Sunday, November 11, 2007

Get GNU/Linux

I came across these interesting sites lately & I had to share:

get GNU/Linux is a site that really help to explain why there's a large community running GNU/Linux & why someone should consider switching to Free Software.

Compare Distros is a site that makes some comparisons between the major distros and helps potential users choose the best fit. I have to agree that there is no perfect distro & there shouldn't be one.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Compiz bug workaround

Couple of days ago I mentioned a bug in Compiz that made kscreensaver not cover the whole screen as it should. I accidentally discovered the solution to this problem by way of a botched upgrade to Compiz 0.6.2.

Here's the story, I read on a adamw's blog that the backports for the new Compiz and Compiz Fusion releases have hit the 2008 repositories. Of course I immediately jumped in to upgrade. Well, things didn't go too well. After upgrading I found compiz-fusion refused to start. It complained that ccp was still on the old version, I couldn't figure out what happened, so I gave up, uninstalled the new stuff & installed the original back but not before I had a quick look around ccsm to see what's new. This is where I found an entry I didn't notice before, this is where I found my workaround.

OK enough history, this is it; Window Decoration -> Decoration windows: any & !name=kdesktop_lock

Basically, this completely solved the kscreensaver issue. I'm not too upset with the bad upgrade, the only reason I wanted to upgrade was to get rid of bugs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tips for running Mandriva 2008 on a Toshiba Satellite M200

If you have a Intel Graphics card like mine, you can't miss out trying KRandRTray. You'll have access to all the functions of the video card, like clone / extended desktop and even rotate. It's excellent for working with projectors.

Toshiba Fn Hotkeys
As to be expected, not all the hotkeys would work. Luckily all the important ones did. Already working were the LCD/VGA display switcher, brightness up/down and suspend to ram key. The keys that will not work are the media player, lock pc, backlight off, suspend to disk, wifi scan & touchpad toggle keys. To enable the other hotkeys on this Toshiba, you will need to change the keyboard type, the standard installation set the keyboard to a "Generic 105 key (Intl) PC" keyboard. You will need to change this in Mandriva Control Center (MCC), under Hardware->Set up keyboard layout->Keyboard type-> Select Toshiba Satellite S3000. This will enable the remaining hotkeys, namely Wifi killswitch, Volume dial, browser, play/pause, stop, prev & next keys.

LCD Brightness
In Mandriva 2007.1, the LCD is brightness can't be changed by either the hotkeys or kpowersave. I had to resort to a hack using /proc/acpi and laptop-mode. This time round the LCD brightness worked with the hotkeys & kpowersave but reacted strangely to the brightness slider in kpowersave, as you slid down the bar the brightness would go up & down erratically. Eventually I discovered again through /proc/acpi that only the following percentages worked 10 25 35 50 60 75 100. Using these values in the kpowersave profiles worked very well. Any other value would set the brightness to the lowest.

Chicony 1.3MP Webcam
This webcam works very well in aMSN. It's a little iffy in Kopete with intermittent color. Completely useless in Pidgin.

Some compiz-fusion bugs
There only 3 bugs with compiz-fusion that I've encountered. First is an issue with the kscreensaver whereby the screensaver will come out but not cover the whole screen as it should. This can be solved by using the workaround in CompizConfig Settings Manager (ccsm) called 'Fullscreen Legacy Support'. However locking the screen using the lock button still causes the issue. The second bug is an intermittent issue when I login in & out of a session, sometimes the hot corners / screen edges stop working until I open ccsm & make some changes. The final bug is a intermittent crash of compiz-window-decorator whenever I switch the K Menu button to another style, such as Kickoff or Default KDE. The issue only occurs during the change, once done it does work fine.

That's all I can write about this topic, Mandriva has been working great so far on this laptop & is actually giving me very decent (better than Windows Vista) battery life. I'm lovin' it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Some screenshots of my Mandriva 2008 box

Some nice new screenshots of my newly upgraded Satellite M200 to Mandriva 2008.

My new Desktop:

The new Compiz-Fusion Cube: (with a nice reflective base)

The new Compiz-Fusion Expo plugin (shows all 4 desktops at once for managing windows)

Lovely isn't it.

Now here's a picture of the Toshiba Satellite M200 that I'm running this on.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mandriva 2008 Finally Arrives

After an irritatingly long wait, Mandriva 2008 finally gets released. I quickly tested out the Mandriva One LiveCD to check how it'll run on my Toshiba notebook, happy to say it runs much better than before.

All the following things are now working without any tweaking:
1. Wireless kill switch works for both Wifi & Bluetooth
2. Hotkeys are now detected without the omnibook module
3. LCD brightness can now be adjusted by both the Fn hotkeys and kpowersave
4. Headphone & mic jacks now work as intended

New features added include:
1. Battery life greatly improved thanks to the new tickless kernel
2. A single, consolidated tool named draknetcenter for network configuration
3. Windows documents and settings migration tool
4. Significant Improvements to rpmdrake
5. NTFS write support built into diskdrake
6. Compiz Fusion replaces Beryl & Compiz

The list goes on, with a long list of improvements in hardware support.

I'm been running it for 3 days on my Toshiba Satallite M200 & it's been working very well. Much of the hardware in this notebook was considered 'too new' for Linux just 4 months ago when I tried, Suse, Ubuntu & Mandriva & they all fell down. It's amazing to see the speed that Linux software has been progressing lately.

I'll post a screenshot once I've got the system setup just the way I want it. Till then I'll be busy trying everything until something breaks... ;)

Friday, October 5, 2007

CentOS 4.5 A Better EL than RHEL

Recently I've been having the time of my life fooling about with RHEL4, I wanted to discover how one would go about running a RHEL4 server in a small office with mixed Windows & Linux clients.

Although the company gives me access to the RHEL CDs and full documentation, I hit a roadblock very quickly, I couldn't have access to the internet so I can only do my tinkering in an isolated LAN. The lack of yum in RHEL4 also meant installing software would be a pain. After suffering through several rounds of dependency hell, I decided to look for an alternative & I discovered CentOS.

