Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ubuntu "Dapper Drake" LTS v6.06

I got a copy of Ubuntu from Aizat at the myoss stall at the PC Fair. Unfortunately it got me puzzled, as my laptop didn't recognise the disc as a bootable one. So it looked like a dud disk. However the content is OK, in that its viewable. So my only guess is that the person who prepared it mounted the ISO image and burnt the CD from the contents, and not the ISO directly. Ive seen this happen before, even by some computer experts. So if you happen to have this disc from the PC Fair, please throw it away and get a proper one.

I managed to get a bootable Ubuntu, and tried installing it on my laptop. Its a Compaq Presario x1407, which sports a widescreen 1600x1050 res. This gave X alot of problems in that my resolutions are not standard, and I often have to manually edit the config files just to get the settings right.

So I was rather pleasantly surprised when Ubuntu booted up into its glorious GUI and detected my display correctly. Its wonderful that these live installers allow the user to test drive the desktop before installing. Isn't it novel that linux can do that? "Try me, if you like me, install me". So I did. I clicked on the little icon, the only one available on the top right and proceeded to install Ubuntu, for the first time.

There were quite a few quirks with the Ubuntu installer, and I will list the few here in my notes during the installation.
  1. The time was wierd. After setting my timezone to KL, (which was on the map, fortunately) it added 7 hours to my system clock. This is wierd because my other OSs are ok with it. So I just went with it and readjusted the clock back 7 hours.
  2. The Keyboard selection was unique, it even has a text entry to try out the keys. However the screen on the right was conspicuously blank, which really show show a bitmap/SVG of the keyboards selected. The ability to support multi-languages out of the box is a real plus.
  3. The Disc Partitioner is slightly obscure. I have a 5GB partition which I leave for testing out OSes (the previous was linspire). I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to 'flag' which partition to install Ubuntu's root to. So I just deleted the linspire partition, and recreated it as ext3 with the option to format it. After clicking 'Next' it becomes obvious on how to set the partitions for installation, where we define the mount points. However it wasnt obvious when it mattered.
  4. It was great that it recognises all my partitions immediately and offers to mount all of them, including NTFS and FAT32s. My fedora 5 install requires me to jump through hoops for NTFS support.
  5. However the installer should show what the filetypes are to help us define the mountpoints. It would be great to have the graphic of the partitions displayed too.
  6. It took a mere 15 minutes to copy the gist of Ubuntu into the HDD. In the meantime, I could play all the games supplied in the GUI, and even browse the 'net as TCPIP was correctly configured. Thats quite a nice touch, and it beats Fedora's Anaconda which takes up the entire screen, or Window's text based installer.
  7. There were some issues with the GUI widgets: buttons started changing colours and only reverted on mouseover or when clicked and other oddities.
  8. So after the copying, I rebooted. Only to be greeted by a new grub, with WinXP correctly identified as a boot option. The cute drums upon login is a nice touch.
  9. 'sudo -i' is the means of getting the root shell. Use the users password, not roots.
  10. To get mp3 and all the other 'patented' goodies to work under Ubuntu, its relatively easy... in synaptic, select the 'Universe' and 'Multiverse' repos and reload the package info. Then install gstreamer and all the other stuff as described in this HowTo.
  11. One great thing is that Hibernate works out of the box! I assigned the power button to Hibernate, and after about 20 seconds, the computer shuts down. Starting up and resuming work would take about 50 seconds. Im not complaining, cos I never got it to work before.
  12. I added the Weather applet on the gnome panel. Unfortunately 'Kuala Lumpur' still is NOT an option under 'Asia/Malaysia'! The closest city is Subang, so I selected that.
  13. At home, the Wifi worked out well.
So its just been a few days of playing with this distro, and I must say, Im very impressed with it. Just one CD, and its quite a nice desktop, with all the apps to make it functional. The 'interactive' install is a definite bonus. I now know why this distro has so many fans and understand why it has grown so popular that quickly.

Well done to the guys at Canonical!


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Office Values

There's this fantastic set of videos on Google Video on Microsofts' new training video, written and performed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, with Ricky reprising his role as David Brent from the originial BBC 'The Office' Series.

Its really fantastic.

Here is Part 1:

And Part 2:

To illustrate his crazy monologues, David Brent goes on to describe Microsoft's core value: "Maintaining and being informed by our passion for customers for the technology."

"... so Im selling this thing
'Can I buy this brilliant piece of technology?'
'Yes you can, you little four eyed freak. Its 400 quid. Now get out of the shop you're making the place look untidy!'

Its just as bad the other way 'round. Just as bad. Ive no passion for the technology 'eww made this right'
Im in the shop I love the customer though...
You walk in,
'Your glasses look nice, love your hair, You like this, do you? Its rubbish, it dont work, and its full of viruses, but I love you...'


