January 24th, 2007

It has been almost half an year since I posted here. If you thought the blog was dead, then you would be right and this post is the proverbial nail in the coffin.

It was fun while it lasted but right now, I have neither the time nor the inclination to write anything approaching a sensible paragraph or two on a (ir)regular basis. Hence, the decision to take the blog offline.

I actually wanted to leave the blog archives online as-is, but the never-ending Wordpress security upgrade rigmarole makes that an impractical option. So in a few days, perhaps next weekend, I’ll wipe everything off.

If you wish, you can subscribe to my eminor feed for Linux and OSS related links that I bookmark regularly.

So long and thanks for all the love!

Update: Instead of taking the blog completely offline, I've decided to replace it with a static html version. So all the content ever written for Eudyptula minor will stay here in archival form.

Using gmail as KDE’s default mail client

August 16th, 2006

I found this script which, when set as your default mail client, opens up a gmail compose window from KDE apps instead of KMail.

I had a couple of problems with the automatic browser detection of the script, though, so I simply set the BROWSER variable to “firefox” instead of the command in the script.

To use, save the script in a file, make it executable, then point to the script from Control Center - KDE Components - Component Chooser - Email client.

Intel releases free software graphics drivers

August 11th, 2006

In one corner of the ring, Intel releases bonafide, honest-to-god, fully functional free software graphics drivers for their i965 chipset.

In the other corner, AMD is buying ATI who are known for their “this sorta draws some pixels, be happy with it ‘cos we don’t give a damn about you” linux graphics drivers. How will AMD respond to Intel?

Meanwhile, in the third corner, nVIDIA watches. Many, including me, have opted for nVIDIA solutions for their linux boxes because even though the drivers are closed-source, they atleast work well and exploit the graphics card to its full potential! This could definitely change in the future if the Intel solution provides acceptable performance with drivers well supported by, distro & kernel folks. Who knows, with these drivers, we may even get an out-of-the-box laptop-projector plug & play experience in the future!

Now I just wish Lenovo would end their relationship with ATI for their Thinkpad line.

Formatting a USB drive in Linux

May 2nd, 2006

For some reason my USB drive, even though empty, was showing up as half full and I needed to reformat it and found that to my horror, I had no idea what to do. Here’s the solution:

mkfs -t vfat /dev/sda1

Make sure you do it while the drive is unmounted and you are root. Cheers!


Fedora Core 5, nVidia drivers, and circus hoops

March 24th, 2006

As of now, to get nVidia drivers working on FC5, you have to jump through hoops. This has partly to do with the FC5 kernel and partly to do with the driver. Sadly enough, when I reported this in FC5t3, the developers closed it with a NOTABUG (nVidia’s problem).

Here are the hoops you need to jump through. Explanations in italics if you really care.

  1. Do yum install xorg-x11-server-sdk. FC5 has moved to modular X, the default locations for includes, libraries et. al. has all changed. This package somehow informs the nvidia driver installer about it.
  2. Disable SELinux by running system-config-securitylevel as root. SELinux has an issue with GLX permissions. See here for details.
  3. Download the 2.6.16 kernel from this page. You need both kernel and kernel-devel packages for your system. Install them using rpm -Uvh kernel*. Reboot. The stock 2.6.15 kernel with FC5 won’t work. These kernels are maintained by a Redhat guy, so they should be quite stable (I’m using it so far without problems).
  4. Download nVidia Linux drivers ver 1.0-8178. This is the _only_ step that makes sense. I know.
  5. Download this patch file.
  6. Run the following code, assuming you have an i386 system (if it isn’t, go here):

sh /path/to/ --extract-only
cd NVIDIA-Linux-x86-1.0-8178-pkg1
patch -p0 < /path/to/NVIDIA_kernel-1.0-8178-U012206.diff.txt
./nvidia-installer -n

This works for me. I hope it does for you. If it doesn’t, good luck. Welcome to the circus that is Linux. Did I hear someone talk about the readiness of Desktop Linux? Ha!

Forum references: here, here and here.

Kororaa Xgl Live CD

March 16th, 2006

Kororaa Screenshot 3

The latest linux buzz is Xgl, a new graphics subsystem which Novell is pushing, with uber-awesome graphical desktop effects. I decided to try out Kororaa, a Gentoo-based live-CD distribution which runs Xgl. Xgl, along with AIGLX will form the Linux response to Quartz extreme and Aero Glass on Mac OS X and Windows Vista respectively.

The eye candy is definitely impressive. Best seen through this video by Novell. Transparency, cube faces as desktops, squiggling motion of moving windows, 3-D rotating effects, its all there. It works, and works very smoothly. If anything, I was really impressed by the performance.

What I was really impressed by, though, was what I call the “natural fall” of the UI. Lets say I’ve dragged the desktop cube to the position in the screenshot above. When I release it, the cube will rotate back to the “nearest” face or desktop. It won’t do that instantly or in at a constant speed though - it accelerates to the nearest desktop, overshoots it slightly and bounces back. Similarly with scale windows (the equivalent of Expose in Mac OS X… all open windows are scaled and tiled to fit on the desktop) - there is a bouncing effect before the scaled windows fall into place.

The other apps on the CD are the usual gnome apps. Its possible to make any window as transparent as you want - but thats hardly the most effective usage of Xgl. Basically, once this is adopted by distros, developers will need to incorporate good UI design keeping the new options in mind.

More screenshots here.

