All posts by Chinmoy Kanjilal

Chinmoy Kanjilal is a FOSS enthusiast and evangelist. He is passionate about Android. Security exploits turn him on and he loves to tinker with computer networks. He rants occasionally at Techarraz.com. You can connect with him on Twitter @ckandroid.

California goes Open Source?

Yes, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has passed a budget plan which proposes inclusion of Open Source software in areas like health care, prison and many other to bring down costs by considerable amounts. A policy letter issued last week by CIO Teri Takai says ,

the use of Open Source Software (OSS) in California state government [has now been formally established] as an acceptable practice.

California reportedly faces a budget deficit of $20 billion, which Open Source software can hardly address but we can hope for something good to come out of this.

The human mind is resistant to change. This is what we have to change. Otherwise we will never move with technology. This attempt not only creates a place for Open Source in the government, it also encourages the public to use Linux and other Open Source software. This will do away with common myths about Open Source like lack of support, lack of features etc.

Impact:

One thing that the governor has seen here is that a bigger part of California already uses Open Source software and this is more of a formal declaration. It has happened at Hungary, the state of Kerela in India has offered Linux loaded laptops to its MLAs and now California. The Open Source penetration into the governments simply keeps getting better.

Ubuntu Tweaks: Version 0.5.0 Release

Ubuntu Tweaks has released the version 0.5.0 of the software. Ubuntu tweaks is a revolutionary software which takes customizing Ubuntu to totally new heights. This betters our experience of using Ubuntu. It has got many new features like syncing data from the web, a better UI and lots more.

The new version supports only the latest full release of Ubuntu 9.10, Karmic Koala. Given that, it also supports other Ubuntu based distros like Linux Mint 8, but has no support for older versions of Ubuntu.

The version 0.5.0 has made many major changes like:

  • Dropped support for any Ubuntu version before 9.10
  • Used native system icons in UI
  • A redesigned sidebar and title bar
  • Improved third party source, with data sync enabled.
  • Improved update manager
  • A show desktop button

The new version of Ubuntu tweaks will also allow automatic updates of the software list and this will keep the software list up-to-date, always. Also, the add-remove software which has been replaced by the  application center is much better in usability and updates the data from UTCOM, that is, the ubuntu-tweaks.com website.

Download Ubuntu tweaks at this page.

Use KDE Plasma on Gnome with Emerald and Compiz

The plasma desktop effect of KDE is mouth-watering. It not only looks beautiful, but also has a good amount of usability. But, the interface is available(by default) only on the KDE desktop environment.
kde-plasma
Here is an easy way to get the plasma effect on Gnome along with Emerald and Gnome. The tutorial works on Ubuntu Karmic Koala.

Steps:

  • Go to System >> Administration >> Hardware Drivers, select the latest driver for Graphics and activate it.
  • Go to System >> Preferences >> Appearance >> Visual Effects, activate the extra mode.
  • Press Alt+F2, bring up xterm. Install required packages with the command
    sudo apt-get install compiz compizconfig-settings-manager emerald fusion-icon kde-minimal
    compiz-kde kdeplasma-addons plasma-scriptengine-python gtk2-engines-qtcurve

    , this installs the packages named here.

  • Save the given code into a file, say “GnomeDesk.sh”,
    #!/bin/bash
    killall fusion-icon
    killall gnome-panel
    killall plasma-desktop
    gnome-panel &
    fusion-icon &

    This will create a launcher for Gnome desktop.

  • Save the given code into a file, say “PlasmaDesk.sh”,
    #!/bin/bash
    killall fusion-icon
    killall gnome-panel
    killall plasma-desktop
    plasma-desktop &
    fusion-icon &

    This will create a launcher for Plasma desktop.

  • Now, run these commands:
    chmod +x ~/Desktop/plasma-desktop.sh ; chmod +x ~/Desktop/gnome-desktop.sh

    This makes the files executable.

  • Open “gconf-editor” by typing it in the terminal. Go to the location
    desktop >> gnome >> session >> required_components

    and remove the “gnome-panel” value in the “Panel” section. This prevents Gnome panel from being reborn each time.

