Friday, November 2, 2007

Debian Etch With Backported 2.6.23 Kernel

On my production machines I'm running Debian Etch, because I prefer the stable Debian tree. It runs great, but there is just one problem: the 2.6.18 kernel is a bit outdated nowdays since it does not support all the latest hardware, like newest motherboards based on Intel P35 chipset.

ASUS P5K series is a good example. The problem with this board is that 2.6.18 kernel which comes with Debian Etch by default does not support both SATA controller and NIC of ICH9.

Of course, I can always download & compile the latest sources and install it on my Debian Etch box. But there is a better solution now, thanks to Kenshi Muto who has created and supports the archive of backported Debian-installer images.

The latest addition is Debian Etch with kernel and experimental e1000e driver. I've successfully installed it on my machine with ASUS P5KR motherboard and it runs great! Both ICH9 SATA controller and Attansic L1 NIC work well.

You can download the image here.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Better Firefox Web Form Widgets In Ubuntu

Some times ago I wrote about how to improve look&feel of web form widgets in Firefox which are rather ugly by default. There is another way to do this which works in Ubuntu.

First of all, you need to download bzipped tarball (you must be registered at to do this). At the moment of writing 2.7 is the latest package version. Then you have two options: either use graphical installer or run a text-based one (which is an ordinary bash script).

Graphical installer requires python-kiwi package. If it is not present in your system, you will be prompted to install the package. To run installer, unpack the archive and execute ./graphical_installer. You should see the following window:

Note, that you must specify correct Firefox directory! The default /usr/lib/firefox is fine for Ubuntu unless you are using Swiftfox or have very non-standard configuration. If you've chosen to install widgets by the means of text-based script, you may specify the path via -p or --path option (type ./installer --help for details).

The results are pretty much the same, as I have already described.

I should also mention that there is a backup forms.css file in the archive in case you mess anything up. This file is from a default 64-bit Firefox 2.0 installation. The forms.css file an be found in Firefox's "res" directory. You won't need it unless you accidently delete your's or the script malfunctions.

The author of this script also mentions that widgets may get restored after Firefox update. To avoid this try the following:
sudo dpkg-divert --add /res/forms.css
I have not tested it yet, so use at your own risk!
In case you decide to restore the default behavior, type:
sudo dpkg-divert --remove /res/forms.css

See this topic for more infomation.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ten Absolutely Stupid Quotes By Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer has been the CEO of Microsoft since year 2000. As you probably know, he is a bit eccentric guy. So far Steve has produced dozens of absolutely "outstanding" quotations which definitely should be known. So, here is the list of Steve Ballmer's most famous quotes. Have fun ;)
  1. "I'm going to f---ing bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to f---ing kill Google." [Sydney Morning Herald]
  2. "Developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers, developers..." [Watch at YouTube]
  3. "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches." [Chicago Sun-Times]
  4. "My children - in many dimensions they're as poorly behaved as many other children, but at least on this dimension I've got my kids brainwashed: You don't use Google, and you don't use an iPod." []
  5. "We've had DRM in Windows for years. The most common format of music on an iPod is "stolen"." [The Register]
  6. "I have never, honestly, thrown a chair in my life." [CNET News]
  7. "Google's not a real company. It's a house of cards." [Court transcript]
  8. "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." [unsourced]
  9. We don't have a monopoly. We have market share. There's a difference. [unsourced]
  10. DRM is the future. [unsourced]

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Revolution OS: Video Story Of Linux Creation Ft. Linus Torvalds

Revolution OS is a 2001 documentary which traces the history of GNU, Linux, and the open source and free software movements. This is the story of people who rebelled against the proprietary software model and Microsoft to create GNU/Linux and the Open Source movement. It features several interviews with well-known hackers and entrepreneurs, including Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman and many others.

On June 1, 2001, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said "Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches." Microsoft fears GNU/Linux, and rightly so. GNU/Linux and the Open Source & Free Software movements arguably represent the greatest threat to Microsoft's way of life. Shot in cinemascope on 35mm film in Silicon Valley, Revolution OS tracks down the key movers and shakers behind Linux, and finds out how and why Linux became such a potent threat.

