Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

Hmm...another year gone by. Year 2008 will be forever precious to me, it is the year that I :
  • Got married finally, as I was considered an "old" man by most local standards.
  • Joined OSCC and got to know a bunch of talented people and have learn a great deal from them, thanks guys.
  • Got more involved in the local OSS activities - although I have yet to contribute code, I am very much for the richer to learn from the many local community members via the meetups and IRC sessions.
  • Got to attend the Conference in Beijing - I am forever indebted to my Manager, Haris for his support in nominating and the Management in approving my participation. Being there I had the good fortune to meet and exchange ideas with so many talented and diverse people; it was as if a mortal has somehow been granted the privilege to walk among the Titans. I learned so much about OO.o (and the wider FOSS world) in that short few days than the 6 years I have been a user. Also, I felt snow for the 1st time in my life! It was awesome and I think went overboard a bit by runing around like some nutjob sticking out my tongue to catch snow flakes!
  • Bought the very nice E71 cell phone (after my old SE W850i had an unfortunate accident with the washing machine), my very first smartphone.
  • Finally managed to move into my very own apartment, it's nothing grand but it's mine and it feels good.
Generally I do not have any high aspirations for a new year. But I do look forward to more Linux being bundled with netbooks and computers on the whole.

Resolutions? Same as last year, to have the strength to accept and make changes, serenity to accept things I cannot change and wisdom to know the difference.

Happy New Year to all and have a blessed year ahead.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Some thoughts on OpenSUSE 11.1 GNOME edition

A couple of posts back I was ranting about OpenSUSE 11.1 KDE edition. Well, I refuse to think that OpenSUSE is all that bad. I was using SUSE exclusively before it became "Open" and bought the 10.0 and SLED 10 box sets. Yeah, I was a real SUSE fanboy then.

After that I sort off drifted towards MEPIS (cool, but solely Anglo-Saxon; to enable CJK font rendering on files/dir was an exercise in futility) and then back to SUSE and then finally to Ubuntu, while flirting with Fedora all these while.

Yeah, I am what some would call a distro whore. I get a kick with installing and playing with the newest distros; to stay sane I loosely limit myself to xbuntus, OpenSUSE, Fedora and an occasion Debian-derived work.

Installation and Desktop
Well, pretty, very pretty and slick. Went on without a problem and surprise oh surprise, this GNOME edition detected my lappy's Intel 915 resolution correctly; compared to the KDE edition when I needed to reconfigure the setting AFTER the installation is over and needed to use SAX2. I smell a conspiracy here....

The cool thing I noticed in KDE edition was that, right after I logged in from KDM, I get this nice splash screen and it slowly fades into the desktop. Really cool. For the GNOME edition, it was the normal, GDM -> Splash Screen -> Blank for a couple or so seconds -> Desktop. Nothing fancy but at least I know it works.

The KDE edition was also quite finicky with most display adapters, i.e. I also tried on this workstation of mine that uses an integrated Intel Video (from lspci, Intel Corporation 82Q963/Q965 Integrated Graphics Controller) and the screen blanks out to white with fuzzy horizontal lines after the login and prior the cool fade in to the Desktop.

The conspiracist within me is really working up a frenzy now.

The GNOME edition uses the same GDM version as Fedora 10 (2.24) and thus look alike except with the SUSE greenish hues and better resolution and fit with the rest of the system. The Fedora one for some reason seems to like "larger" fonts for its GDM and I don't see any options to change it.

More green goodness on the desktop and the love it or hate it slab menu. OpenSUSE is I think the only mainstream distro that seems to make the two major desktop environments, GNOME and KDE to be as similar as possible.

The default Gilouche theme is kinda ok I guess but I would prefer something along the lines of Oxygen and it can be added easily via the Appearance applet.

However one major peeve I have with OpenSUSE's slab menu is that there is simply no way you can clear the recently accessed document list. The only sure fire way seems to add the traditional GNOME menu (with the single launcher and not with the three menus one) and clear it from there.

This issue has been around since they went slab menu and only under SLED 10 they managed to include that feature in. This poses some privacy issues and it is indeed surprising that the OpenSUSE people did not see fit to fix it.

The "tabbed" browsing feature in Nautilus is nothing to shout about, since it already made its debut in Ubuntu 8.10 and Fedora 10, but it is noteworthy that the rendering of the tab fonts seems better.

The stock GNOME software list like xchat, pidgin etc are included, sans GNUMeric and Abiword. There is a BitTorrent client named Monsson that is included but I have been using Deluge for some time now and I grabbed it from the repos easily.

Yast and Package Management
Yast under GNOME is better integrated compared to the KDE edition. Well I expected it as there is an issue with the Qt libraries. However, if like me who has not seen Yast for some time since its non-Open days, the Package Management is a little funkier than before, needs getting used to but nevertheless usable.

Zypper is truly awesome and after using for the third day now, I will say in many cases it is superior to yum, especially I find it easier to search through installed and available packages.

Again, even with a 8Mbit/sec line here in the office, updating OpenSUSE requires the patience of a saint. Note to self, disable auto-refresh.

Switching network media connection seems to work better under GNOME than KDE. I was running under Wifi, then I connected the cable and I can easily switch to it.

My Digi EDGE connection could only be done using Kinternet. Sadly, with all announcements on how good OpenSUSE will support mobile (GSM) Internet, it seems that Fedora and Ubuntu has the edge (no pun intended) here over OpenSUSE when it comes to mobile Internet.

OpenSUSE is nice but seems flaky at times. The slab menu file list issue is something that should have been resolved. Multimedia wise, OpenSUSE is simply top notch; I could basically play back any format I have without hiccups and the Pulse Audio system actually works for the first time for me. Even under the "mother distro" of Pulse Audio, Fedora, the controls to Pulse Audio were grayed out. Possibly explains why the audio output for both Ubuntu and Fedora is so crappy on my lappy without ear phones.

I get the feeling that the Novell folks seem to be more interested with GNOME than KDE. I cannot prove this but from purely a user's perspective, GNOME works a lot better than the KDE 4.x they bundled. KDE apologists might say that it is still considered beta or there exists issues with the Qt libs etc etc but the fact is, KDE has been relegated to the status of the proverbial "step child".

Since I am an unabashed fanboy, one of the main reasons I am willing to overlook someof the faults of the distro is that Novell does extremely well. They after all have a small army of developers behind the effort; more specifically the go-oo project.

Go OpenSUSE if you are interested in a good office suite, excellent multimedia playback and good networking stack. Overall a good distro but feels half-baked in some aspects.

Changing hostname under OpenSUSE

One of the quirkiest feature of OpenSUSE is that, there seem to be no way to change or add hostname during the installation. For instance, I ended up with the hostname linux1-woj.

To change the hostname edit the /etc/HOSTNAME (yes, it's upper-caps) file and modify the hostname there. No reboot necessary, but GNOME or your UI might need so.

Source of the tip :

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Some thoughts on OpenSUSE 11.1 KDE version

Yay! Another OpenSUSE release. And like some dewy-eyed and shameless groupie, I used (or misused?!) the company's fast Internet line to download the latest KDE Live CD.

So far, I have been quite critical of KDE 4.x. Most of its incarnation in other distros were, shall we say, less than usable? Things like moving icons around on the panel were made necessarily difficult and what's with the right justification all the time when adding icons to the panel?

Since Mandriva and SUSE are "KDE Kings" I was really looking forward to running it on my spare lappy, an "ancient" Centrino 1.6GHz with 1GB RAM and Intel 915 display.

For any distro, I always look for the following:
  1. Package Repository - how complete and extensive it is.
  2. Package Management - dependency resolution, how easy to update, patch install new software
  3. Multimedia - I use my lappy and home PCs to work and listen to MP3s, watch movies, trailers and Youtube.
  4. Networking - I am a heavy Internet user, in the office and at home I use Wifi extensively and when on the move, I use Digi's EDGE; thus, if any distro has problem working with them, it will never be considered. NetworkManager 0.7 and above should have that covered well.
I installed via the KDE Live CD. I usually prefer the Live CD method just to check everything is working before committing it to the hard drive.

Installation was just an icon click away and it took me about 20 minutes or so.

After the initial reboot, the screen flashed a few times with a message telling me that I shouldn't worry too much about it as the OpenSUSE was trying to properly configure my display. As always, it NEVER works and I needed to get to the Graphics Card and Monitor applet in Yast to get it done properly.

The KDE panel was "automagically" shortened to like 3/4 of its original length and I had to right click to configure the panel and lengthen the panel back to its original full length.

This "shortened" KDE panel is not something that happened only on my spare lappy, it also happened on some other machines I tried on as well. I do hope it is a bug and not some "feature" the KDE or OpenSUSE guys thought were cute.