  • Install any Emerald theme.
  • Run the PlasmaDesk script you just created.
  • From Compiz Fusion icon, select  Window Manager as Compiz and Window Decorator as Emerald.
  • In KDE menu,  select Favorites >> System Settings >> Style, and set “GTK+” in  “Widget style”. Use the Humanity Icon set for best results.

Splashtop : Version 2.0 is here

Splashtop is one of those application which makes eye-candy out of low power, low memory and small laptops, namely the netbooks. Netbooks seem to be the next big thing. We saw it with the fast paced development of netbook OS last year and now with netbooks stealing the show after smart-phones, everywhere.

splashtop

This seems to be a ripe time for the launch of Splashtop 2.0. Splashtop 2.0 will now officially feature on all major netbook releases ranging from Asus to acer and to HP, naming a few.

If you do not already know what Splashtop is,

Splashtop is a software-only solution that requires no additional hardware. A small component of Splashtop is embedded in the BIOS of the PC that’s the part that runs as soon as you press the power button.

It is basically a Linux environment which loads up when you press the power button of your laptop and takes around 10 seconds to boot up. It allows you to connect to the Internet, chat on IM, use Skype and do a lot of other things online.

The version 2.0 of Splashtop bring new features like,

  • 3G connectivity for better speed of web-surfing
  • Touch interface which has been enhanced unlike earlier
  • Faster startup time of just 10 seconds
  • Visual navigation of history
  • Customizable look and feel

Splashtop 2.0 will first appear on the Lenovo Ideapad S10-3t which is a touch enabled netbook. Splashtop has won numerous awards like:

  • PC World top 25 most innovative products(2007)
  • 100 top products of 2007 by Hardware Zone
  • AlwaysON onDC Top 100
  • Popular Science, best of whats new

With the release of version 2.0 in early 2010, Splashtop has marked just another beginning.

Update : Laptop Magazine named Splashtop 2.0 “Best of CES” in the software category. You can check this at their best of CES 2010 review.

48 Hours With Open Source, can a Student Survive?

Zack Whittaker is a student at the University of Kent, Canterbury, known for his insight into the next generation and is the youngest in the ZDNet authors network.

He has taken the bold step of breaking away from the bonds of using paid and costly closed source software, especially the ones from Microsoft. This, as he writes, is a part of his New Year’s resolution and he is keen on making it work.

He is doing this on an experimental view. Zack is currently studying Criminology and thinks about using computers from the point of view of a general non-technical student like he is now, although, he has studied Computer Science earlier.

He will start using Ubuntu 9.10, starting Monday, the 11th at Midday London time and even better, will live blog his experience. This event if successful, can help Ubuntu reach even more of audiences who are still afraid to use it. The live blog can be found at the post on ZDNet. Apparently, this is not the first time Zack is doing one of these 48 hours experiments. He did a similar 48 hour cloud test on an earlier occasion. We expect him to have a wonderful overall experience this time, as this will help Ubuntu by bringing in more users. If you need any help Zack, you can always refer to our Ubuntu posts at Techie-Buzz for help.

Firefox Grew 40% in 2009

Mozilla Firefox, has moved up the browser market and has set up many new records. It has taken huge market shares from Internet Explorer and the ending of 2009 has been breathtakingly profitable for the browser. The browser of choice for billions across the web has seen a growth of 40% around the last quarter 2009. All over the world, we can see varied levels of rise with Asia recording a 73% rise in Firefox users. The growth in Africa was above 80% and it is reported that most of this growth occurred recently, at the latter half of the year.

Reportedly, Firefox added 22.5 million users daily in the last four months to the browser’s user base, as against  16.4 million of the previous year. This is a marvelous growth and has proved to be beneficial for the beta release as well, which provides the developer community with more people who are ready to test the beta releases and provide feedback of their experience.

Not only this, the browser also expects a big rise in the next year as well. Firefox is a really good browser and has kept attracting more and more users from five years now, but the development over the last few days has paced up. Going by those statistics, we can expect a bright year ahead for Firefox.

