Trolling to Get Faster Answers in the World of Linux?

How would you, a seasoned red wine connoisseurs feel if you were told by someone, that the Chteau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac does not taste anything exquisite? Well, that was a bad start, and I don’t know how wine enthusiasts react to people like these. Perhaps they think of people like these as being too crude, and just ignore them. I have no idea myself, and by the way, I picked that wine brand name from a list at AskMen. But here is what I have seen happening day in, day out in the world of Linux, and this discussion on Reddit hits the bull’s-eye.

So, the story goes like this: You are unaware of how to do something on Linux, you go ahead and ask a straight question online. You will be surprised to see that people do answer your question, but they won’t exactly answer your query. Instead, they will ask you to go learn five other thing surrounding and including what you wanted to know about, and then get an idea. But then, if you would simply have cursed Linux for making it so hard for you, you would have seen tens of thousands of people come to the rescue, offering you more than one way of doing the same thing.


The world of Linux has had this problem for years. Most people are not too helpful, and the kind of help you get is not very easy to follow either. But then, why does trolling Linux users work? Why do they come in swarms to defend Linux, if you simply curse Linux for being unable to do something?

Here is what I think. When people ask really simple things, they are told to go learn, because Linux gurus see these people as a prospective user, and with this kind of help, they might learn more, and get interested in Linux even more. If along with your question, you also post what you have tried so far, people will take even more interest in you and will definitely help you. Though, looking for a rote solution is like getting homework help, and while you get your stuff done, you do not have any idea of what to do the next time you need help on a variant of that problem. Trolling is like getting homework help, and you are not helping yourself by trolling.

What do you think? Does trolling for answers on Linux work simply because people want to prove that Linux is better?

(Image via XKCD)

Netflix Open Sources One of its Simians for Cloud-Testing

Netflix is known for its Simian Army, which it lets loose to test its service every once in a while. The cloud calls for strict availability and reliability, and the only way to ensure this is through stringent testing. Netflix has an amusing nomenclature for its testing strategy. It likes to group its cloud testing tools into a simian army. As amusing as that may be, when it comes to implementation, the simian army is a piece of commendable technical wizardry. The Latency monkey, Doctor Monkey, Janitor Monkey, Security Monkey, all are part of the simian army at Netflix.


Recently, Netflix has decided to share one of its earliest cloud-testing tools with the world, and what better way is there to share a piece of technology than open sourcing it? Netflix describes Chaos Monkey:

A tool that randomly disables our production instances to make sure we can survive this common type of failure without any customer impact. The name comes from the idea of unleashing a wild monkey with a weapon in your data center (or cloud region) to randomly shoot down instances and chew through cables — all the while we continue serving our customers without interruption.

Chaos Monkey runs in the Amazon Web Services (AWS). The service has a configurable schedule that defaults to run from 9 AM to 3 PM. The schedule can be configured and it can be used as a great tool to perform system downtime drills.

The world of steaming media is expanding and high availability and is key to this entire industry. Netflix has done a good job by giving back something to its own ecosystem. This is just the beginning, and Netflix has plans to release its other simian tools as well.

A Script to Save Cached Flash Videos on Linux

It happens so many times, just so many times — we watch a YouTube video in the browser and then want to have a copy of the same. But saving it directly from the browser requires addons/extensions, which may not be available instantly; actually, Chrome doesn’t need a restart after extension installation and you may be able to save the cached video instantly. Or may be not — I don’t know because I don’t use Chrome, but Firefox and I know this script works very well as I use it quite often :-)
Also, it is quite possible that an addon/extension is not able to get the video from cache, and starts downloading again (makes no sense actually).

The flashplayer is very smart, it deletes the file as soon as you’re done with watching the video, but thanks to Linux, we can still recover the video from memory. It’s a property of Linux that files don’t get deleted immediately. When a file is deleted, but is open by a program, the file is not removed from memory/disk (but is not visible in the file and directory listings) and can be easily recovered from the /proc virtual filesystem. I’ve written a small script to help this problem and it is available under GNU GPL license at which uses this feature to copy the videos from memory into another location so that you can have a copy. A copy is pasted below as well.


