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 It runs great, but there is just one problem: the 2.6.18 kernel is a bit outdated nowdays since it does not support all the latest hardware, like newest motherboards based on Intel P35 chipset.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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Thursday, October 18, 2007

40 Amusing "facts" about Linus Torvalds

  • Linus Torvalds can do an infinite loop in five seconds... in his head.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't wear glasses anymore not because he had laser eye surgery, but because he finally got his xorg.conf properly configured in his head.
  • Linus Torvalds can use a nice level lower than -20.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't need to mount his drives.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't debug. His programs are always perfect.
  • Linus Torvalds can install Linux on a dead badger.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't need backups. He just uploads his files and lets the world mirror them.
  • Linus Torvalds is taking over the world. Microsoft is just a deversion so that no one would suspect a mild mannered Finnish programmer.
  • Linus Torvalds can run kill -9 and kill Chuck Norris.
  • Linus Torvalds already has Linux 3.0. He is just keeping it to himself to build suspense.
  • Linus Torvalds didn't design Linux to run on the 386. Intel designed the 386 to run Linux.
  • People pray to Jesus, but Jesus prays to Linus Torvalds.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't die, he simply returns zero.
  • Linus Torvalds once found a segmentation fault in the universe.
  • Linus Torvalds runs Linux on his wristwatch and toster.
  • Linus Torvalds only has 2 buttons on his keyboard '1' and '0'
  • Linus Torvalds can write to ntfs.
  • Linus Torvalds can install Gentoo in under a week
  • Linus Torvalds is more powerful than root.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't need anti-virus software. Virii need anti-linus software.
  • If you could read Linus Torvald's mind, you'd find that his stream of conciousness is entirely in binary.
  • Linus Torvalds scared A and B away, so they had to make C.
  • Linus is REAL unless declared INTEGER.
  • There are no man pages for Linus Torvalds, only god pages.
  • Code:
    linus@debtux:~$ apt-cache search sudo
  • Linus Torvalds takes one look at your desktop and knows which porn sites you visited. In the last ten years.
  • Being touched by Linus can cure carpal tunnel syndrome. He does not cure RMS because he thinks it's funny to listen to RMS dictating code for the HURD.
  • On the first day Linus said ".configure"
    On the second day he said "make"
    On the third day he said "make install"
    And on the fourth day there was Linux, and Linus saw that it was kick ***, because it wasn't Windows.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't push the flush toilet button. He simply says "make clean".
  • When Linus Torvalds writes new software, he just makes punch cards with his teeth and feeds them into a reader.
  • Linus Torvalds source codes complie themselfs.
  • Linus Torvalds surfs the web using nothing but netcat
  • Linus Torvalds can play 3D games in his head by interpreting the source code in real-time.
  • Linus Torvalds can program without a keyboard.
  • Linus Torvalds didin't learn from the University of Helsinki the University of Helsinki learned from Linus Torvalds.
  • Linus Torvalds finished the Linux Kernel the day before he started on it.
  • Linus Torvalds once developed a programming language so good that it makes python look like punch cards.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't need to boot.
  • Linus Torvalds first written program had artificial intelligence.
  • Linus Torvalds doesn't receive error messages.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How To Configure Synaptics Touchpad

Here are some useful tips about how to configure your Synaptics Touchpad. Remember to backup xorg.conf first!

  1. Enable/disable
    • Edit xorg.conf (/etc/X11/xorg.conf in Debian/Ubuntu)
    • Find Identifier "Synaptics Touchpad" and add the following option:
      Option "SHMConfig" "true"
    • Restart the X server
    • In your terminal type synclient TouchpadOff=1 to disable touchpad or synclient TouchpadOff=0 to enable it

  2. Disable touchpad while typing
    If you've ever tried to type something with the enabled tuchpad, you should probably know how annoying it is when you accidently make a touch. This tip disables the touchpad for some seconds when you press a key. It needs the configuration described above to be done in order to work. To disable touchpad for one second, go to your terminal and type syndaemon -i 1 -d

  3. Configure the device using Gsynaptics/ksynaptics
    Gsynaptics (ksynaptics if you use KDE) is a graphical touchpad configuration utility. It allows for example to enable/disable tapping and to tune scroll movements. Here is a screenshot:

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Linux Will Be The Dominant Desktop OS By The Year 2014

According to data from Net Applications, there have been subtle changes in the everlasting competition for market share between the leading desktop OSes that will trigger major shift in the next few years.

Linux more than doubled its market share in 2007! Data from Net Applications show that it grew from 0.37% in December '06 to 0.81% in September '07. This only resembles Internet-connected desktop PCs, not servers or embedded devices, where Linux traditionally has strong positions.

