Category Archives: Open Source Software

Linux Kernel 2.6.31 RC Released

Linus Torvalds, the man behind Linux has announced the release of the last RC version of the next Linux kernel. The kernel 2.6.31-RC-8 has included minor fixes and is really for a full release. After a complete eight series RC releases over weeks and days, the final RC has included many fixes and features to be seen in the kernel’s final release. Some of these features are :

Inclusion of a performance counter subsystem

This  feature would let us read performance details of the CPU, like the number of CPU instructions executed, the number of cache misses etc. The support is currently available for only Intel core2 microarchitecture CPUs. A demo application using the new feature is also included.

Better support for ATI GPUs

Better support for ATI GPUs will be available with the new ATI Kernel Mode Setting Driver. This driver is integrated into the kernel, and has improved a lot from the time of it’s inclusion in the RC-5. With these new features going right into the kernel, it means that we can have them on all Linux based distros. The release is due on the 7th of September until any further change of plans.

Skype 2.1 Beta For Linux Gets Video & SMS Support

Linux seems to be getting some real good attention these days. First Pidgin gets an update that featuring support for video calls and now the guys at Skype seem to follow the league.

greenshot_2009-08-29_01-28-28Skype 2.1 Beta for Linux came out this week. Users of the popular VoIP application on the Linux platform had been demanding video support since like ages. They may rejoice now as this Beta release features native video call support, among several other features.

What are the showstoppers?

  • High Quality Video support (640×480 at 30fps)
  • Support for PulseAudio
  • SMS sending support
  • Typing notification in chat (Example: Jack is typing…)

Improvements in Skype 2.1 Beta

  • Enlarged tray icon, also showing number of missed events.
  • Updated ALSA device detection, nicer to USB headsets
  • Birthday reminders are now displayed 24 hours before birthday
  • Calling phone numbers of a contact can be done using context menu
  • Warning dialog when cancelling file transfer

Skype 2.1 Beta is available for most major Linux distributions, namely Ubuntu 8.04 and 8.10, Debian Lenny, Fedora 9 and 10 and openSUSE 11

Download Skype 2.1 Beta For Linux | Read the Release Notes

Please note that this is beta software and is still undergoing development. Do not expect butter-smooth experience and stay prepared with your airbags for crazy accidents. Srsly.


Ubuntu gets an Official App Store

Ubuntu has recently unveiled its official App store at the ongoing Ubuntu Developer’s Summit. Previously codenamed AppCenter the application is now simply known as the Software Store or the Ubuntu Software Store. This Software Store will improve the share and authority of Canonicals as an organization specializing in Linux.

The availability of a properly categorized app store will improve the process of adding applications to an installation as well as drive more users to the Ubuntu and Ubuntu based distro because of the availability of a dedicated software channel.

Software Store

The one thing in the Software Store application which is different from the Application installer or the Package Manager is that with the Software Store application, we will have all the different package management systems like synaptics, gdebi and update manager unified into one single location.

So we can update our packages as well as install applications, all from a single application. This unification will help in the development of a collaborative effort and a unified package management system.

Ubuntu also hopes of linking this app store with launchpad in future. With this, we will have one huge store of open source softwares, probably the world’s largest software repository.

Best way to change your GNOME Desktop look

Having the right eye-candy for your Linux box can be a very important factor especially when you plan to show it off to your Windows Vista or Mac fanboy friends. Customizing the look and feel of your Gnome desktop, however, can be a tedious process. You have to download the wallpapers, then know where to install the icon theme tarballs, the splash screens, etc.

Now there’s a much simpler way to do this. Install gnome-art-ng.

GnomeArt-NextGen is a successor to the older gnome-art, which was basically a theme changer. With Gnomeart-ng, one can change and customize the look and feel of your Gnome Desktop in a much more sophisticated and easier manner.

You can install Gnome-art-ng by downloading either the binary or the packaged deb file for Debian-based Distro users or   compile it from source.

Once invoked, it will ask you to download a huge 15 MB tarball containing the thumbnail previews of all the artwork, including icons, GDM greeters, wallpapers et al. It is recommended you do this, otherwise each preview will be downloaded, everytime and this can get frustrating.

Once the downloading is done, GnomeArt-NG takes some time to uncompress the data.

That’s it. You are done !!

Now just go to various tabs like Backgrounds, Window Decorations, Icons, Splash screen, etc. , preview the artwork and Apply.

When you Apply, it downloads the actual images from the GnomeArt site and even applies the settings.

It’s as simple as that.

If you want very specific contro or artwork from other sites, then you will have to go about doing it the old-fashioned way.

How to get Unrestricted Access in Linux

UAC is one of the most annoying and least used features ever invented for an operating system. We hate it on Windows Vista, we hate it on Windows 7. Linux has an account restriction which prompts for passwords for all silly tasks like update. We equally hate this on Linux as well.