# Script by Nilesh Govindrajan <[email protected]>

# Saves cached flash video from any running browsers (that use
# File will be saved as the random string with extension .flv in the current directory.

for p in $(pgrep -f -U `id -u`)
    for f in $(find /proc/$p/fd -type l)
	filename=$(readlink $f)
	echo $filename | grep /tmp/Flash
	if [ $? -eq 0 ]
	    dstfname=$(echo $filename | cut -d' ' -f1 | awk -F/ '{ print $NF }')
	    cp $f ${dstfname}.flv

It should be quite clear from the script that this will work only if you use a browser which uses the plugin. I think the binary versions of Google Chrome packs in a flashplayer by default, and hence, might not work on it.

How to use this script:

After you’ve finished watching a video, do not close the window. Open the terminal and execute this script; see the example below.
Suppose the video I watched had filename FlashXXXX when cached to your system, then on running the script, you should get FlashXXXX.flv in the directory where you ran the script.

$ cd
$ wget
$ chmod +x
$ ./

As stated earlier, you should get FlashXXXX.flv in your home directory (because that’s where the script was run in the example).
Note: This script will save all flash videos (ads too!), so you’ll have to watch whatever gets saved to make sure you got what you want, and then delete the rest.

Steam for Ubuntu is Coming Soon, This Time for Real

After years and years of rumors, Valve is finally taking the bold step of porting its Source engine to Linux. With this porting, you can also expect Linux to get steamy. Yes, the Steam client is showing its head on Linux too, and all this is happening on our favorite Linux flavor- Ubuntu. The announcement has been done in style with a blog post titled “Steam’d Penguins“, on Valves recently launched Linux Team blog.

Steam_LogoThe purpose of this blog is best explained as,

Our mission is to strengthen the gaming scene on Linux, both for players and developers. This includes Linux ports of Steam and Valve games, as well as partner games. We are also investigating open source initiatives that could benefit the community and game developers.

The first time we heard rumors of Source being ported to Linux was back in 2008, when Phoronix started reporting about it. The leaked Valve handbook showed the world how flat their management structure is. Years went by, and finally, the rumors started getting stronger this year. earlier in April, Valve’s Gabe Newell confirmed (to Phoronix, again) that there will indeed be a ported Source engine and a Steam client for Linux, and here we are!

Linux will prove to be a prospective platform for obvious reasons of openness. Although Valve is working on Steam for Ubuntu 12..04 currently, they also have plans for other Linux distros in near future. The flagship game to be ported to Linux will be Left 4 Dead 2, and it will run on OpenGL.

Finally, Linux will have its own native Valve games and its users will not have to deal with the idiosyncrasies of Wine or any other compatibility layer anymore. Last month, EA started betting big on Linux too, and their choice of distro too was ubuntu. It is good to see that Ubuntu is being seen as a platform of choice for pilot projects like these. Nonetheless, gaming on Linux too is entering a new era.

Sputnik Program Taking Beta Testers for the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu

Ubuntu fans are going to have a gala time ahead of them, and even more so, if you are a developer. Dell is planning to bring in the Ubuntu experience to laptops, and it wants to do things in the proper way. That is why, Dell has a beta-testing program in place for the Dell XPS 13 Ultraboook, with Ubuntu pre-installed. This beta testing program is called Sputnik, and it might send Dell sales skyrocketing through the laptop market for two reasons: cheaper prices and free software.


The page announcing the Sputnik Beta testing program reads,

Be a test pilot for the ultimate developer laptop.

Dell is now recruiting volunteers for the Sputnik Beta Cosmonaut program. A limited number of applicants will be selected to receive a discounted, beta version solution (Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu 12.04LTS).

With your help, we are confident that this new Ubuntu Linux-based laptop will become the ultimate mobile tool for developers.

The registration form can be found on this page. It takes some personal details along with company details. One promising development is that the program is open for developers all over the world, and not just for those in the US.