Linux still has only a tiny piece of pipe, but comparing it to earlier data reveals a potentially powerful trend. If it were to maintain its current growth rate, it would be the dominant dektop OS by the year 2014.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Give Your Firefox A Better Look!

If you are tired with those ugly Web-form widgets which are installed in Firefox by default on Linux, this mini-HOWTO will help you make them look somewhat better.

Open your favourite terminal and do the following:
$ wget
$ tar zxf firefox-form-widgets.tar.gz
$ sudo cp /usr/share/firefox/res/forms.css /usr/share/firefox/res/forms.css.bak
$ cat firefox-form-widgets/res/forms-extra.css | sudo tee --append /usr/share/firefox/res/forms.css >/dev/null
$ sudo cp -r firefox-form-widgets/res/form-widgets /usr/share/firefox/res
$ rm -rf firefox-form-widgets



NOTE: Firefox directory is usually /usr/share/firefox (in Debian /usr/share/iceweasel), but it may be different on your Linux distribution, for example something like /usr/lib/mozilla-firefox

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Seven Simple Ways To Use Windows Applications in Linux

As far as I know, one of the main concerns for a Windows user switching to Linux is what Windows software will work on his box as well as how it can be done. Here I've summarized seven simple methods to enable Windows apps' functionality on your Linux machine. I hope this will be helpful to you if you don't know where to start from...

1. Use Wine to run the application in Linux
Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X, OpenGL and Unix. It does not require Microsoft Windows, as it is a completely free alternative implementation of the Windows API consisting of 100% non-Microsoft code, however Wine can optionally use native Windows DLLs if they are available. "WINE" is a recursive acronym, it means"Wine Is Not Emulator" (to remind that it is neither a computer emulator like qemu, nor a virtual machine like VMware)

Your success with Wine will vary depending on the application you are trying to run. It is best to search the Wine Application Database to find out if your application will run well under Wine. This database contains a really huge list of software including all popular Windows "office" applications like MS Office, Adobe Photoshop etc. There is also a large variety of games supported by Wine. For example, I've personally managed to play CS:Source on my Sony VAIO laptop running Debian "Sid" without any trouble.

2. Use Cedega to run your favourite Windows games
If you are an expirienced Windows gamer, you should probably look into Cedega instead of Wine. Cedega is a product from TransGaming. TransGaming forked Wine back in 2002 when Wine had a different license, closed their source code, and rebranded their version as specialized for gamers. It supports almost all popular Windows games at the moment, check out their Database. Unfortunately Cedega is not free. You will have to pay about $5/month for subscription. Still it is a good alternative if your favourite game does not run smoothly under Wine.

3. Use CrossOver Linux to run your Windows productivity applications
CrossOver Linux is another commercial product (made by CodeWeavers) that is based directly on Wine with a few proprietary add-ons. Unlike Cedega, CrossOver is focused mostly on "office" applications. Its releases are rigorously tested for compatibility with CodeWeavers' supported applications in order to prevent regressions. CodeWeavers employs a large portion of the Wine developers and provides a great deal of leadership for the project. All improvements to Wine eventually work their way into CrossOver.

CrossOver includes an easy to use interface, which makes installing a Windows application simple and fast and provides seamless integration with your Gnome or KDE environment.

4. Run Windows in a Virtual Machine
Before virtualization was widely available, people would dual-boot their machine if they wanted access to both Windows and Linux. Whenever they needed to do something in the other operating system, they would have to close all their applications and reboot into the other operating system.

This time-consuming process can now be replaced by running Windows in a virtual machine on a Linux system. For instance, you can install the open source VirtualBox application (take a look at the review). Once that is installed, you can install Windows and Windows applications inside a virtual machine. Now you can use that virtual machine to have instant access to any of your Windows applications.

5. Run the application on a remote Windows system
If you already have separate Windows machine, you can run the application on it and control it from your local system. This is often called "Terminal Services", which runs on a Windows server.

This method can be as simple as connecting to a Windows XP Pro workstation using rdesktop. However, you may have many Linux workstations that need to run Windows applications using this method. In that case, there are software options available that provide more scalability and features. The biggest name in this market is Citrix, but there are also others such as Propalms.

6. Use an Open Source alternative instead
Probably the best solution for the "Running Windows_Application_X on Linux" problem is to look for a suitable Open Source alternative. For most Windows applications, there will be a high-quality open source alternative that can meet your needs. The biggest hurdle for non-Linux people is simply knowing that these alternative exist and how to find them.

The best place I have found to search for these applications is at On that site, you can enter the name of the Windows application and it will list the open source alternatives that provide similar functionality. Be sure to check it out.

7. Buy a commercial product that is designed for Linux
Finally, if you haven't managed to run your Windows app using Wine or one of its forks and you haven't found any suitable open source alternative, you may consider purchasing a commercial product that is designed for Linux.

