Monday, October 22, 2007

Gutsy Gibbonized

Started the command line upgrade process on Friday, with all the packages downloaded from the pretty fast Taiwan mirror site (averaging at about 50kBs). I left it to download for about 5 hours. When I was done at work, it started unpacking the packages. Because my home is not far from the office, I just picked up the laptop and let it continue its installation all the way home.
About an hour later, the laptop was ready to be rebooted.
Restarted the machine, and waited in anticipation. The boot screen flicked to the text console (as normal, because fsck always has something to say about my two FAT32 partitions), and after that, blackness...

Uh oh... problems with X. The keyboard was non responsive (Caps Lock didnt toggle the LEDs), so the only alternative is to reboot into the recovery state.

Good chance to test out the bulletproof X, I thought, so I renamed /etc/X11/xorg.conf to something else, and rebooted. This time it worked, except that after logging in, the brownness of ubuntu changed to the harshness of raw X (cursor and all). Then the computer hung there for quite a while. I broke into another console (Ctrl-Alt-F2) and tried to dig around, but after about a minute, the familiar sounds of the ubuntu drums indicated that things were ok again. (Ctrl-Alt-F7) brought back the familiar gnome desktop.

But things were very different. Windows were very slow. Scrolling through webpages was actually painful! It was like running Windows XP without the appropriate video card drivers. I downloaded the new displayconfig-gtk tool to set the "Screen and Graphics Preferences", which created a new xorg.conf file. That didnt help much either. I tried using some settings from my fiesty xorg.conf, but certain Options would kill X (blank black screen).

Did a google, and found this: "ATI Radeon 9200 extremely slow in Gutsy" which described my situation to the dot. One recommendation is to disable Xgl, which is not a default install. To do so, do this:

touch ~/.config/xserver-xgl/disable

Make sure the "xserver-xgl" directory is created as well, because usually it isnt.

Rebooting made the performance of 2D X similar to the fiesty days.

Things are still not entirely back to normal: my Mighty Mouse is not scrolling sideways, and compiz isnt working. Need to allocate some time to dig into xorg.conf yet again. Also the timelag between logins and desktop appearing is very annoying.


[Update: I just found out that my xorg.conf was removed because in an hour of desperation, I tried to install the ATI proprietary drivers, fglrx. One of the steps involved was running aticonfig --initial, which clobbers the xorg.files. That core dumped and I gave up on that. So I have been running without an xorg.conf file all this while. So bulletproof X really works, and part of the delay in showing the gnome desktop was because of this.

My xorg.conf from fiesty still gives a dead black screen on bootup, so I have to work on a cut down version. I will have to slowly work on this to get my dual screen back up. Wonder how easy that would be ... ?]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Driving License extended

Ow has an interesting factoid. When we met at aizat's birthday a few months back, he said that someone in a room of 10 is bound to have a driving license expired, or close to expiring. And true enough mine was going to expire (then) on the 2nd of October. Of course being the serial procrastinator that I am, I subsequently forgot about renewing it.

On the 4th of October, two days after the expiry, I checked the JPJ website and noticed that there is a 'CDL Renewal Online' feature hosted by a third party, Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to test it out. I filled in my details, paying by Credit Card, and submitted the information.

I opted for a 5 year extension (RM150) and for the new license to be delivered to my office (RM5). MyEG seems to be charging RM2 for the service, which sounds fair. But considering the income generating nature of JPJ, citizens should expect service as this to be completely free. Additionally any form of automation would reduce overheads for JPJ.

At the end of it all, you get a official looking receipt with all the JPJ logos and all:

I double checked this by going to the main site, and clicking on 'License Expiry Date Inquiry' tab. The interface changed from English to Malay (because the URL seems to be hardcoded with the language settings). I punched in my IC number, and this is what I got:

Confirmation of a 5 year extension! I was still skeptical of the renewal because it seemed all too effortless. Additionally, my recently expired license is already 10 years old, and the picture of me was taken another 10 years prior.

So I waited for a few days... 7 days in all. I received a Registered Post letter from JPJ, which enclosed a laminated card stating that my old license indeed has been extended for another five years. This extra card (which they call a 'Slip') is 'To Be Produced With Driving License'. It makes my wallet marginally thicker, but I guess its a fair trade for an afternoon of bureaucracy.

Overall, I was impressed with this. Seems like a small thing to most IT enabled countries where doing things online is of the norm. But when Ive been disappointed with the online services in Malaysia so many times todate, I guess my standards are far lower.

Here are some points for JPJ to improve on:
  1. Do not hardcode the IP address of the servers on the website. Its currently now pointing to ''. It makes linking directly to your services difficult especially in the future when you change your servers.
  2. Someone messed up with the sidebar links. Remove the '/lang,ms/' option in the URLs. This forces the language to flip from English to Malay on subsequent clicks.
  3. Its unnerving to be moved to another site, and another window when clicking on the CDL extension. Make it clear that MyEG is a trusted partner or embed the payment page within the main JPJ site. It would be alot better if this feature was seamless to the user.
  4. Don't making using the online service any less attractive to drivers. There should not be any additional costs (RM2). In fact online applications should be encouraged, and there should even be a small rebate.
Because only 5 people will read this blog post, I cannot guarantee that one of you will have an expiring or expired license. But if you do, you'd be glad to know you can now renew it online.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Filename Dater v1.1

Since the release of my Filename Dater, I have implemented a few additional features for version 1.1:
  1. Added an option for timestamps to be incorporated into the filename
  2. Uses the Registry to remember the Path and options set
  3. Made the filetypes user definable
  4. Minor UI cleanups
Ive also made sure that the program works well under Wine, and here it is running in Ubuntu:

Thanks to the Malaysian FOSS guys, you can download the file from (565KB Windows Executable)