OpenSUSE's splash screen is simply awesome. Very elegant. Instant bragging material when showing off to Windows fanboys; and it only took me about 35 seconds from startup to a usable desktop (including keying username and password fairly quickly). Very nice!

Also I could hit the ESC key any time during the splash screen to look at the boot up messages, something I miss sorely when running Ubuntu.

Well, it's very green; I was expecting the "normal" KDE 4.x blackness and blue swirl wallpaper, but still better than the orange/brown default of Ubuntu. KDE 4.1.3 is provided as the default. Staple KDE apps, Konqueror, KDE-PIM, Koffice with OO.o 3.0.

Novell's OO.o is known to be really good and in this aspect it doesn't disappoint. It seems snappier and works well even in KDE. Also it comes with extra templates.

I was looking forward to KOffice 2.0, but I guess it's better to iron out the kinks rather than rushing out an unfinished and buggy suite. Koffice is functional but it is simple horrible when working with MS Office docs and it doesn't fully support (or OO.o generated) ODF yet. On a brighter note, Firefox doesn't suck that much as was in Kubuntu or Fedora.

Konversation is not included by default, pity; I like that. Well it's just an installation away. So far Kopete in OpenSUSE seems to give me the least issues. I just can't explain it, maybe there is some special tweak or hidden check box somewhere.

Yast is still as always, dependable and good but looks dated as it is using Qt3 rather than Qt4; but still very usable.

Dolphin is looks like a step backwards. While it looks good, where is the tabbed browsing? Even Nautilus has it now and Dolphin looks so dated compared to the former.

Package Management
Zypper is a very cool tool. While I will not say it is comparable to the venerable apt-get; zypper is at least at the level of yum. Want to install nmap? Just fire away zypper in nmap.

Very nice indeed.

Or you can just launch Software Management applet via Yast. It's just me, I have a soft spot to doing stuff on the CLI sometimes.

Well, a package manager is only as good as the repos that support it. Sadly, the OpenSUSE and 3rd party repos like Packman (with all the multimedia goodies) are simply dreadful to work with. Firstly, to really get stuff configured well, you need to essentially configure the updates via Yast (not a bad thing actually, as it attempts to locate the nearest repo mirror to you) that timed out more times that I can count and in the office I have a dedicated 8Mb line. I finally decided to manually add the nearest mirror (Japan) to via the Software Repository applet. Not very noob friendly at all.

Adding to its issues, is OpenSUSE's insistence of refreshing all the repos every time you launch the Package Management applet or zypper to add/remove stuff. Although you can easily turn the refresh off, it is still annoying, especially so since the repos are so slow and time out so often.

I suggest turning off auto refresh to gain any sanity in working with package management utilities in OpenSUSE.

I watch a lot of AVIs for entertainement and listen to MP3s when I work and/or surf the web. So having a relatively good multimedia playback capability is a pre-requisite for me.

So far even the trouble-some RMVB files that I have seems to play seemlessly via kmplayer and kaffeine. I realy don't care much for Dragon Media player and Amarok seems bloated. For simple MP3 playback I prefer to use Audacious or XMMP.

NetworkManager is one of those gems that just work. While the GNOME version of NetworkManager is just one dialog box and a field to enter the key by comparison KNetworkManager is simply bad. Too many dialog boxes for something as trivial associating to a hotspot. And by default KNetworkManager doesn't even connect to a previously associated hotspot automatically, you'll have to start it automatically by ticking a check box. While some might call Wifi auto connection bad, I feel that I should not be bothered with so many details just to get work done; after all, would you like to re-tune all your favourite channels whenever you fire up your radio?

Not necessarily a feature stopper but begs the question, "WTF"?

As mentioned I am a heavy Internet user. Even when I am on the move I often bring along my trusty nc2400, especially when out for shopping with the wife. So connecting to Digi's EDGE service is important for me.

Well, when I attach my E71 (via a USB cable) to the lappy, I see an option to connect via /dev/ttyACM0 (I can almost hear a noob screaming WTF?!). Okay, bad label but should work right? When I clicked on it, it was dead in the water. A tail -f /var/log/messages said it had connecting /dev/ttyACM0 and error message 15.


It worked with Fedora and Ubuntu and they were released before OpenSUSE 11.1. Well, I finally got connected by configuring a connection via kinternet. On the other hand, when I tried using my wife's Maxis 3G USB dongle (Huawei E220), it got connected KNetworkManager and without resorting to kinternet.

I had the same issue with OpenSUSE 11.0, and so I was looking forward to some sort of improvement.

I would say that OpenSUSE 11.1 is a solid distro. KDE 4.1.3 still feels like unfinished but the OpenSUSE guys managed to tame it to the point it is somewhat usable.

I still think having a single pane only view for Dolphin is a bad choice. Konqueror is doing a wonderful job and sometimes I feel that some stuff are just "upgraded" and "improved" for its own sake.

Also, KNetworkManager simply has one too many dialog boxes. While I understand that KDE != GNOME, there are some cool features in GNOME that perhaps the KDE hackers can use and vice-versa.

I might just make OpenSUSE permanent on my home PC on the account of its excellent multimedia capabilities.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reading Comics (cbr) files with OpenSUSE and Ubuntu

I downloaded Cory Doctorow's Futuristic Tales of the Here and Now comic and was faced with the problem of trying to read cbr files (comic book file, essentially rar'ed file of JPEGs and stuff) on my OpenSUSE notebook.

Unfortunately OpenSUSE does not seem to have Comix in its OSS, NON-OSS and Packman repos.

Oh well, no biggie, I'll head over to Comix's web site and download the tar ball.

From its web site, Comix is a user-friendly, customizable image viewer. It is specifically designed to handle comic books, but also serves as a generic viewer. It reads images in ZIP, RAR or tar archives (also gzip or bzip2 compressed) as well as plain image files. It is written in Python and uses GTK+ through the PyGTK bindings.

It needs Python 2.4 and above, PyGTK (python-gtk for OpenSUSE) and Python Imaging Library (python-imaging for OpenSUSE), and then it's just a matter of #python install.

For Ubuntu, all it took was the simple $sudo apt-get install comix

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Digi EDGE on Backtrack 3 USB Edition

I installed Backtrack 3 (BT3) on to my USB stick, booted into the Fluxbox desktop and from there I can get to the Internet via Internet Dial-Up tool (essentially KPPP) using my trusty Nokia E71.

If you are planning to use BT3 to connect to Internet via Digi EDGE using a cellphone as modem, as I do, usually the modem is connected to /dev/ttyACM0 instead of the default /dev/modem. To be sure check your /var/log/messages. Number to dial is *99# and the username is "digi", password is "wap" (sans quotes and they are case sensitive).

I use the bundled USB data cable to connect to my lappy (nc2400).

Speed wise, ain't nothing to shout about but since BT3 doesn't like my wireless NIC (iwl3495), being able to get online via EDGE is sweet.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Accessing the Internet via Nokia E71 and DIGI EDGE

I switched mobile provider from Maxis to Digi today. It was just a matter of getting to the Digi Specialised Store, filled in a form and that was that. I was given a new Digi SIM card and was told that my voice and unlimited EDGE data subscription would should take effect within two days.

At 2030, I got an SMS from Digi informing me of my subscription is a online. Talk about fast. I filled in the form at about 1700 and it only took about 3.5 hours to switch over. Now that's what I call service!

Well, I was totally engrossed with Life on Mars then and could not be bothered to put in my new Digi card until about an hour ago. All I did was just put in the card and walla! I could surf the Internet via Opera Mini and the speed was so much better than the crappy Maxis 3G. EDGE was supposed to be slower than 3G but it didn't feel like it.

Next was the acid test. Making it as a modem for my Fedora 10 notebook. As always, Linux is never supported by our friendly local ISPs. I plugged in my E71 and the phone gave me some options for connection. After a couple of times of cancelling the options and got my notebook hung after unsuccessful dialups using NetworkManager's Auto Mobile Broadband (GSM) option; I finally chose the PC Suite option on my phone.

No hangig this time but yet it would not connect, I got the following from /var/log/messages:

Dec 8 00:40:37 localhost NetworkManager: Marking connection 'Auto Mobile Broadband (GSM) connection' invalid.
Dec 8 00:40:37 localhost NetworkManager:
Activation (ttyACM0) failed.
Dec 8 00:40:37 localhost NetworkManager:
(ttyACM0): device state change: 9 -> 3
Dec 8 00:40:37 localhost NetworkManager:
(ttyACM0): deactivating device (reason: 0).
Dec 8 00:40:37 localhost NetworkManager: nm_system_device_flush_ip4_routes_with_iface: assertion `iface_idx >= 0' failed
Dec 8 00:40:37 localhost NetworkManager: nm_system_device_flush_ip4_addresses_with_iface: assertion `iface_idx >= 0' failed
Dec 8 00:40:38 localhost pppd[3269]: Terminating on signal 15
Dec 8 00:40:38 localhost pppd[3269]: Modem hangup
Dec 8 00:40:38 localhost pppd[3269]: Exit.