Heheh... Lots of fantastic misunderstandings as only David Brent can do. e.g. Stephen Hawking thinking too much will cause you to become half man half machine. His misplaced respect for Nelson Mandela for not getting convicted again is particularly funny.

At the end of each episode, theres a really good Blooper reel. His laughter is quite infectious, so watch out.

If you like this type of humour, watch 'The Office' Season 1 and 2, and the Xmas Special (a must). Then try to listen to the Guardian Unlimited 'Ricky Gervaise Show' podcasts Season 1 and 2 featuring Karl Pilkington, who 'plays' the part of the village idiot. Really fantastic stuff.

More information at


Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Blogger Beta is killing Planet MYOSS

Uh oh.. looks like my feed is killing Planet MYOSS.
Ive had issues setting up the RSS feed for the planet,
as described here, but I didnt know that it would
resurface with the new blogger engine.

Anybody knows how to fix it?

Oh yeah, sorry for the spam.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blogger Beta

Ive just converted this blogger engine to Blogger Beta, and it was relatively easy setting it up. I dont have access to the raw HTML, so there are some formatting areas which I would have liked to tweak, but ah well..

Anyway, Ive changed the colour scheme, so no more polka dots.

Here are the issues currently Im facing:
  • I dont like the way it adds the title for my javascript 'page element'
  • The width shouldnt be restricted by absolute pixel numbers. Should be a percentage of screensize.
  • The template editor doesnt allow me to move the elements to the left of the page. So its stuck to the right for now.
  • The size of the right page elements should be narrower. There's no way to adjust the width.
An addition is the support for labels. Im not sure how Ill be able to label the previous posts.

Anyway, its good to know that Google has finally upgraded this aging Blog interface, with 'modern' features: Dynamic Pages, Access Control, Labels, Template Editor... see the very limited tour, or read about it here.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

SequoiaView - Graphical View of Hard Disk Usage

When I first got my new notebook, I had a 40GB hard disk on my desktop. The Notebook came with a 80GB and I thought to myself, "Finally, I'd never run out of disk space". Fastforward one and a half years, and I've run out of hard disk space. Sod's law.

So how do I make space on my hard disk now? ALL the applications I have installed, and ALL the data I have downloaded or created are surely invaluable! Should I get a bigger hard disk? I hear the new 120GB drives are out, at only RM450 or so...

Or should I do some spring cleaning?

Anyway, an invaluable tool is this one: SequoiaView.
"Ever wondered why your hard disk is full? Or what directory is taking up most of the space? When using conventional disk browsing tools, such as Windows Explorer, these questions may be hard to answer. With SequoiaView however, they can be answered almost immediately. SequoiaView uses a visualization technique called cushion treemaps to provide you with a single picture of the entire contents of your hard drive."

Basically it displays the usage of your hard disk graphically and at once you can remove that 696MB Knoppix ISO which you downloaded 6 months ago. Immediately you'd have freed up a substantial amount of space.

Unfortunately its relatively old, in that the last release v1.3 was in 2002. So don't expect anything fancy from this site. But its still pretty useful and does its job.

Dowload here (~500KB) [Free-beer]


Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Found this rather amazing utility called Autostitch.

This is what it says about itself:
Autostitch™ is the world's first fully automatic 2D image stitcher. Capable of stitching full view panoramas without any user input whatsoever, Autostitch is a breakthrough technology for panoramic photography, VR and visualisation applications. This is the first solution to stitch any panorama completely automatically, whether 1D (horizontal) or 2D (horizontal and vertical).
To get it to work, you just dump in a collection of images, and the sofware will automagically find out the adjacent images and seamlessly stitch them together! Its quite amazing. Ive spent many hours manually stitching pictures together, and this will truly make the process easier.

So to try it out, I loaded a series of pictures of the Bangsar Pasar Malam I took at about 6pm a few months ago. After waiting about a minute or two, with informative progress bars, an output file called pano.jpg was generated:

click for a larger view

The utility allows you to define how large you would like the composite to be, and there doesn't seem to have any limit [as I could see].

What is interesting, if you look at the image carefully is how it deals with changes. I know that we really shouldnt be stitching up a series of images with alot of movement like this scene, but the result is pretty good. Notice the man just under the umbrella of Devi's Corner on the left. He is translucent and blurred out, and the yellow plastic container is visible through his body. The result is a very subtle transition between the different pictures, and for me, quite acceptable.

Here are some other examples created by the author of this amazing bit of software.

And the flickr gallery tagged with 'autostitch'

Here is someone who did a Manually Stitched composite:

and compared it with the Autostitch output:

Its interesting how it fixes the perspective by warping the images.

Here's more info on Matt Brown's research and descriptions.