CentOS is a enterprise linux based on RHEL, it is fully code & binary compatible with RHEL. I tried out CentOS 4.5 (clone of RHEL4 U5) & immediately took a liking to it. It's looks & works just like RHEL but came with some important extras, notably yum. Having DVD ISOs really made carrying it around a lot easier than 5 CDs.

If you work with RHEL & find it frustrating to deal with swapping CDs, dependency hell & using RHN. I would highly recommend that you give CentOS a chance.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Toshiba's spankin new desktop

I thought I'd share some screenshots of my Satellite's new Desktop.

Here's one with the cube going.

This is running Mandriva Spring 2007.1 with the beautiful Crystal Project icon theme, Plastic window deco and the original Ia Ora style in silver gray.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ubuntu 7.10 & Mandriva 2008 an unfair comparison

New features in Ubuntu 7.10
- Graphical configuration tool for X
- Fast User Switching
- Deskbar Applet installed by default
- Desktop Search with Tracker
- Apparmor (configuration through console only)
- New Printing Service (Print to PDF)
- Apt-Enabled Plugin Finder & Extension Manager for Firefox

The list above is simply dwarfed by the massive new features of Mandriva 2008:
- All major Desktop Environments: GNOME 2.20, KDE 3.5.7, KDE 4 preview and XFCE 4.4.1 (all consistently integrated & fully functional)
- "Tickless" laptop kernel (for improved battery performance)
- Built-in support for the Hauppauge WinTV PVR series TV cards
- Live Dynamic resolution scaling (with XrandR 1.2)
- Fully integrated network configuration & management (with support for Enterprise WPA-EAP)
- Hybrid suspend mode (simultaneous suspend to RAM & Disk)
- Apparmor integrated with draksec (for graphical security management)
- New Dynamic Printer package system
- eID smartcard & biometric authentication support
- LUKS encrypted file system support
- Xen, Qemu, virt-manager & drakvirt (for complete vitalization management)

For a period I felt that I couldn't really put my finger on why I never got along with Ubuntu even though it appears to be so popular. This small comparison reminded me of what a child Ubuntu is, a fast growing child but a child nonetheless. I start to understand why I've always preferred Mandriva, Red Hat & even Suse more than Ubuntu. Simple because they are more grown up compared to the overeager child. For me, using Ubuntu is like playing with a cute puppy, it's fun once in a while but you won't take it home because it'll make a mess & u already have a loyal & faithful retriever.

Mandriva 2008 RC1 released

Finally Mandriva is about to release what I consider to be the most important release since Mandrake 10.1. Finally they are really engaging the community, listening to their users and actually making crucial changes for the future.

With the release of RC1, we got to glimpse at the shiny new features that will make many users very happy. Here are some samples:

- draknetcenter: A brand new network configuration center consolidating all network configuration into 1 application (This used to be a collection of some 10 separate application that I often gripped about.)

- Sensible new menu structure: The old menu had way too many nested levels that bothered many users.

- New kernel spec file: Using the tmb spec file means we now have a choice of desktop, laptop, server & legacy kernels to choose from, the laptop kernel would be a great battery life booster.

-rpmdrake: Now handles updates properly, only marking updates from repositories with the update flags instead of just updating everything. Great for people like me who use plf.

- CompizFusion: Of course the ever pretty CompizFusion will be fully integrated with drak3d to provide all the 3D goodness. (Old Compiz & Beryl will be dropped in it's favor)

The list goes on & on.

With the final release of Mandriva 2008 scheduled for the end of September, I wait with bated breath to see if they can pull out all the stops & make this the best release ever. Judging be the direction of the RC1, my hopes are high, don't disappoint me Mandriva...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A walk down memory lane.

For the past few days I've been attending a Basic Linux training session, not to learn Linux but to learn the course material, delivery & lab setup. This is because my new job is training facilitator. Later I'll be taking turns in the actual delivery.

This training really brought back some fond memories of the good old days of Red Hat 5 - 9. The training was based on RHEL4 which in turn is actually a cleaned-up Fedora Core 3. I remember the tingling sensation whenever I knew a new Red Hat was gonna be launched. I remember the great disappointment I felt when Red Hat announced that they will stop producing the Free Red Hat Linux, instead pushing it out into the community based Fedora Project. In hindsight, I believe they made the right choice. But this was also the turning point in my Linux journey. With Red Hat no longer releasing a free Linux & the Fedora Project slow to deliver, I reached out in search of my next distro. I sampled all the big names, Slackware, Suse & Debian, but they all left me confused & disdained. This was when I (re)discovered Mandrake Linux (10.1 if I remember correctly).

I have used Mandrake Linux since 6 but I always fell back to Red Hat for any serious tinkering because back then I found the original favorable to the rougher edged clone. Mandrake 10.1 change my perspective quite permanently. I found great power in urpmi & experienced the liberation of administering Linux without the need for a console.

Now, things have advanced so much. Thing that were incredible years ago are now commonplace. Mandrake has evolved too, it had fallen to near bankruptcy & risen again as Mandriva. That's why I always have a special place in my heart for Mandriva & the Red Hats of old.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Ubuntu: Broken Packages

I was helping a friend, trying to enable Compiz/Beryl in his Ubuntu box (Ubuntu Ultimate 1.4). He'd previously used an ATI X1300 card with the fglrx module that did not support texture_from_pixmap. This prevented him from using any kind of compositing window manager like Compiz/Beryl. So he removed the ATI card & was hoping to use the on-board Intel 965.

This afternoon I logged into his system through ssh. According to Ubuntu, the fglrx module has to be removed, so I removed it with #apt-get remove xorg-driver-fglrx. Still nothing worked after that. I had to install libgl1-mesa-glx. I tried this but kept getting the same error, something about unable to create symbolic link. Later in Synaptics I found out that removing the xorg-driver-fglrx had broken some 48 packages. fixing it involved installing libgl1-mesa-glx, but it's exactly libgl1-mesa-glx that refused to install. Now the system is in a state of dead lock. I can't install libgl1-mesa-glx, it will always give the same error & I can't reinstall xorg-driver-fglrx because it also needed libgl1-mesa-glx. So the system is now royally screwed, It's stuck forever with no hardware acceleration & the only choice left is to reinstall Ubuntu.