Argghh! WTF @#!&*<>!#

So I decided to go old skool bit and got the following :

--> WvDial: Internet dialer version 1.60
--> Cannot get information for serial port.
--> Initializing modem.
--> Sending: ATZ
--> Modem initialized.
--> Sending: ATDT*99#
--> Waiting for carrier.
~[7f]}#@!}!} } }2}#}$@#}!}$}%\}"}&} }*} } g}%~
--> Carrier detected. Starting PPP immediately.
--> Starting pppd at Mon Dec 8 00:37:19 2008
--> Pid of pppd: 3156
--> Using interface ppp0
--> pppd: ���[08]
--> pppd: ���[08]
--> pppd: ���[08]
--> pppd: ���[08]
--> pppd: ���[08]
--> pppd: ���[08]
--> Disconnecting at Mon Dec 8 00:37:23 2008
--> The PPP daemon has died: A modem hung up the phone (exit code = 16)
--> man pppd explains pppd error codes in more detail.
--> Try again and look into /var/log/messages and the wvdial and pppd man pages for more information.

Oddly my notebook actually found my phone:

Dec 8 00:43:17 localhost kernel: usb 4-1: New USB device found, idVendor=0421, idProduct=00ab
Dec 8 00:43:17 localhost kernel: usb 4-1: New USB device strings: Mfr=1, Product=2, SerialNumber=0
Dec 8 00:43:17 localhost kernel: usb 4-1: Product: Nokia E71
Dec 8 00:43:17 localhost kernel: usb 4-1: Manufacturer: Nokia
Dec 8 00:43:17 localhost NetworkManager:
ttyACM0: driver is 'cdc_acm'.
Dec 8 00:43:17 localhost NetworkManager:
Found new Modem device 'ttyACM0'.

Running out of ideas, I was beginning to think that it E71 was just "too new" for Fedora 10. Maybe better luck with Fedora 11 or OpenSUSE 11.1?

And then my lovely, adorable blessed be wife discovered from the web (using that crappy Maxis 3G) that I actually needed to do some stuff on my phone via Menu -> Tools -> Settings -> Connection -> Packet Data -> Access point; and change the name from None to the connection name of my Digi EDGE connection, Diginet.

And well, here I am, happily blogging via Digi's EDGE connection.

Thanks to kaeru, ditesh and angch for their feedback on Digi EDGE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

OO.o 3x Document compatibility with OO.o 2x

For those who are already running 3.x, you might run into issues if you send the documents generated to users running 2.x.

The reason is that 3.x uses ODF version 1.2 for its documents while 2.x uses ODF.1.1.

To enable a downgrade of ODF generated, open any 3 application, Tools --> Options --> Load/Save --> General --> ODF File Format drop-down menu and choose 1.0/1.1 ( 2.x) and click OK.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Problems with installing Go-oo and Java installation How-to

I received some feedback saying installing go-oo on their respective Fedora machines did not work as expected as outlined in my earlier post

By the way, the method also works on Centos and RHEL machines.

Well it seems that after a re-installation of Fedora, and added the YUM repo, I ran into an issue where only 2.4.1 version of go-oo was available. I resolved the issue by changing the "baseurl = " parameneter in /etc/yum.repos.d/GoOo.repo file with baseurl =

The yum repo rpm points to a metalink i.e. it will redirect the downloader to one of its closest mirror. The repo I am using is in Japan, closest to Malaysia.

Also, if you intend to install Base, do install at least a JRE. I usually go for Sun's Java for maximum compatibility but the free and open Icedtea and OpenJDK seems to work as well.

To enable Java Runtime in a RHEL/Centos/Fedora/BLAG machine:
  1. Download JRE or JDK from
  2. Download the BIN file and not the RPM one (e.g. jdk-6u10-linux-i586.bin)
  3. su and then copy the downloaded file to /opt
  4. Change the file to executable by issuing chmod a+x jdk-6u10-linux-i586.bin
  5. Extract the file by ./jdk-6u10-linux-i586.bin, you see the extracted directory as jdk1.6.0_10
  6. Create the file /etc/profile.d/
  7. Put in the following file

    export JAVA_HOME= /opt/jdk1.6.0_10
    export PATH=$PATH:$JAVA_HOME/bin:/usr/sbin:/sbin

  8. Exit and save the file
  9. Change the file attribute to executable by chmod a+x /etc/profile.d/
  10. Load it source /etc/profile.d/
  11. To test it, type java -version and you should see something like:

    java version "1.6.0_10"
    Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_10-b33)
    Java HotSpot(TM) Server VM (build 11.0-b15, mixed mode)

  12. To enable Jav plugin for FIrefox :
    ln -s /opt/jdk_1.6.0_10/jre/plugin/i386/ns7/ /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fedora 10 KDE

When one thinks of Fedora, the GNOME desktop comes to mind. Well, RH/Fedora is known as a "GNOME distro". I was piqued by the many talks of the improvements of the KDE version of Fedora 10. I was an exclusively KDE user until I switched to Ubuntu about 2 years back.

I downloaded the KDE version three days after F10 was released from a mirror in Japan. Initially I installed the GNOME version on my trusty Compaq nc2400 lappy (Intel Core Duo 1200, 2GB RAM, 945i Graphics etc) and everything was ok.....until I wanted to burn CDs. No matter what what burner (Brasero, XCDRoast, Gnomebaker) I used, they all reported that there was some issue with my SCSI connector. Got me panic a bit. Has my driver finally gave up its ghost?

Fedora is known to be a stickler to upstream code, meaning they will either not or add VERY little stuff to upstream binaries or code (unless it is a bug and then they will contribute upstream). So you basically get the stock binaries, with bugs and worts and all.

So, I burned a copy of the KDE version, installed it and used the venerable k3b to burn a copy of a DVD iso. It worked! Yay saved me RM350!

The KDE version came with version 4.1.3. Since I do a lot of media files, next I downloaded the RPM Fusion repo rpm. RPM Fusion combined the livna, Freshrpms and Dribble repositories. Now the number of packages made available for Fedora is increased. Interoperability and usability issues of using mixed repos of the past are now gone.

Next I removed the useless Abiword (to me at least), KDE PIM and Transmission BitTorrent client. I added and installed the go-oo variant of, Thunderbird and all "restricted" codecs. All worked well.

KDE 4.1.3 is in a word beautiful. The Folder View widgets are just cool. I no longer need to go to the File Manager just to look at my directory contents. I created two just to make things easier for me.

Amarok is one of the things I sorely missed when I was using GNOME. I did install it but somehow it looked out of place with all the other GNOME apps. Amarok 1.94 is included, there is a nice facelift to it and it somehow feels smoother on the eyes.

Firefox is still as ugly as ever running on KDE 4x. The much talked about scrollbar fix did nothing much to beautify it. I use a lot of Gmail and it is just bad. The left screen shot shows that the check boxes are just rendered wrong on Firefox. I get much better rendering on Opera. But since I use Firegpg to sign my mails, I still have to use Firefox. Ditto for Thunderbird in the ugliness department.

Konqueror, installed as the default web browser, is pretty much useless on most websites I care about (e.g. Gmail).

I did install the qt-gtk libraries thingy and there was an option in KDE Systems Settings for setting up GTK apps to run on KDE, but it did not help.

While I can understand the issues involved in beautifying a GTK app in KDE 4.x a beginner will sneer at this and dump it cussing that Linux is just plain ugly.

The slab start menu will get some getting used to. It is not necessary a bad design, it's kinda nice once you get the hang of it.

One of the promises of the KDE 4.x desktop is that you can add tons of cute widgets on the desktop. I communicate with many people from different time zones and in GNOME I can add world time easily via the time and date applet. Appreciating that KDE IS NOT GNOME, well I just thought I add a few more digital time widgets on the desktop, each reflecting different time zones. Sadly, it seems that crashes the desktop everytime I log off and/or restart the computer. I always get a SIGNINT error. When I re-login all the digital timers seem to like each other so much that they decided to group together and go on top of each other on the upper left hand corner. So much for the usability of the KDE 4.x desktop.

On the other hand it seems to work if I add the digital clock widgets on the Task Bar.