Critical Linux vulnerability: dumb-user

March 13th, 2006

Spotted on

<Cthon98> hey, if you type in your pw, it will show as stars
<Cthon98> ********* see!
<AzureDiamond> hunter2
<AzureDiamond> doesnt look like stars to me
<Cthon98> <AzureDiamond> *******
<Cthon98> thats what I see
<AzureDiamond> oh, really?
<Cthon98> Absolutely
<AzureDiamond> you can go hunter2 my hunter2-ing hunter2
<AzureDiamond> haha, does that look funny to you?
<Cthon98> lol, yes. See, when YOU type hunter2, it shows to us as *******
<AzureDiamond> thats neat, I didnt know IRC did that
<Cthon98> yep, no matter how many times you type hunter2, it will show to us as *******
<AzureDiamond> awesome!
<AzureDiamond> wait, how do you know my pw?
<Cthon98> er, I just copy pasted YOUR ******’s and it appears to YOU as hunter2 cause its your pw
<AzureDiamond> oh, ok.

Picasa 2 on Wine

March 8th, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, reported that Google is working with Codeweavers to bring Picasa, their acclaimed photo managing application, to Linux.

I haven’t read of any confirmation of this parternship coming from the Google camp since then. So tonight, I decided to check out how Picasa works with regular old Wine.

Wine 0.9.9 was recently released and it wasn’t any pain installing it since the Wine project folks are nice to provide rpms for Suse 10. Installing and running Picasa was as simple as:

$ wine picasa2-current.exe
$ cd ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/Picasa2
$ wine Picasa2.exe

Picasa Library

There were some initial hiccups. The folders import didn’t work correctly. Actually, it is the recurvise import that doesn’t work - you have to add each folder/sub-folder individually. Once that is done - it’s all smooth sailing.

I played around with it for half an hour and everything works as expected. You can move around, edit photos, watch a slide show and check out the time line. Scrolling in the Library view is jerky at times but usually works fine. I had one crash so far but I can’t seem to reproduce it.

I hadn’t tried Wine in a long time and it’s amazing to see how much progress has been made. They even provide a GUI config tool called winecfg now.

As for the Google-Codeweavers partnership, it does sound plausible given how minimal is the extra effort that is needed to get Picasa to run flawlessly under Wine.

More screenshots on Flickr.

How insecure can an OS be? (a.k.a. Dual-booting Windows with GRUB)

March 7th, 2006

Avyakt recently compared Microsoft Windows and women. In the same vein, I recently found out what an insecure OS Windows can be.

I recently gave in to temptation and bought a 250 GB hard drive (only S$150!) and decided I might as well give in to my gamer urges as well, and proceeded to install Windows on a partition of the new hard drive (my primary hard drive runs Fedora and Gentoo). I hate dual-booting from the same drive and much prefer to have installations on separate hard drives for independent re/un-installation.

Now, my last computer had this nice “Boot” menu in BIOS - I could select which hard drive to boot from. In my current setup, I have to actually go in and change the boot sequence, which is a pain. So, I figured, that there must be a way to get GRUB to boot Windows off a second hard drive. Off the top of my head, I thought chainloader (hd1,0)+1 would do the trick (set root to 2nd hard drive, 1st partition, and boot from the MBR). Doesn’t work.

Turns out Windows must be booted off the “first” hard drive - it refuses to boot if its in second place. So here’s the solution:

map (hd0) (hd1)
map (hd1) (hd0)
chainloader (hd1,0)+1

You have to pretend Windows is really on the first hard drive (mapping hd0 to hd1), even though it really isn’t (note the chainloader is still given hd1 as a parameter). Only then will Windows boot up.

These comparisons just continue to stack up. It’s uncanny.

Game on!

March 1st, 2006


Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, on Linux, using WINE. Bliss :) No better way to get high just after a deadline!

OK, here’s what I did. I’m using Fedora Core 4, by the way.

  1. Install wine. All you need to do is yum install wine
  2. Run winecfg
  3. Go to the “Graphics” tab. Check “Emulate a virtual desktop”, make it 800×600 (max resolution of Diablo II)
  4. Go to the “Drives” tab. Normally C: and Z: should be added. Click on Add, D: should be added, set the path to /media/cdrecorder (or whatever directory you mount your cdrom into)
  5. Insert Diablo II CD. It should automount, otherwise mount it.
  6. I will assume /media/cdrecorder is your cdrom directory. From anywhere outside .media/cdrecorder, run wine /media/cdrecorder/SETUP.EXE
  7. Install as usual. When the installer asks for other discs, simply type eject at another prompt, and put in the new CD. Remember you must mount the CD (or wait for it to be mounted) before clicking OK inside the installer.
  8. Run the video test and choose Direct2D (HAL) as your mode (I ran into problems with Direct3D. Maybe it’ll work after some tweaking, but hey, this is Diablo).
  9. Exit the installer.
  10. Insert Diablo II Expansion CD and install as you did Diablo.
  11. It’ll complain about not finding the CD drive, forget it for now.
  12. Download your favourite patch from Blizzard.
  13. Download a NOCD crack for your D2LOD version from GameBurnWorld.
  14. Your fake Windows/Diablo directory is most likely ~/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Diablo II/. Install the NOCD crack as needed into this directory.
  15. In KDE, go to Control Center -> Desktop -> Window Behavior and set Alt + Left Click on Window to Nothing. Unless you want to play Diablo without picking up items.
  16. You’re all set. Just run wine ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/Diablo\ II/Diablo\ II.exe and kick some monster ass!