Here is a story of a civil engineer who wanted to find an open source replacement for AutoCAD. He tried several applications, but he could not find one that met all his requirements. So this engineer decided to use a commercial CAD application that was designed for Linux. He purchased a copy of "BricsCad", which worked well for him AND it cost a lot less than AutoCAD.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

How To Enable Google Repositories On Linux

Frankly speaking, I didn't know that Google has its own package repository (maybe I'm a bit out of date ;) It supports several popular Linux distributions namely Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and Mandriva.

So now it's possible to install Google software like picasa directly from their repository, which is especially useful if you want to stay up to date with the latest software updates (what you normally do with other applications using your favourite package manager like apt or yum).

If you want to enable Google repositories on your Linux box, here is a quick HOWTO:

Debian and Ubuntu
If you are using Debian Etch or Ubuntu Feisty, do the following:

  1. Download the file and save it somewhere (in your HOME directory, for example)
  2. Acquire root privileges and proceed:
    apt-key add $HOME$/
  3. Edit your /etc/apt.sources file and add:
    # Google software repository
    deb stable non-free
  4. Update your package manager's database:
    apt-get update
With root privileges add file google.repo to /etc/yum.repos.d/ directory.
The file should contain the following lines:
name=Google - $basearch


You really need to execute just one command as root:
urpmi.addmedia -v google with

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Ten Funny Quotes By Linus Torvalds

  • "Dijkstra probably hates me"
  • (in kernel/sched.c)
  • "How should I know if it works? That's what beta testers are for. I only coded it"
    (somewhere in a posting)
  • "I'm an idiot.. At least this one [bug] took about 5 minutes to find.."
    (in response to a bug report)
  • "If you want to travel around the world and be invited to speak at a lot of different places, just write a Unix operating system."
    (source unknown)
  • "Really, I'm not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect." (NewYork Times interview)
  • "An infinite number of monkeys typing into GNU emacs would never make a good program."
    (source unknown)
  • "Hey, maybe I could apply for a saint-hood from the Pope. Does somebody know what his email-address is? I'm so nice it makes you puke."
    (taken from Linus's reply to someone worried about the future of Linux)
  • "When you say "I wrote a program that crashed Windows", people just stare atyou blankly and say "Hey, I got those with the system, *for free*"
    (source unknown)
  • "Other than the fact Linux has a cool name, could someone explain why I should use Linux over BSD? No. That's it. The cool name, that is. We worked very hard on creating a name that would appeal to the majority of people, and it certainly paid off: thousands of people are using linux just to be able to say "OS/2? Hah. I've got Linux. What a cool name". 386BSD made the mistake of putting a lot of numbers and weird abbreviations into the name, and is scaring away a lot of people just because it sounds too technical."
    (Linus Torvalds' follow-up to a question about Linux)
  • "The day people think linux would be better served by somebody else (FSF being the natural alternative), I'll "abdicate". I don't think that it's something people have to worry about right now - I don't see it happening in the near future. I enjoy doing linux, even though it does mean some work, and I haven't gotten any complaints (some almost timid reminders about a patch I have forgotten or ignored, but nothing negative so far). Don't take the above to mean that I'll stop the day somebody complains: I'm thick-skinned (Lasu, who is reading this over my shoulder commented that "thick-HEADED is closer to the truth") enough to take some abuse. If I weren't, I'd have stopped developing linux the day ast ridiculed me on c.o.minix. What I mean is just that while linux has been my baby so far, I don't want to stand in the way if people want to make something better of it."
    (source unknown)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Easy Way To Create Virtual CDs On Linux

1. Insert the cd on the drive(of course!).

2. To create an ISO image of the CD on the Linux system do:

# dd if=/dev/cdrom of=name-of-cd-image.iso

3. Now, we can use the ISO image whenever we want to by:

# mount -t iso9660 -o loop name-of-cd-image.iso /mount/point

4. Check the mounted image by:

# mount

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

CMD.EXE Is 32 Times Slower Than Gnome-Terminal!

Linux has an abundance of excellent terminal applications. Since I use the command line a lot, I want text output that is as fast as possible. Interestingly, I did not ever manage to find any decent comparison of their effectiveness in terms of speed, memory consumption and ease of use. And I was of the opinion that the ubiquitous xterm was a likely candidate for a terminal with less memory footprint. Well I couldn't have been further from the truth.

