Impressions: Fedora Core 5 Test 3

February 27th, 2006

I’ve been testing out FC5-test3 for a few days now. Seems to be nice and stable as FC4 was, though with a few annoyances that will hopefully be worked out when FC5 is finally released in mid-March. Here are a few things that caught my attention.

The good

  • Hardware support has improved. I tried to install FC4 and Suse 10.0 on a Dell machine with an ATI X600 video card, and both of them would hang while starting X. FC5-test3 installer has no problems with that.
  • Automounting GUI is much better. In KDE, a desktop icon is created whenever an external drive is attached to the computer (haven’t tried it with my PTP camera yet). There is a little green triangle at the bottom right of each icon, which indicates that the device is mounted. You can choose to “Safely Remove” from the right-click menu (wonder where they picked that from), which unmounts the device and makes the green icon disappear.
  • One of the real big pluses for me - Firefox now has full kerning support for Hindi fonts. Actually, this is a bit of a surprise. I have two OS paritions, one with FC4 updated to KDE 3.5.1 and one with FC5-test3 (which has KDE 3.5.1 by default). I have a single home partition, off which I run a downloaded copy of Firefox 1.5.0.1 in both OSes. In FC4, Firefox has problems displaying Hindi fonts correctly, while in FC5, Firefox displays them just fine. I guess they managed to find a way to enable pango in KDE, and make FF use it by default. I tried to do that in FC4 using some environment variable but it didn’t help. In any case, this is a big plus and it means I no longer have to load up Konqueror to display Hindi pages.
  • Although the GCC version with this release is 4.1, I think they’ve installed the 3.3 compatibility libraries by default, so Firefox, for one, just runs right after downloading (in FC4, yum install compat-libstdc++ was necessary).
The bad
  • The KDE screensaver doesn’t work. I don’t care much for screensavers, but it does matter to me that consequently, “Lock Screen” doesn’t work. I’m not sure if this is a problem with my particular install, since its tough to believe that such a basic thing wouldn’t be working. I do remember that Red Hat 8 final actually shipped with this issue unresolved. [Bug report]
  • nVidia drivers don’t install. nVidia cards and drivers usually work very well for Linux, and installation of binary drivers downloaded from nVidia’s site has always been painless. In FC5t3 however, the installation fails at the kernel module build phase. [Bug report]
  • gmailnotify doesn’t work under FC5t3 and crashes with an XML parsing error. The only thing I can think of is that an upgrade of Python (2.4.1 to 2.4.2?) causes the problem.

(This was the first post by our new contributor, Anshul Nigham. - antrix)

Spotted in the wild

February 12th, 2006

SUSE Linux in Coupling Season 3 Episode 2.

Spotted in the wild

Konqi View - Launch pages in Konqueror from Firefox

December 5th, 2005

The Konqueror that ships with SUSE’s KDE has a nice Open with Firefox option in the Location menu. Sometimes I wish Firefox had a similar option because as nice as Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine is, some sites just need different handling and the KHTML engine (which kicks ass in KDE 3.5!) usually handles such sites with aplomb.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Install IE View extension for Firefox
  • Create a link named iexplore to konqueror somewhere in your $PATH.
    $ ln -s `which konqueror` ~/bin/iexplore
  • Restart Firefox
  • Point to your iexplore in IE View’s options

That’s it! Now the ‘View This Page in IE’ option will load the current page in Konqueror.

Towards better CLI file copies and moves

July 15th, 2005

I’ve been playing around with a couple of screencasting tools and even as I write this, the first result of my experiments is getting uploaded to the server.

This first screencast is about the little known 'kfmclient copy/move' operations which bring convenient GUI goodness to the command line. It’s a 1.25MB heavy, 1024×768 res Flash movie. Hopefully, future screencasts won’t be so resource hungry!

I plan to put up more such videos with a focus towards highlighting little known tricks and power utilities. If you have any ideas that would make for good screencasts, comment here and let me know!

Krita

July 7th, 2005

Krita is the new image editing application to watch out for. The progress they are making is seriously awesome. Pretty soon, with KDE 3.5 I guess, I should be able to do away with The GIMP on my KDE desktop! I think I’ll really like that. :-)

Great use cases == Great solutions

July 2nd, 2005

From a discussion on sound card configuration through Utopia:

Britanny wants to use her desktop microphone when her webcam with the microphone isn’t plugged in, as she doesn’t want her would-be boyfriend to see her in her undies, so unplugs the camera before speaking to him on GnomeMeeting.

LinuxWorld Expo 2005

July 1st, 2005

The LinuxWorld Expo 2005 was held yesterday here in Singapore. Since I was free, I volunteered to help out at the SuSE/Novell booth in the afternoon.

I met a lot of interesting people over there. Lots of suits - this was an ‘enterprise linux’ conference after all. There was this young girl, 17 years old IIRC, who was diagnosing wireless connectivity problems with tcpdump. Nice. I also realized how much I’ve grown up when she said she hated Ubuntu ‘cos it has an ugly theme and I found myself disagreeing with her. ;-)

Dr Cheok Beng Teck, director of the Ministry of Defence’s CIO Office, in his keynote address talked about their adoption of OpenOffice. I didn’t attend it but it seems to have generated a lot of interest - there were quite a few people asking for demos of OO.o.