I can't understand how the "oh so much better than rpm" apt-get can allow me to screw-up the system so badly. 4 years of using urpmi, I've never seen anything this bad happen. The only time I had an issue was 2 years ago after upgrading my distro from Mandrake 10.1 to Mandriva 2006. Even this was easily fixed with #rpm --rebuilddb

Friday, August 31, 2007

Ubuntu: On the right path to becoming a decent distro

One of my oft quoted grips with Ubuntu is it's apparent lack of decent configuration tools. The most glaring omission is a proper X configuration tool. But finally Ubuntu is planning to fix that with the next release of Gutsy Gibbons (7.10).

Ubuntu 7.10 will feature a new X configuration tool called gtk-displayconfig and a script to manage X startup recovery called bulletproof-X. It's about time, since distros like Suse, Fedora & Mandriva has had this feature for the last 3 years.

Next on their list should be a proper Grub configuration tool & a decent Grub theme. Followed by a properly working Device Manager.

Maybe it won't be long now. I'm looking forward to Hardy Heron. Maybe that will be the first decent Ubuntu...

Ready / Capable / Powered by...

Have u always wanted a have a nice Linux Logo on you laptop instead of the usually affixed Windows Ready Logo. Well here are some great ideas from the people at

Now all I have to do is find some way to print them onto stickers & I'm set.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Taking a rest from the ordeal of making the Toshiba work. Here's something off-topic. Found these rather interesting small pictures from somewhere & I thought I'd share them.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Return of that blasted Toshiba

After wasting several hours of tearing apart the notebook and putting it back together to no avail. It just doesn't feel right for this damn thing to just work again the next morning. What is wrong with this lemon that Toshiba has given me?

Since it's working again. I'm back to tinkering with the acpi to get the LCD brightness working. I figured out that if you write 2 different values into the 2 /proc entries you'll get the that "TBX error" issue when you reboot.

Here's the output of that file:
[terrorsomemore@Terrors-PC ~]$ cat /proc/acpi/video/GFX0_PCI0/LCD/brightness
levels: 75 35 10 25 35 50 60 75 90 100
current: 0

The levels are the different setting available. Don't understand why the numbers are jumbled up. Tested the setting, the numbers between 10 -> 90 worked. The 0 & 100 did not work.

So here's my solution:
I wrote a script with the contents:
# Minimum Brightness
echo 10 > /proc/acpi/video/GFX0_PCI0/LCD/brightness
echo 10 > /proc/acpi/video/VGA_PEGP/LCD/brightness

Another script
# Nice Brightness
echo 50 > /proc/acpi/video/GFX0_PCI0/LCD/brightness
echo 50 > /proc/acpi/video/VGA_PEGP/LCD/brightness

Gave them execute permission: chmod 755 *.sh

To make the LCD dim when using battery.
I copied into /etc/laptop-mode/batt-start/

To make the LCD bright when plugging in AC.
I copied into /etc/laptop-mode/batt-stop/

To make the LCD bright at the desired level on power-up with AC.
I copied into /etc/laptop-mode/nolm-ac-start/

If you wanna go further, you could add 2 icons into your panel & link that to your scripts so you get buttons for changing the brightness. I didn't bother because these needed root privileges that meant u had to type the root password every time you click the icon.

So all in all, I needed 3 hacks to make this laptop work decently.
1. The script I just explained above.

2. To make the Bluetooth & Wifi on/off switch work. I compiled & installed the latest omnibook module. Forcing module load using option ectype=12. Every other features of the omnibook module didn't work, only the switch worked.

3. To make Mandriva's KDE utilize the Media playback & volume control buttons, I installed lineak. Klineakconfig just segfaulted, so I had to configure it by hand. This was done basically using 'xev' to capture the keycode & writing my own custom keyboard type, then mapping these to the necessary plug-ins or DCOP commands. I managed to configure the Play, Stop, Next, Prev and VolumeUpDown buttons all this way.

I contrast, I recently installed Mandriva & Ubuntu into a Dell Inspiron 1520 notebook which has pretty much the same specs as this Toshiba. The Inspiron did not require any hacks whatsoever, it just worked. That's because Dell properly builds all the Fn+ hotkeys into the BIOS the way they should be.

That blasted Toshiba

Last night the Toshiba decided to go ape shit on me. After I messed around with the acpi setting in /proc I've discovered that I can control the brightness of the LCD through:
and also

Somehow, these 2 settings both work for setting the brightness, but changing 1 file doesn't reflect in the other. I changed 1 file & rebooted.

On reboot, the system froze at the BIOS with a helpful error on the top left that says "TBX error".

For the next 2 hours I couldn't revive the system. I almost disassembled the machine.
After leaving it alone for a while. I tried again. This time, it booted up & I was able to get into the BIOS. But the HDD was not detected, I reseated the HDD & tried again, "TBX error" again.

I removed the HDD & tried, still "TBX error". Some research revealed that TBX error comes from the TPM system that checks the Hardware Integrity. But whatever I tried, I can either bootup with the HDD not detected or it will freeze at BIOS with "TBX error". I thought it was royally screwed. I was getting ready to call Toshiba & make up a story about what happened.

The next morning, suddenly the system worked fine again. Like last night never happened. WTF!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Toshiba Satellite M200 Notebook

I recently got a new notebook, a free gift that came with the car i bought. It's just a cheap local car, so I was rather surprised to a get a RM3K free gift. I was delivered 6 weeks after the car, was supposed to be an M100, but was upgraded to M200 because the M100 is obsolete.