Dell has tried selling Linux based laptops earlier though every time, the laptops just vanished from their website without so much as a pop. However, this time, Dell seems serious about the Ultrabook, and is off to a good start. This test will help Dell estimate how well Ubuntu based laptops are received by the developer community worldwide. It might create newer range of Dell products, and give Linux the much needed consumer-market exposure it has always deserved. Nonetheless, it will strengthen the Ubuntu ecosystem, with more developers interested in being a part of this revolution.

GRUB Officially Graduates to Version 2.0

After a decade of development, GRUB2 has been released officially, and it brings some major improvements to GRUB. Though, it hardly caught anyone’s attention, as GRUB2 is already being used by most major distros for the last three years. Although the version used by these distros was a pre-release of GRUB2, it was more or less feature complete.


The release was announced on the GNU GRUB official mailing list:

Hello, all
I’m proud to announce the release of GNU GRUB version 2.00.
Since this version has a round number it has been paid special attention to, and hopefully, represents higher quality.
This is the first time we include an official theme (starfield).
This version also includes EHCI driver.
Support for using GRUB as firmware on Yeeloong was added in GRUB 1.99, and for 2.00 this support has been extended to Fuloong2F as well.
This is also the first time we release itanium and SGI mips port. Later is experimental due to problems encountered with its firmware.

This new release brings a new menu structure with submenus, a new theme for gfxmenu and support for new platforms. It also brings new drivers for AHCI, EHCI, EFI serial etc. Apart from these, there is support for new filesystems, performance improvements and better internationalization. However, as mentioned earlier, most of these features are already present in running versions of GRUB2.

There is an interesting discussion on Slashdot about the current state of vendor-lock in for hardware. On one hand, we have GPLv3 that restricts hardware locking, and on the other hand, there is Microsoft which is hell-bent on pushing secure boot and killing the Linux ecosystem on x86 systems. There should be fair laws safeguarding us from vendors and corporations forcing their decisions down our throat.

Skype 4.0 Arrives on Linux, Better Late Than Never

A few days ago, Skype decided to monetize its software by displaying ads in between conversations. Most people found this unsavory, but Skype tried wrapping the advertisement scheme as display of “relevant content”, and made a bold claim that it would spark conversations. It goes without saying that Skype invited everyone’s wrath with this move.

Earning back some karma, Skype did something appreciable recently. The Skype software on Linux graduated to version 4.0 which is good news for Skype users who are in the habit of waiting for Skype updates now. The 4.0 release is codenamed “Four Rooms for Improvement” and brings in lots of new features, thus making for a better Skype experience on Linux.

The post announcing the release on the Skype official blog says,

With this release, we have finally filled the gap with our other desktop clients and we are now making many of the latest Skype features, as well as a lot of UI improvements, available to our penguin lovers.

The blog post claims improvements in UX, as well as the underlying communication technology. Minor changes include fixes for crash issues, newer emoticons and new language packs. There is also a fair warning that says that the first load of the latest Skype will synchronize the chat history, and things might be a bit slow initially.

The latest version of Skype offers packages for all popular flavors of Linux, but the download page lists older versions of all distros. This was a huge turn-off for some people.


It is sad to see that Windows users can enjoy Skype 5.10 while Linux users have to make do with Skype 4.0. This second-class treatment of Skype on Linux has been criticized extensively in this blog post. Linux might have its own ninja-skills and hacker-friendly tools, but when it comes to attracting third-party developers, it clearly has not been able to catch up with Windows.

Two Simple Tips To Speed Up Program Downloads / Upgrades in Fedora

I’ve been playing with the latest version of Fedora since the past few days. Much like how Ubuntu has a command-line based software installer called apt-get, Fedora comes with yum.

I was trying to update my Fedora install to the latest version of packages and noticed that all my downloads were incredibly slow.

Slow Downloads in Fedora

No doubt, this was a result of the mirrors selected being overloaded/ saturated or just too slow. Here’s 2 tips to improve your download speeds.