There was one lady (I forget from which company) who asked me questions about compatibility with MS Office, platform independence, etc. She wasn’t very technical but was clearly impressed by OO.o’s ability to save documents in the pdf format and the fact that the same software runs on Windows and Linux systems. Finally she said, “And all this for free?! Quite hard for me to believe!” :-)

At the end of it all, I got a retail box of SuSE Linux Pro 9.3 for free! 2 DVDs, 5 CDs and two hefty printed manuals that are an absolute pain to carry around! ;-)

The CELL

May 30th, 2005

This particular slide caught my attention while going through a technical presentation on the IBM/Sony/Toshiba Cell processor.

Read it, let the implications sink in and then wonder with childish delight how this processor is going to rock your world.

The Nokia 770

May 26th, 2005

Nokia, the Finnish phone folks, have revealed a not-a-phone device: the Nokia 770. It’s a great looking, instant on, wi-fi enabled tablet device slated for a Q3 2005 launch. And get this: it runs on Debian, GNOME and GStreamer! A blurb from mobileburn:

Thanks to the 770’s massive 4.13″ diagonal, 800×480 pixel display, browsing and email should be quite comfortable. In addition to the Opera web browser and the built-in email client, the initial Q3 2005 release of the 770 will also ship with a RSS news reader, an Internet radio, various media players, a PDF viewer, and Flash v6 compatibility. A user installable software upgrade that is expected in Q1 of 2006 will introduce Voice Over IP (VOIP) and Instant Messaging to the mix.

The best thing (and one, in my opinion, which will drive adoption of this device like crazy) is that Nokia plans for the device to be open and very developer friendly. And these are not just token words - go take a look at the software platform, dubbed Maemo, for this and possibly future device(s). The site is full of developer documentation and tutorials, and it’s only just been launched! As Joel (of Gizmodo) says, “the 770 could end up being a really cool mobile computing platform that serves as the mobile media and connectivity device the PSP should have been, if Sony hadn’t locked out developers.”

Going back to the mobileburn blurb, instant messaging support is expected to come via a Q1 2006 software update. That’s funny since they’ve already ported Gaim to run on the 770. What gives? Is Nokia waiting for or better yet, funding robust voice and video support in Gaim ? Wait and watch!

Edit: Check out this new press release - Nokia announces patent support to the Linux Kernel. Linux and Nokia are now best buddies? Or just a case of Finnish folks hanging out together ;-)

From App-Centric to Data-Centric

May 25th, 2005

Here’s the big picture overview of my desktop PC usage: I deal with data and not applications. Applications are just tools to help me obtain, explore and organize data. And hence, applications should be as unobtrusive as possible. Sadly, most of the apps today aren’t designed with this data first attitude in mind.

This isn’t a long winded post arguing the merits or demerits of this attitude. This is just a note on how I got my desktop closer to the ideal data first desktop.

My home PC use revolves around three things (apart from net surfing): music, pictures and videos. That’s data in three different formats and representing three different usage patterns. Music listening is usually a passive thing - it plays in the background while I do other things. Pictures involve displaying them, sorting, editing, etc. Videos - just watching.

On my current desktop, the GNOME 2.10 Ubuntu desktop, Rhythmbox serves the role of playing music admirably well. I can queue songs by album or artist and I can bring up any song I want in practically no time. No problems here.

When it comes to pictures, Eye of GNOME, the default graphics file handler leaves a lot to be desired. When I open a picture file in Nautilus, I just want to see the picture. And see it now! I don’t want a slow-loading, huge toolbar laden app open up just to see a picture!

Enter QIV - Quick Image Viewer. It’s incredibly fast and completely unobtrusive. I’ve associated my graphics files to open with QIV and now when I open a picture, it displays damn near instantly. Best of all, I see just the picture in a simple window - no freaking toolbar or menubar! Hit ‘Esc’ or ‘q’ and back to Nautilus. Simple, fast, elegant. And my pictures stay as pictures - they don’t get transported into the womb of a menubar and toolbar laden app.

Now to videos and movies. Nautilus renders very nice thumbnails of video files; very thoughtfully, the thumbnails are created from some duration into the video and not just the first frame - so you see a scene from the video and not a black/white thumbnail. When I launch a video file, Totem comes up after the customary delay after which, I find my video surrounded by a menubar and a seekbar and a status bar and what not. Hitting the ‘H’ key hides all that clutter and now I can enjoy just the video. Can I launch Totem in this no-frills state? I haven’t figured out how to do that. And even if I could do it, the time delay between opening a file and Totem starting playback brings a disconnect in my experience.

Enter MPlayer, the fastest video playback solution on Linux since forever! No kidding: on this machine, Eye of GNOME, a picture viewer, takes more time to load than MPlayer!

Now thanks to MPlayer, I can enjoy instant video playback in a manner that puts the content first.

Here are some screenshots to show what I am talking about.

image viewers' comparison

video viewers' comparison