Segfault

Random Thoughts of a Scrambled Mind

Why I would be thankful to Ubuntu

It is quite easy to not like Ubuntu. I do not like it, I can not use it anymore. A lot of you here would now expect me to provide a detailed overview as to why I do not like Ubuntu but this is not what this post is about. In a nutshell, allow me to say that the fact that Ubuntu is not a rolling release, it asks me to install *-dev packages if I want to compile software that links against those packages (think about compiling a plasmoid from kde-look.org that is not yet in the repos), the fact that I have to install a basic toolchain on a new install (if I want to compile my own kernel) ticks me off.

Now I take a step back and look again at the grievances that I have with Ubuntu, and the realization that three years ago the sentence above would have been Greek to me suddenly dawns on me. When I was introduced to Linux about three years ago, I had no idea what Linux was. I had never used it before, and had never seen anyone use it. Windows was the only thing that I had ever used (and I started with 3.1) and I was not aware of the alternatives that existed. So when my friend told me it was another operating system (being a computer science student I was interested in the fact that Linux is “just a kernel” and then we have separate distributions) I was interested. He got a Ubuntu Live CD and walked me through an installation. And within an hour I had a working Linux installation – no need of installing drivers – it seemed easier than windows. He told me to just go to the Ubuntu Forums if I have a problem.

Over the next week, I played around with it. Changing the wallpaper, changing the theme (Hey, there are a lot more options than Windows!)and changing the icons (hey, I can do this without installing any third-party apps! Cool!). In between, I learnt about 915resolution so that I could run my Intel 945GM at its native resolution (Intel drivers have come a long way since then). And it was not long before I was installing beryl and compiz, and showing off my transparent cubes, 3-D windows and all the other plugins that were built in with compiz.

Within a year, I came to realize how much I liked to use Linux. I learnt what a rolling release was, I learnt that I could configure my own kernel, and I learnt about building software from source (when a particular package was not available via apt-get). I moved over to Arch via a switched time (my first attempt at a Gentoo install was a failure :P) and soon I switched over to Gentoo where I have remained since then.

My point here is simple. I could not have started with Arch or Gentoo. I had no idea what Linux was, and I would have been lost with those distros. They assume a working knowledge of Linux. I was willing to learn, and Ubuntu was the perfect teacher. It eased my transition towards Linux and no other distro could have done a better job. Even now, no other distro out there can do a better job. And I recommend Ubuntu for any of my friend who is willing to try out Linux – because it is the easiest way to try Linux and yet not be lost.

In short, Ubuntu is like a primary school teacher. We learn the most from her, but then we all start talking about particle physics, nanotechnology, operating systems and haskell and what not; and forget her. But she remains our first teacher.

Posted by Rahul on October 23, 2009 | Posted in Linux, Open Source | 2 Comments

Changes in the Zen land

The past week has seen quite a few changes in the zen domain. Change, they say, is a necessary evil, so rather than dwell on what was we now look forward to what it would now be.

Zen-sources, as it was called, has a new name and a new home. It is now called zen-kernel and the new home can be found at http://zen-kernel.org/. Tutorials on how to install zen-kernel for the Linux distro of your choice are already up and this is where you should be headed. Because zen-kernel is still the way Linux Kernels should be. I would be posting benchmarks results of vanilla kernel vs. the Zen kernel pretty soon. Details will follow later, but right now I am not in favour of using phoronix test suite. I would rather benchmark more day-to-day tasks and see how the respective kernels perform.

Back to the changes in the zen land for now. The zen developers are also looking for a new logo. There is already a lively discussion in place at the Gentoo forums. Head over there, in case you want to take a sneak peek at the submissions that have been made so far.

And now the biggest change so far. This one is certainly for the positive. Zen kernel is now in portage (a big yay for all Gentoo users – it is now even easier to get zen). So, fellow Gentoo users, what are you waiting for? emerge zen-sources awaits you.

Posted by Rahul on October 23, 2009 | Posted in Linux, Open Source | Tagged , , , , , | Comment

Adblock in Konqueror

Want to use konqueror for browsing the net in KDE4 but don’t want to view annoying ads?
The problem is now easy to solve.