Here's the spec sheet:
Intel Centrino Duo (1.86Ghz)
Intel GMA950 Video
512MB DDR2-667 RAM (Upgraded to 1536MB for RM150)
80GB SATA Hard Drive
Intel Pro Wireless 3945a/b/g
Bluetooth 2.0
1.3 MP webcam

Not exactly high-end, but pretty decent notebook.

I quickly tested both Ubuntu and Mandriva on it. Both worked well. Ubuntu even picked up & setup all the hotkeys. Mandriva needed lineak to make use of the hotkeys.

A couple of things expectedly did not work out.
- The webcam worked but has poor color correction. (It was gray most of the time & tweaking had no effect)
- Some of the hotkeys are not working. Most notably, Brightness control, Touchpad toggle, Lock System, Hibernate, Media & Wireless radio on/off button.
- The ones that did work are: Mute, Volume, Wireless device on/off switch, Web, Play/pause/stop/prev/next, Suspend and Toggle Display. (These all worked out of box in Ubuntu & Mandriva's GNOME, but required tweaking lineak in KDE + the omnibook module)
- The most pressing issue with the notebook is that it's LCD is stuck at the highest brightness all the time, with the controls not working + unplugging the adapter does not dim the LCD.

Toshiba is really relying too heavily on software utilities to supply all the functionality instead of building all these things into the BIOS like they should be, heck the BIOS is just a very simplistic and completely useless Phoenix BIOS.

In the supplied Windows Vista Basic nothing worked until the ToshUtil program fully loaded-up, and that took some time as it is a seriously bloated application. I tried loading it up with WinXP SP2, then found out there were no drivers for it at all, this system ONLY works with Vista. Through some research I discovered this is one of those non-toshiba toshibas that were probably made by Compal or Quanta, one of these Taiwan Notebook ODMs.

My advice, if you're looking for a notebook to run Linux on, buy a Dell Inspiron/Latitude. Forget Toshibas, they're not worth it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Turn your Linux box into a Media Center with Freevo

I've been playing with the notion of turning my PC into a PVR for some time now, but I never got around to it. About a month ago I got my hands on some cheap kit for this purpose & got the setup working. Just a few days later my TV blew up, it was a spooky coincidence. Fate would have it that my PC will have to be the TV until I get a new TV.

This is the kit:
- Hauppauge WinTV PVR 150 TV-Card (PCI)
- Phillips RC6 Windows MCE IR Remote Control with USB Receiver

With the hardware installed, the next step was to make sure it all worked in my Mandriva 2007 box. The PCI card was detected but the required firmware & configuration tools were missing. This was easily solved by grabbing these packages from RpmDrake:
- ivtv
- ivtv-firmware-audio
- ivtv-firmware-enc
- perl-Video-ivtv

Next the MCE Remote was detected as well, but again the required tools needed to be installed. These were:
- lirc
- lirc-remotes
- python-lirc

Now comes the crucial part, the Media Center software itself.

I looked around quite alot for what would be the best software to use. Everything seems to point me to MythTV, which I couldn't get my head around because it was a feature monster, far beyond my needs and terribly complicated.
I also tried out Elisa, which was nice but didn't work well with IR remotes (yet).
I finally settled on Freevo, a small, compact & surprisingly featureful Media Center that provided all the functionality I needed in a small footprint with good support for IR Remotes.
Freevo is installed from RpmDrake using just 1 package: Freevo

Next challenge was tying it all into a cohesive fluent interface that just works.
The Freevo wiki helped alot.

I first configured the PVR card using ivtv to tune-in to the correct frequency for my favourite TV channels TV3, NTV7 & 8TV. (This is harder than usual because NO online XML TV listings existed for Malaysian TV)

Once the TV was sorted. I worked on getting the remote configured.
I configured the remote using a downloaded copy of the lircrc.mceusb config file that had the basic bindings for working with Mplayer, Xine & even MythTV. To this I added support for Amarok through DCOP commands & used IRExec to launch Freevo when I pressed the big green MCE button.
Freevo has it's own set of lirc bindings which take effect only when Freevo is running. These can be customised to give full access to every freevo feature. (If anyone is interested in any of these config files, please let me know)

So I had my Freevo setup with these functions:
- Watch TV (Obviously)
- Play Media on the Hard Drive (or any removable drives)
- Autoplay CD/VCD/DVDs using Xine (with DVD Menu)
- Favourite RSS News Feeds

Disabled the following unused features:
- TV recording
- Radio
- CD ripping, burning & encoding
- Web Browser

As you can see Freevo is pretty damn feature rich for it's size. I might get around to setting up the other features like the web browser, but for now it's serving it's purpose as a replacement for my TV. Good thing I got myself that 22' Wide LCD monitor. ;)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ubuntu: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The Good: Ubuntu certainly has alot going for it. It's backed by a zealous billionaire, it's got a strong community backing with that great tag line "Linux for Human Beings". It's even got Michael Dell in a buzz declaring how great it is. It's got apt-get/Synaptic, Debian at it's core & it's brown. What chance does anyone else have against that?

The Bad: If you examine & really start to use Ubuntu proper. You will start to find alot of gaps in the product itself. Many things that should be easy to do, well.. just isn't. (Read: Alot of googling required) I guess they go for the Gnome ideology which is: If it can't be done simply & intuitively, it shouldn't be done at all.

The Ugly: The worse thing Ubuntu did was to segregate the community by which desktop environment you prefered. The stupidity of separating, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu & Edubuntu into distinct & often incompatible distros is really beyond retarded. Why shouldn't I have KDE, Gnome & Xfce all installed easily in the same box while looking & working consistently across all desktops I use?

Enough ranting now. Will Ubuntu continue to dominate? It probably will. Will PCLinuxOS really upstage Ubuntu? Not by long shot.

If you want Gnome & an intuitive but not too flexible OS, go Ubuntu. If you want KDE with pretty themes and hassle free multimedia, go PCLinuxOS. If like me, you like having the choice of KDE, Gnome, Xfce, a whole lot of flexibility, don't mind a little hassle, Mandriva is still the best choice.