Kopete was for a long time a favourite IM client of mine. Of late however it just refuses to work i.e. I keyed in the right username and password but kept getting rejected by the remote server. I use YM a lot and it seems to work intermittently. That was an issue when I tried KDE 4.0x Beta. I thought they would have solved it by now. My co-workers running Pidgin have no such issues.

The Konversation IRC client is nice. In fact it seems to work better than my trusty xchat. It seems to be faster than xchat as well. This is definitely the bright light of my whole experience with KDE 4x.

In a nutshell, KDE 4 is definitely not ready for use. There are just too many issues with it. I recommend to ignore any iterations of KDE until it hits version 4.2.

However, if you do want to use KDE I will recommend OpenSUSE and Mandriva, both "kings of KDE" or so to speak.

I understand and appreciate the work the Fedora KDE SIGers put in but at this point, it is just simply "half-cooked"; it won't kill you but will give you some discomfort if you decide to eat it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Installing the go-oo variant of into Fedora 9 and 10

Go-oo is an "enhanced" version of the stock suite from Sun Microsystems. I blogged about the differences a little while back.

To install go-oo on Fedora 9 and 10, as root do the following:

  1. Make sure your current version of OO.o is removed, to avoid any conflicts.
  2. Download and install this RPM
  3. For Fedora 9, edit your /etc/yum.repo.d/fedora.repo and /etc/yum.repo.d/fedora-updates-newkey.repo files, then add this statement exclude= openoffice* at the bottom of [fedora] and [updates-newkey] sections repectively.
  4. For Fedora 10, edit your /etc/yum.repo.d/fedora.repo and /etc/yum.repo.d/fedora-updates.repo files, then add the statement exclude= openoffice* at the bottom of [fedora] and [updates] sections repectively.
  5. yum install openoffice.org3 openoffice.org3.0-redhat-menus* openoffice.org3-writer* openoffice.org3-calc* openoffice.org3-impress* openoffice.org3-base* openoffice.org3-base* openoffice.org3-en-US*
Note : Due to some reason openoffice.org3-en-US* is required for starting up go-oo. A patch is in the works. If you are like me uses British English, you may add openoffice.org3-en-GB* to the list. Also I tested this on a 32-bit machine, so I am unsure whether the procedure for 64-bit is exactly the same as above.

Log off and on. And the items should appear in the menu, else reboot.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The most evil distro in the world?

I love Ubuntu. There I have said it. So excuse me while I put on a flame-retardant suit...ok...bring it on!!!

It puzzles me that there is so much hate and disgust towards arguably the most popular and visible Linux distro of the last few years. Dell in the US and Europe has started to bundle Ubuntu into selected ranges of desktops and portable and the Inspiron Mini 9 will be preloaded with Ubuntu as well. So isn't that great? Linux has finally gotten the recognition it deserves from "mainstream" vendors.

Alas, there are those who seem to be less than enthusiastic about this. Adam Williamson of Mandriva in his piece on why he hates Canonical accuses Canonical of dive-bombing the Linux industry and insinuating that Ubuntu seems to be nothing more than a rich man's whim; interestingly he refers to Red Hat rather than Mandriva when making a point of a "real" Linux company. Jono Bacon, The Ubuntu Community Manager offers his take on this.

Yes, Ubuntu is not perfect. Then again which distro is? Fedora is a great platform for testers, developers and those who like living on the edge. OpenSUSE is just simply, smooth and slick and strikes a good balance between bleeding edge and stability. Mandriva is a great distro too; I started with Mandrake and even joined their Club so it will always be special.

Each distro has it pluses and minuses, one that is "perfect" for Joe 31337 might be toxic to a noob like Bob.

I happen to like Ubuntu so what? It's not like if you don't use Distro X you are a total nutjob or something.

I often hear other Linux users calling Ubuntu developers merely a bunch of packager and the forums are just full of "normal" users, sponsored by a billionaire who has too much money to spare. Yeah guess what? This bunch of packagers and "normal" users kicked the butt of the more established distros for the past few years. So, one man's US$10 million contribution somehow makes it a super popular? How much did Novell or Red Hat made last year?

You think Windows got to where it is now because of its technical merit? It's because Microsoft made it easy for people to use and manage their systems and that's empowering and made people feel good about themselves. Ubuntu makes it simple for users. Suddenly people find a usable alternative to Windows. "Hey this Linux thing isn't so bad!" Of course, giving free CDs away won't hurt its popularity as well!

So the next time someone says Ubuntu users and devels are just lame cause they package stuff from other projects. Well, remind them that their distro developers do not write every single package. So every distro essentially packages stuff from other distros and projects. Doesn't ppen source allows the using of other open source stuff with proper credits due and fulfilment of certain licensing criteria?

Get over it. If you think your distro is so leet and package A, B, C is developed by your project should not be used by other distros or other distros are just lame coz they took them and integrate those, perhaps you should consider a career with Microsoft.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What is go-oo?

Go-oo is a free (as in cost and freedom) variant (some might call it a fork) of the popular cross-platform open source productivity suite

Is go-oo any different from the stock from Sun?

Not really. They are essentially the one and same, with the slight difference that the go-oo variant has some additional patches applied and feature-sets added. For instance, better VBA interoperability, built-in Quickstarter etc, a bunch of stuff that Sun did not want to integrate into the stock

In fact there are those who accuse Sun of intentionally ignoring contributions from the community or breaking because Sun wants to preserve the right to offer those extra goodies via StarOffice and even sell the development to the proprietary software market, like Lotus Symphony, from IBM.

There are improvements to the latest 3.0 from Sun that addresses some of the lack of features in 2.x i.e. faster startup, multi-page views etc, but it is odd that while the Windows version of 3.0 has the Quickstarter feature, the Linux versions do not have that option.

StarOffice is essentially souped-up with some of the extensions installed and a "proper" escalation point. In a way, go-oo is more similar to the paid-for StarOffice than the stock is.

Michael Meeks of Novell offers his opinion between go-oo and Sun here.

In short, try out go-oo. I am running it on my Fedora machines and have it installed on my wife's XP notebook. So far, everything is good. If you are running Ubuntu, your version of is already of the go-oo variant.

Personal note - Sun is not the big bad. In fact Sun is one of the biggest contributors to the Open Source world. Though there seem to be some friction between the community and the suits at Sun about, it is nevertheless noteworthy that if Sun did not release, the adoption of Linux or any Free OS will be severely reduced. is indeed one of the killer apps of the Open Source desktop.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Boycot Novell?

Seriously why do people spend so much time and energy on boycotting and hating a company? Just because they struck some deal with Microsoft? People who consider Microsoft to be the Great Satan must realise that in the real world, deals are made between companies all the time. Also in the real world people need to make money so that they can buy food and pay bills.

I believe in software freedom. I hold sacred the idea that there must be a choice. So if you don't agree with what Novell is doing, don't use their stuff. Don't buy SLED/SLES or use OpenSUSE, but don't prevent others from doing so. If you do then you are just infringing on their rights and freedom. And yeah by the way, if you are using Ubuntu or Gentoo, you can stop using the bundled OO.o as it is sourced from the go-oo project and the majority of developers for that project are from Novell.

I don't think what Microsoft is ever going to be benevolent towards OSS companies. However, I do believe that Novell is not evil either. Well known hackers like Greg Kroah-Hartman and Michael Meeks work for Novell. These people would have left Novell in droves if there was something seriously wrong.

Has Novell suddenly stopped contributing to the OSS ecosystem? Yeah they support OOXML but so what? Don't OO.o 2x and 3x support MS Office 2003 documents as well? Doesn't in some way Abiword supports MS Word 2000 documents and Gnumeric supports Excel files as well? Should we boycott Abiword and Gnumeric as well?

Microsoft owns the desktop space. And in Malaysia especially, on the server stacks as well. So, if any platform who would even want to see the light of day should have better interoperability with stuff like Active Directory, SMB and MS Office. Novell has an obligation to its shareholders. How many of those who criticised Novell actually bought themselves a box of SUSE Linux or OpenSUSE?

Oh no, it should remain Free of Charge because if they try to make a buck means they are evil right?

I do not work for Novell nor have I received any payments or rewards from them. I just happen to feel sorry for us in the OSS world. We rather be tearing ourselves to bits rather than adopt a united front against stuff like patents and proprietary formats.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

German Foreign Ministry Moving to OSS

The German Foreign Ministry is moving all its desktops to Linux and OSS. Rolf Schuster, a diplomat at the German Embassy in Madrid and the former head of IT at the Foreign Ministry said that this migration will cost the Ministry about 1000 Euros per PC annually to maintain as opposed to 3000 Euros in other ministries.

Full report here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Using a US$10 Billion OS for free

I was just surfing around when I stumbled across this Slashdot article that said Fedora 9 is estimated to worth about US$10 billion if built from scratch.