Konqueror -> Settings -> Configure Konqueror -> Adblock Filters -> Enable Filters and Import ->
navigate to $HOME/.mozilla/firefox/whatever.default/adblockplus/patterns.ini
click open -> apply

That’s it πŸ™‚

Thanks to Mike Hunt from Gentoo Forums.

Posted by Rahul on September 26, 2009 | Posted in Linux, Open Source | Tagged | Comment

Zen Sources: The Way Kernels Should Be

From the main site, which can be found here.

Zen-Sources is a collaborative effort of kernel hackers and enthusiasts to provide the best Linux kernel possible. We include code that is not yet found in the mainline kernel in an attempt to support the latest hardware, new features, security fixes, optimizations, etc.

Now, on to the important stuff:

  1. Installation Guide for Gentoo Linux. (here). I recommend following the hand based git setup. (here).
  2. Arch Linux Install Guide (here).
  3. Ubuntu Guide. (here).
  4. For other distros, see the git mentioned in 1. (or check the repos and forums forums for your distro)

As you might have guessed from my recommendation, I have been using the git based setup on my Gentoo Linux install as my primary kernel. It has worked for me most of the time (there have been instances where the use of a kernel in rc stages has induced a bug or two – but this has seldom been the case and there is always the possibility to switch back to the stable release of zen sources).

There is a long list of projects that are included in zen sources (see the full list here) but the major advantages that I would think worth mentioning are:

  • Zen Tune
  • Brain Fuck Scheduler (don’t judge on the name)
  • BFQ
  • No problem with suspend/hibernate (and this is without TuxOnIce)

I would definitely suggest everyone to have a go at this. You will like it.

Posted by Rahul on August 31, 2009 | Posted in Linux, Open Source | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Amarok … Thou Rocked.

When I started using Linux back in 2006, the first media player that I encountered was rhythmbox and somehow it did not appeal to me. Then I came across Amarok 1.4 and even though it pulled in a lot of KDE-3 dependencies ( I was using Ubuntu) I stuck with it for the simple reason that it was the best media player that I had ever used – including all the various ones that I had tried on Windows (foobar, songbird, winamp, windows media player, etc.) and the few that I tried on Linux (rhythmbox, banshee, etc.). As a recap, let us look at the screenshot below of version 1.4 (taken from the official Amarok website).

Amarok 1.4

Take a look at the Now Playing view – it tells me all about the songs that I need to know. It tells me what the song is called, who is the artist, about the album, the length of the song , the year, where is it stored amongst others (eg. bit rate). The emphasis on the now playing view was what I really liked. The left tab could then be switched to display information about the artist (from wikipedia), the lyrics or display information about the song (how many times has it been played) and display other songs from the same artist that were already present in my collection.

Now, compare this to the current stable version of amarok (2.1.1). Again, lets take a look at a screenshot from the Amarok website.

Amarok 2.1

Now look at what they did to the now playing playlist. It has been banished to the right corner of the window and it shows no information other than the title of the song. If you are playing 12 songs from the same album the album and its details will appear at the head of the 12 songs and those 12 songs will not have that individual information in the playlist view. Why? How about albums when there are different artists for each song?

And let’s not talk about the stability for now. Amarok 1 was already three years old from its first official release when I used it in 2006 so it was quite a mature product. In comparison, Amarok 2 is only half a year old as of now and it would take some time to reach the same level of maturity as that of Amarok 1. However, this brings me to the question – why reinvent the wheel? I am strictly reflecting on the changes in the UI – changes in backend (integration with phonon and other KDE4 services) was, I believe, necessary to integrate tightly with KDE4 but the drastic overhaul in the UI was not. Why change something that was working – and working very well. The alignment of the playlist and the context view did not, in my opinion, require any change.