PCLinuxOS #1

PCLinuxOS shot up to #1 in Distrowatch in the past 3 months. This certainly must have Mark Shuttleworth a little worried. (Mark is the Ubuntu's Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator for Life, in case you didn't know)

Will dreams come true? Will an RPM distro finally be at the top of Distrowatch again? It seems like only yesterday when Mandrake was leading the pact. Now it's only fitting that a derivative of Mandrake should regain the throne. I can only dream.

But look closely & you will see that Ubuntu is fighting back. It's inched in way up again in the last 7 days & continues to climb while PCLinuxOS has begun it's descend.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

PCLinuxOS vs Mandriva? Or more like =

There's been some heated discussions going on in the PCLOS forums recently about the topic of PCLinuxOS being a glorified clone of Mandriva. This was sparked off by a sudden rise of PCLinuxOS to the #2 spot on Distrowatch. I read through it all & found the entire thread rather amusing. I was thinking: "What are these fracking sotongs talking about?"

Personally, you all know I prefer Mandriva. But I think PCLinuxOS is very good as well, just not all that different. Having used both before & comparing them side by side, Mandriva 2007 and PCLinuxOS 2007 is really very much the same. There is only 1 clear defining difference, PCLinuxOS uses apt-rpm which makes the software grabbing part more similar to Ubuntu than Mandriva. There's also the pre-configuration of Multimedia codecs and the prettier theme set, but these aren't all the special. With the right packages installed from contrib & plf, you can essentially get the same results with Mandriva.

I think of PCLinuxOS as a newbie friendlier Mandriva. One of the points brought up is that a large number of packages for PCLinuxOS 2007 are direct copies from Mandriva 2007's cooker (development tree). The author was pointing out that Texstar (Creator of PCLinuxOS) boldly states in their website that PCLinuxOS forked from Mandrake 9.x and is now a complete distinct distro. This is a very bold statement; If Mandrake was to say this back around version 7.x when they were based largely on Redhat it would have been a very big joke. They just didn't have the resources to do it. (Texstar making this claim is quite a fair bit premature)

PCLinuxOS supporters do have to face the reality that their favorite distro is still quite heavily dependent on the development of Mandriva. Just like Mandrake was dependent on Redhat many years ago. It will take time & a lot of momentum to pull PCLinuxOS away from this dependence.

Right now, I personally found only a few barriers that prevents me from using PCLinuxOS: (Like everyone, I do prefer Synaptics over RPMDrake)
1. Packages updates are taking some time to come downstream. (Mandriva gets the patches first.)
2. Available packages in the repos are still not nearly as comprehensive. (A lot of stuff is missing, it definitely doesn't cover all the bases)
3. The name 'PCLinuxOS' is a real turn off, it's soooo un-sexy. (Come on ppl, is that the best name you can come up with? Which genius picked that name? I'm ashamed to show it to my friends.)

I'll be a convert and switch over if these things above are fixed. That means, get that momentum and shake that dependence on Mandriva development. Find em bugs & fix em as fast or faster than Mandriva. Build a comprehensive repository with everything everyone will ever need. Finally, do something about that awful name.

Will I be a convert? Look like only time will tell...

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Ubuntu. Really for Human Beings?

I've never been much of a fan of Ubuntu, my several encounters with it's various incarnations have shown it to be inconsistant, unweildy and much over hyped. It seems to be lacking the most basic of tools for easy graphical configuration and administration of a Linux box. Tools that I've come to expect, having used Mandriva (formally known as Mandrake) for many years. Even Suse with it's Yast monstrosity still manages to provide a decent graphical system administration tool.

Recently I realised that my understanding of Ubuntu barely scratched the surface of what really using it will be like on a day to day basis. So I decided to commit a partition to it on me lappy & actually try using it for daily activities. It's been about a week now, here are some of my findings:
- It 's quite alien to me. Its inerds work completely differently from the typical Redhat based systems that I'm used to.
- Synaptics is shitloads faster than urpmi. (At least 30% faster)
- Boot speed is just a tad slower than Mandriva.
- GNOME has got a stupidly huge RAM footprint compared to KDE.
- I had to visit the Ubuntu Help wiki ALOT. The documentation is very nice, acurate & accessible.
- I had to visit the Ubuntu Help wiki ALOT MORE. For things I can easily do with a few clicks in Mandriva & Suse.
- Laptop power management support was poor. Suspend & Hibernate will lockup on resume. (both Mandriva & Suse could at least hibernate & resume properly)

Once up & running, thing are peachy for a while. But after a week & after installing > 30 apps (My usual suspects) from Synaptics, things don't look so pretty anymore. The menus are overcrowded and excessively long. Reminds me of the Windows Start Menu. (Takes a bloody long time for the menu icons to load up too)

The repositories are not as comprehensive as I was led to believe. After turning on all the repos, (including the commercial & 3rd-party ones) I still couldn't find some key pieces of software. (Freevo my prefered media center was nowhere to be found)

& finally GNOME.. Oh GNOME GNOME, what can I say about it.. well.. I still don't like it. GNOME is like soup from the soup nazi. It's good really, but can you deal with not having any real say in what u get with the soup? I can't, so I guess it's no soup for me & I recommend 'No soup for You!!' too. Viva la KDE!!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Porn is safer with Linux

Here's a tip for all you Porn lovers out there (that's practically everyone)
Surf porn in complete comfort and safety with Linux.

Linux will help you to surf your Porn in the absolute safest way possible. Here's why: Porn site out there littered with all the worst forms of malware that you can imagine. Vulnerability hacks, arbitrary code execution, malicious scripts, Pop up Ads, Phishing attacks, it's not safe to surf for porn these days. Practically all these malware are written for Windows.

These days just using firefox or opera instead of IE is not enough. All these apps are already under attack from malware writers. There is now malware to attack practically any browser you can use in Windows. The only way left to avoid them all is to NOT use Windows.