Wow! And all these while I have been using it mainly for writing papers and preparing slides. Somehow, now I feel like have been driving a Rolls like a Kelisa.

Goes to show that OSS can command some serious dough.

The next version of this wonderful multi-billion dollar distro will launch on 25th Nov 2008.

Monday, October 20, 2008

MS Web Application Installer

Well linuxmalaysia passed me this link and I was like, WTF! Man, MS doing what us OSS people been doing all this while? Installing apps from the web? Wasn't Steve "The Chair Thrower" Ballmer who said that OSS was a cancer? even funnier the apps they offer are all OSS apps. Hmm, if MS is all about quality and all that is good and sweet why don't just offer one of their bloatware? So, if Ballmer was correct, then MS has got to be the dumbest company in the world; they just gave themselves cancer willingly.

And to MS, "Submit ye to the power of the Source!".

Monday, October 13, 2008 3.0 is out!

OO.o 3.0 is finally out. From the RCs, not much in terms of UI but the support for MS Office docs seems to better. Gonna download it in a little while. Come to think of it, it's kinda sad when I am so excited over an office productivity suite.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wikimedia moving to Ubuntu Server

Wikmedia the company behind Wikipeida is moving over to Ubuntu Server. Ubuntu which is more well known for its Linux desktop offerings is actually very capable as a server as well. I have used Ubuntu 6.06 before with Centos in a production environments (in data centres and in the office) and it simply just "boring" i.e it didn't give me anything to be excited about such as down times and stuff. Just your regular old refrigerator-reliable stuff.

Oh yeah its repos are simply awesome and apt was simply a joy to work with too.

For those of you are still unsure of how good a "desktop" OS is as a server OS, this will surely be proof enough.

One for the Ubuntu crew!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Argghhh...the pain!

Well my lappy comes with one of those XP OEM license. As any proper computer geek (or a self proclaimed one) worth his/her salt I promptly rebuilt it with Linux. All nice and dandy....never quite needed Windows and since I don't play much games, the only reasonable reason for Windows' existence doesn't seem that all compelling.

Well that is until now. There seems to be some slight differences between OSS packages running on Windows and Linux and since my home is Windows free (yay!) the best bet would be having it installed on my lappy to see how OSS stuff runs on Windows.

That's when the pain started. Being a Linux user for so long I totally forgot about stuff like drivers (and why would there be like 5 different NIC drivers for the same model?), anti-virus, anti-spyware, and the performance degradation as a result of making my XP more secured. Urgghh.

Windows Update, another piece of the engineering marvel from the Redmond boys, last count, two; the number of times I needed to reboot before I get any updates.

Seriously I am really spoiled by Linux. Yeah, it's not as "easy" (that is debatable, some might say solving the Rubik's Cube under 5 mins to be easy) as Windows some would say, but hey I never did remember installing any drivers for my lappy.

So darn glad to be back in my "hard-to-use" Linux environment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


The whole Net seems to be gaga over the Google Chrome browser. I am not interested as there are issues with the EULA and the unavailability of a Linux version.

Well, there is a Firefox 3.x theme Chromifox that aims to simulate the look and feel of the hyped Chrome browser.

Thanks to an entry in Gino Alania's blog.

I find the theme is pretty good actually.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google inaccessible

Are the the bright lights of the ruling regime at work again? I could not even access google and Gmail. But once I access using its IP, I can get to the search page. Huh. It seems Maxis Internet subscribers are having the same issue.

Come on man. Google? I switched over to OpenDNS and it works, so quite possibly it's the same fiasco with the Malaysia Today and DNS servers. At this moment I have yet to be able to access Gmail and I am genuinely pissed coz the bulk of my mails are in it.

I do hope I am wrong and am just jumping the gun, the alternative is just too scary.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Censorship never works

When will the powers that be learn that censorship never works. Even during the days of the Cold War, people behind the Iron Curtain still managed to get stuff and info from the rest of the world, bypassing the official channels. Even China's Great Firewall can't do it. So, the current "blacklist" of a political website because it is deemed sensitive can only doom to fail.

Censorship is a form of oppression and is committed by cowards who cannot face up to the facts.

Three cheers to another bright idea from the ruling regime!!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Of Linux and Religion

Recently I came across a post (@71) on Distrowatch about not mixing religions and technology. Well, the poster certainly do have issues; but he has a point, is religion compatible with technology?

UbuntuME (Ubuntu Muslim Edition) and UbuntuCE (Ubuntu Christian Edition) are two variants of the immensely popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, catering for the needs of the Muslims and Christians respectively.

I have always held the idea that religious diversity is a fact in life. I have friends from many faiths and race. I eat and work with them daily. So, what's wrong with the picture? Nothing! What? Must strife be a constant companion of inter-faith and inter-racial relationships?

Sheesh! Don't you know? Politics is more destructive than any force on Earth. I say only politics is compatible with politics and non other.

And nothing is more disgusting than a swine of a politician using religion for his own needs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Security is not about self-pleasing simians

The comments by Linus about OpenBSD people being self-pleasing monkeys is immature at the least. Sometimes I feel that he does not realise that he is a leader of (in many cases the face of) the GNU/Linux and FOSS worlds.

Young people and many others do look up to him, the fact that he did not like someone accusing him (who does really like to be criticised or accused?) of something does not give him the right to insult.

Security is never over-rated, perhaps many may not share my paranoid views but can you imagine if your banking, credit card information are compromised? What then?

The attitude of many so called IT professionals towards security is basically shameful. Security vendors will always push their wares as a one-stop solution. So what? Plunk a fancy, expensive appliance in your network and everything will be ok?

For any platform there will be always a set of best practices to properly secure the system. Apache HTTPD has theirs, IIS has theirs. But how many actually follow them? How many times we have heard people sacrificing best practices (apply security patches, do not share passwords, use complex passwords, clear separation of privileges, encrypt when possible etc) because it is inconvenient?

Or the lame excuse, nobody will hack us because we are small fish. Well, if I am a cracker in training I will go for smaller outfits, precisely because I know they will not have the resources to track or prosecute me. Smaller outfits are attractive because they can't fight back.

Will we ever compromise our homes' or cars' security? Why have so many locks? Why don't we just don't use any locks? Saves us the trouble of carrying keys right?

Sorry for the rant. I am just so very upset that whenever I speak of the need for security and hardening many would just roll their eyes, and say I am going overboard. That is until things get hacked and they start trembling and scrambling for an answer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wasted moment

I wasted a good evening with my mates to rush back home to watch the final of the Men's Singles Badminton competition of the Beijing Olympiad.

Winning and losing is part of the game as they say, but the way Lee Chong Wei played was just plain horrible; what happened to the ferocious tiger who downed Korea's Lee Hyun-Il and tore through Indonesia's Sony Dwi Koncoro?

Granted, Lin Dan played well and is considered to be currently the world's best, but many of Lin's points were "gifts" from Chong Wei.

Aw man....should have just sat down with my mates and got wasted, me guess it would have been a better use of my time. Perhaps the occasion got to Chong Wei, perhaps it was the partisan crowd, feng-shui, planetary alignment (or anything else apologists would like to add) or just perhaps he is good enough to only win battles but not the war.

Yeah, I am no world class badminton player so I can't possibly understand his pains and the pressure he's under. I also realise that the country has spent millions on the likes of him and all we got are more disappointments.

Yeah I am pissed and I do realise I am ranting like a lunatic. I get that sometimes especially when I see how my tax money is being spent; on a bunch of spoilt, whinning, prima donnas.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

OSS in Local Governments

Kudos to the State Governments of Kedah and Pahang for switching over to My home state of Perak is also moving towards the same path by 2009.

Really great to be alive and bear witness to this.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Atheros releases Linux drivers

Another yay for the Linux and OSS world. Atheros wifi adapters are notoriously difficult at times to run under Linux; though I enjoy wrestling with it as much as any geek worth his/her salt, it would make things a lot easier for noobs and frees up more time for us to focus on the job rather than on lower levels stuffs like drivers and such.

Read it at Atheros unveils free Linux driver for its 802.11n devices

Hate to say this but I do look forward to the day when the excellent ndiswrapper is no longer necessary.

Friday, July 25, 2008

MS showing love to OSS

Was reading through the feeds from Slashdot a moment ago and this caught my attention, Microsoft Blesses LGPL, Joins Apache Foundation .