Firefox Home Tab Design challenge

Mozilla Firefox has organized a Firefox Home Tab design Challenge under the Mozilla Labs Design Challenge series. The contest is an attempt to design a Home Tab for Firefox with maximum usability.
firefox-homepage
The contest page describes this with a question:

The Home Tab — What are some interesting uses of a Firefox-hosted start page?

We all are familiar with the Firefox Home Button. It takes to a page which can be set by the user as the homepage.

Plans are to shift the Home button to a Home Tab, which will feature some awesome designs and usable functions. The winning entry will be selected as the Home Tab. This tab will add to the existing dull homepage and give users a choice to use the web in a better way. The homepage can also use user data to display surfing trends or to display a gadget based page like iGoogle or MyYahoo!.

The contest is online from December 2009 and has a roadmap as:

  • December 2009            : Design of Home Tab Contest online
  • February 14th, 2010   : Submission deadline
  • February 15th, 2010   : Public voting starts
  • March 1st                          : Public voting ends
  • March 15th                       : Results declared

You can see the existing entries to have a brief idea of the contest.

Visit the contest homepage and submit your ideas today.

Lucid Lynx includes manual for Beginners

Ubuntu Lucid Lynx has plans of including a user manual for beginners. This will attract more migration from existing users of other OS like Windows and other Linux distributions. It will also help Ubuntu compete against Linux Mint, which is a Ubuntu derivative and has pushed through the distro list to come up to position #2, just after Ubuntu at #1.

The Ubuntu manual is a project with a complete guide on using Ubuntu from scratch, HowTo articles and comprehensive guides. The manual is written and maintained by the Ubuntu Manual Team. This project aims at providing a professional help system to advanced users and at the same time, keep it easy to use for beginners.

The manual is first expected to appear on the 10th of February, with the Alpha release of Ubuntu 10.04 Lucid Lynx. The Final release will be ready on the 29th of April. The manual will be released and revised every six months and will be available as a pdf file.

This will not only attract more users to the OS, it will also give it a better share in the OS market. Ubuntu Lucid Lynx might include many revolutionary features compared to earlier Linux versions like 32 bit graphics, even better boot times and now a user manual. With a strict six months release cycle, it simply keeps getting better.

Avatar Movie made possible with Linux

Avatar was revolutionary. It was legendary. At my hometown of Kolkata alone, it made all the multiplexes to upgrade to 3-D vision glasses and facilitated the opening of many iMax theaters at unexpected locations across the country. But in-spite of all the commercial advertisement, there are some facts related to Avatar which went unheard.

avatar-poster

Did you all know, Avatar used graphics designed by a four time Academy Award winning visual effects facility based at New Zealand. It has done graphics for X-Men, did it for I Robot and now, it has also done it for Avatar.

To my surprise, the company uses all non-windows software to achieve all these cutting edge graphics. The systems used to render these graphics were all using RHEL as their OS and were all HP Blade server clusters. All these systems are 64 bit and the cluster at Weta Digital is one of the world’s largest Linux clusters. It is ranked #193 amongst the top 500 supercomputers of the world with processing capabilities of 10 Gigaflops.

It is great to know that most of the software used to render these graphics were all Linux software like SoftImage, CompTime, Cine-Paint etc.

Weta Digital has won four Academy Awards and BAFTAs. Did you see the movie Avatar? If you liked it, you can also check the Avatar Windows 7 theme.

Save Power with Linux

Linux has its own advantages. It sure is geeky, it is powerful and now you can even do your bit to help the deteriorating environment. The folks at lesswatts.org have devised a number of ways to save power with Linux. The results have been obtained from continued stress-testing on all mobile, desktop and server machines and have been favorable so far. The kernel used for these tests are the 2.6.22 version but they are hoping that the power-saver features will go into the kernel 2.6.23.

linux-power-saver

The website has a number of tools which will give you some excellent power management options. One major program in this suite is the PowerTOP which checks for programs which are unnecessarily active when your CPU should ideally be idle.