In fact, on Linux, we have to enter the root password, even if we have root privileges to perform a root level operation.
Disabling the regular password prompt on Linux is quick and easy. Though there is no GUI for doing this at present, we hope one will be introduced someday. But for now, you can do this to disable the password prompt on Ubuntu Linux.

  1. Open up the terminal. Enter gksudo gedit /etc/sudoers . This brings up the file /etc/sudoers opened in Gedit.
  2. Look for the line %admin ALL=(ALL) ALL .
  3. Change it to %admin ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL . All set, save and close.

Now you are free of all annoying password prompts for package installations, updates and all applications.

Super Grub Disk: Must Have Boot Recovery Tool

Super Grub Disk is pretty much the application you would like to keep with you at all times,as it is the most handy boot recovery tool ever. You do not need to enter long frightening commands or perform any additional geeky operations. There are three simple and easy steps to recover your boot menu.

  1. Get the super grub disk ISO here.
  2. Burn it to a CD drive. USB versions are also available, allowing booting from an USB drive.
  3. Boot from the device to get options and the screen below.

From the list shown, select the partition you want to boot into and then Super Grub Disk boots you in.

Super grub disk allows you to boot Windows or Linux, selectively. Not only that, you can also activate inactive partitions with this software as well as hide partitions to secure them. It is also said to help installing Opensolaris and other many operating systems supported on your platform. This software is absolutely free and licensed under the GPL.

Create Bootable USB drive with uSbuntu

Today, I will talk about a software which lets us create a bootable pendrive to install or run the Ubuntu live CD. It also supports Mint Linux . This software needs a penrive of atleast around 2 GB for the ISO live CD. We can also set options for Automatic-Virtualization of the Linux platform, which lets us to run any Linux distro inside of the Windows installation.

The features on offer are :

    Creates boot disk for all Ubuntu distros like Xubuntu, Kubuntu etc.
    Persistent data
    Launches Linux into Windows using an in built Virtual Box.

This software requires 256MB of your storage. Download ‘here’.

The same can be done with another software Unetbootin. I will talk about Unetbootin in a future post. alternatively, we can also use the dd command in Linux to do this.

How to Customize the Ubuntu Startup

Ubuntu users have a huge array of options regarding softwares. That is one thing that i like about Ubuntu, and clearly, as some people say, it is the best thing that happened to Linux.

In one of my previous posts, I had  talked about customizing startup on Ubuntu. So here it is again, but this time with some GUI. For this to work ,you need to install a software which  goes by the name of SUM(Startup Manager).

Install startup manager by entering sudo apt-get install startupmanager into your terminal.

Now, you are all set to go once the installation is complete. Startup manager lets you customize the :

  1. Boot menu timeout.
  2. Boot menu resolution.
  3. Boot menu background.
  4. Bootsplash theme.

This is a list of the customizations we generally like to make. You can start by changing the boot order as against the previous tedious way I had talked about.

The boot menu background does not come off too well ,so try and use an image with some less colour depth.

Grub : Windows Boot Terms Explained

In my last post, I talked about setting Windows as the default OS as well as making it appear on top. It involves moving three instructions to the first location. That gives a default option of booting into Windows, as the default value of 0 reads the first OS in the list.

If you check out the last post on How to set Windows as Default OS in Grub, you will see that there are some terms which you will be moving up and down in the menu.lst file. Now, to better understand the usage of this, the terms are explained in a lucid manner here.

root(hdm,n) :

This sets the boot device and mounts the root file system. The boot information is read from the partition ‘n’ , and from disk ‘m’ in hdm. Thus if you have a second windows installed in another hard disk, simply change the value of ‘m’ to 1 after attaching it. Also, if you have a Windows in another partition, set the correct value of ‘n’ to boot from it.

makeactive  :

This sets the active partition and works only for Primary Partitions.

chainloader +1 :

With this command, we can set the boot loader to set the first sector of the active partition in use(given as the value +1), as the location for instructions.

That is all about the boot options of Windows. Additionally, you can use a number of switches to achieve many other results.

How to set Windows as Default OS in Grub

Some of us, or rather most of us dual boot windows and Linux. Bot the operating systems are equally important to me unless you are a Linux fanatic. Windows is as much my development platform as Linux. Now, most of us using Linux also use the Grub boot loader.


An installation of Linux after windows, places Linux on the top of the grub list and Windows at the end. That also initializes with Linux in selection and our workstation boots into Linux if allowed automatically.

To change this and put Windows as the default as well as the first OS in the list, use the steps below.

  1. Boot into Linux, that is where you will get the file to edit the boot menu for Grub.
  2. Open up the terminal, enter gksudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst This brings up the grub file in Gedit, the text editor.
  3. Look for the lines :
    title        Microsoft Windows XP
    root        (hd0,2)
    chainloader    +1

    without a ‘#’ comment at the line beginning.