Martin Ankerl benchmarked a number of terminals available in Linux including xterm, gnome-terminal, KDE konsole, wterm, eterm and aterm. He even included MS Windows' CMD.EXE for comprehensive comparison. Well, his results surprised me a lot. The two most weird facts are:
  • CMD.EXE is almost 32 times slower than gnome-terminal! (OMG...)
  • Xterm which is probably the most widely used terminal, is also the slowest one
And his findings indicate gnome-terminal and konsole as the best choice of terminals for its speed. And by speed I mean the speed of execution of commands in it and not the program's startup time. But the down side is that these two terminals consume a significant amount of memory. For example, Gnome-terminal is found to consume around 45 MB.

Martin states that he found wterm as the best bet for a low memory footprint with just 6.5 MB consumption. And it is sufficiently fast in executing. xterm loses in this department too with each instance consuming around 16 MB.

Take a look at full benchmark details.

For the impatient here is the brief conclusion:
  • If you want speed, use gnome-terminal or konsole.
  • If you are low on memory, use wterm, rxvt, or Eterm.
  • xterm is slow.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

World Map Of Internet Connectivity

Care to know the level of Internet connectivity in your country ? Or rather, you would like to know which all areas in the world are the most densely wired. Well here is a pictorial representation of the density of Internet connection.

The aptly named "Internet Map" is the creation of Cris Harrison. To create the set of visual maps, he made use of the data from the DIMES project which is a distributed scientific research project, aimed to study the structure and topology of the Internet - a purely volunteer effort on the lines of SETI@HOME project.

Not surprisingly, Europe, USA and Japan lead in the most wired areas in the world.

View the full set of maps of the internet connectivity across the world at Cris Harrison's site.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Train Your Own Virtual Army!

If you've ever been frustrated with the artificial intelligence (AI) in video games, then you are a prime candidate for Neuro-Evolving Robotic Operatives (N.E.R.O.), a cross-platform combat game where the key to winning is training your own intelligent non-player characters. On the field of play, the only rule is "let the best AI win."

N.E.R.O. was first developed in 2003 at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). At UT's 2003 GameDev conference, AI researcher Ken Stanley proposed a game based around the idea of training soldier robots in real time, then pitting them against each other. It grew into an ongoing research project that involves a number of UT faculty and students.

The game has two distinct modes. In training mode, you play in a virtual sandbox, setting up enemies and obstacles, then unleashing your robot teams on them. The robots use neural networks to respond to game events, so you teach them by issuing rewards or penalties for events such as hitting a target, avoiding getting hit themselves, and standing their ground.

When you think you have a decent team, you can save your work and enter battle mode. Choose from a variety of arenas, then send your 'bots into combat against one of the included demo teams, or against another player over the network.

The game is built using the proprietary Torque game engine, but free binaries are available for Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows. The new version is numbered 2.0 and marks the first major update released to the public since 2005. The Linux download is a gzipped tarball; download and extract it anywhere on your system. The game is compiled for 32-bit Intel architecture Linux only, and requires OpenAL for sound. From within the extracted directory, you can start the game by running ./nero.bin

For quick introduction to N.E.R.O. features take a look at their trailer movie.

Read more:
[AI versus AI: N.E.R.O. on Linux]
[NERO game evolves to version 2.0]
[The official N.E.R.O. website]

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Top Ten Side Effects Of Switching To Linux

Studies done by a prestigious think tank in Silicon Valley have identified the most common behavioral changes in people who have switched to Linux. They were nice enough to share their information with us. According to them, these are the ten most frequent side effects of Linux use with us:

10: You start talking about 'killing' programs instead of forcing them to quit

9: You keep reminding yourself that you don't have to save your work every five minutes

8: You start substituting C for K in your normal writing (Did you know that Pizarro konquered the Inkas?)

7: You talk your grandmother into open-sourcing her secret cookie recipe

6: People give you strange looks when you brag about your uptime

5: You cause Bill Gates' fortune to decrease by 0.0000001 percent

4: The only viruses that bother you are the ones that cause the flu

3: The blue screen of death only appears to you in nightmares

2: You actually get some serious work done

And the number 1 side effect of switching to Linux is:
Your problems meeting members of the opposite sex disappear!


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Monday, October 1, 2007

Linus Torvalds Talks Future Of Linux

Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, has, along with others like Richard Stallman, literally changed the world of software forever.

Linux-based distributions seem to pop up every day, while more and more devices now run Linux at their core, from mobile phones to inflight entertainment systems, to the world's mission critical server infrastructures.

The development of the kernel has changed, and Linux is just getting better and better. However, with a community as large and fractured as the Linux community, it can sometimes be hard to get a big picture overview of where Linux is going: what's happening with kernel version 2.6? Will there be a version 3.0? What has Linus been up to lately? What does he get up to in his spare time?

APC Interviewer James Buchanan who is an Australian programmer, writer and cartoonist chats with Linus Torvalds and quizes him about what the future holds for the Linux kernel and in what direction it is being steered. Read the full interview.

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