Some of the featured applications included in this list, which will make your computer usage environment friendly are:

  • PowerTOP to check for unnecessary usage of idle CPU times.
  • Tickless Idle, is a feature which did away with the periodic clock tick of the Linux kernel saving power.
  • Processor power management, which allows the Intel microprocessor to use its power management features.
  • ACPI, allowing Linux to take advantage of advanced power interface.
  • QoS, allowing extensive power management keeping in mind the quality of service.
  • Display and graphics power saver.
  • Device and Bus power management.

All these downloads are available at the site and when used, prove to be increasing power efficiency unexpectedly. Do not forget to use this environmental optimization. This is the least we Linux users can do to make the world a better place.

Help MySQL at helpmysql.org

MySQL fans from around the world have joined forces to save the project from going into the hands of database giant Oracle, which has set out to buy Sun Microsystems. Sun Microsystems is the current owner of MySQL, the open source database which is extremely famous all over the world as a database server for websites.

sun_oracle

Most of the web servers in this world are running on a LAMP server in which, M represents MySQL with L, A and P for Linux, Apache and PHP respectively. MySQL enthusiasts fear that once Oracle acquires Sun Microsystems, the MySQL project will be left at the mercy of Oracle which might as well decide to shut the project down. Speculations are, after the acquisition, Oracle will level out all competition against its primary product and will also increase costs and licensing fees. This will make the small scale businesses pay badly.

The fear has led to MySQL fans creating a campaign and a website to host their cause at helpmysql.org.

Some interesting facts at this post of the blog of the MySQL creator Michael “Monty” Widenius, are:

  • Oracle has offered to buy MySQL twice before.
  • Oracle faces losses amounting to $1 billion USD per year because of MySQL.
  • Rumors are that the recent Sun layoff were hijacked by Oracle, many of the fred were from MySQL group.
  • Oracle’s last acquisition of Open Source software, InnoDB resulted in slow-down of development.
  • One major demand of the helpmysql campaign is that MySQL be released under Apache Software License now and forever.
  • According to a poll, there is only a 0.7% of people who trust Oracle on MySQL.

With these fishy things going on, we should really go ahead and support the MySQL community. You can visit the website and offer any help you can.

Lenovo Launches Skylight Smartbook

Lenovo has launched its Skylight smartbook which uses Linux as the default OS. The laptop like mobile device has a 10″ screen and in-built features like 3G, 20 GB of flash storage and 10 hours of battery life on a single charge. Skylight uses a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The UI is gadget based and looks smooth and user friendly.

The Skylight also sports a properly spaced keyboard unlike netbooks and has a sleek and marvelous design. It sports an “always on” feature which does away with the need to boot it to a start or shutdown, almost like plug and play.

Skylight is the first ARM based Qualcomm Snapdragon smartbook and is priced at around $499. It has a 1.3 MP Webcam, twin USB ports and WiFi coupled with great looks. Apart from all this, you also get 2 GB of free cloud storage.

The OS is a customized version of Linux made by Lenovo but it leaves me wondering why they did not use already popular ARM builds of many Linux distributions. Also, the EEPC is a close competitor to the Skylight and has a lower price, around $100 less. In such a case, the smartbook better be good because it is already overpriced for an ARM based smartbook.

Though, I came across an interesting comment from Ninis Samuel, consumer marketing director at Lenovo who says,

There is no exposure of Linux to the customers. What we wanted to make is an interface that’s completely custom and easy to use.

So it is a part of their strategy not to let users know they are using Linux.

Lenovo has big hopes and a new product line to showcase this CES at Las Vegas. If this product sells, we will also have the problem of limited apps as the Linux distro used by the smartbook is a custom one developed by Lenovo. There will be a need for third party apps for the smartbook alongside the ones provided by Lenovo. But, we will see how Lenovo addresses this problem, given that the device sure looks like one every geek would like to own.

Linux Mint Wallpaper Challenge

Linux Mint has organized a Wallpaper Challenge through its podcast, episode 28 at mintcast.org. The prizes on offer are an IBM R51 for the first prize and IBM R40 for the second prize. Both the laptops will come with Linux Mint pre-installed.