So does it mean MS has finally become less evil? Can't help but think of MS' fundamental strategy Embrace, Extend, Extinguish

The fact that they are willing to pay money and contribute code is an admission of OSS in the world. Of course I would not bet on them using Apache as their primary web server anytime soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

GPG Cheat sheet

Below are some of the more frequent GPG commands I use:

#Generate Key
gpg --gen-key

#Upload key
gpg --send-keys --keyserver DEADBEEF

#Download key
gpg --keyserver --recv-keys DEADBEEF

#Export Public Key
gpg -ao something-public.key --export DEADBEEF

#Export Private Key
gpg -a --export-secret-keys DEADBEEF | gpg -aco some-private.key.gpg

#Import Public Key
gpg --import something-public.key

#Import Private Key
gpg --decrypt some-private.key.gpg |gpg --import

#Sign Key
gpg --sign-key ABABABAB
gpg --default-key DEADBEEF --sign-key ABABABAB

#Sign a file
gpg --default-key DEADBEEF --sign --detach-sign DumbSlides.odp

#Verify signature file
gpg DumbSlides.sig

#Sign a clear text
gpg --clearsign textfile.txt
gpg --default-key DEADBEEF --clearsign textfile.txt

#Create ASCII Armoured key file
gpg --export -a DEADBEEF > mykey.asc

GPG Rul35!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Key Signing

To sign a GPG key via CLI:

#gpg --sign-key ABCDEF10

This will use the primary or first key in your keyring to sign the ABCDEF10 key.

If you have more than one key and you would like to sign the ABCDEF10 key with some other key in your keyring you need to use the --default-key switch (e.g. assuming the DEADBEEF key is not my primary key or first in the keyring).

#gpg --default-key DEADBEEF --sign-key ABCDEF10

How to sign a file using GPG

There are several reasons why you would want to sign a file, one of it is to ensure that the file really came from the author. Well , I recently finished some slides for job and wanted to sign it.

$ gpg --default-key DEADBEEF --sign --detach-sign Some-Dumb-Slides.odp

(Note, DEADBEEF is the Hex ID of my key, the --detach-sign param is used, so that a sig file is created)

An additional Some-Dumb-Slides.sig file will be created.

To verify the signature:

$gpg Some-Dumb-Slides.sig

Gosh I love GPG.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fedora 9 Update List

Just got this link from KageSenshi via IRC. It has all patches issued so far for Fedora 9 with testers' comments.

Since the previous kernel release made my home PC's Wifi dead, guess I can try the latest one and see whether it works.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fedora 9 64-bit

64-bit computing is the future, or so the chip companies and PC manufacturers are telling us. Well yes and no. I guess if you only use the computer as nothing more than a simple Internet box, a glorified typewriter and a music player, it really doesn't matter whether you run a 32 or 64-bit platform.

As more 64-bit CPUs are powering anything from notebook computers to servers, the need for 64-bit platform and software is growing by the day.

Linux and the OSS world has been 64-bit ready for quite some time now. For the server, no one can sensibly argue that Linux is lacking in any way. However on the desktop, 64-bit Linux has always been somewhat lacking. Though I am all for software freedom and openess, the fact remains that many stuff in the Net are still propreitary (Flash, Java etc); 32-bit Linux did and still does not have this issue, its 64-bit version has somewhat been the poor cousin, until now.

I installed Fedora 9 64-bit and so far, I have not seen any lack of software and plugins. In the office I listen to MP3s and CDs. I also on occasion do some "Youtubing" after hours. So far, it has stood up to the challenge.

All video plugins are available from the Livna repo. To install/enable the Livna repo, please refer to here.

The instructions also covers an easy how-to installation of the Flash plugin for the 64-bit platform (a frequent complain of frequent surfers running on 64-bit Linux is how hard it is to enable Flash plugin).

For Adobe Acrobat, I used the tarball to install.

Wammu which I use to synchronise my trusty SE W850i also works without a hitch. So far, I have been running Fedora 9 x86_64 north of 24 hours and I have yet to see any problems with it.

Doggy Poo Ride

Well, an old friend of mine who works for a major MNC that is famous for it laser printers just told me an unbelievable story.

They were all in a conference call with some big a$$ regional mucky muck and guess what? While they all have to sit through the darn meeting (I personally feel that many Managers like nothing more to hold meetings just to show others that they are doing something.) that big a$$ mucky muck had to leave for an appointment with the vet.

Not for her, but I think she should get a jab just in case, but get this, she left the meeting she called so that she can have her dog's stool analysed by the vet.

So I guess what she wanted to say is, you a55h0l3z are not as important as my dog's poo.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SLAX Rocks!

I have always been intrigued by the idea of distros running off USB thumb drives. Well Haris (my boss) had an issue with his EEPC and needed some live distro to resolve it. Well none of us here have any USB Optical Drive, so I hatched upon the idea of using my new 8GB Drive to boot a distro.

Hmm...what distro to use? I am partial to Ubuntu and Fedora but these distros are heavy resource munchers (even Xubuntu is relatively heavy), then I remembered SLAX. In the past, I used the Live CD version of SLAX to resuscitate and backup data from many of my customers' dead XP PCs.

Ok I head over to and downloaded the USB version. And then, all I needed was to copy the tarball over to my drive, extract it and copy the extracted boot and slax dirs to the root of the USB drive and run the script as root and walla! I have a newly bootable always persistent distro.

I did run into some problems earlier on. Somehow, my File system got corrupted. Ah well, just reformat lo!

I like SLAX coz I did not need to change my USB drives' FAT32 file system, all others require a re-partitioning of some sort. Besides, like it or not FAT32 is pretty universal across many platforms.

SLAX boots up real fast, something you will not expect from a distro running KDE. Well, I basically cannot do without Firefox, so I downloaded its tarball, extracted it and created some links and I have my beautiful Firefox. I just install flash and stuff and I am good to go. is pretty heavy so I most probably won't install that. I might go for Abiword but I guess KOffice is pretty ok as well.

MP3 and AVI support is also enabled. SLAX is really cool.

There are many distros nowadays that support bootable from USB thumb drives. Backtrack 3, the popular distro for pen tester and security enthusiasts also has a version that runs off USB drives.

So, if someone asks you what's so great about the OSS world, tell them about SLAX. See if XPee can do the same.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fedora - cutting edge enough to draw blood.

Interesting read here (thanks to KageSenshi)

Fedora, whatever what people say, to me always has this kinda "beta"-ish feel to it as it incorporates the latest stuff in it - even if it breaks stuff as the article above states.

As a result of the latest kernel upgrade on my beloved F9 broke my WiFi I have sheepishly moved my primary desktop at home to Ubuntu 8.04 (hey, love it or hate it, Ubuntu really comes close to becoming the ideal Linux desktop). And no, I did not keep an older version of the kernel as I momentarily lapsed into stupidity and removed older kernels.

Don't think Fedora isn't stable or anything. It has withstood almost anything I threw at it.
Fedora is an excellent platform for adventurous sould and for those who are into seeing what the latest that can come from the OSS world. Stability, I don't think is even second on the list.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Of Gates and Bars

Read this at BBC Tech News. Interesting read even for non Open Source people.

I had a meet up with some people from the public sector to day. And my, most of them are so darn pro-MS all for the sake of the apparently "ease of use".

Yeah right, paying tons of money to get some collection of word processors and spreadsheets on a buggy platformand paying another ton just to safeguard it.

Hello? You guys are paid by the tax money of the people. So just because you guys are too lazy to do a job you are hired to do, don't blame OSS man. And stop wasting my money you clowns!!!

Anyhow END_OF_RANT. Read the fine article linked above.

Live long and prosper!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Enabling Multimedia bits in Centos

Centos is the community version and binary compatible version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

It is 98% of RHEL with the exception that all logos, names and references to Red Hat are removed.

While is a very capable and robust Server OS, it can also be used as a workstation. The missing multimedia bits in Centos has caused many to label it merely good for Server.

To enable multimedia in Centos 5.x, first download the rpmforge rpm from here

Install it by either double clicking on the RPM or issue the following command as root:

rpm -ivh rpmforge-release-0.3.6-1.el5.rf.i386.rpm

Install yumex, the GUI front-end for yum:

yum -y install yumex

Once that is done you can launch yumex from the Applications -> System Tools menu or just as root launch it from the CLI by typing yumex.

Let it run for a while (it needs to refresh a bit) and then click on All in the packages bar. Put in gstreamer in the search bar and hit enter or click on the binoculars icon.

Select :
  1. gstreamer-plugins-bad
  2. gstreamer-plugins-ugly
  3. gstreamer-plugins-bad-extras
  4. gstreamer-plugins-ffmpeg
  5. xvidcore
  6. libquicktime
  7. mplayer-plugin (to enable viewing of online streaming content)
The click process que.

To enable Realplayer playback download the RealPlayer11Gold rpm from and click on Red Hat Package. Install it as per to the rpmforge rpm above.