Linus Torvalds is interviewed on his development of the Linux kernel as well as on the GNU/Linux naming controversy and Linux's further evolution, including its commercialization. Richard Stallman remarks on some of the ideological aspects of open source vis-á-vis Communism and capitalism and well as on several aspects of the development of GNU/Linux.

Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Oracle, Wipro, Ogilvy & Mather, OSTG, and Dreamworks Animation have rented REVOLUTON OS for private theatrical screenings. It has also screened in numerous film festivals including South By Southwest Film Festival, the Atlanta Film & Video Festival, Boston Film Festival, and Denver International Film Festival. REVOLUTION OS won Best Documentary at both the Savannah Film & Video Festival and the Kudzu Film Festival.

REVOLUTION OS is available in the 35 mm motion picture format and runs 85 minutes. Now it is also shipping on DVD.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Top 10 Minimalist Window Managers, Illustrated

If you're tired with all those modern "feature-rich" WMs and just need a simple and convinient tool to manage your windows with low memory footprint, you should definitely look into the following list:

1. aewm
aewm is a well-known minimal window manager for X11, one of the oldest. It has few features, but is light on resources and extremely simple in appearance. It aims to be a sane, readable, hackable implementation of the important parts of the ICCCM and EWMH (but not all of them). aewm was based on 9wm and has in turn inspired quite a lot of other simplistic window managers, like aewm++, alloywm, evilwm, WindowLab, wimpwm and so on...

2. Ion
Designed to be primarily used from the keyboard, Ion was written as an experiment on a different kind of window management model. It tries to address the navigation problem by dividing the screen into mutually non-overlapping frames that take up the whole screen. Big displays have so much space that this should be convenient and smaller displays couldn't show more than one window at a time anyway. The frame layout is, of course, dynamic and different on each workspace. Given the organised tree based instead of an unorganised coordinate-based frame layout, moving between the frames can be conveniently done from the keyboard. As in PWM, the frames may have multiple clients attached, each indicated with a tab.

3. Sawfish
Sawfish is an extensible window manager using a Lisp-based scripting language --all window decorations are configurable and all user-interface policy is controlled through the extension language. Despite this extensibility its policy is very minimal compared to most window managers. Its aim is simply to manage windows in the most flexible and attractive manner possible. As such it does not implement desktop backgrounds, applications docks, or other things that may be achieved through separate applications.

4. dwm
dwm is a fast and simple window manager for X11. It manages windows in tiling and floating modes. Either mode can be applied dynamically, optimizing the environment for the application in use and the task performed. Windows can be tagged with one or multiple tags. Selecting certain tags displays all windows that are accordingly tagged.

5. awesome
awesome is a tiling window manager initialy based on a dwm code rewriting. It's extremely fast, small, dynamic and awesome. Windows can be managed in several layouts: tiled and floating. Each layout can be applied on the fly, optimizing the environment for the application in use and the task performed.

Managing windows in tiled mode assures that no space will be waste on your screen. No gaps, no overlap. With tiled layout, windows are managed in a master and a stacking area. The master area contains the windows which currently need most attention, whereas the stacking area contains all other windows. The master area can be splited in several rows and column, as you want. In floating layout, windows can be resized and moved freely, just like a usual window manager. Dialog windows are always managed floating, regardless of the layout selected.

Windows are grouped by tags. Each window can be tagged with one or multiple tags. Selecting certain tags displays all windows with those tags. Each tag can have its own layout. Tags can be compared to virtual desktops, but it's more powerful: you can quickly merge and show several tags at the same time, and go back to only one tag after.

6. Karmen
Karmen is an easy-to-use window manager for X, written by Johan Veenhuizen. It is designed to “just work”. There is no configuration file and no library dependencies other than Xlib. The input focus model is click-to-focus. Karmen aims at ICCCM and EWMH compliance. The current version is Karmen 0.13, released September 4, 2007.