The competition is vote based, so the entries with the higher votes will determine the winners. You are required to create an original wallpaper.  Accepted file formats are jpg, bmp and png. The wallpaper you create can have elements borrowed from other images or wallpapers. In such a case, you need to make sure the license on the image allows republishing. Also, provide a link to the original content along with your submission. The images should be in wide-screen 2560×1600 or full-screen 1600×1200 resolution.

All entries are to be submitted before 1st February 2010 and to [email protected] The results will be out after the second week of February. For the first fifteen days of February, a poll will be put up to decide on the winner.

You can also post the wallpapers on wallpaper sharing sites like gnome-look and desktopnexus. The wallpaper should obviously be free of any nudity, controversial or violent content. Good luck to those participating.

For more info, visit this post at Mint forum.

Three best Linux Technologies of this Decade

Linux has been around for really long time now, but the way Linux advanced in the last few years has been remarkable. Over the last decade, Linux has reached a stage that it can successfully challenge Windows in terms of  ease of use and features. But there are a number of other technologies which have emerged parallel to Linux.

linux_future

Some of them have added new dimensions to the way people think, act and behave with computers, the Internet and Linux at large.

The most defining Linux related technologies, which have emerged this decade are:

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing has become the next buzzword for quite some years, both bygone and the ones to come.   From cloud based storage to providing software as a service(SaaS), Cloud Computing is really picking up on Desktop based computing. Linux has a major role to play in Cloud Computing as we already have a good number of Cloud based operating systems and certain cloud based services supported in Linux. gOS, Google Chrome OS and Ubuntu One are a few popular ones.

Netbook Based OS

Netbook based OS has become a big industry. Every major netbook manufacturer is going for Linux and we have the very popular and the best netbook OS Jolicloud followed by the Ubuntu Netbook Remix and the Google Chrome OS. Netbook based OSes are being used by major laptop manufacturers from Dell to Acer. This marks a big win for Linux and makes Linux the undoubted Netbook OS champion.

Cellphones

Linux on cellphones is fast becoming popular and is being adopted by major manufacturers line Nokia and HTC. We have the revolutionary Nokia N900 running Maemo and the HTC Hero running Google Android. Both are Linux for smartphones and are highly customizable and developer friendly.

We hope to see more of these technologies in future. These two years of 2008 and 2009 have brought remarkable development for Linux and we hope to be nearing a better and a wider users base.

May the source be with you.

Browser Linux: if you thought Google Chrome was good

Google Chrome OS is a cloud based OS, giving us access to the most of Google  features and much more, all of it accessible over the Internet. From the Wi-Fi hack for Chrome OS, which needs us to copy the Wi-Fi driver from Ubuntu to Chrome, we can say that Chrome OS is an Ubuntu derivative.

Now, just in case you thought Chrome OS was good, you can try out this new Linux distro called BrowserLinux. It will give you a different outlook and Chrome OS some competition. It has a browser based interface and also lets you use your desktop storage optionally. This combines best features of Google Chrome and Puppy Linux.

To start with, Browser Linux is just 78 MB in size and has been built on Puppy Linux. It includes:

  • Firefox 3.5.5 as the web browser
  • Alsaplayer for music
  • Flash 10 for flash support
  • Asus Eee as the default wireless firmware driver for Asus EeePC.

If you are not satisfied with the default fonts provided with the distro, there is an installer shell-script allowing you to install Microsoft Webcore Fonts. The scripts can be found at the path

/root/my-applications/Install_Microsoft_Webcore_Fonts.sh

You can try out this new Linux distribution which is currently in version 355, from Firefox 3.5.5.

The download for BrowserLinux can be found at the homepage here.

Techie Buzz Verdict

BrowserLinux is a relatively new distro and has good features but not a good developer community as of yet. We expect it to take over overtake Google Chrome OS and provide us with a better cloud based OS. The possibilities with this new distro are prospective and we hope to see it do well in future. The UI is much better than Chrome OS and the provision of using the desktop really comes in handy.

Techie-Buzz Rating:  3/5 (Good)