To enable flash support (Youtube etc) install the following:
  1. flash-plugin
  2. libflashsupport
Hope this will be useful for those intending to start with using Centos on the desktop.

For Fedora 9 pls refer to

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RMVB Playback in Fedora 9

Well I have tons of RMVB files, in F8 everything was dandy, MP3s, RMVBs and basically any other multimedia files you threw at it it just works. Best Fedora release ever, including F9.

Well I upgraded my home PC to Fedora 9 last week. Hmm...Apple trailers OK, MP3s OK, AVIs OK, RMVBs doesn't play...arrgghh. I installed Totem, Mplayer, Xine etc and still it won't work. I downloaded and installed RealPlayer11 from and the video was jerky.

Until I realised that I used the bin file to install it. Could that be the problem I wonder?

So I downloaded the RealPlayer11GOLD RPM and installed it, worked.

Lesson learnt, go for RPMs whenever possible when using RH-based distros.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Enable Multimedia bits in Ubuntu

Though xBuntu has been released since April 2008, in my quest to spread the usage of Linux, I usually recommend using Ubuntu as it is, IMHO the easiest to use and setup for noobs.

We can say all we want about how good and well OSS is for them, but if they can't even play MP3s or even play their favourite youtube site, well the argument ain't gonna hold water. So, for the benefit of newbies, to enable the "restrictive" multimedia bits enter in the following in terminal:

sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list.d/medibuntu.list

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install medibuntu-keyring && sudo apt-get update

Note key in your own log-in password when prompted for password.

Once that is done, launch the Synaptic Package Manager and select ubuntu-restrictive (or kubuntu-restrictive fro Kubuntu) and click apply.

Your multimedia bits should run now. If you need any additional stuff to be installed, just go back to Synaptic and install whatever that is required.

A great site for starting out with Ubuntu is the Ubuntu Geek site. It has tons of info for server as well as desktop.

Note, the above commands for adding additional software repository works with also Kubuntu (including the KDE4 re-spin), Xubuntu and Edubuntu. However all must be at version 8.04.

Autonine for Fedora

Autonine is a rpm that eases the installation of "restricted" stuff and drivers on a Fedora (8 or 9) installation. It is God sent especially for us who are planning to run Fedora on notebook computers with Broadcom or Atheros wireless adapters.

It also allows installs of Reaplayer, Google Picasa etc.

It is a single RPM and you can check it out here

Friday, June 20, 2008

OpenSUSE 11 - some comments

Well, I downloaded OpenSUSE 11.0 via BT. I have always a soft spot for SUSE stuff. It was the longest distro I stuck with (> 2years) and until last year I was running SLED 10 on my notebook.

With trembling excitement, I installed it on my trusty notebook and other than a slight tweaking on SaX for my screen reso (wonder why it had problem with my LCD, detecting it at 800x600...guess Ubuntu spoiled me), everything was ok.

The Slab Menu gets some getting used to, but it is fine for me. I find it nice actually. As I work with many unicode (i.e. mostly Chinese) character files, the GNOME version seems better (from my expereince with 10.3).

The suite in OpenSUSE is simply superb, if not the best around among community distros.

Ah then what about YaST? I fail to understand what's wrong with it, coz I can work with it fine. Those who whine about how bad it is must have an issue with making stuff easy, even the ever most popular distro, Ubuntu does not have this all in one facility.

Ok, everything works as it should, it's pretty, it's polished but minus the MP3 and propreitary codec stuff. So as any self respecting geek will do I went ahead to download those juicy bits to listen to my precious MP3s.

Aha! So the numbers' change, the package manager is still ehh...yucky. Why should I be subjected to refreshes everytime I just need the GUI to add/remove packages. And yes I know I can disable the refresh but why the extra hoop to jump through?

I get time outs and such when trying to connect for updates/refreshes and to add stuff. Urggh. I know it is not line issues as I am running Fedora 9 and Ubuntu 8.04 here at work and I managed to setup, update and installed those "restricted" bits all within 60 mins with either distros.

Well, I find that the latest release of OpenSUSE is to put it mildly, just as bad as the 10.3 one. I just wonder when are they going to fix that annoying package manager. Pity that so much improvements have been touted but they still forgot to fix something so fundamental as package management.

Overall I would say OpenSUSE is a good distro, solid, nice but so as long you don't add or remove stuff often, it is a wonderful distro.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Spicebird is a souped up collaborative client (i.e. email client with extra stuff in it) that integrates with RSS Feeds and IM (GTalk./Jabber). It feels a lot like Thunderbird.

It is currently at 0.4 Beta but is working well. I escpecially like the RSS Feed and Clock integration. I tried installing the Enigmail Add-On but it would not support it.

Nevertheless it is a pretty cool tool. Just download it here , unarchive it and ./spicebird and you are good to go.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Linux beats Windows 2008 power saving measures

Found this interesting article when I was going through Planet Fedora.

So Linux is not only cost-effective, stable, secure, it is also greener than Windows. A piece of news to brighten up my day.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Fuel price hike - less money for the rakyat.

The hike in fuel prices is as inevitable as me not winning the Miss Universe pageant; but the hike is astronomical for us who are earning less than 100k per year.

As a comparison my trusty old kapchai was happy with RM5 for a full tank. This morning, it wanted RM8 to be full. So I am giddy with anticipation for the day of when my kids can enjoy mee goreng at a crazy ass low price of RM5.!

The current regime is adept in making us rakyat pay ( we are expected to not only to pay, but to pay with songs in our hearts and smiles on our faces!!) for the benefit to "menumpang" in our own lands.

Malaysia Boleh!

Monday, June 2, 2008

FLV playback issues in F9 and Ubuntu Video

After an update on my Fedora 9 PC, MPlayer can no longer play FLVs. So I am holding on to the update of the gecko-mediaplayer on my Ubuntu notebook.

Also there is a Learning MOTU Video (in flv) featuring Daniel Holbach - basically on how to setup a devel environment for an aspiring MOTUs. Can't wait for Part 2.

Monopolist strikes again

Reading some of the entries, I am amazed that a convicted monopolist has the gall to question the Government's intention to standardise on particular data format.

I am even more amazed that there are those who still take the side of the sad monopolistic foreign entity. I guess where there is money to be made, people will sell their soul. Shameless!

This nothing more than economic colonisation and dare I say a form of terrorism.

Sounds like us open source folks are winning the battle. The convicted monopolist now is pissed. Good! That really made my day.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ubuntu UFW

For those who are trying Ubuntu for the first time, it may seem weird that it does not seem to have a firewall. Sure, the Ubuntu desktop is secured by default by not having any listening daemons but unless the user does not install anything extra we can't be sure that the desktop can be as secure as the default install.

Instead of installing something like Firestarter to secure your Ubuntu, Ubuntu 8.04 comes with the UFW, Uncomplicated Firewall.

At this moment it is still CLI-based but the syntax is easy to understand.

Launch terminal (Application -> Accessories -> Terminal) :

$ sudo ufw enable
That's to start the UFW. To stop it just replace enable with disable. The UFW service is up but no rules and policies have been defined, it is still ANY-ANY now.

$ sudo ufw default deny
This will set the default policy of blocking all incoming traffic. By default UFW allows all out going traffic unless otherwise specified.

I have SSH running on port 2121 and so to allow it through UFW:

$ sudo ufw allow 2121
This will allow UDP/TCP ports 2121 incoming to my PC.

If you only allow TCP port 2121:
$ sudo ufw allow 2121/tcp

You can also do:

$ sudo ufw allow ntp
To allow for NTP to pass, so as long it is defined in /etc/services

To see the status and rules defined in UFW:
$ sudo ufw status

To remove the rule:
$ sudo ufw delete allow 2121 (or 2121/tcp)

If you allow IP forwarding from one network ( to another in the public ( and you would like to block port 80 to the public one:

ufw deny proto tcp from to port 80

UFW is a simple and straight forward interface to manipulate the Linux firewall. It lacks the flexibility and the granularity of other CLI based interface like Shorewall or vuurmuur but will suffice for most PC systems.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Configuring Services in Ubuntu

Ubuntu's Services' applet is quite frankly horrible. In Centos/Fedora/RHEL at least I can refer to chkconfig in CLI or the straight-forward Services applet. In Ubuntu there also two tools but not installed by deafult:
  1. sysv-rc-conf provides a curses interfaces to easy management of services.
  2. Bum (Boot Up Manager) is its GUI equivalent.
Both are available from the repos.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Distro for Work Desktop

As part of a migration exercise from a Windows environment to a Linux one, the question of which distro to use for the servers and desktop is inescapable.

Should Centos be on the server? Should Debian or Ubuntu? Why not Gentoo? All are fine distros with strong community and tons of docs around and more importantly for a server OS, there are long support (patches) cycles.

