loads of space there, to just keep on dumping all ur mails there. But I dont want my whole life getting backed up at some Yahoo/ Google servers — so I started POPing the mails out to my machine. Fine, I dont have the convenience of having all my mails online at my fingertips, but its ok, I can live with that. And stories like the above are assurances that I did the right thing I guess. 

 

Package management meets version control in rPath

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 2:01 pm

An article talking about rPath, a new innovation in package management  (for Linuxes). §

The Edgy Eft

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 9:13 am

A very interesting mail by Mark Shuttleworth (founder of Ubuntu) on plan’s for Ubuntu’s next release (Dapper+1): The Edgy Eft. §

And here’s why. Edgy is all about cutting edge, perhaps bleeding edge, brand new code and infrastructure. It will be the right time to bring in some seriously interesting but definitely edgy new technologies which lay the groundwork for the next wave of Ubuntu development.

An Eft is a youthful newt, going through its first exploration of the rocky territory just outside the stream. And that’s exactly what we hope the development team will do with Ubuntu during the Edgy cycle – explore slightly unfamiliar and uncharted territory that is perhaps a little out of the mainstream.

So dream a little about Xen for virtualisation, Xgl/AIGLX and other wonderful wobbly window bits, the goodness of Network Manager, a first flirt with multiarch support for true mixed 32-bit and 64-bit computing on AMD64, the interesting possibilities of the SMART package manager… and other pieces of infrastructure which have appeared tantalisingly on the horizon.

We can afford to take some risks with Dapper+1, because Dapper has turned out so well. We have a great answer for people who need super-solid and super-predictable results: Dapper is still fresh, will continue to work on modern hardware for some time, and has plenty of legs in its support cycle left to run.

This "meta cycle" of aggressive new features, slowly converging over a series of releases on a solid and consistent look-and-feel and underlying platform, has worked very well for us over the course of the past two years. We didn’t plan it this way, but I suspect the next two to three years will look similar – we’ll start of with a release that has a lot of edge and new tech (remember Warty?) and polish that up till we see the timing is right for a really polished enterprise "long term support" release, like Dapper. We’ve no concrete plans for the next Dapper, only that we’ll know a release or two in advance when the time is right.

The past two years have been a privilege and a pleasure. Dapper is the full expression of what we have learned in this first phase, and I have every reason to believe it will be a hit. Once that’s out the door, it will be a great opportunity to rock-‘n-roll up our sleeves, play with new ideas, kick some new tyres and of course dig some new foundations. We may strike gold, we will likely uncover some dirt, but it should be fun and it should be funky. Let’s live on the Edge a while.

Great! I am starting to like and understand Ubuntu more and more! :)

April 18, 2006

Looking Ahead: Ubuntu Linux 6.06

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 1:23 pm

Ubuntu is a pretty interesting Linux distribution isn’t it? I mean, no other take on Linux has shot so high so fast. Nobody has single-handedly turned the desktop Linux world over on its ear like Ubuntu has. Nobody. What makes it so special? What sets it apart from the hundreds of other distros on the market today? Well, we’re here to take a look at the latest pre-release copy of what is to become Ubuntu 6.06… Flight 5. §

A very nice review of Ubuntu Dapper. Really. I had given Flight 3 a shot, and didnt like it — too slow, things not working as expected, etc etc. But this review made me feel like trying it again. So I did. And I must say I am quite pleased with the way Flight 5 is. And the review helped me realize where all Dapper is making a diff — the icons, theme, etc etc. Dapper really is good. I now have both Breezy and Dapper installed.

So far when I used to try Ubuntu, I was under the impression its a Linux for humans, and so it would make things damn easy etc etc. So I used to get really irritated when I have to resort to the command-line, or keep installing extra packages to do some obvious tasks (like edit the menu for instance).  I mean, I might as well install Debian then!

But now I figure that Ubuntu does try to make things a bit different from Debian. For one, its the safest and easiest way to keep trying out Debian Sid. I have Debian Etch (that’s the name for the current "testing" branch) installed as of now, and while I would like to try Sid, I am unsure coz I’d really hate to install Sid on my machine and find that it crashes or has major issues. Would spoil the whole the fun in using Sid. Rather, I would like it if someone more knowledgeable than me were to install it, clean out any bugs in it, and then give me to play around with. That way I get to have the latest Sid and be sure that it won’t mess up things.