As an example of this, we can look at Kile – another of my favourite KDE applications – it is the best Latex editor when it comes to Linux. The KDE4 version does not bring any major UI overhaul – it is still tightly integrated with KDE4 and yet the user experience does not change. Something similar should have been done with amarok as well. Or maybe in the true spirit of open source, there is someone out there who would port Amarok 1.4 to Qt4. πŸ™‚

However, at this stage, Amarok has completely lost me. I have switched over to MPD with QMPDClient and ncmpc as the two frontends. I would recommend any one else who is tired of Amarok 2 to give MPD a go. And hopefully, Amarok will be able to win me back some day. πŸ™‚

Posted by Rahul on June 28, 2009 | Posted in Linux, Open Source | Tagged , , , , | Comment

Roma …

The walking wounded came, they saw and they so nearly conquered the warriors from across the shores. They were true gladiators, true Romans. What did I expect with half the team on the treatment table, what did I hope for with De Rossi suspended and a limping Totti? Did I expect a crooked Juan, or a struggling Pizzaro to start? What more could have I asked from a hugely unproven and untested defender making his first champions league start? I could go on and on, and if truth be told, I expected them to falter, and yet hoped for the Romans to show up.
 
But they did not falter. They belied me, they exceeded the faintest of my expectations and continued to do so for over 120 minutes. This was a performance to be proud of, a performance to be recorded in the annals of history, a performance to remember and cherish. This was one of those performances where the result was inconsequential.
 
Did they deserve more? Yes they did! A kid making his second champions league appearance had his more accomplished counterpart in his back pocket (Motta vs. Clichy). A debutatnt (Diamoutene) had an accomplished champion (Van Persie) shackled. A truly good player was reborn (Riise as centre back), an injured soldier gave us the early goal that we wanted (Juan) and a legend walking on crutches inspired us all (Totti). And a man kicked, pushed and repeatedly fouled just refused to say no, he kept coming back (Pizzaro).
 
But we had to bow out, because in life there are no happy endings like fairy tales.

Posted by Rahul on March 12, 2009 | Posted in Football, Sports | Tagged , | Comment

HMS Ulysses …

A very good book, but it was the reference to Ulysses (Tennyson) that still remains fresh even after having read the books nearly 6 years ago…

Come, my friends,
β€˜T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Posted by Rahul on February 20, 2009 | Posted in Random Ramblings | Tagged | Comment

I keep coming back to Gentoo!

I don’t know why, but somehow after using Gentoo it is impossible for me to use any other Linux Distro. I wanted to try KDE-4.1.1 quickly and I anyhow wanted to do a fresh install of my linux system (for some reason, I like reinstalling Linux) so I just went ahead and burned Kubuntu Ibex Alpha 6. No problems with the installation there, everything was as easy as pi, and then I booted into KDE-4.1.1. The first bootup was slower than an ant, and then there were all these applications installed that I did not want to be there. I wanted a pure KDE-4 desktop, no KDE-3.x app, even if that meant some loss in functionality. But, no, that is not Ubuntu’s philosophy. Nothing wrong in that, it is just not what I wanted. But I still wanted to try KDE-4.1.1 for some time, so I installed the necessary codecs and stuff and played around with it for some time. But it just felt so wrong – so unlike Gentoo. Everything was already configured, and in some cases there was no easy way to change the defaults. Most of the configuration in xorg.conf was listed as “Using Defaults” or something similar, how do I know what the defaults are? And then of course there is the fact that it is not a rolling release. And many other small issues, which without being a show stopper, were just as effective as flies and mosquitoes in irritating me. So, I could only tolerate it for 45 minutes and I went ahead and installed Gentoo again.

Sure, it took a lot longer than Ubuntu to install (compile πŸ˜‰ ) everything on gentoo, yet I must say it was worth the wait. It is so easy to configure everything, just because there are no defaults, or let us say, no sane defaults. I have a resolution of 1280 X 1024 in my terminal, the font rendering is extremely smooth and is easily configurable. And yes, the system is more far more responsive and I have a pure KDE-4 system, there is no kdelibs-3* and qt-3* installed.

And in general, portage and all the gentoo associated tools feel better, maybe because I have become more accustomed to them. And final point, I do not have to install g++, it is already installed. The toolchain is already there to compile anything that I want.