After much discussion we decided to go for Centos as coming from the Red Hat code base, many 3rd party stuff will work with it.

I am more partial to Ubuntu servers, but Centos is a fine choice too.

Desktops. comes down to Ubuntu, hands down. Why?
  1. Ubuntu is designed to be user friendly.
  2. Hardware support is excellent.
  3. The current 8.04 is LTS and will have patch support for the next 3 years on the desktop. So Fedora and OpenSUSE are out.
  4. We are already running Ubuntu daily and so we are familiar with it.
  5. Tons of pacakages available from repos.
  6. It's free (as in cost).
When you have about 400 PCs to migrate we cannot afford to go for something that is hard to maintain and support. Centos is simply horrible as a desktop OS - the hardware support is just plain bad.

The previous vendor recommended OpenSUSE for the desktops.

OpenSUSE is a fine distro ( I was running it for 3 years and Novell's OpenOffice is simply wonderful), but I wonder have they really thought it out. I mean it is a community distro and was not meant for the Enterprise; granted tech-wise it is good, but for 18 months of patches I am not gonna base my Enterprise PCs on it.

At the least they could have recommended SLES or SLED.

Guess they were just in to fulfil their contractual obligations get the money. People like those give us IT folks a bad name.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

OpenLDAP and Samba Migration

Ooo the inner geek in me is tingling with excitement over the idea of having migrating an existing AD domain to an open source OpenLDAP one.

AD, honestly makes things for easy us. In fact I would say it is the easiest of available Directory Service to deploy, commercially (i.e. propreitary) or otherwise.

As I have shared many times with my fellow geeks, it is easy to join an AD Domain but not to take things out. Case in point, try taking an Exchange Server or MS SQL server out of an existing AD domain. Being an ex Windows engineer (been playing with AD since it was Beta 1 and was making a living with NT4 since 1998) most of the MS tips and stuff won't work well until you fork out some serious dough and get a 3rd Party utility.

So like a drug, we surrender our pride, freedom, privacy and sanity to a company who likes nothing better to squeeze every single hard earned sen from you. And we willingly put on the yoke of oppression for what? So that we can pay more?

Talk about Stockholm Syndrome man!!

Now I just need to book up on the technology. Now I just have to find the book, I am sure I have it somewhere.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Fedora 9 - so far

Well I have Fedora 9 installed on my notebook. So far so good. Suspend somewhat works, with the exception I needed to re-key in the WPA key after wake up. The look and feel of it is polished. In fact, it is one of two distros I can honestly say I can use outright with no or minimal modifications to the theme. The other is OpenSUSE.

Well, initially I had problems connecting to the CUPS printers in office and after much anguish and searching through forums and Googling, I finally found out that the cups-config-daemon was not running .

Urggh....I started the cups daemon but not that. F8 never had that issue. Nor that much loved (or hated depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on), Ubuntu.

Other than that it has been cool. Multimedia works as it should, but one should follow the guide at , especially the one on setting yum with livna repos.

Since I do use a fair bit of clip art, the openclipart packages that comes with it (installed on /usr/share/clipart/openclipart) only has SVG, no good with openoffice. I had to download the archived ones from for the PNG ones.

The Good:
  • Looks wise (out of the box) it beats Ubuntu (any version) hands down. I mean, when will the Shuttleworth crew grow up and realise that orange and brown is just plain bad to the eyes?
  • PolicyKit is really handy - at least now I can set a normal user to able to patch the system.
  • NetworkManager connects automatically to a frequently used WiFi spot just like Ubuntu.
  • Hardware support is better now - I have not found any PCs or notebooks that would not work with F9.
  • Sort of a "standard" and is ideal to test the latest and greatest the RH world has to offer.
The Bads:
  • Yum and Yum Update. Why oh why yum always look for the slowest server to update from? And man, I cannot install anything right after a reboot, why? Coz yum-update is running. Huh. Get it fixed. There are reasons for it I am sure, but it is so damn annoying. And yes I am aware of yum-fastestmirror. Yum has always been the weakest link in Fedora.
  • Slower compared to Ubuntu 8.04. No concrete figures for me to show but it does feel slower running on my notebook.
  • Packages - still small compared to Debian/Ubuntu. However, many packages out there already have a rpm for it. So not too bad actually.
  • Absence of any tool to easily modify the Login Window. The default login window looks like some rush job.
Why do I compare with Ubuntu? Well Fedora and Ubuntu are the 2 most widely used distros nowadays with OpenSUSE in a distant 3rd. Also I use *Buntu at home and work. F9 is a recent addidtion to my work notebook.

So should you do Fedora 9? If you don't mind getting your hands a little (and I mean very little) dirty, Fedora 9 is good. It has always been a fine distro and since Fedora 7 it has been improving tremendously, usable enough for most desktops.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

OpenPGP Keys backup

For my work emails, I usually digitally sign them with GPG keys. Now I plan to install Fedora 9 (you gotta check it is that cool!) on my laptop and spanking new Ubuntu 8.04. What can I say? I am a distro whore!

Anyhow before I blow away my Ubuntu installation, I first need to backup my keys.

To backup my public key, I need to do the following:

eyeoh@zahadum:~$ gpg --list-keys
pub 1024D/A2F0C9E0 2008-05-12
uid Eric Yeoh (msian_tux_lover)
sub 2048g/A5FA7805 2008-05-12

eyeoh@zahadum:~$ gpg -ao msian_tux_lover-pub.key --export A2F0C9E0

msian_tux_lover-pub.key is just a random file name, you can use others.

To backup my private key:

eyeoh@zahadum:~$ gpg --list-secret-keys

sec 1024D/A2B0F3E6 2008-05-12

uid Eric Yeoh (msian_tux_lover)

ssb 2048g/A1FA9806 2008-05-12

eyeoh@zahadum:~$ gpg -a --export-secret-keys A2B0F3E6 | gpg -aco msian_tux_lover-private.key.gpg

msian_tux_lover-private.key.gpg is just a random file name, you can use others.

You will be prompted for a passphrase to encrypt the private key. DO NOT forget the password.

Then just copy the two key files to somewhere safe.

To restore the keys on to the newly installed Fedora 9 you just need to:

[eyeoh@anlashok ~]$ gpg --import msian_tux_lover-pub.key

To restore the encrypted key:

[eyeoh@anlashok ~]$ gpg --decrypt msian_tux_lover-private.key.gpg |gpg --import

Monday, May 12, 2008

HP to buy EDS?

Just read this at BBC

Hmm...I have worked for EDS as a contractor in the past and I must say that the people I have worked with there are of higher calibre than their HP counterparts whom I have had the opportunity to interact with. Not work with coz I don't think they can even understand how to do their jobs they are paid to do.

I have had the displeasure of meeting and talking with some of their so called DTS (Deep Tech Support) people and man, if you ever wondered of whatever happened to that incompetent co-worker or vendor, chances are they are at HP.

Imagine UNIX guys who are not even aware of Linux and whine why can't they work with a GUI and are forced to use that Put-tee thingy! Or Windows guys who are not even aware that you cannot functionally have a Windows 2k3 running on a 512MB RAM system and wonder why it hangs often.

These are the people who hide behind procedures and best practices to avoid work and can tell you with a straight face that it's their policy. Duh...policy of not doing work perhaps. These people have perfected the oriental Tai Chi martial art.

I would not say that EDS has all the brains but from my observation, EDS seems to be better.

By the way, I was referring to the Malaysian divisions of both companies.

I hope to God some open-minded HP guy will read this and find ways to improve on their services. Level 3 guys seem to be more interested in dressing themselves in the latest designer labels and gossiping rather than doing the jobs they are hired to do.

Location of PDF

The PDF can be downloaded from

Ubuntu DEB Packaging

Hmm...was just informed that I needed to do some DEB packaging for Ubuntu. Seems like more people are into using Ubuntu as their Server OS. Good choice! In a previous employment I deployed a couple of Ubuntu servers in production and it has given me the least problems among my server, including Centos, Gentoo servers.

Got the Ubuntu Packaging Guide PDF off the web and I am trying hard to understand it. So far in my career I have mostly been a Sys Admin (for both Linux and Windows platforms including managing the infamous Exchange incarnations from 5.5 to 2003) and so this is something new. Exciting stuff actually. If only my flu induced blurness is not so bad.

I have read postings about many incompatibilities between the true blue Debian and Ubuntu. So far I have been able to use a few DEBs from the Debian tree (forgot which ones) on Ubuntu without issues; but not vice versa.

I have 8.04 installed and recommended to standardise on it as it is a LTS release i.e. 5 years of free patches for servers and 3 for desktops.

I foresee exciting times ahead.