That’s what Ubuntu does. The way I see it, it gives me a chance to try a snapshot of Sid every 6 months. Ok, agreed, its not the latest and greatest, but c’mon, you can’t have everything! The developers do need some time to iron out the bugs etc in Sid, and you gotta give them that. §

In addition to letting me play with Sid, Ubuntu tries to provide a uniform OS experience. As in, pay a bit of attention to the packaging, menu layout, overall consistency of things, etc etc. That’s probably what the "human" part is all about. The goal being to make UI improvements to make the user feel at home.

Till about today morning I wasn’t really sure in what ways Ubuntu tries to improve the UI. Coz frankly, I didnt see much diff between Debian and Ubuntu — GNOME looked and behaved same — except for different themes. But today morning, after reading the article, and see the new icons and UI imiprovements etc, I realize that ya, there is work going on for making UI improvements. And that work looks nice.

Frankly speaking, Linux as such isn’t totally ready for the desktop. But yup, lots of things are happening now to make it ready. After doodling around a bit in Linux, reading reviews, installing and  trying them out etc, I feel that its only a matter of time. Maybe by this year end; or sometime early next year — Linux will start to feel as comfy as Windows. Most distros now have great package management software and control panels — a big step in itself!

Ofcourse, one thing we’ll all have to live with is the thing of downloading multimedia codecs and proprietary separately by ourselves — coz of the patent etc issues. But in that area too, I see that there are many sites which give you step by step instructions on what is to be done. You follow the steps there — a one time affair — and after that updates etc are all managed by the distro’s package management tools. So there’s no need to keep in mind that you have extra stuff installed that you gotta take care of.

Meanwhile, here’s an overview of Fedora Code 5. Notice that it too has a GUI package manager now. And that there are various UI improvements. §

April 17, 2006

On backporting applications

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 6:56 am

Excerpts from a post by John Doug, the Ubuntu Backports project leader. §

I wanted to get GNOME 2.14 on Ubuntu 5.10 "Breezy Badger", and I was under the impression Backports would be having them. But turns out they dont. Heck, turns out they dont even have Firefox 1.5! (Breezy has Firefox 1.0.7 and Backports dont have the newer version). And this post by John elaborates on why Backports don’t have all these.

Its kind of tragical you know. When you are in Windows, you don’t really get bothered by all this. Want the latest Firefox? Sure, go download, double click, enjoy! But on a thing like Ubuntu (which claims to be userfriendly), I am told that it affects a thousand other components which I dont care about, and that I can’t have it, etc etc. And if I want the latest Firefox or GNOME, the only way is to upgrade to Dapper; and since that’s like delayed for 2 more months, all I can do is upgrade now and hope its stable.

(Ok, to be fair, I can download Firefox from Mozilla and install; but that’s not intuitive. That doesn’t make use of Ubuntu’s package management. As far as I am concerned, that’s a "hack" — something the average user *shouldn’t* be bothered with).

The cool thing about Linux, supposedly, is that all software is provided by the distro maker. So then its their responsibility that when newer and greater versions of existing software are released, they *should* be installable by the users! Now, with Ubuntu for instance, I feel handicapped that I am using Linux coz I can’t install a newer version of Firefox as easily as I could have done on Windows. And ditto for GNOME. Now that a stable version is released, I do not see any reason why my Linux distro cannot allow me to run that; and instead asks me to wait, or risk running an unstable version of the OS to run a stable version of the software I want!  

April 16, 2006

Respecting the Beliefs of Others

Filed under: Links — rakhesh @ 12:22 pm

Many of our biggest world problems are caused by different religious views. But it’s not socially acceptable to even discuss whether those views originate from the almighty or a drunken guy wizzing on a tree stump. At a bare minimum, just to pick one example, either Christianity or Islam is completely and utterly wrong. The beliefs are mutually exclusive. Muslims believe all Christians will burn in Hell. Christians believe that the Koran is fiction. They can’t both be right. (They could obviously both be wrong if the Heaven’s Gate guys turn out to have it right.) §

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