Posted by Rahul on September 27, 2008 | Posted in Gentoo, Linux, Open Source | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

14 days in hell and fried salad

Past 14 days = {Assignments, College Office}* U {Eat,Sleep}.

How I have managed to survive the past 14 days, I do not know. Nearly two assignments due each day, quizzes in between, some work here and some work there. And in between all this one has to find some time for sleeping and eating as well, and when the caterers are Aramark, one wishes that survival without food was possible.

And here I must say that I am thankful for the summer that I spent interning in Aachen. Granted, that I wanted to go home and would have loved to be there, but the time I spent alone taught me to how to quickly fix a nice and edible Indian meal in Germany and that has indeed come helpful over the past couple of weeks. One of my innovations that I am really proud of is frying rice and salad. (Mmmm, I can even smell it as I type) It is often the case that there is nothing edible (vegetarian) for dinner, but there is always a lot of Salad. And this is where my recipe comes in, just take some tomatoes, cabbage, onion, paprika and pepperoni. Chop it in small pieces, fry it and add boiled rice to it. Cook for some more time (using Indian spices, of course) and you have a wonderful Indian dinner. Other than that, there is pasta and my new love – Spaghetti.

Another saving grace has been that we usually study in groups and I personally find that really effective, it is easier to work at 5 in the morning when you are surrounded by a group of people who are as famished and tired as you are.

What with group work and my innovations with regard to cooking, I have managed to survive these couple of weeks with just a bout of flu. Hoping things improve in the future.

Posted by Rahul on September 26, 2008 | Posted in Food, Random Ramblings | Tagged , , | Comment

My country is divided

There is Kashmir, there is Jammu, there is Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and there is Maharashtra. We have the Mufti Mohammed Sayyeds, Omar Abdullahs and the Thackerys. And of course, there is BJP and Congress. And amongst these, India is lost.

Nearly a hundred people lost their lives in the blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore but Mr. Raj Thackrey is more concerned about the fact that the shop signboards are not in Marathi. Oh, but the people who lost their lives were Kannads and Gujaratis, were they not. And Mr. Raj Thackrey is only concerned with Marathis, so why should he bother about these people. His energy is better spent in enticing the masses against the North Indians. For it is of paramount importance that these people be kicked out of Maharashtra as they are the only reason why thousands of Marathi, the true “sons of soil” are without a job. And in between, he finds the spare time to ensure that the Bachchans and the Khans comply with his wishes.

Not a murmur from the centre, but then what better can be accepted from a government consisting of clowns and criminals. They have very important matters to deal with, after all they are responsible for running the country. But I do not think that they need to worry, they have done a fantastic job already. Led in this honourable mission by the charismatic Arjun Singh, they have managed to divide the country on basis of caste. They are really good, they have managed to do better than even VP Singh, and I thought that was impossible. 60 years since Independence, 60 years of reservation, and if even then if we have managed to make a difference then maybe we need to look at alternatives. But obviously, how can our politicians compromise with their vote-bank?

But caste is not the only line that is drawn through my country. Religion is not far behind, is it? Nearly 20 years down the line Ayodhya is still the main agenda for the BJP, with the VHP and the RSS continuously making noises about the issue. Orissa is not new, for there was a Graham Staines before as well. Maybe one day we can all learn to respect each others religion.

Jammu and Kashmir, if I could only describe it in words. 20 years of war, thousands of lives lost, and countless ruined. A heaven ravaged, a paradise lost. I only wish it can be regained, not for me, not for you but for the people suffering there for two decades.

I do not know why I wrote this. Maybe because this is all what the Indian media feeds me. Strife, discontent, violence everywhere. All I hope for is that someday we all can just call ourselves Indian. Maybe we can learn to respect each others language, learn to appreciate the fact that each Indian has some different sets of traditions and values. Maybe there will be no SC/ST/OBC, just Indians. Maybe Ayodhya will house a mosque and Ajmer a temple. Maybe….. Maybe……

Posted by Rahul on September 10, 2008 | Posted in India, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comment