So, use Linux. It will make surfing the net carefree and enjoyable again like that good old days. The other alternative, if you have the cash but lack the braincells, is to buy an Apple.

Linux like Porn?

I recently read an article on osnews where someone mentioned that in his country anyone running Linux was considered a criminal automatically. They are labeled as 'hackers' and must have something to hide in their PCs, otherwise they'd be running Windows. It's akin to a guy having porn on his PC instantly considered a rapist / pedophile / child molester.

I have been giving this some thought, are there people out there who think this way? Does such total ignorance exist in this day & age? Well, unfortunately it's quite true that most people are still completely ignorant about Linux.

I fool around with all forms of Linux & OSS software everywhere I go, more so at work since I have access to more hardware to test them on. I couldn't even count how many times some Sotong came up to me & said:
Sotong: Wow, what is that software you using, it looks cool.. is it some free/shareware?
Me: Look closer, this is NOT running Windows.
Sotong: Ya hor!! What is it then?
Me: It's Linux.
Sotong: Ohh yah.. What version is it? I did try version 8 before.. very hard to use leh.
Me: This is a distribution called Knoppix. The version 8 you tried, was it Red Hat 8?
Sotong: Ohh I can't remember lar, long time ago. Can I install Office 2007 into this?
Me: No. It's NOT Windows.
Sotong: Like that I dowan to use la, not user friendly at all. Cannot run any software.
Me: Well, that's ok. I find it very suitable for me. It's not for everybody.
Sotong: Why you use arr? You must be a hacker right? Do you write virus arr?
Me: (Giving up) Yah.. but only on weekends...

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Some grips about Mandriva

There are some things about Mandriva that has bothered me for a long time & I just had to vent about them.

1. Logout Options
Whenever you logout of KDE, you will get the standard 3 options, end session, turn off & restart. For some reason, this simple screen does not always appear as u expect it to. There are several situations that will cause the 2nd & 3rd options to simply disappear, leaving only the 'end session' option. I have not been able to find a solution to this problem & I'm generally pissed that they haven't fixed this yet. (This has been there since Mandrake 10.1 possibly earlier) These are the scenarios that will produce this behavior:
A: Enabling 'Automatic Login' upon bootup.
B: Enabling 'Metisse' 3D Desktop.
C: Enabling 'Compiz/Beryl' using 'XGL' NOT with 'AIGLX/Native'
With any of the 3 items above enable, you will see this behavior in KDE when you logout. Wish somebody would fix this up. It's just damn annoying.

2. Repository download
Adding a repository means downloading the header file for that source. This file is often HUGE & takes ages to download. Mandriva typically takes over 30 minutes (Including official & plf). In comparison, Ubuntu's synaptics takes about 5 minutes to grab repository headers. (Including for universe & multiverse) Granted that Mandriva's repo headers contain a little more data & info about the packages, this may seem to be an unfair comparison. But even when using the so called 'compressed' index, which contains absolutely no package information, this process still takes a good 15 - 20 minutes. This has not really improved much in Mandriva Spring, however what has improved is the time taken to process and integrate added repos into the urpmi database. This shaves a few second off the post processing, but doesn't help the download speed/size. Rpmdrake still has a long way to go & many usability issues to address before it's even in the same league as Synaptics.

3. Mandriva Control Center
Integration is the problem. There are alot of icons in MCC that are just stupidly redundant with stupidly long & patronising names. There is absolutely NO reason why they can't just be 1 option or 1 application. Here are some examples:
Software Management: Icons for 'Install', 'Remove', 'Update' and 'Sources'. They are all the same application. Why can't we have just 1 icon that says "Software Management"?
Hardware: 'Monitor', 'Graphical Server' and 'Resolution". They all have to do with the display & the monitor. Why do we need 3 icons & 3 separate applications? Why not just have 1 that says "Configure your display"?
Networking: 'Setup', 'Reconfigure', 'Delete', 'Share', 'Misc Settings' & 'Monitor'. They are all about setting up your network. Again why so many separate applications? Can't we have 1 that says 'Configure Network'?
The list goes on unfortunately, over time I've learned to live with it & have grown quite used to it by now. I've always attributed these oddities to the fact that those guys are French, they probably have their brains wired quite differently from mine. I deduced this after trying Suse's Yast & found it to have similar oddities.

That's all for my rants about Mandriva, please don't feel discouraged by my rants, Mandriva is still one of the best distros available today. If I had talked about Ubuntu today, this list would be at least 3 times longer, so don't get me started.

Dell offerring PCs with Ubuntu Linux pre-installed

It's all over the news these days, u can't read any linux blog or news without seeing this piece of news plastered everywhere. Here in Malaysia, no one's really jumping with excitement about this news, not really because nobody's interested in Linux, more of the fact that all us Linux users know pretty much for sure that this won't ever reach our shores.

As expected, just a few days after the announcement, they added that this will only be offered in the states, much to the dismay of many users in the UK. Dell's official position now is that they will offer it in the US first, then will look into the markets for UK & Asia.

This is not the first time Dell has dabbled in Linux, a few years ago Dell did offer preinstalled Redhat 9 on some models of Optiplex desktops and Latitude notebooks. This was also offered only in the US and it did not last long, very soon they were quietly removed from the websites.

Whether this time will be any different depends on many factors & I really can't speculate too much on it. Success will depend primarily on 4 main factors.
1:Hardware - Will they get it right? Will everything work out of the box?
2:Volume - Can they sell enough to justify the cost?
3:Marketing - Will the right people be buying these PCs? (You don't want to be selling them to n00bs)
4:Support - Will the support provided (Online/Phone) by Canonical be up to the expected standards?

I do hope that Dell gets it right & delivers on their promise. This is a win for Linux no matter what the outcome. Ubuntu was an obvious choice for Dell considering the target market, as I'm sure u know by now I'm not much a fan of Ubuntu (I think it's overrated), this is just my personal, everybody has their preference when it comes to distros.