7. evilwm
evilwm is a minimalist window manager for the X Window System. 'Minimalist' here doesn't mean it's too bare to be usable - it just means it omits a lot of the stuff that make other window managers unusable. It has no icons and no window decorations apart from a simple 1 pixel border. Provides good keyboard control, including repositioning and maximise toggles, snap-to-border support and virtual desktops. evilwm has extremely small binary size (even with everything turned on).

8. larswm
larswm is a rewrite of 9wm that adds automatic tiling, virtual desktops and many more features to make it a highly productive user environment. Despite the high level of automation, it uses very little CPU time and memory while running.

9. WindowLab
WindowLab is a small and simple window manager of novel design. It has a click-to-focus but not raise-on-focus policy, a window resizing mechanism that allows one or many edges of a window to be changed in one action, and an innovative menubar that shares the same part of the screen as the taskbar. Window titlebars are prevented from going off the edge of the screen by constraining the mouse pointer, and when appropriate the pointer is also constrained to the taskbar/menubar in order to make target menu items easier to hit.

Anarchy is a window manager for the X Window System and is implemented in less than 500 lines of CLOS oriented Scheme code.Despite its small code size, it supports most functions expected of a basic window manager (move, resize, hide, minimize, maximize, list windows, root menu).

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How To Install The Latest JDK On Debian/Ubuntu

If you are an expirienced Java programmer, you probably want to have the latest JDK on your Debian box. Normally there is no need to install it manually since JDK (as well as JRE) is available in modern distros as .deb package and therefore may be downloaded and installed from one of the official mirrors using familiar apt-get (or aptitude, or Synaptics, or whatever...) interface.

But what if you are not satisfied with the version of Java which is packaged with your distribution? At the moment, the official "production" version of JDK is 6.0 update 3, but for exmaple Debian Etch does not include Java 6 at all (only Java 5 is supported). This is a noticeable drawback since Java 6.0 contains some important features, such as high-quality font antialiasing. The only way to solve this situation is to download the latest JDK from Sun website and install it manually with a bit of Debian magic ;)

So, here are step-by-step installation instructions:
1. Download self-extracting package containing JDK: jdk-6u3-linux-i586.bin.
2. Make sure it has execution privileges:
chmod 755 ./jdk-6u3-linux-i586.bin
3. Run it, answer yes and watch the files being extracted.
4. Copy the extracted directory to /usr/lib/jvm:
sudo cp jdk1.6.0_03 /usr/lib/jvm
5. Check which versions of Java are already installed in your system:
sudo update-alternatives --display java
Notice what priority is assigned to the currently selected one
6. Update symlinks to make them point to your freshly installed Java:
sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/java java /usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.6.0_03/jre/bin/java 65 --slave /usr/share/man/man1/java.1.gz java.1.gz /usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.6.0_03/man/man1/java.1
7. Check that java has correct version now:
java -version
8. If something went wrong, try assigning higher priority to your JDK or select appropriate version in manual mode:
update-alternatives --config java
9. You can do the same trick with javac:
sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/javac javac /usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.6.0_03/bin/javac 65 --slave /usr/share/man/man1/javac.1.gz javac.1.gz /usr/lib/jvm/jdk1.6.0_03/man/man1/javac.1

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How To Install Multimedia Codecs On Debian Linux

Debian is considered by its die hard followers (like myself ;) to be one of the few GNU/Linux distributions which can stand up to other Linux OSes with regard to security without sacrificing those aspects which make GNU/Linux the most feature-rich POSIX OS in the world.

But once you finish installing Debian, you need to do some tricks in order to be able to play multimedia files which are encoded using proprietary or closed formats such as Microsoft WMV or Apple QuickTime.

Some times ago I've spent a lot of time trying to find and install all necessary codecs, but there is much simpler way:
1) Download debian-multimedia-keyring package by hand
2) Install it:
sudo dpkg -i debian-multimedia-keyring_2007.12.04_all.deb
3) Add the following line to your /etc/apt/sources.list file:
deb etch main
(you can also substitute etch with lenny or sid if you use testing/unstable distribution)
4) Update APT package database:
sudo apt-get update
5) Install multimedia codecs and libdvdcss which is necessary to view DVD movies:
sudo apt-get install w32codecs libdvdcss2

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