Yum Plugins – FastestMirror And Axelget

In addition to Yum’s support for delta RPMs(which is awesome) yum also supports plugins. Two incredibly helpful plugins that help improve download speeds are

  • FastestMirror
  • AxelGet


FastestMirror connects to each mirror, times the connection and sorts the mirrors that yum can use thereby improving the download speeds. Installing fastest mirror is quite easy, type in

yum install yum-plugin-fastestmirror

To install the plugin. You’ll need to have root privileges, else this will fail. Once installed, confirm that it is enabled by checking for presence of below files in  /etc/yum/pluginconf.d/fastestmirror.conf

verbose = 0
socket_timeout = 3
enabled = 1
hostfilepath = /var/cache/yum/timedhosts.txt
maxhostfileage = 1

You can even explicitly set to exclude specific mirror by adding,

to the above file, replacing with your specific mirrors.


Axel is a pretty well-known command line download tool. Much like how IDM/FDM work, Axel uses the same concept of splitting the current file into multiple pieces and downloading them simultaneously, instead of one download at a time. Axel is the same tool which powers apt-fast, a tool to speed up program downloads / upgrades in Ubuntu. Setting up axelget is a bit more involved process.

sudo cp axelget.conf /etc/yum/pluginconf.d/

sudo cp /usr/lib/yum-plugins/

To confirm that the plugins are working, do a yum update. Yum should list out all the plugins in use

[[email protected] sathya]# yum install git
Loaded plugins: axelget, fastestmirror, langpacks, presto, refresh-packagekit

That’s about it. With these two plugins, your downloads should be much faster.

Note: This should work for all distros supporting yum, I’ve tested this only on the current version of Fedora though.

Linux Mint 13 Maya Arrives a Week After RC Release

The Linux Mint blog has announced the release of Linux Mint 13 codenamed Maya. Maya saw an RC release just a week ago, and this final release came sooner than expected. There have only been a few minor bug fixes from the RC release.

Linux Mint 13 Maya sports some interesting features. The boot splash screen on Mint 13 has been replaced with a black screen that shows nothing. The Mint ISO image is no longer 700 MB in size, and so it cannot be burned to a CD. However, there is a guide on remastering Linux Mint by removing extra packages and shrinking the ISO size. Mint4Win, the Windows installer for Linux Mint is functional only on the 64-bit ISOs, although it is present on both the 64-bit and the 32-bit version.


Although based on Ubuntu, Linux Mint is competing head on with it and surpasses Ubuntu by a huge margin in Distrowatch page hit ranking. Now, that is not an accurate indicator of who is using which of Linux Mint and Ubuntu but it might be an indicator of the popularity of these Linux distros. Linux Mint is indeed popular.

Linux Mint Maya is available for download from both torrents and HTTP mirrors. All the download links are provided at this page. Existing users can upgrade from a previous version of Linux Mint using this guide.

Linux Kernel 3.4 Final Version Released

Linus Torvalds has done a great job maintaining the Linux Kernel and pushing out one version after another. This Sunday, the Linux Kernel saw another version upgrade, and stands at version 3.4 currently. Linus Torvalds calls the 3.4 release a “calm” one, as there were lesser roadblocks in this transition. After the delay in the release of Linux Kernel 3.3, this timely release makes Linus happy as he says,linux-kernel

I just pushed out the 3.4 release.

Nothing really exciting happened since -rc7, although the workaround for a linker bug on x86 is larger than I’d have liked at this stage, and sticks out like a sore thumb in the diffstat. That said, it’s not like even that patch was really all that scary.

In fact, I think the 3.4 release cycle as a whole has been fairly calm. Sure, I always wish for the -rc’s to calm down more quickly than they ever seem to do, but I think on the whole we didn’t have any big disruptive events, which is just how I like it. Let’s hope the 3.5 merge window is a calm one too.

This latest release of the Linux kernel focuses mainly on the Btrfs file system and includes data recovery tools, better error handling and vast performance improvements. On the GPU side of the story, support for many new Intel, NVidia GeForce and ATI Radeon HD graphics cards were added to the latest kernel. Other than these, the latest Linux kernel also improves memory management and virtualization performance.

The next version of Linux Kernel, version 3.5 will focus primarily on the growing hardware world, and thus improve graphics performance. Additionally, it will also include support for the 22nm Haswell architecture, slated for release in early 2013.

(Via: Softpedia)