If they start selling them here in this region, this is what will happen (I've seen it with my own eyes). People will buy the PCs pre-installed with Ubuntu (to save a few bucks), they will run down to the nearest shopping mall & grab a lanun* copy of Windows Vista & install it. Dell will think they sold a lot of Linux boxes, but it fact they will be promoting more software piracy. *(lanun = pirated)

Well, this is how it's gonna be for a long long time somemore....

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mandriva 2007.1 Spring Released

Couple of week ago, Mandriva release the latest midyear update to their Mandriva Linux. Mandriva has decided finaly to return to a 6 months release cycle. This release marks the first of these.

I'm going to run through my upgrade experience on my old notebook, a Dell Inspiron 2100. (PIII 700Mhz, 256MB RAM & 20GB HDD). It's ancient, but Mandriva has always worked reasonably well on it running XFCE of course instead of the heavyweight KDE. I'm using this notebook to test it out to see if it's worthwhile upgrading my main PC. So here we go:

Hasn't changed much, just looks better. Been the same installer since 5 years ago. This is not a bad thing at all. Mandriva's installer is the best installer in my opinion, it combines simplicity with just the right amount of control to satisfy anyone from a newbie to a poweruser.

For my installation, I decided not to upgrade the system, instead I opted for a semi-clean installation that is to format the root partition and leave my /home untouched. This is easily done with the 'Use Existing Partitions" option. What this essentially gives you is a clean OS installation with all your user account customizations still intact. This saves you from having to change your wallpaper, panel options, etc. (The reason I chose NOT to upgrade is 1: to save time, 2: To clean up all the scattered hacks I've supplanted my system with.)
The installation went smoothly. Not a single error crept up.

POST Install
Post install config was as normal, I setup a user account with exactly the same name as my old system, It found my existing /home folder & used it. Nothing new here. So far same old options.

Repository setup & online updates
Rpmdrake has been updated with some niceties like a proper 'Select All' option. (You used to have to tick every box yourself) Also added is a new user friendly update screen that reminds me of the one in Ubuntu.(I didn't care much for this one) I setup my favorite repositories using as always. I later discovered that this was no longer necessary as the first time you start rpmdrake it will prompt you to add repositories & will do it for you automatically. (This is the proper way to do it & should have been there a standard feature since years ago) Finally the online update notification icon now actually works, without having to register an account with Mandriva.

I did find a strange bug in rpmdrake which I'm not sure if it's specific to my installation. When choosing a package to install, a window will popup to ask if you wish to install the required dependencies, it will list the dependencies on this window. But on my PC, the popup list is empty, if I said yes, it will still install the dependencies. I'm not sure if this is a bug or just something caused by my upgrade method since I can't find any mention of this in any forums or erratas.

Getting & Running XFCE
XFCE 4.4 was already available in the contrib source. I installed it by choosing the xfce4-common metapackage. XFCE 4.4 is a great leap from 4.2, it's so much better looking and works much more fluidly than 4.2 ever did. I loved it. The new Thuner file manager was so usable that I couldn't imagine how I managed to bare with xftree for so long.

Here's a FAQ tip for XFCE users. To make XFCE enable the Shutdown & Reboot option on the Exit menu, you need to add yourself into the sudoer file. like this (do this as root):
# visudo
(add this line in under user aliases)
ALL=(root) NOPASSWD: /usr/lib/xfsm-shutdown-helper
where is the user that you want to allow to shutdown from XFCE.
Eg: (My username is jobe)
jobe ALL=(root) NOPASSWD: /usr/lib/xfsm-shutdown-helper

This will enable the greyed-out Shutdown & Reboot options in the Exit menu. This little hack is necessary only if you are running XFCE.

Well this is as far as I got before I dosed off. Till next time.. .ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Dell E207WFP 20' Widescreen Flat Panel Display

Just picked up my 20' Wide Dell monitor last night. It looks absolutely stunning. I also pickup up the Radeon X700 I was waiting for, so I could play games properly (I was using the Geforce FX 5600). Installed the X700, plugged in the new flat panel, booted straight into Mandriva. As expected:

X failed to start. I was droped to a text login. Here's what I did:
Logged in as root. Ran # drakxconf, selected my new card as Radeon (fglrx). The system automatically started to download & install the ati & dkms-ati packages.
Once done, rebooted the system & I was back in X again. Again back to MCC to select my new monitor & resolution. The Dell E207WFP was not listed, so I went for the Generic Flat Panel 1680x1050. Restarted X & i was finally back in high resolution (after surviving 2 torturous weeks of 14' 800x600).

I had to give up using Beryl(it was getting distracting anyway), the ATI modules don't support the X composite extension required by Beryl and Compiz. I could use the open source Radeon module, but it lacked proper 3D performance. So I decided to use the evil propriatary closed source module from ATI.

Performance wise, the ATI card certainly beats the pants off NVIDIA. I can't easily compare the performance with something like glxgears (the NVIDIA was getting >4000 FPS, while the ATI was doing just >500) This is due to the way the evil ATI driver works. In actual game play (UT2004), the performance increase is very clear, I maxed out the graphics options, ran the game at native 1680x1050 resolution, not even the slightest hint of lagging. Awesome!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Finally Something Broke

Finally! I managed to break something. I got gatal yesterday & upgraded to Java SE 1.6. I read up somewhere that it's incredibly fast. I could use a boost to my Azureus I tot. So I went ahead & updated to 1.6 from the mcnl repo. Azureus started back up & took less than half the time to start & the overall responsiveness was much better. I tot all was well.. until I tried to surf a few sites today & discovered that Java applets won't load. I checked in FF, everything looked ok. Checked out about:plugins, looks alright, it's enabled & detected. Trying to run java in the shell worked. Tried in Konquorer, works fine. Then found out the Java control center failed to load with FF due to some odd libc++ crash. Chialat. It's broken. I tried to uninstall but it wanted to remove a bunch of other programs along with it. 'Dependents'. Refused to downgrade without first uninstalling the newer version. So I decided to screw Java applets(at least in FF), I can live without em as long as my Azureus is always this fast. :)

Next up I tried Kerry, (the KDE front end to Beagle{a type of dog that sniffs around your /home to build a metadata search index}) Worked perfectly, now I can find all my stuff in a flash.