  4. Bring it above the lines for booting into Linux. That should look something like kernel/ vmlinuz****Version** root=**** .
  5. You are all set. Save the file, reboot.

Your windows should be on top of the grub, and the selected OS as well. Alternatively, you can set the default selection to 1, in the same file or use SUM to change these settings. I will write about SUM in a future post.

Moonlight – Silverlight alternative for Linux

Moonlight, which is an alternative to Microsoft Silverlight on Linux platforms has hit a public beta of it’s new milestone version 2.


Moonlight 2.0 Beta1 is supposedly feature complete and also supports other Unix/X11 systems. For better portability of Silverlight applications to Linux, it uses some of the Silverlight  APIs too. The new version 2.0 indicates that Moonlight is now compatible with all Silverlight 2.0 applications.

The development of Moonlight is backed by Novell and Microsoft, who have entered a technical collaboration deal. This gives Moonlight access to Silverlight test suites and licensed audio and video codecs.

After it’s launch in 2007, the Moonlight project has come this far in a very fast pace. But, it still lacks that attention, as Moonlight is going to support Silverlight 2.0 in an alpha stage when we already have Silverlight 3.0 out in the market. Also, the support for Silverlight is not up to the mark, it never will be with such limited APIs.

The feature is currently available as a Firefox plugin currently.

Download it here.

Jolicloud : Netbook OS with Cloud Support

Netbooks are no more seen as downgraded laptops. Nowadays, they are seen as platforms for development and advanced usages of dedicated applications. That is the exact reason that major companies like HP, Acer and Lenovo are all going gaga on netbooks and all developers are going gaga on developing an OS for netbooks.


Now, we all know that the best OS, which can be scalably deployed on any architecture and platform is Linux, so there it is. Their correct first choice. Thanks to these developments, now we have an array of netbook OS, all Linux based and all needing apps and softwares of their own. Jolicloud is a netbook OS with two important ideologies :

  1. Open Source
  2. Open Web

Jolicloud has bluetooth and 3G modem support out of the box. It also claims support for windows applications and has adobe AIR integrated into it. Compaq, HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Asus have all been tested with the OS and works like a breeze.

The new netbook OS looks quite prospective and we hope to hear more from it in future.

In that time, you can test the alpha version.

Visit the Jolicloud homepage for more info.

MIE : Lightweight Linux Distro from HP

MIE is a lightweight Linux distro from HP which has pretty low system requirements to run efficiently even on ARM powered laptops. This Linux distro has WIFI, and bluetooth support as well which works like a breeze on any other laptop, it has been successfully tested on Acer Aspire One.


Totaling a  size of 900 MB, the ISO needs to be written to be placed on a 2 GB pen drive which can be made bootable with HP’s own software that you can get here.

HP, cleverly calls this the “Mobile Internet  Experience” instead of Linux, to lure customers with Tuxphobia into using this new laptop.

As you can see above, the MIE has great looks and the functionalities on offer are equally good. This is quoted to be “The best thing that happened to Ubuntu”.

Access Windows Shares In Linux

Accessing windows network shares from the Linux command line is quick and easy. This lets you access windows shares in Linux just like another ,

  1. Get the application smbmount from the repositories using   sudo apt-get smbmount
  2. Then, go to the terminal and key in :
    smbmount \\\\WINDOWS\\c-c mount /mount/Windows' -I
  3. Here "\\\WINDOWS\\c" is the windows share which you want to access and where you want them into.(etc\etc\);
  4. To make this permanent :
    \\\DataHeap /media/server smbfs rw,user,suid<\pre>

This will add the appropriate repository from . That is all. Now access any windows drive as just another drive on your desktop. Feel free to ask for help.

How to Fight ARP Spoofing In Linux?

Hooking into a public wifi is a hot trend nowadays. But, is it really safe to access login informations on these open networks?

Whenever we login into a network, the network reads our IP address, our MAC address and assigns us some specific ID, so that data with that MAC address and that IP in the header is identified by the server or the gateway. Now, wifi is a broadcast type network, so packets sent over a wifi are available to all. If we spoof our MAC address to the MAC address of the ARP query initializing device like the server or the gateway, we can grab all the packets that were meant for the server. This is called ARP spoofing, whereby the MAC address of the attacker is changed to disturb the ARP(address resolution protocol) and grab all packets in the network.


Now, the packet depends on the network type. If an http network, any login information  is in plain-text, easy to crack. https is relatively secure(depends on the encryption level).

So, to monitor ARP spoofing on you network :

Arpwatch is an open source software which checks the network for possible ARP poisonings. IT lists the changing IP addresses and MAC addresses on a network.This helps us to determine the IP of the user while he is busy using brute-force on the gathered information.

Arpwatch keeps working in the background and you can check the log file anytime at   /var/lib/arpwatch. Enjoy.

To install arpwatch, go here.

For a better security, always carry arpwatch along with yourself  if you are a frequent public wifi user.