Finally I installed Apollon, (the GUI frontend to GiFT, which connects you to Kaaza & Gnutella networks) Worked perfectly again. Just have to tweak the router to forward ports.

Perfect. till next time...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Getting SCIM, AIGLX & Beryl in Mandriva

Few days ago, I finally got a chance to stretch abit & test some bits of Mandriva that I did not have the spare equipment to do so. Many thanks to THEwe for selling me cheap a slightly gawky looking clone PC. (As I thought, I couldn't get used to the glowy blue LEDs in the transparent side cover :p)

Anyhow I'm typing this now using my new 'to me' pc, attached to a horrible looking 14' CRT monitor. While still waiting for my 20' flat panel. As you'd expect, I have it running Mandriva Free 2007.
A few days ago I got adventurous & decided to try out some things I've not tested before & also try some stuff in the backports repositories. (just to see what I could break)

But to my suprise, I didn't manage to break anything.. yet.
1. I installed SCIM & SKIM. to get Chinese input support. The installation went well, but I couldn't figure out what to do afterwards. I couldn't find a whole lot of help either. Some fonts were showing up as little square boxes. I figured out later that I needed to install locale-zh & font-ttf-chinese. After that, It all seemed to only work in GNOME apps & not in KDE. I later figured out that I needed to change my input method by running 'draklocale'. Finally it all worked & suprisingly well.

2. Next up I upgraded to the latest 9xxx series NVIDIA modules. I decided to play it safe & used the updated ones in plf. (Added the repositories plf-free_updates & plf-nonfree_updates) Did it, restarted & I could now use AIGLX instead of XGL for compiz, no hacks, just using drak3d.

3. Finally I got really excited & decided to go for Beryl. I added the main_backports & contrib_backports repositories. Searched for beryl, install beryl-core, beryl-manager & emerald. Disabled 3D Desktop in MCC, restarted X & ran 'beryl-manager'. It just worked immediately.. & it looked absolutely stunning. to make beryl start everytime, do '$ cd ~/.kde/Autostart' then '$ ln -s /usr/bin/beryl-manager beryl-start'. That's it.

I've been using the system like this for a few days & so far it has survived every situation I threw at it. Someone told me that Beryl is highly experimental & incredibly buggy & unstable. Well not in my experience. I found that Beryl IS ACTUALLY STABLE & fully usable for the everyday desktop. I won't bother posting any video of Beryl on my desktop, there are already tons of these on YouTube. Go have a look if you don't know what I'm talking about.

1 last thing. I forget to mention flash-player in my previous post about setting up a Mandriva box. Well, if you haven't figured it out: Goto '' download the RPM version. install with '# urpmi flash-plugin*.rpm'

Till next time..

Sunday, January 7, 2007

A typical desktop setup using Mandriva Linux Free 2007

I'm going to detail here the typical configuration I go through to setup a Mandriva desktop box.

1. Install Mandriva Free 2007 (Obviously, It's so easy, I don't have to explain it)
2. Remove Installation Media Source. '# urpmi.removemedia Installation Free CD'
3. Run over to
4. Enable sources main, contrib, main_updates, contrib_updates, plf-free & plf-nonfree. (I'd advise against the 'backports' sources, they are fairly unstable)
I'd usually select the France Paris FTP servers as they tend to be faster. If you don't wanna wait too long, check on the "Use compressed index" checkbox to get minimal information headers, however if you are new to Mandriva, I'd suggest getting the full header since it comes with nice long descriptions for each package. 'proceed to Step 3' will generate a list of urpmi commands for you to enter in a console as root. To avoid errors, I'd suggest doing it one-by-one in this order: main, contrib, main_updates, contrib_updates, plf-free, plf-nonfree.
Be prepared to wait for the sourcelist update. 20 minutes on my 1MB broadband. 5 minutes if you used the compressed index.
5. Once all that is done. Open up MCC (Mandriva Control Center) 'Kmenu-> System-> Configuration-> Configure Your Computer'. Click on the Update icon. It's labeled the very lenghty "Look at available updates and apply any fixes or upgrades to installed package". Say yes all the way, select all presented packages & click Install. You can do this in the console simply with '# urpmi --auto-select'.
6. Next, I'd go install the essential packages. Once again open MCC & click on the Install icon labeled "Look at installable software and install software packages". Here are the essentials:
- Kernel Source Stripped ('$ uname -r' to find out your kernel version & install the same version kernel-source-stripped package)
- Hardware Accelerated Video Drivers: nvidia, ati, 915Resolution (for Intel widescreen). Depending on which graphic card you have. Say 'OK' to the dependency question.
- Some misc necessities - nano, yakuake, thunderbird, flash-player-plugin, kaffeine, mplayer-plugins, helixplayer, win32-codec.
- If you need to be able to play Region coded DVDs & some other proprietary formats like MOV & WMV, you'll need to replace your mplayer & xine with the plf version. Search for & install xine-faad, xine-win32, mplayer???-plf & libdvdcss2. The dependency should work out all the required packages.
7. Finally, you may want to get some proprietary software installed, like J2RE(Java Runtime), Acrobat Reader, Azureus, Rar & Skype. You can get J2RE & Azureus & Rar from the repository. Add in the repository with the command:
'# urpmi.addmedia with'. Then look for & add these packages: j2re, azureus, rar & rargui. For Acrobat Reader & Skype follow these instructions:
Run over to & select your way to download Acrobat Reader 7 (choose the .rpm version) then install it with this command:
# urpmi AdobeReader_enu-*.rpm
# kwrite /usr/share/applications/AdobeReader.desktop
* Find this line
* Replace it with this line
For Skpe:
# wget
# urpmi skype-

Well this was a much longer post than I anticipated. Until next time...